What is the Christian’s food?
“And having food and raiment [sustenance and covering] let us be therewith content.” 1 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.
Why is spiritual 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, my state going up and down, wasn’t that I neglected reading my Bible, but that I wasn’t 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 wonder if there aren’t many who do not know what that means, and therefore do not have the key to walking 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 secret.
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.
When the subject is food for understanding, we find various references to milk and meat.
- Hunger for the Word of God (1 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 (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). 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 in this article.
Food for Life & Energy
The New Testament passage that deals with spiritual food for life and energy is John 6:48-58. 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!
- 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.
- 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 for Life Initially
|Food to Sustain our Life Ongoing
Christ in His
|“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.” (vv.48-51a)||
“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.” (vv.54-56)
Christ in His
|“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.” (vv.51b-53)||“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.” (vv.57-58)|
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. Read more…
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.” 1 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
The Person of Christ. The lamb was to be “without blemish” (Ex. 12:5) 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.
The Atoning Blood. The blood (Ex. 12:7) 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.
The Atoning Sufferings. They were to eat the lamb “roast with fire” (Ex. 12:8-10) which speaks of the judgment of God against sin which fell on the Lord Jesus Christ in the three hours of darkness. It was not to be “raw” or underdone (Ex. 12:9). 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”. It was to be “not sodden at all with water” or not boiled. This is because water would hinder the direct action of the fire. It was to be eaten “with unleavened bread”, which speaks of 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.
His Whole Person Offered. They were to eat the whole lamb. The head denotes Christ’s thoughts, the legs denote Christ’s walk (i.e. the four Gospels), and the inwards denote Christ’s affections and motives (i.e. the Poetic books). Further on it says, “neither shall ye break a bone thereof…” (Ex. 12:46). 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? To feed on Christ as the Passover Lamb, we must 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, or the passages in the Epistles that speak of Christ in His atoning death, or perhaps 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? There are many results, but I will give you two.
- By reminding us of the love of God in giving His Son (because “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”), the Passover thus warms our hearts, and establishes us in grace.
- As we meditate 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.
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”, a picture of 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”, which 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”… Christ is sweet to our souls. The manna was found “upon the face of the wilderness”, connected with every part of the Lord’s pathway. Some examples might be:
- His perfection as an obedient and dependent Man. The very fact that He became a man; “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, the Eternal Son of God, was subject to His earthly parents (Luke 2). His every thought and action was to satisfy the will of His God and Father. He came for the purpose of doing the will of God: He alone could say, “A body hast thou prepared me”, and “In the volume of the book it is written of me, Lo I come to do they will O God”, and “My meat it is to do the will of Him that sent me”, and “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as one who is taught.”
- His perfect lowliness and grace. He was the Creator of the universe, yet He had no place to lay His head. He had to say “Show me a penny”. He never looked for an exalted place. He took up the children in His arms. He sought the publicans and sinners, who were the outcast of the people. He reached out to Gentiles, as the “branch that reached over the wall”. “He bare our griefs and carried our sorrows”. He touched a leprous man. “They wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth”.
- His quiet dignity. He went before the crowd in Pilate’s hall and carried Himself with the dignity of a King. The officers who were sent to take Him returned saying, “Never man spake like this man”.
The children of Israel were to stop eating the manna once they got to Canaan (Joshua 5:10-12). The manna was only for the wilderness. In the same way, we need Christ as the manna because we are in the wilderness, that we “may eat thereof and not die”. Just as the manna was given when the people were hungry in the wilderness (Exodus 16:3-4), feeding on Christ in His pathway is what we need for energy in our pathway.
How do we eat the manna? To feed on Christ as the Manna means we must read about and meditate on the Lord in His earthly pathway. When we meditate on His kindness, gentleness, meekness, obedience, submission, longsuffering, love to others, compassion, etc. we find our hearts are warmed, and our spirits are refreshed for the challenges of the wilderness! When was the manna to be gathered? The children of Israel were to “go out and gather a certain rate every day”. The same is true for us, when it comes to feeding on Christ. We need this food every day or we will suffer spiritually. It was “a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost” that is, the manna 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 was 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.
The Importance of Meditation. Once the manna was gathered, it was to be measured with an “omer” (a dry measure of about 2.5 liters). When they measured it with the omer, “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack”. It resulted in a daily miracle! This action of measuring what was gathered speaks of meditation… the practicing of considering what we have read. The amount that was gathered made no difference. In the same way, meditation makes one thought or an entire chapter enough for an entire day’s food. “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.” We must eat what we gather. If we do not digest what we gather from the Word of God, it will go to waste. “When the sun waxed hot, it melted.” The best time to take in the manna is when we are not distracted with the details of our day (i.e. sun risen). It doesn’t HAVE to be in the morning, but quite often that is the best time.
What is the hidden manna? Moses was told to “fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations”. This is the hidden manna that was later placed into a “golden pot” and put into the ark (Heb 9:4). The overcomer in Pergamos was promised a portion of the hidden manna in a future day (Rev. 2:14). Although the manna ceased when Israel entered the land of Canaan, the hidden manna was a special sample of manna that remained until the ark was taken away. It speaks of a future enjoyment of Christ in His pathway down here, which we will have in heaven after the struggles are over. We will have a greater appreciation of His pathway in that day than we do now!
Craving the world’s food. After Mt. Sinai, the people grew tired of the manna, and said “we remember” the various foods of Egypt, which is a type of this world. Their thoughts were occupied with:
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. They could say, “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 and repackage it in a way that is compatible to the flesh. It will lose its value completely, for “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 for craving the world’s food is simple… go back to the manna.
What is the effect of feeding on Christ as the Manna? Being occupied with Christ in His wilderness pathway gives us energy in our wilderness pathway. Furthermore, we will have no appetite for the foods of this world, if we are satisfied with Christ. Also, we see the Lord’s footsteps through the desert, and it provides a pattern for us to follow.
Christ: as the Old Corn of the Land of Canaan
What is the Old Corn of the Land?
“The old corn [stored grain] 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. God saw to it that Israel’s needs would be met when they entered the land. 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, 1 Corinthians 15:36) happened before they even reached Canaan. They arrived just in time to enjoy the harvest. Therefore, the stored grain is Christ in the state of being on the other side of death and resurrection! It is Christ in glory!
How do we eat the stored grain of the land? To feed on Christ as the stored grain of the land we must read about and meditate on Christ in glory. Some suggestions would be: Ephesians 1:19-23, Hebrews 2:8, 1 Corinthians 15:27, and Colossians 1:18. 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 He has “received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,” the result of which has been the dispensing of all Christian blessings connected with the Holy Ghost.
What is the effect of feeding on Christ as the stored grain of the land? There are a number of results of feeding on the old corn of the land. First, it gives us energy to enjoy our heavenly portion. 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. To be in Canaan, in a moral sense, is to have crossed the Jordan River (our death with Christ), and see ourselves connected with Christ where He is now, 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 2 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.”
We have shown that, although we are in a place of spiritual famine, God has provided food for our souls. We have shown that our spiritual food is Christ, in three aspects:
- The Passover. The Passover is Christ in His atoning death. We eat the Passover by meditating 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, and has a purifying effect on us.
- The Manna. The Manna is Christ in the circumstances of His life. We eat the manna by meditating on the Lord in His earthly pathway; His kindness, gentleness, meekness, obedience, submission, long-suffering, love to others, compassion, etc. It gives us energy and footsteps to follow in our wilderness pathway.
- The Old Corn of the Land. The stored grain is Christ ascended and glorified. We feed on the stored grain by being occupied with 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.