Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The King is Coming: The Road to Christ in the Old Testament Kings

-“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey's colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Genesis 49:8-12 ESV)

The Promise of the Kingdom
-God created the world in six 24-hour periods approximately 6 millennia ago. (Genesis 1-2) The crowning glory of His creation was the creation of man. Man was to have dominion over all of God’s creation as His image-bearers (Genesis 1:26-31).
-The book of Genesis, written by Moses under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was written approximately 1,500 B.C.—2,500 years after the creation of the world. The first 1,500 years from Adam to Noah are covered in one chapter of Scripture (Genesis 5). No record of famous kings or kingdoms or empires is given for this first period of human history.
-After the great deluge of water, Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod became a mighty warrior and pagan ruler who established the first world empires. (Genesis 10:9-12). Noah’s grandson through Ham founded the Egyptian Empire. (Genesis 10:6)
-God promised His covenant with Abram in Genesis 12, and Abram went to live in the Egyptian Empire for some time. In Genesis 14, Abram’s nephew Lot became captured during a battle between several kings, but Abram had enough trained men to defeat the captors himself. After the victory, Abram met Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was both king and a high priest before God. Afterwards, God purposed to send Abram to the land of Canaan, and He unilaterally established His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15).
-God told Abraham that his descendants would be captured by a foreign people for 400 years, and his grandson Jacob moved himself and his family to Egypt when Jacob was very old. When Jacob lay dying, he blessed all of his twelve sons, and he singled out Judah as being the ruler among the descendants that God would give to keep His promise to Abraham. (Genesis 49) Judah was fourth-born and the fourth son of Jacob’s first wife Leah. (Genesis 29:31-35) God’s promised covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob now included the promise of a king, specifically from the tribe of Judah.
-Approximately 500 years after the promise made to Judah, the prophet Moses spoke to the generation of Israelites born to those whom God had rescued out of Egypt. Just before they were to enter the Promised Land under Joshua, Moses recounted to them the history, terms, and blessings and curses of the covenant God made with Israel over 40 years earlier. Part of that covenant would be further fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy, in that Israel would eventually have a king. The king would come when Israel finally possessed the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 17:14). He was to be a Jew (v. 15) who was not given to greed or lust for power (v. 16) or women (v. 17). Instead, he was to thoroughly know the Torah (v. 18), fearing the Lord and obeying Him perfectly (v. 19), living in all humility and righteousness before God (v. 20).

The Precursor of the Kingdom
-After Joshua and the second generation of Israelites conquered the Promised Land, the third generation completely forsook the faith of their fathers. (Judges 2:6-10). The failures of the second generation to completely drive out the inhabitants of Canaan (Judges 1:27-36) became the downfall for the third generation (Judges 2:11-15).
-God raised up judges during this long period of repeated failure and apostasy to deliver God’s people, yet these judges were never the promised kings that God had prophesied years before. In 1129 B.C., Abimelech attempted to set himself up as king (Judges 9), yet the conditions by which God would give Israel a king had not been met. Abimelech died after the conspiracy to kill him (Judges 9:50). During the period of the judges, Israel had no king, and they did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25).
-In 1043 B.C., the last judge of Israel functioned also as Israel’s prophet. Yet the leaders of Israel knew his sons were faithless to the Lord, so they demanded that now God given them a king (1 Samuel 8:1-4). Samuel, however, did not appreciate their request, and he took the matter to the Lord in prayer. The Lord told him to give them a king, but Samuel was to warn Israel that having their coming king would not help them gain true blessing from God (1 Samuel 8:6-18). This king would be oppressive of God’s people and not be the king described in Deuteronomy 17 (1 Samuel 8:18).
-The king was none other than Saul, who was not faithful to God. He was from Benjamin, and was not from the tribe promised to reign over God’s people. King Saul, while winning important victories over the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11), nevertheless did not win decisive victories over the Philistines. He lost his kingdom because he unlawfully offered sacrifices to the Lord in order to win the battle (1 Samuel 13:8-23). Saul decisively lost his right to rule over Israel when he rejected the Lord, exalted himself, and failed to destroy the evil Amalekites (1 Samuel 15). From then on, Saul sunk lower and lower into greater and greater evil. He became murderous of his servant David (1 Samuel 18:10-11) in trying to end God’s promised king from bringing in the promised kingdom, sunk to the lowest forms of evil (1 Samuel 18), and died at the hands of the enemies he never was able to finally defeat (1 Samuel 31).
-Saul’s son Jonathan knew that the kingdom would never come to him due to the sin of his father, and Jonathan wholeheartedly supported the young man David (1 Samuel 20:12-17), a shepherd-boy from Bethlehem. In one scene after David’s defeat of Goliath, Jonathan symbolically recognized David as having the right to the throne rather than he himself. (1 Samuel 18:1-5).

The Founding of the Kingdom

-Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint God’s chosen king from the tribe of Judah (1 Samuel 16:1). David, the last of Jesse’s eight sons, was a shepherd-boy in the pasturelands surrounding the little town of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:11). God had already chosen him because he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David was anointed with oil and received the Holy Spirit of God to enable him to reign over Israel (1 Samuel 16:13).
-David for some time served King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23). David’s decisive victory over Goliath and the Philistines marked him as God’s man (1 Samuel 17) However, Saul’s increasing hostility (1 Samuel 18:6-16) towards the future king forced David to flee several times to save his life. Not until after Saul died was it safe for David to return to Israel (1 Samuel 19-31).
-David was anointed king of Judah at Hebron (2 Samuel 2:1-7). However, the house of Saul reigned over Israel for approximately seven years (2 Samuel 3:1). After the death of Ish-Bosheth, both Israel and Judah anointed David king over the whole nation at Hebron. He reigned 7 years over Judah and 33 years over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-5). After his coronation, David’s army commander Joab captured Jebus, and David called it the “city of David”. (2 Samuel 5:6-9). It was also known as “Jerusalem” (יְרוּשָׁלַ֫םִ), or “city of peace”. David made it the center of worship by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to rest in the city. (2 Samuel 6:12-15). David was God’s chosen king, and Jerusalem was God’s chosen city for Israelite worship (Deuteronomy 12:5; 2 Chronicles 6:6).
-David desired to build a temple for the Lord God to dwell with His chosen people (2 Samuel 7:1-5), but being a man of war, he could not do so. Yet God promised instead that He would build David a house (dynasty) that would endure forever (2 Samuel 7:8-11). He promised David royal offspring that would reign in His eyes righteously and establish David’s kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:12-17).
-David was God’s chosen man, yet he was a sinner (Psalm 51). However, David’s person and reign became archetypal for the promised Messiah, such as David’s experiences in Psalm 22. David knew that the Messiah would come from his line in light of God’s Davidic covenant, and he foresaw and prophesied about the death and resurrection of the Messiah in Psalm 16:8-11.
-David had 8 wives and 10 concubines, thus not following the standard set forth in Deuteronomy 17. His seventh wife Bathsheba bore three sons: Elishama, Nathan, and Solomon. Bathsheba’s son Nathan was the progenitor of the line leading up to Mary, and Solomon was the progenitor of the line leading up to Joseph. Despite various attempts from other sons to reign, Solomon became established by his father and by God as the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:12. 
-King Solomon built a magnificent temple for God to dwell with His people (1 Kings 8:10-11), just as Moses built the Tabernacle 700 years before (Exodus 40:34-35). Solomon’s wisdom and wealth and glory were unmatched by any kings in ancient history (1 Kings 3:10-13), and during his reign the promises of God became realized almost perfectly (1 Kings 4:20). Solomon, like his father, became a type of the glorious reign of the Davidic King over all the earth and the perfect righteousness and justice of His Kingdom, ensuring that God dwelt with His people (Psalm 72). Like his father David, he reigned over Israel for 40 years.
-However, far more than his father David, Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, and he intermarried with pagan nations, which he was not to do. (1 Kings 11:1-8). Because of this, the Lord told Solomon that he would lose most of his kingdom (1 Kings 11:9-13).

