To partake of the Lord’s table is a serious matter. First Corinthians 11:27-29 says, “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who is eating and drinking, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body.” It is possible for us to eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner. When we come to the Lord’s table, we must be a person in a “worthy manner.” Our living and our behaving must be worthy of the Lord’s table, or we will be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.
Paul goes on to say that each man should “prove himself.” Every time you come to the Lord’s table, you have to prove yourself. This means you have to examine yourself, put yourself to the test, and have yourself approved, meeting the prescribed specifications. You need to be approved by the “checking Spirit.” Then you can go to the Lord’s table and partake of the table with peace. If you sense that you are not approved, it is a problem for you to partake of the Lord’s table. Then what shall you do?
The Bible tells us that it is simple for us to deal with this matter, if we are willing. If we sense that we are not approved, we can make a thorough confession of our sins, wrongdoings, shortcomings, and failures. Then the blood of the Lord Jesus will wash us immediately (1 John 1:9), and we can approve ourselves. All of us should practice this, especially when we come to the Lord’s table. To partake of the Lord’s table is a very serious matter.
If we eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, we eat and drink judgment to ourselves. When we partake of the Lord’s table, we must discern the body. We have to consider what is being exhibited on the table. The bread on the table signifies not only the physical body of the Lord but also His mystical Body, the very unique Body of Christ as the expression of the Triune God. To partake of this bread is serious. We must discern the bread that we are going to break. It must be a figure of Christ’s body broken on the cross for us, and it must be a figure of Christ’s mystical Body, which is the very church as the expression of the Triune God. The mass of the Catholic Church and the so-called holy communion of the Protestant denominations do not point to the unique Body of Christ, but to their division, their denomination. In discerning the Body of Christ, we should not partake of the bread in any division or with any divisive spirit.
We may feel that we have been approved to partake of the table, but we are concerned about others who have been committing sins. We may know of some saints who have been committing sins and still come to the Lord’s table. What shall we do? We must remember that Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 11 tells us to prove ourselves, to test ourselves for approval. It does not tell us that we have to prove or test others. We should leave others to the Lord and not be their judge. We should only judge ourselves and not judge others.
If you know that someone has committed some sins, you have to pray for him and learn to minister Christ as the sin-dealing life to him that he may deal with his sins. The life of Christ is a life that deals with sin, a sin-dealing life. Firstly, you yourself must be dealt with by enjoying Christ’s sin-dealing life. Then you must minister such a Christ as the sin-dealing life to others. The book of Leviticus tells us that the priests were to eat the sin offering in the holy place that they might “bear away the iniquity of the congregation to make propitiation for them before Jehovah” (10:17). As you are enjoying Christ as the sin-dealing life, you must have the capacity to bear away the iniquity of God’s people. You must learn to minister Christ to the dear ones who are in sin.
To minister Christ as the sin-dealing life to someone is not to go to him to point out his fault and condemn him. This will only cause damage. You have to go firstly to soften his hardened heart. A person who sins usually has his heart hardened (Heb. 3:13). If you are going to minister Christ to him, you have to trust in the Lord that you may have the grace with the Spirit to soften his hardened heart. You have to soften his heart and warm up his heart. Then the very Christ as life will be actually, really, and richly ministered to him, and this life, which is the Spirit, will work within him. You do not need to mention his fault because the life that gets into him as the life supply will do a lot. If a person has a certain physical sickness, you do not need to mention his disease. If you minister the proper medication to this sick man, he will get well. I have experienced this in caring for the saints. I did not talk with the saint about his weakness, fault, or sin, but he was healed. He did not get healed by my word but by the very Spirit, the life of Christ, ministered into him through me. This is what it means, according to Leviticus, to bear away the iniquity of the people of God. This is the way to get rid of the sins among some saints.
The work to recover the sinful saints takes time. It cannot be quick. You have to be patient. Even if it took eight months or a year to get one or two sinful saints recovered, that would be a great thing. Galatians 6:1 says that when a brother is overtaken in some offense, those who are spiritual should restore him. We have to do our best to recover a fallen saint. Out of one hundred saints meeting together, maybe two or three are living in a sinful situation. Since you are enjoying Christ, you can pick up the burden to take care of one of them. Another brother may have a burden for the same person. Then you and he can fellowship about this one saint and work together to help him. If you two can work together for half a year to get this sinful brother recovered, this is a great, great help to the church life. This kind of ministry is the element for us to maintain the oneness of the Spirit in the church life.
The oneness can only be maintained in love by the Spirit. Criticism only builds up division and destroys the oneness. We all have to avoid negative talk and learn to take Christ as the sin offering, the sin-dealing life, that we may have the measure and the capacity with a certain amount of Christ to minister to the sinful saints. Then these saints, sooner or later, will be recovered. If we recover one brother, we will reduce the problems in the church life related to the oneness. If you get yourself approved before the Lord, try to help another one who has a problem. After six months of your ministering Christ as the sin-dealing life to him, his problem may be gone. This is not only to bear away the iniquity of the people of God but also to solve the problems of the people of God. Furthermore, this is a practical way to maintain the oneness of the Spirit among the saints.
Thus, related to the Lord’s table, we should practice two things. First, we have to prove ourselves. Second, we should not talk about a sinful saint but pray for him and try to minister the very Christ whom we enjoy to him. Sooner or later, this ministry will be a real salvation to him. Then the church’s problem will be solved through us, and we will have no problem in the oneness of the Spirit. By this way we also can have peace within us to take the Lord’s table.
Let us all be diligent to keep the oneness and endeavor to live a life of love in the church life. Love builds up, but knowledge kills (1 Cor. 8:1; 2 Cor. 3:6). Always live a life in love. Whether or not you go to help a certain one is secondary. The primary thing is to love all the saints, whether they are good or bad, with the same love. We have a tendency to love the stronger saints but not the weaker ones. We must love all the saints with the same love. As long as someone is a saint, he is a member in the church, and we should love him with the same love that we love the other saints. This will kill the germs, destroy the problems, and build up a permanent, lasting oneness of the Spirit.
(A Timely Word, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)