I would suppose that, on a casual reading of the verse “Therefore let us keep the feast …” (1 Cor 5.8), and in answer to a question posed, many would respond by saying that the “feast” refers to the Lord’s Supper; the memorial feast. However, I would judge that, in the context of the chapter, the injunction given goes a great deal deeper than the answer that I would possibly also have initially given.
1 Corinthians 5 is dealing with a number of serious issues that existed within the assembly:
vv 1-2: Moral weakness in the church, and other associated problems.
vv 3-5: Church discipline, or the lack of it.
vv 6-7: Church purity, and the possibility of contamination.
vv 9-13: Church fellowship; those with whom we should or should not keep company.
Therefore, “let us keep the feast” (v 8) is written within a wider context, and probably covers a wider gamut than that which may be first envisaged.
In the Old Testament, there were seven feasts instituted by Jehovah, all of which had to be kept on an annual basis. The word feast means ‘to meet by appointment’, and it is surely a salutary lesson to us today that we still meet God by His appointment. ‘The Feasts of Jehovah’ in the Old Testament tell us of God’s sovereignty and authority over Israel, and there are three important aspects to these feasts which we should consider:
They were unchangeable. These were God’s feasts, and man had to carry them out in accordance with divine instruction.
They were unalterable. Not only were they to be carried out in God’s way, but also in God’s time. He determined when they were to be observed.
They were uncontaminated. These were holy convocations, when God’s people were called together in harmony and unity for His glory, with a real spiritual sense of His presence and purposes.
A convocation is a time of calling together the people of God, with a view to maintaining and promoting a deeper appreciation of, and fellowship with, Him. When we come together, dear fellow saint, in whatever capacity, it would be good if we were to let the three principles outlined above govern our gatherings.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is speaking of the Lordship of Christ with regard to the Church and His authority over it. In the first 11 chapters, he deals with carnal matters in the assembly, that is, those matters which are driven by our natural desires (the flesh) and which, as a consequence, have a detrimental effect on the worship, witness and work of the people of God. However, the last four chapters deal with spiritual matters; those things which ought to govern and direct our lives. The fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians handles matters of a sensitive nature, which sadly are commonly accepted today by society in general, but which must be abhorrent to the child of God. So, Paul, with his exhortation for us to “keep the feast”, could be directing our thoughts in verse 7 to the feast of passover, which is a picture of the cross-work of Christ, and the means of our salvation, and which brings before us a new birth and a new beginning. In verse 8, we are reminded of the feast of unleavened bread, speaking of Christ in His death, His inherent holiness, and His separation from sinners. The practical application for us is that we now have new life, and new characteristics, which should manifest themselves in holy living for Christ. If we turn to 1 Corinthians 15.20, we discover there the feast of firstfruits, which clearly speaks of Christ in His resurrection power. You and I, as believers, are now indwelt with a new power – that of the Holy Spirit.
These Old Testament feasts have far-reaching applications for the New Testament Church. They bring before us the privileges and responsibilities of being God’s present-day people, in His assembly, to reflect His glory; privileges and responsibilities which are all based on established past principles. We need to acknowledge that these things were written aforetime for our learning, and that there are practical lessons which should, and must, govern our lives as believers today. In 1 Corinthians 10 we learn of the Lord’s table, where all believers in our Saviour have a place. This is where we feed on Christ, the hidden manna, and we should be challenged to consider what we eat there – strong meat or milk (Heb 5.12)? However, chapter 11 brings before us the Lord’s Supper, where not all believers enjoy the privilege of sitting. There the principle brought before us is worship – what we present. In chapter 12 it is the Lord’s sovereignty that is in view, and what we receive as a gift. Chapter 13 reminds us of oil, the Lord’s unction, and tells us what we are, while chapter 14 deals with the Lord’s service – what we do – the practical out-workings of salvation in our lives.
So, this all suggests that perhaps there is a broader application to Paul’s injunction for us to “keep the feast … with … sincerity and truth” than the initial narrow interpretation suggested. “Sincerity and truth” would remind us of the need for convictions regarding the reality of our beliefs, rather than merely going through the motions. We are reminded that, in the Old Testament, nothing prepared in Egypt (a picture of the world) had any place whatsoever in the feasts, and that principle should still apply today.
The apostle reminds us “for even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5.7). At the mention of the Passover, our minds would automatically go to Exodus 12, where we recall the great act of deliverance from the bondage in Egypt by the power of God and the death of the lamb. This takes us in thought to Calvary, and the death of the Lamb of God, reminding us of our deliverance and our new beginning. However, in Leviticus 23, we are shown a different aspect of the passover feast. There, the principle is that of the ongoing remembrance of the act of deliverance, from which springs out worship and thanksgiving. We learn that the Levitical passover, in contrast to the Egyptian passover, was a memorial feast, speaking of Christ in all His sufferings, service and perfection as He offered Himself to His God. At this feast, the blood was never again applied to the doorpost and lintel. Egypt was unique in that respect. It was eaten outside of the land where they had been in bondage, and was kept at the place where Jehovah had chosen to place His Name, and at the time which He had appointed. It was to be kept in perpetuity; an ordinance forever, as a recurring reminder. Today, we hear the voice of our Saviour, “this do in remembrance of me” (Lk 22.19). Our remembrance feast is not a continuation of the old, for we have a new covenant, but we are at the Lord’s Supper to remember who He is, what He became, what He accomplished, and where He is now. And from our redeemed hearts there should flow worship and thanksgiving to our God. When our Saviour instituted this memorial feast, He was making provision for His own; a new people described as His Body, or the Church of which He is the Head. Just as in the old economy, so in the new, there are principles that must be adhered to as we keep the feast and, God willing, we will look at these in our next article.
(To be continued …)