The Division of the Kingdom
-Solomon’s son Rehoboam went to Shechem at Solomon’s death, for all Israel intended to crown him king. Jeroboam, Solomon’s greatest domestic political opponent, traveled there to ensure Israel received more lenient treatment in the labor force. (1 Kings 12:1-5), However, Rehoboam rejected wise counsel from Solomon’s own advisers and followed the advice of his friends. His pride was his downfall, and his harsh and arrogant speech severed the promised kingdom of David in a monarchial division from which Israel never recovered. (1 Kings 12:16-19) Jeroboam became the first northern king, but the northern kingdom was not the promised kingdom that would last forever, for it was devoid of any descendants from David. Further, he led the ten northern tribes (which collectively were called Israel) into idolatry from which they never turned throughout their history before the Assyrian exile. (1 Kings 12:25-33) The northern kingdom was never the legitimate monarchy that would bring in the Messiah’s reign, which is why the Chronicler did not record the history of the northern kingdom when he wrote 1st and 2nd Chronicles after the exile.

The Kings of Israel
-Jeroboam was promised a kingdom by the Lord should he walk in God’s ways (1 Kings 11:37-38), but he completely failed to do so. He led Israel back into the ancient golden calf idolatry in the time of Moses (1 Kings 12:25-30) He utterly abandoned proper worship of the Lord by rejecting the temple and the established altars and the priesthood (1 Kings 12:33). His sin became the destruction of the northern kingdom. (1 Kings 12:34) He reigned for 22 years.
-Nadab, Jeroboam’s son, reigned 2 years, doing evil in God’s eyes. 1 Kings 15:25) His short reign ended at his assassination.
-Baasha, a leader from Issachar, murdered Nadab and every last member of Jeroboam’s family. (1 Kings 15:27-30). He reigned 24 years, but did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord. (1 Kings 15:33-34).
-Elah, the son of Baasha, reigned two years. However, his army commander Zimri assassinated him. (1 Kings 16:8-10).
-Zimri, Elah’s army commander, killed Elah and all the household of Baasha. This was a judgment from God against Baasha’s household, just as He had judged the household of Jeroboam. (1 Kings 16:11-13) He only reigned 7 days—the shortest reign of any king in Old Testament history.
-Omri became the king by the vote of the northern army, and he reigned over Israel for 12 years. He overcame the civil split between himself and Tibni. (1 Kings 16:21-23) He was an evil king, and he became the father of the most evil king in Israelite history.
-Ahab married Jezebel, who was one of the most evil women in the Bible. He introduced Baal worship in Israel and provoked God’s wrath more than any before him. (1 Kings 16:30-33) During his reign, Elijah was God’s chosen prophet, and he defeated all the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). He defeated Ben-Hadad and the Syrian Empire twice, but showed himself a worthless king when he took Naboth’s vineyard in a conspiracy by Jezebel. This condemned him and his wife (1 Kings 21:19-24). During the end of Ahab’s life and reign, Jehosophat king of Judah partnered with him to capture Ramoth-Gilead from the Syrians, but the battle cost Ahab his life. (1 Kings 22:29-40)
-Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, reigned two years and continued in the Baal worship of his parents. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. (1 Kings 22:51-53) He tried to kill Elijah multiple times, but failed (2 Kings 1)
-Joram, another son of Ahab, reigned 12 years over Israel. He also did what was evil in God’s eyes.
-Jehu showed signs of promise of being a righteous king, for he killed Ahaziah king of Judah and Joram king of Israel (2 Kings 9:22-28) He slew Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30-37), and he killed all the remaining descendants of Ahab and prophets of Baal (2 Kings 10). However, he followed the golden calf worship and became an evil king. (2 Kings 10:28-31) During this time, Israel started losing its covenant land (2 Kings 10:32-36).
-Jehoahaz reigned 17 years; he was son of Jehu. He did what was evil and suffered tremendous losses at the hands of the Syrians. God did send them a savior, but the individual did not bring in permanent peace or righteousness (2 Kings 13:1-9). Yet God did not destroy the northern tribes because of His covenant with Abraham (2 Kings 13:22-23).
-Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz and grandson of Jehu, reigned sixteen years. He did all the sins of the house of Jeroboam. (2 Kings 13:10-13)
-Jeroboam II reigned for 41 years, and even though he followed in the ways of his namesake, the Lord granted the northern kingdom a measure of deliverance, as there was none to help them. (2 Kings 14:26-27)
-Zechariah, Jeroboam II’s son, reigned six months. He did evil, and Shallum had him assassinated. He only reigned because of the Lord’s promise to Jehu. (2 Kings 15:8-12)   
-Shallum killed Zechariah and reigned one month before he was assassinated by Menahem. (2 Kings 15:13-16)
-Menahem reigned ten years, doing evil in the Lord’s eyes. He had to pay tribute to the Assyrians. (2 Kings 15:17-22)
-Pekahiah, the son of Menahem, reigned two years, doing evil just as his father did. Pekah, his army commander, had him assassinated. (2 Kings 15:23-26)
-Pekah reigned 20 years over the northern kingdom, and during his reign Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria invaded many Israelite towns. Pekah’s reign ended when Hoshea had him assassinated. (2 Kings 15:27-31)
-Hoshea was the last king over the northern kingdom. He reigned nine years before the Assyrians carried the ten northern tribes into exile because of their idolatry (2 Kings 17:1-23). When 2 Kings 17 ends, Assyria had resettled the covenant land of these ten tribes and the inhabitants did not follow the Lord at all. (2 Kings 17:24-31)

