The Manifold Wisdom Of God
(The Lord's Supper/Table)
"For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us,"
1 Corinthians 5'7.
Communion is a familiar word among churchgoers. However, communions differ depending on the group or denomination practising it.
Names vary too. There's Communion, Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass, breaking of bread, etc. The New Testament has the Lord's Supper, or Table, or Passover. And it is referred to as a feast.
During His final days on earth Jesus kept the Old Testament Passover Feast. But, during the last one, He changed it completely. Here's how it happened:
The Day of Unleavened Bread came, when the Passover lamb must be killed.
And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”
So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?”
And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters.
“Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’
“Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.”
So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.
When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.
Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; “for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; “for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you". Luke 22'7-20.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom”. Matthew 26'26-29.
Jesus was about to fulfill what the Old Testament Feast of Passover foreshadowed. His crucifixion was the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He was about to achieve spiritual deliverance for all who would believe.
The Old Testament Passover was intended to remind all Israel of their great deliverance from slavery in Egypt. And it continues to serve symbolically as a powerful reminder to Believers of their deliverance, "... from the power of darkness ... into the Kingdom of the Son of His love," Colossians 1'13. So it's worth knowing about.
In brief, the history of Israel's Passover begins in Genesis with Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob. He became a slave in Egypt because his brothers sold him to some slave traders (37'23).
At one stage he was brought before the Pharaoh and prophesied of the coming of a seven-year bumper harvest which would be followed by a seven-year famine. The Pharoah accepted this as from God and put Joseph in charge of managing it and he laid out the preparations necessary for to successfully surviving it, and all Egypt was spared.
During this time the Pharoah allowed Joseph to bring his father, brothers and their families to stay in Egypt (Genesis 47'27 onwards). So they settled there and thrived.
However, a later Pharaoh saw Israel differently, as a national threat, and made them slaves, inflicting cruelty on them. They became desperate for deliverance and cried out to God.
He raised up Moses, telling him to approach Pharoah on their behalf:
"... you shall say to him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews has sent me to you, saying, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness'," Exodus 7'16.
The Pharaoh adamantly refused. Each refusal resulted in a series of plagues in Egypt. The final refusal resulted in The Passover.
After those refusals the Lord gave Moses these instructions:
"Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a house.
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.
And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.
Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance'," Exodus 12'3,5-7,13-14.
Israel's Passover resulted in deliverance out of slavery to freedom under God's rule. Their's was physical, ours is spiritual.
Jesus changed the Old Covenant Passover Feast into His New Covenant Kingdom Passover. It became called the Lord's Supper, or Table, and differed radically from the Old Feast. Basically, it was introduced when Jesus presented himself to John for immersion in water. John proclaimed:
"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," John 1'29.
Of course, everyone knew of words similar to these which were about the Israel's Passover lamb. But John was telling them something very different: he was saying that this Jesus of Nazareth, was a lamb who would be sacrificed for the world.
The Old Covenant lamb had to be examined thoroughly in order to be found "without blemish". As God's chosen Lamb Jesus would be under constant scrutiny.
Towards the end of this time of intense examination "Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said:
'Father, the hour has come.
Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do'," John 17'1-4.
Jesus did everything the Father had assigned Him to do, and so far, had fulfilled every Old Testament Messianic prophecy.
When He and His Disciples kept what would be the last Old Covenant Feast of Passover, it was different to every other time because:
"He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'
"Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying,
'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you'", Luke 22'19-20.
Later, on the cross, "... when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit," John 19'30. He did everything necessary to achieve free salvation for all who believe Him.
Not only did The Lord fulfill the Old Passover, He transformed it and superseded it. And when He said "do this in remembrance of Me".
He wanted Believers to understand, and enter into, the full extent of His achievements including His resurrection life.
By the Spirit, Paul says:
"...you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.
And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it," Colossians 2'13-15.
These are spiritual understandings for true Believers to have in their hearts. All can know that whatever came between us and our heavenly Father, plus anything that came against us personally, were dealt with when Jesus was crucified.
As Hebrews 2'14 says:
"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil".
The Father raised Jesus from the dead, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And at the same time making Believers righteous, justified, in the sight of God. Therefore, "...you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him".
So by living daily in His Father's will and laying down His life the Lord created His New Covenant Kingdom Passover.
KEEPING THE FEAST
When the Holy Spirit came Believers could be witnesses to Jesus and keep His commandments. Among them: to be immersed in water, keep His Passover Feast and love one another.
