PART 8 FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN

Thu, 12/24/2020 - 7:15am

PART 8 FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN

What causes a believer to resemble the character of Jesus Christ?         

FINDING GOD AND GROWING SPIRITUALLY

I believe that this is really what we are talking about in this study.

How does God come into my life and how do I grow in order to exhibit Christ-likeness?

The main question that has been posed is, do the elements of bread and wine at communion turn into the literal body and blood of Christ?

We looked at certain considerations that might help us in ascertaining this answer. I will recap them below so that you can read them again albeit in a summarized form so, that hopefully whatever your conclusion is at least it will be based on an informed manner.

 

THERE ARE TWO VIEWS CONCERNING THE PARTAKING OF THE BREAD AND WINE AT COMMUNION

Literal view:the consumption of the bread and wine literally becomes the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood.

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; Matthew 26:26-28

John 6:50-53 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

Mark 14:16, 22-24 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

 

Figurative view: the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of his blood is to be taken figuratively. 

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; John 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-23; Luke 22:19-20              

John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.                                                                                                                                                                                              

 

EXAMPLES OF THE LITERAL AND FIGURATIVE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE     

A literal interpretation means that references to a person or thing mean exactly what it says.

Matthew 5:35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  

A figurative interpretation means that references are symbolic of someone or of something else. 

Matthew12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.   

We can conclude that not all interpretations of the references in Scripture are to be taken literally. Likewise, not all interpretations of the references in Scripture are symbolic. There is much dispute as to whether when Jesus said Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you should be taken literally or figuratively. When in doubt, look at other Scriptures that might help to shed insight into this quandary.

 

AT COMMUNION IS THE CHANGING OF THE BREAD AND WINE INTO THE LITERAL BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST SUPPORTED BY THE SCRIPTURES?

The Old Testament Scriptures – The Age of the Gentiles and the Age of Israel

  • After the flood, God instructed Noah and his family not to eat the flesh of animals with blood in them. The draining of the blood offered recognition that they had taken the life with permission and were partaking of God’s bounty as his guests. Genesis 6:3-8; Genesis 8:13-18; Genesis 9:1, 4                                                                                                                                                                       
  • Abram’s nephew, Lot, was captured along with the booty by the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram rescued him and recovered the stolen items. Melchizedek, King of Salem and a priest of God gave Abram bread and wine and blessed him. Genesis14:17-24
  • The Jews were to celebrate the Passover Feast on a yearly basis by eating a sacrificial lamb and unleavened bread. Over the bread, they would make a proclamation saying, "This is the bread of affliction our ancestors ate when they came from Egypt." The words “This is” are to be taken figuratively. The unleavened bread is not the actual bread that their ancestors ate when they came from Egypt. Exodus 12:1-12
  • The children of Israel were not to make a graven image or any likeness whether of heaven, in the earth beneath, or in the water below the earth for the purpose of worship. Exodus 20:1-5
  • When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, animal sacrifices would be offered on the altar that was located in the portable Tabernacle. An animal sacrifice would be made as atonement for personal sin. Its blood would be sprinkled on the altar to purify it and render the offeror clean paving the way for reconciliation with God.       

The meat of the animal was not to be eaten unless the blood had been drained, because the blood contained the soul of the animal and was the medium of expiation (to atone) for the souls of men. Leviticus 1:1-2; Leviticus 17:1-16

 

The Hypostatic Union – the Age of the Incarnation of Christ

  • As Jesus and his disciples were sharing the Passover lamb, Jesus offered them bread and wine, saying ‘Take eat, for this is my body, … and drink ye all of it; for this is my blood ...” Matthew 26:17-29
  • At the last supper, Jesus said “This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:7-20
  • On the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus declared that whoever believed in Him would have rivers of living water flowing out of his belly. Jesus was not saying that literal rivers of water would pour out of them, but that spiritual refreshment from the Holy Spirit, whom they would receive, would flow out of them.        

