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What the Bible says about Passover Symbols
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 14:17-20

Melchizedek (Christ) offers bread and wine to Abram. Working back from the events of Genesis 15, the understanding of "the selfsame day" of Exodus 12:41 and Christ's institution of the bread and wine during His final Passover, this likely occurred at the beginning of the 14th, perhaps even at twilight.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001

Leviticus 23:5

While the Passover is one of God's appointed times, it is not listed in Scripture as one of the annual Sabbaths. It is a regular day of work—in fact, it is the preparation day for the first day of Unleavened Bread—but the first few hours, the evening portion of the day, is a significant memorial of two great events in God's plan for mankind: the death of the firstborn in Egypt and the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The bulk of the instruction about the Passover is written in Exodus 12, and a great deal of it concerns the Old Testament ritual meal that was eaten on that evening. These details are types that were fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, so the New Testament church is no longer required to slay a lamb, since, as the apostle Paul writes, "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (I Corinthians 5:7).

The New Testament Passover is modeled after the events that occurred during what is commonly known as the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus ate with His disciples just before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Jesus began His instruction that evening with a command to wash one another's feet: "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (see John 13:1-17), and so we do.

The apostle Paul summarizes what happens next:

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." (I Corinthians 11:23-25)

So, to commemorate His sacrifice—His broken body and His shed blood—by which He paid the penalty for human sin and consecrated the New Covenant (see Hebrews 9:11-28), Christians eat a little unleavened bread and drink a small amount of wine. In doing so, they acknowledge His sacrifice and rededicate themselves to their covenant with Him. It is clear from both the Old Testament and New Testament examples that only those who have made the covenant—Christ's disciples—are allowed to partake of the bread and wine, thus only baptized members should participate in this part of the service (see the principle in Exodus 12:43-49; also I Corinthians 11:27-29).

As Christ did after changing the Passover symbols, members of the church then listen to the words of Jesus' discourse to His disciples, which is found in John 13-17. Then, to close the service, they sing a hymn before concluding the solemn service (see Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How Do We Keep God's Festivals?

Mark 14:24

Each year in the spring, when we observe the Passover, we partake of the wine, which symbolizes the shed blood of Jesus Christ. When He instituted this new Passover symbol, He explained it by saying, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many" (Mark 14:24). When we come under the blood of Jesus Christ upon our baptism and acceptance of Him as our Savior, we enter into that New Covenant.

Considering how important the New Covenant is, there are surprisingly few references to it within the New Testament—and even fewer explanations. What references there are—largely in the book of Hebrews—depend heavily on quotations from the Old Testament prophets. In fact, the New Testament teaching of the New Covenant relies entirely on one already having an understanding from reading the prophets. Without those prophecies, we would not understand what we actually enter into.

The New Covenant is mentioned in numerous places (Isaiah 54:9-10; 55:3; 59:20-21; 61:1-11; Jeremiah 32:36-41; 50:4-5; Ezekiel 16:60-63; 20:33-38; 34:23-26; 37:15-28), but perhaps the clearest description—and the one quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12 and 10:16-17—is found in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

David C. Grabbe
Finishing the Week

1 Corinthians 11:25-29

Verse 25 reads, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." It employs a figure of speech in which the word "cup" is a metonymy, meaning that the cup represents what it contains: literally wine. The wine symbolized His blood, thus, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood."

A covenant is an agreement, a contract, between two parties. It is a device to bring people into a binding relationship to accomplish some undertaking. This particular covenant is unusual in that it is in His blood.

In his commentary on I Corinthians 11:23-34 (p. 104), William Barclay makes a very interesting comment on this. He changes a few words and provides proof that the change is grammatically legitimate. He paraphrases it in this manner: "This covenant cost Me My life." This agreement, the New Covenant, is made at the cost of the most precious, the most valuable and dearest Life that has ever lived on the face of the earth, that of our sinless Creator. It did not come cheaply.

Barclay's paraphrase is justifiable because the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:14). The giving of that specific Life by His shed blood made possible the establishment of a covenantal relationship with God. This relationship is the fruit of Christ's sinless life and subsequent death. Passover portrays what makes salvation a reality for us because justification before God is its fruit. We can consider Christ's making this relationship possible the most important accomplishment of all that He has done through His death.

Our relationship with God is our salvation. We could have no salvation unless the relationship existed because we would still be cut off from God. Once established, this relationship must be developed and to be developed, it must be continued! "If you continue, you will become free," says Jesus. This begins the process of truly coming to know God, and to know God is eternal life (John 17:3).

Within the context of I Corinthians 11, a major point deals with people not properly discerning the sacred gravity of what the symbols represent. Some in Corinth were making a mockery of the Passover. The church members gathered for a meal, and some were getting drunk, others ate in a gluttonous manner, while a few received little food because others were hogging it all. What they did edified the body not at all! They experienced very little of the right kind of spiritual fellowship.

The apostle writes his epistle to correct a corrupt situation. His point is that, in doing what they did, they were not discerning the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. If they had truly understood their significance, they would not have acted in this manner. They were not properly interpreting and applying the meaning to their own lives. In treating Christ's sacrifice in a frivolous manner, their application especially went awry. They went through the motions of taking the Passover but without appreciating the reality that the symbols represented.

The word "unworthy" in I Corinthians 11:27 means "lacking in merit or worth." The Corinthians had no appreciation of the precious value of what the symbols represented to their personal salvation. They were missing the eternal character of what they were observing, caring little about who had died and grasping almost nothing of the love that went into His act. They were truly profaning the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ and putting Him to an open shame.

A major point of understanding about observing Passover is that our attitude toward Christ's sacrifice affects our approach to life in general. Above all, it will affect our relationship with the Father, as well as with one another, because the strength of our obligation to submit to Jesus Christ will be diminished. We will not feel it all that important to submit in obedience.

If God wants us to understand anything by our observing the Passover, it is 1) the tremendous costs it took to free us and to maintain that freedom, and 2) how far Jesus Christ, our Example, was willing to be "pushed" without giving in to sin in even the smallest of matters. Let us take Passover soberly, with the serious significance of what it represents at the forefront of our minds.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love


 




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