THE PASSOVER OF THE NEW CREATION
The Yoke of Egypt and Deliverance Therefrom, in Type and Antitype-- "The Church of the First-Born"--"We, Being Many, are One Loaf"-- The Memorial Still Appropriate--Who May Celebrate--Who May Officiate--An Order of Service--Easter-Passover--Extracts from McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia.
"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
NOTABLE amongst the experiences of typical Israel was the Passover. The Feast of the Passover, celebrated every year for seven days, began with the fifteenth day of the first month. It celebrated in a general way the deliverance of the people of Israel from the bondage of Egypt--but particularly the passing over, or sparing alive, of the first-born of that nation during the plague of death which came upon the Egyptians, and which, as the last of the plagues, finally compelled them to release the Israelites from their compulsory servitude. The passing over of the first-born of Israel became the precursor of the liberation of the whole nation of Israel, and their passing in safety over the Red Sea into freedom from the bondage of Egypt. We can readily see that so portentous an event would properly be commemorated by the Israelites as intimately identified with the birth of their nation; and thus it is celebrated by Jews to this day. The members of the New Creation are interested in those events, as they are interested in all the doings and arrangements of their Heavenly Father, both in respect to his typical people, Israel after the flesh, and in respect to the whole world of mankind. But the New Creation has a still deeper interest in those matters which occurred in Egypt, in view of the fact that the Lord has revealed to them the "mystery" that those things which happened unto natural [F458] Israel were intended to typify and foreshadow still grander things in the divine plan respecting antitypical Spiritual Israel--the New Creation.
In reference to these spiritual things, the Apostle declares that the "natural man receiveth them not, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; but God hath revealed them unto us [the New Creation] by his Spirit." (1 Cor. 2:14,10) God used the apostles as his mouthpieces to give us certain clues whereby, under the guidance of his Spirit, we may understand the deep things of God. One of these clues is found in the text heading this chapter. Following the Apostle's indication, we see clearly that Israel according to the flesh typified the whole people of God--all who shall ultimately become his people, down to the close of the Millennial age; that the Egyptians represented the opponents of the people of God, Pharaoh, their ruler, representing Satan, the prince of evil and darkness; and Pharaoh's servants and horsemen representing fallen angels and men who have associated or who will associate themselves with Satan as opponents to the Lord and his people--the New Creation, and in general the household of faith. As the people of Israel longed for deliverance, and groaned under their taskmasters, yet were weak and unable to deliver themselves, and could never have freed themselves from the yoke of Egypt had it not been for the Lord's intervention on their behalf, and his appointment and sending of Moses to be their deliverer, so we see the world of mankind at the present time and throughout the past groaning and travailing in pain together under the exactions of "the prince of this world" and his minions, Sin and Death. These hundreds of millions of humanity have a craving for liberty from bondage to their own sins and weaknesses, as well as for release from the penalties of these--pain and death. But without divine aid, mankind is powerless. A few make a vigorous struggle, and accomplish something; but none get free. The entire race of Adam is in bondage to sin and death, and their only hope is in God and in the antitypical Moses, who he has promised shall deliver [F459] his people in his appointed time--bringing them across the Red Sea--representing the Second Death, in which Satan and all who affiliate or sympathize with him and his evil course shall be everlastingly destroyed, as was typified in the overwhelming of Pharaoh and his hosts in the literal Red Sea. But the Lord's people "shall not be hurt of the Second Death."
The foregoing is the general picture; but inside of it, and yet a part of it, was another, a particular picture, which related, not to mankind in general and their deliverance from the bondage of sin and death, but only to a special class amongst them--the first-born. Corresponding to these as their antitype, we have brought to our attention by the inspired word "the Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven"--the New Creation. In the type, the first-born occupied a special place--they were the heirs; a special place also in that they were subjected to a special testing or trial in advance of their brethren. They became liable to death before the general exodus, and when the exodus did occur these first-born ones had a special place in it--a special work to do in connection with the general deliverance, for they became a separated class, represented in the tribe of Levi. They were separated from their brethren, giving up entirely their inheritance in the land, that according to the divine arrangement they might be the teachers of their brethren.
This tribe or house of Levi clearly represents the household of faith, which is represented in turn by the preparatory Royal Priesthood, which gives up inheritance in earthly things on behalf of the brethren, and shall by and by constitute actually the Royal Priesthood, whose Chief Priest is the Lord, and which shall bless, rule and instruct the world during the Millennial age. As the first-born of Israel in Egypt were subject to death, but were passed over, escaped it, and losing the earthly inheritance became a priesthood, so the antitypical Church of first-borns in the present time is subject now to Second Death, having their testing or trial for everlasting life or everlasting death in advance [F460] of the remainder of mankind, and passes from death unto life, through the merit of the Redeemer's blood-- death.
Becoming participants in their Lord's grace, they renounce or sacrifice with him, the earthly inheritance, the earthly portion, the earthly life, that they may attain heaven and its "life more abundant." Thus, while the Church of the first-born, the New Creation, "all die like men," and in respect to earthly things seem to lose and renounce more than do others, nevertheless, though the natural man understands it not, these are passed over, or rescued from death, and, as the Royal Priesthood, will, with their Chief Priest, Jesus, be made partakers of glory, honor and immortality. These, whose passing over occurs during the nighttime of this Gospel age--before the Millennial morning dawns, and its Sun of Righteousness arises--are to be the leaders of the Lord's host, to bring it forth from the bondage of Sin and Satan. Mark how this agrees with the language of the Apostle (Rom. 8:22,19), "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together"--"waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God"--waiting for the complete passing over of the Church of the first-born in the First Resurrection, to glory, honor and immortality.
