Modern Day Resurrection from the Dead

This is a first-hand testimony from “Brother Timothy” of Nanyang Church in China, and has been confirmed by several other house-church believers from the area (recorded by Paul Hattaway, Henan: The Galilee of China, 2009, pp. 228-229):

In 1993 I went to Biyang City to preach for the first time…I was asked to pray for a 50-year old man named Chang, who was dying of mouth cancer.  This unbeliever was very wealthy and was a well-known Communist Party secretary in Biyang.  He had been transferred to the main hospital in the provincial capital, but by the time he reached Zhengzhou he had deteriorated and was close to death…The staff then called Chang’s wife to break the bad news.  They told her he was close to death and would not recover.

…His wife had a Catholic friend in Biyang.  She said that Christians could pray for sick people, even if they were dead.  Somehow the Catholic sister found me and asked me to come and pray.

…I travelled to Zhengzhou and went straight to the hospital.  I was quite nervous and not sure what the Lord’s will was in all of this.  At the hospital none of the staff paid any attention to me because I was just a poor farmer.  Finally a nurse looked at me with disdain, and said, ‘You’re too late.  Communist Party Secretary Chang died last night.’

I was shocked to hear that he was already dead, and asked where his body was because I had promised his family I would pray for him.  The nurse thought I was stupid but saw my determination and told me his body was in the refrigerated morgue in the hospital basement.  I went down to the basement and an attendant asked what I wanted.  I told him that I needed to pray for Mr. Chang.  I was met with an amused look but the man took me to a line of refrigerated boxes, located Mr Chang’s, and opened the small door.  His body slid out and I saw he was truly dead.  The blood had drained from his body, and his identification tag was tied around his big toe.

I was very scared as I had never prayed for the sick before, let alone for a dead man…Despite my circumstances, I knew the Lord could do whatever he wanted to do.  I closed my eyes and prayed for Mr Chang.  It was a simple prayer and I prayed in a hushed voice.  I leaned forward and said, ‘Mr Chang, I know that you can hear me.  I know that Jesus can bring you back from the dead because he wants to glorify his name in your life.’  By now, the morgue attendant had gathered several of his co-workers and they stood at a distance, sniggering at the sight of a farmer praying for a dead Communist leader.

I had a very simple faith in God.  I did not believe God would raise the man from the dead on that day because I thought people had to be dead for three days before they could come back alive again.  I had read that both Jesus and Lazarus were resurrected after three days, so I thought if God was going to raise Mr Change I would need to return two more times.

I finished praying, thanked the workers for letting me pray for Mr Chang and told them I would be returning at 10 o’clock the next morning because I wanted to pray for him again.  They laughed and looked at me like I was completely insane.  The next morning, more than 20 hospital workers gathered to watch me pray for Mr Chang.  News had quickly spread around the hospital and they were all eager to witness the sight so they could get a laugh.  Again his body was pulled out of the refrigerator and I closed my eyes and prayed for him.  He had now spent one-and-a-half days in the freezer and was still very much dead. 

While I was laying hands on the corpse, I leaned forward and whispered, ‘Mr Chang, if you are unable to talk, then I command you to move your eyes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’  I looked closely and the man’s eyes twinkled a little.  This greatly increased my faith because I knew that God was at work.  Nobody else in the room was close enough to see his eyes move, however, and they thought the whole thing was a great joke.

I prayed Bible verses out loud and asked the Lord to prove that the scriptures are true and that a dead man can come back to life in Jesus’ name.  I also prayed loudly so that the others in the morgue would hear the gospel through the words I was speaking.  My prayer was an evangelistic prayer, with a short summary of the message of salvation included.  I held on to the promise from the Lord and kept praying for the man.  After a while the crowd were not so amused.  I think they could feel the presence of the Lord and they became serious-minded and attentive.  I announced that I would return again at 10 o’clock the next morning and would pray for Mr Chang for the third and final time.  His body was placed back in the refrigerator, the door was locked and I walked up the stairs and returned to the place I was staying.

