By Fred Pruitt
(This is a long excerpt from Living Bread – A Gleaning from John 6, published in 2015. I’ve made some substantial additions and changes, included here, from the original printed version. Details for those interested in getting a copy of Living Bread are at the bottom of this piece.)
From Part One – Therefore we can see how receiving again the image of God renewed in Christ, is also accomplished by an “eating.” That is, we take Christ now inside us! ……
Part Two – Now is that legalism, and somehow contradictory to grace?
It is available to all, but there must be an entering in. This truth is all over the pages of the New Testament as well as Old. Jesus exhorted them to faith more than anything else. Was it a “law?” Only if you consider someone telling you to eat your food or you might starve and die as “law.” Only if you consider someone is laying law on you when they tell you to breathe or you’ll die! How dare they? It’s a ridiculous notion but there’s a lot of those notions out there.
Faith is the means whereby we operate in the Spirit. It is inherent in our makeup and our privilege to use in our dual-office of Kings and Priests unto God. Kings declare the decree, and whatever it is, it is carried out. Priests declare the acts and words of God and they come to pass. They reveal God to the people, who then also become Kings and Priests unto God, and on and on and on.
Paul speaks of our going from “faith to faith.” I have found that in my own life. Every new position, or plateau, etc., of faith the Spirit leads me into, is perfectly orchestrated in me in the Spirit. Each new “level” increases our consciousness of certitude in the Spirit, knowing simultaneously a greater consciousness of Him as well as a greater consciousness, in His perspective, of myself. We never go backwards. He continually increases us.
Then Paul also talks about the “obedience of faith.” If there is any point where deity and humanity meet, here is the point of obedience. This is the bulk of the Gospel from the human side. The Love and Grace of God bring us to these points. Moments that seem to have only one meaning or existence, knowing only “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Tim 1:12).
What, exactly, IS salvation? Is it going to heaven when we leave this world at the death of our body? A ticket to heaven, as I’ve heard some say? Is it meticulously keeping all the commandments and admonitions in the New Testament? Does it come with God’s forgiveness?
Let’s start with God’s forgiveness. God’s “Person” can never be offended. He cannot be “out of sorts.” He cannot show partiality, not because of any effect that might have on His created persons, but simply that He cannot be partial in an arbitrary manner. Nothing can occur in creation, either eternal or temporal, that can either increase or decrease Him.
That is why we can see He IS forgiveness, sitting in the midst of the Throne in the form of a slain Lamb. This is the Eternal Throne, meaning it has always been, is now, and is to come. He is the Treader on the Serpent, spoken into Eve at the Fall, Who came in the fullness of time and to gather His flock and put an end to the works of the devil.
The Cross on Calvary was the space-time manifestation of the Eternal Cross that lives in God’s Heart, i.e., The Beloved Son. The Cross on Calvary is witness to the death of Christ, and to the blood shed from His head and side.
That is the true earth picture of the Eternal Cross. Always present with the Cross are these words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even as it was said from the Cross of Calvary in 30 AD, it had been spoken from the depths of Eternity. He released it by His Word, so that it is universal. By universal, I mean God’s forgiveness is not given because of anything the one who is being forgiven does or does not do. It is dispensed equally for everyone like the “Rain that falls on the just and unjust alike.” Forgiveness is in the heart of the “forgiver” and needs no response or affirmation from the recipient to continue the forgiveness. We forgive because in Christ we are other-lovers and it is our nature to do so. That is why God forgives. It is His nature to do so.
Everyone is forgiven. But is everyone by that automatically in the kingdom of God?
No, they come by the drawing of the Father, as Jesus said:
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life.” (John 6:44-48).
For many, the Spirit’s first entry way in beginning to teach us what has transacted in us since our first moments in Christ, is the Romans 6 – 8 way that Paul went, and by which the Spirit revealed to him and to us, who he was, and who we are, in Christ. Paul recorded his conflicts, defeats and victories, not to show how dedicated and saintly he was, but rather to leave a map by which we could follow along on the same path he took by the Spirit. Whether these thoughts ever entered his head I don’t know, but to me everything he wrote was an invitation to those who would come after (that’s us) to join him in the Way.
The first lesson the Spirit taught him in this regard, was the somewhat foreign concept of reckoning ourselves dead to sin, and alive unto God in the new resurrected life. It was to know that in Christ we have died in His death and subsequently have risen again in His Resurrection by the Spirit.
Understanding and moving into this does not usually come overnight. I had to soak in it a while to begin to understand it. The first time I heard my pastor say, “You have to reckon yourself dead to sin,” I could find no foothold of understanding in myself.
“Huh? What did you say? How do I do that?” I cannot remember ever having an adequate answer for that in those early days. It may have been given, but I was not at the place yet to understand its application.
But the point is, not that I “got it” or “didn’t get it,” but that I had stepped out into the fray. Why step out into contrariety, turmoil? Because that’s where we pretty much learn everything.
