[This post is contributed by Alex Rover]
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one hope to which we are called. (Eph 4:4-6) It would be blasphemous to say there are two Lords, two baptisms or two hopes, since Christ said there would be just one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16)
Christ shared only a single loaf of bread, which he broke and, after prayer, gave to his apostles, saying “This is my body which is given to you”. (Luke 22:19; 1Co 10:17) There is but one true loaf of bread, and it is a gift of Christ to you.
Are you worthy to receive this gift?
Happy are the meek
The Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-11) describe Christ’s meek sheep, who will be called children of God, see God, be satisfied, shown mercy, comforted, and will inherit both heaven and earth.
Meek ones will be inclined to say they are unworthy. Moses said of himself: “O my Lord, I am not an eloquent man, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exod 4:10) John the Baptist said he was not worthy to carry the sandals of the one who would come after him. (Mt 3:11) And a centurion said: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”. (Mt 8:8)
The very fact that you question your worthiness is evidence of your meekness. Humility comes before honor. (Pr 18:12; 29:23)
Perhaps you have reflected on the words in 1 Corinthians 11:27:
“Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”
One consideration is that by partaking in an unworthy manner, one becomes guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. Of Judas, Scripture states it would be better for him if he had never been born. (Mt 26:24) We would not want to share in the fate of Judas by partaking unworthily. Understandably then, Jehovah’s Witnesses have used this Scripture as a deterrent for would-be partakers.
It should be noted that some translations use the word “unworthily”. This can confuse the reader, because we all “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, thus none of us is worthy. (Rom 3:23) Instead, partaking in an unworthy manner, as described in scripture, reveals an act of contempt for Christ’s gift.
We may think of the analogy with contempt of court. Wikipedia describes this as the offense of being disobedient or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court.
The one who defiantly doesn’t partake is in ‘contempt of Christ’ due to disobedience, but the one who partakes in an unworthy manner shows contempt due to disrespect.
An illustration may help us understand this better. Imagine your house is on fire, and your neighbor rescues you. However, in the process of saving you, he dies. How would you approach his memorial? The same dignity is what Christ requires of us when approaching his memorial.
Also, imagine you afterward started engaging in a behavior that puts your life at risk. Wouldn’t this show contempt for your neighbor’s life, since he died so that you may live? Thus Paul wrote:
“And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.” (2Co 5:15)
Since Christ gave his life for you, how you view and act toward his gift of your life demonstrates whether you would partake in a worthy manner or not.
Before partaking, we are told to examine ourselves. (1Co 11:28) The Aramaic Bible in Plain English likens this self-examination to a searching of one’s soul. This means that we don’t make a light-hearted decision to partake.
In fact, such examination involves serious reflection on your feelings and beliefs so that, if you make the decision to partake, you will partake with conviction and understanding. Partaking signifies that we understand our sinful state and need for redemption. It is therefore an act of humility.
If upon self-examination we find ourselves deeply aware of our need of forgiveness for our sins, and we find that our hearts are in the right condition toward Christ’s ransom, then we do not partake in an unworthy way.
In reference to the day when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, when he comes to be glorified among his anointed followers, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy used to pray that our God would make us worthy of his calling through undeserved kindness. (2Th 1)
This indicates that we are not automatically worthy, but only through God’s and Christ’s grace. We become worthy as we bear much fruit. All God’s children have the spirit operate upon them, developing Christian qualities. It can take time, and our Heavenly Father is patient, but bearing such fruit is essential.
It is proper that we follow the example of our first century brothers and pray for ourselves and each other that God may help us be worthy of his calling. As little children, we are absolutely certain of our Father’s love for us, and that he will give us any and all help we need to succeed. We sense his protection and guidance, and follow his direction so that it may go well with us. (Eph 6:2-3)
A Single Lost Sheep
What made the one little sheep worthy of the full attention of the Shepherd? The sheep became lost! So Jesus Christ said there would be great rejoicing over a single sheep found and returned to the flock. If you feel unworthy and lost – what makes you worthy over all Christ’s other sheep to receive such love and care?
“When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:5-7 NIV)
The parallel parable of the lost coin and parable of the lost son convey the same truth. We do not consider ourselves worthy! The lost son said:
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21 NIV)
Yet all three parables in Luke chapter 15 teach us that even if we are not worthy by our own standards, our Heavenly Father loves us still. The apostle Paul understood this so well because he carried the burden of his murderous past when he persecuted God’s sheep, and needed this forgiveness and love not less than we do. Notice his beautiful conclusion:
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39 KJV)
The Covenant in His Blood
In the same way as with the bread, Jesus took the cup after saying: “This cup is the covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1Co 11:25 NIV) Drinking the cup is in remembrance of Christ.
The first covenant with Israel was a covenant for a nation through the Mosaic Law. God’s promises to Israel have not become invalid by the new covenant. Jesus Christ is also the root of the olive tree. Jews were broken off as branches because of unbelief in Christ, although natural Jews are natural branches. Sadly, not many Jews remain connected to the root of Israel, but the invitation to accept Christ remains open to them. Those of us who are gentiles are not natural branches, but we have been grafted in.
“And you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root […] and you stand by faith.” (Rom 11:17-24)
The olive tree represents the Israel of God under the new covenant. A new nation does not mean the old nation is entirely disqualified, just like a new earth does not mean the old earth will be destroyed, and a new creation does not mean that our current bodies evaporate somehow. Likewise a new covenant doesn’t mean the promises to Israel under the old covenant have been undone, but it means a better or renewed covenant.
Per the prophet Jeremiah, our Father promised the coming of a new covenant which he would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah:
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:32-33)
Is Jehovah our Father YOUR God, and have YOU become part of HIS PEOPLE?
A Most Sacred Night
On Nisan 14 (or as often we drink of the cup and eat the loaf), we remember Christ’s love for mankind, and Christ’s love for us personally. (Luke 15:24) We pray that you may be motivated to “Seek the Lord while he makes himself available; call to him while he is nearby!” (Isaiah 55:3, 6; Luke 4:19; Isaiah 61:2; 2Co 6:2)
Do not let fear of man rob you of your joy! (1 John 2:23; Mat 10:33)
“For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. For it is better to suffer doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.” (1Pe 3:13-17)
Although we are not worthy in and of ourselves, we allow God’s love to make us worthy. Set apart as his Holy possession in this wicked world, we let our love for our Father and our neighbors shine as a light that cannot be extinguished. Let’s bear much fruit, and proclaim boldly that OUR KING CHRIST JESUS DIED, BUT IS RISEN.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the NET Translation.