Genesis 3

I was amazed one day in class when my professor pointed us to Genesis 3 to think about the Lord’s Supper. I had never thought about any connections there. But he quoted the only comment I can find in any Genesis commentary that addresses the Supper. Here is the quotation: “She took … and ate: so simple the act, so hard its undoing. God will taste poverty and death before ‘take and eat’ become verbs of salvation.” (Derek Kidner, Genesis, 73) What an eye-opener that was.

The very act of eating in the garden led the whole human race into sin. But it is with the act of eating that God begins our walk of faith. So Jesus took the bread, gave it to His disciples, and invited them to eat, for “this is my body.” Eating instituted our fall and eating institutes our redemption.

We went, in an earlier entry, to John 6 where we saw that eating at the Supper is a symbol for faith. The bread is perfectly good bread as it lies before us, but unless we eat it, personally appropriate it, it does us no physical good. It is the same with Jesus. He offers us His saving work. It is perfectly good work, but it does us no good without our personal appropriation by faith.

But there is another connection to the Supper in this chapter. In Gen 3.22-24 God warded off a catastrophe. In v. 22 He said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand  and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”

Brant Pitre, in his book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, pointed out that there are only two places in the Bible where the phrase “eat and live forever” occur, in Genesis 3 and in John 6 (in verses 51 and 58). What is the point of this? It was eating that got the human race into trouble. It is eating again that marks our return to the Lord’s Table, as it were. We were banished from the Garden for eating. Our return to the Garden (note the ties of Revelation 21–22 with the description of the Garden in Genesis 2) is signaled by our admission to the table in the Lord’s Supper. (We dealt with the relevance of John 6 to the Supper in an earlier entry.)

And only sinful people need apply! Jesus offered the bread to Judas and to Peter, one who betrayed Him and one who denied him. Eating ushered us into sin, and eating reintroduces us to the fellowship of God.

Posted in eternal life, Genesis, Gospel of John | Tagged | 6 Comments

Old Testament Background for the Lord’s Supper

In the (too long!) past entries we have looked at the New Testament’s contributions to thinking about the Lord’s Supper. My intention now is to turn to the Old Testament. Because I am taking on new responsibilities temporarily in my position at school, my plan is to contribute one post per week.

We’ll begin in the book of Genesis in chapter 3 and then move to Leviticus for a series of studies in the sacrifices in chapters one to seven. It will be important to think about Passover. However, the goal will be to look at only those elements actually present in the Old Testament presentation of the Lord’s Supper, since my goal is to write a sort of biblical theology of the Supper. Therefore, the assumed practice of the Supper in the first century AD and the modern practice of the Supper will play no direct part in these studies. When we come to consider it, we’ll point out works that adequately address the issue. Then we’ll turn to the book of Psalms, looking at the six psalms sung at Passover, Pss 113–118, and finally look at the Psalms of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (42, 49, 50, and 53).

Two areas of New Testament study require further study: the meals of the gospels as foreshadowing the Messianic Banquet and other eschatological connections of the Supper. These we may pursue on completion of the Old Testament material.

In spite of the long hiatus, it is my hope that you will find these studies stimulating to your experience at the Lord’s Supper in the local church.

Tagged | 13 Comments

Jesus’ Blood Redeems the Creation — Colossians 1.20 (2)

We have argued that one major Old Testament theme is, “As the king goes, so goes the nation.” We took up this idea in order to explain Paul’s comment about the blood of Christ in Colossians 1.20 which celebrates Jesus’ role of preeminence as redeemer of the new creation. But why should the blood of Christ (our overall interest in these studies) be relevant to the new creation at all? To answer this, we must ask why the creation needs redemption.

Paul addresses the idea in Romans 8. Not only did mankind fall because of sin. The realm the race was to rule fell into corruption, too (Rom 8.20-21). So, when God restores the human race, the creation will enter the freedom of its rulers. Then the redemptive work of Christ serves to redeem all creation.

But what is the nature of the corruption and of the redemption in store for creation? To answer the question we may turn to one of the great eschatological kingdom passages of the Old Testament, Isaiah 11. There we read,

“The wolf will live with the lamb,   and the leopard will lie down with the goat.  The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together,  and a child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze,  their young ones will lie down together,  and the lion will eat straw like the ox. An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit,  and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. None will harm or destroy another  on My entire holy mountain,  for the land will be as full  of the knowledge of the LORD  as the sea is filled with water” (Isa 11.6-9, HCSB).

