The Lord's supper
(Translated from Dutch)
There are believers who celebrate the « Lord's Supper » four times a year, others do this twelve times a year, others 52 times a year, while Catholics celebrate their Eucharist 365 times a year. There are also those who celebrate it only once a year, namely the converted Jews on the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan. None of these people intend to deviate from their habit. When celebrating the Lord's Supper, 1 Cor. 11:23 — 30. This Scripture ends with the words: (26 — 30)
« For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep ».
When so many believers think differently about the number of times to celebrate in a year of the Lord's Supper, we can not dismiss the thought of it, that one deals with lightheartedness, things with which even death is involved.
What actually mean the words:
eating and drinking in an unworthy way? Since the Old Testament often solves the hard-to-understand parts of the New Testament, we need to look in the Old Testament to give more light to our subject.
It is known that during the period of the « Acts of the Apostles » sins were immediately punished. These are also mentioned in the letters that were written in this period. Well-known examples are: Ananias and Sapphira, Elymas the sorcerer, Herod and Simon the sorcerer, who wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit for money.
That such an immediate punishment of sins no longer occurs is not proof that we Christians are better, but is a consequence of the circumstance that we are now living in another dispensation, namely in the dispensation of grace. The dispensation of grace began when Israel was temporarily rejected or set aside, that is, about 70 years after Christ, and will end in the days when Israel will be adopted again as God's people. In the Old Testament we find such immediate judgments repeatedly.
But this does not explain all questions about the Lord's Supper. Some questions that still arise are:
That in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 not a word is mentioned about these questions, is sufficient proof that those to whom these words were written knew it very well. They must have been so familiar with the whole process, that it was unnecessary to write about these parts.
Many have always thought that the use of bread and wine replaces the old paschal feast of the Israelites (Pesach) and that the Lord Jesus set something new at His Last Supper.
They believe that the « church » had begun at Pentecost and that the law and all Jewish ceremonies had been fulfilled at the cross and had been abolished. But the customs of the law, such as circumcision, ceremonies, and feasts, were retained for Israel's repentance until Israel's rejection. Only the converted Gentiles had to decide on the four necessary abstentions, namely: To abstain from the things contaminated by the idols; of fornication; of the suffocated and of the blood. (Acts 15:20) We read indeed indeed after the first Pentecost of the celebration of the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread (Acts 20:6) and of the Pentecost feast. (Acts 20:16)
We also read about the seven sabbaths that passed between Passover and Pentecost. This is not easy to discover, because our translations always speak about the « first day of the week ». The source text has, however, the « first day of the sabbaths ». (Acts 20:7) Here is a series of sabbaths which returned annually, the seven sabbaths of Lev. 23:15, that fell between Passover and Pentecost. That in Acts 20:7 indeed one of these Sabbaths is meant, according to verse 16, where it is mentioned that Paul hastened to be at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
The letters to Corinth's church were written during the Acts. In this context, we have to move in our thoughts at that time and take account of the circumstances, customs and regulations that were at the time. We will therefore have to try to read these parts of the Scriptures « Jewish ». This is easy for us as we continue reading about Paul's experience in Jerusalem. When he arrived in Jerusalem before Pentecost, he was greeted in the house of James by all the elders. After he had told his adventures, they told Paul:
« And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law », Acts 21:20
In this sense, it is emphasized that there were many thousands among the Jews who believed in the Lord Jesus and also maintained the Law, and « zealously » (enthusiastically) with full conviction. Because in Jerusalem the talk was about Paul learning apostasy from Moses, so letting go of the Law, they asked him to prove the opposite by a ceremony in the Temple (the Nazarene vow). (Acts 21:21 — 26) This ceremony was accompanied by sacrifices.
In this way, many places, which we did not understand before, suddenly become clear in this letter to the Corinthian congregation. So if we return to 1 Cor. 10 and 11 then, on the basis of the above examination sheet, it might turn out that the Lord's Supper, which the believers celebrated there, is part of the Passover (Jewish Passover). If we look at the five questions that were asked about the Lord's Supper, the answer could already be given to several of them.
But let us first try to familiarize ourselves with everything related to the Passover, the Jewish Passover, and what has been written about it. For this we first consult the Scriptures, but also some Jewish books. Let us begin by reading all the passovers in the Old Testament, paying particular attention to passages in them, which could explain the incomprehensible parts from 1 Cor. 10 and 11.
first passover. (Exo. 12:1 — 28) Its setting took place in Egypt before the night of the exodus. What is immediately noticeable in this Scripture is that « And this day shall be unto you for a memorial » and this is an annual memorial day. (Exo. 12:14)
« And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD ... »
These words remind us of the words of the Lord: « Do this in remembrance of Me », which words Paul quoted in 1 Cor. 11:2 — 25, namely the remembrance of the death of the Lord. That must happen on a certain date, namely on the l4th Nisan between two evenings, at which time the Lord died. Paul is referring to this when he says:
« Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth ». (1 Cor. 5:7 — 8)
« For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth ». Brothers who did not virtue had to be taken away from their midst. They had to judge them and was not even allowed to eat with them. (1 Cor. 5:9 — 11) The prescribed lamb sees in his helplessness and weakness the self-defecation of the Lamb of God, of which Paul in 2 Cor. 13:4 says:
« For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God ».
Second passover. (Num. 9:1 — 14) This Passover was celebrated in the Sinai desert. But some men came to Moses and told him that they could not celebrate the Passover because they were unclean by the touch of a dead man. Why, they asked, are we prevented from bringing an offering of the Lord at the appointed time? Moses asked for them the LORD and He answered:
« Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD. The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs ».
This feast, so for a special occasion, was later called: the little Passover. But had there been nothing unforeseen, so that people could have sanctified themselves and would nevertheless fail to celebrate the Passover, then the one would be exterminated of his people and would have to bear his sin. So here is immediate judgment, which reminds one Corinthians 11:30, where we read of being sick and weak and even of many who have fallen asleep.
Third passover. (Jos. 5:2 — 12) Before this Passover could be celebrated, Joshua was ordered to circumcise the Israelites. This is emphasized extensively. All the people who had come out of Egypt had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert on their way after the exodus from Egypt had not been circumcised. Now these men had to circumcise Joshua, otherwise they could not celebrate the Passover. The command was, after all, that no stranger and no uncircumcised person could eat. (Exo. 12:48)
« And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof ».
This description of Passover also reminds us of the letter to Corinth's congregation, where Paul painfully keeps the believers from the Jews and those from the Gentiles separated. Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:17 and 18
« But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. ».
Whoever gets an eye for it can notice from all the letters written by Paul during the Act, which groups dominate in a certain place; the Jews or the Gentiles. The churches in Galatians consisted mainly of gentiles, as well as those in Thessalonica. On the other hand, in Rome and Corinth, the congregation were predominantly Jews. The middle wall of partition, which made separation, had not yet been broken away. (Eph 2:14) Jews and Gentiles still lived separated. Paul therefore speaks once to one group (the Jews) and then again to the other group (the Gentiles).
Thus we clearly see in 1 Cor. 10 and 11, that the exhortations concerning the Lord's Supper are directed positively against the Jews. As memory refresher Paul begins in 1 Cor. 10:1:
« Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea ».
In contrast, he expresses himself in 1 Cor. 12:2 otherwise, when he begins to speak to the believers from the Gentiles.
« Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led ».
We must imagine that in the trading city of Corinth there was a large congregation of Jewish-Christians, whose members fully respected the Law and celebrated the feasts and a small congregation of believing Gentiles, whose members adhered to the four abstentions, as prescribed in Acts 15:20. So both congregations lived, as they were assigned and as they were called.
Fourth passover. (2 Kings 30:2 — 27) The pious king Hezekiah remembered everything that reminded of the idols and called on Israel to celebrate the Passover. The ten tribes had already been taken away. But he gathered the two tribes and all who were left of the ten tribes and woke them up to repent, because then God would bring back the exiled.
In consultation with the elders, Hezekiah had invested this Passover Feast on the second month. Everything had to happen so hastily that it was not possible to celebrate the party on the 14th of Nisan. Besides, not enough priests had sanctified themselves. And then, on the date of the second month, there was still a multitude of men from afar, many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulon, who had not cleansed and yet ate the Passover in violation of the precept. The consequence of this offense was disease, because we read that Hezekiah prayed for them:
« For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people ». (2 Chron. 30:18 — 20)
God saw the heart. Here we also have a declaration of 1 Cor. 11:30 and a proof that the « Lord's Supper » was in Corinth part of the Jewish Passover. The unworthy use, caused people to become ill and even die.
Fifth passover. (2 Chron. 35) Under King Hezekiah, the Passover was as great as it had not been since the days of Solomon, in mentioned Scripture it says:
« And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem ». (2 Chron. 35:18)
This particularity refers to the multitude of sacrifices and the preceding sanctification. Sanctification was a very important thing with Israel. This included: bathing completely, all the clothes that they wore had to be washed. Furthermore, they were not allowed to come into contact with a dead person; also not approaching a woman three days before the feast starts. (Exo. 19:14 — 15) One could also load sin if one did not sacrifice the best lamb. (Numbers 18:32) These were Jewish regulations. Gentile Christians have never been given such regulations.
Sixth passover. (Ezra 6:19 — 22) It is a short message and concerns the returned from the exile. It does not give any further details for our subject.
Seventh and last passover. This seventh and final Passover feast in the Old Testament is the prophecy of the Passover in the future empire. It is found in Eze. 45:18, where the rules for the feasts begin, beginning with the Passover. What immediately comes to mind is, as it were, the new beginning. At the six Easter feasts that we have read, only the first mention of the blood is made at the stations of the doors. At this last Passover, the posts of the house and the altar and the post of the gate of the inner court are covered with blood.
At this future Lord's Supper feast, the Lord meant, when He said that from then on He would no longer drink from the fruit of the vine until that day when He and His disciples drank it new, and thus in a new way, in the Kingdom. (Mat. 26:29) This Kingdom was near when the people of Israel had repented. The apostle Paul expected this during his lifetime, in the beginning of his preaching. That's why he says:
« For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. » (1 Cor. 11:26)
When the Lord comes He will, as a living Lord, join the feast with them again and continue in a new way in the Kingdom on earth. The Lord Jesus also said: « Do this ». So it was not a new ceremony that He instituted.
How Paul can connect the table of the Lord in 1 Cor. 10 with the tables of the demons can also be explained in no other way than that he speaks to Jews. When Paul says (1 Cor. 10:21):
« ... ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils ».
he remembers the Christian-Jews (the spiritual Israel) to their fathers, the carnal Israel, who sat at the table of Jezebel, a table of devils. (1 Kings 18:19)
The people of Israel had also sacrificed for the golden calf, their home-made idol, and sat down to eat and drink. (Exodus 32:5 and 6) The table is in Israel very strong the symbol of the community. The people of Israel have often provoked the Lord to anger because they did not strictly adhere to the meals of their holy sacrifices, but were also devoted to meals of pagan sacrificial festivals. Paul therefore reminds them of the threat of the Lord (Deu. 32:17 and Lev 17:7) which he cites in 1 Cor. 10:20.
It is no wonder that we Christians from the Gentiles can never understand this warning in connection with the Lord's Supper. Also in Ezw. 41:22 and 44:16 we see the table of the Lord in the future. The LORD promised his Jewish disciples that they would eat and drink at His table in His Kingdom. (Luke 22:30) Paul praised them for keeping the statutes. This is Jewish, because later, after the « salvation of God » was sent to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28), the statutes are canceled. (Eph 2:15)
We have seen from the examination of the Old Testament that the Passover was a sacrifice. We read, e.g. in 2 Chron. 35:7
« And Josiah gave to the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all for the passover offerings, for all that were present, to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bullocks: these were of the king's substance ».
So much was given to the poor by the rich, that the priests were busy until the night. (2 Chronicles 35:14) The blood was for the LORD, and then they ate for eight days from the flesh to the full. That's how it was at least at the big Passover celebrations in the Old Testament. The mandatory sacrifices were to capacity. The poor only gave two turtledoves. (Lev. 12:8) From the foregoing we know how the sacrificial feast in Corinth had to be celebrated.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they lived carnally, as unchanged people, because of the many schisms among them. (1 Cor. 3:1 — 4) Therefore they could not come together in the true unity to celebrate the Passover and also remember the death of the Lord. How could they have fellowship at one table with one another when there was envy and strife? One called himself to Paul, the other to Apollos. So they did not eat in the true communion, which was to express the table of the LORD. The mutual quarrel meant that people did not even wait for each other to start simultaneously. (1 Cor. 11:33)
The Passover lambs were calculated according to Divine prescription to the families that came together, the rest of the meat and what was needed for the meal was traditionally given to them. But now that there was envy and contention, and people did not wait for each other, it was possible that the first-comers ate and drank a lot and the more humble, the poor did not get much anymore, while the meal was to be celebrated together with joy.
