Some of God's people have at times described the Supper as a "carnal" affair, whereas John calls it Lordly. The same Greek word is found only at Rev. 1:10, where John "came to be in spirit in the Lordly Day." Here the Rheims version (1582) reads, "I was in spirit on the Dominical day." Here we find the Latin equivalent of the word Lordly.
Most of the modern English versions read simply "The Lord's Supper." A few, however, bring in slight differences. The New World version has "the Lord's evening meal." Phillips reads "the Lord's Supper," while Moffatt has "the 'Lord's' supper." Fenton's paraphrase has "a supper dedicated to the Lord." Rotherham reads, "it is not to eat a supper unto the Lord," but his first edition of 1872 has "it is not to eat a Lord's supper." Wakefield is much the same, while Cunnington reads, "there is no eating a Lord's supper.'" The Latin Vulgate has Dominicam coenam, meaning a Lordly Dinner.
May I make it clear that the Supper is evidently compensation to the Church of God, for the lack of the Lord's visible presence, "until He come"? The Supper supplies the link between the Lord's two comings. It is the monument of the one, but also the sure pledge of the other. See also the link in Luke 22:16-18.
Most probably the chief reason why many ignore the Supper is simply that they either do not understand it, or get no spiritual benefit from it. The Supper requires a high degree of real spirituality, and real faith in the Presence of Christ. Where two or three are gathered together (voluntarily; Middle Voice) into My (own; emon, not mou) Name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20). So it ought to be during the Supper. We should be as conscious of the Lord's holy Presence as were the disciples at the Last Supper. Just as when two areas of high pressure, or anticyclones, sometimes merge into a larger area, so I think that the divine ecstacy reached by the saint in the spiritual experience of the "out-resurrection" during the present life from among spiritually dead persons (Phil. 3:11; see The Differentiator, August, 1955), would merge easily with the spiritual experience of the Lordly Supper. They have much in common.
In verse 25 we ought to read, literally, "Go on doing this, whensoever you may be drinking, for My personal recollection." This remembrance of the Lord presupposes His absence in body for some considerable time in the future. The Lord had carried on the work which His Father had given Him to do, in His own physical body, on earth. To carry out the Lord's further purposes for at least nineteen hundred years there was brought into being another Body, the Body of Christ, the Church of God.
As the Critical English Testament puts it, "Whatever we seem to lose by Christ's departure, that is made up to us by the Lord's Supper as a kind of equivalent."
Most probably the true reason why the Supper is not understood is that it is much too spiritual for most people to grasp in the real fulness of its meaning. Its merely formal repetition, too, in some cases week after week, and often in the forenoon, not in the evening, consisting only of a bite of bread and a sip of wine, is enough to dim the whole meaning of the Supper. And generally, where the object of the Supper is not understood, the 'worshippers' make up for their ignorance by making the occasion like a dress parade, in their best Sunday clothes. This provides for them a feeling of having done the right thing. They acquire the feeling of respectability, and that, with many of them, is reckoned to them for righteousness.
Another method of making the Supper more attractive to those who understanding it not, is to dress up the homely rite of the Supper in the state robes of elaborate ceremonial, with the result that the spiritual benefit of the Supper is all but stifled.
The Supper is entirely unintelligible without a real faith in a risen Saviour. It is not simply a memorial of His death, but of His death conquered by life. Remembrance of the Lord leads one directly into fellowship with Him, and is not fellowship with Him the true cause and source of positive holiness? Sometimes in human life the fellowship of a real friend can produce in another something which comes very close to holiness. I have known that experience myself. Real fellowship with the Lord, however, can never fail to produce genuine holiness in His people.
Many theologians have maintained that the words, "this do in remembrance of Me" merely enjoin upon believers that when they partake of the Supper, they ought to reflect on Him, thinking over what He was on earth, what He is to them now, and what He will be to them in the future. If this is done
deliberately and devoutly, they will have the Lord present in their minds, much as they might have any other object whereon they concentrated their thoughts, and thus they would exhibit a certain affection towards Him. This is essentially the Unitarian position. Yet this process could be carried through quite apart from the Supper. One Unitarian writer put it this way: The Supper "is too much connected with the sacrifice or death of Christ on Calvary, and with some theory of the way of salvation through His atoning blood; and yet, singularly enough, the Master Himself appeared to have nothing in His mind but a loving brother's desire to leave behind Him some pathetic memorial of a communion that was passing away, but only to receive the consecration of the heavenly world." Even ministers of the Church of England have taught this. All this however, is painfully superficial
and worthless. The Master did have much in His mind. The remembrance of Him must be associated with the practical element of imitation. We cannot remember Him properly unless we aim at a spiritual reproduction of the Supper as it came from His own hands. We must imitate His own words. and His own actions.
Isaiah 20:3 provides another example of an acted parable, where Isaiah walked disrobed and barefoot for three years, as a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia.