The passage is idyllic and ideal. It describes a time in which death and killing will no longer tyrannize the world. If God’s blessing in Genesis (1.20-25) meant fullness of life for the animal kingdom, it was that blessing that was lost because of human sin. If God, then, redeems, humanity, it is no small thing that He would subsequently redeem humanity’s realm.

The aim of that redemption will be the same as the aim of the original blessing. Animals have far more capacity for development than mankind has ever realized. They were not created simply to die. God created all things for His own glory. Our rule of the animal world was intended to express the divine rule, a rule of service, assisting all the earth and its inhabitants to develop to their full potential, and thus to glorify God.

It is interesting that in Genesis 9.1, God does not repeat the so-called cultural mandate when He announced continued blessing on the race. Fallen humanity is incapable of ruling. it is only in the redemption of the race that we may resume our God-given task of rule. When we sit at the royal banquet with the Son of Man, we anticipate our own restoration to royalty, and thus the restoration of our realm, because of the shed blood of the Redeemer King.

Posted in Colossians | Tagged | 3 Comments

Jesus’ Blood Redeems the Creation — Colossians 1.20 (1)

The final passage in which Paul address the unifying power of Jesus’ blood is Colossians 1.20. the verse occurs at the end of the great Christ hymn in verses 15-20 that celebrates the supremacy of Christ over all things, both in salvation and in creation. The passage falls into three parts. Verses 15-16 celebrate Jesus’ preeminence cosmically, in both the natural and the supernatural realms. Verses 17-18a form a transition, summarizing what precedes and introducing what follows. Then, from 18b to 20, the hymn celebrates our Lord’s preeminence as the God-man in the new creation.

Understanding Colossians 1.20 depends, in part, on understanding the Old Testament’s view of kingdom. One element of that concept is important. The books of Samuel and Kings particularly present this idea. In sum it is this: as the king goes, so goes the kingdom. Anyone familiar with these books will immediately see the point, and only a few remarks will be necessary.

The first two kings set the pattern. Saul’s attitude to the ark is a good starting point: he effectively ignored it throughout his reign. First Samuel mentions it only once in the story of Saul, in 14.18. I Samuel 14.47-48 give the overall estimation of his kingship. From a human point of view, he was a great success. But from God’s, he was a failure, and the single reference to the ark, that symbolizes Israel’s relationship to God, in 14.18 signals this failure. The covenant’s basic commandment is to love God wholeheartedly. Yet from the early days of the eleventh century B.C. until the time of David, the ark languished, away from the corporate life of the nation and from attention of Yahweh’s anointed. His great failures (1 Sam 13 and 15) were simply expressions of his neglect of the Lord.

By contrast, the books present David as one who sought to bring this covenant symbol to the very center of national life and of his rule. David’s successes as king stand contrasted with the collapse of Saul’s rule.

In the next study we will draw out implications for Colossians 1.20 and the Lord’s Supper.

Posted in Colossians | Tagged | Leave a comment

Jesus’ Blood Creates Unity for the Human Race — Ephesians 2.13

What hath the blood of Christ wrought? We have seen so much, but we are not finished. The blood that Jesus shed, His atoning suffering, has restored unity to the human race (Eph 2.13).

Sin destroyed that unity in the Garden (Gen 3) and in the Plains of Shinar (Gen 11). Upon their sin, Adam and Eve hid from God. They “hid” from each other, too, by covering their nakedness to protect themselves from each other. The unity of the first family, that made up the entire human race, shattered.

After the horror of the Flood, God renewed His promise of blessing for the race (Gen 9.1). But the unified race gathered in Shinar refusing to accept the blessing. Their goal? To avoid “filling the earth” (cp. Gen 1.28), to maintain their unity in rebellion against God. So God sundered human language. Their unity, now characterized by open rebellion, meant that no form of rebellion would be impossible With the sundering of language came the shattering of the race. From Genesis 12 to the death of Christ, God required Israel to remain distinct from the nations.

The reason for this separation was to preserve the nation as the source through whom blessing would come to all nations (Gen 12.3; 22.28; 26.4; 28.14; 39.2-5, 21-23; 41.38-40; 45.8; 47.13-26). But Israel never really took that destiny seriously. By the time of Jesus they sought, not merely distinctness, but separation. They despised the other nations. No one sought their blessing.