So it was not the Lord's meal anymore, but their own meal. If it was only about food and drink, they could stay home better, Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:34. What the LORD had done (verses 23 and 24) indicated communion and unity of all who took part or participated in it. God's children, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, are the body that belonged to the LORD. (1 Cor. 10:17) That body did not distinguish the Corinthian congregation, and so judgment followed.
The believers from the nations could have part in the meal that fell between the second and the third cup. That is probably the origin of the love meals, which did not have to have a specific date. After all, the nations had to glorify God because of mercy. (Rom. 15:9) Was God mercifully in 2 Chron. 30:19 to many who had not purified themselves , in 1 Cor. 11:27 the opposite is the case. These Christian Jews could have been clean to the law, but not yet to the heart. There was no unity and no love, and if anyone does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? They might have been culturally and morally clean, but their attitude was unworthy, not in accordance with the table of the Lord, who had to express unity. So, in 2 Chron. 30, the outside, the body cleansing was not enough, the heart stretching out completely to God was in order then.
Hence it is judgment at such a sloppy handling of the sacred, hence the weakness and sick to death. Paul had taught them to look for the coming of Jesus Christ so that they might be blameless.
Paul gave the immoral to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord. (1 Cor. 5:5) Therefore he exhorts them to be unanimous. Let there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10) A little leaven makes the whole dough sour. Then put away the old leaven so that you may be a fresh dough. (1 Cor. 5:7) No wickedness and evilness, but purity and truth.
This research leads us to the conviction that 1 Cor. 10 and 11 are dispensation truths or time commandments (belonging to that time). Truths, therefore, belonging to the previous dispensation, in which the people of Israel had priority. In order to clarify the foregoing, the following comment must be made: It is only possible to understand this exposition when one keeps in mind that during the « Acts Time » Israel still existed as « Ammi », that is « My people ». The people still lived in the country and possessed the Temple with its service. The Kingdom was still near with the soon to return Lord, because Israel was still called to repentance. After Acts 28:28 everything changed, because Israel was then struck by the judgment of the hardening, and as a result of this it was set aside for a time, so that the temple also disappeared with its service until the time of Israel's re-enactment.
For « The ritual of the Passover Eve » a quotation from the book of Dr. Lewy.
« On the tenth day of Nisan the great purchase of lambs began at Sion's gates, and on the fourteenth they were taken to the temple to be slaughtered. The offerers were let in three parties. When the first group was inside, the Levites closed the temple gates and signaled by trumpet that the sacrifice could begin. There was no possibility for all Israelites to come before the altar. They slaughtered their sacrificial animals in the front of the court and gave the blood to the priests, who were lined up in rows and quickly handed over the blood-filled bowls from hand to hand, and later, when that blood had been thrown against the altar, the empty dishes in faster pace along the same path to reach the beginning man. Meanwhile, the Levite choirs sang their Hallel psalms. Then the Easter lambs whose blood was shed were roasted on clay movable ovens, and if the second and third groups had done their work, the end of the ceremony had been reached. The evening had already fallen and people went through the streets of Jerusalem to the agreed place where the preparation of the Passover was made. »
As far as the classification of the Seder meal is concerned, the following is said by W. ten Boom in his book.
« Seder means order, a meal with order. The leader is the father of the family, or if several families are together, the oldest or the most honorable of the company. The father began by giving the kiddoes cup, or sanctification cup, the first cup. After that break, thanksgiving and eating unleavened bread, the so-called Mazzoth with bitter herb dipped in sauce ».
