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COMMUNION AND DENOMINATIONALISM

In I Cor. 11:29, Paul said: "For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly."

The same Greek word for body is also used by Paul in Eph. 1:22-23: "and gave Him as head of all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills it all."

He also used it in Col. 1:18. 22, 24 and I Cor. 12:27.

So, what is being said here?

As we know, the Christians in Corinth were engaged in denominationalism: I am of Paul, or Apollos, and who knows who else. See I Cor. 3:4.

We know that they were arguing over gifts, and which were the better. Chapter 12.

We know that they were arguing over the place of women. Chapter 11.

We know that at the time of communion, they would sit their denominational divisions (11:18) rather than mingling freely. This apparently indicated that they did not see themselves as a part of one Body but rather as independent bodies.

There were bringing an abundance of food for all but eating from their own rather than distributing to all freely. 11:21 Apparently this was not pot-luck across all denominations, although it might have been within each individual denomination. So we could have had wealthy churches eating well while the poor watched and had to skimp.

Paul pointed out to them -- 11:27 -- that communion can be done in an unworthy manner. The verse does not say not to take communion if you are unworthy, for we are all unworthy. Instead, it speaks in terms of the manner in which we take it -- the attitudes of our hearts and the actions of our bodies at the time of the taking. I think Paul was telling them their methodology -- their denominationalism -- was not a worthy manner.

And thus we are told to examine ourselves. 11:28

Then comes Paul's reference to "judging (discerning) the 'body'".

Under the circumstances, Paul must be saying that there is to be a judging of the membership in the body of Christ taking place within the Body of Christ.

Is this a "leadership" examination and approval so as to exclude any who may be, in the eyes of the leaders, found wanting -- which is a common approach of today? I doubt that is what is meant.

That is, I do not think this is some sort of: "Because we recognize you as Catholic, you make take communion; but another we recognize as not Catholic and they cannot take communion."

It is not: "You have not been baptized three times forward and so we do not recognize you"; nor is it "you have not pledged yourself to membership in our exclusive club and thus you cannot partake."

No, what I think Paul is reminding his readers is that we must, individually, judge one another upon profession of Christ and not upon all the other trappings. Thus when we come together, we sit with one another as per chance, or actually through seeking out one we see from another fellowship with whom we have not fellowshipped for a time and use this as an opportune moment to do so.

In this manner, and by interaction of leaders across a community, who knows: maybe congregation A, recognizing it needs Body part X will call congregation B and say, "send us an X, for we know through our fellowship with you that you have one and we have need of them."

Would that not be a grand and glorious day, a witness, in and to a community?