Protestants and 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

I have a question for the Protestants who view the Eucharist as “symbolic:” What is YOUR or your faith community’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:23-29?

Has this ever been addressed at Sunday Service, or Sunday School? Have any of your ministers ever commented about this? What have they said? If anything was said, what caused it to be brought up?

Why such harshness for a SYMBOL?

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Thank you all in advance for indulging my curiosity.


From a Pentecostal context, there are several aspects to discerning the Lord’s body. The first is moral lapses, and the second is breaches in church fellowship. In The Lord’s Supper: Five Views, edited by Gordon T. Smith and published by InterVarsity Press, Pentecostal theologian Veli-Matti Karkkainen wrote:

There is yet another pneumatological theme that should interest Pentecostals: that has to do with “discernment.” How do Pentecostals understand the Pauline exhortation about “discerning the body” (1 Cor 11:29)? As far as I can tell from the literature, it has been understood exclusively along the canons of older exegesis in terms of moral lapses and failures. Although there is no reason to reject this aspect, contemporary exegesis argues that what Paul had in mind was discerning the unity of the body of Christ, meaning the church. What Paul had in mind was not the unworthiness of the celebrants because of their failure in their private Christian walks, but breaches in the fellowship.64

A further aspect is brought up by Oral Roberts in How to Find Your Point of Contact with God. Roberts wrote (p. 57):

When you eat of the bread and drink of the cup in the Holy Communion, remember Christ. Be thankful and rejoice. Discern His healthy body for your healing and health. Let the whole act of the Communion be a point of contact to set the time for your healing. As you release your faith, you will recieve into your very being the life, the strength, the health, and power of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God.

Itwin can you help me a bit more with this please? I can understand this line of metaphorical thinking from this passage if Paul had not included either the line about the body in v24 or the line about the blood in v25. By Paul including both of these, one representing Jesus’s body and one representing the covenant, both of these at different times of the meal, doesn’t that remove the single metaphorical or symbolic nature within the literature aspect?

I [aint] no language dude. Can you explain how this is can be possible in any form of literature please?



From a linguistic perspective, I personally see no impediment to reading the bread and wine as symbolic of Christ’s actual flesh and blood. I, and I would assume most Pentecostals, don’t feel the need to develop theologies, such as transubstantiation or consubstantiation, to make sense out of what Christ and Paul said. As far as we know, there is no change into physical flesh and blood.

Yet, we do know that partaking of Communion is an act of faith in which the Holy Spirit strengthens the inner man and brings healing to the physical body. Discernment is needed because we are not simply eating and drinking. We are participating in a dynamic encounter with the Holy Spirit and, by extension, the other members of the body of Christ. It is these spiritual realities that are signified and conveyed by the bread and cup.

Could you have just as easily have said…“It is these spiritual realities that are signified and conveyed by the bread OR cup” if speaking metaphorically?

The question is why did Paul use both analogies at different times within the same metaphor? Or another way to ask is - What is your opinion on how Paul should have spelled it out if he really meant it to be literal?

If I had said “bread OR cup,” it still does not seem to me to prove anything one way or the other. Apparently, the Catholic Church believes that Paul was not speaking metaphorically. Yet, the Catholic Church itself has a tradition of giving communion under one kind.

Because Paul is just repeating what Jesus had already said. It is Jesus who said to break bread and drink from the cup. Jesus tells us quite plainly why Christians do what we do in Communion. Luke 22:19-20:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

His body and his blood were given for us. That is why both are symbolized.

I suppose that’s above my pay grade. Yet, one clue would be that the bread and wine would undeniably become flesh and blood.

Understood. I disagree but, understood.

I suppose that’s above my pay grade. Yet, one clue would be that the bread and wine would undeniably become flesh and blood.

Undeniable to whom? I certainly don’t deny it. Do you know of any Christians prior to the Reformation who denied it?

To everyone in the sense that a visible, tangible transformation occurs that anyone could identify through their senses.

Yes, because you accept what the Catholic Church teaches. This is a position that I respect. Nevertheless, my conscience is not bound by the interpretation of the Catholic Church, and I do not see (and Scripture gives me no reason to believe) that the elements literally become the body and blood.

I do not know of any. In my thinking, it’s not really that important.

I do not know of any. In my thinking, it’s not really that important.

Are these not two contradictory statements coming from the same person? You don’t know of anyone who denies the real presence prior to the reformation and you define “undeniable to whom” as “everyone in the sense…”.

It seems you say in one statement it should be important then it is not. :shrug:


I think you misunderstand me. You asked me what would it take for me to read Paul literally. I answered that the elements would have to undoubtedly and undeniably transform into flesh and blood and appear as such.

When I wrote “everyone,” I meant that if the Lord’s Supper was literally the body and blood of Jesus Christ then “everyone” would be able to see and sense that such a transformation had taken place. In reality, people see bread and wine, and I have no reason to think that there is anything more going on within the elements themselves. Within the faithful, there is much that is happening as they discern the Lord’s body. But that is not the same thing as saying that the bread and wine are literally the Lord’s body.

You then introduced the factor of church history. While that is a worthy factor to discuss, my original response had nothing to do with how historically popular Real Presence has been, so there is no contradiction in my thought process.

Thanks for your reply Itwin. I have a hard time understanding much of this but I will try to keep an open mind.

Peace brother!!!

I want to thank Itwin for replying to this. Hopefully more of your Protestant brothers will feel like weighing in.

OK, let me try another approach. If a scientist examined the bread and wine consecrated by a Catholic priest and concluded that it was in fact human flesh and human blood, then I would conclude that Paul intended to be taken literally.

I gathered as much Itwin. It is not that I didn’t understand what you were saying as much as not understanding why you need a scientist to confirm what Paul, and for that matter Jesus himself. is telling you what it “IS”. And the fact that you mentioned that what you are not seeing was undeniable by “everyone” at one point in time and that it is an important factor to you. That’s all. :shrug:


An analogy I have heard is that the American flag is not the country itself, but rather a symbol of the country. Yet many folks get extremely offended and/or disgusted when they see it desecrated and many of various political stripes have suggested criminalizing such desecration. How much more could this not apply to the symbol of the Lord at the Last Supper?

I am not agreeing with or advocating this analogy, but it is one that I have heard.

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