The Law of Moses,
The Passover and the Lord's Supper
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1992
Edited by David Sielaff, April 2008
There is one New Testament teaching that each of us must comprehend if we ever hope to understand what is required of believers in Christ today. It is a fact that all of the Mosaic legislation (no matter how holy, right and good it was or is) is to be reckoned as a mere shadow of the reality that we have in Christ himself. The laws about eating and drinking in the Old Testament, as well as those pertaining to the festivals, new moons and Sabbath days, were intended to be shadows (mere outlines) of the true substance (Christ) when He came to earth (Colossians 2:16–17). The Law of Moses was a shadow of the good things that were to come in Christ. (Hebrews 10:1). The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the Mosaic Law was not “the very image of the things” but it was only a shadowy outline of what was to be expected once Christ Jesus would arrive on earth.
Of course, all shadows that are cast by some object show in general outline what the body which casts the shadow actually looks like. And, all shadows lead back to the body from whence the shadow originates. But shadows of themselves have no substance. They are mere outline images and not “the very image of the things” (Hebrews 10:1).
This was the plain teaching of the apostle Paul and it cannot be improved on. He also said that the Law of Moses was a schoolmaster designed to bring a person to Christ — just as a shadow leads right back to Christ. This illustration of the Law of Moses being a schoolmaster is an excellent one for Christian believers. If one simply accepts Paul’s teaching on this matter, the whole question of the Law and its relationship to the Christian would be completely understood. What we find is the fact that the Law of the Old Testament had thorough control and authority over all people to whom it was given while they were considered spiritual children — while they were under the rule of the schoolmaster (Galatians 4:1–10). Indeed, as long as people remain “children” in the faith they will always require a schoolmaster to lead them. But once they are brought to Christ and become spiritual adults, they no longer need any schoolmaster.
Paul is endeavoring to show that as long as people remain children in the faith then the Law has complete charge over them. But once they become adults, the Law that was meant for children no longer has authority over them no matter if the Law itself was ordained forever. In fact, Christ made it clear that the Law of Moses was of permanent value and would never be done away with (Matthew 5:17–18), yet that everlasting law has no control over adult Christians in the faith. Truthfully, the Ten Commandments and all the other laws given by Moses — even the holiest of the laws such as circumcision and Sabbath keeping with the rituals (Luke 2:21–24), are still very much in effect and will always be in force for those who are under the schoolmaster (Galatians 4:1–10). But when one becomes an adult (a spiritual adult in Christ) then the Law of Moses, according to Paul, has no more governing effect in a direct sense on such adult Christians. But how can this be? How can a permanent law have no authority on Christians today (and this includes the Sabbath, holy days, new moons, tithing, etc.)?
Let us look at a modern illustration that we can all understand. In most states of the United States there are laws which prohibit the sale of alcohol to those under age — to those who are considered “children.” Even if a young person lacks one day from becoming of legal age, that individual is considered a minor and is not allowed to purchase liquor. In the State of California the legal age for buying alcoholic drinks is 21.
Now let us say that a young man who was legally to become 21 at midnight went into a liquor store at five minutes to midnight and asked to buy a can of beer. The store attendant saw that the person appeared young so he asked for proper identification to show he was 21 years of age. The young man handed over his driver’s license and it proved conclusively that he would become 21 exactly at midnight — and midnight was now three minutes away. The young man once again asked for the beer, but the store attendant told him the law did not allow a minor to buy liquor, not even a beer until he was 21.
Then the young man said: “But it is only two minutes to midnight and I want a beer.” The attendant said: “In no way, sonny, can I sell you a beer. The law demands that you, as a minor, cannot buy liquor.”
Then the young man said: “But it is now only one minute to midnight, sell me the beer.” The attendant replied: “Sonny, I don’t care if it is 5 seconds to midnight, you are under the law of the land and in no case can you, as a minor and under age, buy beer or even a soda POP with liquor in it until you are a full 21 years of age.”