One of the best examples is to be found in the washing of the feet of the disciples by the Lord, before the last Supper. Thus to carry through such an action is very much more effective than merely telling them to wash one another's feet.. The Lord asked them, "Are you getting to know what I have been doing to you?" (John 13:12). He did something to them, to teach them. And so it is in the Supper, He did something to them, and told them, "Be doing this," or rather, "Go on doing this" (1. Cor. 11:25). Twice did the Lord say this, first of the breaking of the bread, then of the cup, and in both cases it was to be done "for My own recollection."
Dr. Forsyth has many very original things to say of the Supper :
"Many Churches have come to idolise the gifts of the preacher more than the gift of grace. And they frequent and pamper the man of temperament till he may come to be more full of his egoism and his quality than of the message he has to give, which indeed may wear thin. Now it is here that the Sacrament may come as a corrective."
"Let us get rid of the idea which has impoverished worship beyond measure, that the act is mainly commemoration. No Church can live on that. How can we have a mere memorial of One who is still alive, still our life, still present with us and acting in us? Symbol is a better word than memorial. Only that the modern sense of the word symbol differs from the ancient, and differs for the poorer and not the richer. The modern symbol is but aesthetic and not energetic. It shows us, it does not act on us. The ring does not marry, it only means marriage." Again, "It is quite inadequate to speak of the Sacrament as an object-lesson—as if its purpose were to convey new truth instead of the living Redeemer. It is not an hour of instruction but of communion. It is an act, not a lesson; and it is not a spectacle nor a ceremony. It does something. It is an opus operatum. More, it is an act of the Church more than of the individual. . . . . . It is Christ's act offering Himself to men rather than the act of the Church offering Christ to God." Further on he says: "It is our moral response to the Cross, and not our qualification. . . . . As a moral act, it creates moral action in response."
"Such symbolism did not lie in the elements but in the action, the entire action—word and deed. It lay in action first on Christ's part, then on the part of the Church. It Was the action that was symbolical, the breaking rather than. the bread, the outpouring rather than the wine. 'This' is not this object but this act. Remove the comma after' body.' 'This is My body broken.' 'This thing I now do means the breaking of My body soon, which means the.surrender of My person.' So with the cup. It is the action, the outpouring of the cup, that is meant, more than its contents. 'This is My blood shed.' Else how could it be called a covenant, which is a mutual act? 'This My outpouring, and your partaking, of the cup (of my life) is God's new covenant with you.'"
The statement, "This is My body broken for you" is to be thus explained: Firstly, "This broken bread represents My 'body as broken, not as substantial; not in the substance, but in the act of being broken for you." Secondly: the essential thing was not His body but His will's act of devoting it to be broken. That is to say, "This visible breaking which I now do represents the spiritual breaking and passion which I always inwardly suffer, now begin outwardly to do, and shortly shall complete. This act of breaking and dispensing bread shows outwardly what I now inly begin to finish with God; and I here consign that and its value to you as your very own salvation."
"Many Churches have come to idolise the gifts of the preacher more than the gift of grace. And they frequent and pamper the man of temperament till he may come to be more full of his egoism and his quality than of the message he has to give, which indeed may wear thin. Now it is here that the Sacrament may come as a corrective."
This breaking of bread represents the breaking of the Lord's body and will. Before giving Himself to God, He was, in the Supper, giving Himself in advance to the disciples. "Your act of eating represents the way you must assimilate and live on Me crucified and given to God. This bread, broken and eaten, represents the giving and the partaking of My person, which comes acutely, passionately, tragically to a head in the pouring of My blood, that I may be in you as the active life and kindling Redeemer."
It must be evident that in the Supper the Lord created a tremendous impression on His disciples, something which He could not have done after His resurrection. The solemnity of Communion lies in the fact that it is a symbolic act on our part created by the indwelling presence of Christ.
According to the 24th of Exodus Moses sprinkled half the blood on the altar, and half upon the people, saying, "Behold the blood of the Covenant which Jehovah contracts with you concerning all these words." This, however, is not by any means the full meaning. The little Hebrew preposition meaning "with" (im) possess rather the signification of "fellowship and companionship" according to the Oxford Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon, also "in conjunction with," Or joint action, "together with," as in the name Immanuel, "together with us—God."
Thus Jehovah contracted a Covenant of fellowship and companionship with Israel but very few in Israel ever enjoyed
that holy fellowship. Through that shed and sprinkled blood Israel of old was assured of Jehovah's favour and
communion. Somewhat similarly, the Lord's blood instituted a New Covenant between men and God, bringing them into close fellowship with God's life. No doubt during
the Supper the Lord had in mind such passages as Exodus 24, Isaiah 53, and Jeremiah 31:31-34. Here is my translation of the last named passage:—
"The soul-life of all flesh is the blood thereof" (Lev. 17:14). Blood was not to be drunk by human beings. Yet the Lord enjoined the symbolic drinking of His blood. This is wonderfully appropriate to His deep spiritual meaning. When the Nation's external relationship with Jehovah was commenced, there was a sprinkling of blood on the people from outside. But the Lord Jesus instituted a deeply spiritual and inward relationship with God, in the drinking by His disciples and His Church of the symbol of His blood. The New Covenant comes into being through the Cross.
