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Why People Sometimes Die after Communion, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 24, 2023 9:00 am

Why People Sometimes Die after Communion, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 24, 2023 9:00 am

When the apostle Paul was completely exasperated by the divisions in the Corinthian church, he laid out a theology of communion, because remembering the gospel cuts through all the noise of the chaos in the church.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. When you touch the bread and the cup in an unworthy manner, you can actually bring God's anger on you in a special way. Because the stakes are raised with his presence, so is the demand that we come into that presence with the right attitude. Coming into his presence unworthily can bring God's discipline, his judgment onto you. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Have you ever had that moment where you're just kind of over it, maybe telling a child what to do or how to behave again? Sometimes I think the apostle Paul might've felt that way, but when it seemed he was completely exasperated by the divisions in the Corinthian church, instead, he laid out a theology of communion because after all, remembering the power of the gospel cuts through all the noise and chaos in the church. So today, pastor J.D. continues to teach three words that when believed and applied to communion will cure so many of our social divisions. He called this message, why people sometimes die after communion.

And if you miss the beginning of this message, you can always catch up online at Now let's rejoin pastor J.D. in first Corinthians chapter 11. There are three words that arise out of Paul's theology of communion that you need to remember in every communion service you're ever a part of. Three words that summarize what is happening in the communion moment when we pass the bread and the cup.

Three words, which if we really believed and applied to him, would cure so many of our social divisions and our church problems. Number one, here they are. Number one, proclamation. Number two, participation. And number three, examination.

Here we go. Number one, proclamation. Verse 26, Paul says, as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you, see the word, proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. I'm normally thought of as the proclaimer in this church.

I stand right here and I proclaim. The Lord's supper, Paul says, is itself a proclamation. The bread and the cup are like, think of them like visual aids, visual aids to help you understand the sermon better, help you better reflect on the gospel, a sermon prop. What is it that is being proclaimed in the bread and the cup? The first thing that these elements proclaim is that we need to be saved.

Every time we hold these up, that's what we're saying. As Paul notes, on the night before Jesus died, Jesus held up the bread and said, this is my body, which is broken for you, for your, for the forgiveness of your sins. If salvation could have been obtained any other way, Jesus would not have had to die. Second, the bread and the cup proclaimed that you can be saved.

Not just that you need to be, but you can be. Jesus did not add any qualifiers to the word you. When he said, this is my body, which is broken for you, which means if you are a you, he's talking to you. Third, we proclaim that suffering and death are not the end. Verse 26, for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death. See this?

Until he comes again. In this world, good people live with hardship. Sometimes they're poor. Sometimes good people are poor. This table proclaims death is not the end. Poverty is the poverty is not the end. That's not the measure of your life. Jesus rose and he's going to return again.

And then everything's different. Fourth, this table proclaims that this church is first and foremost, a community of the forgiven. If the above is true, that we all need to be saved and that all of us can be saved and that poverty and suffering are not the measure of our lives, riches are not the reward for the righteous and poverty is not the curse for the unrighteous, that ought to create a profound sense of equality around this table.

Am I right? Religious pride has no place at this table. The gospel is a sermon. It is a proclamation that destroys all these divisions. Second word, participation.

Proclamation, participation. At the Lord's table, we participate in the body of Christ. Now, technically the word participation does not occur in this chapter, but it's implied in verse 27 when Paul warns people not to participate in these things in an unworthy manner, because if we do, he says, you're actually sinning against Christ's body. There are two ways that Christians go wrong with this.

You ready? About to jump into the theological deep end of the pool. The first is where Christians overread this, believing that the bread and the cup become the actual body and blood of Jesus as we eat it. It's called transubstantiation. The bread and the cup literally transform into Jesus's flesh and blood, his actual DNA, as you ingest them.

But that is not what Paul is saying here. The righteousness and the presence of Christ are given to us not through eating, but through faith. Communion is not some kind of extra grace blessing that goes beyond the righteousness of Christ imputed to you when you trust him. You don't eat it and get a little bit more holy. When you trust it in Christ, you got the full righteousness of Christ right there, not a down payment that you supplement with communion or other sacraments.

That's one way to go wrong. That leads to the second error that Christians often make with communion, and they see this whole ceremony is just symbolic. Just walk and do some rituals that help illustrate the gospel. Paul says that in communion, listen to this, we are actually participating in Christ. We are experiencing his presence in a special way, his presence in these moments is here in a very unique way. Now you say, but isn't he always here? I mean, isn't he omnipresent? Isn't he always in my heart?

Yes, but he manifests his presence in special ways at different times, and communion is one of those times. You've maybe experienced this in your life. My favorite illustration of this is me walking along the sidewalk with one of my kids when they were young. Say it's Raya. This is when I would look down at the dad, this is what I would see.