However, this would not take place until after Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven beginning on the day of Pentecost, when those who repented and believed in Him would receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. John 7:2-53

 

The Church Age Scriptures - the current age in which we live

  • The Gentile believers were asked not to drink blood or eat animals with blood in them because these practices were not in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. These laws were to be observed by them because the early church would meet together for group meals, called agape feasts, at which time the food and drink were to be shared amongst one another. Acts 15:1-30
  • Just as the eating of the sacrificial meat indicated a sharing or joint participation in the worship of demons in the pagan temples so, the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine in the Lord’s Supper indicated communion in the worship of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:14-33
  • Eating the communion elements of the bread and wine evidenced a visible sermon proclaiming "the message of the Cross", that is, the reality of the Lord's death, as well as the certainty of His return.39 1 Corinthians 11:18-34                                                                                                                                                                  

WHAT DID THE FATHERS OF THE EARLY CHURCH BELIEVE CONCERNING THE DOCTRINE OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION?

Transubstantiation is the doctrine that was formulated at the Council of Trent (a council of the Roman Catholic Church that defined church teachings between 1545-1563 AD) concerning the elements of communion. It stated that the substance of the bread and the wine changes into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. It is no longer bread and wine, but Christ really present under the appearance of bread and wine.40

The Church Fathers are those whose writings have preserved, to a certain extent, the history, doctrines, and traditions of the early Church. These writers are grouped and named according to the time in which they lived. There are those who lived closest to the time of the apostles and presumably will hold to doctrinal beliefs that are similar to theirs.

Many believe that the last of the original apostles to die was the apostle John in about 95 AD. So, those writers who lived prior to 120AD would be known as the Apostolic Fathers. There are two other groups of Church Fathers, those who lived from 120AD to 325AD called the Ante-Nicene Fathers and those who lived after 325AD who are called the Post-Nicene Fathers.

 

Ambrose of Milan (Post-Nicene – after 325 AD)

"Then He added: 'For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink [indeed].' Thou hearest Him speak of His Flesh and of His Blood thou perceivest the sacred pledges, [conveying to us the merits and power] of the Lord's death, and thou dishonourest His Godhead. Hear His own words: 'A spirit hath not flesh and bones.' Now we, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and the Blood, "do show the Lord's Death.'" Ambrose, On the Christian Faith, 4, 10:125 (A.D. 380), in NPNF2, X:27841

 

Clement of Alexandria (Ante-Nicene)         

“But you are not inclined to understand it thus, but perchance more generally. Hear it also in the following way. The flesh figuratively represents to us the Holy Spirit; for the flesh was created by Him. The blood points out to us the Word, for as rich blood the Word has been infused into life; and the union of both is the Lord, the food of the babes–the Lord who is Spirit and Word. The food- that is, the Lord Jesus–that is, the Word of God, the Spirit made flesh, the heavenly flesh sanctified…” (ibid)

There were 10 Church Fathers who believed in Transubstantiation and 9 who didn’t with one of them whose opinion was inconclusive.

  

HOW DOES A BELIEVER GROW SPIRITUALLY?

There are two views:

  • Be baptized in water; attend catechism, receive first communion, be Confirmed, go to church on a regular basis, confess your sins to a priest, attend the six days of obligation, and observe the two church fasts. If you want to grow spiritually, then follow what it is that the church says is necessary in order to prepare one’s heart for participating in communion. If you have tried to the best of your ability to follow these guidelines, then Christ will be received by you at communion. The more often they partake of the elements of the bread and wine at communion, the more of an increase in Christ-likeness will be evidenced to others such as there being a lessening of racial and national prejudices or neighborhood resentments, and an increase in neighborliness, compassion, patience, and forbearance towards others.
  • When we sin mentally, verbally, or overtly, we should confess this to God the Father. Following such, we should be renewed/recovered in our mind (by applying God’s word in all areas of thought, so that human perspective is replaced with divine perspective), which triggers the filling (control/rule) of the Holy Spirit, whose spiritual qualities of character will become operational within us and expressed outwardly toward others thus evidencing Christ-likeness. (Ephesians 5:18; 1 John 1:9; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:5)

 

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF PARTAKING IN COMMUNION?

While both views have made this evident, let’s make sure this is presented clearly in the summary.

 

Literal View: This can be best stated in a quote from an article entitled, The Body of Christ.

John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

In Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Christ, who gives Himself to us in His body, blood, soul, and divinity. This intimate union with Christ both signifies and strengthens our union with Him and His Church…Because Holy Communion unites us to Jesus, it also strengthens us against sin, helps us to live a Christian life, and prepares us for the heavenly banquet.42

 

Figurative View:

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

We are to continue to break bread and drink wine in remembrance of Him. This means to recall what He accomplished for us on the cross—i.e., redemption (to no longer be a prisoner to the debt of sin; to let one go free) through His blood (the payment to divine justice for our sin) and sin’s forgiveness (the wiping away; the erasing of the record of the debt).

