Unworthy For Communion?

Q. Could you please tell me where it is found that you must be a Christian to take communion? 1 Corinthians 11:29 says, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to himself not discerning the Lords body.”

Does this mean that you must be a Christian? I’m asking because a young friend of mine thinks that it is ok to partake in communion as long as you believe in God, and knew of a person who did partake in communion just to please his wife. And this young friend of mine needs scripture to back up anything I or anyone else tells her. I tried to tell her that my husband believes in God but is not yet serving him, so it would be wrong for him to participate.

A. The communion service is a reminder for Christians that the Lord gave His body and shed His blood for the remission of our sins (1 Cor. 11:23-26). It has no meaning for people who aren’t Christian because they haven’t accepted His death as payment for their sins.

That said, partaking of communion is a privilege available to every Christian. There is no Biblical requirement that only those who are “serving God”, or are members of the local church, can participate. The only requirement is that we believe Jesus died for our sins, regardless of our merit or worthiness. It’s one of the ways we thank Him for forgiving us.

I do think it’s appropriate for us to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness before partaking of the elements, because it puts us back into fellowship with the Lord.

Paul’s instructions about taking communion begin in 1 Cor. 11:17 and continue to the end of the chapter and must be taken as a whole. The early church ate a meal together when they met and at the end of the meal celebrated communion. They were re-enacting the Last Supper. Paul’s comments about participating in an unworthy manner refer to his complaint in verses 20-22 that some of them were hogging all the food at their dinners while others went hungry, and some were getting drunk during the meal. This unchristian behavior was turning their fellowship meal into something more like the Feast of Bacchus, the pagan god of food and drink. It made a mockery of the memorial and was offensive to the Lord.

Many believers have been deeply wounded by well meaning but Biblically wrong Christians who tell them they’re not worthy to celebrate the fact that the Lord died for their sins. None of us is worthy, but that’s not the issue. The issue is our belief in the Lord’s death as payment for our sins.

If your young friend believes in God but isn’t born again, learning more about what communion really means might help convince her that Jesus really did die for her sins, and lead her to accept Him as her Savior. As with everyone, the goal should be to help prepare her to participate, not to exclude her.

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