But, now, another feature of the type is important. In order to effect the passing over of the first-born, and the consequent deliverance of all the Lord's people in the type, it was necessary that the Passover lamb should be slain, that its blood should be sprinkled upon the doorposts and lintels of the house, that its flesh should be eaten that night with bitter herbs, and with unleavened bread. Thus each house of Israel represented the household of faith, and each lamb represented the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, and the first-born in each family represented the Christ, Head and Body, the New Creation. The bitter herbs represented the trials and afflictions of this present time, which all the more serve to whet the appetite of the household of faith for the Lamb and the unleavened bread. [F461] Moreover, as each household was to eat with staff in hand and girded for a journey, it represented that the antitypical first-born and household of faith who would thus partake of the Lamb during the night time of this Gospel age would be pilgrims and strangers in the world, who would realize the bondage of sin and death, and be desirous of being led by the Lord into freedom from sin and corruption--into liberty of the sons of God.
Our Lord's Memorial
It was in harmony with this type of the killing of the Passover lamb on the 14th day of the first month--the day preceding the seven days' Feast of the Passover, celebrated by the Jews--that our Lord died, as the antitypical Passover Lamb, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." At no other time was it possible for our Lord to have finished in death the sacrifice which he began when he was thirty years of age, in his baptism unto death. Hence it was that, although the Jews many times sought to take him, no man laid hands on him, because "his hour was not yet fully come." John 7:8,30
As the Jews were commanded to select the lamb of sacrifice on the tenth day of the first month, and to receive it into their houses on that date, the Lord appropriately offered himself to them on that date, when, five days before the Passover, he rode into the city on the ass, the multitude crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" "He came unto his own, and his own [as a nation] received him not, but as many as received him [individually] to them gave he liberty to become sons of God." The nation, through its representatives, the rulers, instead of receiving him, rejected him, and thus identified themselves for the time with the Adversary. Nevertheless, by God's grace the blood of the New Covenant is efficacious for the house of Jacob also, and upon all who desire harmony with God, and they were partakers of the merits of the Lamb--yet they refused to eat of the antitypical [F462] Lamb--they lost the opportunity of becoming as a nation the first-born ones, the Royal Priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people of Messiah--they lost the opportunity of passing over and becoming members of the New Creation, with life more abundant in glory, honor and immortality; but we are glad to be informed elsewhere in the Scripture that they will, nevertheless, have a glorious opportunity of accepting the Lamb of God, of eating, appropriating, his flesh, his sacrifice, and of thus escaping the bondage of sin and death, under the leadership of the Lord and of his faithful brethren, spiritual Israel, the antitypical Church of the First-born. Rom. 11:11-26
It was at the close of our Lord's ministry, on the 14th day of the first month, in "the same night in which he was betrayed," and in the same day, therefore, in which he died, as the antitypical Lamb, that he celebrated with his disciples the typical Passover of the Jews--eating, with his twelve apostles, the typical lamb which represented himself, his own sacrifice for the sins of the world and the "meat indeed," in the strength of which the life, the liberties and the blessings of the sons of God are alone obtained. The eating of this supper on the night preceding our Lord's death, and yet the same day, was made possible by the Jewish custom, which began each day, not at midnight, but in the evening. The Lord evidently arranged all the affairs of Israel in conformity with the types which they were to express.
As Jews "born under the Law," it was obligatory upon our Lord and his apostles to celebrate this type, and at its proper time; and it was after they had thus observed the Jewish Supper, eating the lamb with unleavened bread and herbs, and probably also, as was customary, with "fruit of the vine," that the Lord--taking part of the unleavened bread and of the fruit of the vine remaining over from the Jewish Supper, the type--instituted amongst his disciples and for his entire Church, whom they represented (John 17:20), a new thing, that with them, as the spiritual Israel, the Church of the First-born, the New Creation, should [F463] take the place of, and supplant, the Jewish Passover Supper. Our Lord was not instituting another and a higher type of the Passover. On the contrary, the type was about to begin its fulfilment, and, hence, would be no longer appropriate to those who accepted the fulfilment. Our Lord, as the antitypical Lamb, was about to be slain, as the Apostle expresses it in the text at the head of this chapter: "Christ our Passover [Lamb] is slain."
None accepting Christ as the Passover Lamb, and thus accepting the antitype as taking the place of the type, could any longer with propriety prepare a typical lamb and eat it in commemoration of the typical deliverance. The appropriate thing thenceforth for all believers in Jesus as the true Passover Lamb would be the sprinkling of the doorposts of the heart with his blood: "Having their hearts sprinkled from a consciousness of evil" [from present condemnation-- realizing their sins propitiated through his blood, and that through his blood they now have forgiveness of sins]. These henceforth must eat, or appropriate to themselves, the merits of their Redeemer--the merits of the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all. By faith they must partake of those merits, and realize that as their sins were laid upon the Lord, and he died for them, so his merits and righteousness are imputed to them. These things they eat, or appropriate by faith.
If, then, our Lord's Supper took the place of the Passover Supper, yet not as a higher type--the antitype having commenced --what was it? We answer that it was a Memorial of the antitype--a remembrancer for his followers of the beginning of the fulfilment of the antitypical Passover.
