SPIRITUAL FOOD
What is the Christian's food?

 Joshua P. Stewart
 July 2015
Carrollton, OH


Preface

“And having food and raiment [sustenance and covering] let us be therewith content.” I Tim. 6:8 

In this verse Paul is telling us that as Christians, we are not to try to have a luxurious life on this earth. We are to be content with the bare necessities, food and clothing. I would like to use this verse as a title over two great subjects; Food and Raiment. Paul speaks of them as the bare necessities for our natural life; I would like to make an application of food and clothing to our spiritual life.


Introduction

Why is food important?

Have you ever been going along, day by day, in your course of daily activities, and felt spiritually drained? Have you ever felt like you wanted to have a heart that was burning for the Lord, but just felt empty? I have. I noticed that would happen at various times, and for a long time couldn’t figure out why it was happening. I noticed that there were certain things that I could do when I felt that condition, things that would really make a difference. But for a long time I did not understand the basic truth behind what I want to speak on today.

The condition that I speak of is analogous to our natural bodies. There are times when we feel fatigued, lethargic, etc. It is true that it could be due to sickness or living habits, but the vast majority of the time it is related to our diet. When you feel tired, you have either been starving, eating the wrong things, or not eating enough of the right things. The same is true of our spiritual lives. We need the precise diet that God has given us, or we are going to feel lousy. We are passing through a world that is "a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." Yet God has made every provision for us, as we shall soon see.

The question I would like to try to answer today is; what is the food that God has given for us to eat? The reason why I struggled, up and down, was not that I was not reading my Bible, because I was. It was because I was not eating the proper spiritual food, that food which gives us spiritual energy.

In summary, that food is Christ Himself. We hear the expression “feed on Christ” very often, but I am wondering if there are those who do not know what that means, and therefore do not have the key to being able to walk consistently for the Lord. The good news is, the Bible – the Word of God – holds the answer to this problem, and we only need to open and read it to learn the truth.

Difference between Food for Understanding and for Sustenance

The New Testament speaks about food for the Christian in two different ways; for our understanding of divine things, and for the “survival” of our spiritual life. My burden is the second of those two aspects, but I would like to mention briefly the food for our understanding of divine things.

Food for Understanding - References to Milk and Meat

Hunger for the Word of God: I Peter 2:2

Here Peter is showing us that every Christian, from the oldest to the youngest, should have the same hunger for the Word of God as a newborn baby does for milk. The milk in this passage is the entire Word of God. We will see in the next two passages that milk is used to represent a specific part of the Word only.

1st Case of Spiritual Babyhood: I Corinthians 3:1-4

Now, Paul is showing that, due to the poor state of the Corinthian assembly they were only able to be fed milk. This milk represents the very basic truths of Christianity. The meat (the deep truths of Christianity) was too much for them because they were spiritual babies. In this case what was limiting their growth in understanding of divine things was strife and divisions in the assembly. He is saying to each one of them, “Stop being a baby!”

2nd Case of Spiritual Babyhood: Hebrews 5:10-14

Again, Paul is showing that, due to the poor state of the Hebrew believers they were only able to be fed milk. In this case, limiting their growth in understanding of divine things was the mixing of Christianity with Judaism.

____________

But there is another way that food is mentioned, and it has more to do with life and energy than it does with knowledge and perception of the purposes and ways of God. This is the aspect I would like to emphasize today.

Food for Spiritual Life

Food to be Eaten for Life Initially: John 6:48-53



Christ as a Man in His Incarnation
(48-51a)
 “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down out of heaven: if any one shall have eaten of this bread he shall live for ever.”  


Christ in His Atoning Death
(51b-53)
 “But the bread withal which I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore contended among themselves, saying, How can he give us this flesh to eat? Jesus therefore said to them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Unless ye shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of man, and drunk his blood, ye have no life in yourselves.  

The setting of this passage is the feeding of the five thousand. The Lord had done great miracles and for that reason many Jews were following Him. He had just performed the feeding of the five-thousand, the only miracle to be repeated in all four gospels. The Lord discerned their hearts, and knew that they were not interested in Him, but only in great displays of power. In v.30-31 the Jews say, “What sign then doest thou that we may see and believe thee? what dost thou work?” In other words, “show us something new, if it is spectacular enough, we will believe on you.” But they anticipate that Jesus will point to the miracle He had just done, and so they say “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.” In other words, “giving bread in the wilderness is old news, show us something new.” And so, Jesus launches into this teaching of the bread of life, to show that what they REALLY needed, was not another miracle, but Himself.

He presents Himself to the Jews in two ways: 1) in His incarnation (the manna, bread of life), and 2) as the One whose death can give life (notice that flesh and blood are mentioned distinctly separate). They had rejected the Lord as the incarnate Son of God, and they were repulsed even more by the statement that they would need His atoning death for them in order to be saved. In order to have eternal life, we need to receive both by faith.

But, you might ask, “Is the Lord speaking about cannibalism?” No. Yet He is very clear that there is food and eating involved, “my flesh is truly meat, and my blood is truly drink.” So what is he saying? He is explaining that the very way you eat and digest food and drink is the same way you need to eat and digest the Lord Jesus Himself if you are to have eternal life. When we eat food, the proteins contained in the food become part of our body; literally, we are what we eat!

  1. To eat the living bread come down from heaven is to receive and know Christ as the Son of God, come as a humble Man, to bring eternal life to as many as believe on Him.
  2. To eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man is to receive and know Christ as the one whose atoning death has brought you life, to take Him (the same way you take food and water) and appropriate Him and what He offers to yourself.

This is not talking about the Lord’s Supper. That is what the Catholics believe; i.e. you cannot be saved unless you take the Lord’s Supper. This is entirely false, and comes from misunderstanding the entire point of the passage. In fact, one might be taking the Lord’s Supper but never have truly taken Christ's salvation.

To put it simply, we need to eat Christ initially for “salvation”. But that is not all.

Food to be Eaten to Sustain our Life Ongoing: John 6:54-58


Christ in His Atoning Death
(54-56)
“He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up at the last day: for my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me and I in him.”  


Christ as a Man in His Incarnation
(57-58)
“As the living Father has sent me and I live on account of the Father, he also who eats me shall live also on account of me. This is the bread which has come down out of heaven. Not as the fathers ate and died: he that eats this bread shall live for ever. These things he said in [the] synagogue, teaching in Capernaum.”  

The verb “have eaten” in v.48-53 is “phago” in Greek and it means to consume. It is in the aorist tense, which is once-for-all. The verb “eats” in v.54-58 is “trogo” in Greek which means to crunch or chew on food. It is in the present tense, which means it refers to an ongoing action. In these verses, the Lord goes on to explain that once we are saved we cannot go on living independently from Him; that we need to feed on Him continually throughout our pathway, to sustain our life.

Take note that whenever the aspect is Christ as a humble man on earth, it is compared with the manna that Jehovah gave the children of Israel in the wilderness. We will expand on this fact later.

Let us be very clear: what we have just presented is NOT merely an application, rather it is the direct teaching of the passage. We speak often of “food for our souls”, but this passage tells us what that food really is. Lest there be any doubt, the Lord Jesus says, “he also who eats ME. Christ Himself is our food.


The Christian’s Menu (Joshua 5:10-12)

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning...” Romans 15:4

Now that we have shown the New Testament teaching that explains what our food is, let’s turn to the Old Testament picture book to fill in the details. There is a line of teaching in the Old Testament that covers the believer’s experience from the time that God first begins to work in our soul, all the way to where we are “full grown”, enjoying all our spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. This teaching is found in the books of Exodus through Joshua, and covers the journey from Egypt to Canaan.

The time in Egypt represents the time when we were enemies of God, in bondage to Satan.

The Passover represents the application of the death of Christ to our justification, and thereby the means of sheltering us from the wrath of God against sin.

The Red Sea is the death of Christ in the aspect of (1) delivering us from the power of sin and Satan in this present world, and (2) His resurrection giving us a perfect standing before God. Then we are sealed by the Spirit of God, and we get the power that we need to walk in “newness of life”, and we receive the adoption of Sons.

The Wilderness corresponds to the believer’s Christian life on this earth. Because of sin, this world has become a wilderness, but God is bringing us across it in His grace. We are pilgrims and strangers, learning a great number of lessons which above all teach us to rely fully on God and to put no confidence in the flesh. 

The crossing of the Jordan speaks of the death and resurrection of Christ in which we have died and are risen with Him in New Creation and linked with Him by the Holy Spirit. The Jordan was the boundary of the land, and must be crossed to enter the land of promise.

