We have just completed a week of encouraging Council of Elders meetings in beautiful East Texas. The East Texas congregation enjoyed hosting the Council and the home office administration. From the president’s inspiring sermon on the topic of prayer on the Sabbath, and then on throughout the Council meetings, there was an evident atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm for fulfilling Christ’s great commission to the Church of God. I hope you will read the Council report on the four days of meetings.
Topping the agenda were the review and approval of the proposed Strategic Plan, Operation Plan and Budget for the coming fiscal year. Details of those proposals will soon be sent out with call and notice for the annual meeting of the General Conference of Elders (GCE). The Council also spent a session planning the format and speakers for the GCE meeting. Roundtable discussions will once again be included in the format. We pray you are making plans to attend with us. The theme this year is “Iron Sharpening Iron.”
We are now entering a new festival season beginning with Passover—which is the most sobering event on the festival calendar. I am sure that Passover preparation is on our minds as the day draws near. At this point I would like to review some of the essentials of Passover preparation. The succeeding Holy Days flow from each one of us properly observing the Lord’s Passover (Leviticus 23:4-5 Leviticus 23:4-5 4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.
5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover.
American King James Version×).
Preparing for the Passover is similar to preparing for baptism. It begins with the deep conviction by God’s Spirit and Word that I am a sinner and the death penalty is on my head. So the first step is for a person to examine him or her self through God’s great spiritual mirror, the words of God. As we note in Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version×: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version×, King James Version throughout). Examining one’s self leads to judging one’s self. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31 1 Corinthians 11:31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
American King James Version×). If we fail to judge ourselves, God will step in and judge us in an attempt to bring us to the realization that we need to get our spiritual houses in order.
In judging ourselves, we come to realize the need to be reconciled to God and Christ and each member of the Body of Christ. And we must come to realize that apart from repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Christ we are going to die. The apostle Paul makes it clear that “the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×, New King James Version). Jesus Christ died in our place so that we might be reconciled to God the Father and receive the earnest of the Spirit (Romans 5:10 Romans 5:10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
American King James Version×; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 21 Now he which establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God; 22 Who has also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
American King James Version×). So one of the great requirements for taking the Passover is to be reconciled to God the Father. Moreover, that reconciliation depends on repenting of our sins and exercising faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Thus, we must discern that the body of Christ, His body and blood, were given to pay the penalty for our sins. In fact and in deed, Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7-8 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×).
So we must discern the literal body of Christ. His flesh and His blood were given that we might be bought back from the penalty of sin and death. The Passover symbols of bread and wine are symbolic of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Note the words of Jesus: “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 6:53 John 6:53Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
American King James Version×). Thus, we are commanded to observe the Passover as mandated in Scripture.
In the instructions that Paul gave to the Corinthians for observing the Passover, he takes them to task for taking the Passover “unworthily.” The Greek word that is translated unworthily is anaxious, which means irreverently. The Church of God is referred to as the Body of Christ because Christ through the Holy Spirit lives in Spirit-begotten believers. As we shall see, we must be reconciled to the “Body of Christ,” the members of His body, before taking the Passover. To take it without being reconciled to the members of the Body of Christ is to invite God’s judgment.
When we partake of the Passover we are affirming that we have been reconciled to God, Christ and each member of the Body of Christ. Note the words of the apostle Paul: “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:15-17 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 15 I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say.
16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
American King James Version×). The preceding verses highlight the requirement of being reconciled to each member of the Body of Christ before taking the Passover.
Paul impresses on our minds and hearts that failure to judge ourselves can result in sickness or even death. “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:29-32 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 29 For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
American King James Version×). In essence, God is saying through the apostle Paul that if we do not judge ourselves, He will judge us through some means for the purpose of getting our attention and bringing us to repentance rather than for us to miss out on His Kingdom.
We should also consider what Jesus states in John 6:35 John 6:35And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.
American King James Version×: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” Now note what Jesus states in verse 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.” Jesus equates the words He speaks with spirit and life. So in addition to eating and drinking the Passover, we are exhorted to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×). By so doing we can daily renew the inward man and grow in grace and knowledge.
I offer these important points for each one of us to consider and enlarge upon as we prepare for the Passover. Please read, study and meditate on all the scriptures that are referenced. The plan and purpose of God is so awesome to contemplate that it defies our ability to fully describe the wonder of love and mercy that God and Christ have extended to each one of us. It is a plan that frees us from fear, ignorance, superstition and the dogmas of man. More importantly, the Passover frees us spiritually from sin and death so we can live the resurrected life by the Spirit of God and Christ that dwells in each one of us. It is my fervent hope and prayer that each one of us experiences a most inspiring Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.