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Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel

In a discussion on Bill Carsley's last post, two people have raised questions about how to reconcile George Fox and the apostle Paul concerning the issue of partaking of the bread and wine, which most of Christendom has practiced while Fox and the early Quakers did not. Would it not open an avenue for the rest of Christendom to receive what Fox and the early Quakers had to say if these two positions could be reconciled? The following words have risen in my heart in response.

There can be no reconciliation where there is no division. Paul reminded the Corinthians that Jesus had said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) We witness the living Christ to be present among us in all His offices. Why should we proclaim his death when He is among us in His resurrected power and glory, where He has bruised the head of the serpent, our adversary of old. If we were to enter into this ritual of proclaiming His death until he comes, we would be denying His resurrected presence among us.

Luke wrote in chap. 22:15-16 “...I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” We witness the Passover to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God for we have passed from death to life, not by the blood of a sacrificial lamb but by the indestructible power of the life of Christ, who has taken up his abode in and among us.

In a discourse with the Jews, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your Fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the world is my flesh.” (John 6: 48-51) “...He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father; so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread shall live forever.” (John 6: 54-58) Later Jesus explained, “The flesh profits nothing. It is the breath that gives life. The words I speak to you, these are breath, these are life.” (John 6:63, see also Isaiah 55:1-3)

We witness this Word to tabernacle among us. Him do we hear in all things for he has the words of eternal life. “For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for he does not give the breath by measure.” (John 3:34)

So the question is, “When did He come?”

When he became the light of the gentiles, enlightening every man that was/is born into the world, when He called out to the captive and to those who sit in darkness, “Show yourselves.” When He became the covenant of the people; then He was come. When He made us dispossed to inherit the desolate heritages, then He was come. When His voice sounded and brought me up out of my grave into His life, then He was come. For the grace of God has appeared to all men bringing salvation, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, instructing us to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Christ Jesus; who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14) What is this hope? The mystery hid from the ages; Christ in you the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) For it is here, within you, that you must find Christ except you be reprobates. (2 Cor. 13:5) If Christ is in us, then He is come. For we have been made to sit together in Christ in Heavenly places. For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Eph. Chap. 5) What is this grace that brings my salvation, that teaches me? Grace is divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life. The law came by Moses, grace and truth come by Jesus Christ who tabernacles among and within us. Then He is come, and this we witness. This truth is that, which being spoken into the heart causes us to abide in the tent of the Lord and dwell on His holy hill. (Psalms 15) Do not deny Him, but show forth His glorious presence. Keep your testimony for Him who is come a redeemer to Zion, the people for God's own possession.

If it would be helpful, I can provide quotes and references from Fox that show how he handled such questions. To do so here, would make this post too long. What I have written above are the words given me from Christ.

Ellis

Views: 217

Comment by Earlon William (Bill) Carsley on 3rdMo. 27, 2015 at 17:39

Ellis,

I can certainly say "AMEN" to this statement.  The "coming" of Christ that matters most to each of us is His personal coming into our hearts in His resurrection presence.  But this was also true for Paul and his contemporaries when he wrote 25 years after Christ's resurrection, yet for their generation at least, the communal meal of "remembrance" was both practiced and taught (1 Cor. 11:23-26).  Therefore the "coming" Paul refers to in his New Testament epistles, and which he still looked forward to, was still in their future.  It was not the spiritual coming of Christ's presence into their hearts alone, else they would not have practiced the communal meal at that time either.

As you know, I believe the coming Paul looked for occurred in the climactic period of judgment and tribulation upon the nation of Israel (during the 2-3 years from the giving of the Revelation to John and the final destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70.  I also think it's possible to find that strong implication in some of the writings of George Fox (as outlined in my posts).   Otherwise, we are left with no choice but to suppose that Fox's intention was to place himself in direct contradiction to the apostle Paul.  You may be in agreement with me on this now, I'm not sure.  I look forward to seeing what you have to share in future posts!

Bill

Comment by Ellis Hein on 3rdMo. 28, 2015 at 12:47

Bill, I am not sure what you mean by Christ's spiritual coming. Either He is come or not. Either He is present or not.

