Is It Possible…?

Is It Possible…?

 

 

…He who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks judgment to himself… 

Have you ever read something in the bible and asked yourself…”Why”?

I am by nature one who typically questions “why”.  I guess it’s just the way that I am wired… I have many times looked at different church doctrines and seen things that by many have been readily accepted for generations as “the way it is” but caused me to question “Why” because it seemingly to me, did not reflect the biblically revealed heart of God.

In many denominations over centuries of indoctrination, those who questioned or sought the answers to their “Why” were viewed as rebellious, or trouble makers or even faithless, but I believe that very often, these were copout labels issued to people by insecure leaders to further manipulate people into submission to the leaders misguided authority…I believe asking “Why” should not only be acceptable but EXPECTED from intelligent people who should seek more than someone else’s word on something to determine the validity of it… With that said, I believe God has raised up a new generation of leadership who are actually the “why” thinkers of today and we are seeing redefined what is being taught and also seeing it changed to line up more with the biblical expression of God’s love that is prevalent throughout the New Testament…

For the most part, I believe that asking why is a healthy practice because, where the rubber meets the road, the one who seeks, finds…

 

1 Corinthians 11:26-30

New King James Version (NKJV)

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood[a] of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner[b] eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s[c] body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

So, when reading this scripture, I asked myself, Is this one of those circumstances where you simply accept what you read as an “it is what it is” situation or is this something that we could stand to learn something from if we look deeper into it…?

Over the course of my lifetime, I have heard this scripture recited nearly every time we receive communion in a church service.  (If you are unfamiliar with the practice of receiving communion here is a link to a pretty traditional teaching about it http://bit.ly/nmGQEK) What is often the focus of this scripture is an apparent warning by Paul to the church in Corinth to not receive communion in an “unworthy manner”.   And the consequences of doing so seem to be severe because vs 30 says that some people who do, get sick and even die!  …So again, I ask the question that seemingly begs the answer in this passage…Why?

I’m going to say right up front, I’m not trying to tell you “What to think”, but rather asking the hard questions in an attempt to get you “TO THINK”…

When reading any kind of teaching or literature, in order to understand it in proper context, I believe it is wise to ask yourself a few questions about what you are reading.

1.            Who Wrote It…?

2.            Who Were They Writing To…?

3.  How would they (those being written to) have perceived it…?

4.  Are there any figures of speech, idioms or euphemisms present in the text that may mean something different to them than perhaps it would to us…?

With those guidelines set, here is where my thought process goes with the above scripture…

1.  Who Wrote It…?

a.  The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church.

b.  Paul was a former Pharisee (Jewish religious leader) who actually participated in killing Christians before he himself had a personal, life changing encounter with Christ.

c.  After this encounter, Pauls life message was the subject of “Grace” (God’s unmerited favor) and is the lens through which everything that he writes, should be weighed and processed.

2.  Who Was He Writing To…?

a.  The Church in Corinth.

b.  What Paul was seeing throughout the Christian church at this time was a return to legalisms and self-righteous justification with God through the “works based” doctrine (that was prevalent in both Judaism and pagan religions at this point in history) instead of the Grace of God and justification by HIS Righteousness doctrine that was established in Christ and taught in Christianity.

i.  Throughout his writings, Paul was continuously re-explaining that Christians are NOT justified by their works but by the accomplished work of Christ, by the Grace of God.

ii.  Biblically, you see Paul even confronts Peter (a disciple of Jesus) on this matter in Galatians 2:15-21.  Their society was literally immersed in justification by works doctrines and this theology was permeating Christianity and birthing false doctrine in the church and Paul repeatedly refuted this justification perspective, even referring to it as a yoke of slavery.

3.  How would they have viewed it…?

a.  I think that this is the key question that is being posed in my “why” above and I will elaborate on it a bit more below…

4.  Are there any figures of speech, idioms or euphemisms present in the text that may mean something different to them than it does us…?

a.  I believe that this may be the case if weighed in conjunction with the totality of the circumstances and taking into consideration all of the letters that Paul wrote to other churches, the state of the Christian church at that time and the history of their religious teachings before Christianity.

