Let us Keep the Feast

March / April 2016
2016BIcon

“Do you not know that a little leaven ferments the whole mass? Cleanse out the old leaven, that you may be new mass, as you are unleavened; for our paschal lamb, Christ, was sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of vice and wickedness, but with the unleavened principles of sincerity and of truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Emphatic Diaglott).

Ernie Kuenzli

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Keeping the Memorial

When Paul speaks about putting away leaven, he is speaking symbolically of putting away the corrupting influence of sin. Exodus 12:15 tells us that Israel was to clean the leaven out of their homes before the Passover. “For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15 NIV).

If any yeast found its way into the bread, the person who ate it was to be cut off from Israel.  This requirement shows how the Christian should search his heart for any evidence of sin and finding any, should immediately remove it. Paul was warning the Corinthian brethren that tolerating any sin would lead to more and greater sins, ultimately destroying the New Creature. We cannot compromise with sin. To do so would ultimately destroy us.

The sins to be cleansed are the fallen tendencies of the flesh. In 1 Corinthians 5:11,  Paul lists some of the extreme forms of this old leaven: (1) Sexual immorality, (2) Greed, (3) Idolatry, (4) Slander, (5) Drunkenness, and (6) Swindling. In Colossians 3:5, Paul adds (7) Impurity, (8) Lust, and (9) Evil desires to the list. Since the Corinthians were already dealing with one of these problems, Paul exhorts them to put away all of these practices and the desires that encouraged them. The Christian standard is much higher than what society practiced in Paul’s day or what is practiced in our day.

New Mass or Lump

In 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul tells us to purge out the old leaven that we might be a new batch without leaven — even as we are unleavened.  How can it be that we are purging out the leaven and at the same time be unleavened? Paul is saying that we have the treasure of the New Creature in an earthen vessel. The New Creature is unleavened or sinless because it has been begotten by God (1 John 3:9). But the New Creature is dwelling in a tabernacle of flesh, which is fallen and imperfect due to the effects of sin. Our responsibility as New Creatures is, to the best of our ability, to cleanse our flesh, stripping off the attitudes, desires and tendencies of the fallen flesh and bringing our bodies under the control of the New Creature.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:22-24: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

We must strip off the fleshly character and its fallen characteristics, and in their place develop the characteristics of the New Creature, the fruit and graces of the holy Spirit, which should take control of our lives and bring our thoughts, words and actions into obedience with the example of Christ. Our lives, actions, and words are to become more unleavened (even though short of perfection) as the mind of Christ takes control of them (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Christ Our Passover Lamb

 Next, Paul states that Christ our Passover was sacrificed. He is referring to the first Passover and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 12:3,5-8,10-13). To deliver the Israelites, God would bring the tenth and final plague against Egypt, the death of the first-born (the heirs) (Exodus 11:1,5). To protect the firstborn of Israel, God instructed the Israelites to take a year-old male lamb without flaw and kill it in the evening of the 14th day. The blood of the lamb was to be put on the sides and top of the door-frame of their homes as a sign to protect the first-born from the angel of death.  That night the Israelites were to roast the lamb in its entirety and then eat the lamb along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The lamb was to be entirely consumed — nothing was to be left. They were to eat the lamb fully dressed and ready to leave Egypt.

Jesus was pictured by that unblemished Passover lamb. He was “holy, harmless, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26, Emphatic Diaglott). As the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doorposts of the house, so the blood of Jesus is applied to the hearts of the church, the spirit-begotten, redeeming us from Adamic death during the Gospel Age (Hebrews 11:28).

Just as the Israelites feasted on the roasted lamb during the Passover night, the church is to feast upon our Lord Jesus during the nighttime of the Gospel Age. This means appropriating the benefits of his sacrifice to ourselves, which provide for our justification and sanctification, enabling us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Our Lord explained this when he said, Unless we eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, we have no life in us (John 6:53).

Keep the Feast

Paul then concludes his train of thought: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of vice and wickedness, but with the unleavened principles of sincerity and of truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8 Emphatic Diaglott). Paul was referring to the only feast a Christian is encouraged to keep — the Memorial.  But to observe it properly, we must remove the old leaven (Adamic sin) and the leaven of vice and wickedness (spiritual pride) from our lives. We must also keep the festival with the unleavened principles of sincerity and truth.

In Volume Six (The New Creation), on page 470, Bro. Russell writes that we should celebrate the Memorial on the anniversary on our Lord’s death. However, keeping the festival involves more than just the Memorial celebration. We are to keep the feast each and every day of our Christian lives. We are to partake of what is represented in the bread and cup — feasting on our Lord’s broken body and partaking of our Lord’s shed blood — daily.

Our Lord describes this feasting in John 6:53-56: “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. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”

Eating the flesh of the Son of man and drinking his blood corresponds to partaking of the bread and the cup of the Memorial service.  We feast on our Lord’s broken body by feasting on the truth, taking his words into our hearts and minds and letting them guide our life of sacrifice. This is what our Lord meant in John 6:63 when he said “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The Lord’s words, provided by the breaking of his body in sacrifice during the 3½ years of his earthly ministry, are spiritual and life-giving, providing for our sanctification.

