We have come to the fourth evening of our revival services, and the fourth and final stage of our learning to live by faith. If you have been here for the previous three evenings, you should have settled any issue you may have had with understanding your salvation, and should now have the assurance you need to gain victory in the second step, dealing with sin. Last night you were challenged to compare the majesty of Christ to everything else in your life, and to make the decision to surrender all to Christ. If you have completed these three stages, or if you are even now considering the cost, the final stage of living a life of faith is…
Discovering Communion – The Channel for Our Strength
Tonight we are going to gain a new understanding of what we call “The Lord’s Supper” or “Communion.” Let us begin by reading what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth concerning what has been called by many an “ordinance” of the Church, but I believe we will find it is much more. In First Corinthians 11:23-32 NKJV, we read:
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner (original KJV uses ‘unworthily’) will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
In this passage Paul is rebuking the disorderly, selfish, prideful, and irreverent way the Christians at Corinth are participating in the Lord’s Supper. He reminds them of the way Jesus, himself, instituted the Lord’s Supper on the eve of His crucifixion, and that the purpose of observing this sacrament is to call to memory the sacrifice of Jesus as “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), and to look forward to His coming again.
Paul then tells them that whoever eats the bread, and drinks the cup in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, “not discerning the Lord’s body”. The Greek word translated “unworthily” in the original KJV, is more precisely translated “in an unworthy manner” in the NKJV, the NASV, the NIV and others. Most people interpret this as if it refers to their personal qualifications, to their unfitness to partake of it, rather than to the manner in which it is done. The word here is used as an adverb, and not an adjective, and has reference to the manner of observing the ordinance, and not to ones personal qualifications or fitness. The proper meaning of the word (anaxion) is therefore, in an unworthy or improper manner; in a manner unsuitable to the purposes for which it was designed or instituted; specifically, to treat the Lord’s supper as a common meal, not apprehending or acknowledging its solemn symbolic meaning and importance.
Then comes what seems to be a complete surprise – the result of partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner – “for this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” In other words, as a result of doing something wrong in the Lords’ Supper, many people are weak and sick, and some have died. Is there a curse on the Lord’s Supper? At first glance there would seem to be, because according to Paul, people are sick and dying as a result of it! Certainly, no one can say that there is not something going on in the Lord’s Supper that pertains to health and healing (or dying).
So began the long process of trying to understand what it was Paul was saying in this passage that was repeated nowhere else in the New Testament As you might expect there is no way to cover all the information in one evening, but I do want to take you back to the beginning- the Passover – and tie together the types presented there with the Lord’s Supper, that we might gain a better understanding of this I Corinthians 11 passage.
The Institution of Passover
In Exodus 12 we have the story of Moses and Israel in Egypt. It is now at a time before God is about to carry out the tenth and final plague, the death of the first born in all the land.
Tell the story – a lamb without spot and blemish, chosen on the 10th day of Nisan (Abib), watched until the 14th day of Nisan, sacrificed “between the evenings” with the blood placed on the doorpost and lintel of each home (vss. 1-7). The flesh is to be roasted with fire and specific instructions are given as to how it is to be prepared and eaten (vss. 8-11). Notice that in verse 14the Lord tells them this is to be celebrated forever as a permanent ordinance.
In the book of Leviticus, chapter 23, are given seven festivals or feasts, appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations. These are called the Lord’s feasts, not the feasts of Israel. They were given to Israel to teach the world about God’s plan of redemption, and are as follows:
1. Passover (Pesach) – Occurs in the first month of the Jewish religious calendar (Aviv, also called Nisan), on the fourteenth day (Lev. 23:5).
2. Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzah) – Begins on Nisan 15, the day after Passover (Leviticus 23:6-7). It lasts for seven days, with the first and last days being Sabbath days.
3. Feast of First Fruits (Bikkurim) – The day after the regular weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, making it always on the Sunday following Passover (Leviticus 23:9-14).
4. Feast of Weeks / Pentecost (Shavuot) – Fifty days from the Feast of Firstfruits, also always falling on Sunday (Leviticus 23:15-22; Exodus 34:22; Deut. 16:9-10).
5. Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShannah) – First of the fall festivals occurring on Tishrei (Leviticus 23:23-25). It begins with the blowing of the shofar (trumpet) to call Israel to repentance.
6. Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) – Ten days after Rosh HaShannah (Leviticus 23:26-32), this is the day the High Priest atones for the sins of the people through the offering of a sacrifice.
7. Feasts of Tabernacles (Sukkot) – A seven day feast beginning 5 days after the Day of Atonement on Tishrei 15 (Leviticus 23:33-43).
These seven feasts are a great study of God’s plan for man’s redemption
That Jesus is the fulfillment of the Types of the Passover Lamb and the Lord’s feasts is well documented in the Scripture:
John 1:29 – John the Baptist proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
I Peter 1:19 – Peter the Apostle declares, “But with the precious blood of Messiah, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Revelation 5:6a – John the Apostle in the Revelation refers to Christ 25 times as the “Lamb,” including this verse, “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…”
I Corinthians 5:7 – Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:
Let us now look at Jesus and the events of Passion Week
If Jesus is the fulfillment of the type of the Passover Lamb, then He will fulfill the type completely! The same is true concerning the Feasts of the Lord. All Scripture must be fulfilled completely and accurately.
He presented Himself to the priests at the Temple on Sunday, Nisan 10 and went there daily for the four days of observation. His Last Supper with the disciples occurred on Wednesday evening after sunset (which was in Jewish time the beginning of the day of Passover). After supper, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. He prayed there three times, and sometime early in the morning, before sunrise Thursday, Nisan 14, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. Jesus was then taken before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, then before Pilate who sent Him to Herod, who in turn sent Him back to Pilate. After finding no fault with Him, Pilate gave in to the cries of the people to crucify Him. Jesus was whipped, beaten, and forced to carry His cross to the place of the crucifixion, where at 9:00 am (the third hour Hebrew time, Mark 15:25) He was nailed to the cross and placed between two thieves. At the temple, at 9:00 a.m., the High Priest led the Passover Lamb up the steps to the altar and tied it there. At noon (the sixth hour, Mark 15:33-34) darkness fell upon the face of the earth, and lasted until the ninth hour, or 3:00 p.m. This is seen as the time Jesus became our sin, and the Father turned away form the Son. At 3:00 p.m., “knowing that all things were accomplished” (John 19:28), Jesus cried out, “It is finished.”
According to Jewish tradition, at the temple, at 3:00 p.m., the High Priest would sacrifice the Passover lamb, and declare to the congregation, “It is finished.”
Joseph of Arimathea sought Pilate for the body of Jesus, and it was hurriedly prepared for burial, as the day of preparation was almost over, and the Sabbath day approached. This was not the regular weekly Sabbath, but as John 19:31 declares, this was a High Sabbath, the Sabbath that occurs on Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover was called the day of preparation of the sacrifice, which was to be eaten after sundown, the beginning of the High Sabbath. On this week, there would be two consecutive Sabbath days, the annual High Sabbath on Friday, and the weekly Sabbath on Saturday. Jesus lay in the tomb through these two Sabbaths, and the women waited for the first day of the week to arrive so they could go and anoint the body. But when they arrived, Jesus was not there. He had been in the grave for three nights, and had risen on the third day (on the Feast of First Fruits), just as He had said. All things that had been written of Him, and all things He had declared of Himself, had come to pass…completely, literally, perfectly!
The Sign of Jonah
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40)
Jesus statement that He would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights must be taken literally. Granted, Jewish custom allowed for any part of a day to be considered a full day. Thus we have the reasoning that Jesus was buried just prior to sunset on Friday (day one), was in the tomb on Saturday (day two), and was resurrected on Sunday (day three). This would be possible if only Jesus had said three days. But Jesus said plainly, “three days and three nights.” There is no way to get three nights from Friday evening until Sunday morning. A Thursday crucifixion, however, would give three nights and part of
three days, having Jesus being raised “on the third day.” There are twelve references in the three synoptic Gospels where we are told Jesus would rise on the third day. Following are three, one from each Gospel:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21).
For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed He will rise the third day” (Mark 9:31).
Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:5-7).
Back to the Lord’s Supper
We have shown rather quickly how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover and the Passover Lamb of the Old Testament. Jesus told His disciples that in the New Covenant He was establishing, the body and blood of the lamb would now be His body and His blood.
And so we come full circle back to I Corinthians 11 and Paul’s instruction concerning partaking of the Lord’s Supper in a “worthy manner.” While all of this has been a fascinating study of Jesus and the Passover, it does not explain the warning of weakness, sickness, and death found in this passage. Yes, there is judgment for all sin, including the sin of pride, selfishness, and lack of love for one another that the Corinthians were demonstrating in the way they were acting.
How often are we told that we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
None…just that “as often as we do it…” If we are not told we MUST do it, but are told that if we DO IT WRONG we will be weak, sick, and perhaps die, should we then choose not to do it at all? This really concerned me, and I could not understand why God had placed such a dire warning in what should be the wonderful communion between God and His children. Something was missing!
God Gives the Key
One day I ran across a simple verse in Psalm 105 that opened to me the door to this mystery. Not everyone agrees with me, and you may not either, but this is what the Spirit has placed in my heart and mind concerning this I Corinthians 11 passage. Turn to Psalm 105 for a moment. This is a Psalm of Israel’s history, from Abraham to Joseph, to Israel settling in Egypt, and in verses 25-38, their deliverance from bondage by Moses.
Note verse 37! In the KJV it states, “He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.” In the NASB this verse says, “Then He brought them out with silver and gold, And among His tribes there was not one who stumbled.”
It was time for a word study and this is what I discovered. The word translated feeble in the KJV and stumbled in the NASB is the Hebrew word Kashal (kaw-shal’). Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Concordance states that this word means “to totter or waver (through weakness of the legs); to falter, faint, stumble or fall; to be cast down or made to fall; feeble, ruined, overthrown, stumble; to utterly be weak.”
We are told that there were some 600,000 (Exodus 12:37) men plus women and children who came out of Egypt, with an estimated total of two to three million Israelites; slaves all, young and old alike. And not one among them was weak, feeble, or stumbled for lack of strength. WOW! This was a miracle! Yes, a miracle received from the eating of the body of the Passover lamb. The blood placed by faith on the doorposts of the home saved from the wrath and judgment of God, and the body of the lamb properly eaten as the Lord had so meticulously given instruction, provided strength and health for the journey!
Here in this Psalm, in one simple verse, God opens the door to understanding about the significance of the “cracker” that is so easily overlooked. It is the body of our Lord which gives us strength for the journey we are called to make through this life. His blood cleanses us and His body gives us strength for the journey!
What does this have to do with Living by Faith you ask? Just this… If we have properly understood our salvation by grace through faith and have assurance that we are indeed “in Christ,” we have dealt with sin in our life so that we are able by the grace of God to walk in victory by faith, we have accepted the call to, by the grace of God, “surrender all” and to commit our walk to Him by faith, then we need to realize that that journey can not be made in our own strength. We are not to be self-sufficient. We must finally realize that once again, by the grace of God, He has provided for us His strength for the journey which we receive by faith as we “properly discern the Lord’s body.”
Rather than understanding this verse to say, “If you do not partake of the Lord’s Supper correctly, you will be judged, and will be weak, sick and possibly die”, could it mean, “If you are weak and sick, judge yourself, discern the Lord’s body, believe in what He has provided for you, and by faith accept this provision, that you might have strength and health for the journey; not your own strength, but the strength of the Lord!”
We all need a place to commune with God and to receive His strength. Perhaps you already have such a place. But for me, this is where I go, in faith, to receive all that I need in order to do what I have been called to do. This is my channel for strength. And I believe it is meant to be your channel also. Never again come to the Lord’s Table and just “eat the cracker” but discern the Lord’s body, the flesh of the Passover Lamb of God, and receive the grace of God that is found there, that you may find strength for your journey.
Let us come now to the Lord’s Table together to receive the Body and the Blood of our Passover Lamb that we may be spared the wrath and judgment of God through the covering of the blood, and that we might receive the strength we need for the journey and work He has called us to, in Jesus Name!