Jesus Christ, our Savior, commands Christians as His disciples to participate in the annual Passover memorial of His work on our behalf. The service consists of three parts:
1) Mutual footwashing, which forces the obedient follower of Christ to consider his ongoing individual relationships with all of Christ's brethren.
2) Drinking of the wine, which represents the Savior's blood that we helped to shed. His life was poured out instead of our own. His death has reconciled to God the repentant individual who acknowledges his past sin, saving us from eternal death, and making eternal life possible for us.
3) Eating of the bread, which represents the Savior's body broken for us. The bread is also symbolic of the words of life which He spoke. If we continue to eat this true bread from heaven, we will have imparted to us eternal life in God's Family.
Jesus referred to Himself as the "bread of life" in John 6:51: "If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." Eating His "flesh" is only a symbolic way for us to remember that, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (verse 63).
In verses 53-56, He explains that both the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood are required if we are to have eternal life. As we symbolically drink His blood when we partake of the wine, we acknowledge our individual part in the shedding of His blood, and reconciliation with God occurs. But the process does not stop here. Once we are reconciled, we must also feed on His flesh, His words, to gain eternal life. Still, this is not enough—we must continually repeat this process as long as we live.
Taking Passover Unworthily
Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:23-24,
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; 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."
The main point of this entire passage (I Corinthians 11:17-34) is that those who partake of these Passover symbols should be "discerning the Lord's body" (verse 29). The apostle tells us how to discern the Lord's body in these same verses:
Verse 26: The eating and drinking of these symbols reminds us every Passover of our Savior's death. We should remember, not only that He died, but also what manner of death He suffered. More importantly, we are forced to remember why His sacrifice was necessary.
Verses 27: It is quite possible to eat the Passover unworthily. When we do so, we take upon ourselves the guilt of Christ's death. That is, our attitude denigrates His sacrifice, and, in effect, it is as though He died in vain.
Verse 28: Self-examination of our manner of life and our attitude is therefore paramount in discerning the Lord's body, what He suffered and why. Once we come to realize these things, the Passover's significance becomes very personal, and it becomes crucial for us to participate in it.
Verses 29-32: The result of taking the Passover unworthily is that we come under judgment, for we will not be cleared of our transgressions. Thus, our lives will not be protected, even as the Egyptians were not protected from the death angel during the tenth plague. Lack of self-examination brought upon many Christians much bodily suffering and untimely death.
It is very edifying—and could well save one's life—to study what discerning the Lord's broken body has to do with self-examination, sickness and early death, healing and our ultimate reward in God's Kingdom.
Breaking the Bread
The breaking of the unleavened bread during the Passover ritual provides an additional and extremely important principle. Since it is part of the annual ceremony, we need to be reminded at least once a year that the true Bread from heaven, which we must eat in order to live, was also broken for us.
First, how was Christ's body "broken"? John writes that the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals crucified at Jesus' side, to hasten their deaths before the annual Sabbath (John 19:31-32). But Jesus' death was confirmed by the tip of a soldier's spear puncturing His side and spilling His blood on the earth (verses 33-34; see Zechariah 12:10). Not a bone was broken in Jesus' body, as was prophesied (verses 35-37; see Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20).
Christ's body was "broken," then, not by the breaking of His bones, but by the breaking of His skin. Besides the spear that pierced His side and the metal spikes that nailed His wrists and feet to the stake, He was subjected to a most severe beating or whipping. This latter torture, foretold in Isaiah 52:14, made Him nearly unrecognizable. His body bore a multitude of welts, skin lacerations, and open wounds, spilling His blood over all His body and to the ground.
Isaiah 53:5 expands upon His scourging: "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." A stripe is "a stroke or blow made with a rod or lash." This is how our Lord's body was broken.
We cannot but be deeply embarrassed—ashamed—that we should benefit from His beating, His suffering, His stripes, especially, when we consider that in God's eyes we broke His body! But it is prophesied that by the stripes He received, we should be healed. How is this possible?
When we eat the broken, unleavened bread at Passover, we, as baptized members, must ask ourselves: "Have I been healed by His stripes? Am I in the process of being healed by them? Do I really believe this promise?" If we cannot answer these questions positively, then something may be wrong. We may not be discerning the Lord's body properly.
