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#36.

The Lord's Supper is a Place For Self-Examination
1 Corinthians 11:28 — But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the
bread and drink of the cup.
Although we are familiar in the 21st Century with those who advocate listening to the body in
order to understand and meet its needs, the idea of conducting a thorough evaluation of the
condition of our soul is less fashionable and may even meet with quite negative
reactions. Certainly, the Puritans generate significant negative sentiment in this day and age, and
one reason for this is that they were masters of spiritual self-examination. It mattered deeply to
them to be able to discern their spiritual situation - whether they were dead or alive, hot, cold or
lukewarm. Knowing the deceitfulness of the human heart, they especially wanted to be able to
determine as accurately as possible the genuineness of their Christian experience, in case they
should arrive at the end of their lives only to find that they had never truly been saved. In our
time, much of this is dismissed as pointless navel-gazing and worse, as an activity that displays a
weak or non existent faith in God. We should not question these things, we are told. If we have
completed some formulaic necessity for salvation (such as praying the "sinner's prayer"), we
should simply look back upon that as sufficient, get on with our lives and not conduct what is
pictured as a morbid self-inquisition.
Our text is taken from some of Paul's most direct and powerful teaching on the subject of the
Lord's Supper. Contrary to the carelessness advocated today, Paul gives us in the heart of this
passage an imperative about the need to examine ourselves as an integral part of our participation
in the meal - we must do this, he says. (As an aside, we might also point to 2 Corinthians 13:5
and Galatians 6:4 to show that self-examination is a thoroughly Biblical exercise.)
It follows from this command that we must never take the Lord's Supper without examining
ourselves! We should never rush into it in an attitude of presumption, but should take the time to
sift through our desires, our attitudes and our actions in the light of God's Word. Neither are we
immediately to believe what we tell ourselves as we ask questions about these things, because we
are able to come up with many encouraging untruths about ourselves as Christians. For example,
we may assure ourselves that we love the Lord above all others when in fact we rarely pray,
seldom read His Word, infrequently attend worship and hardly ever participate with enjoyment
in Christian fellowship. The way we choose to spend our time is often a more accurate indicator
of our spiritual temperature than what we would like to believe about ourselves.
In the coming meditations, we will consider some of the topics that are appropriate for selfexamination as we come to the Lord's Table. We must close this one with a caution and an
encouragement, though. Here is the caution: we are not to examine ourselves with a
predisposition to disqualify ourselves from coming to the Table, but that we might repent of our
sins and so be ready to receive the grace that is available there. There are certainly some people
(such as unbelievers) who should not come, and even some believers should refrain, as we shall
see. For the most part, though, our self-examination is to be an integral part of our participation
in the meal, and not a method to find reasons why we should abstain. Look at the text again and
see now the encouragement it contains: it is in doing this examination that we are to come to the
Table. The Table is not for perfect people but for redeemed sinners in need of grace!

So when we examine ourselves and find things that are amiss (as we surely will if we conduct
the process correctly) we are to confess our failure before the Lord, repent of it and seek
forgiveness. It should be a great encouragement for us to come to the Table that we may
uncover our deficiencies to our own gaze (not to God's, since He knows them already) and then
find in the meal the very grace we need to make progress in overcoming them!
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