We sometimes hear it said we should examine ourselves before we partake in communion. Paul also gives us the result of taking communion in an unworthy manner by saying, “Because of this, many are weak and sick among you, and quite a few have died.” How do we ensure we do not incur death and sickness by being unworthy? What does it mean to take communion in a worthy manner?
We have to look at the new covenant and the significance of the bread and wine. The covenant that Yeshua came to repair, refresh and make shiny new is the covenant Israel had with Yahuah at the base of Mount Horeb when all the people agreed to the Ten Commandments that they heard God give in an audible voice. They also agreed to the words God gave to Moses after they realized they could not bare to hear any more from Yahuah directly.
Exodus 24:3–8 (LEB)
3 And Moses came, and he told the people all the words of Yahweh and all the regulations. And all the people answered with one voice, and they said, “All the words that Yahweh has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote all the words of Yahweh, and he rose early in the morning, and he built an altar at the base of the mountain and set up twelve memorial stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men from the Israelites, and they offered burnt offerings, and they sacrificed sacrifices as fellowship offerings to Yahweh using bulls. 6 And Moses took half of the blood, and he put it in bowls, and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 And he took the scroll of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do, and we will listen.” 8 And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and he said, “Look, the blood of the covenant that Yahweh has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
In order to get an idea of what it means to partake in communion unworthily, all we have to do is see what happened a few short days after Moses sprinkled the blood on the altar and the people, sealing the covenant the people made with God. They broke the covenant by taking His name in vain, idolatry and sexual immorality. The blood sealed the covenant which gave the people “His name”. They took this name in vain as soon as they made the golden calf and “rose up to play”. Yahuah was ready to destroy the people and make a new nation from Moses. Moses interceded for the people, but there was a price to pay.
Exodus 32:7–20 (LEB)
7 And Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Go, go down because your people behave corruptly, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt. 8 They have turned aside quickly from the way that I commanded them; they have made for themselves a cast-image bull calf, and they bowed to it, and they sacrificed to it, and they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ ” 9 And Yahweh said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and, indeed, they are a stiff-necked people. 10 And now leave me alone so that my anger may blaze against them, and let me destroy them, and I will make you into a great nation.” 11 And Moses implored Yahweh his God, and he said, “Why, Yahweh, should your anger blaze against your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out to kill them in the mountains and wipe them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger and relent concerning the disaster for your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by yourself, and you told them, ‘I will multiply your offspring like the stars of the heavens, and all this land that I promised I will give to your offspring, and they will inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And Yahweh relented concerning the disaster that he had threatened to do to his people. 15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the testimony were in his hand, tablets written on their two sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 And the tablets, they were the work of God; and the writing, it was the writing of God engraved on the tablets. 17 And Joshua heard the sound of the people in their shouting, and he said to Moses, “A sound of war is in the camp.” 18 But he said, “There is not a sound of shouting of victory, and there is not a sound of shouting of defeat. I hear a sound of singing.” 19 And as he came near to the camp, he saw the bull calf and dancing, and Moses became angry, and he threw the tablets from his hand, and he broke them under the mountain. 20 And he took the bull calf that they had made, and he burned it with the fire, and he crushed it until it became fine, and he scattered it on the surface of the water, and he made the Israelites drink.
After this, there was essentially a show down and the tribe of Levi stood with Moses. Three thousand people died that day, and sin had entered the camp. The tabernacle was moved out from amongst the people. Moses was an example of the first high priest trying to atone for the people breaking the covenant, after they said they would do all Yahuah commanded.
Exodus 32:30–35 (LEB)
30 And the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to Yahweh. Perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 And Moses returned to Yahweh, and he said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin and made for themselves gods of gold. 32 And now if you will forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me from your scroll that you have written.” 33 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot him from my scroll. 34 And now go, lead the people to where I spoke to you. Look, my angel will go before you, and on the day when I punish I will punish them for their sin.” 35 And Yahweh afflicted the people because they had made the bull calf that Aaron had made.
We can see how the people were unworthy before God. They committed intentional, rebellious sin. The result of this type of sin is listed in the curses caused by being disobedient. Deuteronomy 28:15 (LEB), “And then if you do not listen to the voice of Yahweh your God by diligently observing all of his commandments and his statutes that I am commanding you today, then all of these curses shall come upon you, and they shall overtake you:”. Paul short listed the curses for taking the bread and wine unworthily.
1 Corinthians 11:30 (LEB)
30 Because of this, many are weak and sick among you, and quite a few have died.
The concept of a “new covenant” is exemplified with the children of those who rebelled in the desert. This should be a road map to understanding the new covenant with Yeshua. This covenant was made with new people, but with the same stipulations, blessings and curses. The Creator’s side of the covenant never changes because He doesn’t change. He doesn’t expect one thing one day and something different the next. He keeps giving new people a chance at it. One has to read Deuteronomy chapters 29 and 30 to understand completely, so I am only going to quote the highlights.