Just as Exodus 24 brought Israel into a new common and shared life with Jehovah, so the Lord intended His disciples to be sharers in His life, in a manner which Israel of old could not do.
In the Scriptures most of the occurrences of "the blood" of Christ contain the thought of new life in Him. Sacrificial blood always held the idea of its special sacredness, because it typifies or contains soul-life. Though the New Covenant is a Covenant of life, it was instituted by His death. Though its original mention in Jeremiah refers in the first place to Israel, its benefits in that day will undoubtedly flow through Israel to the Gentiles, after the Covenant has been concluded with and upon Israel. Why then, as the Supper was to continue until the Lord comes, should not we Gentiles to-day find great satisfaction and even ecstasy in partaking, in a societary manner, of the Supper, and obtaining the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant in the Lord's blood? Did He not die for all His people? As Major Withers puts it in his book on "The New Covenant" (1942: 149 pages), "the Lord's Supper is an interim memorial for the period during which the conclusion of the New Covenant is necessarily impossible." This is the book which ought to be read and studied by our ultradispensationalist friends and others, who decline to partake of the Supper. The Supper was a societary meal, intended to bind the Lord's people together and unite them. Anyone can see the deep need of unity. If to "eat salt" together induces peace and friendship, assuredly God's saints would be welded firmly together did they partake together of the Supper, and in union and in unity remember the Lord's death and vocably announce it. The result of this would be very different from what is found in the established Churches, where the partakers of the Supper have little or no real interest in each other. If they have little or no communion with each other, how can they claim communion with the Lord? Such people are eating and drinking unworthily, as they are not discriminating or shewing a proper sense of the Body. As one wrote, "No topic was so much insisted on by Jesus at the table, as the relations of the disciples to one another." Spiritual instinct ought to teach everyone of us that we are all one with each other in the Body,even though we may differ much in our opinions, naturally. The Lord was one with all His people, and the Supper is intended to produce unity among His saints. The Supper can be partaken of in such a manner as it does create that unity, with the Lord, and with His people. And yet there are some who say the Supper is "Jewish," or "undispensational." Such people, alas, are not honouring the Body of Christ.
In future chapters, I must essay to deal with some other matters in connection with the Supper: Did Paul get a revelation direct from the Lord, or from the Apostles? Does John's Gospel omit the account of the Supper because his record was intended rather for Gentiles to read? Is there another construction which might be placed upon the word for "remembrance" in 1. Cor. 11:24? Was Paul's account of the Supper the oldest, and does Luke's account depend upon Paul's?
Were I to argue that because there is no mention of "The Mystery" in the Philippian Epistle, therefore "The Mystery" did not apply in any way to the Philippians, I would be called a simpleton and a fool.
It is well known, too, that the Corinthians were overfond of "spirits," and Paul's aim was to wean them gradually from this tendency, to that more excellent way of 1. Cor. 12:31. They were to give up their minorhood in time and reach manhood.
Surely, for anyone who belongs to the Lord to suggest that the Lordly Supper is associated with minorhood is a sheer insult. Moreover for anyone to claim that the Supper ceased at (the date of) the close of Acts 28 reveals a great ignorance of history, as the Supper has never ceased yet: Are we now expected to assert that 1. Cor. 11:26 was a mistake, that the Lord's death was not to be announced "till He should be coming"?
The attempt to set the Gentile Corinthians in the same boat with Hebrew believers has dismally failed. It is not true that "In the Epistles after Acts 28 we have all that is necessary for our guidance, comfort and teaching." The ultradispensationalists have drawn largely on the Romans Epistle, while every believer's knowledge is grossly incomplete without an understanding of 1. Cor. 15.
Did Paul, then, receive a special revelation concerning the Lordly Supper, which was to be effective for a mere matter of about ten years? Such an idea would be preposterous.
The fact that there is not "the faintest allusion" to the Supper in the Epistles written after the date of Acts 28 proves nothing. It was sufficient that Paul wrote to the Corinthians in regard to the Supper. Can it possibly be that anyone insinuates that the glorious truths contained in 1. Cor. 15 were withheld from the churches at Philippi, Laodicea, Galatia, Colosse, etc.? Were the various members of the Body of Christ fed with different bits of Paul's teaching? Did not the entire Church feed on the same spiritual food?
