What does 1 Corinthians 11:30 mean?Paul's sobering words in the previous verse raised a serious question for believers. He said that to participate in communion without "discerning the body" will bring judgment on the one who eats the bread and drinks the cup. That reference seems to refer to those who treat the bread and wine as just like any other meal or snack: to be careless or shallow about it. Or, it might refer to those who fail to recognize how commemorating the death of Christ expresses unity with other believers. Or, it might refer to some combination of both. But what judgment comes from not discerning the body?
Paul's answer only adds to the seriousness of this passage. He writes that many among the Corinthians were weak and ill for this very reason. Some had even died as a result of failing to participate in the Lord's Supper in a worthy manner. To be even more clear, it is God who has brought weakness, illness, and death to them as discipline for their failure to observe communion with proper respect for Christ's sacrifice and for each other.
Many people struggle with the idea that God would bring illness or death to a Christian for continuing to participate in sinful practices. Or that He would do the same for those who sinfully mishandle good practices. It fits perfectly, however, with Paul's earlier warning to the Corinthians about the Israelites who died in the wilderness after escaping from Egypt. Paul clearly implied that God would do similar things to them if they participated in idol worship and other sins (1 Corinthians 10:1–13).
What about God's love and grace and forgiveness of sin? In verse 32, Paul will clarify that this judgment from God does not include the loss of salvation. Suffering and even death in this life are not eternal judgments. Both may be the discipline of a loving Father for the good of the children whose sin He has forgiven.