The purpose of Christ's coming can be summed up in His statement, “I am come that you might have life and that more abundantly.” It is not to establish a new legalism, new, holy rituals. By Christ, Adam and Eve became living beings. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the deceiver's bread, they died. By Christ, the angel of death passed over the Israelites. By Christ, they were brought through the Red Sea into a barren wilderness where they ate the manna, “the bread Moses gave them,” and they died. With Christ, the disciples ate that final passover meal and multitudes upon multitudes have eaten that bread and have drunk that cup, and they died. But not one person who eats the flesh of Christ and drinks his blood, the bread of life, has failed to come to life. Not one person since the beginning of time has failed, nor will the efficacy of the bread of life fade with the passing of time.

Now, you tell me which is the greater, which is the more substantial, that which brings death or that which brings life?

We do not find in the Scriptures a prescription for “normal church life,” any more than the Pharisees could find life by searching the Scriptures. What we must find in the Scriptures, if they are to be of any value to us, is a sign post, a pointer, to the one who brings life, who said “The breath gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words I speak to you, these are breath, these are life.” Thus it has been since the beginning. The call of God has always been “HEAR MY VOICE.”

The Corinthians ate to their condemnation because they failed in moderation. But we are to come to that bread of which God said, “Incline your ear. Listen to me that you may live. DELIGHT YOURSELF IN ABUNDANCE [of listening].”

How then are we to understand Paul? It is not necessary to understand Paul. It is necessary to understand Christ. This is the foundation for understanding all the rest of Scripture and it is not arrived at by intellect. The solution to the problem of man-made “Christianity” cannot be found by intellectual reasonings. Every stone of the temple made by man must be torn down. They are profaned by death and can't show forth the life.

Comment by Jim Wilson on 3rdMo. 29, 2015 at 14:16

The last few posts have been rich and rewarding reads. Regarding Paul and communion, I have a few observations. First, Paul had a direct experience of the living Christ on the road to Damascus and was secure in this knowledge. Yet Paul took communion and recommended it. So it would seem that here is an example of someone who experienced Christ's presence, yet he also entered into communion with elements. It seems to me here is the difficulty people have; I am speaking of myself, of course, but I think it applies to others as well.

Second, I wonder if Paul's words 'until He comes' are being overinterpreted. Perhaps Paul was signalling by these words his belief that Christ would physically return to rule, or perhaps he was using the words figuratively. I also wonder if Paul is referring to his own ebb and flow of understanding. Paul talks about how we now see 'through a glass darkly', but that in the future we will see clearly and unobstructed. In this context perhaps 'until He comes' refers to our seeing clearly and without obstruction. Paul's experience of faith is therefore supported through his practice of communion; it helps him to see through the dark glass.

Finally, I would point out that Paul is not the only source for the early practice of communion. For example, the Didache outines a communion service. It would seem that the earliest Christians regarded communion as significant in their lives.

None of this negates the Quaker critique of communion as being a primarily spiritual experience, and that without this spiritual component it is only an empty form.

Thanks again, everyone, for your thoughtful words.

Comment by Allan Halton on 3rdMo. 30, 2015 at 3:06

Hi Ellis, in the interest of helping us all to search this out a little further, I'll share my own thoughts.  You point out that according to the apostle Paul, to eat the bread and drink the cup is to proclaim the Lord’s death “till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).  Then you go on to state that, since He is come, this observance is no longer necessary.  And you refer to several passages.  The difficulty is that in order to support this view, you have referred to passages by the apostle Paul, the same apostle who wrote 1 Cor. 11:26.  You quote from Titus 2:11-14, Col. 1:27, 2 Cor. 13:5, and Eph. Ch. 5, all which in one way or another speak of the living Christ being in us.

 

It appears, then, that Paul must have a different “coming” in mind when he says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.”  He cannot have in mind the coming that He is thinking of in these other passages, or his teaching would be very inconsistent.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 3rdMo. 30, 2015 at 12:26

Thank you, Jim and Allan, for your comments. I am going to reserve answering you, as interesting as such a discussion may prove to be, in favor of putting up the passages from Fox, which deal with this very subject you, Allan, have raised. In response to Jim's comment, I will also append to that listing some quotes from Lewis Benson. If necessary, I can come back to this.

Comment by Jim Wilson on 3rdMo. 30, 2015 at 14:48

Thanks, Ellis, for taking the time to track down these passages. 