Deuteronomy 29:1 (LEB): These are the words of the covenant that Yahweh commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in the land of Moab besides the covenant that he made with them at Horeb.
Deuteronomy 29:9–15 (LEB): 9 And you must diligently observe the words of this covenant, so that you may succeed in all that you do.
10 “You are standing today, all of you, before Yahweh your God, your leaders, your tribes, your elders, and your officials, all the men of Israel, 11 your little children, your women and your aliens who are in the midst of your camp, from the choppers of your wood to the drawers of your water, 12 in order for you to enter into the covenant of Yahweh your God, and into his oath that Yahweh your God is making with you today, 13 in order to establish you today to himself as a people and so that he may be for you as God, just as he promised to you and just as he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
14 “Now I am not making this covenant and this oath with you alone. 15 But with whoever is standing here with us today before Yahweh our God, and with whoever is not standing here with us today.
Yahuah tells the second generation at Moab that they too will break this covenant and then be scattered among the nations. Then He goes on to say that they will return and remember to do His commandments and He will write them on their hearts. This is speaking of the new covenant with Yeshua (Jesus). This is the gospel or “good news”.
Deuteronomy 30:4–16 (LEB): 4 “Even if you are outcasts at the end of the heavens, even from there Yahweh your God shall gather you, and from there he shall bring you back. 5 And Yahweh your God will bring you to the land that your ancestors had taken possession of, and he will make you successful, and he will make you more numerous than your ancestors.
6 “And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your inner self so that you may live. 7 And Yahweh your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, on those who harassed you. 8 And you will again listen to the voice of Yahweh, and you will do all his commandments that I am commanding you today. 9 And Yahweh your God will make you prosperous in all your undertakings, and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground abundantly, for Yahweh will again rejoice over you, just as he rejoiced over your ancestors. 10 He will do this if you listen to the voice of Yahweh your God by keeping his commandment and his statutes written in the scroll of this law and if you return to Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your inner self.
11 “For this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too wonderful for you, and it is not too far from you. 12 It is not in the heavens so that you might say, ‘Who will go up for us to the heavens and get it for us and cause us to hear it, so that we may do it?’ 13 And it is not beyond the sea, so that you might say, ‘Who will cross for us to the other side of the sea and take it for us and cause us to hear it, so that we may do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, even in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it.
15 “See, I am setting before you today life and prosperity and death and disaster; 16 what I am commanding you today is to love Yahweh your God by going in his ways and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his regulations, and then you will live, and you will become numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land where you are going.
Paul even references this in Romans. Paul knew this was speaking of the covenant Yeshua would renew, just as in Moab. We are able to do our part through faith in Messiah and a circumcised heart. In other words, the Spirit of grace guides and convicts us if we listen. Confessing “Jesus is Lord” or Lord Jesus, as some translations say, means to be in agreement and covenant, not just believing that He exists. The demons believe He exists. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says this about the Greek word homologeō, which is translated “confess”: “The legal connotation is dominant. A man agrees with another’s statement, concedes or confesses something (e.g. his guilt before a judge), agrees to something (e.g. another’s wish) and so promises. This agreement expresses itself in an act of commitment, promise, or confession in a court or legal contract.”. It is an oath we are taking part in when we take communion.
Romans 10:5–11 (LEB): 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: “The person who does this will live by it.” 6 But the righteousness from faith speaks like this: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), 9 that if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
The new covenant was new in the sense that it was ratified with Messiah’s blood instead of the blood of bulls, and once again, made with a new generation. The heart becomes circumcised through faith in Messiah and the Spirit. The terms of the covenant really are no different than the covenant originally ratified at Mount Horeb then renewed at Moab with the children of those who came out of Egypt. The people broke the covenant continually, and Yahuah promised he would make a new covenant with the house of Judah and the house of Israel, as found in Jeremiah. This is where he writes His commandments on the people’s heart instead of solely relying on the tablets of stone, or the written code. The good news, or gospel, in part, is that He opened this agreement up to the whole world due to Israel’s dispersion and seeding. When speaking of Moses sprinkling the blood on the people that we read about in Exodus, the writer of Hebrews then goes on to show how Yeshua (Jesus), sprinkled the blood on the heavenly tabernacle. Moses made a copy of what God showed him on the mountain. Yeshua went to the actual temple in heaven that Moses merely copied.
