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The Purpose of the Lord’s Supper (2)

The Cup

This cup is the new covenant in My blood

If the bread represents all that we have just described concerning the body of Christ, then what does the cup represent? Too often people make the bread and the cup mean the same things and call to mind the same things. But carefully read this passage and see if the cup is to symbolize the same thing as the bread.

Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” Paul does not say that Jesus was merely referring to the blood of Christ. If Jesus was, then we would be right to assume that we are to remember the same thing twice. However, the cup represents the covenant in His blood. What is Jesus telling us to remember each Lord’s day when we partake of the fruit of the vine?

I think a straightforward reading of the verse gives us the proper understanding. The cup that we drink calls to our minds the ratification of the new covenant that we live under today. The new covenant would not and could not have been put into effect with the blood of Jesus. “Where a will exists, the death of the testator must be established. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in force while the testator is living. That is why even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood” (Hebrews 9:16-18). I believe the writer of Hebrews enlightens us as to how the covenant and the blood of Christ are to be tied together. I do not know what else Jesus could mean when He says the cup is the new covenant in His blood. But without this understanding I think it becomes easy for us to skip the words “new covenant” and just think about the blood that flowed from His side. I suggest to you that we have already remembered the physical suffering and sacrifice of our Lord. When we think about the blood, we are not called to think about the suffering, but the covenant that was inaugurated for us by His blood.

Furthermore, the blood brings to our minds the forgiveness of sins that is available through the new covenant. Again, the writer of Hebrews says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14). The blood of Christ is not about the suffering, but is about the forgiveness of sins that gives us life through Him. The blood of Christ recalls our state of being dead to God in our sins and how He made us alive through Him. We are remembering where we have come from and where God has placed us.

Proclaiming the Lord’s death

In 1 Corinthians 11:26 we read, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Perhaps this statement makes more sense to us in light of our new understanding of the symbolism of the bread and the cup.

The Passover was a reminder to the people of Israel of the bondage they had been in while in Egypt and the redemption that took place as they were led from that slavery to the promised land. By partaking of the Lord’s Supper we are proclaiming our freedom from the slavery of sin, Satan, and death. We are proclaiming redemption by God as we recall the sacrifice of our Lord and the covenant initiated to us by our Lord. We are not only sorrowful because of what our sins have done to Christ, but we are celebrating our standing with God because of Christ’s sacrifice. We are proclaiming to one another and to the outsiders that we are children of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

Now this makes more sense when we come to verse 27 where we are warned that if we partake in an unworthy manner, we are guilty against the body and blood of the Lord. Paul says that there are ways that we can abuse the Lord’s Supper and partake in an unworthy manner. We will consider the abuses of the Lord’s Supper in an upcoming post.