But then the clock strikes midnight. Suddenly the store attendant (with a smile on his face) said: “You are now an adult man, Sir, I am glad you have come to my place of business. If you have the money I’ll now sell you a whole case of scotch which is on sale and, sir, the rum is the finest available. Put down your money since you are now an adult and I’ll sell you every drop of liquor I have in the store.”
This is a perfectly good illustration that explains what the apostle Paul meant by the Law of Moses (with its Sabbaths, holy days, food laws, tithing laws, etc.). Paul considered it as applying to those who were spiritually immature. It even had a permanent value to it and will always remain in force (as Christ taught — Matthew 5:17–18) for those to whom it was intended. And people, according to Paul, who want to be led by a schoolmaster — are children in the faith! And indeed, the Law will always be applicable for those who spiritually are children!
It is just like the law that applied to the young man who wanted to buy a can of beer 5 minutes before he became of legal age. Even though 6 minutes later he could have bought out the whole store, he was strictly under the law and could not buy liquor even 5 seconds before midnight. When the hour of midnight arrived, however, and though the law pertaining to minors did not change in any way — and would always remain in force for persons under 21 years of age — at midnight that minor ceased to be a minor and every law on the statute books pertaining to minors was no longer relevant to the man who had just turned 21. The law did not change, but the boy did. He became a man!
This is the exact type of teaching that the apostle Paul was giving the Galatian Christians who were going back to keeping days, times, seasons and years of the Old Covenant. In no way were the Galatians returning to pagan days (as some erroneously teach). They wanted to be once again under the same law that told of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar (Galatians 4:21–31), and Paul was upset with them for wanting to adopt the laws which pertained to the “Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:25–26).
To the apostle Paul, all Christians have now “turned 21 years of age” and there is no need to return to laws intended for those who were (or are) spiritual minors. We are a new adult creation in Christ and we have in Christ put off the old immature man (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting [maturing] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [mature] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
[for the purpose] that we henceforth be NO MORE CHILDREN, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
Those who are now in Christ are considered by the Father to be “grown up” into a full maturity — that is what the word “perfect” actually means in the original Greek of the New Testament. It is not so much that the Law of Moses has actually been done away (although as a covenant it is superseded by the New Covenant), but it is simply that we have “grown up” and left behind what was intended for schoolchildren.
As an example of this, I was delivering mail to the post office the other day and I drove by one of the schools in town. Children were outside playing during recess. At the time I reflected upon my own childhood in the central valley of California. While I was in school as a child (and the illustration applies to each of you too) I was subjected to all types of rules and regulations that pertained to me as a schoolchild. There were scores of regulations prohibiting me from doing this or that and there were an equal amount requiring me to perform things that adults did not have to do. In school there were set times for recess, times for assembly, times for study room activities, times for sports, etc.
These things came to my mind as I passed the school on the way to the Post Office. I could visualize the children having to do practically the same things I did as a youngster in school. But now that I am an adult (and carrying on adult work) not one of the rules specifically designed for those schoolchildren in relation to recess, times for study hall, times for sport, etc., any longer applies to me. And though those rules and regulations governing those children will most probably be in operation for generations to come (they are like “unchangeable” laws), they are not assigned to adults who have graduated from school.
This is also a simple (and correct) illustration that pertains to all matters connected with the Law of Moses. Though the Law of Moses has never changed (and never will, according to Christ), yet it is people who “grow up” (it is people who “change”) and they must leave the schoolmaster behind in their adult Christian walk. This does not mean that an “adult Christian” can now go out and steal, lie, cheat, etc. Indeed, the adult Christian who has God’s Holy Spirit motivating his or her life were all taught “in school” that those things were bad and mature people ought to know they are shameful in the first place. But the times for school recesses (keeping the Sabbaths, etc.), the special foods that children are required to eat for their growing bodies (the Old Testament dietary laws), the dues that had to be paid for various school functions (the tithing laws of Moses) are now things of the past for adult Christians. This is what the apostle Paul was trying to tell the Galatians and he is also telling many Christians today who are “Galatian Christians” and are still infants in the faith.
