|Vol. 14 No. 6 June 2012||
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
Many times we have heard John 6:53 quoted or read in connection with the Lord’s Supper. It says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” I have no objection to any appropriate Scripture being read at any particular time, but we do feel an obligation to point out that there is a danger in doing or saying a thing which may be right in one context, but imply a thing that is not right in another context. Even a simple thing like a song director asking the congregation to stand every time he sings, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” may leave the impression that the physical act of standing up is the way to stand up for Jesus. I do not want to make an issue of it, or be a “nitpicker,” but the principle of teaching truth by our actions, our singing or our use of Scripture is important.
Although the bread represents the body of Christ and the fruit of the vine represents His blood as we partake of the Lord’s Supper that is not the subject in John 6. Furthermore, the terms “flesh” and “body” are not synonymous in the New Testament. Too, we need to understand that many expressions like “flesh and blood” mean something different than the meaning of one word plus the meaning of another word. If one person plays “cat and mouse” with another, he does not play “cat” and then play “mouse.” “Flesh” may mean “the muscular tissue,” and “blood” may be “the fluid circulating in the veins and arteries,” but “flesh and blood” may mean “relatives, or those with the same nature.”
Without trying to make a definitive study of those things, let us try to suggest what Jesus does and does not mean in John 6:51-58. He does not mean to say that whoever takes the Lord’s Supper has eternal life. If verse 53 means a person is spiritually dead until he takes the Lord’s Supper, one who is baptized Monday night is not really a new creature in Christ until next Sunday when he takes the Lord’s Supper. That would, indeed, be the sacrament!
When Jesus said in Matthew 16:17 to Peter, “Flesh and blood did not reveal it unto you,” He simply means, “You did not get this from natural human sources, but from my Father.” To eat His flesh and drink His blood is equivalent to becoming a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). It is being “born from above” (John 3:3) or being “united with Him in the likeness of His death – and resurrection” (Romans 6:5). His “flesh and blood” do not become our “flesh and blood” either by some sacramental act involving transubstantiation, or simply by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, but by letting the “life of Christ be manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11). Then, and only then, do we have the promise of living forever.
Our Lord taught, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn of me…” (Matthew 11:28-30). Are we making the time to learn of him? By learning of his way, we put the kingdom of God in first place (Matthew 6:33). We forgive our fellow man till seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22-35) and find God’s willingness to forgive us our trespasses against Him.
Do we allow the double yoking? Everyone knows the seemingly added strength of having another person pick up the other side of a load. It’s a blessing that gives rest even while having more than doubled the work output. Jesus advised us of the utter impossibility of bearing any fruit unless we abide in the vine. In serving the Lord this way, we find “much fruit” (John 15:1-8). Many times, we are seeking to be loners. Much harm has come to society due to the deeds of many described as loners. However, the Lord desires for us to do all the good we can do while here below and offers a way to provide strength and rest in the process. Will you try to live life the Lord’s way?