On the third day, I was amazed to find that such a large crowd had gathered to witness my prayer that it was difficult to get past them and into the basement.  Dozens of people were lining the stairs leading down to the morgue, and many more were waiting inside the room.  People were talking and sniggering among themselves, but everyone was watching closely to see what would happen.  The morgue attendant again produced Mr Chang’s body and I prayed for him.  I asked the Lord to glorify his name by healing this man, saving his soul and the souls of the many witnesses crowded into the room.  Nothing appeared to change, so I thanked the attendants and left the hospital, as I had to make my way to the train station and travel across country with a team of evangelists going to Gansu Province.  I never saw what happened after I left the hospital, but a few days later the believers in Zhengzhou contacted me with an urgent message.

They said that about 20 minutes after I left the hospital, the dead Mr Chang suddenly sat up and started coughing.  The terrified attendant and his co-workers watched as he coughed up a large, dirty ball of blood and puss, which was the cancer in his mouth.  It spilled out of his mouth and onto the cold, hard floor of the morgue.

Mr Chang was healed and alive.  He asked for food and water because he was hungry and thirsty.  As you could imagine, the news of Mr Chang’s miracle quickly spread to the upper floors of the hospital and all of those who had come to witness the prayer came rushing down to the basement to see if it was true.  All of the hospital staff saw Mr Chang alive.  His grieving wife was called to the hospital, where she received her husband back from the dead.  Every single person who saw this miracle dropped to their knees and confessed that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God.

In the Lord’s providence, I never witnessed Mr Chang come back to life but everybody told me about it later.  I thank the Lord that I wasn’t there, because maybe all the people would have thought it was due to my own power if he had sat up while I was praying for him.  By raising him from the dead after I had left, everyone clearly understood that God himself had performed a miracle, and all the glory and honour went to the Lord.

When I first heard what had happened, I was pleased but did not dwell on it.  It was just an act of Almighty God.  In those days, the revival was burning so intensely that miracles were taking place at every single house-church meeting and thousands of people were coming to Christ every day.  Miracles were not something we concentrated on, they were merely the evidences that confirmed the message we were preaching about Jesus was true.

The whole Chang family came to Christ…From what I have been told, Mr Chang is still alive today, eight years later.

Paul Hattaway, Henan: The Galilee of China, 2009, pp. 228-229

Should Christians Obey the Old Testament?


  • Christ alone entirely fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Old Testament Law, and thereby all who receive Christ are counted as righteous entirely on the basis of their repentance and belief in Christ.
  • The evidence of our receiving Christ is that God the Holy Spirit indwells us. He produces his fruit in us that is entirely consistent with the ultimate heart and principles of the Old Testament Law (and go far beyond the mere externals and shadows established by the Old Testament Law).


When we use “The Law” we are referring to the entirety of the Old Testament (as it is used in John 10:34; Rom. 3:10-19; and elsewhere).

#1: God Desires the Law’s Intent Obeyed (Over the Letter of the Law)

  • Psalm 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:10-15; 58; Hosea 6:6 (cf. Matt. 9:13); Amos 5:21 – Israel wrongly believed that outward ritual/obedience pleases God.
  • Matthew 5:17-48 – Jesus reveals and interprets God’s true heart behind and within the law, exposing man made additions and false interpretations by the Pharisees.
  • Matt. 12:1-8 – Jesus wants us to look to the intent of the law over the outward letter
  • Matt. 19:1-10 – though a provision was made for divorce, Jesus shows that the Law does not endorse divorce.
  • Matt. 23:23-24; Mark 12:33 – Jesus sees weightier matters within the law
  • Romans 2:26 – you can keep “the righteous requirements of the law” without being circumcised

#2: The Law’s Intent = Love God; Love Others

  • Matt. 22:36-40
    • John 13:34-35; Gal. 6:2 (cf. John 5:24 with 1 John 3:14) – especially love for each other
  • Gal. 5:13-14; Romans 13:8-10; James 2:8 – “loving our neighbor” = summary of Law.
    • 1 John 4:7-13 – Of course, this implies we love God first.

#3: The Law Exposes Our Guilt in Loving God and Others

  • Matt. 5:27-28, 31-32, 38-39 – “You have heard it said” = what they were taught about the Law. “I say to you” = what the Law really teaches. In doing this, Jesus shows that lusting, anger, etc. reveal guilt in God’s law
  • Romans 3:9-20; 7:7 – The law is a mirror that shows our true condition as sinful and without hope on our own.