My first real job was at a McDonald’s Restaurant on Roswell Rd in Atlanta GA, between 1967 – 69. When I started at McDonald’s, they still had not gotten to ‘A billion served.’ They were still around a hundred million at the time. It was still pretty primitive compared to today’s fast-food technology. We did lots of stuff the old way. We actually had to do arithmetic to figure out a customer’s bill, rather than automatically on the cash register. Those were dumb cash registers back then, with “intelligent operators” operating them. I’m not sure in this present day (2020) how far we’ve changed since then, but the cash registers are no longer dumb …
What I was going to say was this. My first assignment at McDonald’s, was to be the “Fry man.” I tended to the French Fries. I got really attached to the potatoes! I think these days all the fries are sent frozen from corporate, but back in the ancient days we had a potato peeler machine. It was a metal can about 20 gallons size. Looking inside the can, there were little slicers lining the wall, similar to a grater. The purpose of the little teeny slicers on the side of the can, was to take off the potato peels bit by bit as they tumbled around in the auto-peeler for a few minutes.
There was much more to the process of serving those wonderful (in those days) McDonald’s fries, but I want to get to the point of the story.
I was 16 – 18 when these events occurred. I didn’t know what was being shown to me then. I get it a little more now, 50+ years later. The answer to the question is that Life is the answer. Want to know the “love of God?” Look in the mirror! Jump in. You’re going to get bounced around and shaken up a good bit. Sometimes stuff hurts. But without jumping into the peeler bucket, not one of those potatoes was to be given the privilege of being a McDonald’s French Fry.
So, enter in! There must be an entering in! I am not apologetic about saying that. Remember my little silly picture of the two doors, #1: Seminar on Heaven, and #2: Heaven, with the door left ajar. If we do enter in, it would be by the Holy Spirit! Entering in, in this case, is to believe God’s Words to us, but not stop just there, but to take them in as the Spirit makes them “personal” to us. Now, we do that as the Spirit directs. There are no formulas, no schedules, no procedures. We simply confess that God has performed in us that which we spoke by His Word and Spirit and continue to speak.
In my earliest days in Christ, the Spirit bored into me Paul’s word, “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” (2 Cor 4:13). I was the newest of believers, but seemingly scaling new heights almost daily. I would get fragments of truth, bits of light, flooding in. One of them was this passage. My understanding had years yet to catch up, but the resonance of the power of God in that Word lit me up like a firecracker, and still does. (I didn’t know then that the Spirit was building God’s unique house in me, a house not only of His habitation, but a house raised up for the Word of God and the Healing of the Nations. Such houses are we all.)
That is one of our offices. To speak the Word of God. That has almost an infinite number of forms it could take, and the Lord has an infinite number of positions open! We start out speaking the Word for ourselves and our close ones, but as we keep on, we speak Words for whomever and whatever and however as the Spirit leads us.
This is an important topic! As we become more and more settled in Christ, the Life begins to move outward from us. It is not under “our” control. We live the “Wind” life (Jn 3:8). Anything from a quiet gentle breeze on a lazy afternoon, to the force and cleansing power of a Category 5 hurricane.
When I say there must be an entering in, all that means is we step into Life by faith! I sincerely question the motives and/or spiritual source of someone who opposes our operation of personal faith! It is the most prevalent thing in the New Testament, as well as the old, and is what makes us persons! The Father is raising up true sons, who have endured through the trials, who have found by living that God IS faithful, that God can and DOES set a table in the wilderness, who speak no more with double-mindedness, but now in the authority that comes from the Son and the Spirit only.
Let me emphasize this, underline it, bold it – He is not looking for people who believe they can fulfill those things I’ve listed above, by their weak frame and difficulty of understanding. I used to dread sometimes speaking the truth because my voice would tremble and quiver, and I would sound as if one not quite sure of himself, and almost not daring the thought that God would intervene or be disposed in any way to help me.
But there is nothing to fear and no reason other than the Spirit’s direction and purpose.
The preacher had to finally believe his own message. I still hold to the fervent hope and belief, What else is there?
God “proves” every one of His sons, not by testing them and showing them what failures they are, but by demonstrating the faithfulness of God within them! The last thing the Lord God expects of us is that we would do nothing in our lives. We do find our own emptiness, so in that sense as we walk, “we” do nothing, it is the Lord.
However, in that regard, with us it is just like Jesus said, “I do nothing OF MYSELF.” It is not that we do nothing, but that we do nothing “of ourselves.” What we “do” is what the Father prepared for us to do before the foundation of the earth, and we WILL do them, because it is no longer “I” but He doing them, as me. In other words, as I am doing them, He is doing them.
So that is all Jesus is telling the crowd. “Look, this is all available to you to every one of you! But you must enter in, by eating My flesh and drinking My blood, because if you do not,” Jesus tells them,” you have no life in you!”
People operating under the natural mind idea of grace described above would leave at that point. Jesus is telling them something to “do,” and, “We cannot let anyone, even Jesus, put us ‘under law.’ This guy Jesus is contradictory to grace!”
But it is not quite like that, is it? Regarding drinking His blood and eating His body, Jesus said, TO CHRISTIANS (so it is not an Old Covenant sort of thing), “THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME!”