The land of Canaan pictures the life of the believer in that we are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, the place where all our blessings are waiting to be enjoyed, a place where Satan is going to make war to impede our progress. We must 1) both come initially, and continually, return to Gilgal, and 2) take the whole armor of God that we might be able to stand.

Here we have the three foods of the Christian. The Passover was to be eaten initially, and then forever after. The manna was for the wilderness, and we will be in the wilderness until raptured out. The old corn was required upon entry to Canaan. Therefore, from the moment we are saved we need all three foods.


Christ: as the Passover Lamb

“For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” I Corinthians 5:7
The Passover lamb is Christ made an offering for sin. This food was first the Israelites' under the shelter of the blood in Egypt, but it was theirs to eat perpetually (it was kept in the wilderness, and now again in the land).

Characteristics of the Passover

  • (V.5) The lamb was to be “without blemish” which speaks of the sinless perfection of Christ. God requires a perfect sacrifice. No sinful man would do, Christ was the only qualifying sacrifice.
  • It was to be “a male of the first year”. This speaks of the youth and vigor of the sacrifice. No old and careworn animal would satisfy. Christ was offered at the age of 33 and one half years.
  • (V.7) The blood speaks of that which has value before God. There is only one currency in heaven; “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Note that they were to kill the lamb, shed its blood, then roast it, thus saving it from the sufferings of the fire. But our Heavenly Lamb was roasted, slain, then His blood shed. This is because the blood of Christ had to have the full efficacy of the atoning sufferings (roasting). Thus His blood was shed by a Roman spear, carrying with it the full power of the atoning sufferings.
  • (V.8-10) They were to eat the lamb “roast with fire” which speaks of the judgment of God against sin which fell on the Lord Jesus Christ in the three hours of darkness.
  • (v.9) It was not to be "raw" or "underdone." The fire (God’s wrath) must do its work thoroughly for our redemption.
  • The lamb exposed to the full action of the fire represents the Lord "made sin for us". "Not sodden at all with water" or boiled. This is because water would hinder the direct action of the fire.
  • It was to be eaten “with unleavened bread”, the holy, separate walk of the Lord on earth “this man hath done nothing amiss”. The “bitter herbs” speak of the anguish of His being forsaken, the bitter cry “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The bitter herbs and unleavened bread have an effect on us as well, they lead to self-judgment and practical sanctification.
  • They were to eat the whole lamb:
    • The head denotes Christ’s thoughts
    • The legs denotes Christ’s walk (read the four Gospels)
    • The inwards denotes Christ’s affections and motives (read the Poetic books)
  • (v.46) “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof…” Not a bone was to be broken; see John 19:33. To break a bone of the lamb would introduce the thought of crushing or forcibly ending life, but it is imperative that Christ laid down His own life in obedience to His Father's will (John 10:18).

How do we eat the Passover?

We read about, think about, and meditate on the work of Christ. Do you want some suggestions? Read and meditate on:

  • The Lord’s suffering and death in the closing chapters of the four Gospels
  • The passages in the Epistles that speak of Christ in His atoning death
  • The prophetic scriptures and Psalms that speak about the suffering and death of Christ.

We have the wonderful privilege of remembering the Lord in death collectively, in assembly. But we need to feed on the Passover lamb individually as well.

What is the effect of feeding on the Passover Lamb?

It reminds us of the love of God in giving His Son (“in this was manifested the love of God”) and the love of the Lord Jesus in suffering for us (“the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me”) and thus warms our hearts, and establishes us in grace.

As we mediate on what it cost the Lord Jesus to save our souls, we will have no desire to settle down in this world. “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's passover.” This began the Feast of Unleavened Bread which speaks of the holy, separate walk of the believer; i.e. it will have a purifying effect on us.

We need to eat this food on a regular basis. But when you feel the pull of Egypt on your soul, it’s time to look back to Calvary, and feast once again on the Passover lamb.

In summary, the great results of feeding on the Passover Lamb are:

  • It reminds us of the love of God and thus warms our hearts, and establishes us in grace
  • Takes away any desire to settle down in this world
  • It has a purifying effect on us


Christ: as the Manna, the Bread of Heaven

What is manna?