Comment by Earlon William (Bill) Carsley on 3rdMo. 30, 2015 at 16:26

Allan, you have correctly stated the dilemma regarding the experience and teaching of Paul.  Jim, your proposal that Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11:26 may have been intended figuratively (and that we could be "over-interpreting") is certainly a possibility, but if you note all of Paul's other New Testament references to a future coming it seems clear that he (and the other apostles) were expecting parousia which would break into history in their very near future.  This is why I believe the preterist solution is the only adequate one.  Ellis, to say that we don't need to understand Paul is an evasion of the issue at hand.  If you're serious about reaching the world with truth, please don't resort to those kinds of tactics.  People of truth will not be fooled by such diversions and circular reasonings.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 3rdMo. 31, 2015 at 2:00

Bill, It would have been most unfortunate, indeed, if I had said only what you have quoted, which is why I did not stop where you stopped. I will repeat the complete thought here, so you do not need to go back and search for it. I said,

How then are we to understand Paul? It is not necessary to understand Paul. It is necessary to understand Christ. This is the foundation for understanding all the rest of Scripture and it is not arrived at by intellect. The solution to the problem of man-made “Christianity” cannot be found by intellectual reasonings. Every stone of the temple made by man must be torn down. They are profaned by death and can't show forth the life.

As you will see, when I can gather the various passages from Fox, that his approach is not a preterist solution to the situation of taking the bread and wine or not taking it.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rdMo. 31, 2015 at 13:14

It would be helpful to place the 11:23-27 passage in 1 Corinthians within the context of the preceding chapters of the epistle. There one can read of Paul's perspective, role, tactics, and aim, all of which figure into the passage in question. When read with an understanding of what Paul is striving to accomplish with this group in Corinth, all imagined discrepancies disappear between his teaching here and elsewhere, and between him and George Fox.

First, it is necessary to see that these Corinthians have not received Christ Within, and Paul knows it. "And I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (3:1-3). It is Paul's mission to help the Corinthians prepare themselves to receive Christ. One way that he does this is to restrain their sinful behavior: their pride (1:30) and their sexual immorality (5:1). Another way is by taking the elements of bread and wine with them.

It may appear that Paul contradicts himself when he writes in the first chapter that "the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you" (v.6). In the next verse, however, he states that with all the gifts they've received, they are yet waiting expectantly "for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.8). Paul is using a particular tactic to encourage the Corinthians: overstating their maturity in Christ on the one hand while admonishing them to do better on the other. It is a technique, such as a parent might use with a child or a teacher might use with a class to engage the children in taking responsibility for themselves, for their own self-discipline.

Now why would Paul enter into communion with elements when he'd already received Christ Within on the road to Damascas? Once again, Paul sees his role as teacher/nurturer/servant as primary, and the same principle he states in chapter eight when he calls for not eating food that has been consecrated to idols, he enjoins upon himself in taking the elements. In short, he will not have "this liberty of his [your's] become a stumbling block to them that are weak" (8:9). The Corinthians are weak (11:30), and Paul tries to build them up by encouraging their solidarity within the community (1:10, 6:1-9), and by acting in solidarity with them, "regarding not my own good but the good of the many, so that they may be saved" (10:33 NEB).His taking the elements with the Corinthians is an act of solidarity with them, though he in the liberty he knows in Christ, having received Christ, need not remember Christ till he comes, because for Paul, Christ is already come and known within.

There are many other examples in these chapters that could be used to support this idea. The Corinthians have not yet received the anointing within to teach them, and so they rely on Paul to teach them. As Paul succinctly instructs them: "Follow my example as I follow Christ's" (11:1). The Corinthians are not yet able to hear and follow Christ the heavenly prophet, as they haven't yet received him; they do well to instead follow the example Paul sets out for them. The Corinthians await the coming of Christ Within, who alone is their salvation, as is true for everyone that comes into the world, yesterday, today, and forever.     

Comment by Allan Halton on 3rdMo. 31, 2015 at 14:58

Patricia, there is no doubt that the  Corinthians had received Christ and had Christ in them.  Paul calls them “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2).  He also says further on, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).  And, “What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Cor. 6:19).  He also called them “begotten in Christ” (1 Cor. 4:15).  That is not possible without the Spirit of Christ being in them.  It is possible to have Christ in you and still be a carnal Christian, according to the teaching of the apostle Paul, and it is this that he was dealing with in this letter.  Even the way they kept the Lord’s supper was carnal.  He sought to correct that.  

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