Why do you teach that only members of God's Church, who have been properly baptized, should partake of the symbols of bread and wine during the annual New Testament Passover service?


The Church’s teaching is based on numerous principles and implications, as revealed in Scripture.

The Old Testament demands that no one who is uncircumcised is to participate at the Passover (Exodus 12:48). Even though physical circumcision is no longer a requirement for New Testament Christians, they are to be circumcised spiritually (Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 2:26-29). This can only occur through the indwelling Holy Spirit, which God gives us after proper baptism. And so, we read that Christ’s disciples had been baptized (even though, in the extraordinary case of the eleven apostles, they had not yet received the Holy Spirit–they would receive it, however, on the Day of Pentecost).

We explain this often-overlooked fact that the Twelve Apostles HAD been baptized prior to the Passover, on pages 4 and 5 of our booklet, “Baptism–A Requirement for Salvation“, under the section, “Were the Twelve Apostles Baptized?”: “… it does appear that some, if not most, of the apostles had been disciples of John the Baptist and had already been baptized by John—a baptism of repentance (compare Mark 1:4). As we discussed earlier, repentance is one of the necessary requirements for receiving God’s Holy Spirit, but it is not the only one. As such, the baptism of John—a baptism of repentance—was not sufficient to receive the Holy Spirit. Later, however, Jesus also baptized—through His disciples—as we read in John 3:22: ‘After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.’ John 4:1–3 adds: ‘Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.'”

Note that while the explanation cited from John 4 specifically addresses the disciples baptized through the work of Jesus Christ’s ministry, we are not told the details surrounding the baptism of the twelve apostles and other leaders (for instance, the seventy who were sent out by Jesus to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God; compare Luke 10:1-24). We do know that John the Baptist testified that, “‘…I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire'” (Luke 3:16). The baptism of John was a different baptism than that of Jesus Christ!

We also see that Jesus Himself was baptized: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him” (Matthew 3:13). In this action, Jesus set an example for all who would follow Him–we know that this was done by Jesus as a pattern for those who would believe in Him and that He committed no sin requiring repentance (1 Peter 2:22).

At the beginning of His ministry, we might think that Jesus may have accepted those baptized by John without them also being baptized by Him, but Scripture points to a different conclusion. It is not revealed
that all of the apostles were even baptized by John or his disciples – although some or even most undoubtedly were – because Jesus chose His apostles from different walks of life! Consider, too, that
Paul, when finding some disciples at Ephesus who were baptized through John the Baptist’s work, had them baptized again – that new baptism was specifically “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). Following that baptism, these disciples received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6) – something that never occurred in John’s ministry with the exception of Jesus Christ – and that was symbolic (Matthew 3:16).
Jesus already had God’s Holy Spirit, because He was brought forth by the Holy Spirit of His Father! (Compare Luke 1:35. See also John 3:34, Authorized Version).

Therefore, continuing to quote from our booklet on baptism: “It is safe to assume, then, before Christ’s
disciples baptized others, Christ had already baptized them. This is not to say that baptized people received the Holy Spirit at that time. The Holy Spirit was only given to Christ’s disciples on the Day of
Pentecost (Acts 1:15; 2:1–4). However, Scripture indicates that those who received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost had been baptized. This assumption is supported by Christ’s statement to Peter in John 13. During the last Passover meal, prior to His death, Christ began to wash the feet of His disciples, showing them that He loved them and that He was willing to do everything for them, including washing their feet—a menial task that was usually assigned to the lowest servant. When He came to wash Peter’s feet, Peter said to Him: ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ (John 13:8). Christ explained to him that He had to wash Peter’s feet or else he would have no part with Christ. Peter then responded by saying: ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ (John 13:8–9). At that moment, Christ replied, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you’ (John 13:10).

“This conversation is full of meaning and there is much to be gleaned from it. While proper baptism is to be done only once in a person’s life, the foot-washing ceremony at Passover time is to be repeated year by year. Thus we show that we are continuously willing to obtain forgiveness of the sins we commit after
baptism, and we show that we are willing to humble ourselves in our desire to help others go the same way toward perfection that we are going. We are not better than others. We are to serve others in whatever way we can.