How do you resist that? And I'd pick her up, and I'd spin her around, and I'd blow raspberries in her neck, and I would say, who's daddy's girl? And she'd say, oh, daddy, you're so silly. Okay. In that moment, was she any more my daughter than she was the moment before? No. Did I love her any less the moment before I picked her up? Was my presence any farther away from her before I picked her up?

No. But in that moment, when I picked her up and I hugged her, she felt my presence in a special way. See, that's what happens in communion. His presence manifests itself.

His arms are even closer. If you quiet your heart, you can feel the squeeze of your heavenly father. Maybe you can hear him whispering his promises in your heart.

You can feel his delight over you as he dances over you with singing, and it assures you that you are his child, promising you that he will never leave you or forsake you. So in this moment, it's not just proclamation, it's also participation. See, that raises the stakes a little bit, doesn't it?

He's here in a special way. That raises the stake, which leads me to word number three, examination. examination. Verse 28, let a person therefore examine himself for whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty concerning desecrating the body and the blood of the Lord. This is why many of you are sick and ill, or many of you have actually died.

Now listen to me. Paul warns that eating and drinking from this table unworthily brings judgment onto you. When you touch the bread and the cup in an unworthy manner, because Christ's presence is here in a special way, you can actually bring God's anger on you in a special way. Because the stakes are raised with his presence, so is the demand that we come into that presence with the right attitude.

Coming into his presence unworthily can bring God's discipline, his judgment onto you. So he asks, well, what exactly does it mean to eat unworthily? It can't mean that we should only take communion when we feel worthy of Christ's presence, because that would be never. None of us are worthy to take the bread and the cup. That's why we take the bread and the cup, because we're not worthy. None of us are worthy of his presence. Jesus said that at our best, on our best day, when you're having the longest righteousness streak you ever had, 18 days without a sin or whatever, you are still an unprofitable servant.

Even though we're forgiven, we have more corruption in our hearts than we could possibly comprehend. So it doesn't mean only eat when you feel worthy. So what does it mean? Well, notice that unworthily is written as an, what part of speech is that? Adverb. You say, well, what difference does that make?

It's an adverb in Greek. Unworthy as an adjective would describe you. We've already said that you're always unworthy to participate in Christ. Paul's focus is not on you, it's on something different. He's talking about how you approach the table. You can approach this table unworthily.

What does that look like? Give you three qualities here. A spirit of self-righteousness. You don't realize how dependent you are on Christ's mercy, what's represented here.

You don't see how your only hope is the body and blood of Jesus. You think you're good enough that God approves of you because of your good works. The irony is that you approach this table unworthily when you fail to see how unworthy you are to partake of this table. If you know you're unworthy, then you're approaching this table worthily. If you think you are worthy, then you are approaching this table unworthily. You want to approach it worthily, then understand how unworthy you are. Does that make sense?

How could it not? Secondly, a spirit of defiance. A spirit of self-righteousness, a spirit of defiance. If you partake of this table when you know that you're not submitted to Christ, that is you are openly and intentionally living in a way that you know displeases him, you're engaging then in the very lifestyle that put Jesus on the cross.

Y'all think about it. In taking the bread and the cup, you're saying, thank God for Jesus and his death. It's my life, and it's my hope. But then with your life, you are openly crucifying him. With your mouth, you're celebrating his cross while practicing the lifestyle that put him on the cross. You cannot shout, worship him, and crucify him at the same time and not expect God's anger. Friend, I say this with all humility. Do not touch the elements of this table if you are not surrendered to Christ. I don't mean if you're struggling with sin or overwhelmed by your sin. Jesus came for people like that.

His death is help and healing for those who know they're sick. What I mean is do not touch the bread and the cup if you know that there's some area you refuse to submit to him, some relationship you're in right now that you know he does not want you in, but you're like, I don't care what he wants. I'm going to do it anyway. Don't add to your condemnation by hypocritically saying, thank you, Jesus, for your death, while stubbornly doing the very things that put him on the cross. Keep your rebellious, treasonous hands off those elements. It is dangerous. This is Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. Before we return to today's teaching, I wanted to remind you about our featured resource this month that will take you just a bit deeper into what we've been studying here on the program. It's called Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in First Corinthians. Whether you are studying on your own or with a small group, this guide is packed with insights and practical application. One of the things that we are discovering in this teaching series is that the church in Corinth was facing a lot of the same things that we face today. So learning what God had to say to them at the time and then realizing it's also what he says to us even today. We'll send the study as our thanks when you give a gift to the ministry right now.

So give us a call at 866-335-5220 or go to today. Now let's return for the conclusion of our teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. You eat unworthily with your spirit of self-righteousness, spirit of defiance.