Professor Lumby, in "The Acts of the Apostles," and the Rev. James Heron in "The Church of the Sub-apostolic Age" long ago proved that although nothing is stated by Luke or Paul concerning the appointment of Church officers at Thessalonica, Philippi or Corinth, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians telling them to be aware of those toiling among them and presiding over them (1. Thess. 5:12). PhiL 1:1 also mentions "supervisors and servants" (episkopos and diakonos), although nothing is said about their appointment. Nor does Luke or Paul say a word about any organized ministry at Corinth. Yet Paul had ministered to this large and important Church for a year and a half, and it is inconceivable that he left it unorganized and without any kind of government. The Corinthians certainly needed good leaders to keep them in order. Nor is it stated that elders had been appointed at Ephesus. Yet Acts 20:17, 28 reveals that Paul sent to Ephesus for "the elders of the Church," who were also supervisors.
The two above named writers stress that Acts gives a description of the beginnings of Christianity. "Through the whole of what is related concerning the labours of the apostle, we learn only of the founding of Churches and societies, and of the initial steps of the Christian work in the places which he visited." About office-bearers we learn afterwards in an incidental way.
It was imperative that Paul should pass copies of his Epistles around all the Churches in which he was interested. He wished all men and women in the Body of Christ to obtain all the Truth. But he did not require to write all Truth to each single Church. Those who received the "Ephesian" Epistle must have perused what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, and so on. If Paul wrote that the Colossians were to peruse the Epistle from Laodicea, could he not have told other Churches by word of mouth to peruse Epistles they had not yet seen?
The Corinthians were evidently not spiritual enough to observe the Lordly Supper in a befitting manner. But the Thessalonians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians were evidently very spirituaL In any case, we know from history that the Supper continued to be celebrated for a very long time after the Apostles passed away.
Godet, in his "Gospel Collection and St. Matthew," declares that the whole Gospel of John, from beginning to end, supposes in its readers the knowledge of the synoptic narrative. Dr. Ryder Smith, dealing with the 6th of John, has an interesting point, concerning "the curious way in which John expounds teaching already adumbrated in the Synoptics at a different point in the story."
Although the 6th of John does not refer directly to the Lord's Supper, it is quite impossible to read it without connecting it with the Supper. When the Lord came to know that He must die, and how He was to die, He must have come to know that He would require to leave His disciples, and how He would leave them.
Moreover, it is very likely that John's Gospel was eagerly read by many of the Gentiles to whom Paul's Epistles were addressed. In fact, the spiritual import of John 6:35-58 is as true for us today as it was then for Israelites.
John did not feel it incumbent on him to detail later on in his Gospel the facts concerning the institution of the Lordly Supper. He was not one of the Synoptics. His account was evidently supplementary to the other accounts, and devoted to presenting those higher spiritual relations in which the Lord moved. In such a composition a minute narrative of the Supper was not called for. A careful perusal of John's Gospel will shew that the writer must have been deeply influenced by all the ideas and principles embodied in the Supper. John reveals himself in the character of a devout participant of the Supper, even though he does not actually name it. This is specially shewn in chapter 6, where the bread is mentioned twenty-one times. Drinking His blood is mentioned four times and His flesh six times. Only John records this Capernaum discourse. Perhaps that was because John understood the talk at the time, while the others did not.<P> Sometimes it has been complained that the New Testament takes very little notice of the Supper. Yet Paul only records the truth of 1. Cor. 15:20-28 once, and who claims that this truth only applied to a bygone "dispensation"? The account of the "Creation" and restoration in Genesis 1. is nowhere repeated in Scripture. Would the account be any more true did it appear a few times?
It has even been suggested that John's Epistles, as well as his whole Gospel, are really "a mirror in which all the varied aspects of the Supper are reflected."
In John 6 the Lord expresses in words the great mystery of our complete union with Him. In the institution of the Supper He expresses exactly the same thing by means of an action. In the one case He uses a metaphor, in the other an emblem.
"Of all the Gospels, the one written by John is the one which seems to approach nearer to the truth for the present time than the rest." No doubt there is truth in this. John 3:16 takes in all mankind, in the expression, "God so loves the world." But another statement, " Is it not striking that the Lord's Supper, so fully described and enjoined in Matthew, the kingdom Gospel, is omitted by John who above all should have taught it if he had a message for believers today," is not so true. There are many writers who prefer to be independent, and to express their thoughts differently from others, avoiding plagiarism like the plague. There was neither need nor occasion for John to confirm what others had written. He preferred to supplement their matter.
But in any case, John did not inform his Gentile readers that the Supper was not for them, or that it was out of date, or about to be out of date.
"The 'Gifts' and the Lord's Supper ceased at the close of Acts 28; we search in vain for the faintest allusion to the ordinance in the Epistles written after Acts 28." That being so, the Lord must have come about the time of Acts 28. The idea that the truth of 1. Cor. 11:26 (till He come) may be set aside by a later revelation divulged only four or five years after, and by a man who apparently already knew" the secrets all" (1. Cor. 13:2), becomes well nigh ridiculous and almost blasphemous. That the Lord's death was to go on being announced for such a paltry time seems most trivial.