“Christ told Peter that he and the other disciples (except Judas) were clean, since they had been bathed. We read in Titus 3:5 that God saves us ‘through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.’ We are also told that we are ‘cleansed’ or ‘made clean’ from our old sins (2 Peter 1:9). At baptism, our bodies are ‘washed with pure water’ (Hebrews 10:22), figuratively ‘washing away’ our sins (Acts 22:16). Christ’s statement to Peter and the other apostles that they had been bathed and were clean (except Judas who would betray Him) strongly implies that they had already been baptized in anticipation of receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (John 20:22; Acts 1:8; Luke 24:49).”

As mentioned above, Christ told Peter and the other apostles, when He proceeded to wash their feet during the Passover evening, that they had been “bathed” – that is, they had been baptized (John 13:10). The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown points out that the term, “who is bathed” [or “washed” in the Authorized Version] means, in “this thorough sense, to express which the word is carefully changed to one meaning to wash ‘as in a bath.'” In regard to Christ’s subsequent statement that the one who is bathed only needs to wash his feet, the same commentary points out that “the former word [for washing, not bathing] is resumed, meaning just to wash hands or feet.”

It has been the long-standing teaching of the Church that Christ waited, until Judas Iscariot had left, before He changed the Old Testament symbol of a Passover lamb to the New Testament symbols of (unleavened) bread and (red) wine. The obvious reason for Judas’ exclusion from participation of the New Testament symbols of bread and wine was that Judas had not been PROPERLY baptized–his entire lifestyle and conduct showed that he did not have GODLY repentance. Judas was not qualified to participate in the new symbols–although he was present for the Passover meal and the footwashing.

The symbols of bread and wine did not apply to Judas:
“‘He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him'” (John 6:56). Note that after Jesus gave Judas the “dipped” piece of bread (which was not the same as the bread representative of Christ, but it was just a part of the Passover meal, compare Psalm 41:9), “Satan entered him” (John 13:27). Judas left following the traditional Passover meal and the footwashing but before the institution of the symbols of the bread and wine.

Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels, page 193 ff, states, too, that Christ instituted the new symbols AFTER Judas had left. But Robertson indicates on p. 195 that “Luke seems to be departing from the order of Mark (and Matthew) and mentions the institution of the [symbols] earlier in the evening. It
seems best to follow the chronology of Mark, who places it after the departure of Judas.”

However, a careful analysis of the records of Matthew, Mark and Luke shows that there is no inconsistency. We read in Luke 22:21 that Christ said, at the time of the institution of the New Testament symbols of bread and wine, that “the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table.” This gives the impression that Judas was still present at that time. Note, however, that the word “is” is not in the original. No verb is used here and must be supplied. Therefore, the phrase can also be properly translated, “The hand of My betrayer was with Me on the table,” or, “had been with Me on the table,” allowing for Judas’ departure BEFORE the New Testament symbols of bread and wine were introduced.

When comparing all four Gospel accounts, we find the following chronology of events:

(1) Christ institutes the footwashing, as described in John 13. Even though verse 2 reads, in the New King James Bible, that “supper being ended,” this is not the best translation. According to the commentary of
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, this must be translated as, “supper being prepared, being served or going on, for that it was not ‘ended’ is plain from verse 26.” Most translations concur, rendering this phrase,
“during supper” or “at supper.”

(2) Judas leaves after the footwashing (John 13:26-29), but before Jesus institutes the symbols of bread and wine (which are not mentioned in the Gospel of John).

(3) Jesus institutes the New Testament symbols of bread and wine, as described in Matthew 26:26-29. Verse 26 should be translated: “After they had eaten…” or, as Ronald Knox conveys the intended meaning in his rendition: “And while they were still at table…” Compare Luke 22:20, pointing out that Christ gave the wine to the disciples “AFTER supper.” John 13:18-30 discusses the events at the beginning of, or during the Passover meal. The events in Matthew 26:26-29 occur later – when the meal is drawing to its close or has already ended. At that time, Judas had already left.

Since no one was allowed, in Old Testament times, to partake of the Passover, unless he was circumcised, and since Christians are to be circumcised spiritually, in the heart, by and through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them after proper baptism, it has been the Church’s teaching that only properly baptized members of the spiritual body of Christ – the Church – are to partake of the annual symbols of unleavened bread and red wine, to reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. This teaching is supported by the fact that Jesus waited until Judas had left them, before He introduced the New Testament symbols of bread and wine.

Lead Writers: Norbert Link and Dave Harris

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