Book: The Christian Passover

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How often should we partake of the Christian Passover? Should we observe it many times during the year? Will observing it often make us more righteous, or help us obtain favor with God? What do the Scriptures teach?

The Old Testament reveals that the Passover was instituted as an annual observance. God commanded that the Passover be observed each year on the 14th day of the first month, according to the Hebrew calendar. Throughout Old Testament times, the Passover was observed only once a year. Although the later temple-centered Passovers were not observed at the time that God commanded, they were observed only once a year. There is no Scriptural or historical record of any dispute over how often the Passover lambs should be killed and the Passover meal eaten. On the other hand, there is great disagreement as to how often we should observe the footwashing and the bread and wine ceremony that is commanded in the New Testament.

Numerous church organizations profess to follow the New Testament command, but each has its own version of this Christian ceremony. Some call it “the Lord’s Supper,” and others call it “Holy Communion” or “the Eucharist.” Some teach that it should be observed every week, and others teach that it should be observed only at Christmas and Easter. Very few observe it on the day that it was instituted. In fact, most churches overlook the fact that Jesus instituted this ceremony on the Passover day. As a result, the vast majority of professing Christians do not even recognize this ceremony as the Passover of the New Covenant. They view it only as a commemorative ceremony, to be observed at the time and in the manner that their church authorities decree. In Catholic and Orthodox churches, the priest administers the Eucharist each time Mass is held, and one may attend Mass every day in the week. Mass may be held at different hours of the day, from early morning to midnight. Because all members are required to attend Sunday Mass, it may be held several times that day, with a Saturday evening Mass offered as an alternative. In addition, there are special Masses for major church holidays, funerals, marriages, and prayers for the dead. Since the Eucharist is administered at every Mass, members of Catholic and Orthodox churches may participate in this ceremony hundreds of times during the year. To celebrate the Eucharist, the priest passes a special ceremonial round wafer of unleavened bread to each participant. However, the priest does not break the bread. The priest who performs the Mass drinks from a goblet of wine, but is not required to pass the goblet to the participants.

In many Protestant churches, the Lord’s Supper is administered each Sunday during worship services. Instead of unleavened bread and wine, most denominations use leavened bread and grape juice, or water, as do those who are members of The Latter Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ—the Mormons. Some, including the Seventh-Day Adventists, observe their Lord’s Supper quarterly—four times a year. Others celebrate it only once or twice yearly at Christmas and/or Easter.

Few professing Christians ever think to question whether the practice of their church conforms to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They assume that they are observing the New Testament ceremony exactly as He commanded, yet they observe it in many different ways at many different times. Are all these differing practices acceptable to God? How can we know?

The answer is revealed in the Word of God. At His last Passover, Jesus Christ demonstrated how the New Testament Passover should be observed, both by His example and by His commands. The teachings of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament, are the one true standard.

Today, very few church goers are practicing what Jesus Christ taught. This most solemn ceremony, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ our Savior, has been so grossly misobserved that its full meaning and purpose has been hidden from most professing Christians. Only a very small minority understand that Jesus Christ instituted this ceremony as an annual renewal of the New Covenant relationship that each true believer has with Him and God the Father.

Three Fundamental Errors

The true observance of the Christian Passover has been buried under a barrage of conflicting practices. This confusion can be traced to three fundamental errors:

1) The first error is the assumption that the time that God ordained for the Passover in the Old Testament does not apply to the New Testament ceremony that Jesus instituted. This belief is based on the false teaching that the commands of God in the Old Testament were only for the Jews and are contrary to the New Testament doctrine of salvation through faith. According to this theological view, all the laws and commandments of God were abolished when Jesus died on the cross. This mistaken view of the Scriptures has led Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches alike to reject the day that God established and to adopt other times for observing the Christian Passover.

The teachings of Jesus Christ Himself expose their error in rejecting the commandments of God. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). When Jesus spoke these words, He was not establishing a new teaching but was pointing to a very old teaching of Scripture. The words that He spoke had been proclaimed by Moses many centuries before, as recorded in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 8:3). By quoting the words of Moses, Jesus was confirming the authority of the words of God in the Old Testament.

The apostles, who were taught directly by Jesus Christ, understood that the Old Testament Scriptures are authoritative and applicable to Christians. The apostle Paul’s words to Timothy show that the teachings of the Old Testament are essential to fully understand and practice the Christian way of life: “And that from a child you have known the Holy Writings, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. ALL SCRIPTURE [all the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament] is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:15-17).

The New Testament does not teach that the commandments of God in the Old Testament have all been abolished by Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus forbids us to let this thought even enter our minds. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed, “DO NOT THINK THAT I HAVE COME TO ABOLISH THE LAW or the Prophets; I DID NOT COME TO ABOLISH, BUT TO FULFILL. For truly I say to you, until the heaven and the earth shall pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the Law until everything has been fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18). These words of Jesus are a direct reference to the books of the Old Testament, which were grouped into three main divisions: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Since heaven and earth have not passed away and all the prophecies in the Old Testament have not been fulfilled, the Law and the Prophets are still in effect. Anyone who claims otherwise is opposing and contradicting the words of Jesus Christ.

