7-4-6 The Trial of Jealousy
The very nature of the breaking of bread brings us to the equivalent of the Old Testament trial of jealousy; to a T-junction in our lives. The Corinthians were told that they would “provoke the Lord to jealousy" by breaking bread and yet also worshipping idols (1 Cor. 10:22). This is surely an allusion to the “trial of jealousy" (Num. 5:24). A curse was recited and then the believer drunk a cup; if they were unfaithful, they drunk to their condemnation. Paul’s allusion suggests that each day we break bread and drink the cup, we as the bride of Christ are going through the trial of jealousy. Brutal honesty and self-examination, and not merely of our lives in the last few days, is therefore crucial before drinking the cup.
The breaking of bread brings us before the cross, which is in a sense our judgment seat. There can only be two exits from the Lord’s throne, to the right or to the left, and likewise we are faced with such a choice in our response to the bread and wine. The cup of wine is a double symbol- either of blessing (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25), or of condemnation (Ps. 60:3; 75:8; Is. 51:17; Jer. 25:15; Rev. 14:10; 16:19) (1). Why this use of a double symbol? Surely the Lord designed this sacrament in order to highlight the two ways which are placed before us by taking that cup: it is either to our blessing, or to our condemnation. Each breaking of bread is a further stage along one of those two roads. Indeed, the Lord’s supper is a place to which the rejected are invited (Zeph. 1:7,8; Rev. 19:7), or the redeemed (Rev. 3:20). Like the cup of wine, being invited to the Lord’s supper is a double symbol.
And there is no escape by simply not breaking bread. The peace offering was one of the many antecedents of the memorial meeting. Once the offerer had dedicated himself to making it, he was condemned if he didn't then do it, and yet also condemned if he ate it unclean (Lev. 7:18,20). So a man had to either cleanse himself, or be condemned. There was no get out, no third road. The man who ate the holy things in a state of uncleanness had to die; his eating would load him with the condemnation of his sins (Lev. 22:3,16 AV mg.). This is surely the source for our possibility of “eating...condemnation" to ourselves by partaking of the breaking of bread in an unworthy manner. And so it is with us as we face the emblems. We must do it, or we deny our covenant relationship. And yet if we do it in our uncleanness, we also deny that relationship. And thus the breaking of bread brings us up before the cross and throne of the Lord Jesus- even now. It brings us to a realistic self-examination. If we cannot examine ourselves and know that Christ is really in us, then we are reprobate; we " have failed" (2 Cor. 13:5 G.N.B.). Self-examination is therefore one of those barriers across our path in life which makes us turn to the Kingdom or to the flesh. If we can't examine ourselves and see that Christ is in us and that we have therefore that great salvation in Him; we've failed. I wouldn't be so bold as to throw down this challenge to any of us in exhortation. But Paul does. It's a powerful, even terrible, logic. 1 Cor. 11:26 AVmg. makes the act of breaking bread a command, an imperative to action: “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, shew ye the Lord’s death, till he come". If we are going to eat the emblems, it is axiomatic that we will commit ourselves to shewing forth His death to the world, like Paul placarding forth Christ crucified in our lives (Gal. 3:1 Gk.). The Passover likewise had been a ‘shewing’ to one’s family “that which the Lord did unto me" (Ex. 13:8), the redemption we have experienced.
When the people ratified their covenant with Yahweh [cp. the breaking of bread], they had to confirm their agreement that they would be cursed for disobedience to it; and “cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them" (Dt. 27:26). They couldn’t opt out of bringing this curse upon themselves for disobedience- if they did, they were cursed.
The Passover was another foretaste of this trial of jealousy, the bread and wine service we participate in. If it was eaten unclean, the offerer ate condemnation to himself. He was to be cut off from the community if he opted out of keeping the Passover; and yet he was also rejected if he kept it unclean. So he couldn’t just flunk his need to keep the feast. He had to keep it, and he had to keep in a clean state. And so with us. To simply not break bread is to deny our relationship with the Lord. But once we commit to doing it, we must search our houses for leaven, for those little things which over time will influence the whole direction and nature of our spiritual lives. The breaking of bread brings us face to face with the need for self-examination and the two paths before us. It is a T-junction which reflects the final judgment. Judas’ reaction to the first memorial meeting exemplifies this. The Lord took the sop (of bread) and dipped it (in the vinegar-wine, according to the Jewish custom), and gave it to Judas. This was a special sign of His love and affection, and one cannot help wondering whether Peter and John observed it with keen jealousy. Yet after taking it, after that sign of the Lord’s especial love for him, “satan entered into" Judas and he went out and betrayed the Lord of glory (Jn. 13:27). In that bread and wine, Judas was confronted with the Lord’s peerless love for the very darkest sinner and His matchless self-sacrifice; and this very experience confirmed him in the evil way his heart was set upon. And it also works, thankfully, the other way. We can leave that meeting with the Lord, that foretaste of judgment, that conviction of sin and also of the Lord’s victory over it, with a calm assurance of His love which cannot be shaken, whatever the coming week holds.
Judging / examining ourselves is made parallel with discerning the Lord's body: as if discerning His body on the cross inevitably results in self-examination, and vice versa (1 Cor. 11:28,29). We must discern the Lord's body, and thereby examine ourselves (these are the same words in the Greek text). Yet the Lord’s body in the Corinthian context is the ecclesia, the body of Jesus. To discern ourelves is to discern the Lord’s body (1 Cor. 11:29,30 RV). By discerning our brethren for who they are, treating them as brethren, perceiving our own part in the body of Jesus, our salvation is guaranteed. For this is love, in its most fundamental essence.
If we examine / judge / condemn ourselves now in our self-examination, God will not have to do this to us at the day of judgment. If we cast away our own bodies now, the Lord will not need to cast us away in rejection (Mt. 5:30). There is a powerful logic here. If we pronounce ourselves uncondemned, we condemn ourselves (Tit. 3:11); if we condemn ourselves now, we will be uncondemned ultimately. This is why the Greek word translated " examine" (1 Cor. 11:29) is also that translated " approve" in 11:19 (and also 1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 13:7; 2 Tim. 2:15). By condemning ourselves we in a sense approve ourselves. Our self-examination should result in us realising our unworthiness, seeing ourselves from God's viewpoint. There is therefore a parallel made between our own judgment of ourselves at the memorial meeting, and the final judgment- where we will be condemned, yet saved by grace (James 2:12; 3:1). If we don't attain this level of self-knowledge now, we will be taught it by being condemned at the judgment. This makes the logic of serious, real self-examination so vital; either we do it in earnest, and realise our own condemnation, or if we don't do it, we'll be condemned at the judgment. Yet as with so much in our spiritual experience, what is so evidently logical is so hard to translate into reality. The process of judgment will essentially be for our benefit, not the Lord's. Then the foolish virgins realise that they didn't have enough oil / spirituality; whilst the wise already knew this (Mt. 25:13). As a foretaste of the day of judgment, we must " examine" ourselves, especially at the breaking of bread (1 Cor. 11:28). The same word is used in 1 Cor. 3:13 concerning how the process of the judgment seat will be like a fire which tries us.
(1) The very structure of the Hebrew language reflects this. Thus the Hebrew ‘baruch’ means both ‘blessed’ and ‘cursed’; ‘kedoshim’ means both ‘Sodomites’ and ‘saints’.