To remedy this, God sent Jesus. Ephesians 2.13 addresses this issue. It is the work of Jesus that reunites Jew and Gentile. This work begins the restoration of the race. If God’s plan is to bless the whole human race, the work of Christ sets in motion the  fulfillment of the plan. The Church, then, is the first step in bringing God’s blessing to all humanity, all set in motion by the blood of Christ. And this we celebrate, taking the cup at the Lord’s Supper.

Posted in Ephesians, unity | Tagged | 2 Comments

Jesus’ Blood Creates Unity — 1 Cor 10.16-17 (2)

We have discussed Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians because the recipients found it difficult to discern proper use of food sacrificed to idols (8.1). In much of the history of the western church, this has been no problem at all. Our day, though, finds a renewal of the problem when cultural leaders are turning to the propagation of eastern religions. Yet we have always faced the problem of “secularizing” influence in the church. But what bearing does this have on our observance of the Lord’s Supper?

“Much in every way,” and this is the point of 1 Corinthians 10. Paul’s great concern about his readers was their inconsistency, mixing pagan practice with their practice of the Supper. For them he feared “sharing the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (10.21). Yet we are, as it were, a priesthood (10.18) participating in the sacrifice from the altar. Deliberately eating meat sacrificed to idols meant participating in the service of demons. To mix this with the Lord’s Table is to incite God to anger (10.22).

Now to our point, 1 Cor 10.16-17. By sharing in the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim our share in the blood and body of Christ. We claim all the blessings we have discussed, redemption, adoption, forgiveness, cleansing. We receive them by faith. This is our share in Jesus’ sacrifice.

But we make a further claim. We claim, by sharing the “one bread,” that we are one body together, in Christ. That very unity determines our lives and defines our values. Since we share the one bread and thus are one body, Paul urges us to recognize that not all permissible things are worthwhile (10.23). We have heard it said that the good may be the enemy of the best. So while all foods are acceptable before God (10.25-26), they are not good in all situations.

What makes the difference? The good of the others (10.24). Temptation is the common lot of the human race, and the temptation to idolatry not less so (10.32). But the one who thinks that he is on firm ground must be careful of falling as the Israelites did in the wilderness (10.6-12).

Because we are a unity, then, demonstrated by the Supper, we must adopt a new set of values. One of those values must be to seek the good of others, not our own. This entails learning how a secular, or worse, a pagan world influences life. It involves learning to react properly to  how non-believers (10.27-28) or how to protect the weak conscience of a table partner (8.7) at the Supper. The Supper calls us to be other-centered. We share the table; we share life.

Posted in 1 Corinthians, Christian liberty, unity | Tagged | 2 Comments

Jesus’ Blood Creates Unity — 1 Cor 10.16-17

We have considered the abundant benefits that we derive from Jesus’ sacrifice, benefits that we receive by faith, symbolized in the Supper. While not leaving the benefits, we now turn to two responsibilities that our privileges impose on us, both related to the unity of Christ’s body.

Three passages attract our attention initially, from 1 Cor 10.16-17; Eph 2.13; and Col 1.20. In 1 Cor 10.16-17 we are drawing to the conclusion of Paul’s lengthy discussion of Christian liberty (chapters 8–10). Before we take up the verses that are of particular interest, we need to define that liberty briefly. Customarily we think of liberty as our right to do whatever we want. But a little reflection alerts us that no such liberty exists. We know that liberty only exists within limits. Then what does Paul mean in 1 Cor 9.19 when he says he is “free from all men”?

For brevity’s sake, we summarize what he says in 9.19-23.  Liberty only exists within the limits of responsibility. Responsibility exists within the confines of goals. The goal Paul has is to draw all people to Christ. This goal imposes on him responsible action. He is responsible to Christ, responsible to the needs and requirements of anyone he wishes to draw to Christ. So, we may define Christian liberty as our responsibility to adapt our behavior for the spiritual good of others.

These ideas set the context for the discussion of 1 Cor 10.16-17.