#4: Jesus Alone Fully Obeyed the Law

  • Matthew 5:17
  • Rom. 3:26; 2 Cor. 5:21 – Only if Jesus is righteous can God still be righteous to say that Jesus paid the price for sinners
  • Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22; 1 John 3:5 – Jesus = Perfect; sinless

#5: The Law Reveals Jesus as Savior/Messiah to Follow

  • Luke 24:44 – the entirety of the Old Testament points to Jesus
  • Acts 3:21-26; 8:32-35 – Jesus was prophesied in the Law
  • Romans 3:21-26 – though following the Law does not make us righteous, the law does point toward Jesus as the Savior
  • 1 Cor. 5:7; Col. 2:11-23 – Jesus is the “substance” (v. 17) of the Law’s dietary laws, festivals, and sabbaths (v. 16)
  • Hebrews:
    • 1-2: Jesus is better than Angels (who were part of giving the law, cf. Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19)
    • 3-4: Jesus = ultimate Sabbath
    • 5-9: Jesus = ultimate High Priest
    • 10: Jesus = ultimate Sacrifice

#6: Only Those Who Follow Jesus Are Judged Righteous by the Law

  • Acts 15:6-11 – saved in faith in Jesus, not works of the Law
  • Rom. 4:5-6 – “justifies the ungodly” – we are imputed with Christ’s righteousness though not being righteous on our own
  • Rom. 10:4 (also vv. 9-10) – “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”
  • Heb. 10:14 – Christ’s sacrifice forever perfects believers

#7: Those who Follow Jesus receive the Holy Spirit Who Leads Us Into the Law’s Intent

  • Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:31-34 (cf. Heb. 8:7-13) – the law externally taught people how to follow God; but it prophesied a time (and “new covenant”) when we’d have an indwelling knowledge, heart, and law.
  • Gal. 4:4-7; 5:2-6, 18-23; 6:14-15; Eph. 1:13; Rom. 7:6; 8:3-4, 9 – the Holy Spirit within is the seal we are righteous with God, and leads us to walk out the law’s intent

#8: Christians Aren’t Judged by Letter/Ritual of the Law, But Can Discern God’s Heart/Principles through the Law

  • Acts 15:28-29; 1 Cor. 9:19-23 – here it’s clear the entire law is not binding, but certain elements of it may be followed at certain times for a witness to others
  • Rom. 2:26 – uncircumcised people can be completely faithful to the “precepts” of the law (though circumcision is part of the letter of the law)
  • Rom. 14:1-13 – it’s perfectly fine if people are personally challenged and convicted to follow specific rituals of the law; it becomes wrong when they see their righteousness before God as dependent on their following the rituals and/or teach that others MUST follow these rituals.
  • Rom. 15:1-4; 1 Cor. 5:7; 9:9 – these (and other) passages show how the Law reveals eternal principles for us to follow
  • 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23 – though the law does not make us righteous, it is not therefore wise to abandon
  • Gal. 5:13-15 – the law informs Christians how to live, even though they aren’t under it
  • Col. 2:16; Heb. 10:1 – Further, how would we know what loving God and loving others looks like without the Bible (including the O.T. Law!)? It is compared to a shadow. Just as a shadow tells you varied things about a person and is consistent with the substance of that person, so the Law helps us know about God, His love, etc. The Holy Spirit will always lead us consistently with what God has revealed in his Word.

Romans: Case Study

I bolded the passages from Romans (above) to see how a single book weaves together all of these themes. Romans is not the only book to do this, but I believe it is the most thorough on this topic. And studying one book on these themes can help us see how the 1 Bible written by 1 Author (God) can similarly emphasize these varied themes at different parts.

~ Thanks to my brother and friend Ross Whitman for helping compile these notes.

Confessions of a Pharisee

When you read the Bible, which character(s) do you find yourself connecting with? Maybe a David? Or a Martha? Peter? Or a Mary?

For me, the more I’ve meditated on God’s word, the more I find myself identifying with the Pharisees. This is not a good thing. But I think my owning it is a necessary step for getting out of it.

Let me explain.