It is important to understand what Jesus meant when He declared that He had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. The word “fulfill” does not mean “to nullify” or “undo,” as does the word “abolish.” In fact, to “fulfill” means just the opposite: “to carry out, to do,” or “to obey, to fill the requirements of,” or “satisfy,” or “to complete,” and “to bring to an end” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary).

Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in three ways. First, Jesus magnified the meaning of God’s law, as prophesied by Isaiah: “The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness sake; He will magnify [or exalt] the Law and make it glorious” (Isa. 42:21).

Jesus’ magnification of the laws and commandments of God is clearly evident in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 5-7). The reader is encouraged to study these profound teachings. The teachings of Jesus expand the application of all the laws and commandments of God, filling their spiritual meaning to the full and establishing a higher spiritual standard of obedience under the New Covenant.

Secondly, Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies concerning His life, crucifixion, death and resurrection. After His resurrection, He continued to fulfill the Law and the Prophets by inspiring His apostles to record His teachings for the New Covenant. This was also prophesied by Isaiah: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (Isa. 8:16).

Thirdly, Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by bringing the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices to an end. Jesus Christ superseded the Levitical priesthood with a far greater spiritual priesthood as our High Priest at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. By offering Himself as the perfect and complete sacrifice of God, Jesus fulfilled all the animal sacrifices that were required under the Old Covenant, including the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. The commands and requirements for animal sacrifices and other temple rituals were the only laws that were brought to an end by the death of Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments and other laws of God in the Old Testament did not end when Jesus died on the cross.

Unfortunately, most theologians teach that the only meaning of the word “fulfill” is “to bring to an end.” This teaching has led professing Christians in many churches to believe that the death of Jesus Christ brought all the commandments and laws of God to an end.

The majority of professing Christians today do not understand that the weekly Sabbath and holy days of God were established at the creation of the world and are still in effect (Gen. 2:2-3 and 1:14). Most Christians have been taught that these days were not observed until the time of Moses and the Old Covenant, and that they were abolished along with the Old Covenant when Jesus was crucified. But the New Testament does not support this teaching. As the Gospel of Matthew shows, Jesus did not come to earth to abolish the laws of God, but to fulfill them.

This false teaching has deceived millions of professing Christians into believing that they are not required to keep the commandments of God. As a result, those who practice commandment-keeping are accused of denying the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and attempting to earn salvation by works of law. The belief that faith is diametrically opposed to law has been mistakenly accepted as a fundamental teaching of the New Testament. But the apostle Paul shows that this view of law and faith is a complete fallacy.

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul states most emphatically that true Christian faith does not oppose or eliminate the law of God, but upholds and establishes it: “Are we, then, abolishing law through faith? MAY IT NEVER BE! Rather, we are establishing law” (Rom. 3:31). Why is that so? Through faith, a Christian is able to keep the commandments and laws of God from the heart, which goes far beyond the letter of the law. Faith in Jesus Christ does not nullify the laws and commandments of God but leads to a far higher standard of obedience. It leads the true believer to fulfill the spirit of the law as revealed by the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.

Nowhere in the New Testament do we find any evidence that the laws and commandments of God were brought to an end. Contrary to popular belief, the apostle Paul did not teach that the laws and commandments of God have been abolished. This teaching, which has been proclaimed as “Pauline theology,” is contradicted by the emphatic statement that we find in Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Those who promote this teaching have ignored Paul’s clear and direct statement and have focused on other statements in Paul’s writings which contain wording that is not so clear and can easily be misunderstood. These difficult passages have been misinterpreted and misrepresented to promote a pseudo-Christianity that professes faith in Jesus Christ while denying the need for obedience (See Appendix Y, p. 447). The apostle John exposes this as a false faith: “The one who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. On the other hand, if anyone is keeping His Word, truly in this one the love of God is being perfected [made complete]. By this means we know that we are in Him. Anyone who claims to dwell in Him is obligating himself also to walk even as He Himself walked” (I John 2:4-6).

John shows that Christians who truly love God do not find His commandments grievous or burdensome: “By this standard we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:2-3). The love of God leads to obedience that goes far beyond the letter of the law. It leads true believers to fulfill the spirit of the law and to do what is pleasing to God the Father (I John 3:21-24). The Old Covenant required obedience only to the letter of the law. Under the New Covenant, the meaning and intent of God’s law has been magnified by Jesus Christ. Christians are required to keep the commandments and laws of God, including the weekly Sabbath and the annual feasts of God, according to the spirit of the law.

The teachings of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament clearly show that the commandments of God are binding on Christians today. The laws and commandments that God delivered in Old Testament times were written and preserved for our learning. They are essential to the practice of true Christianity, and cannot be ignored in establishing Christian doctrine.

2) The second error that is undermining the true observance of the Christian Passover is the assumption that traditional teachings and practices are Scriptural. The leaders of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches have erred in the same manner as the leaders of Judaism, who practice their own traditions instead of the commands of God. Jesus’ condemnation of the traditions of the Jews makes it clear that these practices were not the commandments of God but the commands of men (Matt. 15:9). They were accepted as the true teachings of Scripture when, in reality, they were the false teachings of the Pharisaic rabbis.

As the traditions of Judaism are based on the erroneous teachings of the rabbis, so the traditions of Protestant, Catholic and the Orthodox are based on the erroneous writings of the early church fathers. These writings are presumed to be the teachings of the apostles, but they are not. Although they contain a few apostolic teachings, most of the doctrines they present are a deceptive mixture of Scriptural truth and human philosophical error. They were written during a period of great subversion and apostasy in the early church. Even before the first writings appeared, the churches that Paul and the other apostles had raised up were beginning to be infiltrated by false apostles who professed to be representatives of Jesus Christ. As these false apostles rose to power, they excommunicated all believers who rejected their teachings. As a result, most of the New Testament churches fell into total apostasy, forsaking the true doctrines of Jesus Christ and turning to “another gospel” and “another Jesus” (Gal. 1:6, II Cor. 11:4). It is from this false theology, which worships a false Savior, that the early Catholic church derived its teachings.

Through the centuries, the false doctrines and practices that subverted the apostolic church have been perpetuated by Roman Catholicism. They have also been perpetuated by the Orthodox and Protestant churches, which—although they separated from the Catholic Church—have retained many of its doctrines and practices.

Few professing Christians ever stop to question the traditional beliefs and practices of their chosen denomination. They are firmly convinced that their religious leaders are teaching the true doctrines of Jesus Christ. They place their faith in their minister or priest and forget that every Christian has a personal responsibility to “prove all things” by diligently searching the Scriptures (I Thess. 5:21, Acts 17:11). As a result, the vast majority of Christians today, like many early believers of the apostolic church, have been deceived into accepting a counterfeit theology— “another gospel.” This false theology, inherited from the early church fathers, is the foundation not only of Catholicism but of nearly all the doctrines of mainstream Christianity today. Those who accept these doctrines are practicing a vain religion that will not lead to eternal life.

True followers of Jesus Christ will not embrace the false theology that has been passed down through Catholic tradition, nor will they adopt the rabbinical traditions of Judaism. They will faithfully practice the teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles, as recorded in the New Testament.

3) The third error that has caused confusion over the observance of the Christian Passover is a gross misunderstanding of the instructions that Paul gives in I Corinthians 11. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul addresses the serious problems that had arisen in the church at Corinth. Paul was not dealing with a single heresy, but multiple heresies. In fact, he addresses one heresy after another in his attempt to turn the Corinthians from their unchristian practices. One of these wrong practices was the misobservance of the Christian Passover. In I Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul rebukes the manner in which they were observing this solemn event, and he reminds them of the instructions that Jesus Himself had given. The expressions that Paul uses in this passage of his epistle have been greatly misconstrued. In order to understand the true meaning of Paul’s words, we need to examine this passage verse by verse. As we do, we will expose some major misconceptions that have led to gross misobservance of the Christian Passover in most churches of our day.

The passage begins with a strong condemnation of the practices that the Corinthians had adopted: “Now in this that I am commanding you, I do not praise you, because when you assemble together, it is not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, I hear that there are divisions among you when you are assembled together in the church, and I partly believe it. For it is necessary that heresies be among you, so that the ones who are approved may become manifest among you” (I Cor. 11:17-19).

What a stern condemnation of the practices of the Corinthian church! Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their practices and even calls them heresies. What were these heresies?

One of the heresies that had taken root in the Corinthian church was the practice of eating the Old Testament Passover meal in conjunction with the New Testament ceremony that Jesus had instituted. This heresy is with us to this very day. Christians in a number of churches are reintroducing the Old Testament Passover meal as part of their observance, and many observe a Nisan 15 Seder meal, as do the Jews. Paul strictly forbids this practice and makes it clear that the Christian Passover does not include a meal. Paul uses strong language to stress that when believers assemble to observe the New Testament ceremony, it is NOT for the purpose of eating the Old Testament Passover supper, as Jesus did before instituting the new symbols. Notice Paul’s words: “Therefore, when you assemble together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper!” (I Cor. 11:20).

The word “not” is translated from the Greek negative adverb ouk. Paul’s use of this Greek word emphasizes the strict prohibition against eating “the Lord’s Supper,” which was the Old Testament Passover meal. Ouk is the strongest Greek term that Paul could use. The word ouk denotes the absolute impossibility of eating the Lord’s supper. Ouk is “an objective negative adverb denying the reality of an alleged fact” (Arndt and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament ).

Paul is telling the Corinthians that there is no such reality as eating “the Lord’s supper” because Jesus never instituted this practice. Jesus did not command His followers to observe the Old Testament Passover supper. Since the Christian Passover does not include the Old Testament Passover supper, this ceremony should never be called the Lord’s Supper.

Ministers and theologians in many different churches have completely misinterpreted Paul’s statement. They do not understand that Paul is referring to the Old Testament Passover meal as “the Lord’s supper,” and they incorrectly assume that this term is referring to the New Testament ceremony that Jesus instituted. This mistaken view of Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians has led many churches to adopt the name of the very observance that Paul was condemning!

When we understand that “the Lord’s supper” refers to the Old Testament Passover meal, it is obvious that Christians should not call the New Testament ceremony by this name. Paul’s words are emphatic and their meaning is clear. The Christian Passover is not “the Lord’s supper.” The New Testament ceremony is a very solemn occasion, not a time to enjoy food and drink.

Paul’s condemnation of the believers at Corinth shows that by including a full meal, the solemnity of the observance had given way to festivity, and some Corinthians were actually getting drunk! Paul describes their unseemly conduct: “For in eating, everyone takes his own supper first; now on the one hand, someone goes hungry; but on the other hand, another becomes drunk” (I Cor. 11:21).

What a sorry state of affairs this was! The Corinthians were coming together to keep the Christian Passover, but they were bringing their supper and calling this event “the Lord’s supper.” Those who had an abundance of food were selfishly consuming it while others, who had little or no food, were going hungry. Worse yet, some were drinking to the point of intoxication. Paul sharply rebuked them for their grievous misobservance of this solemn occasion: “What! Don’t you have houses for eating and drinking? Or do you despise the church of God, and put to shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I DO NOT PRAISE YOU!” (verse 22).

To put an end to their practice of eating supper at the Christian Passover, Paul commanded them to eat at home before they assembled for the New Testament ceremony: “So then, my brethren, when you assemble together to eat the bread and drink the cup, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that there will be no cause for judgment when you assemble together.” (verses 33-34).

Paul’s words in this passage make it absolutely clear that they were practicing heresy! It is heresy to eat a meal at the Christian Passover. This ceremony is not “the Lord’s supper.” Furthermore, Paul vehemently denounces the practice of eating the Old Testament Passover meal in conjunction with the Christian Passover. The Old Testament Passover, which was instituted to commemorate the Lord’s passing over the children of Israel and sparing their firstborn, was only a foretype of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When the Christian Passover was instituted, the Old Testament Passover became obsolete.

As the Passover Lamb of the New Testament, Jesus fulfilled the sacrifice of the paschal lamb and all the sacrifices for sin that were ordained in the Old Testament. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the true Lamb of God has superseded the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. At His last Passover, Jesus replaced the sacrifice of the lamb with the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine. The paschal meal of lamb and bitter herbs was changed by Jesus Christ Himself. However, the time for observing the Passover was not changed. The accounts in the New Testament show that Jesus instituted the Christian Passover on the 14th day of the first month according to the Hebrew Calculated Calendar—the same day that the Old Testament Passover was observed.

There were some in the Corinthian church who apparently did not understand that the paschal meal was no longer necessary. They thought they should eat the Old Testament Passover before partaking of the New Testament symbols. This is the practice that Paul was combating and calling heresy. In order to set things straight, Paul appealed to the teachings that he had received directly from the Lord. There is no higher authority for observing the Christian Passover than the personal instructions of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had received these instructions by direct revelation during the years that he spent in Arabia (Gal. 1:11-12, 17). This fact is evident in the words that Paul writes to the Corinthians, reminding them of the teachings that he had previously delivered to them: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you; that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and after giving thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is being broken for you. This do in the remembrance of Me’ In like manner, He also took the cup after He had supped [after completing the Old Testament Passover meal], saying, ‘This is the cup of the New Covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in the remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you solemnly proclaim [by this act] the death of the Lord until He comes” (I Cor. 11:23-26).

The believers at Corinth had received the teachings of Jesus Christ from the apostle Paul, but they had chosen to add to them. In so doing, they were partaking of the Christian Passover in an unworthy manner and were bringing judgment upon themselves. It is clear that the Corinthians were sinning in their improper observance of the New Testament ceremony. The apostle James declared, “Therefore, if anyone knows to do good and does not do it, TO HIM IT IS SIN” (Jas. 4:17).

The observance of the Christian Passover is not a matter of individual preference or church practice—it is a matter of obeying the commands of Jesus Christ! To disobey His commands is SIN, which leads to eternal death!

The commands that Jesus Christ delivered to His apostles are recorded in the pages of the New Testament. These commands are worded quite clearly in the four Gospel accounts, but the instructions that we find in Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians contain some expressions that are easily misinterpreted. To determine the true meaning of these expressions, we must understand the rules that govern their use in the Greek text.

Understanding the Expressions In the Greek Text

Much confusion has arisen over the expressions “as often as” and “in the remembrance of,” which are both used by Paul in I Corinthians 11. These expressions have been greatly misinterpreted due to ignorance of the Greek text. The apostle Peter warns that attempting to interpret Paul’s writings without proper knowledge can lead to a distorted view of the Scriptures: “ our beloved brother Paul...has also written to which are some things that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable are twisting and distorting... to their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:15-16).

Peter’s warning is especially applicable to the Passover instructions that Paul relates in I Corinthians 11. Most people interpret the expressions that Paul uses as allowing any number of times in the year for eating the bread and drinking the wine. Is that the meaning of these expressions? Or are there limiting factors and conditions which govern their meaning?

A study of the Greek text will show that there are indeed factors and conditions that limit the time and frequency of partaking of the bread and the wine. By applying the rules of Greek grammar, we can determine the true meaning of the phrases “as often as” and “in the remembrance of.” As we have done with other Scriptures that are difficult to interpret, we will carefully examine all essential factors in order to fully understand the meaning of these expressions.

As often as”: Does this expression mean that it is permissible to partake of the bread and the wine as often as one desires? If that were the meaning, a person could take it every five minutes, which would add up to twelve times an hour. If one did so for eight hours, one could take it nearly one hundred times in a day. Obviously, that would be excessive. In fact, it would be ridiculous and vain. Jesus warned that participating in vain, repetitious religious practices is completely unacceptable to God (Matt. 6:7). His condemnation of vain repetition shows that there are limiting factors which govern the frequency of taking the New Testament symbols.

Is it acceptable to partake of the symbols once a day? Does the expression “as often as” sanction celebrating Communion or Mass on a daily basis? When we examine the Scriptural context of this expression, we find no mention of a daily observance, yet there are devout Catholic and Orthodox believers who follow this ritual. Certainly, as head of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope does. Other churches also believe that this expression supports a weekly observance. They assume that the assembling that Paul speaks of is referring to weekly church services and that the bread and the wine should be taken at each service. However, there is nothing in the Greek text to substantiate a weekly observance of the New Testament ceremony.

The Orthodox and Catholics believe that Scriptural references to “breaking bread” are referring to taking Communion or celebrating the Mass, and Protestants believe that this expression refers to the Lord’s Supper. Passages in the book of Acts are frequently quoted in an attempt to substantiate these claims (see Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7-11). (In spite of this claim the priest does not break the wafer bread during the celebration of the Eucharist/or Mass.) When these passages are closely examined, it is clear that the term “to break bread” refers simply to eating a meal. This expression was commonly used in New Testament times in reference to partaking of food. In fact, the same terminology is used by Matthew in his account of the feeding of the 5,000. Matthew records that Jesus “blessed them [the loaves and the fish]; and He broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude” (Matt. 14:19). The same phrase is also used in the account of the feeding of the 4,000 (Mat. 15:36). Certainly the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 with loaves and fishes was not a celebration of Communion or “the Lord’s Supper.” When the miraculous feeding of these multitudes took place, the New Covenant ceremony had not yet been instituted!

There is no Scriptural support for the claim that “to assemble together” or to “break bread” refers to taking the New Covenant symbols every week, nor is there any authority in the Scriptures for churches to set their own times for this observance. This practice shows a complete lack of understanding of the terms that are found in the New Testament.

The expression that has caused the greatest confusion is the phrase “as often as.” This phrase is translated from the Greek word osakis, which comes from the root osos. Osos means “as great, how great; as far, how far; as long, how long; as much, how much” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament). Although the meaning of the word osos itself is very broad, in every passage where osakis is used, there is a conditional or specific qualifier which defines its limit. Osakis is used three times in the New Testament—twice in I Corinthians 11 and once in Revelation 11. Let us first examine its use in Revelation 11:6: “These [the two witnesses] have authority to shut heaven so that no rain may fall in the days of their prophecy; and they have authority over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as [osakis] they will”. The limiting factor which qualifies the use of osakis in this verse is “they will.” The meaning of osakis in this verse is limited only by the will of the two witnesses. They are free to smite the earth “as often as” they choose. However, we do not find this broad application of osakis in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians.

When we examine the context in which the word osakis is used in I Corinthians 11, we find a number of conditional factors that limit its meaning. The Greek text contains a major limiting factor that is not shown in the English translation. This limiting factor is an untranslated particle between “as often as” and “you drink,” and also between “as often as” and “you eat.” In the Greek text, these expressions read as follows: osakis an pineete, which is translated “for as often as you drink”; and osakis an esthieete, which is translated “as often as you eat.” The word an is the untranslated Greek particle. (Please note: This spelling is found in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Berry, which footnotes an with the alternative reading of ean. In other Greek texts, such as those of the United Bible Societies, the particle an is replaced by the conjunction ean, which has nearly the same meaning as an. (See Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.) It would be most helpful for the reader to obtain a Greek interlinear of the New Testament and to see the actual Greek words with the English translation below each line. The reader will be able to observe that although an or ean appears in the Greek text, there is no corresponding word in the English. Here is the definition of the Greek particle an: “A particle peculiar to Greek, incapable of translation by a single English word; it denotes that the action of the verb is dependent on some circumstance or condition; the effect of an upon the meaning of the clause depends on the mood and tense of the verb with which it is used” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).

The Greek particle an is used to denote that conditions apply to the circumstances being related. The use of an with “you eat” and “you drink” in Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians shows that there are conditions governing these actions. But because an expresses conditions, it cannot be translated into a single English word. The only way to translate its meaning is to explain the conditions. Since it is not the responsibility of translators to comment on the text, an is simply omitted from the English translation.

An is used three times in I Corinthians 11. Its use with the actions “you eat” and “you drink” shows that both of these actions are subject to conditions. An is also used with the action “He comes,” in reference to Christ’s return, showing that this future action is dependent on specific conditions and circumstances, which are revealed elsewhere in both the Old and the New Testaments.

Paul’s use of an in I Corinthians 11 is important because it tells us that there are conditions and circumstances that have a direct bearing on what he has written. These qualifying factors are clearly stated by Paul and are not difficult to find. Here are the contextual limiting factors and conditional qualifiers in I Corinthians 11 which restrict the meaning of osakis, or “as often as”:

1) The teachings that the apostle Paul received from the Lord (verse 23). This conditional qualifier restricts the observance to the specific teachings which Paul received directly from the Lord. In other words, no other teaching is to be followed.