Thus to accept our Lamb, and so to commemorate his death for us, means expectancy regarding the promised deliverance of the people of God, and therefore signifies that those appreciating and memorializing intelligently while in the world shall not be of the world; but shall be as pilgrims and as strangers, who seek more desirable conditions, free from the blights and sorrows and bondage of the present [F464] time of the reign of Sin and Death. These partake of the true, the antitypical unleavened bread: they seek to have it in its purity, without the corruption (leaven) of human theory, blight, ambitions, selfishness, etc., that they may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. They partake also of the bitter herbs of persecution, in accord with the Master's word, that the servant is not above his Lord, and that if the Lord himself was reviled and persecuted and rejected, they must expect similar treatment, because the world knoweth them not, even as it knew him not. Yea, his testimony is that none will be acceptable to him whose faithfulness will not draw upon them the world's disfavor. His words are, "Whosoever will live godly shall suffer persecution." "They shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven." Matt. 5:11,12; 2 Tim. 3:12
When our Lord instituted his Memorial Supper, called the Last Supper, it was, as above stated, a new symbol, built upon and related to the old Passover type, though not a part of it, being a commemoration, or memorial of the antitype. As we read, he "took bread, and when he had given thanks he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you [this represents me, the antitypical Lamb; it represents my flesh]. This do in remembrance of me." Our Lord's evident intention was to fix in the minds of his followers the fact that he is the antitypical Lamb to the antitypical first-borns and household of faith. The expression, "This do in remembrance of me," implies that this new institution should take the place with his followers of the former one, which must now become obsolete by reason of fulfilment. "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood"--the blood of the covenant--the blood which seals the New Covenant. "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." We would not understand this to imply the doing of it without respect to time and place, etc., but as signifying that when this cup and unleavened [F465] bread thenceforth were used as a celebration of the Passover, it should on every occasion be considered a celebration, not of the type but of the antitype. As it would not have been lawful, proper or typical to celebrate the Passover at any other time than that appointed of the Lord, likewise it is still not appropriate to celebrate the antitype at any other time than its anniversary. 1 Cor. 11:23-25
The Apostle adds, "For as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come." (1 Cor. 11:26) This shows us that the disciples clearly understood that thenceforth to all of the Lord's followers the annual Passover celebration must have a new meaning: the broken loaf representing the Lord's flesh, the cup representing his blood. Although this new institution was not laid upon his followers as a law, and although no penalties were attached for failure of its proper observance, nevertheless the Lord knew well that all trusting in him and appreciating him as the antitypical Passover Lamb would be glad to take up the Memorial which he thus suggested to them. And so it is still. Faith in the ransom continues to find its illustration in this simple memorial, "till he come"--not only until our Lord's parousia, or presence, in the harvest or end of this age, but until during his parousia one by one his faithful ones have been gathered to him, beyond the "Veil," there to participate to a still fuller degree, and, as our Lord declared, partake of it "anew in the Kingdom."
"We, Being Many, Are One Loaf"
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread [loaf]--one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." 1 Cor. 10:16,17
The Apostle, under the guidance of the holy Spirit, here sets before us an additional thought respecting this Memorial instituted by our Lord. He does not deny, but affirms, that primarily the bread represents our Lord's broken body, sacrificed on our behalf; and that the cup represents [F466] his blood, which seals our pardon. But now, in addition, he shows that we, as members of the Ecclesia, members of the body of Christ, the prospective First-borns, the New Creation, become participators with our Lord in his death, sharers in his sacrifice; and, as he has elsewhere stated, it is a part of our covenant to "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." (Col. 1:24) The thought here is the same as that expressed by the words, "We are baptized into his death." Thus, while our Lord's flesh was the loaf broken for the world, the believers of this Gospel age, the faithful, the elect, the New Creation, are counted in as parts of that one loaf, "members of the body of Christ"; and hence, in the breaking of the loaf, after recognizing it as the sacrifice of our Lord on our behalf, we are to recognize it, further, as the breaking or sacrificing of the whole Church, of all those consecrated to be dead with him, to be broken with him, to share his sufferings.
This is the exact thought contained in the word "communion" --common-union, common-participation. Hence, with every annual celebration of this Memorial we not only recognize the foundation of all our hopes as resting in the dear Redeemer's sacrifice for our sins, but we revive and renew our own consecration to "be dead with him, that we may also live with him"--to "suffer with him, that we may also reign with him." How grandly comprehensive is the meaning of this divinely instituted celebration! We are not putting the symbols instead of the reality; nothing surely could be further from our Lord's intention, nor further from propriety on our part. The heart-communion with him, the heart-feeding upon him, the heart-communion with the fellow-members of the body, and the heart-realization of the meaning of our covenant of sacrifice, is the real communion, which, if we are faithful, we will carry out day by day throughout the year--being daily broken with our Lord, and continually feeding upon his merit, growing strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. What a blessing comes to us with the celebration of this Memorial! [F467] What a burning of heart for further appreciation and growth in grace and knowledge, and for further participation in the privileges of the service to which we are called, not only as respects the present but also as respects the future!
It will be noticed that the Apostle includes the cup for which we praise God. "Is it not the communion, [common-union, common-participation] of the blood of Christ?" Oh, what a thought--that the truly consecrated, faithful "little flock" of the New Creation throughout this Gospel age, has been Christ in the flesh; and that the suffering and trials and ignominy and death of these whom the Lord has accepted and recognized as "members of his body" in the flesh, are all counted in as parts of his sacrifice, because associated with, and under him who is our Head, our Chief Priest! Who that understands the situation, who that appreciates the invitation of God to membership in this Ecclesia, and the consequent participation in the sacrifice unto death now, and in the glorious work of the future, does not rejoice to be accounted worthy to suffer reproaches for the name of Christ, and to lay down his life in the service of the Truth, as members of his flesh and of his bones? What matters it to these that the world knows us not, even as it knew him not? (1 John 3:1) What matters it to these, though they should suffer the loss of the choicest of earthly blessings and advantages, if they as the body of Christ may but be counted worthy of a share with the Redeemer in his future glories?