The Pharisees were known for their:

  • conservative views on God and Scripture (Luke 11:51; Acts 23:8; Phil. 3:5-6)
  • zeal to convert people to God (Matt. 23:15)
  • disciplined prayer and fasting (Luke 18:12)
  • Bible studying (John 5:39)
  • fellowshipping with “like-minded” believers (Luke 15:29)
  • thoughtful interpretations of the Bible (Mark 7:11-12)
  • wanting to please God to the best of their abilities (Rom. 10:2; Phil. 3:5-6)
    • wanting to follow Gods commands to a T (Matt. 23:23)
  • schools of learning for other people to know about God (Acts 4:13)
  • charitable giving (Luke 18:12)
  • and so forth

In fact, the word, “Pharisee,” literally means, “a separated one,” i.e. “someone who is separated from sin.” Because this is what they prided themselves in: their self-perceived holiness.

Further, Jesus even tells his listeners, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you,” (Matt. 23:2-3). In other words, they are teaching correct things.

So far you might be tempted to think the Pharisees were doing pretty well. And, from all outward observation, they were.


Their fundamental flaw was this:

[They] trusted in themselves that they were righteous…

Luke 18:9 (see also Luke 16:14-15)

They wrongly thought they were (or could be) righteous enough to merit God’s favor on their own. They wrongly thought that outward actions proved their righteousness. They wrongly thought that all the flattering words that their like-minded friends told them mirrored God’s own thoughts toward them.

So when Jesus says He came to save sinners (Mark 2:17), they made sure they weren’t in that line. And this is, was, and ever will be the bed they made for themselves: a lifetime and eternity removed from the God who came to save sinners.

In fact, Jesus leveraged his harshest criticism toward the Pharisees–conceivably to shock them out of their self-righteous complacency. He called them, “Sons of hell,” (Matt. 23:15), or a, “Brood of vipers” (Matt. 23:33).

Meanwhile, the worst of society (in the Pharisees’ eyes)–people like prostitutes, tax collectors, and other sinners–were finding favor with God through Christ, and being forgiven of all their sins (e.g. Matt. 21:31; Luke 18:9-14). This, of course, was the ultimate insult to self-righteous people like the Pharisees. They especially didn’t want to get near a God who embraces those kinds of people.

Alarmingly, I can’t help but see myself in the scary place of a Pharisee more times than I’d like to admit. I think I have the “right” answers, the “right” doctrine. Further, I do the “right” things, and the Christians in my circles seem to think I’m a pretty good guy. But then I find myself leaning on these things to curry favor before Almighty God. And it sometimes creep in my thinking that I’m more righteous in God’s eyes than those around me.

In comparing my life with the Pharisees, I’d be tempted to say that all hope is lost…


There was a man–a self-proclaimed, “Pharisee,” (Phil. 3:5)–who set an example and gives hope. Us pharisees can be cured!

How did it happen?

Let’s hear from him (Paul) directly:

I have lived as a Pharisee…[then] I saw…a light from heaven

You have heard of my former life in Judaism…I was advancing in Judaism beyond many…But…He [God]…was pleased to reveal His Son to me…[thus] we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…

[We] put no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh…But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…that I may know Him

Acts 26:4-23; Gal. 1:11-2:21; Phil. 3:2-11

“Paul” literally means, “small.” He used to be big and proud and thought he was righteous. He was, after all, a good Pharisee. Then God humbled him and gave a revelation of his smallness and God’s greatness. God showed him that he is a sinner who needs Christ’s salvation. In fact, he would later write that all humans are in the same boat (Romans 3:23).

It is this same revelation that caused John Newton (a proud slave owner) to become a great abolitionist and pen the words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” And when he later reflected on his life, this same revelation caused him to say: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

We must plead to God for such a revelation – continually reading His word to remind us of these things. Plead and read that we would see our sinfulness in light of his holiness. And plead and read that we would see his cross forgives all who own this sinfulness and their need of a Savior.

Any fellow Pharisees ready to denounce your righteousness and live by Christ’s righteousness with me?


Elder Qualifications

Taken from What Makes an Elder?

Are You Elder Material?

Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17-25; Titus 1:5-9; Heb. 13:7-17; James 3:13-18; 1 Pet. 5:1-4

  • Role of an elder: overseer/supervisor/shepherd – make sure you and the flock are walking faithfully; labor in the word and doctrine; set an example in faith and faithfulness
  • Integrity in character: above reproach, blameless; not volatile, self-controlled, sober-minded; good reputation with church and world; hospitable; not given to drunkenness; gentle, not violent or quick-tempered; not quarrelsome; not a lover of money; not headstrong, but considering of other opinions; a lover of what is good; righteous; good conduct; meek; pure; peaceable; gentle; open to reason; full of mercy and good fruit; impartial; sincere
  • Integrity in family: husband of only 1 wife; manages family well; children obey you and show you respect; children believe the gospel; children not considered wild or disobedient
  • Doctrine: able to teach, speaks the word of God to people
  • Integrity in faith: not a recent convert, has a faith/obedience that is worthy of imitation

When, Where, and How Did Jesus Call His First Disciples?

John 1:35-51 says:

  • 2 followers of John the Baptist (one was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, and the other is unnamed) start following Jesus after John the Baptist points Him out and testifies of Him (Jn. 1:35-40).
  • Andrew brings Simon Peter to Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he will be called Cephas (Jn. 1:41-42).
  • The following day, Jesus tells Philip to follow Him (Jn. 1:43).
  • Then, Philip brought Nathanael, who is initially skeptical, but later believes Jesus after meeting Him (Jn. 1:44-51).
  • Summary: First, Andrew and an unnamed man (traditionally believed to be John the apostle and writer of the gospel) begin following Jesus.  Then, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael follow Him, in that order.  Thus, five men begin following Him.

Matthew and Mark write:

  • Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, sees Simon and Andrew in a fishing boat, and tells them to follow Him to become fishers of men.  They immediately left their nets to follow. (Mt. 4:18-20; Mk. 1:16-18)
  • Jesus walked further, and there saw James and John in a fishing boat.  He called them and they also immediately followed Him. (Mt. 4:21-22; Mk. 1:19-20) 

Luke writes:

  • Jesus taught a crowd of people near the Sea of Galilee (also known as, “Lake of Gennesaret,”). (Lk. 5:1)
  • After seeing two boats, He sat down in the one belonging to Simon. (Lk. 5:2-3)
  • After teaching, Jesus told Simon to try fishing again. (Previously, they had not caught anything.)  Simon was hesitant, but still followed. (Lk. 5:4-5)
  • Simon, his unnamed partner, James, and John caught a miraculous number of fish. (Lk. 5:6-7)
  • Simon fell down in awe to worship Jesus, and Jesus told him that he will now catch men, instead of fish. (Lk. 5:8-10)
  • After bringing in their boats, all of them “forsook all and followed Him.” (Lk. 5:11) 

In comparing the four gospel writers, it is clear that John’s account speaks of a different instance than that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, because so many of John’s details are mutually exclusive to the other gospels.  Therefore, John provides us with the very first encounter Jesus has with five of His disciples: (1) Andrew, (2) Simon Peter, (3) Philip, (4) Nathanael, and (5) an unnamed disciple traditionally believed to be John. 

They followed Him in some capacity, but after returning to Galilee, they went back to fishing (something they also do after Jesus is resurrected, as John records in ch. 21 of his gospel).  And while later fishing in the Sea of Galilee, four of these five early disciples (Andrew, Simon Peter, and John), along with John’s brother, James, start following Jesus in a more committed sense when Jesus calls them again. 

This second calling is described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, though Luke’s gospel has a completely different focus than that of Matthew and Mark.  I believe all 3 gospel writers refer to the same event in their accounts, because:

  1. Luke describes them as leaving “everything” to follow Jesus after the event (Lk. 5:11).  And Matthew and Mark tell us, “they immediately left their nets…they left the boat and their father…and followed Him,” (Mt. 4:20-22; Mk. 1:18-20).  If these were two separate events, it seems unthinkable that they would leave “fishing” to follow Him only to be found fishing a short time later. 
  2. The characters are the same in all accounts: (1) Simon Peter, (2) John, (3) James, and (4) Andrew (though Andrew is unnamed by Luke, but can be inferred in Lk. 5:7 when he tells us that Simon Peter had someone else with him in the boat).
  3. The phraseology is similar in both accounts.  Luke records Jesus saying to Simon, “From now on you will catch men,” (Luke 5:10), and Matthew and Mark record Jesus saying to Simon (and Andrew), “I will make you fishers of men,” (Mt. 4:19; Mk. 1:17).
  4. Both accounts record this incident happening early in Jesus’ Galilean ministry, around the time He moves to Capernaum.

