THE CHRISTIAN PASSOVERI Corinthians 11:17-29
I Corinthians 11:27-29 says, “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.” This section relates to the disorders connected with the celebration of the Lord's Supper. These disorders were of a kind, according to our method of celebrating the Lord's death, seems almost unaccountable. It was, however, the early custom to connect the Lord's Supper in the strict sense of the words with an ordinary meal. As this observance was first instituted at the close of the Jewish Passover supper, so it appears to have been customary at the beginning for the Christians to assemble for a common meal and to connect with it the Redeemer's death. We should learn all we can about this observance and be careful to avoid the mistakes the Corinthians made..
From this account it follows first that the Lord's Supper was designed not for an ordinary meal but as a religious observance of the death of Christ. It is true that Jesus instituted it at a meal, but it was not an ordinary meal. The Lord established this observance at a Passover supper, and that was anything but an ordinary meal. It was one of the most solemn and religious occasions in all of the Jewish religion. The fact it was observed for the first time at a Passover supper is very significant. The Lord's Supper is closely related to the Passover supper; and there are similarities between these two suppers. God designed the Lord's Supper to take the place of the Jewish Passover supper and thereby make it easier for the Jews to give up the Jewish religion and convert to the Christian religion. Jews who became Christians continued to have a Passover experience, only in a different form.
Let's refresh our minds on the close relationship between these two great events, and I think it will help us to see the deep significance of the Lord's Supper celebration. The Passover was an eminent figure or type of our Lord's sacrifice and of its benefits. The Jewish Passover lamb was a symbolical reference to Jesus-- the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world Since on that Passover night with the apostles, He was about to fulfill that Jewish Passover rite which down the centuries was a symbolical picture Christ, the old Jewish Passover could have no place in the Christian religion. On the next day Jesus died, nailed the Jewish religion to His cross and removed the Jewish Passover observance forever. The Passover
Jews observed before Jesus died was the last Passover God ever demanded of that nation, and He never expected them ever to observe it again. It no longer has any religious value in the sight of God.. They might continue to observe the day as a legal holiday, as the birthday of the nation like we observe July 4thh, but it is no longer a command of God. . Christ in person became the true Passover Lamb, and a new observance was necessary to commemorate the spiritual deliverance of both Jews and Gentiles from a sinful life and a condemned world. The word of God says, “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. Let us keep the feast.” These two events are connected and should be studied together.
On that night when the firstborn of Egypt were slain, the Israelites were commanded to take a lamb for every house, kill it, and sprinkle some of its blood on the post of their door, so that the destroying angel might pass over the houses who had attended to this injunction. No only were the first-born Hebrew children preserved alive, but the effect also was the deliverance of the whole nation from their slavery in Egypt, and their beginning as the visible church and chosen people of God by virtue of a special covenant or agreement. In commemoration of these events, the feast of the Passover was made annual, and at that time all the males assembled before the Lord in Jerusalem. A lamb was provided for every house; the blood was poured under the altar by the Priests, and the lamb was eaten by the people in their tents or houses. At this domestic and religious feast, every head or master of a family took the cup of thanksgiving and gave thanks with his family to the God of Israel.
At that famous Last Supper Christ, acting as the Master of His family( the apostles) and after He had finished the usual Passover ceremony, proceeded to a new and distinct observance never done before at any Passover observance. He took bread, the Passover bread that was on the table, and gave 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.” Likewise, He also took the cup after supper saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.” According to Matthew's account, “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 I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.”
These words of Jesus made the institution of the Lord's Supper a standing observance and memorial and was not to be a temporary rememberance done only by the apostles. This is made certain by the instructions Paul gave to a far away Church of Christ in Corinth, Greece. Paul 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 till He comes.” The Lord's Supper is not an optional man-made ordinance, but a divinely appointed ordinance imposed on the church and to be observed so long as time lasts. From these words we learn that Paul received a special revelation as to this ordinance. We have nailed down one very important truth about the Lord's Supper. It was not designed to be an ordinary or common meal, but as a solemn religious church observance of the Redeemer's death till He comes back for His church. The Jewish Passover was a symbolical picture or shadow of the Lord' Supper for 1500 years. The church in Corinth failed to understand it was not a common meal, and they ate of the bread and drank of the cup in an unworthy manner.
In this message I would like to consider one more very important truth about the Lord's Supper. It has to do with those famous words of Jesus at the Last Supper, He said of the bread which He broke and gave to the apostles, “This is My body.” In like manner He said of the fruit of the vine that was in the cup, “This is my blood.” What did He mean by these words? Was He speaking literally or figuratively? The followers of Christ for the past two thousand years have had opposing and differing opinions as to the true meaning of His words. We are two thousand years away from that famous Last Supper, and His followers are still divided over three different possible meanings of His words. Let's briefly examine these opinions and then decide for ourselves which we think to be true.