The Kings of Judah
-Rehoboam entirely abandoned all the wisdom of his father contained in the book of Proverbs and lost the ten northern tribes as a result. (1 Kings 12) He assembled 180,000 fighting men to force the northern tribes into submission, but God warned him not to fight them, so the men of Judah withdrew. (1 Kings 12:21-24) Throughout the history of the southern kingdom, God continued the line of David because of his covenant with David. (1 Kings 11:36)
-Abijam reigned three years over Jerusalem. He continued in the sins of his father and the bitter war between Israel and Judah. Yet God was faithful to the Davidic covenant in spite of their unfaithfulness. (1 Kings 15:1-8)
-Asa, Abijam’s brother, reigned 41 years, and he did right as David had done. (1 Kings 15:9-11) He deposed the queen mother and stayed true to the Lord his God. Asa had a strong army of 580,000 men—300,000 from Judah and 280,000 from Benjamin. (2 Chronicles 14:8) God granted Asa and the southern kingdom a major victory, like the victories of David of old. (2 Chronicles 14:9-15) During his reign many defected from the northern kingdom, because the men of Israel saw that God was with Asa. (2 Chronicles 15:9) Asa performed many religious reforms, but in his last years he looked to Ben-Hadad of Syria to help him defeat Baasha of Israel. God rebuked him for this lack of faith. (2 Chronicles 16)
-Jehosophat walked in the ways of his forefather David, and God was with him as a result. He sent godly men throughout Judah to instruct Israel in the ways of the Lord from the Book of the Law. (2 Chronicles 17:7-9) He grew greatly in military power like David of old, and the fear of God prevented enemies from attacking Judah during his reign. (2 Chronicles 17:10-19) God miraculously delivered Judah from a huge attack from the Moabites and Ammonites during his reign. He also made many reforms throughout the land (2 Chronicles 19) However, Jehosophat did ally with King Ahab (2 Chronicles 18) and later King Ahaziah. (2 Chronicles 20:35-37)
-Jehoram was Jehosophat’s firsborn son, but when he ascended the throne he slew all his brothers so as to have no rivals for power. (2 Chronicles 21:3-4) He did evil as the house of Ahab did, and the Lord afflicted him with attacks from the Philistines, Arabians, and Edomites. He died in great agony with an internal disease, and he did not receive a king’s burial at his death. (2 Chronicles 21:16-20) Yet God would not abandon the Davidic covenant (2 Chronicles 21:7).
-Ahaziah reigned only one year, yet he followed the advice of his mother Athaliah, who was the granddaughter of Omri, Ahab’s father. His advisors came from the house of Ahab, and he made an alliance with them to defeat the Syrians. He was killed by God’s will by the hand of Jehu king of Israel. (2 Chronicles 22:1-9)
-Athaliah was the only queen who reigned over God’s people in biblical history; she reigned six years. Her reign was a reign of terror, and she destroyed all the royal family except for Joash the son of Ahaziah, as he was hidden for six years. (2 Chronicles 22:10-12)
-The priest Jehoida made a covenant with the army and the Levites to support Joash as the rightful king because of God’s promise to David. (2 Chronicles 23:1-3) The priests anointed him as rightful king, and they put Athaliah to death. All the people accepted Joash, and during the lifetime of Jehoida he made many reforms, most notably repairing the temple. After Jehoida’s death, however, Joash abandoned Yahweh and served idols. His servants assassinated him, because he had Jehoida’s son Zechariah killed. (2 Chronicles 24)
-Amaziah followed the Lord, yet not wholeheartedly. He did obey God’s Law, did not ally himself with Israel, and experienced God’s blessing of a victory over the men of Edom. (2 Chronicles 25:1-13) However, he promptly turned to idolatry after this important victory that he did not win himself. As a result, God gave the southern kingdom into the hands of Joash king of Israel, who destroyed part of Jerusalem and captured Amaziah. Eventually, he was assassinated by men of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 28:17-28)
-Uzziah, also known as Azariah, was enthroned as king when he was 16. He reigned 52 years—the second-longest reign in the southern kingdom’s history. He did right in God’s eyes and sought to be instructed by the priest and the Law of God. (2 Chronicles 26:1-5) Like David of old, Uzziah won many victories against the Philistines, and he gained control over Judah’s enemies. A farmer at heart, Uzziah constructed large agricultural programs. His military power also grew large and mighty. (2 Chronicles 26:6-15) However, when he grew strong he became filled with pride, and his pride was his downfall. Like Saul of old, he offered that which only the priests could do. However, Azariah the high priest and the other priests stopped him from offering incense. The Lord struck him with leprosy as judgment. (2 Chronicles 26:16-22)
-Jotham did right in the eyes of Yahweh, but did not enter the temple as his father had done. However, the people still followed evil ways during his reign, despite his own godly kingship. He won a decisive victory over the Ammonites (2 Chronicles 27:1-5)
-Ahaz reigned 16 years, but he abandoned the ways of David and served the Baals and even burned his own sons in the fire as a sacrificial offering. As a result, Yahweh gave him into the hands of the king of Syria. He also fell prey to Pekah king of Israel, who inflicted major losses on him. Due to foreign threats from Syria, Philistia, and the threat from Israel, Ahaz reached out to Tiglath-pileser the king of Assyria. However, Assyria afflicted him instead of helping him. (2 Chronicles 28:1-16)
-Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, reigned 29 years over Judah. He did all that was right according to what his forefather David had done. (2 Chronicles 29:1-2) He cleansed the temple, consecrated the priests, and restored temple worship (2 Chronicles 29:3-36). He celebrated the Passover with men from Judah and Israel, for he tried to restore the divided kingdom in his days (2 Chronicles 30:6-11). Nothing like this Passover had been seen since the days of King Solomon. (2 Chronicles 30:26) He organized the priests by their divisions and restored monetary support for the Levites. He is commended for his faithful work (2 Chronicles 31:20-21). The Lord miraculously delivered Judah from King Sennacherib and the Assyrians who had taken the northern kingdom into exile. (2 Chronicles 32)
-Manasseh had the longest reign of any king at 55 years. He was the most evil king Judah would ever see; he sacrificed his sons in the fire and pursued witchcraft and set up the Asherah pole in the temple of the Lord. The evil he led Judah into was greater than the evil of the nations living in the land prior to the Israelites. (2 Chronicles 33:9) The Lord therefore gave him into the hands of the Assyrian king. Amazingly, Manasseh repented of his great evil and the Assyrian king allowed him to return to the land. (2 Chronicles 33:10-13) For the remainder of his life and reign, he sought to restore all that he had eradicated in his formerly evil days. (2 Chronicles 33:14-20)
-Amon, Manasseh’s son, rejected his father’s repentant lifestyle and reigned two years as an evil king. He was assassinated by his servants as a result. (2 Chronicles 33:25)
-Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, was the last great godly king over the southern kingdom. He reigned thirty-one years and sought the God of his fathers. He destroyed all the idols in the land, and during his days the lost Book of the Law was found in the temple. (2 Chronicles 34:3-21) The prophetess Huldah warned that disaster would befall Judah, yet not in the days of Josiah. (2 Chronicles 34:27-28) Like his great-grandfather Hezekiah, Josiah kept the Passover and followed King David’s prescriptions for the priests. This Passover surpassed any of Hezekiah or Solomon or David. It was matched only by that during the days of Samuel. (2 Chronicles 35:16-19) Unfortunately, Josiah was killed in battle because he would not turn away from engaging Pharaoh Neco of Egypt. Neco had no intentions of harming the southern kingdom or Josiah. (2 Chronicles 35:20-27)
-Jehoahaz was made king by the inhabitants of Judah after Josiah’s death. He reigned a mere three months as an evil king. Pharoah Neco deposed him and sent him to Babylon, and made Eliakim his brother king over Judah. Neco changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. (2 Chronicles 36:1-4)
-Jehoiakim reigned 11 years as an evil king. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carried him away during the first deportation to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:5-8), during which time Daniel and his three friends were also carried away into Babylon. (Daniel 1:1-6)
-Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, nephew of Jehoahaz, and grandson of Josiah, reigned as king over Judah for three months and ten days. He was deported to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, who made his brother Zedekiah king. (2 Chronicles 36:9-10)
-Zedekiah reigned 11 years as Judah’s last monarch and last Jewish king Israel would see in the Old Testament. He did not listen to the prophet Jeremiah or humble himself as the covenant-keeping king was supposed to do. Nebuchadnezzar killed his sons before his eyes before gouging them out, and Zedekiah died in Babylon along with the rest of the Davidic kingdom. (2 Kings 25:1-7)

