Communion: Identification and Power

Galatians 3:13-14 (NKJV) 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

As we have considered communion, we have determined several things. First, Jesus never instituted anything that was just as religion or tradition. He brought life. He was very clear about this as he spoke to the Pharisees.

Matthew 15:6 (NKJV) 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

We have been talking about the Jewish Passover which was the Old Covenant meal. The covenant had been in place for many years before the Passover. Israel’s identity flowed from the covenant that God made with Abraham. However, under Moses Israel needed more than just to be identified with Abraham’s covenant. That identification was producing bondage because the Egyptians feared it. They needed the power of the covenant to be delivered.

God told them to sacrifice of a spotless lamb. They were to put the blood of the sacrifice on the doorposts and lintel of their homes. Anyone who had the blood on their house would not suffer the 10th plague, death of the firstborn. It made no difference if they were Hebrew or Egyptian. Each had to choose to obey for themselves. No one could do it for them.

They were also told to eat the offering. However, there were specific instructions as to how they were to eat it. They were to eat it by faith in that they had to be ready to leave in the morning. There was no indication that they were going anywhere but the covenant meal had to be eaten in faith so the power of the covenant would bring about their deliverance.

Communion serves the same purpose as Passover. We are identified with the covenant because we received Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV) 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Every covenant has a covenant meal. Jesus understood this and gave us communion. The first thing that we do in communion is reaffirm our identification with the covenant. In receiving what Jesus gave to them, the disciples were identified with Jesus by covenant. They were identified with him already because they were his followers and everyone knew that to be true. However, the covenant meal was a legal identification. This legality was not in the realm of the natural. It was in the realm of the spirit. From that moment, Satan knew that they were in legal covenant with God in the blood of Jesus.

When we received Jesus as Lord and Savior, we were also identified with him and he with us. That is a spiritual reality. God knows it, the devil knows it and we need to understand it. When we celebrate communion, we are legally reaffirming our legal connection to Jesus. When I take the bread and the “wine” I am saying to the world, my flesh and the devil, “I belong to Jesus. I am legally his and he is legally mine. All that I am belongs to him and all that he is belongs to me.” That is what covenant means.

The Passover did the same thing but it did something else as well. God was going to unleash the full power of the covenant. He was about to prove that “He was their God and they were His people.” This required that they do more than just affirm their covenant relationship. They had to put weight on it. This was not just about identification it was about power. They were accessing the terms of the covenant by faith.

By putting the blood on the lintel and doorposts of their house they were declaring their legal identity. By eating the covenant meal packed and ready to reap the benefits of the covenant, they were exercising their faith in their covenant partner, Almighty God. That is exactly what we should be doing when we receive communion.

Communion is the covenant meal of the “New Covenant in the blood of Jesus.” There is a great deal of difference between the new and old covenants. Nevertheless, both are covenants. Certain things are the same. When we receive communion, it cannot be just a religious or traditional duty. It must be understood that the universe is watching us. We are declaring that we are in covenant with God in Jesus Christ. We are also accessing the blessing of that covenant by faith every time we do it.

How than should we receive communion. We should remember the sacrifice of Jesus. As we partake of the bread, we should remember his body that was broken for us. The bible tells us in Isaiah 53 and in 1 Peter 2:24 that we are healed by the stripes on his body.

He paid that we might have legal access to healing by submitting to the physical torture. Today’s scripture tells us that he redeemed us from the curse of the law that we might receive the blessing of Abraham. This blessing is described in many places but the most complete may be found in Deuteronomy 28. We should read it. In addition to healing, I believe that all of these blessings were legally purchased for us in Jesus’ physical suffering.

More important that the physical blessing is the forgiveness of our iniquity. That was purchased by the shed blood of Christ. His blood allows the Father to forgive our individual sins. Every sin we have ever committed is forgiven. That is a wonderful promise but it is not the best part. Jesus also dealt with our iniquities. Iniquity is the nature that causes us to sin. We were by nature children of wrath but Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection paid for the iniquity that changed our nature in the fall (Ephesians 2:3.)

If I will receive communion by faith understanding that the benefits of these two dimensions of Jesus’ sacrifice are mine by covenant, communion can become something powerful in my life. As I receive the symbol of Jesus’ broken body, the bread, I consciously receive by faith all that he bought for me with that sacrifice. I am legally healed, delivered and blessed in life by what he did.

As I receive the “wine” that represents his blood I remember the terrible price he had to pay for my forgiveness. I receive that forgiveness by faith and the realization of what he did moves me to walk in righteousness. How can I continue to sin when I know what he paid to buy my forgiveness? We all fail but if we use communion as a time to really remember what our covenant cost and when we receive the power of the covenant by faith it becomes a vital tool to help us walk in both purity and power.

