What Does "Unworthily" Mean?

Chris Anderson and friends recently launched a new blog at Starting today, the blog will appear in our SI Blogroll. To mark the occasion, we commend the article below as a sample of what you’ll find there.—Editor

Gathering with the Lord’s church to remember Christ and His work is a vital part of Christian worship and an edifying exercise for both the corporate body and the individual Christian. Yet, Scripture protects the Lord’s Table in 1 Corinthians 11:27, where we are warned not to partake “unworthily” (KJV) or “in an unworthy manner” (ESV). That’s important—so important that people can suffer illness or even death for doing it (v. 30). But what does it mean?

For many, it means bondage. Countless believers have spent their entire lives afraid to partake of the Lord’s Table because they doubt their own worthiness. Communion has become a time when they remember themselves rather than (or at least more than) Christ. They’ve been trained (in part due to the KJV’s translation, in part due to careless teaching) to focus on their relative obedience or disobedience in the days preceding the Table. The result is pride, or despair, or fear—but not worship! Gordon Fee explains:

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Bishop: Bread alone will do for Communion at most Masses

“Olmsted bases his unique decision on the Church’s new translation of the liturgy for the Mass, called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and other church documents, which he says don’t really require folks in the pews have wine as part of the Eucharist.” Faith & Reason

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