The Destruction of the Kingdom
-The Old Testament prophets throughout Israel’s history continually warned the kings of Israel and particularly Judah to turn back to the Lord, lest the covenant curses of Deuteronomy 28:15-68. Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel were three major prophets who warned Judah of coming destruction, but they did not listen. Yet they also prophesied of the day when God would restore and redeem His people and the true Davidic monarch would reign over them. (Ezekiel 34:22-24)
-No king perfectly met God’s standards for kingship. David committed adultery. Solomon married too many wives. Asa was not as faithful later in life as he had been in his youth. Uzziah’s pride was his downfall. Hezekiah was unable to unify Israel and Judah, and his son was the most evil ruler Judah would ever see. Josiah was a great and godly king, yet he was killed in a battle he should have avoided. Yet the promised King would be a perfect King without the failings of other human kings. (Isaiah 11:1-5)
-No king was ever able to fully turn the hearts of God’s people permanently back to the Lord. The faithfulness of David and Solomon was lost in Rehoboam’s kingdom. Periods of revival were all eventually lost. Yet the promised King would turn the hearts of God’s people so completely and fully to the Lord that there never would be apostasy again. (Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:14-15)
-Israel could not themselves establish God’s Kingdom. No Davidic king could ever establish it fully or finally. Yet the Lord, who would also be the Son of David, would reign as King without any setbacks anymore. (Zechariah 9:9-11)

The Need for the Kingdom
-Israel would never see a restored monarchy after the exile by King Nebuchadnezzar. Even when Israel and Judah returned as one nation after the exile, they never restored the kingdom. Israel would be invaded by the Greeks during the period between the Testaments. Later, Rome would install the Herodian kings over Judea as well as Roman governors.
-Matthew opens his gospel by declaring Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ and the “son of Abraham” and “son of David”. Throughout the gospels, people recognized Christ as the “Son of David”, being the legitimate Davidic monarch and Messiah (Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30; Matthew 21:15) Yet Jesus declared Himself to be not merely the descendant of David, but also David’s Lord. (Mark 12:35-37)
-Because of our salvation in Jesus Christ, we already are part of God’s spiritual kingdom (Colossians 1:13) that Christ announced at His first coming. (Matthew 10:7) As a result, we await the day when the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:15)
-Even now, Jesus Christ is the ruler over the kingdoms of the earth. (Revelation 1:5) We eagerly await the day when His Kingdom is fully revealed and finally established after He defeats all the evil kingdoms, empires, and rulers of men (Isaiah 11:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8) and establishes the eternal kingdom of God (Daniel 7:13-14, 27)

-“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV)


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why We Refuse to Forgive

Forgiveness. That one word grabs our attention and commands our focus. Immediately when we encounter that word, we know wrongs have been done. Hurt has been spread. Sin has been committed. Pain has been inflicted. And someone released them from the weight of that debt. Maybe we were the ones forgiven. Maybe we were the ones who had to forgive. Nothing can be so reflective of the gospel but yet so agonizing as forgiving someone of wrongs they have committed against you.

We know instinctively from our born-again nature that we should forgive our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We know that forgiveness ultimately isn’t about ourselves or about those who wronged us. But it can be as painful as pulling out eyeballs to try to forgive fellow believers who have sinned against you and think little of it. Forgiving them would appear to simply compound the pain they already created. With that in mind, what are the common reasons we consciously or subconsciously refuse to forgive?

“I can’t forgive them because the pain is too great”
Everyone living more than a few seconds experiences the pain of living in a sinful world. Our lives to varying degrees may be filled with pain. The pain of the physical body, the pain of hurting relationships, the pain of our own sinful choices, the pain of others’ sinful choices, and the pain of all the evil, injustice, suffering, and death in the world do not provide us with many moments in which pain is not absent.

But nothing stings as deeply as pain inflicted upon us by others, whether they intended to do so or not. The most difficult sort of pain we can experience in our relationships is the pain others inflict that they simply do not care about. A child might grow up and leave home, caring nothing for the trail of tears left behind in his wake because he has no regard for the faith of his parents. A church may find their pastor was nothing but a sham and a hypocrite, but the man cares nothing for the damage he has inflicted on his congregation.

But in the red, raw, and bleeding gash in the soul, we often can make the pain the focus rather than focusing on the Lord's remedies for healing. The bullet of hurt lodged in the aching heart is never removed by unforgiveness. When we consider the story of Joseph, we see a man so abused and falsely maligned by his own brothers that he could claim that he had no reason whatsoever to forgive them. And yet when he forgives them, he does so with open arms and with many tears. If God has commanded us to forgive, and He has, then He will give us the strength to forgive. God never commands His children to do that which He will not give them grace to accomplish.