Reading the opening scripture of 1 Corinthians 11:26-30, typically the readers digest version of  the way this “sermon” goes is… Make sure you don’t have any sin in your life before you take communion or you will bring damnation on yourself and in that failing of “discerning the body of Christ” and receiving in an unworthy (sin tarnished) manner could even kill you…

 

 

Usually it is presented a little bit more palatably packaged but that is often the underlying perception when reading between the lines, which usually results in a pre-specified time allowing people to examine themselves and making sure that they don’t have any hidden sin in their lives which would make them “unworthy” in God’s sight to receive communion… and, quite frankly, I can understand how that may be the perceived interpretation of this scripture.

…But, is it possible that there is more to this passage than what has been previously taught or considered…?  And if so, could that “more” aspect of the equation change the entire perspective of communion and our involvement in it…?   If you are not open to that possibility, you might as well quit reading now and I thank you for your time… but, if you are interested in at least entertaining the thought of the “maybe”… Then, check this out…

Recognizing that the Christian church was being bombarded by Jewish legalisms and teachers who were attempting to convince people back into a works based justification with God and also understanding that many were being convinced to return back to that bondage that they were set free from, Paul was continuously attempting to set the record straight throughout the Pauline epistles…

Now, I will say right up front, I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with interpersonal analysis and weighing your actions daily or even asking yourself if the life that you are choosing to live is one that you feel God would want you to live.  Doing what right because it is right and pleasing to God is a great practice and I think even should be a driving perspective of anyone who calls themselves a Christian… but, according to scripture, our works / good works are not what justifies us before God… but rather a bi-product of being lead by His Spirit.

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

New King James Version (NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

So, recognizing this scripture in Ephesians and then seeing that the same writer (Paul) was talking about something that appeared on the surface to be contradictory and to somehow be a “works based” justification before God when addressing “receiving communion unworthily” has, for many, an element of confusion attached to it and I think begs the logical question, are we justified and covered by Grace as Eph 2:8-9 says, or are we justified by works and as a result drinking damnation upon ourselves if we receive unworthily with unresolved sin in our lives as it appears that 1 Cor 11:26-30 says?

Taking that a step further, if we, as Christians can have unresolved sin in our lives that causes us to encounter damnation severe enough to make us sick or kill us when observing a ritual of “remembrance” (communion), wouldn’t that imply that our justification is in fact “Works Based” and contradict Ephesians 2:8-9?

That is a question for another time I’m just pointing out some thought processes here, I will say that I strongly subscribe to a balanced GRACE message (not one that encourages living any way you want with no thought of it) and my doctrinal stance definitely leans toward the liberal side of Grace teachings…

I don’t believe in a works based salvation system but rather that our righteousness is a completed work in Christ alone based upon multiple scriptures like the one listed above in Ephesians 2…For those who have some background in doctrinal interpretation, you will know a little better where I am coming from, but again, take it with an understanding that I am not referring to a “Careless, Greasy Grace where people remain bound by sin”  In fact, I believe that an aspect of God’s Grace is that He frees us from that kind of lifestyle…with that said, again, I’m not trying to tell you what to think, I’m attempting to get you TO think…

So, if grace is the substantiation for our Righteousness (right standing with God), IS IT POSSIBLE that Paul was addressing something that the people at that time might have understood but we, some 2000 years later have failed to see because we are looking backward from our perspective and not seeing it from theirs?

I’m not saying this absolutely IS, I’m just asking…Is it possible, that Paul, recognizing that people were returning to a works based system of living and were attempting to justify themselves by their works and stepping outside of the justification of Grace and even, to quote Gal 5:4 in a sense, “falling from Grace” and as a result, “outside of grace and properly discerning what Christ accomplished for them” were stepping back under a yoke of slavery, bondage and curse of the law…?  (I’ll elaborate on this statement more in a minute for clarity…) and because of these improper mindsets about what Christ accomplished, were missing the entire point…?  Is it possible that the “unworthy manner” being addressed in the scripture was actually the perspective of “self-righteousness” instead of security in “God Righteousness”…?

Galatians 5:1-13

Amplified Bible (AMP)

Galatians 5

 1IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].

    2Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no profit (advantage, avail) to you [[a]for if you distrust Him, you can gain nothing from Him].