Posted in 1 Corinthians, Christian liberty | Tagged | Leave a comment

Blood on the Table — Eternal, Resurrection Life — Part 2

Eternal life needs closer definition. Most of us think of eternal life as living forever in the presence of God. That is a true and valid concept, but it is not the essence of what eternal life is. The standard classical Greek lexicon derives the word from a word that means “age,” and thus defines the adjective as “lasting for an age.”

Years ago, I heard a Jehovah’s Witness speak on the idea, and he made the same point. I bristled at what he was saying. Long after, I have come to accept his point of view, with severe qualifications. [If you have not canceled your subscription yet, keep reading; it comes out well in the end.]

Eternal life, I am now convinced, should be defined as “the life characterized by a certain age.” But what age? Given the connections that we identified in the previous post, from Mark 10, we should identify the age as the age of the Kingdom. Since the Kingdom is endless (Isa 9.7), then the life characterized by the Kingdom is endless. So, eternal, or better, everlasting life is the right way to think.

We can, however, say more. In Romans 5.21 Paul reintroduces the phrase that first appears in the book in 2.7. He explains it in Romans 6. The chapter has inherent difficulties in interpretation, but on this point it is clear. Grace does not and cannot foster sin, because by God’s grace we have been united with Christ in His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection life. Paul is very careful to avoid associating resurrection with our present condition (finally making that connection in chapter 8).

Then, what is “everlasting life”? It is the life of the Kingdom. As God’s children we have the privilege and enablement to to live the life of the Kingdom now. This is not merely, or even particularly, an individual privilege. It has corporate dimensions. One goal of church life is to implement Kingdom living, the kingdom quality of life, in the community of the King’s people.

Posted in eternal life | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Blood on the Table — Eternal, Resurrection Life

Two effects of the blood of Christ we take up together because they occur together: eternal life and resurrection (John 6.53-56). Because we partake in the shocking sacrifice of God’s Messiah, by the power of His sacrifice and the mighty effects of the shedding of His blood, we secure to ourselves benefits that are beyond all expectation. First, we begin to partake of eternal life now!

John has already alerted us to the “presentness” of eternal life. Our beloved verse, John 3.16, teaches this when it says, “so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” For early Judaism, eternal life was what one hoped for when God’s kingdom should come. Mark 10 contains the story of the “rich young ruler.” He approached Jesus very genuinely hoping to satisfy his own mind about how to inherit eternal life. The story is well-known. However, in response to His disciples’ surprised questions, Jesus said, “‘I assure you, … there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel,
who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come” (Mark 10.29-30). The work of Jesus that we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper has provided for us NOW what Jewish people in Jesus’ day only hoped for, longingly, at the establishment of the Kingdom. All of which suggests that eternal life is not merely the ability to avoid death and maintain life interminably. Eternal life is the quality of life that God grants to those who belong to His Kingdom. Thus, Paul, in Romans 5.21 introduces the term and then describes it in Romans 6.4, “Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.” It is our privilege and birthright now to live the life of the age to come.

As I write this, my mother may be facing imminent death, that old enemy and ravager of all of life. Yet, because she is a child of God, one who has walked with Him for years of her long and well-lived life, she, in the face of death, is blessed with eternal life. In the providence of God, I will be going to see her this afternoon. I will see the aging and diseased form that she now has. But she enjoys, and I will rejoice in, her eternal life even as she potentially faces death. Death for us means separation. If this is her appointed time, though, she will not be ravaged by death. That will be over and done. She will not be away from home. She will be going home. I weep as I write these words, but partly because death means going to see the Savior who loved her and gave Himself for her. She will be home, for wherever the Savior is is home. Those of us who remain are away from home. I have tears for my own pending loneliness, but not for her home going. This is what she has longed for for years. Her eternal life is not beginning. It is taking over! In that, through the shocking death of our Savior, through the blood that He has given for us and to us, we rejoice. This may all be premature. God may yet give her years with all of us in the family, but that does not change the realities of eternal life gained by the blood of Jesus!

Posted in Blood, eternal life, Gospel of John | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Seminary Education

I would like to join others in directing attention to a blog on the future of seminary education. It is written by Frederick Schmidt of SMU, who gives some important comments that bear on the nature and goals of seminary work. Why, after all, should anyone attend a seminary? Is it worth the time, effort, and money required to either offer or pursue a seminary education? Much of what Schmidt says is congenial to my own views, and I commend his thought to others. To read his work, go to