If we have “grown up” in Christ we should not need to have a whole body of laws telling us what to do or what not to do. The Holy Spirit should be infusing the minds of those in Christ so much that one’s manner of conduct should reflect a mature and spiritual attitude to these things. We are now free to practice the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) without any body of laws having to tell us what to do.
“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, For manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine [teaching].”
1 Timothy 1:9–10
Those who have the Holy Spirit motivating their lives should not need to have all kinds of written laws (be they of the Law of Moses or whatever) always governing them. If Christians are walking in a mature way endeavoring to live lives in accordance with the measure of the stature of Christ, nothing else external is needed.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another … for he that loves another has fulfilled the law …
Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Romans 13:8, 10
The laws of God (which are all surrounded by the attribute of love) display the principle of love which God had in action when He gave the laws in the first place — even the laws intended for schoolchildren (Romans 13:8). And adult Christians are free to live as they please as long as their manner of life is found within the full spectrum of the love of God (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). It is not an easy thing to always practice the principles of love, even in one’s adult Christian walk, but this is the pattern by which one should govern his or her life today. And if one wants a standard to live by (and there is one in Scripture that cannot be improved on) it is that given by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22–23.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
While it is easy to understand how laws intended for minors will stay in effect as long as there are minors, yet there is another example that applies to adults who change their station in life while being adults. This illustration shows that laws which formerly governed even adult individuals can no longer apply to them when a covenant relationship is altered.
Note that the Law of Moses was first given to the nation of Israel. It did not apply to the Gentile nations. The Old Covenant was strictly for Israel (Jeremiah 31:31–34).
Recognizing this, let us look at a modern example. Suppose an adult man who is a citizen of France decides to emigrate from France to the United States. He gives up his French citizenship and becomes an American citizen — and he does this while an adult. As long as he leaves France and never goes back to that country, the laws of France can no longer have any authority over him. Those laws may indeed be very good laws (they could even be holy, just, and good as were the Old Covenant laws given to ancient Israel) but as long as the man stays in the United States and becomes a citizen of our country the laws of France are no longer applicable even though the laws are “forever” for French citizens.
This analogy is similar to the situation of Christians today. The Christian (whether that person is a Jew or a Gentile) is considered a “new man” in Christ and has a citizenship which emanates from heaven (Philippians 1:27). He is no longer, in a legal sense in the eyes of YHWH, governed by the Law of Moses which was the covenant citizenship given by God to ancient Israel. The Christian is now under a higher Law, the Law of Christ Jesus and that Law is manifested by walking in the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). That new law is the “law of faith” (Romans 3:27) and “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).
All believers in Christ are now in an entirely different relationship to God the Father than were the early Israelites. The real Messiah of Israel has arrived and we do not have to go back to being governed by the schoolmaster (the rules and regulations intended to govern school children). Those laws only contained the shadows (the images) of the things in the real adult world. As children we all enjoyed playing with toys that resembled the actual things that father and mother possessed (cars, tractors, stoves, etc.). But we no longer need “toys” since we have the real thing in our midst (Jesus Christ). We have even changed our citizenship as well. Our citizenship is no longer a part of Hagar (the Jerusalem that now is) but with Sarah (the heavenly Jerusalem — which has different laws and regulations).
This means that all the physical ceremonies concerning Passover (and even those governing the observance of the Lord’s Supper) should be approached in an adult Christian manner. All symbols, of themselves, are not the important things that must be performed by Christians. It is what the symbols mean that is all important! It is not the “ring on the finger” that one must look on as being essential to display, but it is the “marriage” that the ring symbolizes which remains the necessary thing to hold dear to one’s heart.
