Isn’t it fascinating to think about Jerusalem playing host to three cultures? The Jewish nation did have converts from Gentile cultures. However, because of misinformation written by corrupt historians, most people today do not realize the influence the Hebrew culture had on the Old and New Testament worlds.
“The peculiarity of the Hebrew civilization did not consist in the culture of the imagination and intellect, like that of the Greeks, nor in the organization of government, like that of Rome—but its distinguishing feature was religion,” wrote W. J. Conybeare in The Life and Epistles of St. Paul.
Certainly the Greeks and Romans had their mythologies and their pantheons of gods, but only the nation of Israel had “everything in their collective and private life … connected with a revealed religion” (ibid).
Think deeply about this statement. Israelite culture, including their Scriptures, their prophets, their miracles, their annual festivals, and their system of sacrifice, had been revealed by their God. Their nation’s founder, Abraham, had a personal relationship with their God. The history of Israel’s wars, its art, music, poetry and national constitution were sacred in character. No other nation on Earth can make such a claim.
Passover Sparked a Nation
Even Israel’s formation as a nation could only happen after the most important religious occasion of the year, the Passover, took place.
“Passover was a phenomenal time for ancient Israel,” writes Royal Vision editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his booklet How to Be an Overcomer. “The whole nation acted out the prophecy of the Lamb of God coming down from heaven to be sacrificed for all mankind (Exodus 12:3-5). Each household had a lamb; there must have been hundreds of thousands of lambs. It was a bloody night. They focused on the lamb, which pointed to the Lamb of God. No other nation in history has ever done anything like that.”
Remember, Israel kept this first Passover in Egypt, a nation terrified by God’s power to deliver His people (Exodus 12:33). It was the enslaved Hebrews keeping Passover according to God’s revealed instructions that led to their freedom from the horrible slavery to Pharaoh and Egypt. Do we—the members of God’s one true Church, the spiritual nation of Israel—see the national and international significance of our observance of the Passover?
In several years’ time, all nations of this world will be keeping the Passover for the first time. This event will lay the bedrock foundation for a new world culture. It will fall to us—God’s future kings and priests—to assist Christ in conducting this first service. So, it is vitally important that we see the personal and national significance of keeping the Passover properly today. Just as keeping the Passover distinguished ancient Israel from all other nations, our keeping the Passover sets us apart from all other churches. The way of life we are living is the way of life of the future!
Meaning of Passover
It is vitally important that we fully understand the meaning of the Passover. Only baptized members of God’s Church may participate in the service. It is a command and a privilege. We must not take it lightly.
Before that night we should review and study Chapter 4 in How to Be an Overcomer: “The Meaning of Passover.” We should investigate the meaning of the Passover as intently as Pilate interrogated Christ at His trial. “The Passover is one of the most important occasions of the year, and we need to work hard to view it the way God says we must,” writes Mr. Flurry (ibid). Through Mr. Flurry’s booklet, God has made the meaning clear for us, so we are without excuse.
Keeping the Passover should influence how we live our lives throughout the year. The Passover should not be a ritualistic, one night affair. “The Passover is the first service of the holy day season. If our observance of that memorial is off, it can affect the whole holy day season and the whole year,” continues Mr. Flurry. We must learn to live the way of life inspired by the Passover.
The essence of our pre-Passover self-examination should focus on the quality and measure of our faith in the symbols of the bread and wine we take during the ceremony. “This is a time to examine yourself so you know you can take that bread and wine in faith. We should thank God that we have the honor and the opportunity to understand the Passover” (ibid). Just a tiny few of us in today’s world have such an honor and opportunity. We must treasure it dearly.
The tiny piece of bread we eat pictures Christ’s body, broken and bludgeoned so we can be healed from breaking God’s laws of health. The tiny cup of wine pictures Christ’s shed blood, which washes away our past sins against God at our repentance and baptism. Christ’s shed blood also cleanses us from present and future sins upon repentance. These two symbols are the foundation of our religion and way of life.
Here are five spiritual actions we should strive to live by after taking the Passover.
