From Passover to Lord’s Supper

The word sacrament comes from the Latin word ‘sacramentum’ meaning a solemn or sacred oath. Roman Catholics believe there to be seven sacraments, most Protestants only believe there to be two of them; baptism, given to us in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and the Lord’ Supper, given to us in Jesus’ teaching in the upper room (Matthew 26:26-29). In addition to the word sacrament is the word ordinance, which simply means a statute or command Jesus ordained for the Church. The difference between these two words comes down to what we believe is happening while engaging in these activities. To prefer the title ordinance over the title sacrament generally means one believes there is no grace communicated from God to those participating in the activities themselves. To prefer the title sacrament over the title ordinance generally means one believes there is grace communicated from God to those participating in the activities themselves. I prefer to call baptism and the Lord’s Supper sacraments because I believe God strengthens us in His grace through them, but I also do not mind the term ordinance either because these two practices truly have been ordained by God for the Church.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 92 asks, “What is a Sacrament? A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” Did you notice that both the word sacrament and ordinance are present in this definition? Though we find people rejecting one title in preference of the other, it’s good to use both in defining what they are.

We can also state generally that both sacraments function as signs and seals. Signs, in that what the preaching of the gospel is to our ears, the sacraments are to our eyes.This means they visibly signify or show the invisible truth of God to us. In a very real sense the sacraments are a dramatized display of the gospel. But they are also seals. Just as a ruler in ancient times would seal a document with his royal seal to communicate that the message was from him and carried his authority, so too, the sacraments are visible seals from God promising that all who receive them truly participate in the grace given through them. Paul makes this point well in Romans 4:11-12 saying, “Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

As with all sound doctrine we must look into the whole of Scripture to find the whole overview of any particular doctrine. And this is especially true when we come to the Lord’s Supper, because its roots take us all the way back to the Exodus. Recall that during and after God redeemed Israel out of slavery in Egypt He instituted the Passover. As the final plague was drawing near God warned His people (in Exodus 12) to prepare for this moment by putting the blood of an unblemished lamb on each doorpost of their homes. The people were then to eat the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs in haste with their belts on and sandals on their feet. As God passed through to strike down the first born of the land of Egypt He saw the blood and passed over all the homes who have done this. This hasty meal was to be a memorial day feast celebrating the beginning of Israel’s new year from this day forward and it was these things that each prophet of God called the people of God back to throughout the Old Covenant. Then there’s a change.

As Jesus’ hour was drawing near He gathered together with His disciples to celebrate this Passover one last time in Luke 22. At this meal in the Upper Room Jesus did something new. Rather than repeating what the Israelites had done for ages and ages, He changed things. Here is how Luke recounts the moment. “And when the hour came, He reclined at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:14-21).

As God instituted the Passover long ago for the remembrance of what He did to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt and from the death of the first born, so too here Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper for the remembrance of what He was about to do to redeem God’s people from a greater slavery, sin, and a greater Pharaoh, Satan. And just as the Passover was to be a repeated event for Israel each year as they did life together in the land God brought them to, so too the Lord’s Supper is to be a repeated event for the Church as we do life together where God has placed us.

As often as the Church does this, her members see Christ’s death showed forth and are, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism question 96 says, “…not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of His body and blood, with all His benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.”

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The Spirit Provides what God Commands

In Exodus 31:1-11 we have a stunning scene.  This is the one of the first instances in Scripture where we explicitly see the enabling work of the Holy Spirit, providing all things needed to obey what God commands.  It says this:

“The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

See it?  The Spirit equipped Bezalel and Oholiab to build all that God commanded.  Without this filling of the Spirit, God’s people would not be able to partake in worship, they wouldn’t be able to do what God commanded them to do.  But the Spirit provided what God commanded – and thus the people of God are built up.  This happens in the New Testament too.  Read Ephesians 4:10-16:

“He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Just as the Holy Spirit provided what God commanded in the Old Covenant, so too He does the same thing in the New Covenant for the people of God.  Whereas before He equipped two men with gifts, abilities, knowledge, and skills to build the temple and all it contained, now the Spirit is equipping men with gifts, abilities, knowledge, and skills to build the Church, preach God’s Word, shepherd the people, and lead them in worship.

The same Spirit who acted for God’s people in Exodus is still at work today among us, enabling, equipping, and empowering the Church to be the Church.  Praise Him indeed!

Israel IN Aaron – Christians IN Jesus

In Exodus 28:15-30 we find the directions given to Moses from God concerning the breastplate Aaron the priest was to wear when he walked into the Holy of Holies.  On the breastplate God commanded that there be 4 horizontal rows containing 3 precious jewels.  28:21 says that each stone was to represent one tribe of Israel.  Exodus 28:29 than proclaims a truth that not only has bearing on the present, but the future as well,

Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually.

