Chapter 39 Discerning The Lord's Body

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body (1 Corinthians 11:29).

The text means that some bring ruin upon themselves because they do not have a proper sense of the Lord’s body. There is a wide divergence both of thought and practice in regard to the remembrance feast. Apart from the Roman mass, which is idolatrous, there is the excessive practice of it by the Church of England by using it for varied occasions. There is the Presbyterian practice of observing it but four times a year. There is the Baptist practice of once a month. But the evidence of Scripture is that the saints gather for worship—the central feature of which is the breaking of bread—every Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7).

Perhaps a greater danger than irregularity is turning the feast into a religious ritual and observing it without spiritual affections or any heart exercise of worship. In Scripture, this feast is nowhere called a sacrifice. The sacrifice for sins was once made on Calvary’s cross and is never to be repeated. But its memory is preserved in the weekly observance of the memorial feast. The gathering place for this feast is round a table, not an altar.

The blessing of the feast is given to the participant who comes with a proper spirit of worship, praise, and thanksgiving. There is no priest presiding. The Lord Himself presides. Blessing is given as the participant discerns by the Spirit’s enlightenment the spiritual realities of the ordinance. The one thing to be supremely discerned is the Lord’s body, and He possesses both a personal and mystical body.

The Personal Body of Our Lord

This personal body of His was crucified. The world may look upon the Lord as a great moral teacher with ideals to embrace, or of a martyr dying for a cause. But true believers discern that He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). The heart of the Gospel message is not example but expiation—that He purges our sins—that in His body He “suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

We also discern the same crucified body risen and glorified. The church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the Lord Jesus lives in His glorified body before the Father’s face, acting as Advocate on behalf of His people. He is not in the loaf of bread on the table as a kind of imprisoned Deity. That is pagan idolatry, and for no other supposing than to advance the power of witchcraft.

Then, too, we discern His body in that in which He will come again. “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). God has purpose concerning the material creation in our Lord’s coming. He is to reclaim the earth for the “earth is the Lord’s” both by creative and redemptive rights. In its regeneration our material bodies will be resurrected.

The Mystical Body of Our Lord

If we come to the feast with a discerning and anointed spirit we shall recognize His mystical body in the one loaf. “We being many are one bread, and one body” (1 Corinthians 10:17). The Church is His mystical body.

1. It is a body called out of this world. Believers are a called-out people. Just as Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees and Israel was called out of Egypt, so the church is called out of a condemned world. It is distinct from the world by the experience of redemption. Believers are separated from the world and unto Christ. If we by grace are brought into the most intimate union with our Lord, how can we be joined to, and intimate with, the world which crucified Him? Fellowship at the Lord’s memorial feast demands separation from the world.

2. It is a body called into togetherness. “We being many are … one body” (1 Corinthians 10:17). We must discern the vital bond which binds together all the redeemed. The Church is a living organism and the basis of fellowship is a common life in Christ—the life of His Spirit. We should never come to this feast while at variance with another or else our testimony ceases to be vital. All antagonisms, grievances and despisings, must be laid aside before partaking.

3. It is a body called unto glory. There are pessimists and skeptics who harp on the Church being a spent force and in dying decline. This memorial feast is to remind us every week that the company of the Lord’s people is to be a most “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). This elect company, called out of “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” will be together around the throne of God and of the Lamb, singing unto Him who “was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood” —yes, singing unto Him “that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 5:9; 1:5). We are called unto His “eternal glory.”

O Love, how deep, how broad, how high!
It fills the heart with ecstasy,
That God, the Son of God, should take
Our mortal form, for mortals’ sake.

For us He was baptized and bore
His holy fast, and hungered sore;
For us temptation sharp He knew,
For us the tempter overthrew.

For us to wicked men betrayed,
Scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death,
For us at length gave up His breath.

For us He rose from death again;
For us He went on high to reign;
For us He sent the Spirit here
To guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.

Anonymous From 15th Century,
Tr. By Benjamin Webb