Therefore, prior to partaking we need to stop and examine our own sins, hearts, and motives.
"A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup." (11:28)
"Examine" is dokimazō, "to make a critical examination of something to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine," often used of assaying the genuineness of metal.408 Fee sees the meaning here as "to discern, distinguish as distinct and different."409 To partake of the Lord's Supper without any self-examination, without any reflection, is to consider that Christ's death has no particular meaning for me. It's just something I do when I go to church.
Jesus, too, encouraged reflection when we come to worship God. Here are a pair of verses -- one from Matthew, one from Mark -- that serve as the flip side of each other:
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24)
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (Mark 11:25)
The Didache, a late first-century Christian document, says in the context of the Lord's Supper:
"But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned...."410 (Didache14.2)
It is significant that the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous includes these steps:
For many centuries the Roman Catholic Church has required regular confession to a priest as a prerequisite to taking communion. Done sincerely, confession can aid in spiritual growth and victory over sin. Protestants have often taken sin much too lightly. In the context of sickness resulting from unacknowledged sin, James exhorts confession and repentance, so there might be healing (James 5:16).
Confession to another human, such as an accountability partner, is a powerful way of helping us deal squarely with our sins. But we can also confess our sins to God alone and receive forgiveness (absolution) of our sins (1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:5; 51:2-5). No matter how confession is made, confession and repentance are absolutely necessary to growth in the Christian life. When we bury our sins, we stagnate, falter, and are subject to our Father's loving but firm discipline.
If we know we are living with unrepented sin, is it more respectful of Jesus not to partake of the Lord's Supper? Yes, it is more respectful, but it is stupid! We are subject to God's discipline for hanging onto sin whether or not we take communion. There is a time to repent and come clean, and let the chips fall where they may. The Lord's Supper is a reminder to us that now is the time to examine ourselves, this is the day to get back on the right path. Paul writes:
"As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.... I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:1)
Q4. (1 Corinthians 11:28) What kind of self-examination at the Lord's Table is appropriate? How do confession and repentance fit with self-examination? How do confession and repentance serve to bring spiritual health and character change?