One other thing that Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 is that communion is a celebration of the vital union we share in the body of Christ. I am part of you and you are part of me. We are all members of this covenant in Christ Jesus. When I receive communion, I must remember that. I cannot harm or hate another member of my covenant with God.

The next time you receive communion in your local church, look around. The people there are covenant brothers and sisters. You all enjoy the benefits of a covenant relationship with almighty God through the blood of Jesus. Do not let your mind wander to what you may be having for dinner. This is not religion. It is life

The Communion and Passover

Exodus 12:11-13 (NKJV) 11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’S Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Jesus would never institute something as a tradition alone. Everything Jesus put in place was as to bring life. Communion is no exception. I have no problem with the practice of scheduling communion at specific times. I do have a problem when communion is simply a Christian tradition (Matthew 15:3-6.)

As we have been looking at this we have seen that covenant is at the heart of how God has always dealt with man after the fall. Starting with the animals sacrificed to cloth Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the covenant with Abraham, we see God using covenant to have relationship with his children.

The Old Covenant was primarily an outward covenant. There were certainly those who had a deeper relationship with God than that but the vast majority of the Hebrew people simply did what the covenant told them to do. This is especially true after the Law of Moses was put in place. The law gave a consistent method for keeping the terms of the covenant, but it was an outward thing not an inward thing.

We also see that the purpose of the covenant was to identify Israel with the one true God. He became the “God of Israel” and they became the “children of Israel” and certainly of Abraham. In the scripture above this is about to change. Their covenant will still be a covenant of identification but it is about to be much more than that.

We know the story behind these verses. Israel has been in Egypt for some 400 years. A large portion of that time has been under the bondage of slavery. God raised up a deliverer in the person of Moses. This is the period of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. God has used Moses to produce mighty miracles and great judgement has come upon the nation just as God had revealed to Abraham when he made covenant with him.

Genesis 15:13-14 (NKJV) 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

As we read the book of Exodus we can see this coming to pass before our eyes. Israel did not, as far as we know, have a “bible” to read as we do today. However, if they had nothing else they would certainly have an oral history of what we read here. If they had nothing, how did Moses know what to write? They knew what God had said and they should have known what the outcome would be. As of the 9th plague, they were still slaves. There was no indication that anything was going to change any time soon.

All that God had done in the first 9 plagues was a product of the covenant. He was their covenant God. They had cried out to him and he was, by covenant, obligated to help them. For the final plague, it was their turn to provide something in this covenant agreement. Up to this point Moses had been the only person in Israel that had to act in obedience for God to move. Now they were going to have to put faith in the covenant.

The Lord tells all Israel to do something before the 10th plague. Moses could not do this for them. At this point, Moses was no different than anyone else in Israel. If they were going to see the final chapter of God’s deliverance, they were going to have to actively believe God.

The 10th plague differs in a major way from all the others. It is not a plague that automatically spares Israel. The first 9 were part of the covenant of identification. The 10th would be a matter of individual faith in the covenant. It could not be about race or ethnicity. It had to be about much more than that. It had to be a matter of faith in the God of the covenant

God gives them specific instructions about offering a lamb to him. They were to take the blood and put it on the lintel and doorposts of every house. It is hard not to see the parallel to the cross. Every home who did this would be passed over by the angel of death. It did not matter if it was a Hebrew home or an Egyptian home. All that mattered was the blood. If the blood was there, the first born of the house did not die. Any who believed in what God said and obeyed would be spared. Any who did not, Hebrew or Egyptian would not.

At this point we see that the covenant is not about identification. It is about life and death. No one can believe and obey for them. They must believe and obey for themselves. Then we see something very interesting and, on the surface, very strange. He tells them they are to prepare and eat the sacrificial lamb and do it in a very specific way.

If we were reading novel telling the story of Exodus, I think we would find this a bit strange. A dinner has just become a central part of the story. Why? The answer is covenant. All blood covenants had certain elements that were part of the process. One of those elements was a covenant meal. The idea of eating together meant much more in their world than it tends to today. However, even today most major celebrations that involve family involve a meal.

This meal was to be eaten with “their bags packed” and ready to go so to speak. There was no indication they were going anywhere. As far as they knew tomorrow would be another day in the brick pits. Nevertheless, God said to be ready to go by morning. They had to obey by faith.

We know that that the plague came. Those “under the blood” were spared. Those who were not lost their firstborn. The next day they left Egypt just as God had said they would so many years before. God said one more thing about this meal.

Exodus 12:14 (NKJV) 14 So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.