2) The time specified by Paul as “THE NIGHT in which He was betrayed” (verse 23). This limiting factor allows no other time for the observance than the night of Jesus’ betrayal. The fact that “the night in which He was betrayed” was the PASSOVER NIGHT limits its observance to the 14th day of the first month in the Calculated Hebrew calendar. The Passover was instituted as an annual memorial feast (Ex. 12:14). Its observance was restricted to that one day of the year, with the special exception of Numbers 9.

3) The statement that by observing this ceremony, “you solemnly proclaim the Lord’s death.” This clause clearly limits the observance to the day that Jesus died. That day was the Passover day, the 14th day of the first month. His death can only be memorialized or “proclaimed” on that day.

4) The phrase “until He comes” defines the span of time during which the annual Christian Passover is to be observed—until He returns to earth to establish the kingdom of God. At the time that Paul wrote these words, he apparently believed that Jesus’ return was very near (I Cor. 7:29- 31; 15:51-52). It was only later that Paul understood that His return would be in the distant future. Christians are commanded to observe the New Covenant ceremony every year until Jesus Christ returns.

The four factors that are listed above are conditional qualifiers which restrict the application of the phrase “as often as.” These factors clearly show that this expression does not allow the observance of the Christian Passover at any time one may choose. The limiting factors that are found in I Corinthians 11 make it clear that the symbols of the bread and the wine are to be taken only once a year, on the Passover night, the 14th day of the first month. That is the night in which Jesus was betrayed.

A Memorial of Jesus’ Death

In addition to the limiting factors that Paul gives in his epistle to the Corinthians, we have the direct command of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke. The words that Jesus spoke when He instituted the Christian Passover show that this ceremony is a memorial of His death: “And He took bread; and after giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. This do in the remembrance of Me’ In like manner also, He took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you’ ” (Luke 22:19- 20).

Jesus commands His followers to partake of the symbols of His body and His blood “in the remembrance of Me.” The words “the remembrance” are translated from the Greek phrase tees anamnesis, which means “the remembrance, reminder, memorial” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament). This Greek phrase occurs only four times in the New Testament. It is used three times in reference to observing the Christian Passover as a memorial of Jesus’ death (Luke 22:19; I Cor. 11:24, 25), and once in reference to the animal sacrifices that were offered each year on the Day of Atonement: “In offering these sacrifices year by year, there is a remembrance of sins” (Heb. 10:3).

In Hebrews 10, the word “remembrance” is referring to an annual event butt was not a memorial. However, in Luke 22:19 and in I Corinthians 11:24 and 25, the Greek text is specifically referring to a memorial observance. In these three verses, which contain instructions for observing the Christian Passover, the definite article “the” is used with “remembrance.” The use of the definite article “the” leaves no room to question the meaning of the word “remembrance.” The presence of the definite article makes it absolutely clear that the Passover is to be observed once a year as a memorial of Jesus’ death, just as the Old Testament Passover was observed once a year as a memorial of the sparing of Israel’s firstborn.

As we have seen, even in Hebrews 10:3, where the word “remembrance” is used without the definite article, it is still referring to an annual observance—the Day of Atonement. Each year on that day, animal sacrifices were offered to atone for the sins of the people. In every occurrence in the New Testament, the word “remembrance” is used in reference to an annual event. The word “remembrance,” as used in the Scriptures, in no way supports the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annual services of the Lord’s Supper, Mass, Communion or the Eucharist. These traditional practices, which are observed by millions of professing Christians today, do not conform to the commands of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ personal instructions, as recorded in the New Testament, clearly restrict the taking of the bread and the wine to the night of His betrayal, which occurred on the Passover day. True Christians are commanded to partake of the New Covenant symbols only once a year on the Passover day, the 14th day of the first month, at the time that Jesus instituted them, “in the night He was betrayed.”

Should the Passover Be Observed At the Time of Jesus’ Death?

Some professing Christians who understand that the Passover should be observed on the 14th day of the first month have decided to observe it in the afternoon, at the time that Jesus died. Because the Gospels record that Jesus died at “about the ninth hour” (Matt. 27:46), which is about 3 PM, they feel that the Passover ceremony should take place at that time. To support their belief, they point to Paul’s words in I Corinthians 11:26. In this verse, Paul states that those who observe the Christian Passover “are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes.”

Does “proclaiming the Lord’s death” mean observing the Christian Passover at the time that Jesus died? When we examine the context of Paul’s statement, we find no indication that this expression refers to observing the New Testament ceremony in the afternoon. In fact, before making this statement, Paul reminds the Corinthians of Jesus’ command to observe the ceremony “in the night He was betrayed” (verse 23). This was one of the ordinances that Paul had delivered to the Corinthians (verse 1). Although they had inappropriately modified the ceremony by adding a meal, they had been keeping it at the commanded time. Their erroneous practice of eating “the Lord’s supper” shows that they were not observing the ceremony in the afternoon, but on the night of the 14th, at the time that Jesus observed it with His disciples.