So, if we are “in Christ” and He is “in us,” we require no more physical symbols. All we need is to walk in the fruits of the Holy Spirit for His honor and glory. If we do this we are indeed the mature person, “growing up” into Christ (Ephesians 4:14–15), “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
All people who love God and His word are aware of the importance of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. The significance of the two ceremonies is not something to take lightly. In regard to the Passover the people of Israel were commanded to observe its rituals “throughout your generations: you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever [Hebrew: olam, for the age]” (Exodus 12:14).
Christ Jesus was equally insistent that the memorial of the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist or Communion) should be observed by those who believed in Him:
“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.’”
The ceremony was to have continual significance until the Kingdom of God arrives when Christ would once again participate with His people in its observance.
“For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God …
I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come”
Luke 22:16, 18
The apostle Paul also confirmed the importance of the Lord’s Supper by his instructions to the Corinthian ekklesia.
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.”
1 Corinthians 11:26
These indications reveal how relevant the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are in the mind of God. It is necessary, however, that their significance be understood and the principles behind each ceremony applied. When this is done it will be seen just how important the symbols involving both institutions really are and why it is needful that Christians should heed them properly.
In this study the seriousness of the Passover and Lord’s Supper symbols will be shown and also (it is hoped) that a full explanation will be given regarding their application for Christians today. The scriptural teaching on these matters is not difficult to understand if we keep firmly in mind some of the cardinal principles which constitute the New Testament approach to the ceremonial teachings of Scripture. There is certainly no need to be in doubt on these issues. When mature Christian principles are acknowledged and put into practice we will then be able to recognize the utter simplicity of Christian teaching associated with these subjects (2 Corinthians 11:3).
The first point that must be recognized is the fact that the Lord’s Supper is NOT the Passover. The two are very different ceremonies and only remotely is there any similarity. It has been a major mistake for some Christian ministers to assume that the Lord’s Supper is merely the New Testament celebration of the Passover. People who adopt this belief are not using proper scriptural reasoning. Even a superficial investigation makes it clear that the two ceremonies are quite distinct from one another. Let us notice two fundamental factors which clearly reveal their dissimilarities.
The first feature which shows a difference is the fact that the Passover was always a happy and joyous festival. Every year it symbolically reenacted the deliverance from Egyptian bondage which Israel obtained at the time of the Exodus. Moses commanded that it be commemorated each year by the killing of a lamb or a goat at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan (Exodus 12:5). Other than the later observance of Purim (Esther 9:20–32), no festival in ancient Israel had more conviviality, jubilation, or banqueting taking place than the occasion of the Passover.
The second difference is equally important. Moses demanded that the Passover could only be celebrated within the environs of the Tabernacle (or the Temple) of Yahweh (Deuteronomy 16:1–8). This latter rule is most essential for students of Scripture to realize. In the time of Christ, the Passover could only be observed near the Temple of Jerusalem. It was strictly forbidden to observe the feast anywhere else. This is why it was customary for Jews from around the world to assemble en masse to Jerusalem each year at the Passover season. The celebration was the most significant festival occasion of the year and it far surpassed any other holy season in solemnity and grandeur.
Let us look now at the Lord’s Supper. It differed considerably in scope and intent. In no way was it a festival for merriment and joy. It was ordained to commemorate the “death” of Christ and was to be conducted within an atmosphere of utter soberness. This reverential dignity was expected because “You do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). No banqueting of any kind (like the festivities associated with the Passover) was permitted to accompany its observance. In actual fact, all Christians were commanded to eat their normal meals at home before taking the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20–22). The apostle Paul was upset with the behavior of some Corinthian believers who made the mistake of turning the Lord’s Supper ceremonies into a type of festival situation such as the Passover was intended to be. Paul considered such people as being “unworthy” in their conduct because they were not accounting for the seriousness and holiness of the ceremony (1 Corinthians 11:27–29).
