One of the most sobering passages in the entire New Testament comes when Paul gives instructions concerning the Lord’s Supper. The old King James Version is particularly frightening:
“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:29).
The New International Version echoes the same thought:
“For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
After all, damnation is the consequence of the Lord’s judgment. So what is this sin that has such dire consequences? Eating and drinking communion “unworthily … not discerning the Lord’s body.”
The word translated “discerning” or “recognizing” the Lord’s body is diakrino (dee-a-KREE-no διακρίνων). It is a critical spiritual virtue. In the days of the New Testament, there was even a miraculous gift of discernment. The Holy Spirit gave people insight (1 Corinthians 12:10), and the Apostle Paul prays for his friends in Philippi, “that you may be able to discern what is best” (Philippians 1:10). The apostle tells their neighbors, the Thessalonians, to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22). The phrase going through life with “both eyes wide open” describes this quality.
If we come to the Lord’s Supper with both eyes wide open, what will we see? The Lord’s Body. If you rush through this spiritual feast and taste only a bit of cracker and a thimble full of wine, then that is a damnable offense! You have also missed the beauty of the communion.
My mom insisted we wash our hands before dinner. She dutifully inspected our fingers before we filled our plates. Why? Was she afraid we’d get dirt on the tablecloth? No, she was worried we would ingest germs and bacteria along with our mashed potatoes. We would become ill.
Likewise, before we eat the Lord’s Supper, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I worthy?” and the answer is “No.” We come to the table as redeemed sinners. When we recognize our unworthiness, we ask the Lord for forgiveness. Once more, He cleanses us, and then we are ready to participate with “both eyes wide open.”