"Discerning the Lord's body" means recognizing our personal guilt for Christ's suffering. It means acknowledging our transgression of God's law. Discerning the Lord's body means, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Otherwise, we "crucify again for [ourselves] the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:6).
Acknowledging Our Sin
Then one of the two criminals [malefactors, KJV] who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-42)
Malefactors is literally "evildoers," those who commit an offense against the law. We need to judge ourselves like this repentant malefactor did. Like him, we need to acknowledge our past sinful deeds. He demonstrated acknowledgment of his iniquity, not by his words alone, but by quietly accepting the punishment which he had brought upon himself by doing evil.
Discerning Christ's body must include serious acknowledgment of our sins which made His sacrifice a necessity. Had we all lived obedient lives as Jesus did, His suffering would not have been required. His body was broken because of what we did and because of our inherited or chosen lifestyles!
Herbert Armstrong made a discerning statement about the Lord's body:
God's laws are the greatest gift He ever gave to us. Of course, you may say Jesus Christ and His death on the cross is the greatest gift God ever gave us. But we wouldn't have needed that if we hadn't broken God's law! And actually, if you can understand it, my friends, the reason for Christ's death on the cross is merely to wipe out the penalty that we have incurred so we can come to God and can begin to be obedient to His law! So that we can be reconciled to Him and receive His Spirit which is "the love of God . . . shed abroad in our hearts," the only love that will fulfill the law, so we can obey that law. Because it takes the love of God by the Holy Spirit of God in order to obey that law and to enjoy all of its blessings. (World Tomorrow broadcast # 182A, on file)
After admitting his own guilt and just punishment, the malefactor acknowledged Christ's guiltlessness and innocent suffering. Only then did he turn to the Savior for salvation in a manner reminiscent of the publican in the parable: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). He did not ask Christ to take him off the cross and spare him his just punishment. He accepted it as just and fair, expressing repentance and faith in the Savior and in the message of a future resurrection to life!
This man judged himself as guilty and humbly approached the Son of God for mercy. Though it was a "deathbed repentance," it was a real repentance nonetheless. A deathbed repentance is better than none at all, but we should not be tempted to delay repentance when we recognize the need for it.
I Corinthians 11:30 says that many of Christ's followers suffered and even died because they failed to discern the Lord's body. It is hoped that they all had deathbed repentances, but verses 31-32 describe a much better way to salvation: "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (I Corinthians 11:31).
Yes, if we would judge ourselves, we would come to full repentance much sooner. We would discern that we are the cause of Christ's suffering. As a consequence of such insight, we would obey God's law more diligently, and God would not need to correct us so severely.
Often when judging and chastening, God allows sickness, disease, infirmities and death. Such suffering seems to be the universal language people will understand, who otherwise will not heed God's written or spoken Word. But it is not God's will that we reap such punishment before finally coming to a deathbed repentance! Quite to the contrary, He wishes for us to live a long repentant life in good health, as free from sin as possible, running over with love, joy and peace. In short, He wants us to live the abundant life (III John 2).
Thus, I Corinthians 11:31-32 is a warning to us. We do not have to follow the example of the many Christians who were sickly and infirm and died prematurely as a result of not discerning His body. No, we are each to judge our own behavior, our own personal performance now, before we find ourselves on our deathbed.
If we fail to examine ourselves, chances are good that we will not discipline our carnal drives and will not overcome our sinful ways. This is "not discerning the Lord's body." We are treating lightly the noble sacrifice of our Savior by continuing in our ingrained habits of transgressing the law which regulates our relationship with Christ, His Father and His brethren.
His Body and Healing
The church of God teaches the connection between the broken body of Christ and the supernatural healing of our physical ailments. Very helpful in this regard is I Peter 2:24: "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed."
Sickness results from the violation of God's laws which govern the operation of our bodies and minds. Just as Christ's blood covers our transgressions of His spiritual law, the bleeding wounds on His broken body cover our transgressions of the physical laws He set in motion.
He positioned Himself, as it were, between the Roman soldier's whip and our bare backs. The lashes broke open His back, shoulders and other parts of His body. The penalty stripes which His body absorbed can be applied to the healing of what ails us—if we discern the Lord's body. "If," they say, is the biggest two-letter word in the English language!