“I can’t forgive them because they don’t deserve to be forgiven”
This objection has one clause right in this statement. Those who have hurt you do not deserve to be forgiven. If they did, they would not need to be forgiven. Forgiveness is not given because it is deserved. Forgiveness is given by an extension of mercy and grace, of which neither are deserved. In the Old Testament, for example, men and women do not cry out to God to forgive them for their own merits. They understand that they truly have nothing to offer before the thrice-holy God of creation. They realize the depths of their sin and the deservedness of divine punishment, and yet they plead with God to forgive them because of His great name. “For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” (Psalm 25:11)

If we resist the commands to forgive our brothers and sisters who have wronged us, then we do not truly understand our own unworthiness to receive forgiveness as well. We may have been entirely innocent of transgression in our dealings with the fellow believers who wronged us. But yet we are not entirely innocent as we stand before God Almighty. King David, as he writes out of the anguish of his soul in Psalm 143, begins by pleading with God to answer out of His righteousness and faithfulness. David expressly states in verse 2, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” David’s plea in this Psalm for God to deal justly with those who have crushed David’s life “to the ground” is not because of David’s own sense of self-righteousness. Rather, he pleads with God to deal with his enemies out of the Lord’s own righteousness and faithfulness. And so when we struggle to forgive those who have wronged us, we must remember that forgiveness is not based on their own righteousness or our own righteousness. Rather, it is based on a reflection of God’s faithfulness.

“I can’t forgive them because they might just make things worse”
When we refuse to forgive in order to retain control over a person or a situation, we have crossed a line that God has not allowed us to cross. We have no power over the future. God alone possesses the ability to “tell the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). God alone possesses power over human hearts (Proverbs 21:1). God may in His mercy change someone’s heart to bring them to a spirit of repentance, in which case it will be easier for us to forgive them. Or God may remove that convicting grace and allow their hearts to continue in unrepentance in order to allow their own sin to discipline them. Either way, God has not called us to control people or the future, let alone human hearts.

Furthermore, when one considers the high cost and infinite gain of living faithfully to the word of God, there are many examples where biblical faithfulness only intensified the pain and severity of situations. David’s faithfulness to Saul cost him his safety, for Saul tried repeatedly to kill him. Jeremiah’s faithfulness to preach a message of coming judgment cost him his clean reputation, for he was falsely branded as a traitor and political deserter. Daniel’s faithfulness to God threatened his life at various points during life in exile, the worst of which came when he was cast into a den of lions, where certain death awaited him. Therefore, we see that being biblically faithful to God’s word does not mean we forgive people so that our own situation in live may become more bearable. In the hidden providence of God, it may become more bearable...or it may continue to be painful. But in any case, God calls us to a standard of faithful living higher than our expectations of the future. And God will abundantly reward us, for God sees all our sufferings and our Lord knows all that we have endured to be faithful to His name.

Many more reasons could be listed as to why we find it such a heartfelt struggle to forgive those who have wronged us. But yet in each case, a biblical understanding moves our eyes away from the hurt and the pain of our own situations to look at the man hanging on a cross, who whispered in agony, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” As this series continues, the next installments will look at the warnings Scripture issues against a refusal to repent and a refusal to forgive. We now understand the difficulties involved in repentance and forgiveness, as well as the common reasons why we desire to do neither. But next we will see the dangers of refusing to repent of sin against others, and the dangers of refusing to forgive others of their sin against us. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Do This in Remembrance of Me: A Study in Christian Communion

-“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20 ESV)

The Theology of Communion
-In the Bible, a “covenant” (בְּרִית) is integral to the understanding of the Scriptures. Strong’s lists it appearing 284 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. But covenants then, more serious than modern-day contracts, were a staple of Ancient Near Eastern life. Usually covenants were formed by kings with other kings of equal status or kings of lesser status. In the latter case, the superior ruler (the suzerain), and the lesser ruler (the vassal) formed covenants where the vassals would be loyal to the king. Covenant loyalty to kings was extremely vital in Ancient Near Eastern life. The most familiar forms of Ancient Near Eastern covenants to scholars today are the ancient Hittite covenants in the second millennium B.C. and the covenants of the Neo-Assyrians.
-Ancient Near Eastern covenants, both biblical and extrabiblical, typically opened with an historical prologue. They then contained the laws and regulations of the covenant, followed by the blessings for abiding by the covenant and curses for failing to abide by the covenant. Deuteronomy exists in this very fashion: historical prologue (chapters 1-11), the laws (chapters 12-27), the blessings (chapters 28:1-14), and curses (chapters 28:15-68).
-In other ancient religions, gods sometimes purportedly made covenants with mankind, but the God of Israel is entirely different from all the other gods. He is the only God (Deuteronomy 4:35). He needs nothing from any human being. (Acts 17:25) He is entirely good and holy and righteous. (Psalm 145:17) And He cares deeply and lovingly for His people. (Psalm 17:7; Psalm 36:7)
-Covenants in the Bible were made by equal parties (Genesis 31:44-55) or parties of unequal status. (Ezekiel 17:15-16) Covenants required blood sacrifices where animals would be severed in half and both parties would walk the bloody path between the pieces of the carcasses, stating that so it was to be done to them if they violated the terms of the covenant.
-The Eternal Covenant of Redemption was made between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as to their roles as the triune God. The Father has greater authority than the Son (John 10:29) and is the Person to whom glory is most often directed (Philippians 2:11), the Son is the image of the triune Godhead (Colossians 1:15), and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to point people to God. (John 14:16; John 15:26)
-The Abrahamic Covenant was not the first covenant that God made with men in the Bible, but it was the first covenant He ever made with one man only. The Lord promised Abram that He would make him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3) in a promised land (Genesis 12:7). In Genesis 15:1-6, the Lord repeated the covenant with Abram, renaming him to Abraham. Amazingly, God Himself walked between the pieces alone (Genesis 15:12-17).
-The Mosaic Covenant, also known as the Old Covenant in theological studies, was established by God on Mount Sinai after the salvation of Israel out of Egypt. It was mediated through Moses between God and the nation of Israel (Exodus 19:1-7) and further carried out the promise of redemption. It established a sacrificial system, a priesthood, and a system of laws that the Israelites were to obey. It is the most significant covenant in the Old Testament.
-The Davidic Covenant was established by God with King David in 2 Samuel 7. David had sought to build a temple for the Lord, but instead the Lord told David that He would make a covenant with David that never would a Davidic monarch cease from reigning. Solomon was the immediate fulfilment of this covenant.
-The New Covenant was a spectacularly new and better covenant (Hebrews 8:6) promised by God from the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 30:1-10) throughout the time of the prophets. This New Covenant would see God working with His people, writing His Law upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), in a magnificent display of salvation previously unknown (Jeremiah 32:37-38-41). Originally for the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 31:35-37), the Lord also promised that Gentiles would be included into this New Covenant. (Isaiah 42:5-7)
-2,100 years after God’s covenant with Abraham, 1,500 years after God’s covenant with Moses, and 1,000 years after God’s covenant with David, 4,000 years of history converged on one Man in an upper room in Jerusalem during the yearly celebration of Passover. He declared the New Covenant to be inaugurated, as He Himself would be the broken body and blood poured out to usher in this long-awaited covenant. He instituted a method of remembering this covenant by breaking bread (symbolizing His body) and drinking wine (symbolizing His blood). (Luke 22:19-20)
-During the early church, the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper marked one of the distinctive features of the early church immediately after Pentecost (Acts 2:42). The Lord’s Supper was a regular institution in the church, yet it only receives mention again in 1 Corinthians 5 and 11.  