You see it?  The meaning for the present audience of Israel was that by wearing this breastplate holding a stone for each tribe of Israel, Aaron was representing all of Israel before the presence of God in the Holy of Holies.  This is called intercession, meaning that Aaron was bringing the people’s concerns before God, Aaron was praying for his people.  Aaron as priest, brought his people before his God.  So too, in a greater meaning Jesus as our priest does the same for us.  Two truths illustrate this:

1) Christians are in Jesus

When I say this I mean just that.  When we place our faith in Jesus we enter into a union with Christ that nothing can separate.  At the moment of salvation our sin is placed upon Him and His righteousness is placed upon us, so much so that when God looks at us now He sees His Son in all His glory.  This is what is meant in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God IN Him.”

2) Jesus intercedes for His own

Just as Aaron brought his people before his God, so too Jesus does the same as our priest.  Hebrews 7:23-25, “The former priests, on the same hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.  Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him (or in Him), since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jesus as our priest, brings His people (us!) before His Father.

Abraham, Moses, Paul, and Jesus – Unified Entirety

A Brief Description Denoting the Intricate Relationship, Comparison, and Connection of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants in Direct Relation to their Application to the Letter of Paul to the Church in Galatia, particularly 3:15-18

Galatians 3:15-18

“To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.  Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.  This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.  For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”

Definitions

1) Abrahamic Covenant: Where God promised: 1) To make of Abraham a great nation and bless Abraham and make his name great so that he will be a blessing, to bless those who bless him and curse him who curses him. All peoples on earth will be blessed through Abraham. 2) To give Abraham’s descendants all the promised land. 3) To make Abraham the father of many nations and of many descendants and give “the whole land of Canaan” to his descendants. (See Genesis 12-17) Circumcision is to be the permanent sign of this everlasting covenant with Abraham and his male descendants.

2) Mosaic Covenant: Where God promises to make the Israelites His treasured possession among all people and to make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation if they follow God’s commandments (Exodus 19-24).

The Relation of the Covenants to Galatians 3:15-18

God made a covenant promise to Abraham and this promise will stand forever. Because God made another covenant promise with His people through Moses at Sinai does not mean the former covenant made to Abraham is void and no longer needed. The two covenants, though different in content and application for the people of God, find their the fulfillment in Jesus. The Abrahamic Covenant is fulfilled in Jesus, because He is the one Descendant who’ll bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). The Mosaic Covenant is fulfilled in Jesus, because He is only One who can keep the Law of God, which points out our need for Christ (Galatians 3:24) and reveals the righteousness provided to us through His Law-keeping (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Bottom line? When God interacts with His people He does so through covenant. All of the covenants (Covenant of Works, Covenant of Grace, Noahic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant) contain requirements of the people of God, and more so exist to point to Jesus, find their fulfillment in Jesus, and reveal glorious things about Jesus.

T: The Treatment of Your Temple

In Exodus we see God command His people to build a tabernacle. This tabernacle was not to be just any building, but a grand portable piece of architecture. God was very specific about how He wanted it built and what He wanted it built with. Just to name a few of the items contained within it and around it: the tent which covered the wooden skeletal structure (Ex. 26:26-30), the bronze basin and its stand (Ex. 30:17-21), the surrounding fence of fine linens hanging from 60 wooden pillars (Ex. 27:9-19), the entrance gate (Ex. 38:18-20), the bronze altar of burnt offering (Ex. 27:1-8), the veil separating the holy of holies from all else (Ex. 26:36-37), the table (Ex. 25:-23-30), the lampstand (Ex. 25:31-40), the altar of incense (Ex. 30:1-5), and the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:10-22) were to be made exactly how God wanted them to be made. God commanded that His tabernacle would be treated with the utmost of reverence. Why did He go to all this detail? Because God is holy, and He will be treated as holy by all who enter into His presence.

When we move over into the New Testament Paul makes an astounding claim in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Do you feel the magnitude that Paul is laying out before us here? Just as the tabernacle was the place of the presence of God in the Old Testament, so too, the believer’s physical body is the place where the presence of Almighty God dwells in the New Testament Christian. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul uses this truth to urge Christians out of sexual immorality, but the application seems endless when you think about it doesn’t it?

We saw earlier how meticulous the building of the tabernacle had to be, there’s more. God not only commanded a meticulous build, but commanded a meticulous behavior (in Leviticus) by all who would worship within the tabernacle. Think about how this applies to your own physical body. Your body is the temple of God! That should massively affect how you treat it. I realize I’m about to say something that will make some of you angry, but I think it’s 100% true. Because your body is the temple of God, you cannot do whatever you like with it. You are not free to do whatever you want with your body. You must take meticulous care of your body, eating well, exercising, and keeping it in strong condition. Think about the holy attitude all Israel had toward the tabernacle. Do you have the same attitude for your body now? You ought to. Why? Because your body is the temple of God, and where God dwells, holiness reigns.

When one sees the holiness commanded by God in Exodus and Leviticus in regard to the tabernacle, one cannot ignore Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 6. Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 6:12 apply to this as well, “Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything.” Because the Christian’s physical body is the temple of God the Christian is commanded by Scripture to responsibly steward their bodies. This affects the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the amount of exercise you do, what you use your body for, and what you decorate your body with.

Application question: If you’re a Christian and you do whatever you want with your body without caring about what God thinks about your body, you’re in sin, and you need to repent. Do you need to?