Whilst writing to the church in Corinth Paul instructed them not to take communion unworthily. What though did Paul mean by that phrase unworthily? The following quote from a book called “The Lord’s Supper” by E.F. Kevan explains this well.
We are told in 1 Corinthians 11:27 that “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord”. What does that stumbling word “unworthily” mean? So many true-hearted believers have been disturbed by a misunderstanding of this. It is said if you feel ashamed, and crestfallen and depressed because of your failure and sin that therefore you must not come. Oh no! That is the right way to come. To take the Lord’s Supper unworthily is to take it without regard to its true worth. To do it unworthily is to come complacently, to come light-heartedly, to come without a care about your own sin and your shame. But to be burdened with your sin, even to be weighted down with a sense of your guilt and utter unworthiness – that is the take the Lord’s Supper worthily. Only in this spirit do you truly reckon it at its worth.
Let me illustrate this by a lovely incident in the life of Dr Duncan of Edinburgh. The story is of a communion service at which Dr Duncan was presiding. In the front row there was a woman weeping and obviously distressed over her own spiritual state. As the elder was proceeding along the line handing the cup first to one and then to another, this weeping woman shook her head and bade the elder omit her. At once perceiving the spiritual situation, the minister stepped down, gently took the cup from the elder and, stepping back, held it to the woman and said: “Take it, woman, it’s for sinners.” That is the way to take it. It is for sinners. That is the truly reverent and worthy attitude.
This requires that we shall approach the Lord’s Table with self examination. In 1 Corinthians 11:28, Paul says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup”. It is with searching of heart that we must come to the Lord’s Table. Let us not come contemptuously or unmindful of the deep solemnities of it. What a searching kind of remembrance this is!
The Lord’s Supper by E.F. Kevan (Page 27-28)