The « Haggadah », the book that deals with the liturgy for the Seder evening, states that after the blessing of the second cup, is drunk from it. Then the breaking of the unleavened Passover bread, thanksgiving and eating this bread with bitter herbs dipped in sauce. After this ritual the actual large meal followed, which could be made as long as one wanted and where people ate, as much as they wanted. Non-Jews could also take part in this non-ritual meal. It took place between the fore-seder and the after-seder, between the second and the third cup. When Luke 22:20 and 1 Cor. 11:25 speaking of a drinking cup after the meal, this can not be other than the third cup of the ritual. This is therefore explicitly confirmed by 1 Cor. 10:16, where this cup of thanksgiving is mentioned in particular.
To make the end of the main meal come true, it is customary to decide with an extra piece of mazzoth (Passover bread). Then follows the pouring of the third cup, the cup of thanksgiving, the blessing and the drinking and the singing of the « hallel », the psalms 115 to 118. The course of the after-seder is mainly equal to those of the past centuries. The ritual is then concluded with the cup of redemption, the fourth cup. Psa. 116:13 says therefore:
« The cup of salvation I lift up ».
There is an upward trend in these Hallel psalms, which sing the ultimate glory of God in the gentile world and the salutation of the Messiah at Jerusalem in the temple. (Psalm 118) At the end of the Seder evening, one ends with the collective exclamation: « The coming year in Jerusalem ».
After the Lord Jesus had celebrated the Passover with His disciples, they left — after singing the hymn — to the Mount of Olives. (Mat. 26:30) The great hour of suffering of the Lamb of God would begin there.
When, in the investigation of the unworthy eating and drinking of the Lord's Supper and its consequences, namely becoming sick and weak and dying, they have come to regard this as being valid for the Israelite believers in the Acts time, this can not be far from the truth. It belonged to the time of immediate judgment. But, one wonders: how then to stand in our present confusion?
It is best to accept it in some respect. Just as the Church has grown, one can not suddenly change it. We believers can also still come together to strengthen faith and to build up the body of Christ. Because the vast majority of believers have a need for visible things and, on certain occasions, want a service with ceremonies, such a ritual may resemble that of Israel. Thus worship can be adapted to old national customs and concepts, if WE do not claim that the customs of our churches or communities are God-given.
Even if the parts of the Scriptures so far misunderstood would be better seen, this does not necessarily mean stopping the existing ecclesiastical practices, but it could lead to a better understanding of each other. For as long as one insists that the one or other custom that has grown through the ages is an order from God, one is obliged to adhere strictly to it and automatically results in the separation of others. But when one is no longer beating on ones chest (like Rome) with a: « WE are the God-ordained church, WE have the ceremonies set by God »", then nothing prevents us from having a good relationship with those who think differently.
One could only convince all the seriously desiring churches and communities that we all only know in part (1 Cor. 13:9) and that we all gather around a PART of the truth; for only Israel has received one of God's ordained ministry and still an eternal one (belonging to the aion) (Romans 9:4)
The people of Israel have a task for the earth when it is born again. Only then will that God's ordained service be accomplished according to God's will. Israel's unprecedented laws and feast days will then be visible education for the uncultivated nations left over from the judgments. Only he will be great in the Kingdom, who does and teaches the law. (Matthew 5:17 — 19)
Actually, God today has not got any further than the search for His fellow workers, who will soon be able to help Him set the heavens and the earth right again. The « congregation » has a higher heavenly calling.
It might be, that seeing our modern confusion, would decide: if no church is to God's will, we will not go anymore. In the days of Christ's walk on earth, Israel had violated the commandments of God through 613 statutes, commandments and prohibitions of men. Yet, as usual, the LORD went every Sabbath to the synagogue. (Luke 4:16) And that, while he obviously saw the defects better, than we can or will ever see them in our churches and communities.
Only in the coming aion, in the restoration of all things, will everything be put back into its place and everything will be restored to God's will. There is nothing against it when churches and communities work together, as long as Christ is centered and does not strive for unity that concerns Israel. It is not believed that the world will repent when a unity in the Lord's Supper has been achieved. Where, however, in Rev. 13 we see a religious unity and a world unity coming together in the hands of anti-christ, it is necessary to be vigilant.
The whole name Christianity, those who are inscribed on paper as Christians, will be caught in that anti-Christian system. For precisely there is the terrain of satan, where he will change himself into an angel of light. In the meantime, every believer acts according to his own responsibility to God.
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