"judge the body" (Lord's Supper/paedocommunion)

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Puritan Board Graduate
I'm trying to help refute the spread of paedocommunion among my friends as of late. I'm confused about what I believe to be the crucial verse in 1 Cor 11 pertaining to this issue. Basically, Scripture says that in order to participate in the Lord's Supper without judgment you must be able to "judge/discern the body":

29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (ESV)

29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. (NASB)

Now, my question is, what does "judge/discern" mean and what is "the body" referring to? The body of Christ, Spiritually speaking, the body of Christ as in the visible Church? Help!!!

I think this verse might help some, but I'm still clueless here ... I'll keep searching.

1 Cor 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?


Puritan Board Graduate
Matthew Poole's comments on this verse (1 Cor 29) were most helpful ...

Not discerning the Lord's body... and his guilt lieth here, that he doth not discern and distinguish betwixt ordinary and common bread, and that bread which is the representation of the Lord's body, but useth the one as carelessly, and with as little preparation and regard to what he doth, as he useth the other.

So, and correct me if I'm wrong, one must simply be able to discern the fact that the bread is not mere bread, but the actual spiritual presence of Christ's body in the normal bread. This would allow younger children to participate, but definitely not "infants" as some would argue.

Am I on the right track here? :pray2:

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Summary against paedocommunion
by Dr. N. Lee

Let me state why I, with John Calvin, oppose paidocommunion. But first, to note age thesholds, it would be helpful if the reader would study the following passages preferably in the original Hebrew or Greek: Gen. 2:17-24; 14:13-24; 17:23-27; 22:2-19; Ex. 12:3-4, 8-11, 26-27,37, 43-48; Num. 9:2-13; Prov. 22:6; Lam. 2:12; 4:4; Luke 2:40-52; 22:1-20; John 6:2-4,10,53; Acts 22:3; I Cor. 5:7-13f; 10:1-22; 11:1-10,20-34; 13:11; 14:20-37; Phil. 3:5; I Tim. 2:8-15; 6:12f; Heb. 5:12 to 6:2; I John 2:12f; and Rev. 2:20f.

I oppose all attempts to reconstruct the clearly antipaidocommunionistic teaching of our Westminster Confession 28:1 & 29:3,8 & 31:4 and our Westminster Larger Catechism QQ. 169-177. True Presbyterians and other men of like persuasion respect Calvin's views in his Commentaries on Ex. 12:24-43; Lam. 2:12; John 6:53 & Heb. 6:2; in his Sermons on Deuteronomy 16:1-8 cf. vv. 16f; and his Institutes IV:13:6 & IV:16:30 & IV:19:4f.

In summary:
1, infant baptism signifies regeneration (but not conversion);
2, one's first communion at teenage signifies conversion (not regeneration);
3, Eucharist replaces the Passover (but not circumcision);
4, the 1st-century B.C. Hebrew Essenes (and even the Pharisees), like the Karaites till today, restricted their Passovers to their (post-)adolescent males after prior catechization terminating in their Bar Mitzvah not before age 13 (cf. Prov. 22:6's chanoch with Luke 2:40-47 and 22:1-20);
5, no females nor any preteenagers ever partook of the Passover till it was thus deformed by Post-Christian Liberal Judaism (+/- 200 A.D.);
6, there is absolutely no trace whatsoever of paidocommunionism in patristic writings but only in pagan sources prior to 250 A.D.;
7, novel paidocommunionism is a ritualistic heterodoxy of the "Eastern Orthodox" and kindred denominations quite opposed to truly-orthodox Reformed Theology;
8, the practice of paidocommunionism abolishes the need first of catechization and then of profession of one´s faith before one´s own very first manducation at the sacrament;
9, paidocommunism ultimately leads to an uncatechized Church (which Calvin says cannot long continue without catechizing); and
10, Calvin in his Institutes (IV:16:30) accordingly concludes against the Anabaptists: "œThey object that there is not greater reason for admitting infants to Baptism than to the Lord´s Supper "“ to which, however, there are never admitted.... The Supper is intended for those of riper years, who, having passed...infancy, are fit to bear solid food.... They cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord´s body. Why should we stretch out poison instead of vivifying food to our young children? ... Circumcision, which as is well known corresponds to our Baptism, was intended for infants. But the Passover for which the Supper is substituted...was duly eaten only by those who were of an age sufficient to ask the meaning of it (Exod. 12:26). Had these men the least particle of soundness in their brain, would they thus be blind as to a matter so very clear and obvious?"

Cordially in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Rev. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee
Professor-Emeritus of the Queensland Presbyterian Theological College
Website: www.dr-fnlee.org

God Triune, at the beginning, created the tri-universe (cf. Gen. 1:1)

Two excellent papers by Dr. Lee:




Puritan Board Senior
Not quite:

Q170: How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord's supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A170: As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord's supper,[1] and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses;[2] so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really,[3] while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.[4]

1. Acts 3:21
2. Matt. 26:26, 28
3. I Cor. 11:24-29
4. I Cor. 10:16

Q171: How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?

A171: They that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves [1] of their being in Christ,[2] of their sins and wants;[3] of the truth and measure of their knowledge,[4] faith,[5] repentance;[6] love to God and the brethren,[7] charity to all men,[8] forgiving those that have done them wrong;[9] of their desires after Christ,[10] and of their new obedience;[11] and by renewing the exercise of these graces,[12] by serious meditation,[13] and fervent prayer.[14]

1. I Cor. 11:28
2. II Cor. 13:5
3. I Cor. 5:7; Exod. 12:15
4. I Cor. 11:29
5. I Cor. 13:5; Matt. 26:28
6. Zech. 12:10; I Cor. 11:31
7. I Cor. 10:16-17; Acts 2:46-47
8. I Cor. 5:8; 11:18, 20

9. Matt. 5:23-24
10. Isa .55:1; John 7:37
11. I Cor. 5:7-8
12. I Cor. 11:25-26, 28; Heb. 10:21-22, 24; Psa. 26:6
13. I Cor. 11:24-25
14. II Chr. 30:18-19; Matt. 26:26

Q172: May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord's supper?
A172: One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord's supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof;[1] and in God's account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it,[2] and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ,[3] and to depart from iniquity:[4] in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians)[5] he is to bewail his unbelief,[6] and labor to have his doubts resolved;[7] and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, that he may be further strengthened.[8]

1. Isa. 1:10; I John 5:13; Psa. 77:1-12; ch 88; Jonah 2:4, 7
2. Isa. 54:7-10; Matt. 5:3-4; Psa. 31:22; 73:13, 22-23
3. Phil 3:8-9; Psa. 10:17; 42:1-2, 5, 11
4. II Tim. 2:19; Isa. 1:10; Psa. 66:18-20
5. Isa. 4:11, 29, 31; Matt. 11:28; 12:20; 26:28
6. Mark 9:24
7. Acts 2:37, 16:30
8. Rom. 4:11; I Cor. 11:28

Q173: May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's supper, be kept from it?
A173: Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church,[1] until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.[2]

1. I Cor. ch. 5; 11:27-31; Matt. 7:6; Jude 1:23; I Tim. 5:22
2. II Cor. 2:7

Q174: What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper in the time of the administration of it?
A174: It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance,[1] diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions,[2] heedfully discern the Lord's body,[3] and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings,[4] and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces;[5] in judging themselves,[6] and sorrowing for sin;[7] in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ,[8] feeding on him by faith,[9] receiving of his fulness,[10] trusting in his merits,[11] rejoicing in his love,[12] giving thanks for his grace;[13] in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.[14]

1. Lev. 10:3; Heb. 12:18; Psa. 5:7; I Cor. 11:17, 26-27
2. Exod. 24:8; Matt. 26:28
3. I Cor. 11:29
4. Luke 22:19
5. I Cor. 10:3-5, 11, 14; 11:26
6. I Cor. 11:31
7. Zech. 12:10
8. Rev. 22:17
9. John 6:35
10. John 1:16
11. Phil. 1:16
12. Psa. 63:4-5; II Chr. 30:21
13. Psa. 22:26
14. Jer. 1:5; Psa. 1:5
15. Acts 2:42

Q175: What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's supper?
A175: The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success;[1] if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it,[2] beg the continuance of it,[3] watch against relapses,[4] fulfil their vows,[5] and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance:[6] but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament;[7] in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time:[8] but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled,[9] and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.[10]

1. Psa. 28:7, 85:8; I Cor. 11:17, 30-31
2. II Chr. 30:21-16; Acts 2:42, 46
3. Psa. 36:10; Song of Sol. 3:4; I Chr. 29:18
4. I Cor. 10:3-5, 12
5. Psa. 1:14
6. I Cor. 11:25-26; Acts 2:42, 46
7. Song of Sol. 5:1-6; Eccl. 5:1-6
8. Psa. 42:5, 8; 43:3-5; 123:1-2
9. II Chr. 30:18-19; Isa. 1:16, 18
10. II Cor. 7:11; I Chr. 15:12-14


Puritan Board Freshman

I think you can make some headway with your friends by granting them the point that the discernment referred to in 1 Corinthians 11 may indeed refer to a problem of practice (not knowing who is and who isn´t a member of the body), but even so that interpretation really doesn´t end up supporting their position. Thinking this through, if the problem is knowing who is and who isn´t a member of the body ( discerning the proper relationship between each other in the church), wouldn´t that still require an understanding of Jesus (who he is, His work - vertical relationship), that discerns His proper relationship to the body from which the horizontal relationship flows? So the paedocommunionist objection to the traditional interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 if followed through, ends up in the same place, but uses a different route.

I also think it is helpful have your friends consider whether the Apostle Paul places any conditions upon participation in the Lord´s Supper? I think looking at 1 Corinthians 11 you find that although the passage does arise out of a particular problem in Corinth, that Paul uses the occasion to lay down some general principles to instruct the church in the celebration of the Lord´s Supper. Those principles being, that participation in the Supper requires an active faith that Remembers, Proclaims and Discerns.

[Edited on 6-17-2005 by AdamM]
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