Feasting on the Truth

To feast upon the Truth, we must gather it through study, meditation, and assembling with the brethren. Except on the Sabbath, the Israelites had to gather the manna daily to eat. If the Israelites did not put forth the effort, the sun came out and melted the manna, and they went hungry (Exodus 16:14-21). We must put forth the same effort and dedication in searching out the Truth as our Lord stated in Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

David describes how he sought the word of the Lord in Psalms 119:14-16 (NIV): “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”  We must delight and meditate in God’s statutes, testimonies, precepts and word, as David did. When we do this, we are feasting on our Lord’s body.

For the Truth to sanctify us, we must take it into our hearts and our minds. Jeremiah 15:16 states, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” Our Lord Jesus emphasized the need to apply the Truth daily in our lives in Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV): “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” James gives us a similar exhortation in James 1:22, 25 (NIV): “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Feasting on the Truth means personally applying the instructions, commandments, and examples found in the Scriptures to our own experiences. This is the only way that the Truth can have a sanctifying effect in our lives (John 17:17). This work must occur all during our Christian lives, not just during the Memorial season. In Colossians 3:16, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” The word of Christ must live in us and result in the mind of Christ taking over our life.

Partaking of the Cup

Keeping the feast also means partaking of the cup. We begin partaking of our Lord’s cup, as David writes in Psalm 116:13: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” We first partook of that cup when we approached God in consecration, by our faith in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice (1 John 1:7). We continue to partake of that cup by maintaining our faith in and reliance on the blood of Christ during our Christian walk, and by using the blood of Christ to cleanse us from all sin (Isaiah 61:10; 1 John 1:9).

The cup, containing the blood of Jesus, provides for our justification. Peter describes this in 1 Peter 1:18-19 (NIV): “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

Paul writes that we have been cleansed, redeemed, justified, and reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus. “By his own [Jesus’] blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV). God will, through Jesus, reconcile all things unto himself, because our Lord has “made peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20 NIV). Paul adds that we “have been brought near [to God] through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 NIV).

Paul explains how we have been reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. … Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:1, 2, 9 NIV).

We received the justification of our fallen flesh at the start of our Christian walk, making it an acceptable sacrifice to God through our faith in the blood of Jesus.

We Must Remain Under the Blood, Just As the Israelite First-Born

But the cleansing we receive from the blood of Jesus does not end at consecration. In the Passover, the first-born had to remain under the blood during the entire night to be protected (Exodus 12:22). Likewise, we must remain under the blood of Christ’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26,29). Our faith in, our appreciation for, and our love for what the cup represents, the sacrificed life of Jesus, must continue all during our Christian life. That shed blood is the basis of our justification and our salvation. Without it, we have no standing with God, no hope for the future, and no help for the present.

The Apostle John describes this on-going cleansing in 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV): “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Whenever we fall short of serving God perfectly, we have the blood of Christ to cleanse us from unrighteousness. God understands that in our imperfect flesh dwelleth no good thing in His sight (Romans 7:18). That is why the provision of Jesus as our Advocate was established.  We must use the merit of Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from all sin.

Revelation 3:4 (NIV) says, “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.” This passage indicates that many members of the church have soiled their robe of Christ’s imputed righteousness by not using the blood of Christ to cleanse themselves of all sin. They got into this condition by not recognizing their sins or not asking for forgiveness through the blood of Christ when they have sinned (Revelation 3:3).

We avoid this condition by continually applying the word of Truth to guide our conduct and by using the blood of Christ to cleanse ourselves whenever we fall short of serving the Lord perfectly. We must continually use the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice pictured in the cup to remain acceptable in the Father’s sight.

Old Leaven

Paul admonishes us not to keep the feast with the old leaven neither with the leaven of vice and wickedness. The old leaven represents the weakness of our fallen flesh. These flaws are ours by inheritance, present within us when we first came to Christ. We are to cleanse these from our hearts, minds and lives as much as possible.

James 1:21 says (NASB): “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” All of the filthiness and wickedness of our earthly nature is to be cleansed from our hearts, our minds and our lives. In Colossians 3:8-9 (NIV), Paul exhorts us to put away even the smallest of these weaknesses: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”

Paul adds that we must put away a new leaven — the leaven of vice and malice. We must cleanse daily our hearts, minds, and lives of (1) the schemes and desire to injure each other, and (2) evil words and actions to the greatest extent possible.

Unleavened Principles

Instead, let us to keep the feast with the unleavened [principles] of sincerity and truth.  Neither the words “bread” or “principle” are present in the original Greek text. The subject is assumed based on the context. “Principles” suggested by the Emphatic Diaglott is an accurate thought of what Paul is discussing. These unleavened principles of purity and truth can only come from God because He is pure and the source of all truth. We are to keep the feast of our Christian lives with the unleavened principles of purity and truth that come from God. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15,16 NIV).

We must be obedient to the principles of purity and truth revealed in the Scriptures. We are to be holy, unleavened, and in harmony as much as possible with God’s character and principles. Our Lord, the lamb of God without blemish or defect, is our example. We were not only redeemed by his sacrifice but we are to be conformed to his example (Romans 8:29).  Being conformed takes place as we obey the truth, which purifies us and develops within our hearts a sincere love for our brethren.

The unleavened principles of purity and truth come from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). These principles are not just the features of the divine plan, the prophecies of events yet to come, and the chronology of things that have happened in the past. The principles of purity and truth encompass everything that we are to become as sons of God. Being obedient to these principles changes our understanding of God, His plan of salvation, and changes us into sons of God.

Christ, our Passover lamb, died to make us holy. Keeping the feast with the unleavened principles of purity and truth is how we are made like him.

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