1) Live Like Christ Lived
“Each of us is given a piece of bread and a little container of wine to show the Lord’s death. Then we make certain that we are going to live the way Christ lived more and more each year. We are to follow His example as we go into the Days of Unleavened Bread,” writes Mr. Flurry (ibid). This means that we need to let Jesus Christ live in us. Although the people of this world may not grasp why, they recognize that God’s people are different. Keeping God’s Passover properly sets us apart from every other person on this planet, just as the ancient Israelites were set apart in their day. We are setting an example that the whole world will soon follow.
On the night before He suffered, Jesus Christ took time to explain the spiritual responsibilities required of the disciples after they took the new symbols of the Passover ceremony. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me,” He taught (John 15:4). Christ expects us to learn the same lesson. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing,” He continued (verse 5). There is a wonderful promise in these verses. When we abide in Christ through daily prayer, study and meditation, and occasional fasting, Christ promises that He will abide in us and we will be spiritually fulfilled.
We are deceiving ourselves if we attempt to live a spiritual life any other way. If Christ is not living in us, we will lack faith in the symbols of His supreme sacrifice for us.
The Apostle Paul learned and applied this instruction in his own life. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” he wrote (Galatians 2:20). Paul had a deep spiritual perspective. We need the same. How often do we think about the fact that, at our baptism, we were crucified and buried with Christ? (Romans 6:4, first part). Paul must have thought about this regularly. This knowledge gave him the power to live a successful, righteous life. “[A]nd the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” he continued (Galatians 2:20).
Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can also walk like He did—in newness of life—with fullness of faith (Romans 6:4, last part).
2) Wage War Against Sin
Christ’s death shows us the high price that the Father and Christ paid because of our sins. We must never take sin lightly. Jesus Christ never did. “Can you imagine someone praying with that intensity to avoid sin?” writes Mr. Flurry concerning Christ’s agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). “Can you imagine Christ, who is supposed to live in us, working so fervently and fiercely to avoid sinning? He wants us to follow His example” (ibid). How serious are we about overcoming our sins and weaknesses? We must become deadly serious. If we don’t take sin seriously enough, we are likely to end up dead for eternity.
“Look at how Christ fought against sin and the temptation to do evil! Do you and I fight like that? We need to pray and appeal to the Father for the strength and the power to resist sin (Hebrews 12:1-4),” Mr. Flurry writes. If we grasp what the Passover teaches about God and Christ’s plan for man, we recognize how diligent and vigilant is God to help us overcome sin.
In the introduction to How to Be an Overcomer, we are reminded, “God loves sinners—so much so that He wants to free us from sin and all its terrible effects.” Here is real inspiration to motivate us to overcome sin. If we do our part, God will do His part in our battle against sin.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” Christ taught the Jews of His day (John 8:34). Sin enslaves us. If we don’t see this fact clearly, we will not overcome. The majority of the Jews were hostile to Jesus Christ’s teaching on sin. And look at how terribly they suffered in a.d. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. We must believe Christ. Why? “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,” Christ said (verse 36). Do we believe Christ? Or are we like those hard-headed people who heard Him?
When we take the Passover properly, it will inspire us to wage war against our sin. How encouraging it must be for Christ to see His Bride strive against sin. When He sees us overcoming, He knows His death was not in vain. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” wrote the Apostle Paul (Hebrews 5:8). Jesus Christ set us an example of obedience to the Father and His royal law. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (verse 9). Winning our war against sin guarantees our salvation. Let’s be sure we follow Christ’s example.
How to Be an Overcomer is a detailed field manual on how to wage war against sin. Implementing this instruction will makes us “a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
3) Obey the Laws of Health
When we eat the tiny piece of unleavened bread during the Passover ceremony, we are showing God we have faith in His healing covenant with His people (Exodus 15:26). The Bible states clearly, by His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).
Herbert W. Armstrong thoroughly covered this subject in The Plain Truth About Healing. This is an important booklet to review in the lead-up to Passover.
“What is sickness—disease—debility—pain and suffering?” asked Mr. Armstrong in theSeptember 1962 Plain Truth. “It is the penalty being paid for the violation of the physical laws of the human body.” Mr. Armstrong knew from studying and believing the Bible that sin is the transgression of law (1 John 3:4). Unrepentant transgression of God’s spiritual law—the Ten Commandments—results in eternal death (Romans 6:23). Transgression of the physical laws of health is physical sin—and causes disease and debility. Few people in this world know and believe this vital truth. Jesus Christ was scourged so that we can have our sins against the physical laws of health forgiven. Healing is the forgiveness of physical sin.
“It is not natural to be sick, it is unnatural!” continued Mr. Armstrong. Then in one paragraph he summarized the laws of health: “God so designed the mechanism of the human body that, given proper food (and few indeed know what that is!); drinking the right amount of pure water; breathing properly of pure air; getting sufficient exercise—and that is not necessarily a great amount; obtaining sufficient rest, recreation and sleep; maintaining normal regularity of elimination, which includes more frequent bathing and rubdowns than many realize; and keeping the mind in a positive, cheerful, active and peaceful state, the body would never be sick!”
Eating the tiny piece of unleavened bread at Passover shows God that we have real faith in His covenant to heal us when we are sick.
Speaking of Christ’s scourging, Mr. Flurry writes, “Do you think God could allow that to happen and not want to heal us? We may not know when God is going to heal, but surely the Father would never allow His Son to go through all of that if it wasn’t His will to heal us!” (op cit). What a loving God we serve. Yet we must not abuse God’s willingness to forgive us our physical sins. Eating the unleavened bread at the Passover ceremony means that we will strive to keep the laws of health. Let’s strive to obey the laws of health and rely on God for healing.
4) Do God’s Work
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do,” prayed Jesus Christ after His last Passover on Earth (John 17:4; New King James Version). Mr. Armstrong showed that modern Christianity lacked understanding of the purpose for God’s Church. Besides being the school to train His people to be future kings and priests, God’s people are called to back and support God’s apostle as he takes God’s message to the world.
For those of us in the Philadelphia Church of God, it is our specific responsibility to back and support Mr. Flurry as he delivers God’s warning message to this rapidly dying world. We accomplish this through praying, fasting, offerings and encouraging Mr. Flurry.
Jesus Christ set a perfect example for us on how to do God’s Work. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work,” He told the disciples one day when they were concerned that He was not eating (John 4:34). Christ was highly motivated and energized by doing God’s Work. That was His life!
How about us? Is doing our part in God’s Work our life? Are we energized by praying, fasting and giving offerings for the needs of God’s Work? Jesus Christ expects us to follow His example.
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross [stake], and come after me, cannot be my disciple,” warns Christ (Luke 14:27). Are you taking up your stake and following Jesus Christ daily? It is a tall order, but this is the essence of our calling. Doing God’s Work requires personal sacrifice. For some, it could mean giving up our physical lives as martyrs. Understanding the deep meaning of the Passover increases our willingness to sacrifice for the Work of God. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps,” wrote the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:21). Christ suffered for us, opening the door for us to be called. We must be willing to suffer as He did to open the door for this world to hear Christ’s message. So let’s take up our stakes and follow Christ.
5) Build Church Unity
A crucial aspect to the Passover ceremony is the footwashing ceremony. It is breathtaking in its significance for God’s people. This ceremony has a deep spiritual lesson that we should carry with us all year long, every year of our lives. Carnal-minded people simply can’t understand it. We must!
When Christ instituted this new symbol at Passover, Peter did not understand it. When Christ approached Peter to wash his feet, he vehemently opposed Jesus saying, “Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8). Peter then went to the other extreme, and asked Christ to wash his whole body. He missed the point. So Jesus Christ explained the meaning of the footwashing ceremony to the disciples and to us.
Study John 13:13-17 carefully. Our Creator came to Earth at great personal sacrifice to serve all humanity. We must be willing to follow His example and not only serve God’s people, but all humanity. We are called to a life of service. Essentially this means we must constantly strive for unity within God’s Church, being willing to sacrifice for each other. We must live the life of a foot-washer. We must be ready to forgive others as God is willing to forgive us when we repent. Holding a grudge against a brother in God’s Church does not display a footwashing attitude.
“Can we forgive like that? Does Christ live in us to the extent that we can forgive the way God forgives? If we can’t forgive somebody, then we are not thinking like God. It takes a lot of forgiveness to keep human beings in the right attitude—loving, serving and sacrificing for each other,” writes Mr. Flurry (ibid). What wonderful unity forgiveness builds.
Remember: “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” wrote the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, let’s all commit to live the way of the Passover.