Simply put, the occasion of the Lord’s Supper was not to be (in any way) like the Passover celebrations ordained in the time of Moses! The commemoration of Christ’s death was not time for conviviality and merriment. But, if one celebrated the Lord’s Supper in the manner of the Passover, such a person was accounted “unworthy” and “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). By the way, it is this reason that prompted the apostle Paul to use the term “unworthy.” If one wished to make a festival affair out of the Lord’s Supper, such an individual becomes “unworthy” in his or her erroneous attitude regarding the solemn significance of the body and blood of Christ. That is all that Paul meant by his use of the word “unworthy.”
There is a second difference which equally prohibits the comparison of the Lord’s Supper with the Passover. While the Lord’s Supper could be held at any location on earth where there were Christians (such as in Corinth which was in the heartland of Greece), the Passover itself was restricted for observance to the immediate area around Jerusalem. This is made so abundantly clear in Scripture (Deuteronomy 16:1–8) that one wonders how people who can read the instructions in the Book of Deuteronomy could make an identification with the two ceremonies. When Christian interpreters quit trying to make the Lord’s Supper into a New Testament Passover (which it never was nor ever will be) then a proper understanding of what both celebrations were intended to signify can be the result.
The truth is, there is no requirement from God which demands that adult Christians celebrate the Passover today. The only Passover that believers in Christ were expected to observe was the one that Christ and the apostles commemorated on the eve of His crucifixion. At that last Christian Passover, Peter and John killed a lamb and prepared the Upper Room for the normal Passover feast that all Israelites were commanded to observe (Luke 22:7, 8, 15), but little did they realize that what was intended in the Old Testament to be a happy and joyous occasion was to become to the apostles a very somber and serious event. During that final Passover feast (when Christ and the apostles were eating the lamb with the customary bread and wine), Christ took some small portions of the unleavened bread and wine (fermented wine, of course) and created a new ceremony which was designed to commemorate His death which was ordained to occur the next afternoon. This is when the new ceremony of the Lord’s Supper had its beginning.
The bread and wine ceremony was introduced near the conclusion of the Passover feast itself. The apostles had already consumed a full meal by the time Christ inaugurated the Eucharist. This new ceremony had nothing to do with the Passover meal itself. The small quantities of bread and wine were not to provide nourishment to the apostles or to satisfy their hunger or thirst. This is why the apostle Paul later informed the Corinthians that they should eat their normal meals at home before partaking of the bread and wine when the ekklesia assembled to take the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20–22).
That final Passover meal which Christ had with His disciples was the last Passover celebration required for any Christian who became “21 years old” at Christ’s crucifixion. This is because it was Christ Jesus who became, on that very day, the “Lamb that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He became “our Passover” — our perpetual Passover! “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). And when He became our Passover sacrifice He emerged as the only “Passover” for Christians, and all further Passover seasons no longer have significance. In fact, if we partake of any Passover in the manner prescribed by Moses we are denying the sacrificial value of the “real Passover” (Christ) — the “Passover” that the lamb-type was intended to show. We are substituting the “shadow” for the “real thing” and this does not represent mature Christian thinking or practice.
There are too many people today in the Christian world who rely more on the observance of “shadowy symbols” than recognizing and performing the duties that those “shadows” were ordained to teach. The physical actions thus become in many people’s eyes as important (and in some cases more important) than the spiritual principles the “shadows” were intended to depict. While symbols may be relevant for teaching children, the adult principles of interpretation and practice are far more significant.
It is most important to any study of the ceremonial systems of the Old and New Testaments that one comprehends the spiritual principles which lie behind all the symbolic teachings of Scripture. That is why it is essential to realize that it is not the “ring on the finger” that is of itself important to any marriage, but it is the “marriage of the heart and mind” that counts! And so it is with the symbols of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper (or the symbols behind any ritual or ceremony in Scripture).
