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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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