The Importance of Communion
-Communion is vitally important for the church, for Christ died to establish the New Covenant and we celebrate to remember Him and His work on the Cross (Luke 11:19). It reminds us that Christ offered up Himself as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and that His work of redemption is eternally complete (Hebrews 10:11-12).
-So seriously does God take the institution of the Lord’s Supper that He took the lives of some of the Corinthian believers because they ate unworthily of it. (1 Corinthians 11:29-30). The Corinthians needed words of rebuke (v. 17) because of their divisiveness and lack of self-control (v. 21-22). All Christians need to examine themselves thoroughly before partaking of Communion (v. 27-28).

The History of Communion
-The Διδαχη (Didache), an early manual of Christian church order, is dated by scholars either in the latter half of the first century A.D. or the first half of the second century A.D. Two sections pertain to the celebration of the “Eucharist”, coming from the Greek εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteo), meaning “I give thanks”. Jesus gave thanks when instituting the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:23; 1 Corinthians 11:24)
9 Concerning the Eucharist
 Concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way.
 First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.
 Next, concerning the broken bread: We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.
 Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. To you is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
 Allow no one to eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized in the name of the Lord. For concerning this, the Lord has said, "Do not give what is holy to dogs."
10 After the Eucharist
 After the Eucharist when you are filled, give thanks this way:
 We thank you, holy Father, for your holy name which you enshrined in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality that you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.
 You, Master Almighty, have created all things for your name's sake. You gave food and drink to all people for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to you; but to us you freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Jesus, your servant.
 Before all things we thank you because you are mighty. To you be the glory forever.
 Remember, Lord, your church. Deliver it from all evil and make it perfect in your love, and gather it from the four winds sanctified for your kingdom which you have prepared for it. For Yours is the power and the glory forever.
 Let grace come, and let this world pass away!
Hosanna to the Son of David! If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not holy, let him repent. Maranatha! Amen.

-Ignatius of Antioch ca. A.D. 110 wrote three statement regarding the Lord’s Supper. Tradition makes him a direct disciple of the apostle John.
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire His blood, which is love incorruptible. (Letter to Romans 7:3) 

Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery... (Letter to Philadelphians 4:1) 

They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. (Letter to Smyrna 7:1)

-Justin Martyr, who defended Christianity against the claims and false charges of paganism in his day, stated the following regarding the Lord’s Supper ca. A.D. 150.
We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [being born again in Baptism], and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus. (First Apology 66)

Moreover, as I said before, concerning the sacrifices which you at that time offered, God speaks through Malachi [1:10-12]...It is of the sacrifices offered to Him in every place by us, the Gentiles, that is, of the bread of the Eucharist and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist, that He speaks at that time; and He says that we glorify His name, while you profane it. (Dialogue with Trypho 41)

-Athenagoras, a Christian apologist who lived in Athens, Greece, wrote this during his lifetime from A.D. 133-190 A.D.
"But what need is there to speak of bodies not allotted to be the food of any animal, and destined only for a burial in the earth in honour of nature, since the Maker of the world has not alloted any animal whatsoever as food to those of the same kind, although some others of a different kind serve for food according to nature? If, indeed, they are able to show that the flesh of men was alloted to men for food, there will be nothing to hinder its being according to nature that they should eat one another, just like anything else that is allowed by nature, and nothing to prohibit those who dare to say such things from regaling themselves with the bodies of their dearest friends as delicacies, as being especially suited to them, and to entertain their living friends with the same fare. But if it be unlawful even to speak of this, and if for men to partake of the flesh of men is a thing most hateful and abominable, and more detestable than any other unlawful and unnatural food or act; and if what is against nature can never pass into nourishment for the limbs and parts requiring it, and what does not pass into nourishment can never become united with that which it is not adapted to nourish,--then can the bodies of men never combine with bodies like themselves, to which this nourishment would be against nature, even though it were to pass many times through their stomach, owing to some most bitter mischance" (Athenagoras, On the Resurrection of the Dead, 8)
-Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, who was the disciple of the apostle John, wrote this about the Lord’s Supper circa A.D. 140-202.
If the body be not saved, then, in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His Blood; and neither is the cup of the Eucharist the partaking of His blood nor is the bread which we break the partaking of His body... He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be His own blood, from which He causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, He has established us as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life -- flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord...receiving the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ... (Against Heresies 5:2:2-3)
-Clement of Alexandria stated this about the Lord’s Supper in his lifetime from A.D. 150-215.
"In what manner do you think the Lord drank when He became man for our sakes? As shamelessly as we? Was it not with decorum and propriety? Was it not deliberately? For rest assured, He Himself also partook of wine; for He, too, was man. And He blessed the wine, saying, 'Take, drink: this is my blood'--the blood of the vine. He figuratively calls the Word 'shed for many, for the remission of sins'--the holy stream of gladness. And that he who drinks ought to observe moderation, He clearly showed by what He taught at feasts. For He did not teach affected by wine. And that it was wine which was the thing blessed, He showed again, when He said to His disciples, 'I will not drink of the fruit of this vine, till I drink it with you in the kingdom of my Father.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 2:2)

"Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: 'Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood,' describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both,--of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle."
(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 1:6)
-Tertullian stated that Christians partook of communion early in the morning before sunrise. He lived from A.D. 155-200.
“The Sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord commanded to be taken at meal times and by all, we take even before daybreak in congregations”
-Origen, living from A.D. 185-254, wrote this about communion.
We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it. (Against Celsus 8:33) 

You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish... how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His body? (Homilies on Exodus 13:3)

Formerly there was baptism in an obscure way . . . now, however, in full view, there is regeneration in water and in the Holy Spirit. Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: "My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink’ [John 6:56]" (Homilies on Numbers 7:2)

