"For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:30).
In the above words the Apostle gives the note he has made after holding a spiritual clinic in relation to the sicknesses and debilities among the Corinthian believers. Indeed, he goes beyond that and gives the reason for the death of "not a few." Evidently things were pretty bad there as to the physical. Incidentally, and yet as a striking part of the whole, it is impressive that so much physical sickness and - apparently - unnecessary death should be amongst those who were said to "come behind in no gift," including the gift of healing (1:7; 12:9).
Now let us clear this ground by saying emphatically that there was a definite reason for this condition, and evidently one which was based upon a state of things which should have been known to be wrong. That just means two things.
One - all sickness, ailment, and death is not due to specific sin on the part of the one afflicted. This surely goes without saying, but we say it strongly lest any sufferer should take on condemnation unnecessarily. There are many sufferers "in the will of God."
The other thing is that there must have been a knowledge which put these believers into the category of those who knew better and were not sinning in ignorance. It would indeed be a grievous thing if the Divine counsels decided that such a definite pronouncement should be made where people were totally ignorant of their sin and wrong doing.
The whole tone of this letter shows that the state of things was one which called for stern words and not soft advice.
That brings us right up to the very point of this particular word. There is a principle which we want to indicate. The actual nature of "not discerning the body" is not the object of our enquiry. The principle is this:-
If any one or any body of the Lord's people should have come to know of Divine truth in general or particular, and should have definitely or ostensibly stood with it, they have come into touch, not with abstract doctrine, but with the Living God, and with that which involves Him. The effect must be either positively unto life or death. They can never remain as they were before; sooner or later there will be an issue. Should that Divine truth have come their way, or they have come its way, in something more than a mere tradition, that is, by a real first-hand work of the Holy Spirit, the issues will be the more immediate and positive. Should such a people - as in this basic instance at Corinth - know by a Holy Spirit ministry the truth of:
a) The essential vital oneness of believers with a crucified and risen Christ - implying their own death to the self-life, and resurrection to live "henceforth unto him" - and then bring their old nature life positively into the new realm, they must meet the impact of the death-dealing blow of the Cross.
Or should they know the truth of:
b) The essential oneness and relatedness of all believers as "one loaf, one body," and then act in any way which definitely violates that relatedness, such must suffer the consequences of getting away from the "covering" and safeguarding which - in some undefined, but very real way - is bound up with spiritual corporateness. There it is, and if we understood the laws and workings of the protective values of our physical bodies, and realised how a disturbed relatedness in function leads to suffering and death - unless put right - we should know that God has constituted the whole physical universe upon spiritual principles. Further, we should realise that the term "Body" as to the Church is no mere metaphor, but something very real.
It is just not possible to accept any Divine revelation without being involved in its principles, and suffering if those principles are violated. So the Apostle says "For this cause," i.e. the reason is this. You cannot profess that Christ is Lord, and then be your own Lord. You cannot be a member of a family and ignore the family and be as though you were the family. You cannot be a member of a body and then make your own plans and carry out your own arrangements without regard to laws of relatedness. This carries its own laws of retribution, but there is the Holy Spirit to be reckoned with and taken into account. We may slip up and default and the corrections of the Lord be gentle, but the matter of responsibility is one that varies according to opportunity, privilege, and position.