Christ our Passover

Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed!

January begins the New Year, so I am dealing with something new from the Apostle Paul. Pulling out the ole concordance (electronic, of course!), I searched and found that he used two terms to express newness — καινός, and νέος. There is a distinction between these concepts:

  • καινός, ή, όν: pertaining to that which is new or recent and hence superior to that which is old—‘new.’ καινός: καινοὺς δὲ οὐρανοὺς καὶ γῆν καινήν ‘new heavens and new earth’ 2 Pe 3:13.[1]

  • νέος, α, ον: pertaining to having been in existence for only a short time—‘new, recent.’ νέος: οὐδεὶς βάλλει οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς ‘no one pours new wine into old wineskins’ Mk 2:22. καινός: ἀλλὰ οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινούς ‘but new wine must be poured in new wineskins’ Mk 2:22.[2]

Louw and Nida draw a distinction in the use of καινός as contrasted to νέος. The former holds the idea of novel and different, while the latter that which is young and recent. “Though this distinction may be applicable to certain contexts and is more in accordance with classical usage, it is not possible to find in all occurrences of καινός and νέος this type of distinction.”[3] This distinction exists in the following passage from Corinthians where Paul contrasts a newness that is the result of our relationship with Christ.

Of Paul’s 15 uses of the two concepts of time, I was drawn to 1 Corinthians 5:7: “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (New American Standard, 1995 Update). As the old lump (2015) passes, what motivates us to grow our love and obedience to Christ? It is, in fact, that we are without the yeast of sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed. Here, Paul has provided a dynamic motivation for living a holy life in and for Christ.

Ciampa and Rosner link 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and several Old Testament passages, showing a connection between the idea of cleansing and the Temple, esp. as this relates to preparation for the Passover.[4] This is demonstrated by King Hezekiah who gathers the priests and commands them to “Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place” (New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 2 Chronicles 29:5). In the passage we are considering, Paul has had to contend with a grave moral issue (“A man has his father’s wife.” 1 Corinthians 5:1[5]). Paul insists the even the pagans (ἔθνος) do not act like this. The driving question is “How could someone who names the name of Christ do such evil (πορνεία)? Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). Jesus, our Passover has been sacrificed.

Sentence structure, as well as the vocabulary used, gives great force to Paul’s statement. “τὸ πάσχα ἡμῶν ἐτύθη Χριστός.”[6] Paul builds his momentum with a great crescendo, Our Passover was sacrificed Christ! This seems awkward in English, but for the Greek, this sentences gains momentum, climaxing in the person of Christ Jesus. This is the way the thought process might work for the Greek mind

Our Passover was sacrificed Christ

Get it? It’s like running up a hill and as you break over the top, you see Jesus in all of his glory.

The impact of this for Paul is the anticipation of the cleansing offered by Christ. The work of Christ was to satisfy God’s need to be just and the justifier (Romans 3:16) in response to human need. Look at this table for a brief explanation of that need:

Downward Spiral in Genesis 1-11

  • Chaos to order in creation (Gen 1-2)

  • Disunity between God and man with the transgression (Gen 3-5)

  • Judgment of the world by the flood (Gen 6-9)

  • Human attempt at unity with the building of the Tower of Babel (Gen 10-11)

Please allow me to jump on a soap box here. I sense that many if not most people come to Jesus just to be saved! Wait, isn’t that what Christianity is all about? As with Peter when Jesus asked him if he love him, we too must examine our motives for loving Jesus. How pure are the motives that drive our love for Jesus? You see, love as an emotion is not always free from impure motives. It is possible to love only for what you will receive from Jesus? I’m convinced that if I asked one hundred Christians why they love Jesus, the most common response would be, “because he saved me.” Think about it a minute. Could that border on narcissism? It would seem that this response makes our love for Jesus into love for what he has done for us. In other words, our love would be for the benefit we received and not for his sake alone! The biblical response is more appropriate: “We love because he first loved” (1 John 4:19). I am convinced that this is the only pure motive for loving Jesus.

Picture it like this: We are born into a dark kingdom that Paul describes in a variety of places (Ephesians 2:11-12; Colossians 3:5, 8 as two examples). The dark kingdom is one of only two possible groups of people in this world. Either you are in Christ or not in Christ. Either you are cleansed by his blood or you are not. It is just that simple. Those not in Christ are in their sins. Paul will call them “dead” (Romans 8:10.). This kingdom is dark because their deeds are done in darkness (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:11). Note in Colossians 1:13 that the rescue is from the domain of darkness. The word domain that holds the idea of power or authority. As pointed out earlier, death has power over us if we allow it (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus broke that power by his resurrection.

The Gospel is the call to be rescued. Think about it. Is it really logical for God to call someone he has already elected? If so, the Gospel becomes only an invitation with no innate qualities. It does not produce faith (Romans 10:17). Faith would be infused. However, our response to the Gospel call initiates the transfer into the Beloved Kingdom. Isn’t that a beautiful expression? It is especially impressive when compared to the dark kingdom.

Once in the Beloved Kingdom, we are motivated to go back to the dark kingdom to be its light. The Christian shines in this dark world. The light is not our own. It is so they can see Jesus. We are not the light, we reflect his light. They are invited by the Gospel to leave the darkness and become part of a Beloved Kingdom. It is imperative that we understand the balance of being saved. We are saved from this world but still part of it. In the great priestly prayer of John 17, Jesus reminded his Apostles that he was not of this world. This is the same point he made with Pilate (John 18:36). He also told them that they were not of the world, but, as Jesus was sent into the world, so were the Apostles. So are we! How else can we become Ambassadors of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20)? The word for Ambassador in this passage is a present tense verb. A more literal translation would read, “Regarding Christ, we are functioning as an ambassador, as God is urging through us.” God wants us to be clean enough that when we reflect Christ, the dirt of our lives will not smudge the mirror. Christ needs to be seen clearly. He cannot if we are an unforgiven, unrepentant people.

Another picture of the need for forgiveness is in the picture of the living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). An Old Testament sacrifice had to be without blemish, and it was not able to fully cleanse the worshipper (Hebrews 10:2-3). Further, Jesus was without blemish so he could be the perfect sacrifice. How important is it for us to be without blemish if we are his Ambassadors? When forgiven, we are blemish free, ready to serve. I suppose there is some benefit to the bumper sticker that reads:

Not Perfect~just Forgiven!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1)

Footnotes

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 593.

[2] Louw and Nida, 644.

[3] Louw and Nida, 593, note 9.

[4] Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The first Letter to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 212.

[5] Fee maintains that Paul quoted the LXX directly with the expression “Father’s wife.” (Gordon D. Fee. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987) 219-220.)

[6] The Greek New Testament, 27th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), 1 Co 5:7.

References

Ciampa, Roy E. and Brian S. Rosner. The First Letter to the Corinthians.

Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.

Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New

Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the

New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Nestle, Erwin Nestle, et al., The Greek New Testament, 27th ed. (Stuttgart:

Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), 1 Co 5:7

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