In 1 Cor. 11:29 Paul tells the Corinthians, “All who eat and drink without discerning the body of the Lord eat and drink judgment to themselves.” I have always heard this taught, like everyone else, that this means we need to do something like repent for all our sins and meditate on what the Lord did for us on the cross. I do not dispute that we should do something like that. But to say that is what Paul is saying here is to ignore the context of that chapter plus the next three chapters. The body Paul was talking about is us. We are the body of Christ.
In that chapter, Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for not considering and treating all members as equals at the supper. Some of the more wealthy members were not waiting for the poor and eating the food before they got there. Therefore, he goes on to summarize his point at the end of the chapter in verses 33 and 34, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.” Paul gives a clear warning here that when we come together and do not discern the Lord’s body – that is, consider all the members as equals--God will send judgment.
Paul goes on to explain exactly what he meant by “discerning the body” in the next three chapters so that no one would miss it. So how did we miss it so far? He explains that the body has many different parts, and we need to all give and receive as a part of the Lord’s body. This is what their meal was all about. It was supposed to be a picture of “discerning the body.” Everyone came together and brought something, if they had something to bring, and everyone ate the meal together. That should happen spiritually as well. We are all parts of one body, but we need to discern that we need all the parts. He goes on to say, “What should we do then, my brothers? When you come together, each has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for the building up” (14:26).
First, I should mention that we do not come together to eat a meal together like they did. We have reduced the “Lord’s Supper” to an assembly line ritual that it was never intended to be. I am convinced if Paul came and saw a “church” eating a little cracker and drinking a little shot glass full of grape juice in solemn meditation, he would not have a clue what we were doing. And he would be shocked if he found out. That is the first thing we are doing wrong when we come together. We have traded true fellowship for ritual religion. We have traded the picture of the body eating a meal together into a picture of some strange ritual. Nevertheless, this ritual is a good picture of how we are “discerning the body” – we are not. Therefore, we are “eating and drinking judgment to ourselves.” I realize I am in danger of coming against deeply rooted traditions of man here, and almost nothing is more immutable than a tradition of man.
What we do discern is one part of the body-- the pastor. We see and hear him week after week “feeding” us knowledge to the exclusion of discerning the rest of the body and their gifts. The passage quoted above about all having something “when we come together” is totally ignored as if it never existed. And against scripture we come together week after week to hear a sermon by the pastor. Where does it say in the Bible we are supposed to meet every week to hear a sermon? It doesn’t. It is unscriptural. It says “When you come together, each has a hymn, teaching, revelation, etc.” It does not say, “When you come together to hear the sermon . . .” In fact, the word “sermon” is not even found in the Bible! We are not doing what Paul said to do when we meet together, so how can we be called a New Testament church? At best we can say that we come together to hear a sermon about the New Testament church. It’s like taking a history class on the New Testament Church. But when we come together we are supposed to be the church, not receive head knowledge from one part. Instead of being a body, going to a church meeting has become a spectator sport. We all go to see what show the pastor is going to put on this week. We pay him to perform. Imagine Paul observing us going to watch a professional for a couple of hours once a week and calling it “church.” Do you think he would be incredulous?
We have failed to discern the body, and most of the people’s gifts have long since withered on the vine. At the same time we have inflated the position of pastor into something very unscriptural. It is assumed the rest of the parts of the body are not needed or desired, only the pastors. If at our meals (at home) we only ate one food week after week we would get sick for lack of nutrition derived from the other foods. This is the picture of Lord’s Supper – everyone in the body has something different to offer. We need it all or we will get malnutrition. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body” (12:17-20).
So, if it says so clearly in the scriptures what we should do when we come together, why in Jesus’ name is it not done? There are many reasons. I will name just a few of them. One, the pastors are afraid that if they actually allow a New Testament meeting, it would quickly get out of control. No doubt there would be some growing pains in this. So lets just throw out what Paul said should be done in a meeting and invent one that the pastor likes and suits his artificial role. OK? We seem to be alright with this. Week after week we come and hear one part of the body, the pastors mouth, while the rest of the body sits there week after week like so many dumb sheep. Far from being fed, the rest of the body gets sick and dies on the pews spiritually. I’ll cover the true role of the pastor in another article. For now, let me just say that for the time it takes to prepare a sermon every week, along with being a venerated CEO, the true biblical responsibilities of the shepherd are almost totally neglected.
Another reason they are afraid to implement a New Testament meeting is that some people would leave because they came to see the show and not participate. That may cut the finances of the church and could even affect pastors’ paychecks, God forbid. Fear of losing their jobs and positions is a major factor. In other words, the New Testament is ignored for all the same reasons the Pharisees crucified Jesus. It is better for the pastors to throw out vast amounts of Scripture and pretend they are not in the Bible, or claim that they do not apply to a modern sophisticated, professional church.
Some who allow home groups say that we can do those things in the home groups. I am all for that. However, I still have a problem with the artificial Sunday meeting with the sermon because there is no biblical basis for it. Sure, there should be times for teaching, but where does it say that the Pastor was supposed to do it all, and every Sunday? On the contrary Paul said again,
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets
(1 Cor. 14:26-32).
Can you even imagine the above happening at the average church? But if it is not happening, is it really a New Testament church meeting or an invention of man? The sad thing is what we have created and allowed to exist is so far from a New Testament church that God is going to have to tear it all down and rebuild. So, many pastors will end up losing their jobs anyway in the re-building process when Elijah comes.
How long will we dumb sheep put up with this? Will we continue to allow just a few choice members of the body to dominate at our expense? The false system will be burned in the fire that will test all things. Many have already come out of the false system at the cost of reproach outside the camp. I personally have no illusions that the church is going to come out of their cherished man-made traditions except by severe judgment and persecution.
When we come together, “Let all things be done for edification” (v.26). If all the members and gifts are not being exercised, we are not being built up (edified). We need to learn to discern the body. We are the body and all of us should be a recognized part of it. We all need the whole body. As it is, we have a paraplegic body. Judgment has already fallen for us not discerning the body and many are sick and many have even died.