The manna is a type of Christ in the circumstances of His life on earth. Although they were to stop eating the manna once they came to Canaan, some was put into the ark and is referred to in the New Testament as the hidden manna. All our time on earth we’re in the wilderness, so we always need the manna. That is the remembrance of Him in in His humiliation on earth "Christ once humbled here.", and it is precious to our souls.

It was “small” and found “on the ground”. Christ as a humble man. It was “like coriander seed, white” which speaks of the Lord’s perfection in all His ways. It appeared like the precious “bdellium” – speaks of the value in the sight of God of Christ as a dependent man on the earth. “The taste of it was like wafers made with honey” – it is sweet to our souls. The manna was found “upon the face of the wilderness” - it was connected with every part of the Lord's pathway. Some examples might be:

  • The very fact that He – God – became a man “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”
  • He came in lowliness, born in a manger
  • He was subject to His parents, etc. Luke 2.
  • He had not where to lay his head
  • He came for the purpose of doing the will of God
    •  “A body hast thou prepared me”
    • “In the volume of the book it is written of me, Lo I come to do they will O God.
    • “My meat it is to do the will of Him that sent me.”
    • “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as one who is taught.”
  • He took up the children in His arms
  • He was “a light to lighten the Gentiles”, the “branch that reached over the wall”.
  • He touched a leprous man
  • “He bare our griefs and carried our sorrows”
  • He was the Creator of the universe, yet He had to say “Show me a penny”.
  • He never looked for an exalted place.
  • He suffered rejection, persecution, the “contradiction of sinners against Himself.”
  • He went before the crowd in Pilate’s hall and carried Himself with the dignity of a King.
  • He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

They were to stop eating the manna once they got to Canaan (Joshua 5:10-12), so this tells us we need the manna because we are in the wilderness. The manna was given when the people were hungry in the wilderness (Exodus 16:3-4). This would indicate that the manna specifically is what we need for energy in our earthly pathway.

How do we eat the manna?

Read about and meditate on the Lord in His earthly pathway in the gospels primarily. Mediate on His kindness, gentleness, meekness, obedience, submission, longsuffering, love to others, compassion, etc. Other practical notes:

  • We need to “go out and gather a certain rate every day”we need this food every day, or we will suffer spiritually.
  • It is “a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost” that is, it is not gathered by learning big concepts, but by noticing small details of the Lord’s person. It is possible to read the Gospels and fail to gather manna.
  • It is found “on the ground” – that is where the Lord Jesus was, always taking the low place. To enjoy the manna we will have to have no thoughts of ourselves and only of Christ.
  • "And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack” - measuring it in the omer resulted in a daily miracle. Mediation makes one thought or an entire chapter enough for an entire day.
  • "Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank.” You have to eat what you glean – i.e. meditate on it, and digest it. If you don’t, it will be a waste.
  • "When the sun waxed hot, it melted.” The best time is when you are not distracted with the details of your day (sun risen). It doesn’t HAVE to be in the morning, but quite often that is the best time.
  • “Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations” – the hidden manna. We will see the world as it truly is, a waste-howling wilderness. We will see the Lord with unclouded gaze. The manna will be more precious to us in that day than it ever could be now.

What to do when you start having cravings for the world’s food?

They said “We remember:”

  • “The fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely” – the entertainers that swim in the rivers of this world’s filth, the food which is readily available to us.
  • “The cucumbers the melons” – the luxuries of the world (watermelon on a hot day)
  • “And the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic” – the pleasures of sin for a season (spicy foods) that give us a temporary high.

The result of thinking about the world’s food is that we will feel hungry for it (because we have the flesh) and we will despise the food that God has given to us. “But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes”. So instead of turning to the food God had provided for their nourishment, the people “Went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it.” This is like trying to take Christ as the food for our souls, and repackage it in a way that is compatible to the flesh. It will lose its value completely, “and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.” This didn’t stop them, they still clambered for flesh. God sent quails, the result was a great plague. When we want what the flesh wants, we will get it; and the result is death.

The answer is to go back to the manna. Maybe you need to go back and have some roast lamb, to remind you of the price of your redemption.

What is the effect of feeding on Christ as the Manna?