Christ Jesus gave prime teaching on these matters in His discourse during the Passover season one year before His crucifixion. He presented to the general public the most significant concept of symbolic illustrations that He could bestow upon them. His teaching was in the form of a parable (and it should be recognized that Christ never taught the public without presenting every message in the form of a parable — Matthew 13:34). And there was no parabolic teaching more important than that which He gave at that Passover season a year before His crucifixion.
Christ taught the people that proper worship required one to “eat” the flesh of Christ and “drink” His blood. This teaching almost seemed blasphemous to those who heard Him and if Christ had not meant what He said as symbolic teaching in the form of a parable, it would have indeed been improper from the biblical point of view. This is because the eating of literal blood (even of animals) was wrong (Leviticus 19:26; Acts 15:20) and to consume the actual flesh of a human was most abominable. But here was Christ telling the people to “eat” His flesh and “drink” His blood. And in fact, if people will perform this “eating” and “drinking,” they will be having a “feast” that will grant them “everlasting life.”
“Then Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life [age-abiding life, Greek: aionion life]; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat [food] indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, [result:] dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live for ever [for the age, Greek: aion].’”
Some have erroneously thought that these symbolic teachings of Christ were referring to the bread and wine symbols associated with the Lord’s Supper. This is not the case! Though the physical tokens of the Lords Supper reflect in an external sense this sublime teaching of Christ, in no way can a small piece of bread or a thimbleful of wine actually bestow everlasting life to anyone. And while this instruction of Christ was given at the exact time of the Passover precisely one year before His final Passover, He was not teaching that real portions of His body were to be consumed. Nor was He referring to the literal bread and wine ceremony which was later to be ordained. As stated before, Christ always taught the people in parables (Matthew 13:34). In most parables Christ gave a clue (or clues) to what He meant by His symbolic illustrations in order that a proper interpretation could be afforded the hearer (or reader). And this is what He did In John chapter 6.
As plain as Christ could make it (before He ever got into His symbolic teaching about the “eating” of His flesh and the “drinking” of His blood) He stated that the type of “eating” of which He was speaking signified people “coming to me” and the “drinking” referred to a similar act of people “believing in me.” This key factor which explains the real meaning of John 6 is found in verse 35. This is where the “clue” is given.
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall NEVER HUNGER: and he that believes on me SHALL NEVER THIRST.”
In simple terms, if one presents himself or herself to Christ (goes to Him as Savior) and believes on Him (has faith in Him and His mission), that person will never have to partake of another piece of food or sip another drink of anything to have everlasting life.
That person, from that time forth, would be considered a part of Christ (and Christ becomes a part of the individual) and Christ will “raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40, 54).” But “whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal [aionion] life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54).
And, again how does one “eat” and “drink” of Christ? This is what He explained at the beginning of the parabolic teaching of John chapter 6: “He that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst” (verse 35). So, the instruction of Christ shows that all factors of salvation (which will lead to everlasting life) will be granted to anyone who “comes to Christ” and “believes in Him.” This is what the “eating” and “drinking” of John 6 refer to, and the teaching goes no further than that!
Obviously, “coming to Christ” or “believing on Him” has nothing to do with the actual partaking of a small piece of bread and a thimbleful of wine of what later became the symbols of the Lord’s Supper, though the sacraments themselves became physical symbols of those actions. Anyone can present himself or herself to Christ and truly believe on Him without taking the bread and wine. The thief who was with Christ on the tree of crucifixion was promised to be in paradise with Christ though the man never tasted any of the Lord’s Supper symbols. But note what the thief did do. He asked Christ for forgiveness (he “came to Him”) and he expressed a faith in Him (he “believed on Him”). It was these two essential spiritual factors that secured for the crucified thief his salvation in Christ. And there is not a person in the world who cannot join that thief in “coming to Christ” and “believing on Him” and share the same salvation with Him whether one takes of the bread or wine or not.