In harmonizing these different versions of the same story, I believe the events of Luke 5:1-5 happened before Matthew and Mark begin their account (which parallels the order of events in John 21’s recounting of a similar episode). 


  • John records Jesus’ first calling of five followers
  • Luke records the full event of Jesus’ second calling of four followers with a special focus on Peter
  • Matthew and Mark record an abbreviated version of this second calling

This interpretation is bolstered by the following points:

  1. Though John does not record the disciples fishing when Jesus calls them, he does tell us that Simon and Andrew originally come from Bethsaida, which means “Fishtown,” (John 1:44, see D.A. Carson’s Commentary on Matthew), and records seven disciples fishing after Jesus was resurrected, including Simon, Nathanael, and the sons of Zebedee (John and James), three of whom were present at Jesus’ first calling of disciples (see John 21).  Thus, John is clearly aware of the early disciples being fishermen, and sees no problem with them fishing after Jesus originally called them, all of which are compatible with Jesus’ second calling of disciples as described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
  2. In Luke 5:1-2, Jesus is clearly captivating the attention of a large crowd while He is teaching, and is doing this in the vicinity of Simon, Andrew, John, and James.  Yet, we read that they all, “were washing their nets,” (Luke 5:2).  Their choosing to fish instead of listening to Jesus’ preaching is all the more peculiar when considering how eagerly they permit Jesus to use their boats (see Luke 5:3), and obey His words, even when they seemed outrageous (see Luke 5:4-5).  Such activity makes the most sense if these men had already developed a certain familiarity with Jesus (to the point where they felt comfortable fishing while He was speaking, and He felt comfortable casually asking to use their boat), as well as respect and awe of Him (to the point that they willingly obey His words), yet not to the point where they gave up their trade to follow Him.  All of these circumstances point to the truthfulness of John’s record of Jesus’ first calling of the disciples, as well as the truthfulness of the other three gospels in recording Jesus’ second–more committed–calling of the disciples.
  3. In light of the disciples making such radical decisions to completely and instantly follow Jesus (cf. Matt. 19:27), as is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ calling, it is very plausible to assume that they were formerly familiar with Jesus.  This is seen when comparing their accounts with John’s gospel.  Furthermore, Matthew and Mark’s account of them following Jesus instantly after He speaks to them could additionally indicate that the miracle of the catching of fish as recorded in Luke’s account (that took place shortly before this) served as an impetus, along with the Holy Spirit, for their making such a bold and seemingly rash decision (cf. Luke 14:25-33).
  4. Matt. 4:21 and Mark 1:19 say that James and John were, “mending their nets.”  The Greek word for “mending,” is katartizontas, and literally reads that they were, “restoring their net to a former condition,” (see D.A. Carson’s Commentary on Matthew). This implies that a significant event took place that required them to toil at restoring their net to the condition it was before the event occurred.  Matthew and Mark do not record such an event, but Luke records the event of their supernatural catch of fish (5:6), showing a harmony among the three accounts.


Some relevant Scripture passages: Exodus 12; Matt. 26:17-29; Mark 14:14-25; Luke 22:7-38; John 6:27-63; Acts 2:42,46; 20:7; 1 Cor. 10:16-22; 11:17-34; Rev. 19:9 (compare with Matt. 22:1-14)

1. What is the meaning/purpose of Communion?

Communion is the N.T. version of the O.T. Passover meal (Matt. 26:17,26-27).

Passover served as a reminder of the Lamb’s sacrifice and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 12:24-27), whereas communion serves as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice (1 Cor. 11:24-26), and the church’s deliverance from sins (Matt. 26:28).  Both ordinances were not to be received individually, but as a family gathered together (Ex. 12:3-4; 1 Cor. 10:17), hence the word “communion”.  Furthermore, both ordinances unified the participants.  In the Passover, the household(s) were unified under the blood of 1 Lamb, and by sharing the same lamb in their meal. In Communion, the One (Jesus) was broken, so that many (believers) can become one (church).  The church is symbolically and physically unified by sharing communion, just as we are actually and spiritually unified by receiving Christ.  Therefore, God condemns the receiving of communion when there is divisive hearts and factions in the body, urging us to “discern the body rightly” before we participate (see 1 Cor. 11:17-22,27-34)…this extends to even maintaining hearts of unity toward professing believers who betray you (Mark 14:18; Rom. 12:18), all on the grounds of Christ’s finished work – the ONLY true source of unity!