"Now, if 'everything that entereth into the mouth goes into the belly and is cast out into the drought,' even the meat which has been sanctified through the word of God and prayer, in accordance with the fact that it is material, goes into the belly and is cast out into the draught, but in respect of the prayer which comes upon it, according to the proportion of the faith, becomes a benefit and is a means of clear vision to the mind which looks to that which is beneficial, and it is not the material of the bread but the word which is said over it which is of advantage to him who eats it not unworthily of the Lord. And these things indeed are said of the typical and symbolical body. But many things might be said about the Word Himself who became flesh, and true meat of which he that eateth shall assuredly live for ever, no worthless person being able to eat it; for if it were possible for one who continues worthless to eat of Him who became flesh, who was the Word and the living bread, it would not have been written, that 'every one who eats of this bread shall live for ever.'" (Origen, On Matthew, 11:14)
-Cyprian of Carthage, living from A.D. 200-258, wrote this about communion.
He Himself warns us, saying, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you shall not have life in you." Therefore do we ask that our Bread, which is Christ, be given to us daily, so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body. (The Lord's Prayer 18)
-Eusebius, a church historian living from A.D. 263-339, wrote the following about communion.
"And the fulfilment of the oracle is truly wondrous, to one who recognizes how our Saviour Jesus the Christ of God even now performs through His ministers even today sacrifices after the manner of Melchizedek's. For just as he, who was priest of the Gentiles, is not represented as offering outward sacrifices, but as blessing Abraham only with wine and bread, in exactly the same way our Lord and Saviour Himself first, and then all His priests among all nations, perform the spiritual sacrifice according to the customs of the Church, and with wine and bread darkly express the mysteries of His Body and saving Blood." (Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica, 5:3)

"The words, 'His eyes are cheerful from wine, and his teeth white as milk,' again I think secretly reveal the mysteries of the new Covenant of our Saviour. 'His eyes are cheerful from wine,' seems to me to shew the gladness of the mystic wine which He gave to His disciples, when He said, 'Take, drink; this is my blood that is shed for you for the remission of sins: this do in remembrance of me.' And, 'His teeth are white as milk,' shew the brightness and purity of the sacramental food. For again, He gave Himself the symbols of His divine dispensation to His disciples, when He bade them make the likeness of His own Body. For since He no more was to take pleasure in bloody sacrifices, or those ordained by Moses in the slaughter of animals of various kinds, and was to give them bread to use as the symbol of His Body, He taught the purity and brightness of such food by saying, 'And his teeth are white as milk.' This also another prophet has recorded, where he says, 'Sacrifice and offering hast thou not required, but a body hast thou prepared for me.'" (Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica, 8:1)
-Athanasius, the fearless defender of the full deity of Christ and equality with the Father at the Council of Nicaea against the Arian heresy, stated this about the Lord’s Supper. He lived from A.D. 295-373.
You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ... Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine -- and thus is His Body confected. (Sermon to the Newly Baptized, from Eutyches)
-John Chrysostom, the “golden mouthed” preacher and faithful expositor of Scripture, lived from A.D. 349-407.
"When the word says, 'This is My Body,' be convinced of it and believe it, and look at it with the eyes of the mind. For Christ did not give us something tangible, but even in His tangible things all is intellectual. So too with Baptism: the gift is bestowed through what is a tangible thing, water; but what is accomplished is intellectually perceived: the birth and the renewal. If you were incorporeal He would have given you those incorporeal gifts naked; but since the soul is intertwined with the body, He hands over to you in tangible things that which is perceived intellectually. How many now say, 'I wish I could see His shape, His appearance, His garments, His sandals.' Only look! You see Him! You touch Him! You eat Him!"—Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew
-Augustine, the tremendously influential theologian and bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, stated the following about the Lord’s Supper. He lived from A.D. 354-430.
"If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. 'Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,' says Christ, 'and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.' This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us."--(Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 3:16:24)
-Theodoret, a prominent Christian teacher, writer, and theologian in Antioch, lived between A.D. 393-457 A.D. He wrote the following about the Eucharist.
"For even after the consecration the mystic symbols [of the eucharist] are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before." (Theodoret, Dialogues, 2)
-Martin Luther (1483-1546) in the Large Catechism, wrote much about “the sacrament of the altar” in Section 5. He dealt with such questions as, what is it? Who can administer it? What benefit does it bring to our souls? What if a sinful priest administers it? What does it mean for it to be a sacrament? What if someone repeatedly refuses to partake of it?
8] Now, what is the Sacrament of the Altar?
Answer: It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine which we Christians are commanded by the Word of Christ to eat and to drink. 9] And as we have said of Baptism that it is not simple water, so here also we say the Sacrament is bread and wine, but not mere bread and wine, such as are ordinarily served at the table, but bread and wine comprehended in, and connected with, the Word of God.
10] It is the Word (I say) which makes and distinguishes this Sacrament, so that it is not mere bread and wine, but is, and is called, the body and blood of Christ. For it is said: Accedat verbum ad elementum, et fit sacramentum. If the Word be joined to the element, it becomes a Sacrament. This saying of St. Augustine is so properly and so well put that he has scarcely said anything better. The Word must make a Sacrament of the element, else it remains a mere element.
11] Now, it is not the word or ordinance of a prince or emperor, but of the sublime Majesty, at whose feet all creatures should fall, and affirm it is as He says, and accept it with all reverence, fear, and humility.
12] With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and say: If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ? etc., I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger.
13] Now here stands the Word of Christ: Take, eat; this is My body; Drink ye all of it; this is the new testament in My blood, etc. Here we abide, and would like to see those who will constitute themselves His masters, and make it different from what He has spoken. It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word or regard it without the words, you have nothing but mere bread and wine.
14] But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, in virtue of the same, it is truly the body and blood of Christ. For as the lips of Christ say and speak, so it is, as He can never lie or deceive.
-Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1581) rejected the idea of sacramental union, stating instead that the Lord’s Supper was a memorial of Christ’s crucifixion instituted by Christ Himself. He rejected the physical presence of Christ in the elements, but strongly affirmed the spiritual presence of Christ in the elements. He said, “I have no use for that notion of a real and true body that does not exist physically, definitely and distinctly in some place, and that sort of nonsense got up by word triflers.”
-John Calvin (1509-1564) in his commentary on a harmony of the Gospels addressed the issues of whether Jesus broke the Passover Law by instituting Communion, what it meant for Him to institute communion, how it benefits us, and the errors we can fall into when we understand communion. He had this to say in his commentary on Matthew 26:26.
Matthew and Mark employ the word εὐλογήσας, (having blessed;) but as Luke employs, instead of it, the word εὐχαριστήσας, (having given thanks,) there can be no doubt as to the meaning; and as they afterwards use the word thanksgiving in reference to the cup, they expound with sufficient clearness the former term. So much the more ridiculous is the ignorance of the Papists, who express the blessing by the sign of the cross, as if Christ had practised some kind of exorcising. But we must recollect what I lately noticed, that this thanksgiving is connected with a spiritual mystery. While it is true that believers are commanded to give thanks to God, because he supports them in this fading life, Christ did not merely refer to ordinary eating, but directed his view to the holy action, in order to thank God for the eternal salvation of the human race. For if the food which descends into the belly ought to persuade and arouse us to praise the fatherly kindness of God, how much more powerfully does it excite, and even inflame, us to this act of piety, when he feeds our souls spiritually?[1]