As these grow in grace and knowledge and zeal they are every one enabled to weigh and judge the matter from the standpoint of the Apostle, when he said, respecting earthly favors and advantages, "I count all things but loss and dross." "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." Phil. 3:8; Rom. 8:18
Another thought is in respect to the mutual love, sympathy and interest which should prevail amongst all the members [F468] of this "one body" of the Lord. As the Lord's Spirit comes more and more to rule in our hearts it will cause us to rejoice in every occasion to do good unto all men as we have opportunity, but especially unto the household of faith. As our sympathies grow and go out toward the whole world of mankind, they must grow especially toward the Lord, and, consequently, especially also toward those whom he recognizes, who have his Spirit, and who are seeking to walk in his footsteps. The Apostle indicates that the measure of our love for the Lord will be indicated by our love for the brethren, the fellow-members of his body. If our love is to be such as will endure all things and bear all things in respect to others, how much more will this be true as respects these fellow-members of the same body, so closely united to us through our Head! No wonder the Apostle John declares that one of the prominent evidences of our having passed from death unto life is that we love the brethren. (1 John 3:14) Indeed, we remember that in speaking of our filling up the measure of the afflictions of Christ, the Apostle Paul adds, "for his body's sake, which is the Church." Col. 1:24
The same thought is again expressed in the words, "We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16) What a brotherhood is thus implied! Where else could we hope to find such love for the brethren as would lay down life itself on their behalf? We are not now speaking of how the Lord may be pleased to apply the sacrifice of the Church, represented in the "Lord's goat" as a part of the Atonement Day sacrifices.* We merely, with the Apostle, note the fact that, so far as we are concerned, the sacrifice, the laying down of life, is to be done in the main for the brethren--in their service; the service for the world belongs chiefly to the age to come, the Millennium. Under present conditions, our time and talents and influence and means are, more or less, mortgaged to others (the wife or children or aged parents or others depending on us), and we [F469] are obligated also to the provision of "things needful," "decent," and "honest in the sight of all men" for ourselves. Hence, we find comparatively little left at our disposal for sacrifice, comparatively little to lay down for the brethren, and this little the world and the flesh and the devil are continually attempting to claim from us, and to divert from the sacrificing to which we have consecrated it.
*Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices, p. 59.
The Lord's selection of the Church, during this time when evil prevails, is to the intent that surrounding circumstances may prove the measure of the love and loyalty of each to him and his. If our love be cool, the claims of the world, the flesh and the Adversary will be too much for us, and attract our time, our influence, our money. On the other hand, in proportion as our love for the Lord is strong and warm, in that same proportion we will delight to sacrifice these to him--not only to give our surplus of energy and influence and means, laying these down as we find opportunity in the service of the brethren, but additionally, this spirit of devotion to the Lord will prompt us to curtail within reasonable, economical limits the demands of the home and family, and especially of self, that we may have the more to sacrifice upon the Lord's altar. As our Lord was for three and a half years breaking his body, and for three and a half years giving his blood, his life, and only finished these sacrifices at Calvary, so with us: the laying down of our lives for the brethren is in small affairs of service, either temporal or spiritual, the spiritual being the higher, and hence the more important, though he who would shut up his compassion toward a brother having temporal need would give evidence that he did not have the Spirit of the Lord ruling in his heart in any proper degree.
The Memorial Still Appropriate
The original celebration of the Memorial of our dear Redeemer's death (with the still larger meaning attached to it by the holy Spirit through the Apostle, as including our participation or communion with him in his sacrifice) was, [F470] as we have seen, upon a particular date--the fourteenth day of the first month, Jewish reckoning.* And the same date, reached by the same method of counting, is still appropriate, and will appeal to all who are inquiring for the "old paths" and desirous of walking therein. This annual commemoration of the Lord's death, etc., as instituted by our Lord and observed by the early Church, has been revived of late amongst those coming into the light of Present Truth.
*The Hebrew year begins in the spring, with the first appearance of a new moon after the Spring Equinox. The 14th day is easily reckoned, but should not be confounded with Feast Week, which began on the 15th and continued for a week following it--the Jewish celebration. That week of unleavened bread, celebrated by the Jews with rejoicing, corresponds to the entire future of a Christian--especially representing the entire year until his next celebration of the Memorial Supper. With the Jew the sacrifice of the lamb was a means to the end; a start for the feast of the week, which had his special attention. Our Memorial relates to the killing of the Lamb, and hence belongs to the 14th of Nisan (the first month). Moreover, we are to remember that with the change of counting the hours of the day, the night of the 14th of Nisan would correspond to what we would now call the evening of the 13th.
It is not surprising that, as more and more the real meaning of the Lord's symbolical supper was lost sight of, the proprieties attaching to its annual observance were also neglected. This becomes more plain of comprehension as we come to understand the history of the matter, as follows:
After the apostles and their immediate successors had fallen asleep--somewhere about the third century--Roman Catholicism was becoming influential in the Church. One of its false doctrines was to the effect that while Christ's death secured a cancellation of the past guilt, it could not offset personal transgressions after the believer had come into relationship with Christ--after baptism; but that a fresh sacrifice was necessary for such sins. On the basis of this error was built the doctrine of the Mass, which, as we have heretofore explained in some detail, was considered a fresh sacrifice of Christ for the particular sins of the individual for whom the Mass is offered, or sacrificed--the fresh [F471] sacrifice of Christ being made to appear reasonable by the claim that the officiating priest had the power to turn the bread and wine into the actual body and actual blood of Christ; and then, by breaking the wafer, to break or sacrifice the Lord afresh for the sins of the individual for whom the Mass is performed. We have already shown that from the divine standpoint this teaching and practice was an abhorrence in the sight of the Lord--"the abomination which maketh desolate." Dan. 11:31; 12:11*
*Vol. II, Chap. ix, and Vol. III, Chap. iv.
That false doctrine did make desolate, and in its wake came the Church's multitudinous errors, the great falling away or apostasy which constituted the Roman system-- the chiefest of all anti-Christs. Century after century rolled around, with this view the predominating one, the controlling one throughout Christendom, until, in the sixteenth century, the Great Reformation movement began to stir up an opposition and, proportionately, began to find the truths which had been hidden during the Dark Ages under the false doctrines and false practices of anti-Christ. As the Reformers were granted additional light respecting the entire testimony of God's Word, that light included clearer views of the sacrifice of Christ, and they began to see that the Papal theory and practice of the Mass was indeed the "abomination of desolation," and they disavowed it, with varying degrees of positiveness. The Church of England revised its Prayer-book in 1552 and excluded the word Mass.
The custom of the Mass practically took the place of the annual celebrations of the Lord's Memorial Supper; for the Masses were said at frequent intervals, with a view to cleansing the people repeatedly from sin. As the Reformers saw the error of this they attempted to come back to the original simplicity of the first institution, and disowned the Romish Mass as being an improper celebration of the Lord's Memorial Supper. However, not seeing the close relationship between the type of the Passover and the antitype of our [F472] Lord's death, and the Supper as a memorial of the antitype, they did not grasp the thought of the propriety of its observance on its annual recurrence. Hence, we find that amongst Protestants some celebrate monthly, others every three months, and some every four months--each denomination using its own judgment--the "Disciples" celebrating weekly, through a misunderstanding of the Scriptures somewhat similar to their misunderstanding respecting baptism. They base their weekly celebration of the supper on the statements of the Acts of the Apostles to the effect that the early Church came together on the first day of the week, and at such meetings had "breaking of bread." Acts 2:42,46; 20:7
We have already observed* that these weekly celebrations were not commemorations of the Lord's death; but, on the contrary, were love-feasts, commemorative of his resurrection, and of the number of breakings of bread which they enjoyed with him on several first-days during the forty days before his ascension. The remembrance of these breakings of bread, in which their eyes were opened and they knew him, probably led them to meet on each first day of the week thereafter, and, not improperly, led them to have together a social meal, a breaking of bread. As we have already noticed, the cup is never mentioned in connection with these, while in every mention of the Lord's Memorial Supper it occupies fully as important a place as does the loaf.
*See previous chapter.
Who May Celebrate?
We answer, first of all, that none should commune who do not trust in the precious blood of Christ as the sacrifice for sins. None should commune except by faith he have on the doorposts and lintel of his earthly tabernacle the blood of sprinkling that speaketh peace for us, instead of calling for vengeance, as did the blood of Abel. (Heb. 12:24) None should celebrate the symbolical feast unless in his heart he [F473] has the true feast, and has accepted Christ as his Life-giver. Further, none should commune unless he is a member of the one body, the one loaf, and unless he has reckoned his life, his blood, sacrificed with the Lord's in the same chalice, or cup. There is here a clearly drawn line of distinction, not only between the believers and unbelievers, but also between the consecrated and the unconsecrated. However, the line is to be drawn by each individual for himself--so long as his professions are good and reasonably attested by his outward conduct. It is not for one member to be the judge of another, nor even for the Church to judge, unless, as already pointed out, the matter has come before it in some definite form, according to the prescribed regulations. Otherwise the elders, or representatives of the Church, should set before those who assemble themselves these terms and conditions--(1) faith in the blood; and (2) consecration to the Lord and his service, even unto death. They should then invite all who are thus minded and thus consecrated to join in celebrating the Lord's death and their own. This, and all invitations connected with this celebration, should be so comprehensively stated as to leave no thought of sectarianism. All should be welcomed to participate, regardless of their faith and harmony on other subjects, if they are in full accord in respect to these foundation truths--the redemption through the precious blood, and a full consecration unto death, giving them justification.
It is appropriate here to consider the words of the Apostle:
"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 condemnation to himself, if he discern not the Lord's body." 1 Cor. 11:27-29
The Apostle's warning here seems to be against a careless celebration of this Memorial, which would make of it a feast, and against inviting persons to it in a promiscuous manner. It is not such a feast. It is a solemn Memorial, intended only for the members of the Lord's "body"; and [F474] whoever does not discern this, whoever does not discern that the loaf represents the flesh of Jesus, and that the cup represents his blood, would, in partaking of it, properly come under condemnation--not "damnation" as in the common version, but a condemnation in the Lord's sight, and a condemnation also in his own conscience. Before partaking of these emblems each individual, therefore, should decide for himself whether or not he believes and trusts in the broken body and shed blood of our Lord as being his ransom price; and secondly, whether or not he has made the consecration of his all that he may thus be counted in as a member of that "one body."
Having noted who are excluded, and who properly have access to the Lord's table, we see that every true member of the Ecclesia has the right to participate, unless that right has been debarred by a public action of the whole Church, according to the rule therefor laid down by the Lord. (Matt. 18:15-17) All such may celebrate; all such will surely desire to celebrate--will surely desire to conform to the Master's dying admonition, "Eat ye all of it; drink ye all of it." They will realize that unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, we have no life in us; and that if they have in heart and mind partaken of the merits of the Lord's sacrifice really, and of his life, that it is both a privilege and a pleasure to memorialize this, and to confess it before each other and before the Lord.
Who May Officiate
The false doctrine of the Mass, and the creation of a class in the Church called the clergy, to administer this and similar services, has created so deep an impression upon the public mind that Protestants even to this day generally hold that the presence of "an ordained minister," to ask a blessing and to officiate in such a memorial service, is of absolute necessity, and that any other procedure would be sacrilegious. How utterly wrong this whole theory is will be very readily recognized when we remember that all who have the privilege of partaking of this Memorial are consecrated [F475] members of the "Royal Priesthood"--each fully commissioned of the Lord to preach his Word according to their talents and opportunities, and fully ordained also to perform any service or ministry of which they are capable to him and the members of his body, and, in his name, to others. "All ye are brethren," is the Lord's standard, and is not to be forgotten when we hold communion with him, and celebrate his redemptive work, and our common-union with him and with each other as members of his body.
Nevertheless, in every little group of the Lord's people, in every little Ecclesia, or body of Christ, as we have already pointed out, the Scriptures indicate that there should be order, and that a part of that order is that there should be "elders in every Church." While each member of the Ecclesia, the New Creation, has a sufficient ordination of the Lord to permit him to take any part in connection with the Memorial Supper, yet the Church, in electing elders, indicates that they should be representatives of the entire Ecclesia in respect to such matters as this. Therefore, the duty of arranging and ministering this Memorial would devolve upon them as a service to which they have already been selected by the Church.
Our Lord's declaration, "Where two or three of you are met together in my name, there am I in the midst"--shows us conclusively that, wherever it is possible, this memorial should be celebrated in company with fellow-members of the body. The blessing attached was intended to draw the members one toward the other, not only in this annual gathering, but whenever possible. Wherever even two or three may meet to claim this promise, it being impossible or inconvenient to meet with a larger group, they are privileged to celebrate as a Church, as an Ecclesia, complete; and even where an individual may be so circumstanced that he cannot possibly meet with others, we suggest that his faith go out with sufficient strength to the Lord to claim the promise--regarding the Lord and himself as the two. We advise that such unavoidable isolation be not permitted to hinder any from the annual celebration of the great sacrifice [F476] for sin, and of our participation in it with our Lord; that the solitary individual provide bread--(unleavened bread, if obtainable--such as soda biscuit or water cracker) and fruit of the vine (raisin juice or grape juice or wine*) and that he celebrate in communion of spirit with the Lord and with the fellow-members of the body, from whom he is of necessity separated.
*So far as we are able to judge, the Lord used fermented wine when he instituted this Memorial. Nevertheless, in view of his not specifying wine, but simply "fruit of the vine," and in view also of the fact that the alcoholic habit has obtained so great and so evil a power in our day, we believe we have the Lord's approval in the use of unfermented grape juice, or raisin juice, to which, if convenient, a few drops of fermented wine may be added, so as to satisfy the consciences of any who might be inclined to consider that obedience to the Lord's example would require the use of fermented wine. In this manner there will be no danger to any of the Lord's brethren, even the weakest in the flesh.
An Order of Service
Since the Lord laid down no rule or order of service it is not for us to do so--yet without impropriety we believe we may suggest what commends itself to us as a moderate, reasonable, orderly celebration of this Memorial. We do so, not with the intention of making a rule or law, but with the view of assisting to a moderate view of the matter some who have been used to elaborate service and others who have been accustomed to nothing of the kind. Let our expression, then, be considered merely in the light of suggestion, subject to such modification, etc., as may seem advisable. It is as follows:
(1) The opening of the service with one or more hymns, appropriate to the occasion--of solemn spirit, and drawing the mind in the direction of the Memorial.
(2) Prayer for divine blessing upon the assembly, and especially upon those who shall participate, remembering also fellow-members of the same body, known to us and unknown, in all the world, and especially such as are celebrating this Memorial on its anniversary. [F477]
(3) The Elder officiating might read an account of the original institution of the Memorial from the Scriptures.
(4) He or another Elder might then present an account of the matter, type and antitype, either speaking extemporaneously or with equal propriety, if he please, reading some such explanation of the entire matter as, for instance, the foregoing dissertation.
(5) Calling attention to the fact that our Lord blessed the bread before he broke it, the leader might now call upon some competent brother to ask a blessing upon the bread, or--none present but himself being competent--he should invoke the divine blessing upon the bread and upon those who would partake of it, that the eyes of their understanding might be opened widely to an appreciation or comprehension of the depths of meaning properly attaching to it, and that all participating might have blessed communion with the Lord in the use of this symbol of his flesh and to make renewal of their own consecration to be broken with him.
(6) One of the crackers or pieces of unleavened bread might then be broken, using the Lord's words, "This is my body, broken for you; eat ye all of it"; and the platter might be served by one of the brethren or by the officiating person himself; or, if the congregation were a large one, a number of plates of bread might be served simultaneously by two, four, six or any necessary number of the consecrated brethren.
(7) Silence would well be maintained during the passing of the emblems, except that brief remarks, much to the point respecting the signification of the bread, and how we feed upon the Lord, might not be inappropriate--though generally it would be well that this matter be covered either by the leader or some other speaker when explaining the signification of the celebration in general, before the distribution, that the communion of the participants be not intruded upon.
(8) A blessing should then be asked upon the cup, even as we read our Lord "took the cup and blessed it," and gave to [F478] his disciples. Some brother might be called upon for this prayer of thanks, and of request for the Lord's blessing upon those participating, and it should be similarly served in quietness.
(9) The service being thus ended, we advise that the course of the Lord and the apostles be followed to the end-- that a hymn be sung in conclusion, and the congregation thus dismissed--without any concluding prayer. We advise that on this occasion the usual greetings, inquiries for health, etc., be dispensed with, and that each go to his home avoiding, as far as possible, anything that might disturb his reflections and communion, and that so far as possible each seek to continue to commune, not only on that night, but during the following day, having in memory the Lord's experiences in Gethsemane, and his need of sympathy and help, and the fact that each member of his body may also have Gethsemane occasions, and need the comfort and help of fellow-disciples.
Of the Master it is written, "Of the people there was none with him"--none able to sympathize with him in his own hour of trial. With us it is different. We have fellow-members of the body, similarly baptized into death, similarly pledged to be "broken" as members of the one loaf, and accepted and anointed with the same holy Spirit. And as we remember this, let us the more earnestly seek to be helpful to the fellow-members of the body, remembering that whatsoever is done to the least member of the body is done unto the Head, and is appreciated by him. We can appropriately remember at the same time the example of Peter --his earnest impulsiveness, as a servant of the Lord, and yet his weakness in a moment of trial, and his need of the Lord's help and prayers. "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." To remember this may be a special aid to us, as it undoubtedly was subsequently to the Apostle Peter. It will enable us all the more to look to the Lord for "grace to help in every time of need."
It will be well at the same time that we remember Judas, and that his fall came through selfishness--ambition, covetousness; [F479] and as we remember how through this door of selfishness Satan more and more entered into him, it may help us to be on our guard lest we should similarly fall into a snare of the Adversary; lest we, for any consideration, should deny the Lord that bought us; lest we should ever in any sense of the word betray the Lord or his brethren or his Truth. Let us through the day following have in memory our dear Redeemer's experiences; not only that we may thus enter the more keenly into sympathy with him, but additionally that we may not think strange of the fiery trials which may be permitted to come upon us as his followers, but that we may follow him to the consummation and ever keep in memory his dying words, "It is finished," and realize that this meant a completion of his sin-offering on our behalf, so that through his stripes we may realize ourselves healed, and so that we may also realize that he ever liveth to make intercession for us, and to render us assistance in every time of need.
The word "Easter" occurs once in the Scriptures (Acts 12:4), and there it is a mistranslation; it should be rendered "Passover." The name Easter was adopted from the heathen. It is of Saxon origin, and imports a goddess of the Saxons, or rather of the East, Estera, whose festival was celebrated in the spring of the year, about the Passover season. The adoption of this name, and the application of it to the period celebrating our Lord's death and resurrection and ascension, down to the coming of the Pentecostal blessing, was evidently an attempt to let Christian institutions the more easily supplant those of heathenism. Like most of these concessions, it dates from somewhere about the third century. This heathen origin of the name Easter need make no particular difference in our minds, for we no longer use it to celebrate the goddess of the East. Amongst Protestants the name has been definitely attached to one day instead of to a period, as in old time, and as it is still used by Catholics. That one day is called Easter Sunday. Any memorial of our [F480] Lord's resurrection will always be precious with his people, but to those who rightly appreciate the matter, every Sunday is an Easter Sunday, because every Sunday is a Memorial commemorative of our Lord's resurrection from the dead.
Our thought in introducing the subject here is more particularly to draw attention to the larger view of the term Easter, held by Catholics, which includes Good Friday as well as Easter Sunday, and is merely used as a synonym for the Passover season. The introduction of the Mass, and its frequent observance, might have been expected to have entirely made void the annual celebration of our Lord's death on its anniversary; but not so. The original custom of the early Church, to celebrate the great central fact, and the very foundation of her existence, continued, although the celebration of the supper at its appropriate time ceased, superseded by the numerous sacrifices of the Mass--and thus this one particular memorial lost its meaning.
For centuries it was the custom to count the date of our Lord's crucifixion according to the Jewish calendar, as we have already explained it; but subsequently, with a desire to cut loose so far as possible from Jewish institutions, a change in the method of counting the date of the death of Christ, our Passover, was instituted. "The Ecumenical Council" of Nice decreed that thenceforth Easter should be celebrated on the Friday following the first full moon after the Spring equinox. This not only fixed the celebration of the Lord's death universally on a Friday, called "Good Friday," but additionally it insured that the celebration would very rarely indeed be exactly in accord with the Jewish celebration of the Passover. The difference in the method of counting, be it remembered, is that the Jews then waited and still wait until the Spring Equinox, and begin their month with the first new moon thereafter, and keep the Passover at the full of that moon, or the 14th day. This change occasionally makes a difference of nearly a month between the two methods of counting. [F481]
It is not for us to say which is the superior method, but our preference is to hold to that which the Lord and the apostles practiced--not with a subserviency which would make us feel that we had committed a crime if we erred in the calculation, and celebrated on a wrong date, but nevertheless with a satisfaction that we have endeavored to follow as closely as possible the divine institution, the pattern. Someone might perhaps suggest that it would be still better to fix the date according to our modern calendar--say the 15th of April or the 1st of April, or other date--and all calculations, etc., would in consequence be unnecessary. We answer, that the Lord evidently had a reason for arranging the Jewish calendar as he did, and we prefer in this matter to continue to recognize his institution.
In a particular sense we see that as the sun is the symbol of the spiritual Kingdom of God, the moon is the symbol of the Law Covenant, and of the people who were under that Law Covenant. Thus there was a special appropriateness in our Lord's being crucified by them exactly at the full of the moon, and that by God's predetermination as concerned the time, so that they could not take him previously, though they desired to do so, because "his hour was not yet come." (John 7:30; 8:20) His crucifixion at the full of the moon, and the fact that the moon immediately began to wane, points a lesson to the effect that there Israel brought upon itself as a nation a divine rejection, or casting off for a season, symbolized by the waning of the moon, which represented their national decline.
* * *
We append here some pertinent extracts from a recognized authority, corroborative of the foregoing, as follows:
From McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia
"EASTER, i.e., PASSOVER--Easter is a word of Saxon origin, and imports a goddess of the Saxons, or rather of the East, Estera, in honor of whom sacrifices being offered annually [F482] about the Passover time of year (Spring), the name began to be attached by association of ideas to the Christian festival of the resurrection, which happened at the time of the Passover: hence we say Easter-day, Easter Sunday, but very improperly, as this by no means refers to the festival then kept to the goddess of the ancient Saxons. So the present German word is used, Ostern, for Easter, and refers to the same goddess, Estera or Ostera. The occurrence of this word in the Authorized Version (Acts 12:4)--'Intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people'--is chiefly noticeable as an example of the want of consistency in the translators. ...At the last revision 'Passover' was substituted in all passages but this....
"The Churches of Asia Minor celebrated the death of the Lord on the day corresponding to the 14th of the month Nisan, on which day, according to the opinion of the whole ancient Church, the crucifixion took place. The Western Churches (Rome), on the other hand were of opinion that the crucifixion should be annually commemorated on the particular day of the week on which it occurred, i.e., Friday.... The Western Churches viewed the death-day of Christ as a day of mourning, and they did not terminate the time of fasting until the day of the resurrection. The Churches of Asia Minor, on the other hand, looked upon the death of Christ wholly as for the redemption of mankind, and terminated the day of fasting at the hour of Christ's death, three o'clock in the afternoon, and immediately afterward celebrated the agape and the Lord's Supper. Both parties (orthodox Eastern and Western Churches) adhered to the name PASCHA (Passover), by which they understood sometimes the specially festive days of this week, and sometimes the whole week commemorating the Passover.
"The first serious dispute between the parties within the old Church broke out about 196 (A.D.), when Bishop Victor of Rome issued a circular to the leading bishops of the Church, requesting them to hold synods in their various provinces, and to introduce the western practice (the practice of celebrating on Friday and Sunday, instead of on the [F483] exact day, 14th and 16th of Nisan). Some complied with the request, but the synod held by Bishop Polycrates, of Ephesus, emphatically refused, and approved the letter of Bishop Polycrates, who in the defense of the Asiatic practice referred Victor to the authority of the Apostles Philip and John, to Polycarp, and to seven of his relations who before him had been bishops of Ephesus...
"Thus far the controversy between the Asiatic and the Western (Roman) Churches had only concerned two points, viz., (1) whether the day of the week or the day of the month on which the death of Christ occurred should be commemorated; (2) whether the fasting ought to be terminated. Now a third point in dispute arose, as to the time when the 14th day of Nisan really occurred. Many of the Church Fathers are of the opinion that, according to the original calculation of the Jews up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the 14th of Nisan had always been after the Spring equinox, and that it was only in consequence of that miscalculation of the later Jews that the 14th of Nisan occasionally fell before the equinox. They therefore insisted that the 14th of Nisan, which for both parties within the Church determined the time of Easter, should always be after the equinox.
"As the year of the Jews is a lunar year and the 14th of Nisan always a full-moon day, the Christians who adopted the above astronomical view, whenever the 14th of Nisan fell before the equinox would celebrate the death of Christ one month later than the Jewish Passover. As the Christians could now no longer rely on the Jewish Calendar they had to make their own calculations of the time of Easter. These calculations frequently differed, partly from reasons already set forth, and partly because the date of the equinox was fixed by some at the 18th of March, by others at the 19th, by others at the 21st of March. The Council of Arles in 314 endeavored to establish uniformity, but its decrees do not appear to have had great effect. The subject was, therefore, again discussed and acted upon by the Ecumenical Council of Nice, which decreed that Easter should be [F484] celebrated throughout the Church after the equinox on the Friday following the 14th of Nisan. It was also provided that the Church of Alexandria, as being distinguished in astronomical science, should annually inform the Church of Rome on what day of the Calends the Ides of Easter should be celebrated, and the Church of Rome should notify all the Churches of the world. But even these decrees of the Council of Nice did not put a stop to all difference, and it was reserved to the calculation of Dionysius Exiguus to gradually introduce uniformity of practice into the old Church. Some countries, like Great Britain, did not abandon their ancient practice until after a long resistance. At the time of Charlemagne uniformity [in observing Friday and in disregarding the Jewish reckoning of full moon day] seems to have been established, and [thereafter] no trace is to be found [of the observance] of the Quarto decimani (the celebration according to the actual day--the 14th of Nisan, the full moon after the spring equinox)....
"The revision of the Calendar by Pope Gregory XIII, on the whole retained the Dionysian era; but determined more accurately the Easter full moon, and made careful provision for avoiding any future deviation of the calendar from the astronomical time. By these minute calculations, however, the Christians' Easter sometimes, contrary to the decrees of the Nicean Council, coincides with the Jewish Passover."
The same authority says respecting the word:
PASSOVER--"It was the representative festival of the year, and in this unique position it stood in a certain relation to circumcision as the second sacrament of the Hebrew Church. (Exod. 12:44) We may see this in what occurred at Gilgal, when Joshua, in reviewing the divine covenant, celebrated the Passover immediately after the circumcision of the people. But the nature of the relationship in which these two rites stood to each other did not become fully developed until its antitypes were fulfilled, and the Lord's supper took its place as the sacramental feast of the elect people of God."