Paul knew that certain gifts would come to nothing, apparently soon (1. Cor. 13:8-11). Is it likely that he was unaware of the reasons? Did he not know what was to take their place? According to 1. Cor. 2:6-7 he was talking (not writing) wisdom among the mature ones, that is, God's wisdom in a secret (or, in mystery), which wisdom had been concealed, and which God designated before the Ages for our glory. Only four times do we read of a secret hid from the Ages, and always concerning the Body of Christ, not Israel: Romans 16:25; 1. Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:9 and Col. 1:26-27. He would be a very bold person who maintained that 1. Cor. 2:7 was, part of what is called "Kingdom teaching," because by about the year 58 A.D. Israel had virtually been cast aside, according to Romans 9:29-33; 10:1-4, 20-21; 11:1, 5, 7-12, 15 (especially), 25, 26, 32. The argument was that "the Epistles of Paul written after Acts 28 contain a complete system of doctrine and instruction for the Church of the present dispensation. Where anything that obtained under the previous dispensation was to be repeated, we are told so." Yet the same bold authority claims that the Romans Epistle was written four years prior to the date of Acts 28. Was the very important teaching of Romans reproduced after the date of Acts 28?
Reverting to 1. Cor. 11:26, it must surely be a very sound rule that no divine prophecy can be superseded until it is fulfilled. The idea that God could utter a prophecy to His people and later withdraw it or supersede it must fill one with horror. The divine principle is clearly stated in cases like Matt. 5:18, "Till the heaven and the earth should be passing by, one iota or one serif may by no means be passing by from the Law till all should be occurring." One is not permitted to add hereto the words "unless God changes His mind." The same is true of Acts 2:35 concerning enemies being made a footstool. Rev. 2:25 is another case, "Moreover, what you have, hold until I should be arriving." There cannot be dubiety about the coming of the Lord. Any dubiety is concerning the time. The same is true of 1. Cor. 11 : 26. Paul never required to correct any statement which he put in writing for the saints.
Dr. Bullinger was partly in the wrong regarding the little Greek particle (an) when he wrote that it introduces an element of uncertainty, implies a condition and makes the whole clause hypothetical (Things to Come, April, 1912). It can imply a condition. All the uncertainty is concerning the time. 1. Cor. 11:26 is dependent upon no contingency. Acts 28:28 cannot render 1. Cor. 11:26 or the Supper out of date. God never requires to apologise for a blunder.
I once read of a peculiar contrast made between the Corinthians and the Ephesians. The former were mere "babes," but the latter were mature. The Corinthians were very immature, while the Ephesians had not been mere babes grown up to maturity. Therefore the hope and the calling of these two ecclesias was entirely different. The Corinthians were to find their future on the earth, while the Ephesians were to inhabit the superheavenlies.
One strange feature is that Paul had spent eighteen months among the Corinthians, and very soon after he spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 18 and 19), yet we are told that he taught both of these ecclesias very different truths, and that some years prior to the date of Acts 28.
Must we assume that the Corinthians remained babes all their days? Were the Ephesians always mature, right from the very day when they became believers? Can it be true that the Ephesians were never taught the wondrous truth of 1. Cor. 15:20-28, while the babes of Corinth knew this? There are today many ultradispensational "babes" who have not yet grasped the fact contained in this passage. Does that mean that they are thereby excluded from heaven? Was Paul's great desire not to teach the various ecclesias all he knew? How does anyone know that the Corinthians did not arrive at the same standard of truth which was later sent to the "Ephesian" ecclesia? Were we ourselves not at one time very immature believers? Are we not always learning? Because we go on ever learning from the Scriptures, will our destiny ever go on becoming one higher and higher?
Verse 2 of First Corinthians places on one level all saints who were hallowed in Christ Jesus. Paul and Sosthenes, write to "the ecclesia of God which exists in Corinth, to ones hallowed in Christ Jesus, saints called together with all who invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every placetheirs as well as ours." This is how Prof. Godet explains the verse. There was only one calling of hallowed saints in Christ Jesus. The Ephesians were in the same calling as the Corinthians, both before the date of Acts 28 and after it.
Even at Ephesus the disciples spoke at one time in tongues and prophesied, but in the Epistle to the Ephesians there is none of this.
We may be sure that there was no "Snobbishness among Saints" who received the "Ephesian" Epistle. They did not, and could not, reckon themselves as in any way better or more advanced than the Corinthians. Nor was the hope of the Corinthians the same as that of Israel, because Paul states most clearly in 1. Cor. 15:49 that the Corinthians would wear the image of the celestial. No ordinary Jew would ever have dared to make such a claim.