From this time forward they are to eat this meal as a “remembrance” of what the Lord had done. Now we fast forward many centuries to the last supper.

Luke 22:19 (NKJV) 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Jesus has just done the same thing with the communion that God had done with the Passover. He has made it our covenant meal. He is about to become the true “Lamb of God” that will take away the sin of the whole world. Each individual must decide to receive or reject what he is about to do. No one can do it for them. If they choose to put themselves under the blood, they will be saved. If they do not, they will be lost. Ethnicity is not a factor. Faith and obedience to receive what God did is the only factor.

God told Israel to eat this meal every year so that they would not forget what God had done in delivering them. What than should communion be? It is our covenant meal. It is to be done in remembrance of what Jesus did. How should we eat our covenant meal? More in the next post.

Communion and the New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NKJV) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

In our last post, I talked about the importance of covenant in God’s dealings with man. The first institution given to man in the Garden was marriage. Marriage is a covenant. When man fell, God gave them a covering for their nakedness in the form of the skins of animals. This was the first time in creation that blood was shed. The word for covenant in Hebrew literally means “to cut.” God cut a blood covenant with man to cover his sins.

In Ephesians 2:12 We found that the dividing line between the Jews and the Gentiles was not ethnicity. We were separated from God because we were not part of the commonwealth of Israel. That is a political term. It was not primarily about race. What caused the Gentiles to be separated was the fact that they were “strangers to the covenants of promise.”

The Hebrew nation was born when God cut a covenant with the man Abram. In changing his name to Abraham, God declared to all that he was now in blood covenant with him. Blood covenant is not just between the parties who make the covenant. It is also between their seed. In the case of Abraham this means all who would be born of his seed. In Galatians, we find that this had another meaning to God.

Galatians 3:16 (NKJV) 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.

Whereas for Abraham the covenant created a nation primarily of all born of him, for God the seed was Christ. As we have already pointed out, a person did not have to be born a Hebrew to be part of the covenant. Anyone who chose to follow the God and the Law of Israel was accepted. However, all those born of the seed were automatically part of the Old Covenant.

In today’s scripture, we see a change predicted in man’s covenant relationship with God. He says the law of God will be written upon their hearts and minds. This is not going to be an outward covenant but an inward one. He will make this covenant with the “house of Israel” but it will not be limited to Israel.

Mark 14:24 (NKJV) 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NKJV) 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Jesus tells his disciples that this “New Covenant” in his blood was for many. Paul tells that he no longer sees anyone after the flesh for if “Christ died for all, all died.” Jew and gentile was no longer relevant. This New Covenant is for all people including Israel.

Hebrews 8 tells us that the Old Covenant, although good, was not sufficient. God promised a new and better covenant in Jeremiah. Hebrews tells us that New Covenant was purchased by the blood of Jesus. Just as it has been since the fall, the basis for relationship between man and God is blood covenant. In the New Covenant, the blood is not that of bulls or goats. It is the blood of Christ.

Christianity is the fulfillment of a process that began in the Garden of Eden, was continued with God’s covenant with Abraham, was solidified and codified by the law of Moses and demonstrated through the nation of Israel. The New Covenant was what God had in mind all along. By the New Covenant sin and death were to be defeated for all eternity. Man was to be set free to choose eternal life with God, not based on race or ethnicity but on faith in the covenant made available by the finished work of Jesus.

Why is any of this important to communion? It is important because communion is not just a religious celebration. It is not a “sacrament” or sacrifice. It is a spiritual reality. It is to be done in remembrance of Jesus. What did Jesus do? He died for our sins of course. He suffered to purchase our redemption. However, covenant is the vehicle God used to bring about man’s redemption

Covenant was not about religion or religious observance. It was always about relationship. There were various reasons a covenant relationship might be formed. However, it was always about the relationship. Covenants had certain things that were always part of the system that signified and formalized the forming of a relationship.

One of the elements that every covenant included was a covenant meal. In the Old Testament, it was the Passover. In the New Testament Jesus gave us the covenant meal at the last supper.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NKJV) 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.

If we are going to understand what the communion is to us, we must have some understanding of what Passover was to the Hebrew people. The covenant was in place since the days of Abraham. The Hebrew people derived their identity from that covenant. In the Passover, the covenant was to become more than just their identity. It was going to become their deliverance. It was going to save their lives.

In the same way the Passover covenant meal took the Old Covenant from simple identification to something far more, the communion can and should take the reality of our covenant relationship in Christ to a deeper and more powerful level.

In the next post, we will look at how and why.

