Just as in the old economy, so in the new, there are principles that must be adhered to as we “keep the feast” (1 Cor 5.8):
It Had to be Kept by the Appointed People
Under the old covenant, only those who were born free (that is, born of God), or those who were purchased (that is, bought of God), could keep the feasts. Those who were foreigners, or hired servants, or who were ceremonially unclean could not keep them. Today, only born-again believers should enjoy the privilege of partaking of the Lord’s Supper. But Paul also says in 1 Corinthians “let a man so examine himself” (11.28), so that individually we need to be in a right state of heart, with a right conscience coupled with a growing appreciation of spiritual things, in order to be in a suitable condition to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
It Had to be Kept in the Appointed Manner
The hymn writer puts it in this way: “Only bread and only wine, yet to faith, the solemn sign of the heav’nly and divine …” We find in the Old Testament that the sweet-savour offerings would rise from the earth–bound altar to the throne of Heaven, teaching us that it was a place of worship and a source of praise for God’s glory. As we gather at the Lord’s Supper we, as individual believers, join together in corporate union to worship God, offer our thanksgivings, and communicate with Him. But we should ask ourselves the question “how earnest are we in our approach to present unto Him, from thankful hearts, our worship, adoration and praise?” No earthly priest officiates here. The rituals of men have no place at this remembrance fellowship. As the Scriptures record, “having an high priest … let us draw near” (Heb 10.21-22).
It Had to be Kept at the Appointed Time
Under the Mosaic law, the various feasts were held at very precise and specific times determined by God, and on the Sabbath day. But, when Christ instituted the occasion that we now refer to as the Lord’s Supper, it was a new beginning, and we are taught later that it is on the first day of the week that we gather to remember Him. What a joy to commence a new week by gathering together for this purpose.
The Passover achieved three things for the children of Israel:
In like manner, Christ’s work on the cross for us has a three-fold action:
Our new life in Christ is immediate, and is required to be continuous, complete and whole. Just like Enoch of old, we are required to walk with God on a daily basis.
However, linked to the passover feast was the feast of unleavened bread, which commenced immediately after the feast of passover. There was no lapse of time between the two, which teaches us that our life now has to be different from that previously lived. Pre-conversion conduct is no longer suitable for the child of God. We now have new life, which should be lived in sincerity and truth, walking in righteousness and sanctification.
The feast of unleavened bread had two distinctive characteristics. First, it was a feast given in wilderness conditions, introduced to the Israelite as he travelled between Egypt and Canaan, going on to the Promised Land. In type, it speaks of our life here on earth, travelling on to our promised land, as strangers and pilgrims (1 Pet 2.11). It has been often said that we need to be a stranger before we can be a pilgrim, since a stranger is someone who is away from his home, whilst the pilgrim is going to his home. But, as we journey homewards, our walk should be progressive, with an ever-widening experience of Christ in our lives producing daily sanctification. Practical holiness is a necessary condition for full enjoyment of the things of Christ, and demonstrates a new beginning for the soul: “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5.17).
It was also a feast where leaven was prohibited. Interestingly, in neither feast, whether it be the Passover or this one, was the use of leaven permitted. The Israelite had to be meticulous in his attention to detail: no leaven was to be eaten, no leaven was to be seen, and no leaven was to be allowed in the house. Leaven, when used in the Scriptures, often, though not always, typifies evil in any shape or form. In type, it often illustrates that which permeates, is insidious, rapid in growth, and defies remedy. It is not surprising that the Scriptures say “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17.9). We know, as God’s people, how true this can be in the recesses of our inner thought life, when leaven like a poison lingers there. We are reminded that “I the Lord search the heart” (Jer 17.10), and therefore we need to “purge out … the old leaven” (1 Cor 5.7), and “put … on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13.14).
Our Saviour, in the Gospels, also warned of the evils of leaven and its possible effects on our lives. He spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees, which He described as hypocrisy. Their mere outward performance of pious religion was just like actors hiding behind a mask; “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim 3.5). May we be preserved from ritualism and formalism in our gatherings today. Then He spoke of the leaven of the Sadducees. They were great rationalists, who tried to explain everything away by logic and reason, so that faith was displaced. For them, there was no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit (Acts 23.8). Sadly, today, the same spirit still permeates much of so-called Christendom. Finally, He spoke of the leaven of the Herodians. The spirit of compromise and political correctness was their trademark, and could be summed up as ‘concentrate on what we can agree on and deal with the rest later’. Whilst we should always strive for unity amongst God’s people, it must not be at the expense of Scriptural principles. The danger of any one, or indeed of all three, of these types of leaven is that they are very similar to the truth, yet they are not the truth. We need to heed the warnings in many of the New Testament epistles as to the ever-present dangers of false teachers and deceivers.
So, then, what are the practicalities of our obedience to the injunction of the apostle Paul when he says “therefore let us keep the feast”? As the children of God, we need to live in the blessedness of the life of victory over sin by heeding the practical exhortations of Scripture to:
It is not enough just to believe in the theoretical state of sanctification and separation for the believer. He who has called us is holy, and He gives to each of us the enabling grace and strength to follow in His steps. Therefore, the challenge goes out to us all: “let us keep the feast”.