2. Is a “love feast” the same thing as communion?

The term “love feast” is found in Jude 1:12, and seems to be referred to in 2 Pet. 2:13.  It was essentially a meal shared by the church, as is recorded in 1 Cor. 11:20-22.  Though it is clear that communion is part of the love feast (see 1 Cor. 11:20-11), it seems like it was a separate event within the love feast (see Luke 22:20 – “He took the cup AFTER SUPPER”).  During the Passover meal, they would’ve eaten lamb, herbs, etc. (just like during a “love feast” you could eat a variety of food), but the communion itself is only celebrated with bread and wine.

3. Should non-believers be discouraged from taking communion?

As is clear from question 1, communion is meant for those who have received Christ.  Just as God lays conditions for us to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit of Christ (i.e. repent and believe the gospel), so I believe He sets the same conditions for all who would receive Christ symbolically through the indwelling bread and wine.  I say this for the following reasons:

  • God says: “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it.” (Ex. 12:43).  And in looking backward on the Passover, Hebrews 11:28 also emphasizes the need for faith, “lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.”  I think the Passover meal serves as a type for communion.
  • Jesus says of the communion cup, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” (Matt. 26:28).  The wine that is received at communion is to be drunk by those whose sins have been forgiven.  Only those who have trusted in Christ’s salvation have their sins forgiven, thus the cup is extended to those people, and no further.
  • Paul probably makes the strongest point toward this in 1 Corinthians.  In 1 Cor. 10:16-22, he compares food offered to idols to eating communion.  He shows the seriousness of eating foods that are offered to idols (which are really demons, see 1 Cor. 10:19-20), and the equal seriousness of receiving communion.  He calls this a participation and fellowship with the God whose food you are eating.  Thus, as he speaks strongly against Christians participating in eating food known to be offered to idols, it seems inferred that there is an equally stern warning against welcoming people who bow to other gods to participate in the food we eat in celebration of God Almighty.  He would later write, “Whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” (1 Cor. 11:27).  Paul also says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes,” (1 Cor. 11:26).  It would seem that if you do not proclaim Christ’s sacrifice, you are wrong to eat communion as though you do proclaim Him.

All this to say, I think it should be clear that communion is reserved only for professing believers.  Of course, all efforts will be made to lead people to becoming a disciple of Christ, and sharing the communion table with us.  But anything less than this standard seems to be cheapening the awesome sacrifice of Christ that we celebrate at communion.  Furthermore, from personal experience, I remember being a child for years and watching as everyone ate communion while I was not allowed to.  I never held a grudge about this, as my parents explained that the communion table was open to me whenever I decide to follow Jesus (or they said something to that effect).  In fact, this enticed me to want to be part of the church community and give my life to Christ.  As Paul said in a different context: “I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.” (Rom. 11:13-14).  

4. How should we view Judas as being part of the Lord’s Supper?

If Jesus would have offered the communion meal to those who clearly were not professing followers of Him, that would be different than offering it to Judas.  Judas was a professing believer at this time (even though Jesus knew His heart had rejected Him).  I think this should challenge us to examine our hearts in making sure we are not being divisive or thinking that some people aren’t “worthy” of sharing communion, even if they betray us.  I think it also should show us that it’s not up to us to give rigorous tests that would “ensure” someone is truly a believer before they take communion.  Instead, we welcome all who truly profess Christ, and deal (usually individually) with people who seem hypocritical in their commitment.

5. How should the church administer communion?  how often? who? in what manner?

1 Cor. 11:20 indicates that the church celebrated communion as often as they came together as a worshipping body. I think when we celebrate communion, it should be clear what it represents, and that it is a celebration reserved for professing believers, but that we would be overjoyed for more people to join us at the table because they’ve decided to become disciples of the Living Christ.  I think we also should be purposeful to pray through and discern if we come in unity to the Lord’s table (not just with each other, but with other believers gathered elsewhere, and seek reconciliation before coming together to eat [see Matt. 5:23-24; 1 Cor. 11:28-29]).