LCN Article
Bound to One Another

March / April 2015

Gary F. Ehman

Very soon, baptized members of the Church of God will again be observing the Passover, following Christ’s example and command. In the months, weeks and days leading up to this annual event, true Christians will be examining themselves in preparation for their individual role in this commemoration. They will be reflecting on God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice through which today’s Christians will be able to achieve the marvelous destiny for which God is preparing them as future members of His Family and the Kingdom of God.

Passover wineIt should be obvious to us that the Passover is not a mundane, routine ritual we perform each year. The Passover service is one of the most vital activities in a Christian’s life. With its observance, Christians partake of, and in, the actual unity of God and man. This is a crucial point that we must understand.

Jesus emphasized the immense significance of the Passover observance when He said,  “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:48–51).

His Body and Blood—With Us and in Us

Just what, exactly, was Jesus telling them—and us today—when He said that “if anyone eats” he would not die and would live forever? In one sense, we “feed” on Christ whenever we “consume” God’s word through deep study. But that is not the whole meaning. Jesus was referring to something even more tangible, significant and impactful. He was referring to the coming Passover, which He was going to share with His twelve apostles.

Examine what Scripture tells us actually happened: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (Matthew 26:26–28).

Jesus established a memorial, the Christian Passover, in which we consume bread and wine that represent His body and blood, given for all who would receive salvation. The gospel of Luke brings more clarity to the event: “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.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you’” (Luke 22:19–20).

The key to all of this is the word “remembrance.” The Greek word is anamnēsis (an-am’-nay-sis) a remembering, a recollection, or a recalling. But why remember? What is it we are to remember? Jesus said we are to remember Him. Christians are to center their lives on Jesus, always keeping focused on Him and on what He did for them.

That is why the Passover is not just symbolic of our feeding on God’s word, but also of having Jesus Christ live His life in us; it reminds us of the Church’s bond—collectively and individually—with Jesus, via the Passover experience. That is also why taking the Passover is a memorial service—a reminder—rather than a renewal of the covenant we made with God at baptism. A covenant with God is forever until broken by either God or us, individually. Jesus clearly tells us of the process: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16–17).  The Passover memorial should spur us to renewed dedication to fulfill our part of the covenant, but from God’s perspective the covenant is unchanged and is sure.

We have been sanctified, and the Holy Spirit is no longer just with us; it is in us. Paul amplifies this in the book of Hebrews: “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12–14).

The Apostle Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthian brethren, focuses on the concept of a memorial, or a remembrance: “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; 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.’ 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’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25).

Again, the word “remembrance” is anamnēsis, a remembering, a recollection or a recalling. So we associate the eating and drinking, the bread and the wine with the reality of Jesus’ human life, His sacrifice for the sins of mankind and His presence in us individually and collectively through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

One Bread, One Body

Passover breadWhy is this important for us to understand? Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (v. 26). Those preparing to keep the Passover need to think deeply about this, because taking part in the Passover will place Christians in a very visible position, as noted in verse 26. A true Christian, in taking the Passover, openly “proclaims” the entire process of Jesus’ sacrifice—the starting point for establishing the coming Kingdom of God.

“Proclaim,” kataggellō(kat-ang-gel’-lo), means to proclaim publically, or to publish. We tell the world with our support of preaching of the gospel—showing ourselves to be true Christians—and demonstrate it by our daily lives of overcoming, worshiping God the Father and Jesus Christ. We proclaim this in observing the Christian Passover.

Some of the Christians in Corinth were misunderstanding the meaning of the Passover. They were struggling against the pulls of the pagan society in which they had reveled before their conversion. In their former free-swinging lives, they were self-centered, thinking only of the pleasures they could achieve through worship of their gods and goddesses. Corinth was a totally corrupt, pagan society given over to vile, hedonistic religious practices.

In response, Paul found it necessary to rebuke them for falling back into self-centered practices (1 Corinthians 11:20–22). The Corinthians had been corrupting the message of Christ’s Passover: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17).