Why this emphasis on “DO,” instead of “believe” as we have discussed elsewhere? First, let us understand Jesus is not primarily talking about a church service or activity. Some have taken that to mean that if we do not receive communion, we have no life in us. The communion elements have the Life in them, and we must consume them to receive the Life.
However, Jesus is not talking about church, nor is He meaning a weekly “memorial” service, where we scrunch up our faces trying to emote reverence and holy attitudes. He is not saying to consume the communion elements to “acquire Him,” but to recognize we HAVE consumed HIM! Doing it in remembrance of Him also does not mean a church service, nor does it mean that we are “remembering” past events when Jesus lived and was crucified. The “remembrance” is of the Spirit, and it is the reminder of the Life in us that came into us when we consumed Him. Communion services should be joyful celebrations of Who we are, by remembering what His blood accomplished for us, and what His body did for us, so that we might live the Life we are living today! Because of what He did, first for us, then in us, and now as us, in our recognition of that fact we discover that now, WE are the Life!
When we eat His flesh and drink His blood, He is the Life in us, in all the different descriptions of Him throughout the Scriptures. He is the Son of God/Son of Man; Water of Life; Light of the World; the True Vine; the Firstborn of many brethren; the Captain of our Salvation; Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; the Bright and Morning Star; the Daystar from on High; Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace; Alpha and Omega; All and in all. He is the True Vine and we are branches grafted into Him, the Christ–Vine! He is the inner Life in the temple of our spirits, souls and bodies. He is the Treasure, and we are the earthen vessels who were called, chosen, and anointed to manifest Him in our mortal flesh.
As Paul wrote: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Rom 8:29,30).
Jesus continues on:
“56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever.”
Back to this communion issue: What does this have to do with our communion traditions in our churches? They run through a broad spectrum, from the ultra-sacramentalists to the almost-forget-about-its and everything in between.
For me the answer does not lie in the form of service in which communion is given and received, nor in a theology, a church hierarchy or tradition behind it. It is primarily in the faith of the individual communicant.
For myself, when I speak of “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood,” it is for me an unending ongoing event. Every aspect of His Body, which was given for me, and every attribute of the “cup of salvation,” which is His Blood, are also continually operative in me, just as is the River of Living Water that flows continually out of my middle. I am not saying it as somebody who thinks he is special, other than that we are ALL special, because if we are in Christ, this reality I am describing is no respecter of persons – in Christ we all are His manifestation of the Cross. Being no more children but now growing up into adulthood, His Body and Blood continually remind us we have come to know the power of His resurrection, having entered into the fellowship of His sufferings, and been made “conformable to His death,” (Phil 3:10). It is why Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2).
Eating His flesh and drinking His blood brings us to the fulfillment in this life of His Life in us. As our outer means of remembering this, from its earliest days the church has held the Communion of the Lord as a sacred and central rite. Since the days of the Reformation 500 years ago, great disputes and eventually even wars have been fought over this and similar issues, first between Catholic and Protestant, and then between Protestant and Protestant. There were actually wars fought and men killed, over what kind of clothing the clergy should wear, how churches should be decorated, whether they should pray out of a prayer book or have individual prayer, whether the bread and wine ACTUALLY turned into Jesus’ body and blood, or was just symbolic. Wars!!!! Desolation of countries!!! Abomination!!!!
I am not here to answer those questions or even give an opinion. Where God is apprehended in a person’s faith, my heart is there! I know people who live by the Eucharist, who would have it every day if their churches offered it. I have heard many testimonies of how people felt themselves visited by grace when receiving the elements. I have no reason to doubt them. It has happened to me.
One of the major openings of my life occurred at the communion rail in an Episcopal church in the early 1980s. As my family filed up the right side toward the altar and others filed in from the left side, when we got to the altar and began to kneel, I glanced around at those at the rail with me. It was an affluent church, many wealthy people, but I was neither affluent nor wealthy.
As I looked at some of the others at the rail with us, I had the thought, “Gosh, that man’s suit could probably feed my family for a month.” As quickly as that thought came, another even greater inner Word came to me, thundering straight from the Spirit: “Do not call what I have cleansed common!” (Acts 10:15). Then as I received the bread and the wine from the priest and consumed them, great lights and openings were going on in my inner mind.
I had discounted the “faith” of others in the church, based on their clothing and judging by a preconceived idea toward people who did not seem to me to have a real experience of Christ. I had no business coming to such conclusions and the Spirit let me know it. My brain was going, my “more evangelical than Episcopal” brain, and I held some of the people there in a lesser place in my mind.
But what the Spirit further showed me has been fuel for me since that day. He said, “I honor the smallest ember of faith toward God.” He was giving me the “I do not break off a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax” talk. (Matt 12:20). It did not matter to the Spirit that the people saw or did not see the Eucharist in a certain theological light – it only mattered that the people sought God and were apprehended of Christ in their faith. Even if it was the one and only “faith action” they could make – it was 100% to them and thus 100% to the Spirit. Exactly like the widow’s mite.
Since then I’ve known to not crush the embers, not to sever a broken branch, and to assist if possible the wee bit of a spark that is starting to smoke to let it become a flame. Wherever a person “is” spiritually, that’s where we start. The Spirit knows.
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