by Peter Ditzel
Part 1 of this article discussed how, in drinking the wine during the Lord’s Supper, we show His death and its application to us, but we also picture taking His life into us, which is what we really do when we take His words into us. Now, let’s focus on the importance of the symbol of the cup of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.
The Cup of the New Covenant in my Blood
Speaking of the cup of wine, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus didn’t say these words without intending them to have significant meaning. Why did He not simply refer to the wine? Why did he refer to the cup?
Literally, a cup is merely a container. The Bible uses the word cup to symbolically represent whatever it is supposed to be holding. Thus, it is a symbol that takes on many meanings. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus’ flesh being upset over what was to come, He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not what I desire, but what you desire.” Although His flesh was troubling Him, it was inevitable that He would end His prayer by deferring to God’s will.
There was never a question of whether Jesus would drink that “cup.” It was the central reason He had come to Earth (Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 24:44-47). As He said a short time later to Peter, “Put the sword into its sheath. The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not surely drink it?” (John 18:11).
That cup was the cup of God’s wrath. Jesus drank it for us. And, by doing that, He was able to give us another cup: the cup of the New Covenant in His blood. By taking God’s wrath for us, he gave us peace through His blood. Colossians 1:20 speaks of Jesus as “…having made peace through the blood of his cross.”
So, the literal cup that Jesus referred to contained wine, the symbol of His blood, which stood for His life. Jesus called the cup “the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Of what does the New Covenant consist? Words. The words of life. Again, we see a direct relationship between Jesus’ blood and Jesus’ words and Jesus’ life.
The Old Covenant of Death
Exodus 24 tells us of the dedication of the Old Covenant. Verse 3 says, “Moses came and told the people all the LORD’s words, and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken will we do.’” They didn’t know it, but they had just spoken their death sentence. They could not do the words. Thus, Paul calls the Old Covenant the service of death (2 Corinthians 3:7). These were words that killed.
As we read on in Exodus 24, we see that Moses sacrificed cattle (verse 5), and then he poured half the blood on the altar he’d made (verse 6). He then read the words of the Old Covenant to the people, who again agreed to obey the covenant (verse 7). Moses next “took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Look, this is the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you concerning all these words.’” (verse 8). With a promise the people could not keep and the blood of animals that could not take away sin (Hebrews 10:4) sprinkled externally onto them, so began the Old Covenant.
As was pictured by Moses’ sacrifice of the animals, the New Covenant had to be instituted with blood. As the sacrifice of the New Covenant was the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jesus had to die and shed His blood to begin the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15-18).
This New Covenant that required Jesus’ death is what is pictured by the cup of wine in the Lord’s Supper. The New Covenant was established by the death of Jesus. The shedding of His blood was the ultimate sacrifice once for all, perfecting in perpetuity those (individual believers in the past, present, and future) who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). We picture taking Christ’s life into us by drinking the wine, and we take Christ’s life into us for real by reading the Word of God. Our reading of the Word of God is made effective by the Spirit who thus writes God’s law of love into our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10). Writing, of course, consists of words.
And remember that the covenant, pictured by the cup of wine, is, after all, words—words that are part of the Word of God. And, who is the Word of God? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the living Word of God. The written Word of God must then be the revelation of His mind. The focal point of the Word of God is Jesus, particularly as He is the sacrificial atonement of His New Covenant.
Further, there are Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah that state that the One prophesied—the Christ—is the New Covenant: “I the lord God called you in righteousness, and I shall hold your hand, and I will strengthen you; and I gave you for a covenant of a race, for a light of nations; to open the eyes of the blind, to lead out of bonds ones being tied; from out of the house of prison also ones sitting in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7, Apostolic Bible Polyglot); “Thus says the lord, In the accepted time I heeded you, and in the day of deliverance I helped you, and I shaped you, and I gave you for a covenant of nations, to establish the earth, and to inherit desolate inheritances. Saying to the ones in bonds, Come forth! and to the ones in the darkness to be uncovered. In all the ways they shall be grazing, even in all the roads of their pasture” (Isaiah 49:8-9, Apostolic Bible Polyglot).
Of course, this really should be obvious since the life Jesus gave was His own. The wine pictures the blood that stands for the life of Jesus, and it is contained in the cup of the New Covenant. Thus, since the cup holds the symbol of the life of Jesus (which is, of course, Jesus), then Jesus is the New Covenant. When we drink the wine of that cup, we picture taking into us the life of Jesus. His life is the New Covenant in His blood. The New Covenant consists of His words, which He says are life.
We live in a postmodern era when the concept of words with objective meanings is seen as restricting and the Bible is read merely to stimulate our subjective thoughts. Whatever interpretation someone might give is met with, “Wow, cool! If that works for you, that’s great.” But Peter tells us that “no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). “Private” is from the Greek word, idios. It means, “Pertaining to self.” As believers, we must never allow ourselves to be swept up with the flood of such nonsense (Luke 6:46-49). If we forsake His words, we forsake Him, and put something else in His place to worship and follow—ourselves and our own misguided thoughts.
Why did Jesus call the cup of wine in the Lord’s Supper the New Covenant in His blood? Because it is a symbolic representation of the New Covenant, ratified in Jesus’ blood. That covenant is Jesus because it consists of the Word of God’s words and was put into effect by Him giving His life. It begins a new life—that life being Jesus’ life—for us. The cup of wine stands for the blood of Jesus, for the life of Jesus, and for the words of the covenant. The words are essential. Without the words, it loses meaning. The bread and wine perform no magic. Give them to a person ignorant of the Gospel, and that person will be ignorant still.
The words of the Old Covenant killed; the people were incapable of keeping them. The words of the New Covenant are eternal life to those who trust them: “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Those who slight the written Word of God also slight the living Word of God: “The one who rejects Me and does not receive My Words has that judging him: the Word which I spoke, that will judge him in the last Day” (John 12:48, Literal Translation of the Holy Bible).
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