There is no Scriptural evidence to support the assertion that “proclaiming the Lord’s death” means to observe the Christian Passover at the time of Jesus’ death. Paul makes no reference to an afternoon observance of the Christian Passover, nor is there any record of the ceremony ever being observed by the early Christians at that time of day.

If Christians were required to observe the Passover at the time that Jesus died, Paul would have revealed this fact to the Corinthians. Such a dramatic change in the timing of the New Testament ceremony would be recorded in his instructions in I Corinthians 11. However, Paul’s instructions do not include any such statement. Nowhere in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians—or any other book in the New Testament—is there any indication that Christians should commemorate Jesus’ death at any other time than “the night He was betrayed.” That is when Jesus instituted the New Testament ceremony, and that is the time that Christians are commanded to observe it. On that night, Jesus gave this command for partaking of the bread and the wine: “This do in the remembrance of Me.” Jesus’ command, “THIS DO!” shows that His followers are to follow the procedures that He Himself instituted, observing the ceremony in the same manner and at the same time.

It is completely erroneous to interpret the phrase “proclaiming the Lord’s death” as justification for observing the Christian Passover at the time of day that Christ died. The death of Jesus Christ can only be commemorated, or “proclaimed,” by observing the New Covenant ceremony at the time that Jesus commanded. The instructions of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Paul clearly show that the Christian Passover should be observed at the time that Jesus instituted it, which was “the night in which He was betrayed.” That is the commanded time to partake of the symbols of His body and His blood.

Is It Acceptable to Add to the Observance of the Christian Passover?

Some who recognize that the Christian Passover is an annual observance believe that it is acceptable to partake of the New Covenant symbols at additional times during the year. Samuele Bacchiocchi supports this view and maintains that this practice was followed by the early Christian churches. He states the following: “Passover and the Lord’s Supper. The meaning and ritual of the Christian Passover was similar to that of the Lord’s Supper observed during the course of the year [in addition to the annual observance on the 14th of Nisan]. The main that during the course of the year the Lord’s Supper was celebrated as part of a religious service, while at Passover [Nisan 14] the Lord’s Supper was the main part of the service, being celebrated as the climax of an all-night vigil of fasting [a Catholic and Orthodox practice]” (God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, p. 74, emphasis added).

Like most theologians of today, Bacchiocchi has totally misinterpreted Paul’s statements in I Corinthians 11. He does not understand that “the Lord’s supper” refers to the Old Testament Passover meal, which the Corinthians had wrongfully observed with their annual observance of the Christian Passover. Because he has not carefully studied the Scriptures, he mistakenly interprets “the Lord’s supper” as a New Testament practice that the early Christians were observing “during the course of the year” and uses this false interpretation to justify the current false practice of periodically including a substitute of the New Covenant ceremony at weekly worship services. Notice: “One could wish to know how Paul related the Passover Supper with the Lord’s Supper discussed in 1 Corinthians 11. Undoubtedly, both constituted for him a proclamation of the Lord’s death ‘until he comes’ (I Cor. 11:26). It is clear, however, that for Paul the memorial of Christ’s death is to be observed not only once a year at Passover but ‘as often as’ the Lord’s Supper is celebrated (I Cor. 11:26). The phrase ‘as often as’ suggests that the Apostolic Church sensed the need to celebrate their new Passover more frequently than once a year. The fundamental importance attached to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus made it imperative for the primitive church to celebrate the memorial of His death not annually at Passover but periodically during the course of the year” (Ibid., p. 75, emphasis added).

In addition to observing the Lord’s Supper, Bacchiocchi promotes the unscriptural practice of observing an agape meal in conjunction with the New Testament ceremony: “Evening Lord’s Supper and Agape Meal. The first option is to begin the passover vigil with an evening celebration of the Lord’s Supper and an agape meal [at dawn of Nisan 15]” (Ibid., p. 150, emphasis added).

Bacchiocchi errs in his view of I Corinthians 11 because he relies on the traditions of men—not on the teachings that Jesus delivered to His apostles. Notice how he uses the interpretations of men to justify observing the “Lord’s Supper”: “In his classic W. D. Davies also notes a possible connection in I Corinthians between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper” (Ibid., p. 75). This statement promotes the false belief that Paul’s words to the Corinthians support the observance of the Lord’s Supper. What a gross distortion of the words of the apostle Paul! As we have seen, Paul’s reference to “the Lord’s supper” shows his rejection of this practice and every other practice that goes beyond the express commands of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures do not support such practices.

The influence of these unscriptural practices is clearly evident in Bacchiocchi’s writing. In addition to supporting the Lord’s Supper and agape meals, he promotes the view of the New Testament ceremony as “the Eucharist.” He quotes W. D. Davies’ study on Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, which uses this terminology: “He [Davies] writes: ‘It seems a justifiable assumption that 1 Corinthians was written before the Passover season and it is natural that the Passover ritual should be in the forefront of Paul’s thought, and there is considerable evidence that this was so. Thus in 1 Corinthians 15:23, Christ is called the first-fruits, an element in the Passover ritual, and there is a more specific reference still of course in 1 Corinthians 5:7. Perhaps it is strictly incorrect to claim that Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 is thinking of the Eucharist [the bread and wine] as the Christian equivalent of Jewish Passover. Nevertheless, we believe that Paschal ideas dominate his view of the Eucharist. We have previously pointed out that the thought of Christianity as a New Exodus, with its New Torah, was constantly in Paul’s mind and it is fully consonant with this that the Last Supper should be regarded by him as the inauguration of the New Covenant’ “ (Ibid.).