The special characteristic of the wilderness was the war with Amalek; i.e. the battle with the flesh. Galatians 5 tells us the only thing that can combat the flesh is the Spirit of God. No amount of human effort will result in victory, in fact, human effort will only result in the “works of the flesh”. We need to do two things to enjoy deliverance from the law of sin:

  1. Believe what God has said (He has condemned sin in the flesh, and the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus as set us free from the law of Sin and death), and
  2. Walk according to the Spirit, or walk in the Spirit (have our sphere of daily activities in the realm in which the Spirit of God is occupied; that is, with Christ).

Thus, we see that feeding on the manna is a part of walking in the Spirit. It is being occupied with Christ in His wilderness pathway, and it gives us energy in our wilderness pathway.

Also, we see His footsteps through the desert, and we follow those footsteps. The Lord in His pathway is a pattern for us.

In summary, the great results of feeding on the Manna are:

  • It gives us energy for our wilderness pathway
  • It gives us footsteps to follow in our wilderness pathway.


Christ: as the Old Corn of the Land of Canaan

What is the Stored Grain of the Land?

"The old corn of the land of Canaan" is a type of Christ risen. It is the food of resurrection, the fruit of the seed that had been sown in the land, and that had died and sprung up again. A risen, ascended, and glorified Christ is the true object for the heart of the Christian.

All the work was done for the children of Israel, all they had to do was partake of it. The wheat seeds falling into the ground and germinating (a picture of the death of Christ – John 12) and springing back up into life (a picture of resurrection – I Corinthians 15:36) happened before they even reached Canaan. They arrived just in time to enjoy the harvest. The stored grain therefore is Christ as our food in the state that He is in on the other side of death and resurrection! It is Christ in glory!

How do we eat the stored grain of the land?

We read about and meditate on Christ in glory. Some suggestions would be: Ephesians 1:19-23, Hebrews 2:8, I Corinthians 15:27, and Colossians 1:18.

“According to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

There are many Christians who only know Christ as the Passover Lamb, One who died on the cross to put our sins away from the sight of God. Some of them even know Christ as the humble, obedient Man who is our food in the wilderness. But to know Christ only as a man in His pathway and in His atoning death is not a full knowledge of the Lord. He is not a man on earth anymore, and He is not hanging on the cross anymore. Where is He now? “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” And He is “by the right hand of God exalted” a position from which His has “received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,” The result has been the “shedding forth” of all Christian blessings connected with the Holy Ghost.

What is the effect of eating the stored grain of the land?

If an ascended glorified Christ is the One who has dispensed our Christian blessings, Christ in Glory is the food we need to be eating if we are to have the energy to possess our spiritual blessings.

We have crossed the Jordan River, and see ourselves connected with Christ where He is, in glory. The Apostle exhorts us on that basis: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Canaan is the place where our connection with earth is severed, and we are in the heavenly places. Therefore we must feed, not merely on the bread from heaven, but the bread in heaven.

Another result of setting our focus on Christ in glory is transformation into the image of Christ. When we feed on Him in glory, we are occupied with Him. Paul gives us the secret of transformation in II Corinthians 3:18:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

In summary, the great results of feeding on the old corn of the land are:
  • We will have the energy to possess our spiritual blessings
  • Our affections will be set on things above
  • We will be transformed into the image of Christ.


Conclusion

We have shown that, although we are in a place of spiritual famine, God has provided food for our souls. We have shown that that food is Christ, in three aspects:

  1. The Passover: The Passover is Christ in His atoning death. We read and meditate on the work of Christ.  It reminds us of the love of God and thus warms our hearts, and establishes us in grace. It takes away any desire to settle down in this world. It has a purifying effect on us.
  2. The Manna: The Manna is Christ in the circumstances of His life. Read about and meditate on the Lord in His earthly pathway in the gospels primarily. Mediate on His kindness, gentleness, meekness, obedience, submission, longsuffering, love to others, compassion, etc. Other practical notes: It gives us energy for our wilderness pathway, and it gives us footsteps to follow in our wilderness pathway.
  3. The Old Corn of the Land (Stored Grain): The stored grain is Christ ascended and glorified. We gaze upon Christ where He is now… seated at God’s right hand in heaven, all things put under His feet, filling all things. Gazing on Him thus, we are infused with the energy needed to fight the battles of Canaan and lay hold of our spiritual blessings, and we are gradually changed into that same image “from glory to glory”.
May God gave us the grace to feed on Christ every day, and never to eat anything that is not found on the divine menu. May we turn to Christ for every need, and in so doing, find ourselves refreshed and restored.