Here's the third one, a spirit of division. This, I believe, is most properly what was in Paul's mind when he said, don't come to this table unworthily. Because that's the context of the passage, right?

That's the setup. Verse 33, he concludes by saying, therefore, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, welcome one another. That's how you do this in a worthy manner. Don't come in when your heart, in your heart you're separated from others by some kind of pride or classism or racism. Don't come when you harbor resentment or unforgiveness in your heart. Do not come claiming to cherish the forgiveness of Christ when you refuse to forgive somebody else. Don't come in when you are divided from your brothers and sisters over some secondary or some non-essential matter, a political perspective or a cultural bias.

Let me make it real. Some of you should not take it as table because you're more Republican than you are Jesus. Or you're more Democrat than you are Jesus. And here's why I say that, because you cannot stand being around anybody who approaches politics differently than you, even if they love Jesus like you and you agree on all the essentials, the authority of the Bible, what it teaches about morality or being pro-life or whatever. You agree on all those things, but because they bring a different perspective or a different set of priorities with them when they come into the polls, you resent them.

The truth is you hate them. You wish they'd just go to another church. And if they don't, well, you're thinking you probably should go to a different church. Do not touch this table if you harbor divisions and resentments that are unbefitting of the body of Christ.

That is eating in an unworthy manner. Jesus put it this way in the Sermon on the Mount. If you're offering your gift to the altar and you got division with your brother in Christ, leave your gift before the altar and go reconcile with him. First, he said, be reconciled with your brother and then come offer your gift.

Paul's saying the same thing. First, feel that sense of unity with your brothers and sisters and let that be reflected in your attitude toward them and how you behave toward them and how you fellowship with them and only them partake of these elements. What happens if you don't? What happens if you disregard the body? If you disregard the Lordship of Christ, what happens if you eat from the table unworthily?

Well, Paul said in verse 30, didn't he? That's why some of you got sick and some of you have died. You say, well, what does that mean? Well, what's that a metaphor for?

There's no way to sugarcoat that. Paul means that a lot of people in the Corinthian church had gotten sick and died for not taking that moment seriously. Now, you all thank God that not everybody who's ever participated in communion unworthily died shortly thereafter.

Doesn't always happen. But Paul says that sometimes it happens and that should at least show you how God feels about those who don't take this sacred moment seriously. The theologian D.A. Carson tells the story of a pastor friend who had a church of about 200. He said sin was so rampant in that church, he said, I couldn't even discipline.

I couldn't even confront the sin because the leadership was involved in a lot of the sin and they didn't want to do anything about it. The pastor prayed for three months. He said, God, either change the hearts of people in this church or move me out of this church. The next year, this pastor said he had 34 funerals. 20% of the church died in the space of a year. The year after that, he baptized 200. Now, does that always happen?

No. And in many ways, thank God. In his mercy, God doesn't always do that. But Paul says the fact that it happens sometimes should make you realize how seriously God takes this. Don't we see a similar thing happen in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira come into the church with their offering and they lie about the offering?

Remember this story? They told everybody, we're bringing the whole price of the land, the whole price of the land that we sold, when in fact it was only half. The sin was not in bringing half. The book of Acts makes that clear.

They were free to do that if they wanted. The sin was lying to the church and to God about what they were doing. Now, again, thank God, you should say amen to this, that he does not strike dead everybody in church who exaggerates their giving or gives to look good in front of others. What a moment that would be every Sunday morning. God does not strike dead everybody who exaggerates their offerings in church, but Acts 5 gives you a glimpse into how he feels about people who posture and lie and are phonies in church.

Worship is a deadly, serious thing. How does God feel about those who take this bread and cup and say, I'm thankful for this bread and cup. This is my salvation.

This is my salvation. All the while harboring in their heart the very sin that put Jesus on the cross or relishing and sinful resentments against their brothers and sisters that Jesus died to make into one family. Y'all, this is supposed to be a moment of incredible gospel clarity, where the church puts on visible display the unity of the body that Jesus died to create, where we declare our common hope in Jesus is more important to us than any secondary thing that divides us. It's supposed to be a time of togetherness, not just where we feel connected to God, but we feel connected to each other.

J.I. Packer, who is the late Canadian Anglican theologian, always said that for that reason, whenever he is in church for communion, he'd always sit close to somebody, even if he didn't know who they were. It's just as a matter of principle, always sit close to somebody in communion, because this is supposed to be a moment of family, of connection to others, not just to God.

It's you, not just you and God, it's you and God's other children. This is why, if I could say this gently, for those of you who are joining us from home, still, I want you to know there's something profound that you are missing out on and not being with your brothers and sisters. I know, I know that some of you have medical reasons to stay separate. We suspended meeting in big groups on the weekend for a lot of 2020 for that reason, so I get it. But you need to at least be aware of what you're missing, and you should be seeking to get out of that situation and get back into the presence of your church family as soon as you can.

