The authority for the Lord’s Supper on the first day of he week can be established typologically and numerologically and fits neatly into the story of the Bible. It is entirely Biblical and true to the overall story of the Bible. It is not as easy as finding a command, (if there was one, which there isn’t) and far more honest than misusing and misapplying scripture to establish it by an un-necessarily inferred answer as to when to partake of the Supper.
We do not understand numerology which introduces this approach because we are not culturally acclimated to this way of thinking. Ancient peoples were. They were much more aware of the passage of time than are we because even though they didn’t have watches, clocks, computers and calendars by which to count time.
The number seven plays a significant role in many different ways in both the Old and New Testaments. God sanctified the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:3). Noah took with him seven of all clean animals and birds on the ark (Genesis 7:1-3). Seven days after these animals were on the ark God said it would begin to rain and after seven days of rain the flood waters would come up on the earth (Genesis 7:4; Genesis 7:10).
Pharaoh’s vision of seven fat cows followed by seven lean cows signifying seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine is another example of the pattern of sevens (Genesis 41:2). There were seven golden candlesticks (lamp stands) in the tabernacle. (There are many other examples of the number 7 being used significantly in the scriptures).
Then there is the instruction given the Israelites concerning the preparation for the final plague that was to come upon Egypt and their preparation to depart in Exodus 12:15-13:7. They were told what they could and could not do for the seven days prior to their deliverance.
After their deliverance from bondage, the Israelites were fed with manna by God. They were to gather the manna for six days and on the sixth day they were to gather enough for the seventh day. They were to rest on the seventh day (Exodus 16:26).
“See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” (Exodus 16:29).
It is within the context of these instructions concerning manna that the Sabbath is first mentioned beyond Genesis 2:1-3. The Israelites had been slaves, not given the privilege of rest, but now God sets up this pattern of six days of labor and one of rest as expressed in the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:8-11, looking back to the days of creation.
Israel was not just suddenly given a command. They had been taught the meaning and the rhythm of the Sabbath with the manna before the Sabbath command was given by God. The necessity of keeping it was reinforced by the penalty of death if they did not. After all it was a command (law) and laws have penalties attached for violation. In Numbers 15:31-33 we read of one man who was executed for gathering firewood on the Sabbath. Even their servants and their beasts of burden were to rest on the Sabbath. This was part of what it meant to honor and worship God as Jesus said in Matt. 4:10 “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”
When Israel came out of Egypt, they had been set free. They were no longer in slavery. They were a new creation – a nation set apart unto God. They were being invited into God’s rest. For the Israelites, the rest of the Sabbath not only looked back to creation, but forward to another rest – the rest of a new home in Canaan where they could enjoy the fruit of their labor and the blessing of being with God in a new way in the promised land – a land flowing with milk and honey. But because of unbelief, many of those who came out of Egypt were not allowed to enter into God’s rest (Num. 14:21–30; Hebrews 3).
God also gave them Sabbath years, still with the same rhythm of sevens. They were to set aside every seventh year during which their land was to rest. They were instructed…
“…in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. (Leviticus 25:4).
In this year God promised them that the land would produce enough for them and their slaves and hired servants so they would not have to labor, neither they nor their servants nor their animals. They were to enjoy their life in the land of God’s blessing, rejoicing in the abundance of blessings from him and celebrating their freedom that had come from him.
|Six years of weekly Sabbaths||
Remembering creation, deliverance, forward to rest
Rest for man, servants and beasts with God
|Seventh year Sabbath||
Remembering creation, deliverance, forward to promised rest
Land fallow, rest for man, beasts, all debts except of foreigners forgiven, slaves set free after 7th yr. service.
Seven Sabbath years, next year 50th, Jubilee
New beginning, new creation?
Land fallow for second year, reverts to original owners or heirs. Slaves set free.
Jesus – Luke 4:18
Year of the Lord – (Jubilee) – John 19:30 “It is finished,” His work was done.
Rest, looking forward to new creation
“I will give you rest.”
Buried – rests in tomb on sabbath
“proclaim good news to the poor, set at liberty the captives, oppressed, sight to blind, year of the Lord’s favor”
Resurrection – freedom from sin, law, new creatures – new creation.
First day of week. Lord’s Supper.
Remember Lord’s death, look forward to his return. Celebrated in love for one another.
|Work to do! Work of new creatures in new creation 1 Corinthians 15:58|
God also gave Israel the Jubilee year. Counting seven of the sabbath years, the next year (the 50th year) would be the Jubilee during which all property would revert back to its original owners or their families, debts were forgiven, slaves set free and the land would rest a second year in a row with other blessings to be enjoyed as well. They were taught to live in the rhythm of God’s time, relying on him to provide for them as he had promised in these years in which they were not to labor (Leviticus 25). These days and years of rest were looking forward to another new creation – to a time when the Sabbaths of the Old Testament would be fulfilled and God’s creation would enjoy a different kind of rest.
Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 61:1 in Luke 4:18 is most certainly a reference to the Jubilee in anticipation of the Savior who will set captives free from sin and give liberty to those burdened with guilt.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
“…I will give you rest…” (Matt. 11:25-30).
These words are looking forward to a new creation – a new beginning for those who constitute God’s new creation.
He is “Lord of the Sabbath” in that he created it and defined it’s proper usage, i.e., that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” There is no Sabbath for the Christian. Jesus is our “sabat” or rest.
In light of the resurrection and that new creation to come we now have work to do! We have the work of the new creation, the work that points forward to the time when God will fulfill his eternal purpose of restoring all creation, not just man, to its original state of “goodness” that reflects his glory. We are to be about the business of our Heavenly Father until such a time as we will be with him and share in the work we were always meant to do.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
When Jesus was being crucified he cried out as he died, “It is finished.” His work was now finished, the work he had come to do. He was buried on a Friday, and rested in the tomb on the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Passover. On the first day of the week, the day after Passover, he rose from the dead to a new kind of life. He became the firstborn from the dead with many others to follow him. New creation had/has begun! New life can now be enjoyed by anyone who believes in him! From this point on we find references to a new creation and new life. The new life of believers and a new creation yet to come.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15).
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4).
Now, since Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week – the day on which the new creation began – Christians remember his death and resurrection on this day while looking forward to his return and the beginning of that new creation that yet awaits. This the new creation described in Revelation 21-22:5. From this point on the children of God (the new Israel) did not look back to deliverance from Egypt, but to the time of their deliverance from sin by the death of the Son of God on the cross while at the same time looking forward to his coming again when the new heavens and new earth are revealed. The new heavens and new earth will be the place where men will dwell with their Creator in the ideal relationship in which we were always meant to live.
(Incidentally, this scenario leaves no place for our popular concept of “going to heaven” which is a “Christianized” version of Plato’s Elysian Fields. Oh, we will not miss out on any good thing God has in store for us! It just may be quite different from what we think of as our heavenly reward!)
This is what Christians were doing in Acts 20:7. From the information we have concerning Christians coming together to observe the Lord’s Supper, it was a joyous celebration of remembrance and sharing of their lives with one another, a sharing of what they had with those who did not have (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). That is fully in accord with what Jesus did in offering himself for us. It is showing mercy to those in need. It is relieving the afflictions of the sick and the poor. And it was done out of love for the Lord and for one another.
That is something that can never be commanded. It can only come from hearts warmed by the love and grace of God. Would to God that we could restore that spirit of life and love that characterized those early Christians! Would to God that we could realize the breadth of the love of God and live lives that include all those he loves just as he includes you and me in his love! That can never happen under a system of law. It can only be realized in the freedom and joy of grace!
More tomorrow …