Hebrews 9:21–28 (LEB)
21 And likewise he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the utensils of service with the blood. 22 Indeed, nearly everything is purified with blood according to the law, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 Therefore it was necessary for the sketches of the things in heaven to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves to be purified with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf, 25 and not in order that he can offer himself many times, as the high priest enters into the sanctuary year by year with blood not his own, 26 since it would have been necessary for him to suffer many times from the foundation of the world, but now he has appeared once at the end of the ages for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this, judgment, 28 thus also Christ, having been offered once in order to bear the sins of many, will appear for the second time without reference to sin to those who eagerly await him for salvation.
Many are confused due to the eagerness of teachers to want to be able to “rise up and play”. Yeshua (Jesus) made the final sacrifice to atone for anyone who will repent and follow Him; however, He did not “nail the ten commandments to the cross” as many falsely teach. The commandments are what are written on our hearts through the Spirit of grace Messiah sent to those who repent and believe. Currently, there is no high priest on earth to go into the inner part of the tabernacle once a year on the day of atonement. It is not needed now because Messiah performed this once and for all, “at the end of the age”, in the heavenly tabernacle. Our part to play in the new covenant is to keep the commandments. Do you suppose that when we drink from the cup it represents the sprinkling of blood on us whereby we are then connected to the heavenly tabernacle and the Father through the connection of the blood of the Messiah? I believe this is the image we see. We are “washed in the blood”.
Hebrews 10:19–25 (LEB)
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence for the entrance into the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way which he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in the full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the one who promised is faithful. 24 And let us think about how to stir one another up to love and good works, 25 not abandoning our meeting together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging each other, and by so much more as you see the day drawing near.
Before anyone could enter the tabernacle on earth, or meet with God, they had to wash. Hence the need for immersion (baptism).
Exodus 40:30–32 (LEB)
30 And he placed the basin between the tent of assembly and the altar, and he put there water for washing. 31 And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet from it. 32 At their going into the tent of assembly and at their approaching the altar, they washed, as Yahweh had commanded Moses.
We see that the writer of Hebrews follows up with a serious warning against deliberate, rebellious sin. What is sin defined as other than breaking the commandments of God? Under the old covenant, with sacrificial law, rebellious sin witnessed by two or three people, such as adultery, murder, idolatry or Sabbath breaking, was a cause for stoning and death. “How much worse punishment do you think the person will be considered worthy of who treats with disdain the Son of God and who considers ordinary the blood of the covenant by which he was made holy and who insults the Spirit of grace?”.
Hebrews 10:16–29 (LEB)
26 For if we keep on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that is about to consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think the person will be considered worthy of who treats with disdain the Son of God and who considers ordinary the blood of the covenant by which he was made holy and who insults the Spirit of grace?
John tells us sin is transgression of the law, or lawlessness, but which law? All through the Bible we are told how to live a life in God’s righteousness. We receive blessings not curses when we love His righteous instructions.
1 John 3:4–6 (LEB)
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that that one was revealed in order that he might take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 Everyone who resides in him does not sin. Everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him.
Does this mean we stone our children when they are rebellious or sacrifice a bull in our back yard? Of course not. The system of sacrificial law is not on earth currently, and those laws were for leaders and priests. It was only added because of sin.
Galatians 3:19–22 (LEB)
19 Why then the law? It was added on account of transgressions, until the descendant should come to whom it had been promised, having been ordered through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now the mediator is not for one, but God is one. 21 Therefore is the law opposed to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, certainly righteousness would have been from the law. 22 But the scripture imprisoned all under sin, in order that the promise could be given by faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe.
Through faith in Messiah we are able to confess our sins, be forgiven and walk in the light. If we keep returning to intentional sin, or continually live with rebellious sin in our lives, we are walking in darkness and show that we do not know the Son or His Father that sent Him.
1 John 1:5–2:6 (LEB)
5 And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our* sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 2 My little children, I am writing these things to you in order that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one, 2 and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 The one who says “I have come to know him,” and does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in this person. 5 But whoever keeps his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. 6 The one who says that he resides in him ought also to walk just as that one walked.
The bread and the wine are symbols of sealing the covenant we now have through Messiah. It is made with a better sacrifice. John 6:56, “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me and I in him.”. His flesh is the living Word, and His blood sealed the covenant.
Hebrews 13:20–21 (LEB)
20 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with every good thing to do his will, carrying out in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.
Should we not listen to Messiah and keep the terms of the eternal covenant as He taught? So that, “the God of peace…equip you to do his will…what is pleasing before him through Jesus…”. It does not get any more clear. Yeshua helps us understand and do the will of the Father, which are His laws, statutes and precepts. He also gave us His Spirit to bring to remembrance everything He said. This is the beginning of writing the commandments on our hearts! Therefore, repent and believe the gospel!
The featured image is by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash
Please check out my first book on Amazon titled, Finding God in Organized Religion. It is the story of my life focusing on my involvement with three major denominations, from my childhood to present, describing the good and bad, and what I learned during the process.
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