The Corinthian Epistles clearly prove that the Supper is for us today.
Is there no remedy for this shameful condition? Has God given us no powerful antidote? Are the Scriptures incapable of shewing us what has gone wrong, or pointing to the remedy?
In the glorious Palingenesia to come, when God becomes all things in everybody, when all the deficiencies of the race of Mankind are banished by means of God's Fulness taking complete possession of them, we shall observe Perfect Love. At present it is utterly impossible for us to conceive such a state. A society or a Homeland wherein there exists pure and perfect and positive love is something altogether beyond our thinking powers. Even now in a single family we never see Love in its perfection.
Sometimes we seek to overcome our deficiencies by saying or pretending that we love someone, when there is no real or positive love at all. There is the feeling, that we ought to possess that love, so we assume or pretend that we have it.
There was a very special reason why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding the Lordly Supper. There was among them a great lack of brotherly love and even of good manners. In truth, Paul had to devote a whole chapter to teaching them what real Love was. Besides, there existed among them too much jealousy and strife, a sure sign of lack of love. Pride made some follow Paul, while others followed Apollos (1. Cor. 3:3-4).
Paul was a magician in the gentle art of setting people right without hurting them. He could both read their hearts and reach their hearts. All his epistles must have made a profound effect on the Churches to which he wrote, especially his epistles to the Corinthians.
While most of the believers who received the Gospel under Paul's teaching understood that the God who had raised His Son from the dead was also pledged to raise them, there were some Greeks in the Corinthian Church who were too much preoccupied with the idea of the flesh and blood in which the Lord died so that He might bestow on His own people the gift of imperishability. It was a peculiarity of these Greeks that they hankered after a theory which would explain how the perishable flesh could come to share immortality (1. Cor. 15:35). Resurrection was to many of them just as staggering and amazing as it is to everyone of us today.
Some who tended towards mysticism saw in the bread and wine of the Supper, understood mystically, proof that the body could be transmuted somehow by sharing in the glorified flesh of the Lord. We must recognize that the central doctrine in Greek Theology came to be that God gave man immortality in the Incarnation, and through the union of the Divine Logos or Word with human nature, that nature had been deified. As Athanasius puts it, " He became man that we might be made divine." (We know, of course, that in the O.T. He was seen as Man occasionally, but became flesh permanently later). The seeds of these ideas existed in the Corinthian Church and this was one reason why Paul wrote 1. Cor. 11:20-34 to this particular Church for their guidance. Another powerful reason was their lack of love and unity.
If anyone is so narrow-minded as to think that the contents of the Corinthian epistles were never deliberately divulged by Paul, either in writing or by word of mouth, to all the other assemblies with whom he was in touch, for their own benefit and learning, I would ask how the following passages can be true statements in Holy Writ.
Acts 20:27: Paul told the elders of the Ephesian Church that he had not shrunk from declaring to them the entire counsel of God. This would be in the year 57 probably, and yet, only three years before, when Paul arrived at Ephesus, he found only about a dozen disciples, who did not even know what "holy spirit" was. They knew only the baptism of John, and after Paul had baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus, they talked in tongues and prophesied. Certainly, in the year 54, these twelve men were not aware of all the counsel of God.
Romans 16:25-27: Here we read of a secret being revealed, and being made known to all the Gentiles for faith obedience; not merely to the Roman saints.
1. Cor. 1:2: We revert to this verse (see page 117, June issue) because its importance has not been sufficiently recognized. Paul's message was not merely to the Corinthians, but to "all who invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in every place, theirs as well as ours." Therefore says Principal Edwards of Aberystwyth, "He thus connects the Corinthian Christians with the universal Church, to excite in them a lively realization of their oneness with all believers." There was only one calling of hallowed saints in Christ Jesus.
Eph.4:11-16: Paul's great aim was to bring all the saints into the unity of the faith and of the fuller knowledge of the Son of God, unto a mature manhood, that they should no longer be minors. The saints of verse 12 cannot be confined merely to the Church of Ephesus. Paul intended the Corinthian "babes" to attain to mature manhood just as much as the Ephesians. The whole Body of Christ was to be built up.
Co1. 4:12: Epaphras was always struggling in prayers that the Colossians might be made to stand mature and fully assured in everything willed by God. These hallowed saints were in the same calling as the Corinthian saints, whom God willed to observe the Supper.
It is manifest that Paul wrote his epistles with a view to meeting the special needs of the various Churches. This was notably so in the epistles to the Corinthians.
