Saturday, April 20, 2024

Test Anxiety: Passover Examination

For weeks now, one of my children has been expressing concern about his upcoming math final. I repeatedly reminded him that he has maintained a good grade in the class all year, and that his teacher has expressed total confidence in him. Still, he was concerned he might forget something he was taught at the beginning of the year. It was only when the teacher gave the class the test study guide, covering all the concepts included on the test, that started to relax. 

It's examination time, and not just for students. The Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread are imminent for those in the Churches of God. If that includes you, you've probably spent many recent hours examining your life for sin and your home for leaven.

For today, I’m not going to discuss how spiritually toxic I find the Days of Unleavened Bread, or how examining oneself and taking communion only once a year almost boils the observance down to making New Year’s Resolutions. Since we can all agree that the Bible sets an expectation for Christians to take the bread and the wine, and examine themselves beforehand, I’d like to talk about that examination.

The Wrong Study Guide?

The word “examination” has different connotations, depending on the context. It can be a simple multiple-choice test, like my son's math test. It can be an exhaustive assessment. It can have finite answers, or can be more of a progress check. But all examinations have objectives. They have ways to make progress, or positive answers. They have ways to mark mistakes, or regression. And there are definite goals.

If a student was getting ready for a geometry exam, it would be foolish to use a study guide designed for algebra. Someone facing an oral examination in German better not use a Spanish thesaurus. But in the COGs, in most cases, it seems like we’re reading Hemingway to prep for an essay on Shakespeare.

Now, I know I’ve been out of the COGs for a decade, and it’s possible that some things have changed. During my tenure, analyzing our Sabbath observance was a major factor in Passover examination. This was closely followed by the amount of time we spent in prayer. As far as sins of commission, we usually made it as far as considering our truthfulness versus lying before calling it a season and repeating the same drill the following year.

In 2024, many groups do seem to be focusing more - at least in print -  on Jesus. However, when I looked at two of the largest groups, one site included a special section titled “Walk As He Walked” that focused heavily on Jesus’ wilderness experience, temple cleansing, and Sabbath observance while discussing the Sermon on the Mount only in passing across seventeen installments. The other delved into Jesus’ sacrifice slightly more, but also recently recycled an older article entitled “Is Your Life In Sync With God?” in a prominent spot on its website. Not surprisingly, the article focused not on Jesus’ instructions or parables, but on Sabbath observance.

Serious Test Prep

But anyway, how would a Church of God member with sincere intentions examine himself in preparation for the Passover? What is his study guide, so to speak? Is it the 10 commandments? Is It Jesus? Or maybe his keeping of the tenets of the Sinai Covenant, as the COGs seem to suggest?

It seems that Jesus’ example must get a pretty high billing. After all, both your COG ministers and I would agree that Paul instructed us to “imitate him, as he imitated Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But what exactly did Paul want us to do when he wrote that?

To understand, we need to do something most COG ministers seem to avoid - we need to look at the context. When reading Paul, that often means backtracking. So in this case, we must read 1 Corinthians 10 - possibly the whole chapter, but definitely the section leading up to the verse in question. In this case, it’s 1 Corinthians 10:23-33:

I have the right to do anything,” you say - but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” - but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (v. 26)

If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged for another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

(v. 30)

So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God - even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (v. 33).

Paul starts a completely new train of thought in 1 Corinthians 11:2, so this is section of 1 Corinthians 10 is undoubtedly the idea he’s referring to. Now, I’d love to analyze the parts that discuss “the right to do everything,” “eat whatever is put before you,” and” the sake of conscience,” as well as the role of the meat market, but that’s not why I’m here today. Anyway, the crux of Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:1 hangs on chapter 10, verses 31 through 33, which tell us to:

  • Honor God in whatever we choose to eat or drink

  • Avoid causing others to stumble

  • Focusing on the good of others rather than our own

  • Helping others come to salvation

None of these sound much like what I was encouraged to focus on during Passover preparation. And 2 Corinthians 3:18 drives this point home further. Just four verses earlier, Paul describes those focused on the Sinai Covenant as having their vision obscured by a veil that is only lifted when they turn their focus to Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[ the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  - 2 Corinthians 3:18

Learning from the Master

So just what does it mean to be transformed into His image? And how does being “unveiled” from the “Law of Moses” help us accomplish this? Well, Luke 6:40-41 describes us as Jesus’ students, and states we’ll resemble Him when fully trained. But to become fully trained, we must study and listen to our teacher. So just what did our master teach? Just to list a few:

  • Do not murder, seethe with anger, hold onto a grudge against a brother (Matthew 5:21)
  • Be a peacemaker and settle disagreements quickly (Matthew 5:23-24)

  • Do not commit adultery or look on another with lust (Matthew 5:27)

  • Turn the other cheek when offended, go above and beyond (Matthew 5:38-42)

  • Pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:43)

  • Do not worry about your physical needs (Matthew 6:25)

  • Do not condemn others (Matthew 7:1) 

  • Balance grace and truth to encourage others and help them seek His ways (John 8:1)

The New Testament contains a multitude of other teachings, from Jesus Himself, and from His disciples, that take more than a lifetime to master. In my household, with our shared religious history, we joke that sincerely employing grace is harder than anything the law prescribes. What is harder to do: to refrain from daily work for 24 hours or forgive someone who betrayed you? 

No More Tutoring Sessions

The Sinai Covenant was a good thing, giving a physical nation physical commands to follow. They helped to show God’s character and focus on righteousness, fairness, and justice. Its overarching purpose, however, was to expose man’s brokenness and need for a Savior. The New Covenant is one we make with that Savior, and has new responsibilities and expectations. Even those who disagree with me on what scriptural phrases like “fulfilled” and “it is finished” mean must contend with Matthew 23:23 - why do they allow these weightier matters to remain undone? 

If God is opening your eyes to the possibility that you were using the wrong study guide for your pending Passover examination, take heart. There’s no need for shame or regret. The law fulfilled its purpose. That was the point of the previous study guide - to show you your need for a Savior. 

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. - Galatians 2:25. 

The Holy Days served a purpose - for Israel, and in some ways, for us. But as Paul wrote, they have served their purpose. They were shadows of what was to come. And Christ was what to come. Step out from the shadows and step into His light. Join us in the grace, hope, and abundant life He offers.


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11



Miller Jones/Lonnie C Hendrix said...


xHWA said...

Very nice article. It highlights well how the Old Covenant was "focus on yourself so you can follow these points of law" while the New Covenant is "focus on others for their good". Wrong study guide indeed.
And here we were actively discouraged from focusing on the good of others. We were even told not to pray for them. We were "fighting against God" to look to make this world a better place.
That is indeed the wrong study guide if those are the conclusions we drew.

"What is harder to do: to refrain from daily work for 24 hours or forgive someone who betrayed you?"
My answer: forgive someone who betrayed me. I've tried both. Rest on the Sabbath I could do. I fail at the other.