The Celebration of Communion

Luke 22:19-20 (NKJV) 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

We had the privilege of being in three great churches in the last 2 weeks. We were in The Rock Christian Fellowship in Conneaut Ohio with Pastors James and Michelle Friend and New Beginnings in Erie PA. with Pastor Paul and Anne Friend.

We then went to see more dear friends, Pastors Phil and Gina Crandall at Blue Ridge Chapel in Rocky Mount, Virginia. At Blue Ridge, we got to minister in both the church and Blue Ridge Chapel School of the Prophets. What a blessing it was to have the opportunity to impart to some of the finest young people around. I believe the future is bright for the church.

I wanted to take the time here to share with you what I preached in the church in Virginia on Sunday morning. All over the body of Christ people celebrate the communion that Jesus instituted at the last supper. This is an important observance that Jesus himself said we should do “in remembrance” of him.

I grew up in a specific denomination that is known for doing formal things because the church says that is what we should do. Most times, I did not understand anything about the ceremony or the spiritual reality behind it. The point was to do the things dictated to us and in the doing we would be alright.

When I left that denomination, I left that kind of thinking behind. Paul, speaking to Timothy, his son in the faith, makes it clear what he thinks of this kind of “religion.”

2 Timothy 3:5 (NKJV) 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

The context of this quote is Paul warning Timothy to stay away from those who do religious things outwardly but have no truth in their hearts. He says to stay away from that kind of person. To me, communion is far too important for it to be something we do simply because it is the last Sunday of the month. I have nothing against regularly scheduled communion, but I do have something against doing anything that has no life or power in it just because our religious structure tells us to.

In today’s scripture, we see that Jesus is the one who commanded that we celebrate communion. I do not believe Jesus did anything that was not based in the impartation of life. He was the fulfillment of the law and, as such, he brought the life of the spirit. What was it that he instituted as he prepared to be the sacrificial lamb of the last Passover?

To understand Christian Communion, we must understand something that is at the heart of God’s dealings with man since the Garden of Eden. We must understand covenant. The idea of covenant and especially blood covenant is the foundation for everything God did to win man back from the devil and bring him back into relationship with himself.

The idea of covenant was established in the Garden even before the fall. I do a great deal of teaching on marriage. One of the reasons marriages fail is that we do not understand that God instituted them as a covenant. God took Eve from Adam’s body and when he brought them back together Adam makes a specific statement.

Genesis 2:23 (NKJV) 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

Adam’s declaration that Eve was now “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” was a physical truth. However, it is also a spiritual truth. Eve was a separate human being but Adam declares that they are one. Verse 24 says this very thing.

Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

This is covenant language. The first institution God set in place was not government or education. It was the covenant of marriage.

When man sinned, he tried to cover his sin by sewing together fig leaves. This was man’s attempt at righteousness or covering the exposure of sin. I was thinking about their attempt recently. Fig leaves are similar in size and structure to maple leaves. Where I live, we have maple leaves. One leaf would not cover much so they sewed them together. Unless fig leaves are much more durable than maple leaves I would not want to try to move around in a sewn together leaf garment!

Our attempts at covering sin are woefully inadequate. God provided something very different for Adam and Eve. He provided animal skins. Where did the skins come from? They were the product of the first shed blood in the history of the world. God killed a sacrifice to provide a temporarily adequate covering for his sinful children.

Although the animal skin was certainly better clothing material than leaves, that was not the main thing that made it adequate. The main thing was the shed blood. God made a blood sacrifice to cover sin. In so doing he put the idea of blood covenant into man’s new world.

We all know that God made covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 15 Abraham asks the Lord how his descendants could bless the whole earth when he was childless. In answer to his question God tells him to get some very specific animals and gives him instructions as to what to do with them. In Genesis 17 we read a direct statement of what God had done in this action.

Genesis 17:1-2 (NKJV) 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”

God made covenant with Abraham. That covenant defines the children of Abraham to this day. We often make the mistake of thinking that Israel as a nation was about race. Certainly, those born of Abraham and his descendants were part of the covenant by birth. Nevertheless, you did not have to be born an Israelite to be part of the covenant.

Ruth, one of the great women of the bible was from Moab. Rahab was a Canaanite woman of questionable character. Both chose to identify with Israel and their God. Both were accepted as part of God’s covenant people and appear in the genealogy of Jesus.

I want to close with one more scripture. Paul, an Israelite by birth, tells us what separated the Jews and the Gentiles.

Ephesians 2:12 (NKJV) 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Paul says two things separated those without Christ from Israel. They were not part of the commonwealth of Israel. This is not an ethnic term it is a political one. They were not part of the political union that made up Israel. More important is the second statement. They were strangers from the covenants of promise. That is what really made the separation. What does this have to do with communion. Come back tomorrow!