However, keeping His New Covenant Kingdom Passover, and immersion in water, the way He wanted began to be eroded and altered. The Corinthian Believers are the prime scriptural example. So Jesus commissioned the apostle Paul to clarify the teaching and re-establish it.
He delivered the Lord's teaching to them, and all Believers after them. But it emerged in his response to a very serious matter. He says:
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles - that a man has his father’s wife!
And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you."
"Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," 1 Corinthians 5'1-2,6-8.
Paul is very upset about this report. But as he rebukes them he also reveals what underlies his lifestyle. It results from a way of thinking. It is this, Christ is our Passover and He was sacrificed for us. This was his deep Kingdom life understanding. And if Believers are true Believers, it will be theirs also.
In another place he lays it out in full:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me," Galatians 2'20.
The apostle Peter has the same understanding. He says, Jesus "... Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness," 1:2'24.
This kind of thinking is central to living successfully in Christ's New Covenant Kingdom.
Paul rebukes them for being "puffed up", having a proud attitude and not grieving about it. He says, "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" He knows that their ungodly attitude will be like a leaven (yeast) and could affect the thinking of every one else.
He urges them to take action and purge it out. And says, "since you truly are unleavened". But how could they still be truly unleavened?
They could be because Jesus is still their Passover. They are still counted as righteous and they still have the power to deal with it. But he points out something that applies to all Believers. And that is: "keep the feast ... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth".
After responding to the issue of immorality, Paul is called upon to respond to another serious issue later on in his letter. It's a spiritual one this time and relates to the Lord's Supper directly.
Here's what he says:
"I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the joint participation of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the joint participation of the body of Christ?
For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?
Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to associate with demons.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons," 1 Corinthians 10'15-21.
From what Paul says, Corinth was a place where idols and demons were involved in people's everyday lives. Being surrounded by this must have made keeping the Lord's Supper/Table a challenge for the Believers. Nevertheless, whether new Believers or not, some were still dabbling in the old lifestyle.
This is serious, because they were associating with demons, by partaking of their table, at the same time thinking they can partake of the Lord's Table. Paul told them they couldn't do that. He knew that demons are liars and they aim to take over human lives.
Christ's New Covenant Passover feast is called the Lord’s Supper/Table because it is His. So, as Paul said earlier, "let us keep the feast ... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth".
Sincerity and truth are the two personal elements required of a Believer who is keeping the feast. That's sincerity about being clean and free from all that is unacceptable to the Father.
Alongside sincerity is truth. God wants the feast that He has commanded to be done, and done according to His truth, His way.
Way back Joshua said this to God's People, Israel:
“Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!" Joshua 24'14.
Paul began addressing this issue by saying to the Corinthian Believers: "I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say". At first glance, that might seem an odd thing to say, except that he was "... there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them" (Acts 18'11).
So they were wise, inasmuch as they were wise to the Jesus having fulfilled Israel's Passover, that He is our Passover and they were wise as to the ungodliness of the idols and demons scenario of Corinth.
And they had wisdom - but they still strayed from truth. And now for a third time Paul has to speak strongly to them. This time it's about their conduct:
"Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.
For first of all, when you come together as Christ's Called-Out People, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.
For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?
Or do you despise the People of God/the Ekklesia and shame those who have nothing?
What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this?
I do not praise you," 1 Corinthians 11'17-22.
Apparently, they were assuming that their way of keeping the Lord's New Covenant Passover was acceptable to God. But Paul was horrified.
In the light of this shocking ungodly behaviour it's not surprising that he refers to "he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner" - twice.
But their manner was unworthy. And it therefore disqualified them. (However, he does not say they themselves are unworthy.) Remembering Christ, our Passover, means approaching the Lord's Supper with the kind of thanksgiving, respectful behaviour and worship due to Him:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5'12)
SINCERITY AND TRUTH
Paul has said a lot of things and given instructions (and there were more to come!). Here it's about "when you come together to eat" (verse 33). He has to say "Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper".
But they had a meeting especially to eat the Lord's Supper. They must have had the idea that what they were doing, and the way they were doing it, was keeping the Lord's Supper. Paul intended to put them straight.
Earlier he had exhorted them to "... keep the feast ... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth". Now he reminds them that the Lord had given him the instructions that he had delivered to them (which, it seems, he had done first sometime earlier, presumably in the 18 months he was with them.)
