Thoughts on Sickness and Discerning the Lord’s Body

Communion Lord's Supper Bread WineThere is a rather intriguing and mysterious passage in the Bible found in the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 11, in which Paul seeks to correct some of the abuses that were happening in relation to the Lord’s supper. Paul’s main concern seems to be that this celebration of the Lord’s Supper should be done in a way pleasing to God. This is because Jesus Christ Himself commanded it to be done. And Paul writes:

“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood[d] of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”

(1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

Now Paul’s primary concern is that we do things rightly but he mentions here, almost parenthetically, a consequence that was happening to these Corinthians because they were NOT doing things in the write way. They were eating and drinking the Lord’ Supper in an unworthy manner. They were also NOT discerning the Lord’s body in the matter. And one of the consequences for the church was that many were weak and sick among them, and some had even died. This Paul explains as being a JUDGMENT from God. When we are judged by God, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

Wow, there is a lot to explore in this passage …

When we look at the context of this passage, we see that the church were getting drunk on the Lord’s supper, and eating greedily, without considering others, or waiting for others. They were rude, selfish and self-indulgent in their way of handling the matter, and they were coming under judgment.

Is this all it means by “not discerning the Lord’s body”? This is a negative statement by Paul. He talks about something they WERE NOT doing. But one might ask, “What DOES it mean to discern the Lord’s body?” And how does one do it? Is it simply a matter of “waiting for one another” and “not getting drunk”? Or is there more to it? And are there any blessings associated with discerning the Lord’s body?

Where is the Lord’s Body in the Lord’s Supper?

There are deep mysteries involved in the Lord’s Supper, and Christians of different traditions and understandings PRECISELY because the full understanding of the matter is not spelled out in Scripture. Some things are clear and others have been hotly contested over the years.

I am not going to speak dogmatically on this, but rather present some thoughts that I believe are relevant and also in harmony with this passage and other passages in the Scripture.

There are three different kinds of mentions of “the Lord’s Body” at least in Scripture. The first and most obvious one is the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth through which He did so many amazing things for people and for us all. The most important thing that Jesus did through his physical body was to offer it up for us all as a sacrifice on the cross. The precious body of Jesus was “broken” on the cross, and blood was also shed.

Clearly in celebrating the Lord’ supper we are doing this in remembrance of the Lord.

“23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.””

We must remember the Lord’s sacrificial death for us when we take the Lord’s supper. The physical body of the Lord was broken for us. What this actually accomplished for us is explored in other Scriptures. But obviously, if people do not really think of the death of Jesus for us when they take the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist or whatever men wish to call this, they are “not discerning the Lord’s body”.

Jesus took bread, broke it and said, “This is My body which is broken for you”. It is no co-incidence that the bread is broken and the body is broken. The bread then, is at the very least a symbol of the Lord’s broken body. Some would say that in some supernatural sense it IS physically the Lord’s body, or the Lord’s flesh. Roman Catholics and Orthodox believers would affirm this. They say there is a literal physical change. But what kind of miracle this really is isn’t so clear. It is not as if we are tasting human flesh or meat when we (or they) eat the bread. We are not practicing cannibalism when we celebrate the Lord’s supper. But there is a sense in which we are REALLY partaking of the life of Jesus when we celebrate the Lord’s supper. Spiritual things are more real than natural things. Spiritually, the bread becomes the body of the Lord and when we eat of it worthily, it is supposed to bring a blessing. I believe that blessing extends to the physical health of our own bodies. This seems reasonable because of the the prophetic declaration of Isaiah in chapter 53 concerning the death of Christ.

“Surely He has borne our sicknesses [Heb: choli = sickness NOT grief]
And carried our pains; [Heb: makob = pain]
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

The translators of Isaiah 53:4 were a little dishonest in choosing the words griefs and sorrows in Isaiah 53:4. The literal translation of the Hebrews words is given above. Jesus bore these sicknesses and pains in his BODY. And by the whip lashings that tore across his back WE ARE HEALED. When this passage is referred to in Matthew 8:16,17 in the Greek it says:
“When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“He Himself took our infirmities
And bore our sicknesses.”
No one should then argue that the correct translation is really with “griefs” and “sorrows”.
One might argue that Matthew 8:16,17 applied ONLY to the people Jesus healed on that day, but I think the word “only” is an addition. It was one application of the ministry of the body of Jesus. Jesus referred to his body as a seed. And when the “seed” died “was broken” on the cross, out of it came new life, bringing healing potentially to all. We can also argue that the whipping of Jesus in some sense guarantees the availability of physically healing to all God’s people, or even to all people. Certainly God has not been so offended with this interpretation as to withhold healing when it is preached. Multitudes HAVE been healed when the doctrine of “healing in the atonement” has been preached. This was very powerful for example in the ministry of F.F. Bosworth, a pentecostal pioneer who ran a radio program which preached these truths, and then later in the ministry of Dr T.L. Osborn.
So perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to say that when correctly and worthily taken, the bread which in a spiritual sense IS the Lord’s broken body does bring physical healing – especially when we BELIEVE. Taken unworthily, on the other hand, or perhaps taken decently but without discerning the Lord’s body, Christians might be judged by the Lord through weakness or sickness or even death. We have to realise this is meant to be a holy and powerful thing. And if Jesus really DID take our sicknesses and infirmities in His suffering as the Word seems to say, then it is rather INSULTING to God, not to mention STUPID, if we choose to ignore this, reject it, and stay in the resultant ill-health.
If God has lessons to teach us through sickness, as some believe, we would be better off rather learning them through first “examining ourselves” and “examining the Word” so we can get the sin out of our life – especially all forms of RELATIONAL sin as regards the people of God – another form of the “Lord’s body” which we are supposed to discern.
Which brings us to a third form of “the Lord’s body”, which is the Body of Christ, or the people of God. Jesus said, “Insasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me”. This means that if we treat Christians well, we treat Jesus well, if we treat them badly, or ignore their physical needs, we are treating Jesus badly. We need to realise that the way we treat others is the way we treat Christ. Furthermore, we need to recognise that Jesus is going to be ministering to us THROUGH the body – the people of God.
Sometimes healing comes only through a God-appointed member of the Body of Christ. It might be through their laying on of hands, their intercessory prayers, their words or something else they do. To shut out the ministry of healing through the Body of Christ is another form of “not discerning the Lord’s body”.
We are not an island unto ourselves. God has appointed different ministries in the body, and sometimes God chooses to use an individual in a special way on a one shot basis. We need to be open to what the Lord may want to do. Anyone ministering in the name of Jesus also must purify himself, examine himself, and do their utmost NOT to pass on spiritual pollution or demonic oppression through their “ministry” because they are not living their lives in the fear of God.
If we discern the Lord’s body in the Body of Christ we will receive blessings that we will not receive if we are closed to the Body of Christ. If we treat the Body of Christ with contempt through the way we do relationships, we are also inviting trouble “judgment” on ourselves. God will chasten those He loves who need chastening, so they do not get totally off-track so as to be condemned along with the world.
We need to remember that Jesus died for us – for our healing also.
We need to take the Lord’ supper in faith, releasing that we are spiritually partaking of the Body of Christ when we eat the bread, and so something supernatural can happen.
We need to see the Lord’s body in the people of God in the local church and perhaps beyond. We need to treat people right and also be open to the channels God may wish to use to bring healing life.
In all this we must examine ourselves and turn to the Lord and do righteousness before taking the Lord’s supper. In this way we receive the blessing of God’s life and not a curse for careless sinning against the Body of Christ.

I invite you to build a faith community together with me. Join my social media channels and let’s connect, especially if you want freedom or fullness in Christ.

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