God is exceedingly gracious and merciful, so we should never doubt His desire to forgive sinners. At the same time, the Lord is the Most Holy Creator, so we dare not approach Him flippantly (Ex. 34:6–7; Lev. 10:1–3). It can be easy to forget either of those precious truths, so we must keep them both in the forefront of our thinking if we are to live faithful Christian lives.
When we forget the truth of God’s holiness, the consequences can be dire. It can lead to weakness, illness, or even death. The first-century Corinthian Christians had forgotten the Lord’s holiness in the way they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and they were partaking of the elements unworthily. As a result, even their physical health suffered (see 1 Cor. 11:17–30). Let us not be deceived; the same could happen to us if we persistently eat the bread and drink the wine without recognizing our sin and the purpose of the atonement and by failing to live out that knowledge by pursuing reconciliation and unity in the church.
In today’s passage, Paul points out that if Christians were to judge themselves rightly, they “would not be judged” (v. 31). This statement refers back to the call for self-examination in taking the Lord’s Supper. Believers who properly discern the body recognize their sin, repent of it, and seek to live according to all that Christ has commanded us. They avoid the Lord’s disciplinary judgment because they come to the table in a worthy manner (see vv. 28–29). Avoiding judgment with respect to the Lord’s Supper is in one sense quite easy: all we have to do is properly evaluate ourselves before we partake of the bread and wine.
This had not been happening in Corinth, and so members of the church were suffering judgment (v. 30). But the judgment they suffered was for discipline and not for their eternal condemnation (v. 32). It was to call them back to a right and worthy celebration of the Lord’s Supper so that they would persevere in saving faith until the end. This indicates that while believers do not experience the judgment of eternal death in hell, it is possible for Christians, before they die, to experience the Lord’s judgment as a means of discipline. Such discipline reflects God’s kindness and Fatherhood, for loving fathers discipline their children. God disciplines us for holiness so that we may finally see Him face-to-face (Heb. 12:3–11). His discipline alerts us of our need to repent and to remain faithful.