In our June issue, at page 116, lower half, I had mentioned the above Corinthian "babes," but the man who had contrasted them unfavourably with the Ephesians saints was very annoyed by my statement. So he wrote me that "It is quite evident that you do not belong to the chosen people of today (Eph. 1:4). But why try to keep others from entering? So did the Pharisees with the kingdom (Matt. 23:13). It could be that you are a christian, but if so, numbered among the other sheep (John 10). It would be the proper and Christ-like thing not to meddle with those of another family of God." It is quite evident that this saint does not believe that all believers are one in Christ Jesus. However, I replied to him in a humorous mood, and thanked him for graciously admitting that I might, after all, be a christian. I felt very sorry for him, and wish he could see the important place of the Lordly Supper as a bond of union between all believers, instead of making so much of Acts 28:28. Obviously he belongs to the chosen, and knows it, which permits him to look down on "the other sheep." Yet for well nigh fifty years I have observed this tendency in many of those who see no need to partake of the Supper, because they think themselves superior to those who do.
Yet even today do not the members of the Body of Christ possess this gift, or at least have the right to obtain it? Whereas long ago in Israel the Prophets became at times possessed of Jehovah's Spirit, now all those who belong to Christ may have His Spirit always, because they are God's present people.
'When the New Covenant with Israel comes into operation, there can be no doubt that its effect upon the Gentiles then !living will be profound. It could not be otherwise. Paul says as much as this in Romans 11:12.
Something similar to this is God's Covenant with Abraham. The Gentiles had no part in making this Covenant~ except that Abraham was a Gentile, and yet the Gentiles are beneficiaries under this Covenant. God's purpose was to bless the chosen nation, and through them all the Gentiles. To aver that we Gentile believers have no part in any Covenant (except the Rainbow Covenant) is false. It is so easy to overlook Eph. 2: 11-12, which I shall render as follows:
"Wherefore, be remembering that once you, the Gentiles (neuter) in flesh, who are (persons, masculine) being termed "Uncircumcision," in flesh, made by hands—that as to that era you were apart from Christ, having been alienate from the citizenship, of Israel and stranger-guests of the Covenants of the promise...."
The Abrahamic Covenant did not entirely exclude all Gentiles. These stranger-guests had some rights and blessings, though nothing like the blessings which Israelites had. Probably in the Millennium the Gentile nations will again be strangerguests, but with higher blessings than of old.
As however, the New Covenant could not come into operation in the time of Paul, God was quite free to introduce the Lordly Supper for the period" until He comes," not only as a memorial of the Lord and a shewing forth (or rehearsal, as Rutherford calls it) of His death, but also as proof of His resurrection. Had He not risen from the dead, the Supper, Continued for nineteen hundred years since His death, would be altogether unaccountable. In addition, there can be no doubt that the Supper was intended to be a powerful spiritual blessing, of a nature very similar to that marvellous numinous experience which we may undergo, called the Out-Resurrection of Phil. 3:11, which, in turn, is closely related to the experience mentioned in Col. 3:1.
Thus, by means of these spiritual blessings, all believers among both Gentiles and Jews may now obtain foretastes of the future life, here and now on earth. There are beneficent compensations which our God has graciously provided for us, so that we may not be unduly depressed or overcome by conditions on earth, which, to some sensitive people, are well nigh intolerable. As Godet puts it, "Paul means that the Holy Supper is the Church's compensation for the visible presence of Christ. It is, so to speak, the link between His two comings; the monument of the one, the pledge of the other."
At 1. Cor. 11:25 Paul explains the connection between the Supper and the New Covenant. Literally rendered we read:
"This cup the New Covenant is, in My (personal; emO) blood. Go on doing this, whensoever you may be drinking, for My (personal; emEn) recollection."
Just in case you may think that the Supper was really the Passover feast, it must be explained that the word "whensoever" (Gk. hosakis ean) cannot possibly mean "annually," because at Rev. 11:6 we have the same expression: "to smite the earth with every calamity whensoever they should wish." This could not mean "once a year." Godet says of "this very indefinite expression," meaning, "every time it shall happen that," it shews that henceforth this ceremony will no longer be bound to a fixed day of the year, but that it is put at the discretion of the Church. "Again we see in this how important it was for Paul's apostleship that he should possess an independent and original acquaintance with the mode in which this ceremony was instituted." He also
In using the word "members" of the New Covenant, Godet evidently implied that there was some connection between the Supper and the Covenant. In fact, he has already said so. He could not have meant that they were members of the future Nation of Israel.
As the Corinthians, and, presumably the Thessalonians, having their part in the event of 1. Thess. 4:16-17; and the Corinthians at least, and presumably the Thessalonians, being, according to 1. Cor. 12:27 and 12:12-13, "Christ's Body" (sOma Christou)—how could Christ's Body, made up of many Gentiles along with some Jews, have any part or lot in Israel's still future New Covenant, including the inscribing of Jehovah's Laws upon their hearts?
It is extremely likely that some of the secrets mentioned or hinted at in 1. Cor. and Romans (seven times) might have been known privately to a few in Paul's time, and might have referred to the public announcement given in Eph. 3:1-6. I have long maintained that any well informed Gentile or Jew of those days might have grasped what must happen when Israel was observed to be steadily approaching disaster and banishment. One had only to put two and two together to see that the result must point somewhere in the direction of what we find in Ephesians 3:1-6.