While addressing them as a congregation he is also speaking to them individually including himself, and Believers of every age.
Here's what he said:
"I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,
'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'
In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying,
'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come," 1 Corinthians 11'23-34.
These are powerful, and profitable, words. And in the process of delivering them, Paul uses words like unworthy manner, judgment, not discerning, weak, sickly, sleep(dying), chastened, condemned, judgment.
Nevertheless, he also says that the situation can be righted. First of all, "let a man examine himself" because "if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged". Our heavenly Father graciously allows us to examine and judge ourselves.
That way we avoid being judged by Him and being chastened by Him, also avoiding being condemned with the world.
Earlier Paul had said, "judge for yourselves what I say". Now, after saying more to them, he says, in the light of these words, "judge yourselves": that is, hear these things, respond to these things and "judge yourselves"!
And from what he says there's restoration in judging ourselves, there's worthiness, discernment, strength, alertness, discipline and no condemnation, spiritual freedom, even healthiness, etc.
Finally he says: "And the rest I will set in order when I come". Having set in order all that Jesus told him to he is satisfied that what he has delivered is fully sufficient. The rest could wait, obviously not crucial.
Apparently Paul wasn't able to go back. But in his second letter he does say this:
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you are disqualified," 2 Corinthians 13'2,5.
Although this may not apply specifically to the Lord's Supper/Table, nevertheless it has relevance to keeping right before the Father.
So, Paul delivered all that was sufficient for them for keeping the Lord's Supper rightly. Apparently, he was confident that the rest would be provided by the other New Testament writers, Peter for example, and other letters of his own.
In those early days the founding and building the Body of Christ was done by the ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, especially Paul and Peter.
But as this letter of Paul's shows, the tendency to stray from truth is always likely. And the other New Testament letters also include teachings about deviations and falsehoods.
Needless to say, since then a variety of such teachings have emerged which have altered the word of Christ and passed on as truth.
The Lord's Supper/Table is a case in point. One particular present-day example is "Communion". It is used instead of "the Lord's Supper". (This study is called Kingdom Communion because it is recognised so readily.)
"Communion" has emerged as a common title and the Lord's Supper itself became lost to "Holy Communion" or "Eucharist" or "Breaking Bread" or "Mass". However, explanations of these usually include "also known as the Lord's Supper".
It is unusual for "Communion" to be used in modern translations, nevertheless it still seems to be the preferred in everyday language. But it does appear in the New King James translation, twice, in 1 Corinthians 10'15-21.
It comes from the New Testament Greek word koinonia. Strong's Concordance translates it "fellowship" 12 times and "communion" 4. However, in this context, "fellowship", meaning "joint participation" is much more appropriate.
Here's what it says, with "communion" in brackets:
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the joint participation (communion) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the joint participation (communion) of the body of Christ?".
And this is what Believers do, participate together as the Body of Christ. Sharing the Lord's Supper. Honouring Him, our Passover, crucified for us. Remembering Him and proclaiming His death - until He comes.
There was a time when this was spoken to Israel:
“Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!" Joshua 24'14.
Today, He says much the same to Christ's Called-Out Ones His Ekklesia. The two things, the blood of Christ and the body of Christ, in which Believers have involvement together, are deep spiritual understandings represented by the symbols of bread and wine.
Believers understand that Jesus Christ "... loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood," Revelation 1'5.
ACCEPTABLE TO GOD
When the Spirit came He brought the reality of the Kingdom of God with Him and fulfilling these words of Christ:
"He said to them, 'With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God'.
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, 'Take this and divide it among yourselves;
for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes'.
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me..
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you'," Luke 22'15-20.
“... I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom,” Matthew 26'29 also Mark 14'25.
The New Covenant Kingdom Passover is to be an act of righteousness with which we serve the Lord. Romans 14'17-18 says:
"... for the kingdom of God is ... righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men".
What the Corinthians were doing was definitely not that so they needed to be corrected. They were adults who had received Christ and they had learnt and experienced the elementary principles of Christ. (See Your Kingdom Foundation on the Menu).
Their aim ought to have been to serve Christ by worshiping our heavenly Father like He did. Jesus said:
“... the hour is coming, and now is,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth;
for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,” John 4'23-24.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
This is the bread which came down from heaven - not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever,” John 6'47-51,53-58.
Let us keep the Feast of Christ, our Passover, with sincerity and truth.