I say that without apology. I say that because I hear people say, oh, I just like, I love someone online. I like getting up and coming downstairs in my pajamas and sitting on the couch with my kids and watching church. It just works better for our family. Church at home can be substitute for church in an emergency, but it's not church. Church is being with the body, particularly for moments like this. When I'm away, when I'm traveling away from my wife, sometimes I look at her picture because I miss her. Even better, sometimes I'll FaceTime her. But looking at a picture of her and talking to her digitally, a digitally represented image of her is not the same thing as being in her presence.

And if you think it is, I would say that you do not understand marriage. Dialing into church online is fine in an emergency, but if you think it's the same thing as church, I would say you don't understand what church is. I've told you before that I love going to local college basketball games where the whole crowd is united and cheering for the same team. Cameron Crazies, NC State Wolfpack, UNC, Eagle Prime, whatever, whatever.

It doesn't matter to me. People say, who do you cheer for in those moments? I cheer for the team of whoever gave me the free tickets. But I love those moments because you can look around the moment, the room in that moment, and you see a lot of these people who would be divided on a million other topics. But in that room for 90 magical minutes, they are united around the importance, the greatness of Duke basketball or NC State basketball or UNC basketball.

When things go well for your team in a crisis moment, you're hugging and high-fiving random people. That's how much commonality you feel in that moment. That is at least partially what the gospel should be like in a moment like this. We're just so overwhelmed by Jesus that all the other differences seem less relevant. When we come to church, our commonality in him outweighs any secondary perspective or preference. So, brothers and sisters, let's take the Lord's table together. This is our unity.

Let's examine ourselves. Could you bow your head with me? Friend, do you recognize Christ as your only hope of salvation? If you never have before, you knew it right now, I have no hope it's you, Lord Jesus. My hope is built on nothing less but Jesus' blood and righteousness. It's a gift offered to you right now. You can receive it right now.

How about this? Are you fully surrendered to him? I want to be clear. I don't mean do you not struggle with sin anymore. I still struggle with sin all the time. What do I mean? Right now, are you defiantly living with some sin that you know is wrong but you just say, No, I'm not going to change that? Friend, if that's true, don't touch the bread of the cup.

It's dangerous for you. If you don't yet know Christ, it's going to tell you, don't take these things. You're still on a journey.

That's fine. Just don't take them yet. These are a sermon. You don't preach the sermon before you believe it, but listen to this sermon being preached all around you this morning. What you can do is, as this sermon is preached, as these people take the bread and the cup, you can receive the grace that is being offered to you in Christ. If you'll just receive Christ by faith, his blood will wash away your sin, his presence will fill you. Trust Christ as your Savior right now.

A new life in him will be yours. One other question to examine yourself. Are you harboring some resentment, some division against a brother or sister? Reconcile with them right now in your heart. Forgive them.

You might even need to hold off taking these things and go make things right with them. Whatever you do, do not be hypocritical when you take the bread and the cup. Hating or looking down on somebody else that Jesus died to save and is put into your family is to eat unworthily. What brings us together is so much more important than anything that could ever divide us. A powerful message today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. You know, 1 Corinthians is such an important book because it addresses so many relevant topics that we can apply directly to our lives today. So, J.D., I know that we've tackled a lot of these already in our series so far, but could you give us a quick listing of some of the issues 1 Corinthians covers? Yeah, when we follow Paul's teaching through 1 Corinthians, we come across such a wide variety of topics.

We just chose 14. I know it sounds like a lot, but we've divided them up into little five-minute increments. It's a five-minute Bible study that you can go through for two or three weeks. Go at your pace.

It may take you a month. We start with salvation. How do you know that you know that you belong to Jesus? And then we cover topics like leadership, judging others, relational discord, God's views on sex and marriage and singleness.

And we'll even answer questions like the always popular, do women really have to submit to men? Does the Bible actually teach that? And how do you know what idols you're worshiping?

How can you identify those and address them and get them out of your life? What's the right way to worship in church? And how do you know that you're doing what you're supposed to be doing in church? We'd love to give you a copy. We'd love for you to reserve a copy when you give today at We'll send you this resource as a thank you when you donate $35 or more to support this ministry or when you give an ongoing monthly gift as one of our gospel partners. Your generosity helps us continue to bring gospel-centered Bible teaching to the radio and web, making it accessible to everyone everywhere without cost getting in the way. To be a part, give us a call at 866-335-5220 or visit today. That's J-D-G-R-E-E-A-R dot com.

I'm Molly Bidevich. Thanks for being with us this week. Have a great weekend of worship, and we'll see you right back here on Monday for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-24 10:19:40 / 2023-03-24 10:30:09 / 10

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