There is no Scriptural connection between the Christian Passover and the Catholic Eucharist, neither in the time of observance nor in the manner of observance. If we rely on the teachings of the New Testament, we will recognize that the Eucharist, like the Lord’s Supper, is wholly unacceptable to Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul’s statements in I Corinthians 11 show that Christians are absolutely forbidden to adopt practices that do not conform to the commands of Jesus Christ. When we apply the principle that Paul has laid down in his epistle, it is clear that Christians are to observe the New Covenant ceremony exactly as Jesus commanded— neither adding to His commands nor omitting from them. Any other practice is a tradition of men and has no Scriptural authority whatsoever.

Warning Against Eating the Passover Unworthily

In rebuking the Corinthian believers for adding to the commands of Jesus Christ, Paul warned them of the dire consequences of eating and drinking the new symbols unworthily: “For this reason, if anyone shall eat this bread or shall drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, he shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup accordingly. Because the one who eats and drinks unworthily is eating and drinking judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. For this very reason, many are weak and sickly among you, and many have fallen asleep [are dead]. For if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we will not be condemned with the world. So then, my brethren, when you assemble together to eat the bread and drink the cup, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that there will be no cause for judgment when you assemble together” (I Cor. 11:27-34).

The words that Paul wrote to the Corinthians reveal what it means to partake of the New Testament symbols unworthily.

Unworthiness includes the following:

1) an improper manner, improper symbols, and an incorrect day and time

2) an improper attitude of rebellion or habitual, calloused sinfulness

3) not discerning the body of Jesus Christ for healing

4) not discerning the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins

Worthiness includes the following:

1) the proper manner, proper symbols, and the correct day and time

2) a humble, loving, repentant, yielded attitude

3) discerning the body of the Lord and trusting Him for healing

4) discerning the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins

Much of the eleventh chapter of I Corinthians is devoted to correcting the believers in the Corinthian church for their improper observance of the Christian Passover and exhorting them to follow the commands of Jesus Christ as they had previously been taught. Paul reminds them that the time and manner for observing the Christian Passover were instituted by Jesus Himself on the night in which He was betrayed. Christians who truly love God and desire to do what is pleasing to Him will keep the Christian Passover at the time and in the manner that Jesus commanded.

Changes in the Old Testament Passover Ordinances

The time that God ordained for observing the Passover—in both the Old Testament and the New Testament—is the 14th day of Nisan, the first month in the calculated Hebrew calendar. This day was ordained in the beginning, and it has not changed. However, when we compare the Old Testament teachings with the New Testament teachings, we find that the physical requirements of the Old Covenant have been replaced by the spiritual requirements of the New Covenant. It is a basic principle of Scripture that the physical comes first, then the spiritual. The apostle Paul wrote: “However, the spiritual was not first, but the natural [or physical]—then the spiritual” (I Cor. 15:46).

The Passover of the Old Covenant, which came first, was based on obedience to the physical requirements of the law. Here is a summary of the ordinances of the Old Covenant Passover:

1) Sacrifice a lamb or kid.

2) Put the blood of lamb on door posts and lintel of the house.

3) All males were required to be circumcised before participating.

4) No uncircumcised male was allowed to eat the Passover.

5) Roast the lamb and eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread on the night of the 14th.

6) Carry none of the flesh out of the house.

7) Break no bones of the lamb or kid.

8) Burn all remains by morning.

9) Observe the Passover only in the land of the covenant. No one was allowed to eat the Passover when on a journey in another country or when unclean by reason of touching a dead body.

Unlike the Passover of the Old Covenant, the Passover of the New Covenant requires spiritual obedience and offers the promise of eternal life. The ordinances of the New Covenant Passover are spiritual in nature and meaning. Here is a summary of those ordinances:

1) Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God—the true Passover sacrifice.

2) The blood of Jesus Christ—the blood of the New Covenant— is applied to each believer for the forgiveness of sins.

3) Before participating, each believer must be baptized into the death of Jesus Christ by full immersion in water.

4) All participants, male and female, must be spiritually circumcised in the heart by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God the Father.

5) All must participate in the footwashing, which symbolizes the renewal of the baptismal covenant pledge to walk in Christ Jesus.

6) All must partake of the unleavened bread, which symbolizes the broken body of Jesus Christ for healing of sicknesses.

7) All must partake of the wine, which symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ—the blood of the New Covenant—for the forgiveness of sins.

8) All must live by the commandments of Jesus Christ, as symbolized by eating the unleavened bread and drinking the wine.

9) All baptized believers may partake of the Christian Passover in the country where they live.

Many Christians understand that the Passover of the New Covenant was preceded by the Passover of the Old Covenant, but they do not realize that both observances were founded on the promises that God gave to Abraham when He established His covenant with him. In the next chapter, we will examine the original foundation of the Passover as revealed in the book of Genesis.