The Controversy of Communion
-Some in the second century thought Christians practiced cannibalism and were very sexually immoral. This came about from gross ignorance of the doctrine of the fatherhood of God and the celebration of the Eucharist. Marcus Minucius Felix wrote Octavius to defend Christianity against these false charges, and he included the straw man arguments about cannibalism in doing so.
Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily - O horror! they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence.
-Transubstantiation in Roman Catholicism has been a centuries-long controversy, for this doctrine states that Christ is represented “body, blood, soul, and divinity” in the elements of the Mass in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The bread and wine actually become the physical and spiritual presence of Christ. While Roman Catholicism believes this is a non-bloody sacrifice, they do believe it to be a propitiatory (placating God’s wrath) sacrifice necessary for salvation. Transubstantiation is an assault upon the finished work of Christ on the cross, for He offered Himself only once in one moment in history is necessary for salvation (Hebrews 10:12). Further non-bloody sacrifices or propitiatory representations of Christ’s sacrifice are an outright denial of the atonement.
-In 1215, the Roman Catholic Church officially affirmed the doctrine of transubstantiation at the Fourth Lateran Council. Over the next three hundred years, the Eucharist became an object of superstition, and to counter this, priests became withholding first the wine and then the bread from the laity. Martin Luther likened the Roman Catholic Church to Babylon when she refused to serve the elements to the laity. After his conversion, he rejected firmly the doctrine of transubstantiation, considering it abominable. He rejected the adoration of the consecrated host, but nevertheless Luther still held to sacramentalism and the belief that Christ was present in the sacrament. Contrary to popular myth, Luther never did advocate consubstantiation, but he believed that the very body and blood of Christ was present in, with, and under the elements. Christ’s blood and body was not mixed with the elements or included inside the elements, but was incomprehensibly bound with the elements. Luther believed very strongly in his ideas about the Eucharist.
-Ulrich Zwingli rejected sacramentalism, believing that Christ could not physically be present in the sacrament. Further, he believed it was not a sacrifice performed by priests, but a gift from God to men to commemorate Christ’s crucifixion. He strongly rejected the idea of corporeal (bodily) presence in the Eucharist, since Christ’s human body was just that and could not be in multiple places at once. In the debate at Marburg in 1529, Zwingli and Luther sharply and vehemently disagreed with each other regarding the Eucharist. Zwingli’s views were adopted primarily by Arminians, as his views were never adopted by any of the Reformed confessions. Throughout the debates with Luther, Zwingli remained the more level-headed and did not misunderstand Luther’s position to the degree that Luther misunderstood Zwingli. Luther, according to Phillip Schaff in volume 7 of his History of the Christian Church, “spoke the truth in hatred and wrath, not love.”
-John Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper was very influential on Reformed thought and philosophy. He rejected the corporeal presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but strongly affirmed the spiritual presence of Christ during communion and participation in Christ’s blood and body spiritually rather than physically through transubstantiation. He stated in Institutes of the Christian Religion that the Holy Spirit unites us with the body and blood of Christ spiritually when we physically eat the elements. The elements do not become the body and blood, but we are joined with the body and blood in a spiritual sense. His views were adopted by the Heidelberg Catechism in 1563 and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Westminster Larger Catechism in 1647.
-John Calvin had this to say about a sacramental union of the body of Christ with the elements.
As to the opinion entertained by some, that by those words the bread was consecrated, so as to become the symbol of the flesh of Christ, I do not find fault with it, provided that the word consecrated be understood aright, and in a proper sense. So then, the bread, which had been appointed for the nourishment of the body, is chosen and sanctified by Christ to a different use, so as to begin to be spiritual food. And this is the conversion which is spoken of by the ancient doctors2 of the Church. But we must at the same time hold, that bread is not consecrated by whispering and breathing, but by the clear doctrine of faith. And certainly it is a piece of magic and sorcery, when the consecration is addressed to the dead element; for the bread is made not to itself, but to us, a symbol of the body of Christ. In short, consecration is nothing else than a solemn testimony, by which the Lord appoints to us for a spiritual use an earthly and corruptible sign; which cannot take place, unless his command and promise are distinctly heard for the edification of faith; from which again it is evident, that the low whispering and breathing of the Papists are a wicked profanation of the mystery. Now if Christ consecrates the bread, when he declares to us that it is his body, we must not suppose that there is any change of the substance, but must only believe that it is applied to a new purpose. And if the world had not been long ago so bewitched by the subtlety of the devil, that, when the monster of transubstantiation had once been introduced, it will not now admit any light of true interpretation on these words, it would be superfluous to spend any more time in investigating their meaning.[2]
-Calvin further stated…
“As to the opinion entertained by some, that by those words the bread was consecrated, so as to become the symbol of the flesh of Christ, I do not find fault with it, provided that the word consecrated be understood aright, and in a proper sense. So then, the bread, which had been appointed for the nourishment of the body, is chosen and sanctified by Christ to a different use, so as to begin to be spiritual food. And this is the conversion which is spoken of by the ancient doctors2 of the Church. But we must at the same time hold, that bread is not consecrated by whispering and breathing, but by the clear doctrine of faith. And certainly it is a piece of magic and sorcery, when the consecration is addressed to the dead element; for the bread is made not to itself, but to us, a symbol of the body of Christ. In short, consecration is nothing else than a solemn testimony, by which the Lord appoints to us for a spiritual use an earthly and corruptible sign; which cannot take place, unless his command and promise are distinctly heard for the edification of faith; from which again it is evident, that the low whispering and breathing of the Papists are a wicked profanation of the mystery. Now if Christ consecrates the bread, when he declares to us that it is his body, we must not suppose that there is any change of the substance, but must only believe that it is applied to a new purpose. And if the world had not been long ago so bewitched by the subtlety of the devil, that, when the monster of transubstantiation had once been introduced, it will not now admit any light of true interpretation on these words, it would be superfluous to spend any more time in investigating their meaning.[3]

-“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:16 ESV)


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, pp. 204–205). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, pp. 206–207). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, pp. 206–207). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.