And while the discourse of Christ about “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” was given to the general public at the Passover time in Galilee, it had nothing to do with the Passover lamb or with the actual bread and wine which was introduced one year later with the Lord’s Supper. One would be ridiculous indeed to think that physical bread and wine themselves are powerful enough to give everlasting life to all those who partake of them. And besides, all who have ever taken of the sacraments have died and they are in their graves awaiting the resurrection from the dead. It is the “coming to Christ” and “believing on Him” that remain the true “eating” and “drinking” of Him. There were people in the early ekklesia, however, who did not fully understand these spiritual principles and Paul had to deal with the matter.
The apostle Paul spoke of the problems associated with the eating of physical foods (for nourishment and/or spiritual symbols). This was a question that was bothering some of the weak brethren in Rome. Paul had a ready answer for such people who depended upon the sanctification provided by the symbolic eating or not eating of certain foods.
“Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs. Let not him that eats despise him that eats not, and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him. Who are you that judge another man’s servant? To his own master he sins or falls. Yea, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteems one day above another, another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, he that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it.”
And so it is with the Lord’s Supper and its symbols of the bread and wine. If one wishes to observe it (either once a year at Passover time or every Sabbath or Sunday or every day of the week) then it can be observed, he is given permission to do so and the ceremony and the day itself will be “regarded unto the Lord.” If, on the other hand, people do not wish to partake of physical symbols any longer because they realize that they are already “one” with Christ, then “he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it.”
But wait a minute. Did not Christ command that the bread and wine ceremony be accomplished by Christians as a remembrance of His death “until he come” (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)? Yes indeed, and if Christians wish to take the literal side of its fulfillment (since Christ has not actually returned at His second advent), then the symbols of the bread and wine can be taken at any time Christians please in order to fulfill this remembrance act, as “oft as you take of it.” However, if individuals look on the Kingdom of God as already here (in the hearts and minds as Christ spoken about in Luke 17:2 1) then those Christians may not feel it necessary to take the physical emblems either on a regular basis or even at all.
The fact is, the final revelation given to the apostle Paul (called “the Mystery”) placed all mature Christians into an already glorious position in regard to Christ and the Father. Not only have both the Father and Christ “come to us,” but we have also “gone to them” and we are now reigning WITH THEM BOTH in the heavenlies.
“[God] has quickened us together with Christ (by grace are you saved); and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
If one adopts this true spiritual relationship that we already have with Christ (though we are still in our physical frames here on earth awaiting His second advent), then Christ has indeed already “arrived” for us! It is interesting that in what is called “the Lord’s Prayer,” the statement “thy kingdom come” is not in a future tense. Its context shows a continuing and unlimited relevance. It means “thy kingdom always comes.” And, if it has “arrived” for you, then its literal appearance at the Second Advent is only a future reality. The spiritual “kingdom” is here already.
As for me (Ernest L. Martin), I can either partake of the symbols of the Lord’s Supper if some brethren are preparing them (and they feel it is better to perform the ceremony), or I can decline if I choose (because the Father already reckons me and each of you as being with Him in Christ) knowing that such physical ceremonies are mere shadows of the real. It is the reality that one should be interested in, not the “ring on the finger” (or the symbols) which are supposed to point out the efficacy of the real thing. I adopt the teaching of the apostle Paul in this matter.
“One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it.”
I truly respect the wishes of those who keep the symbols of the Lord’s Supper (and that includes the ceremony of baptism) and I would participate with them if they so desired, but I also respect those Christians who do not feel it is necessary since Christ, to them, has already arrived in their minds (the “kingdom” has come to them) and they are in daily communion with Him — spiritually, they are already sitting with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:5–6).
Whatever one does will be accepted by God according to the Apostle Paul, but in no way should any Christian look on the symbols of the bread and wine as having any real value in granting spiritual favors or salvation in themselves. They are mere pieces of bread and spoonfuls of wine. They are only symbols and shadows, not the reality (the real Christ) that all of us must “eat” and “drink.” And that important “eating” and “drinking” (said Christ) represents individuals “coming to me” and “believing on me” (John 6:35).