    3I once more protest and testify to every man who receives circumcision that he is under obligation and bound to practice the whole of the Law and its ordinances.

    4If you seek to be justified and declared righteous and to be given a right standing with God through the Law, you are brought to nothing and so separated (severed) from Christ. You have fallen away from grace (from God’s gracious favor and unmerited blessing).

    5For we, [not relying on the Law but] through the [Holy] Spirit’s [help], by faith anticipate and wait for the blessing and good for which our righteousness and right standing with God [our [b]conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action, causes us] to hope.

    6For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.

    7You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the Truth?

    8This [evil] persuasion is not from Him Who called you [Who invited you to freedom in Christ].

    9A little leaven (a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers) leavens the whole lump [it perverts the whole conception of faith or misleads the whole church].

    10[For my part] I have confidence [toward you] in the Lord that you will take no contrary view of the matter but will come to think with me. But he who is unsettling you, whoever he is, will have to bear the penalty.

    11But, brethren, if I still preach circumcision [as some accuse me of doing, as necessary to salvation], why am I still suffering persecution? In that case the cross has ceased to be a stumbling block and is made meaningless (done away).

    12I wish those who unsettle and confuse you would [[c]go all the way and] cut themselves off!

    13For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for [d]selfishness], but through love you should serve one another.

I wonder, is it possible that Paul was saying, if someone were to return back to a works based doctrine of justification with God after experiencing and coming to the understanding of His “Grace”, then they were failing to properly discern what was totally accomplished in Christ when He was scourged, beaten and crucified for their freedom and as a result of their improper discernment, failing to function in the power of that freedom and understanding of what was accomplished for them…?

2 Peter 2:20-22

Amplified Bible (AMP)

20For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through [the full, personal] knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they again become entangled in them and are overcome, their last condition is worse [for them] than the first.

    21For never to have obtained a [full, personal] knowledge of the way of righteousness would have been better for them than, having obtained [such knowledge], to turn back from the holy commandment which was [verbally] delivered to them.

    22There has befallen them the thing spoken of in the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and, The sow is washed only to wallow again in the mire.

 

Is it possible that failing to properly discern that it is not our works but the Grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus that justifies us and is He alone who provides justification, salvation from sin, healing, wholeness and peace may be the reason that some would walk in sickness and even fall asleep when Christ provided the freedom from those things…?

Isaiah 53:5

Amplified Bible (AMP)

5But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.

 

1 Peter 2:24

Amplified Bible (AMP)

24He personally bore our sins in His [own] body on the tree [a][as on an altar and offered Himself on it], that we might die (cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.

Is it possible that this mindset of self-righteous justification that the bible says is as filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God (but was incredibly prevalent in Christian culture during this time) would have been why Paul would have written to the Hebrews a caution about “trampling the Son of God under your feet” in Hebrews 10:29 by profaning, insulting and outraging the Spirit imparting Grace after considering what was provided through Christ’s blood and then returning to a law of self-righteousness instead of God righteousness?

Hebrews 10:29

Amplified Bible (AMP)

29How much worse (sterner and heavier) punishment do you suppose he will be judged to deserve who has spurned and [thus] trampled underfoot the Son of God, and who has considered the covenant blood by which he was consecrated common and unhallowed, thus profaning it and insulting and outraging the [Holy] Spirit [Who imparts] grace (the unmerited favor and blessing of God)?

I’m not saying this perspective is absolutely correct…I’m just asking, IS IT POSSIBLE that this is what the drinking damnation and failing to properly discern the body of Christ was actually talking about…?

If so, does it change what this scripture means…?

1 Corinthians 11:26-30

New King James Version (NKJV)

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood[a] of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner[b] eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s[c] body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

Again, I’m not trying to tell you what to think…So, ask yourself, Is It Possible…?  I’m just sayin’… It merits thought that I have rarely seen considered…and if not “totally” is it possible that it does play into the scenario in some capacity…? …Selah

***The catalyst for this thought process and subsequent blog today was reading some of @TonyCSutherland book, Grace Works… just wanted to give a shout-out to him for inspiring in me a desire to “look deeper”…*** – He may not even agree with everything I wrote here, but it was absolutely his book’s influence that got my wheels spinning…

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x6khRQFlOc]

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