The first is the incredible and superstitious theory of the Church of Rome. This church professes to receive the words of Christ literally and to mean exactly what He said. It is their conception the words, “Thus is my body; this is my blood” are to be understood in their most literal sense, and when Jesus pronounced those words, by His Almighty power He changed the bread on the table literally into His body and the fruit
of the vine into His actual blood. Then He handed the actual body and blood of Christ into the hands of the apostles. They claim this same mighty miracle
is performed by the Priest in every Mass of the Catholic church. When he pronounces these words just like Jesus did, the bread crosses over and becomes the Lord's literal body and the fruit of the vine is turned into the actual blood of Christ, even though you cannot see it. This change is known by the name of transubstantiation. Trans means across or over; substantiation means substance. So it stands for the passing over of the bread and fruit of the vine into the literal body and blood of Christ. After this the priest lays the bread and cup on the altar. and it is offered by the priest as a sacrifice to God. Every Mass is a new sacrifice of Christ's body and blood to God. After the change-over has been made, persons do not receive bread and the fruit of the vine but literally partake of the body and blood of Christ and really eat His flesh and drink His blood. It confers benefits on the people immediately, regardless of their disposition. It also has immediate effects on the sick and dying. Being now the actual body and blood of Christ, t is proper to worship the bread and the cup.
However they ran into a problem with this theory. When they passed out the blood of Christ for the people to drink, accidents would occur, cups would be dropped or spilled. They could not allow the blood of Christ to be dropped and spilled. Such things were inconsistent with the veneration due to the body and blood of Christ. To remedy this they decided to give only bread to the people, and only the Priest would drink from the cup. But Jesus said to the apostles, “All of you drink from it.” They understand this to mean that only the apostles were to drink from the cup, not the whole church, and now the priests take the place of the apostles. We reject transubstantiation as revolting to the sense and reason of mankind. It is a superstitious perversion of the Lord's Supper, Jesus did not teach it, the apostles did not teach it and the New Testament does not teach it.
When Martin Luther departed from the Church of Rome and founded the Lutheran church, the first Protestant church, he gave the second explanation of these words of Jesus. Aware of the absurdities and self- contradictions of transubstantiation, he rejected that doctrine, but it left a lasting impression on his mind. He introduced another theory to the world called consubstantiation. This word means “with substance.” It was held by Luther that though the bread and fruit of the vine remain unchanged after giving thanks for them, yet he taught that the body and blood of Christ was literally present in the Lord's Supper. His body was literally with the bread and His blood was literally with the fruit of the vine. Luther did not mean that Christ's body and blood was spiritually present in the Lord's Supper but He was literally present with the bread and fruit of the vine. His theory was that body and b lood was together with the bread
and cup but their l presence is a mystery that cannot be explained.. Thus Luther taught that when people eat the bread and drink the cup they literally eat the body and blood of the Lord. There is but little difference between the view of Rome and Luther. In the final analysis they teach the same thing, and it is perversion of the Lord's Supper and is not taught in the New Testament.
The third view of our Lord's words at the Last Supper is one held by most Protestant churches and the brotherhood of Chruches of Christ.. This view holds that the bread and the cup are the signs and symbols of the absent body and blood of Christ. He was about to die, be raised and return to heaven. His personal presence, His body and blood would no longer be on the earth. When Jesus said of the bread, , “This is my body” and said of the cup, “This is my blood,” He was using figurative language commonly used in everyday conversation, called metaphors.. As these were common figures of speech, there was a circumstance at that supper that would prevent the apostles from misunderstanding what He meant. It was that they saw the literal body of Jesus alive there at the table and could not suppose that when they ate the bread they were eating that body they saw there in the room with them. It is admitted by all followers of Christ that Christ definitely used a figure of speech in one part of the Lord's Supper. When Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” No one thinks the cup is the covenant; they are not one and the same thing. The cup is one thing and the covenant another. All believe he means that the cup or His blood was a sign, a memorial, a seal of the covenant. In like manner when Jesus said, “ This is my body, He meant no morethan, , “This is a sign or symbol of My body.”
We believe that the bread and grape juice on the Lord's Table telll us that the literal body and blood of Jesus are absent, and they take the place of His literal presence to stir up our remembrance.. Christ, by the use of these signs or symbols is spiritually present in the Lord's Supper. He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” It is a mystery how Christ can be present at all His churches all over the world. He is omnipresent like the Father. To all who join with the thanksgiving uttered for the bread and cup and remember the death of Christ in a proper manner, they use the two signs and symbols on the table and believe Christ is spiritually present. Thus, in a real sense it can be said that we eat the body of Christ and drink His blood, not literally, but spiritually as we partake of the two signs He has given as a memorial of
death. There are moral and spirtual benefits that come to those who participate in this observance. Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding..