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Christ, Our Passover Date For The Lord’s Supper
“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 among 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, the 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 a precursor of the liberation of the whole nation of Israel, and their passing safely over the Red Sea into freedom from the bondage of Egypt.
We can readily see that such a portentous event would properly be commemorated by the Israelites as intimately identified with the birth of their nation; and thus it is celebrated by the Jews unto this day. Spiritual Israelites 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 we have a still deeper interest in those matters which occurred in Egypt, in view of the fact that the Lord has revealed to us the “mystery” that those things which happened unto natural Israel were intended to typify and foreshadow still grander things in the divine plan respecting anti-typical Spiritual Israel — the “New Creation.”
SPIRITUAL ISRAELITES ALSO WAIT
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. 2:10-14). God used the apostles as His mouthpieces to give us certain dues whereby, under the guidance of His Spirit, we may understand the deep things of God. One of these clues is found in our text. 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 very 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.
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 His people in His appointed time — bringing them across the Red Sea—representing the second death, in which Satan and all who shall 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 in the second death.”
DELIVERANCE OF THE FIRST-BORNS
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 among them — “The firstborn.” 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 firstborn 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, ministering to them in holy things.
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 firstborn 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 the second death, having their testing or trial for everlasting life or everlasting death in advance 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” (Psa. 82:7), 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 night-time 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, “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. —Rom. 8:22,19
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER LAMB
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 the Lord’s people in the type, it was necessary that the Passover lamb should be slain, and that its blood should be sprinkled upon the door-posts and lintels of the house, that its flesh should be eaten that night with its bitter herbs, and with unleavened bread. Thus each house of Israel represented “the household of faith,” as each lamb represented “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” and the first-born of 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. Moreover, as each household was to eat with staff in hand and girded for a journey, it represented that the antitypical first-born and the 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 from sin and corruption — into liberty of the sons of God.
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 30 years of age in his baptism unto death. Hence it was that, although the Jews sought many times to take Him, no man laid hands on Him, because “His hour was not yet fully come.” John 12:8, 30
As the Jews were commanded to select the lamb of sacrifice on the 10th 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 an 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 was sprinkled upon 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 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 sharing in the advance 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 scriptures 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 firstborn. Rom. 11:11-26
OUR LORD’S MEMORIAL SUPPER
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 (the Jewish day being reckoned as beginning at sunset, for this very purpose), 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 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 fulfillment, and, hence, would be no longer appropriate to those who accepted the fulfillment. Our Lord, as the antitypical lamb, was about to be slain, as the apostle expresses it in the text, “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 door posts 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.” (1 Tim. 2:6) 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, “The 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 fulfillment of the antitypical Passover.
DELIVERANCE OF THE ANTITYPICAL FIRST-BORNS
Thus to accept our lamb, and so to commemorate His death for us, means expectancy regarding the promised deliverance of God’s people, the antitypical first-borns, 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 strangers, who seek more desirable conditions, free from the blights and sorrows and bondage of the present 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. Yes. 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, generally 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 fulfillment. “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 times place, etc., but as signifying that henceforth when this cup and unleavened bread 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 at its anniversary. 1 Cor. 11:25, 26
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 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 partake of it “anew in the kingdom.”
THE MEMORIAL SUPPER STILL APPROPRIATE
The original celebration of the memorial of our dear Redeemer’s death was, as we have seen, upon a particular date — the 14th 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 among 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 the 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, typifies 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 entirely to the killing of the lamb, and hence belonging 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 doctrines 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 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 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. 12:31; 12:11
BANEFUL ERROR EXCLUDED TRUTH
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 all Christendom, until, in the sixteenth century, the great reformation movement began to stir up an opposition and, proportionately, began to find the truth 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 Lord’s death, and the supper as a memorial of the antitype they did not grasp the thought or the propriety of its observance on its annual occurrence. Hence, we find that among 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. They base their weekly celebration of the supper on the statement 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
But these weekly celebrations were not commemorations of the Lord’s death. On the contrary, they 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 40 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.” The cup is never mentioned in connection with these, while in every mention of the Lord’s memorial supper, it occupied fully as important a place as does the loaf.
ANNUAL DATE STILL REVERENCED
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 view 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 henceforth 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 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, on the 14th day. This change occasionally makes a difference of nearly a month between the two methods of counting.
As the sun is the symbol of the spiritual kingdom of God, so the moon is the symbol of the law covenant, and of the people who were under the 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. Corroborative of this we quote from a recognized authority, McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia: “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.
“Thus far the controversy between the Asiatic (Greek) 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 day when the 14th 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.
NEW CALCULATIONS OF EASTER
“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 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 calendar 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 the 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 same authority says of the Passover: “It was the representative (Jewish) 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 anti-types were fulfilled, and the Lord’s Supper took its place as the sacramental feast of the elect people of God.”
WE, BEING MANY, ARE ONE LOAF
An additional significance to the memorial supper is pointed out by the Apostle Paul, who says:
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood 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 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 the 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 the 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, commonparticipation. 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 heartcommunion 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 insight. What a blessing comes to us with the celebration of this memorial! 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 as respects the present, but also as respects the future!
It will be noticed that the Lord 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 sufferings and trials and ignominy and death of those 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 in 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 member 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 lose the choicest of earthly blessing 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 7:18)
THE ONENESS OF THE MEMBERS OF CHRIST
Another thought is in respect to the mutual love, sympathy and interest which should prevail amongst all the members 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 to the whole world of mankind, they must grow especially toward the Lord, and, consequently, especially also toward those whom He recognized, 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 those 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 2:14) 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 2:16) What a brotherhood is thus implied! Where else could we hope to find such love for the brethren as would lay down its life 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 mainly to the age to come, the millennium. Under present conditions, our time and talents and influences and means are, more or less, mortgaged to others (the wife or children or aged parents, or others depending on us), and we 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, the flesh and the devil are continually attempting to claim from us, and to divert from the sacrificing to which we have consecrated it.
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 the 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.
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