In his booklet on "The New Covenant" Major Withers
Philip Doddridge, D.D., hymn writer and very scrupulous theologian (1702-1751), wrote in his Commentary on the Scriptures, at 1. Cor. 11:23-26, "It is very remarkable that the institution of the Supper should make a part of that immediate revelation with which Christ honoured Paul; and it affords a strong argument for the perpetuity of it in the Church."
In this epistle Paul was dealing with the things of minorhood, and pointing forward to the things of maturity. And it was in view of this coming maturity that the revelation concerning the Supper was specially given. As Paul was writing to all the saints who invoked the Name, in every Place, it is obvious that he intended all the Ecclesias to know and learn what he was writing to the Corinthians, including those at Ephesus, Philippi and Colossae.
How then could one argue that the Supper was one of the features to be done away with, such as prophecies and tongues, especially when it was to continue, throughout maturity, until the Lord comes? Even in the last twenty years of the Acts period it seems that healing miracles no longer occurred. Three items in Acts 28 are presumed to refer to miracles of 'healing. Verses 3 to 6 do not state that Paul was poisoned 'by the viper. The barbarians only feared that he might have been poisoned. Verse 8 mentions a case of illness which might be healed today by suggestion, good advice and sympathy (and Paul was a wonderfully sympathetic being). Verses 9 and 10 shew that other ill people on the island "got a cure for themselves" (Middle Voice). When we consider that Dr. Luke was with Paul at the time, and that most probably he was as careful a doctor as he was a writer of history, it seems quite likely that he effected the cures through his own knowledge. We are under no obligation to believe that miraculous physical cures continued until the date of the close of Acts. Romans 8 is believed to have been penned before that date. Verses 22 and 23 do not lead us to think that wonderful cures were common among God's people when these words were penned. Most believers to-day are still "groaning together and travailing together." It is not denied that God can heal and cure at times. If we admit our ignorance and seek God's guidance about health, He can and will direct us to better ways of living and better ways of feeding.
What then would have been the use of Paul's directing the Corinthians to the coming maturity, if they were never to advance and rise to it, as no doubt the Ephesians would also do?
In the first volume of The Berean Expositor (1909-1911), Mr. C. H. Welch writes as follows:
Elsewhere Mr. Welch writes (in "Tested Truth") as follows:
Our blessing today is something linked to covenant. Paul did not minister or present an actual Covenant, but he ministered the blessings of one. Had there been no Covenant blessings prepared for Israel, there could be no corresponding blessing for us either. The glory mentioned in 2. Cor. 3 was for the Church, not merely for the future Israel.
Not all of the blessings of the New Covenant are ministered to us, for the Hebrew Law is not inscribed on our hearts. To us the cup means, in spirit only, what it will eventually mean to Israel, both in flesh and in spirit. The letter of the New Covenant is not for us, but the spirit of it is. The New Covenant was in Christ's blood, and does not that blood avail for the Body of Christ as much as it does for Israel?
Those who claim that the Supper is not valid today, but that it will come into force again after the Church which is Christ's Body has been removed when the Lord comes, ought first to take a look at 1. Cor. 10:17 and 12:12-13, in both of which the One Body is mentioned. Next, they should take a glance at 1. Cor. 11:26, which lies between the above two texts, and they will find the Lordly Supper. Surely this means that the Supper is for the One Body. As for the coming mentioned in 1. Cor. 11:26, it cannot be different from the coming mentioned in 1. Cor. 4:5, which is evidently the parousia of 1. Thess. 4:16. Yet the statement is very clear, that the Supper was to continue till the Lord comes.
Or did Paul inform the Corinthians that after resurrection they would come under Israel's New Covenant? Does 2. Cor. 3 describe how that would happen, and say they would get the Law written on their hearts? 2. Cor. 3 says something very different. Verse 3 says the Corinthians themselves were a letter of Christ, being ministered by the Apostles, and having been engraved (and still being engraved), not with ink, but with (literally) "Spirit of God Living," not in stone tablets, but in tablets, (in) fleshy heart (tablets). This is where verse 6 comes in, Paul was made a fit or competent minister of" a new covenent, not of letter, but of spirit."
Never does Paul say that the New Covenant was made with the Corinthians, or that they entered into a Covenant. The fantastic idea that there have been, and are now on earth believers belonging to Christ's Body, who will yet come, in resurrection, into and under Israel's New Covenant, in the Millennium, and have the Hebrew Law inscribed on their hearts, besides having the Earth for their future home, must 'surely be the result of extreme narrow-mindedness. The Corinthians were no more excluded from the terms and blessings of Ephesians 3:1-6 than were Paul and ourselves.
A.T. Last updated 10.10.2005