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

The Lord’s Supper proclaims the reality of the Lord’s death and also the certainty of his return.43

Partaking of the Lord’s Supper does not cause us to grow spiritually or provide spiritual nourishment in and of itself. You might be thinking, what do you mean? Is this just semantics?

Having received the indwelling Spirit, learning about who we are now in Christ, confessing sin, renewing our mind, and being filled with the Spirit is what causes us to operate in our new nature so that in whatever we are involved with e.g., grocery shopping, working in the yard, attending church, praying, partaking of communion, etc. Godly motives will be compelling us and Christlikeness will be evidenced. If this is the case, then in all these areas we will be growing spiritually and will be spiritually nourished.

It’s not the action of obeying some command that provides spiritual growth or nourishment but operating in the fruit of the Spirit while in the midst of committing the action.

 

WITHOUT RECEIVING THE INDWELLING SPIRIT, THERE CAN BE NO SPIRITUAL GROWTH OR NOURISHMENT.

This is when our spiritual life truly begins. As to whether the elements of communion are to be taken literally or figuratively so, how the Holy Spirit is to be received differs significantly. Discussing this in-depth would require an entirely different study. However, I will briefly provide you with an explanation of each.

 

Literal View:

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

The Holy Spirit is received when the participant repents of their sins at infant sprinkling of water or adult immersion in water. Since a baby can’t repent, then the faith of his/her parent/parents can repent for him/her. At this time, the congregation is asked to pray to the Father that he will send the Holy Spirit upon the water. As water baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins, the one being baptized will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit and become a child of God.

 

Figurative View

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Acts 8:35-37 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 1:12-13 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for everyone by His sufferings and death on the cross having paid the debt of sin owed to the justice of God the Father along with forgiving all sin. The forgiveness of sins for all mankind has taken place on the cross.

Repentance of one’s sins can only take place if the person in question is capable of acknowledging them.

Being born of water is to be taken figuratively for the gospel of salvation (the gospel of Christ). The gospel of Christ is comprised of personal repentance and belief in who Christ is and what He has accomplished. Whosever chooses to repent and expresses belief as stated in the following proclamation will receive the indwelling Spirit.

I acknowledge that I am a sinner who desires a new nature so that I don’t have to continue committing mental, verbal, and overt sins. 

I believe in you Jesus, being Deity, who is one of the members of the Trinity, the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. I believe You left Heaven and were born of a virgin. Having never committed one sin, You died on a cross, paid the penalty for sin in order to satisfy the justice of God, and forgave these sins by putting them away forever and never bringing them up again.  You rose again after three days never to die again, Your sacrifice being accepted by God the Father, You ascended into heaven to be seated at His right hand.

1 John 3:24b …And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

How will a person know as to which approach will result in the receiving of the Spirit?

If the Holy Spirit is received, He will give the newly converted witness of Himself by producing in us the effects of His influence by stirring us to pray, by comforting us, by conviction of sin, by producing in us His presence (e.g., divine love, divine joy, divine peace), etc.

So, there you have it. There are many teachings on Biblical topics that should be looked at again besides this one such as: Should a believer be told to abstain from drinking alcohol? Can women be called to the leadership positions of a church? Is it mandatory for a church member to give financially by a method called tithing? etc.

My prayer for you and me is that we shouldn’t accept everything that is taught from the pulpit as always being from God. Shouldn’t we know the “WHY” behind what we are taught?

I will leave you with these questions to ponder.

Is what you are being taught giving you an assurance that God has come into your life?

Is what you are being taught causing you to rely on God more and more?

Is what you are being taught causing you to be more aware of your weaknesses and how to replace them with God’s perspective?

Is what you are being taught causing God the Holy Spirit to show up more and more in your life?

Is what you are being taught causing you to become more Christ-like?

I hope you have enjoyed reading about this topic. Is has been a pleasure in presenting this to you from opposing views. God Bless!

 

Endnotes

39Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament.

40The Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989, 19 March 2013 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

41“Did the Early Church Fathers believe in Transubstantiation?”

42“The Body of Christ,” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta. 27 October 2020 <https://archatl.com/offices/divine-worship/guides-to-catholic-ceremonies/receiving-holy-        communion-in-the-catholic-church/>.

43Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament.

 

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