The fact is, all Christians today should approach all symbols as shadows of the real thing. In a spiritual sense, we have all turned “21 years of age” in relation to the laws intended for schoolchildren to bring them to an adult relationship with Christ. Once adulthood in Christ has been reached, there is no need to return to the “shadows” (the “toys” for children) because we now have the real thing (Christ Jesus) and the Father now reckons us as presently reigning with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). The shadows no longer apply.
Since it is made abundantly clear that the Law of Moses will stay in effect for all time to come (Matthew 5:17–18), it should be obvious that it will always be applicable to those who are still “children in the faith.” That is why the rituals of the Law (including circumcision, the Sabbaths, holy days, new moons, and even animal sacrifices) will once again be relevant for Israelites (and all who wish to join Israel) when Christ comes back the second time. It takes little study to see that such things are prophesied to occur at the beginning of the Millennium (Zechariah 14:16–21; Ezekiel 44:9; 45:16–17; Isaiah 66:20–24).
It often surprises people to learn that Christ will subject Israel once again to the elementary teachings of Moses when He returns from heaven, but this is what is prophesied. The truth is, Israel long ago abandoned the covenant relationship that was ordained in the time of Moses, and the Father has to start over even with them in the basics. This is, of course, the normal way of educating anyone on fundamental principles of life. The apostle Paul even approached the Corinthians in this fashion. He only gave them elementary teachings at first, and then after much instruction in true spiritual principles he was able to present advanced Christian teaching found in what he called “the Mystery” (see the whole of the Book of Ephesians where this is explained). Paul told the Corinthians:
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual. But as unto carnal [fleshly], even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to hear it, neither yet are you able.”
1 Corinthians 3:1–2
Since even the apostle Paul had to begin with elementary teachings for the Gentile Corinthians who were just commencing their walk in the Christian faith, where does one think Christ will have to start with Israelites and most Gentile nations at the start of the Millennium who will not have had any adult spiritual training in Christian matters? The answer is plain. He will go back to the very beginning! That’s why all of them (not us) will be placed back under the Law of Moses. And as time goes on (and we are not precisely told how long it will take), Yahweh will then make a New Covenant relationship with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31). They will (in a step-by-step manner) be introduced to adult spiritual principles.
“When I was a child, I understood as a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things”
1 Corinthians 13:11
This applies to growing in spiritual knowledge as well as ordinary knowledge which accompanies one’s normal physical growth. The “childhood” phase of spiritual development will one day pass for future Israelites and the Gentiles as well. Everyone is expected to “grow up” into Christ (Ephesians 4:15) and to “put away childish things.”
So Yahweh will take Israel (and all in the world) back to the practice of the first principles of spiritual development when Christ returns to this earth. They will start out when the Millennium begins with the “schoolmaster” which will eventually lead them (as it has for all of us) to an adult spiritual relationship with Christ. None of us, however, who are God’s people today should need to return to the “schoolmaster” since we have come to an adult knowledge of Christ. For us, we do not require “childish things” any longer.
One should understand that all ritualistic ceremonies (whether they are animal sacrifices, circumcision, water baptism, the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper, so-called “anointed clothes,” or whatever physical acts of a religious nature) are not in themselves important in salvation. All Christians should realize that they are “21 years of age” and that the scriptural regulations regarding symbolic ceremonies (the “shadows” for minors who have not yet “grown up”) are no longer relevant for adult Christians in the faith.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong in observing such things as long as one realizes that they are mere symbols. They were intended to direct a person to the real Christ Jesus. But once a person has “come to Him” and “believes on Him,” the Christian no longer needs the symbols. This is what the apostle Paul was trying to get over to the early Christians. But each individual must decide for himself or herself what is best in this matter. Whatever one does, the Apostle Paul commanded that it be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). As for me, I find it impossible to improve on Paul’s teaching.
Ernest L. Martin
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