Sunday, April 9, 2017

You Will Never Be Worthy

Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 

               -1 Corinthians 11:27

Say what you will about the Churches of God, but I'll give them this - around Passover, they become very concerned with taking Christ's sacrifice seriously. I wish that Jesus, His sacrifice and what He accomplished on the cross were popular topics year-round, but focusing on this topic for six weeks is better than nothing.

The COGs use this same passage as the basis for their tradition of pre-Passover self-examination, as well as other, more questionable interpretations about the Lord's Supper. But that's not what I'm writing about today. Today, let's set aside arguments about whether these symbols are to be taken only at Passover or on a regular basis, and consider the verse itself.

Actually, I want to talk about what the verse doesn't say: that we could ever actually be worthy to drink the cup.

I know that many of you arrive at Passover completely spent and totally humbled. I've know. I've been there. But I also know that many of you spend so much time making sure that you don't take Passover in an unworthy manner that you start to believe you've done enough to become worthy to take it. I know, because I've been there, too.

Let's get one thing perfectly clear. God's grace is all that makes us worthy to take the Passover. That's it. Nothing we have done or could do ourselves can make us right with God or maintain our standing with Him.
  • We were sinners before we came to God.
(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
  • We only become worthy through the gift of imputed righteousness - Christ's righteousness being credited to us.
(2 Corinthians 5:21) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  • Once we are redeemed Christians, the fruit of our lives should bear it out. But we are saved for good works, not through good works.
(Ephesians 2:8-10) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 
  • But these good works are like filthy rags - literally, in the Hebrew, menstrual rags - compared to the righteousness that we receive through the blood of Christ. 
(Isaiah 64:4) But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
  • Even after accepting Christ's sacrifice, we are still sinners. It is only in Him and through Him that we have victory. If even Paul struggled, we all will.
(Romans 7:22-25) For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Christ Jesus our Lord So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

It is certainly biblical to examine ourselves before taking bread and wine as symbols of our covenant with the Lord. But whether that introspection takes six weeks or six minutes, true examination can only come to one conclusion: that we are not worthy in and of ourselves, and we never will be. Once we understand and accept that, it will be impossible for us to take the bread and the wine in an unworthy manner.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Unknown said...

Guilt was such a year round thing while I was a child in the WCG, But I do remember the tension escalating around this time of year, in what should have been a joyous celebration. Could this have been intentional on the part of WCG to make Jesus' sacrifice even LESS appealing?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely excellent, brilliant and first-rate piece of Biblical exegesis that SHOULD BE READ IN ALL THE CHURCHES OF GOD!!! I made the same point on Sabbath before over 230 persons in my Kingston CGI congregation. We are NEVER worthy. The law brings condemnation and wrath. Christ alone is worthy and we receive His worthiness. Romans 8 says "there IS THEREFORE NOW no condemnation" to those who stand in justification. I said openly that our old teachers were wrong in their emphases.
The churches of God have missed it badly on this. This is one time of the year that GOG members should feel the freest, most liberated and most thankful for the sacrifice . It is a time to FOICUS ON CHRIST . Rather they are self-absorbed, worrying whether they are worthy. A deep tragedy! grateful I continued on that them last night at Passover services, talking about the absolute scandal of God's grace. Romans 4 says he justifies the ungodly which the Torah --the law- says should not be done. He punished the innocent(Christ) and pardon the guilty(us), including Armstrongites. So we need to claim that assurance. The doctrine of imputation was strongly emphasized in my Passover service last night You would have enjoyed it Martha.
Great piece this entry. I will read it at services. Ian Boyne

Anonymous said...

Another important thing to consider in the Armstrongist churches of God is that while the ministry insists that you examine yourself to see if you are worthy, the ministers themselves are often continuing practices which not make them take the Lord's Supper unworthily, but which are also immoral, unethical and illegal (and possibly fattening). They are clueless in their hypocritical obsessive overbearing judgmental oppression of their members while completely ignoring their own faults. Often, members taking the 'Passover' feel guilty and uncomfortable about taking the bread and fruit of the vine while the ministers feel completely comfortable, knowing in their little minds that they are superior to those they are 'serving'.

Your article may help some of these members. Still, it is well to be cognizant that in the case of the ACoGs, the problem of taking the symbols is much more problematic than just focusing on the self. There's not one whit of sensibility for the ministers to feel superior. Humility should be the order of the day for the ministry to realize how short they come to measuring up to the standard set at a much higher level than they could ever achieve.

One can also wonder at the 'fruit of the vine'. Wine or grape juice? I know several Sabbath keeping churches of God, including the Church of God Seventh Day and the Seventh Day Church of God, Caldwell, Idaho. I have asked them about this and they made it plain that it was imminently possible for grape juice to be available at that time of year in the First Century by a variety of methods. Paul Woods uses his own grape arbor to make grape juice from his own grapes and seals the grape juice in glass containers with wax sealing them. No bacteria or yeast gets in and the grape juice is viable for years.

Not to put too fine a point on it, alcoholics absolutely cannot drink alcohol, and that includes sacramental wine. Dr. James Milam points out that once an alcoholic enters the first stage of alcoholism (and up to the third and final stage before death), it takes four years before all the effects of the alcohol completely disappear. Taking wine even once a year simply 'resets the clock' and does damage to the alcoholic taking the 'Passover'. There is nothing in Scripture which would preclude grape juice, since it is taking of 'the fruit of the vine' (which those taking the Nazarite Vow would not be permitted while they were under the strictures of the Vow). Of course, the debate goes on.

Nevertheless, if people are going to take the "Lord's Supper", all of them, including the ministry should take care that they do not take it in an unworthy manner.

Martha said...

The scandal of grace. Such an interesting concept, Ian. I believe Chuck Swindoll uses similar language in his book, The Grace Awakening. I suspect you've already read this book, but if not, I highly recommend it, although it struck me more when I listened to it as a sermon series. I do have other concerns about Armstrongism as a collective body besides their understanding of grace, but that is a major one. Thank you for doing your part to inform your group about the amazing truth of imputed righteousness.

If I had more time before Passover, I would have liked to elaborate that post more along the lines of - "BUT you ARE worthy because God thinks you are worthy." I recognize that many come to Passover beat up, defeated and dejected over their failures and would have liked to encourage them as well.

Mikey, I feel like God has used you to correct me this morning. I thank you for your comments.

I like the church that I attend, but it can be rather moralistic at times. One of the areas where many members can be extremely self-righteous is on matters of alcohol. I disagree with some of their conclusions, but I disagree even more with the way they express themselves about their conclusions.

When we take the Lord's Supper, my husband and I sometimes remark under our breath that they are trying to "out-righteous Jesus Himself" by using grape juice instead of wine. While I can't rule out SOME moralistic motivation there, I also know that we have an active Celebrate Recovery ministry. I am going to choose to view the choice through that lens from now on. Thank you for your unknowing correction and setting my attitude straight.

Anonymous said...

Re wine vs. grape juice...although I believe it was wine Christ used in His Passover if a brother or sister was a recovering alcoholic I wouldn't be such a bully to demand they can't drink anything, but wine on the solemn and sacred night. I mean whatever happened to Paul's advice in Romans 14:21 "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." And do you really want to enable a child of God to fall and sin?