E. L. Bevir.
Christian Friend vol. 15, 1888, p. 19.
There can be no doubt that in the English part of Christendom around us men are taking two great directions - one, that of positive unbelief or infidelity of a materialistic kind; the other, the adoption of a sacramental system, whose fundamental doctrines are bringing back souls to the bondage of popery. Leaving aside the first question, that of positively professed atheism (where, let us remark, it is not science that has brought man to it, but his own wicked heart with false "scientific" objections), let us briefly look upon the second, and especially in connection with the verses in John 6 referred to above, and which are so often misapplied in the present day to a false sacramental perversion of true Christianity.
It may be well to notice the true force of this wonderful passage before speaking of its misuse. The Lord Jesus in John 6 is presented to our hearts as the Son of man, the Bread of God come down from heaven, giving life unto the world. At the beginning of the chapter the Jews had wished to snake Jesus a King by force, after that He had performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes; it was what is called the people's choice, and was thoroughly disapproved by the Lord. The people would have liked a king who would give them bread and fishes every day, but they strongly disliked the word of His mouth that spoke to their consciences. They had understood well enough when He commanded them to sit down upon the grass, but they could understand nothing when He spake of His death, implying their own lost state. The Lord will not accept the place of King, nor will He be revealed as Prophet, until this present time be run out, when He shall appear to the whole earth in these wonderful characters; but now He is rejected, despised on the earth, hidden in heaven, alone upon the mountain, whilst the whole world ripens fast for judgment.
What then is the meaning of this portion of the Word, where Jesus is presented to us as the Bread of God come down from heaven? In the first part of the verses referred to the Jews had asked, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" And the Lord replies, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." The living Bread that came down from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, must die, and there can be no real possession of life unless a dead Christ be eaten; that is, unless He be truly received and known as the living One who died; and here we have an immense truth that marks out clearly the present position of believers. It is not only the stupendous fact that the Lord Jesus Christ died for us, but that we obtain life by feeding on a dead Christ. We have our present portion with Him who died. The Christian believer has received this, and although here death with Christ is not presented as in Romans 6, yet we have the solemn fact of our receiving, eating, being identified with the Christ that died. The blessed Lord in dying left this state of things for ever; that is, the state of things upon this earth in the midst of which He was pleased to walk; and we in receiving Him learn that we too have our part with Him. How little is such a truth understood! and how surely will the flesh resist the thought of dying and of death! and yet what deliverance to a true saint!
The sacramental system that would apply this to the eucharist falls to the ground as soon as the true import of the passage is understood; for the fact of the utter ruin of man implied here is fatal to it. What indeed must the state of all the fallen sons of Adam be that the Lord Jesus Christ must die (and this is why His flesh and blood are spoken of separately) before that any one can have life? And so far from man being ultimately saved by partaking in outward means of grace that confer benefits upon his soul, verse 53 shows his utterly lost state, and the necessity (solemn thought!) of the death of Christ and its reception in order to have life. The whole teaching of the gradual change of man through partaking of the sacraments is a fatal delusion, and a denial of his ruin, and of the infinite value of the death of Christ to save him; and it is sad indeed to see this superstitious doctrine making so much progress in the present day. The Lord's Supper is not here spoken of at all; but it is very true that no one can enter at all into the blessed enjoyment of it (see 1 Cor. 10:11) until he has understood the blessed Lord's love in going down into death to save us poor lost ones; then with grateful and adoring hearts, and in perfect liberty through His death and resurrection, we can celebrate His love, and remember Him as the One who died for us. We remember a dead Christ.
But is it true for us, beloved brethren, that we enter into these things? The Lord goes on to say, in John 6:56 "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." That is, not only must a Christ who died be received in order that we may have life, but we are fed in true communion thus - by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. There will be no sense in talking to one who is eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ (that is, whose part as a known, enjoyed reality is with the Christ who died) of religious rules and restrictions. Such a person is feeding spiritually upon that blessed Saviour with whom he is for ever associated, and knowing Him thus, as the One that died, he finds a blessed deliverance from this present evil world, and from all the wrong and ambitious desires of the heart. Truly we must be thus fed to be able in practice to deny ourselves, and to enjoy full communion with the blessed Jesus. May our hearts know it more and more. His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed.
In verse 57 we have another thing. It is not eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but "as the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." It is another part of this most blessed subject; it is the dependence of the life that we now possess (for Christ liveth in us), upon Him who is its glorious object. It is a living Christ here, and we live by Him (in true dependence, and having Him ever before us), even as He when on earth walked as a truly dependent Man, and lived by the Father. Oh, wonderful grace! Thus the apostle in Philippians 3 went straight on in a straight path, and could say, in Galatians 2, that the life he now lived in the flesh he lived by faith of the Son of God. If feeding upon a dead Christ delivers from this life and world of sin, feeding upon a living Christ enables us to draw from Him at every moment the strength to finish our course to His glory, so as to make each of our lives a testimony to Him and His power. "One thing I do."
Thus instead of a false religious system, which would ever try to give some place to fallen man, we find in these wonderful verses the utter ruin of all men; the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the believer's part in it with Him, where all that is of the old man is judged; and then the believer with a new life living by Him who is its object. May we know more and more the power of this to the glory of His name! E. L. B.
* * *
Death was the end of life to sinful man. Resurrection is the end of death, which has thus no longer anything in us. It is our advantage that, having done all it could do, it is finished. We live in the life that destroyed it. We come out from all that could be connected with a life that no longer exists. What a deliverance! Christ is this power. He became this for us in His resurrection.
* * *
Death is the means of sanctification, the Holy Ghost its power. Christ died to sin; we are counted as having died with Him, and so dead to sin. Thus in a dead, risen, and ascended Christ we get everything.