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"The New Covenant In My Blood"

"This is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28).

"This is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for many" (Mark 14:24).

"This cup is the new covenant in My blood, even that which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:20).

"This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (1 Cor. 11:25).

The four references to the Lord's words when He took the cup are all different from one another. They vary in detail but are similar in essence. For our title the words of Paul are taken.

"This cup": The Greek word used for cup denotes a drinking vessel. It was probably placed in position by the apostles responsible for the preparation for the Passover in the guestchamber. We are not told any details of the actual cup, but we know that the Jews had such vessels in earthenware, glass and metal.

Throughout the Scriptures the word "cup" is used figuratively: "the cup of salvation", "the cup of His fury", the shepherd's cup running over, and the cup of suffering which the Father gave to the Son to drink. The Lord made it clear that His words "this cup" were used for what was in it, and also that it was figuratively intended. There is no specific mention of what the contents were, but the Lord's words made it abundantly plain that the cup contained wine when He stated, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29).

The cup of wine which the Lord had taken and for which He had returned thanks signified His own blood. In the Old Testament this had been typified by the blood of beasts, actual blood, but the Lord Jesus now used the "blood of the grapes" to symbolize it. It pointed to the cup of suffering entailed in the crosswork, which was also to become a cup of blessing, an earnest and foretaste of the future cup of eternal happiness.

"The covenants" (Rom. 9:4): The Hebrew word means a covenant or agreement, and is derived from a word meaning to cut or divide. At a time when the knowledge of reading and writing was not widespread, especially in legal matters, it was the custom in making solemn covenants to pass between the divided parts of the animal victims (see Gen. 15:9,10 and Jer. 34:18). Terms of mutual agreement or stipulations involved were thus confirmed and given authoritative backing, in the presence of witnesses in many cases.

It is obvious that any covenant involving the Most High and Almighty God and men could not possibly be like one between equals. There could be no mutual stipulations. This would be manifestly unbecoming to the majesty of God, and inconsistent with the infinite distance and difference between the Creator and His creatures. He could not descend to bargaining with them. God's dispositions are always righteous, holy, and the fruit of the riches of His mercy. His covenants emanate from His sovereign authority and come to man with authoritative force. They invariably contained promises of grace, and they were usually confirmed by sacrifices offered by man.

The Old Testament contains references to many of such covenants. The keeping of the sabbath was "a perpetual covenant" (Exod. 31:16); the Lord speaks to Jeremiah of "My covenant of day and night" (Jer. 33:25). There were further illustrations with Noah, Abram, Phinehas and David. But undoubtedly the chief covenant, from which the Old Testament derives its name, was the Sinaitic one between Jehovah and His people Israel (Exod. 24:3-8), executed by the hand of Moses as the mediator. This was based on the ten commandments (Deut. 4:13) and called for obedience on the part of Israel. The Lord God remained faithful to His promises, but failure was written large over the response of the nation. Time and time again God needed to call on Israel to keep true to their part of the agreement. "They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law" (Psa. 78:10). The ten commandments formed the basis of the covenant, but the entire Old Testament writings are the Scriptures of the Old Covenant. Although there were times when the people were well-pleasing to God, the overall picture is a disappointing one of failure and departure.

"The New Covenant": The best was yet to be. Jehovah had promised His Servant, "I the LORD ... will ... give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" (Isa. 42:6,7). In Jeremiah 31:31-34, He makes it clear that there would be a new covenant involving divine forgiveness of sin and heart-obedience by His people. But it was left to the Lord Jesus Himself to complete the picture and make it plain that the new covenant was to be sealed by His blood. It was to be based on Him and His work, and so the entire New Testament writings were to form the Scriptures of the New Covenant.

A study of the use of the Greek word for "covenant" in the "Hebrews" reveals that it has a new dimension, an important additional meaning of "will or testament". It is not merely a mutual compact but a solemn disposition (as with a will). The death of the Lord Jesus Christ inaugurates the covenant of grace, which became a testament, and of force by the death of the Testator, "The Lord is not only our Hope; He is also the Surety of a better Covenant, the New Covenant (Heb. 7:22). A surety is a sponsor who solemnly promises for another. Thus the Lord as High Priest is responsible to God to see that what is promised in the New Covenant is duly carried through. He is also the Mediator of a better Covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. The contrast drawn here is between the New and Old Covenants. The heavenly things have been cleansed with better sacrifices than the sin offerings which cleansed the sanctuary and its vessels on the day of atonement"

(J. Miller in Needed Truth 1966, p.66).

"Once at the end of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26).

"In My blood": The blood of Christ to be outpoured in death was to be represented by the cup of blessing on the table. The "shadows" of the old dispensation gave continual and ample testimony to the need of expiation and intercession. The numerous sacrifices and the annual intercession of the high priest under the law were types - dim figures of what was to come, to be realized in Him who was to come. They were atonements by blood for sin. "It is the blood that maketh atonement" (Lev. 17:11). Richer blood from nobler veins was to flow "to purge the soul from guilt, and cleanse the reddest stains".

By His death on the cross, Christ did what the sacrifices of old taught should be done but could not themselves accomplish. He made the true atonement for the sins of the people, when He offered up Himself once for all. While seated round the table with His disciples, He had clear knowledge of what He was to undergo within the next few days. He was conscious of the soul-suffering He would experience in Gethsemane's garden, of the anguish and passion of the crucifixion, and the humiliating shame that He would endure. But He also knew the purpose of it all. He saw Himself as the High Priest having taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle. For Him there was a ministry as far superior to that of the Old Testament priestly service as is the covenant in which He is the Mediator and the promises upon which it is legally secured. This is the New Covenant in His blood: His own blood. On this ground He has entered the true heavenly sanctuary once and for all, having secured eternal redemption.

Of this New Testament, the cup was, as it were, the parchment-deed on which His last will was sealed. On the merits of His death untold blessings were to follow in due course. By the shedding of His precious blood, the covenant became effective, and was ratified and confirmed. His very presence on the right hand of the Majesty on high gives "boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which He dedicated for us, a new and living way". There is a Great Priest over the house of God, and His God and Father desires us to draw near with a true heart. The weekly Remembrance supplies us with this opportunity. The institution of such a memorial by the Lord Himself was a sign of the conveyance of the covenant blessings purchased by Him through the work of the Cross. "Through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name" (Heb. 13:15).