To deliver the nation of Israel from captivity, God sent 10 plagues against Egypt. The final plague killed the firstborn in all the households that were not protected from the death angel. What protected a household was obedience to God’s instruction to paint the blood of a lamb on the door posts and lintel of each house (Exodus 12:22).
God commanded all Israelites to partake in this ceremony of the 14th of Abib (verse 6). If they disobeyed God’s command, the death angel would have killed their firstborn. Those who obeyed voluntarily came under the government of God; and God blessed them by protecting their firstborn (verse 23).
On the last Passover Jesus Christ kept just before He died, He changed the symbols of this ceremony from the bitter herbs and lamb to broken unleavened bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-28).
Christ fulfilled, spiritually, what the physical lamb represented—His sacrifice was typified by the killing of the unblemished lamb (Hebrews 9:26; 10:4-9). As the Lamb of God, He was willing to be sacrificed so that our sins can be washed away when we repent of them. Eating the small piece of unleavened bread and drinking the tiny glass of wine at Passover shows we have accepted,and have come under, the shed blood of Christ for the remission of our sins and have accepted His broken body for the healing of our diseases—the result of our physical sins.
The Bible does show that only those who meet certain conditions may observe the Passover (1 Corinthians 11:27). We see that the Passover ceremony is commanded to be observed forever. Christ changed the symbols, but the observance is still commanded forever (Exodus 12:24; 1 Corinthians 11:26).
WHO should observe this ceremony? Anciently, did God tell the Egyptians to keep the Passover? He only told His people,the children of Israel, to observe this ceremony. (Notice that all Israel was called a “congregation” in Exodus 12:3. The congregation was to keep the Passover).
Some among the Israelites, though, were called “strangers.”They were not birthright Israelites, but were from the nation of Egypt. Were they allowed to take the Passover? “And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof …. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof” (verses 43 and 45).
If these people wanted to keep the Passover as well, what were they to do? “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised,and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof” (verse 48). The strangers had to become circumcised—like all male Israelites. So it took circumcision to become a member of the congregation of Israel. When the male was circumcised, he was considered a part of the congregation and allowed to take the Passover.
In the New Testament, just as the symbols for taking the Passover were changed by Christ, so the rite of circumcision was changed. Circumcision was now of the heart (Romans 2:25-29). This occurs through the ceremony of baptism and the laying on of hands (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Baptism is to the New Testament Church what circumcision was to the Old Testament Church.
In the Church of God today, we have some who attend who are not yet baptized members of the Church. They are in the category of prospective members.They have not been spiritually circumcised through repentance and conversion. Although they have not been baptized, they may attend all Church services—except the Passover.
Years ago, Herbert W. Armstrong was led by God to see that only baptized members of the Church should partake of this solemn event. He saw that the Apostle Paul was adamant concerning this, because a person who takes this ceremony with the wrong attitude can be in SERIOUS spiritual trouble.
“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28). Any unbaptized person taking part in this service would be doing so unworthily (verse 29).
Just as those who are unbaptized should NOT partake of the Passover, those who are baptized are commanded to partake of this ceremony. If they do not, then they are under a sobering warning from Jesus Christ: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you”—(John 6:53). We take in the life of Jesus Christ, symbolically, when we wash feet, eat a small piece of unleavened bread, and drink a small cup of wine (John 13:3-17).
If we fail to partake of this ceremony, then there is no life in us—eternal life!
We can thank and praise God that His true Church upholds His requirements related to the Passover and its commanded participation by baptized members only.