This is crucially important to us, as we view keeping the Christian Passover. We eat and drink the Passover as one body, partaking of that one body, Jesus—and in doing so we become one through Him. The word “communion” in the Greek is koinōnia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah) meaning fellowship, or partnership, but from a participatory point of view. We participate in the blood and body of Jesus by eating and drinking the symbols at the Passover.

Paul gave a similar admonition to the Philippian brethren: “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:1–2).

The apostle continues this concept, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). The word “fellowship” is also koinōnia. Overall, the contextual meaning is participation, with overtones of partnership.

Paul gives this further weight using the word “conformed” summorphoō (soom-mor-fo’-o), meaning to assimilate, to receive the same form—in this case, in regard to His death. Paul makes this clear when he writes: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:3–5).

Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians, which also applies to us today, that we all partake of that one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17), is key to what Christians will be doing the night of the Passover. We all partake of that one bread. The word “partake” is metechō (met-ekh’-o), meaning not only to partake of, but implying that partaking means to belong to. When we eat that bread together, we are connected not only to the bread, representing Jesus Christ; we are connected to one another. We truly become one through partaking of the Passover.

This should provide a clearer understanding of what it means for Jesus to be the Christian’s focal point through taking the Passover: “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:55–56). Jesus is central. He is the Passover Lamb. In the Old Testament observance, the Passover lamb was eaten and there was a unity for the Israelites; they all did the same thing at the same time. Interestingly, they eventually became disunited when they began to keep the Passover on the wrong day, Nisan 15, rather than the scripturally enjoined Nisan 14.

Bound to One Another

How important is all of this eating and drinking, oneness and unity? The answer is made clear by the key words Jesus linked to the upcoming Passover service in John’s gospel. To eat of it one would “not die” (John 6:50); one would “live forever” (v. 51); unless you eat there would be “no life in you” (v. 53); by eating and drinking of the body and blood, one would have “eternal life”—through the resurrection (v. 54); if you feed on Him you “will live” (v. 57); and again, to eat, one will “live forever” (v. 58). Is this enough to get our attention?

While the Passover certainly zeroes in on Jesus and His sacrifice as the keystone to salvation, there is another extremely important concept He was attempting to convey to the disciples—and us today—when He established it. This concept is centered in words He used often, and which He inspired His writers to incorporate into Scripture. It lies at the heart of why we take the Passover and why God wants us to memorialize Christ’s sacrifice each year.

Jesus, regarding His disciples, used the term “one another” numerous times. The two words are first linked in the New Testament in the gospel of John, and significantly in John 13:14: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” The Greek phrasing for “one another’s” is allēlōn (al-lay’-lone), literally each other’s, meaning to wash anyone’s feet regardless of who they are. This combination is used about 39 times throughout the New Testament, and in the vast majority of instances it refers to a relationship of love and service among Christians.

Jesus uses the term in various ways, comparatively and as a direct command to the Christian: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). This was an extremely important issue with Jesus: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:12–14). He further emphasizes it in verse 17: “These things I command you, that you love one another.”

This theme, under inspiration, was picked up by the Apostles: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10); “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13); “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22); “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11).

The Prayer for One and All

No other place in the Bible makes this point of love, unity and sacrifice come alive more poignantly than it does in Jesus’ prayer for us. His words need to be in the center of our thoughts as we contemplate the wonderful Passover service just ahead: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:9–11).

We are kept in the name of God—the Church of God. By keeping the Passover, as commanded, we are brought into remembrance of who we are, and why. It is Jesus who prayed for that recognition; it is Jesus who expects us to remember what He prayed for: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (vv. 20–23).

Because we do this in remembrance, each and every Passover, we know the truth. We are set free from ignorance to fulfill the Apostle Peter’s expectation: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2–4).

To Remind and Share

God the Father wants us to share—to be “partakers” with Him in eternity as His very sons and daughters. He provides the wonderful opportunity for us to experience this relationship in a limited, physical way—fellowshipping, partnering, participating—and partaking of Jesus Christ through the bread and wine of the Christian Passover.