Christ's sacrifice does not apply until we repent—this includes both the shed blood and the broken body. If we desire to receive the benefits of that sacrifice, we must sin no more. Isaiah showed this progression in Isaiah 6:10: "Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return [repent], so that I should heal them" (see Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27).
Thus, to receive healing, we must ask for it in faith (James 5:15), repent of our wrongdoing and patiently wait for God's intervention (James 1:2-4). However, a note of caution: God answers prayers for healing our physical bodies, not according to our wants, but according to our needs. This is beautifully demonstrated in the apostle Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (II Corinthians 12:7-10). After three requests for healing, Paul finally got the point. Often, in God's wise and loving judgment, the temporary withholding or delaying of the healing better achieves the desired effect than instantaneous healing. According to Paul: "For when I am weak [physically], then I am strong [spiritually]" (verse 10).
We need not be discouraged when we experience a delay in healing. It provides an excellent opportunity to practice faith and, with God's help, grow in spiritual strength. Isaiah 40:31 says encouragingly, "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Discerning the Lord's body also means that we realize that we do not deserve to be healed by His stripes. It means that we understand that He is faithful to His promise of healing (Psalm 103:3), that He is the Divine Healer (Exodus 15:26), that it is His will to heal us (Psalm 41:3), if only we meet the conditions for it! Anyone who is not diligently trying to keep God's laws and commandments cannot expect supernatural healing from God. He is not fulfilling his part of the promise. He, the lackadaisical Christian, is not truly discerning the Lord's body.
Above all, discerning the Lord's body forces us to perform a self-examination, a self-cleansing (II Corinthians 7:1), a sorrowing to repentance (verses 9-10). It inspires in us a deep determination never to break God's laws again! As Paul writes, "What diligence it produced in you!" (verse 11).
It seems only reasonable and right that we should demonstrate convincingly to God our appreciation and desire to obey Him from now on. Because of His generous act, we now are no longer subject to the death penalty (the second death), which we had brought upon ourselves by our past, sinful lifestyle.
Now we have a new lease on life! He released us from the death penalty so that we should live! How? We should live the remainder of our life free from sin, keeping God's law. Peter says,
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (I Peter 4:1-2).
This repeats the idea he mentions earlier: "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live for righteousness" (I Peter 2:24).
This is the reason why we are healed by His stripes! If our physical bodies were not healed occasionally, we would die, and our spiritual development would stop at that point. When He takes care of our physical ailments, He makes possible our continued spiritual development. We receive the blessing of a new opportunity to develop our talents, do good works of faith and become eligible for a more responsible position in His Kingdom.
Incentive for Good Behavior
God has promised to reward Christ's followers according to their works when He returns (Matthew 16:27), and we know that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). Trusting God for healing gives us an opportunity to add works to our faith. We learn not only to trust Him, but also to obey and serve Him!
If, when healed, rather than consuming the gift of restored health on our lusts (James 4:3, KJV), we use it in a godly way, we will be granted a greater reward in the world to come (Luke 19:11-19). This is one lesson we learn from the Parable of the Pounds (Minas, NKJV): The extent of our reward depends on our works of faith now. Thus, it appears that our reward depends on how well we discern the Lord's body.
If our faith proves not to be of the enduring variety, if all our works are burned up in our "final exam," then we may still be granted salvation. God is so merciful! However, our reward, glory and our ability to serve and make others happy in God's Kingdom will of necessity be very small (I Corinthians 3:13-15). Those who will be in God's Family will vary in glory as the glory of the sun differs from that of the moon and the stars (I Corinthians 15:40-41). Our future glory depends on our performance now.
However, the rewards for keeping God's law begin even in this present life: confidence toward God, absence of the fear of men, inner peace, a sound mind, good judgment, healing of our sicknesses and many more.
Going to God for healing means trusting Him with our life. It is putting our life on the line. It should make us take this matter of discerning His body seriously. But if we truly grasp and follow through in discerning Christ's broken body, it will really make a difference in our lives physically and spiritually!
Let us eat the broken body of our Lord. It is "strong meat" to help Christ's disciples mature.
Receive Biblical truth in your inbox—spam-free! This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 145,000 subscribers are already receiving.
© 1995 Church of the Great God
PO Box 471846
Charlotte, NC 28247-1846