In the last article we looked at Christian baptism, its importance, the process leading to baptism, and why it was instituted by God. In this article I would like to take a look at the connection between covenant and the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist). By looking at these 2 Biblical elements, we will learn just how serious choosing to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior really is. Choosing to become a Christian is not like signing up for fire insurance to get out of hell if you find yourself there one day. Choosing to become a Christian is a very serious act that has serious implications and consequences.
I. In order to understand the connection between covenant and the Lord ’s Supper, first we need to start with an understanding of the word “covenant”.
Covenant is found in both the Old and New Testaments (in fact, the word “testament” could also be translated as “covenant”). The Hebrew word transliterated “bereeth” is translated into the English word “covenant” and it means “a solemn, binding agreement made by passing between 2 pieces of flesh”. A covenant joined 2 parties together and the ceremony was accompanied by an animal sacrifice. Oaths were made and the covenanting parties would sacrifice an animal, splitting it in half and walking between the 2 pieces of flesh, calling God as their witness that they should be killed like the animals if they break their end of the agreement. The Greek word transliterated “diatheke” is translated into the English word “covenant” as well. It means a solemn binding agreement between 2 parties. Diatheke was a juridical term in the Koine Greek of Biblical times. This definition and explanation will help us understand the 3 major covenants of the Bible.
II. The 3 major covenants of the Bible (Abrahamic, Mosaic, and the New Covenant) help us understand the seriousness of choosing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
1) The Abrahamic Covenant – Every covenant has requirements that must be fulfilled by both parties. The Abrahamic covenant is a covenant between God and man. Genesis 15 shows us the details of how the covenant was made (literally “cut”). There are solemn oaths made (promises on God’s part). God promises to give Abraham a seed that would be a blessing to the entire world (Jesus Christ is that seed). In order to institute the Abrahamic covenant, animal sacrifices were made and God walked between the pieces of flesh, binding Himself to His promises to Abraham. Abraham had his part in the deal. Genesis 17 tells us that he was to be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, he and all the males of his household as a sign of obedience to the covenant with God. This circumcision was also the sign that accompanied the Abrahamic covenant. As we will see, all covenants between God and man have a sign that is a reminder of that covenant. Circumcision was a daily reminder for Abraham of his covenant with God. So, God was to keep His part of the covenant and Abraham was to keep his part as well. If Abraham obeyed, then there were benefits (blessings). He would be blessed by God and he would become a blessing to others. If Abraham chose to disobey, then there were consequences. He would not be blessed by God. He would not be a blessing to others and ultimately, he would pay with his life. This was a very serious decision that Abraham made. Entering into covenant is no joking matter. The Abrahamic covenat was the forerunner to the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus Christ. In other words, the New Covenant in Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. If that is the case then why the Mosaic covenant or Old Covenant it is also known?
2) The Mosaic covenant (Old Covenant) – This covenant was also initiated and instituted by God and the other party of this covenant is the children of Israel. The Hebrews could not be obedient to God because of their sin nature (a nature that we all have). Therefore, God had to initiate the Old Covenant of the Law to draw the line in the sand showing the Hebrews what was right and what was wrong. The whole point of the Old Covenant (Mosaic covenant) was to act as a schoolmaster, keeping the pupils on the right track. The Law was to lead the people of Israel to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This covenant was God’s intervention on behalf of the people because they could not be obedient to Him and were in danger of suffering the consequences. This covenant was cut on Mt. Sinai with Moses mediating between God and the people. This is where we get the 10 commandments and most of the laws of the Old Testament. The Mosaic covenant was not the end. It was just the means to lead the people to the end, the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, most of the Hebrews took their focus off the purpose of the schoolmaster (the Law to lead the people to Christ) and focused on the schoolmaster instead. The Mosaic covenant was also a solemn binding agreement with benefits for obedience and consequences for disobedience. There was also an animal sacrifice involved and the Book of the Covenant was the sign as a reminder to the people. All of the aspects of this covenant (the temple, the sacrificial system, the things in the temple, etc) were pointing to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in Jesus Christ.
3) The New Covenant – The New Covenant was also initiated and and instituted by God. It came about through Jesus Christ.
19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
Jesus Christ came as the Passover lamb of God to die on the cross for the sins of mankind and open the door to a personal relationship with God. Again, we see a sacrifice being brought. In the Abrahamic covenant, Abraham brought the sacrifice yet in the New Covenant God was the One who brought the sacrifice. In the Abrahamic covenant, God walked between the pieces of flesh and in the New Covenant we, those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, walk through the pieces to enter into the presence of God.
19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,
When Jesus Christ died on the cross, the veil that separated the people from the presence of God in the temple, was torn in two pieces from top to bottom. If one is to enter into the presence of God, he now has to walk between 2 torn pieces of flesh. This is the definition of entering into a covenant. The sign of the New Covenant is the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. Communion does not make us in covenant with God just like circumcision did not make Abraham in covenant with God. Circumcision came as the result of entering into covenant with God. The same is true for Holy Communion. It is not for those who are not in the New Covenant with God because that would not make any sense. It is for those who have already entered into covenant with God. It is a sign and reminder of what they have already entered into. The same implications are involved in the New Covenant that were involved in the Abrahamic covenant and the Old covenant; blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. The consequences are explained in I Corinthians 11.
27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
Taking Communion in an unworthy manner means claiming that you have been set free from slavery to sin by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and yet at the same time, living in habitual sin, and then coming to the Lord’s Supper like everything is okay. If you do not confess your sin and repent of it, then God will send the consequences in your life. There is a specific order here 1. weakness (literal translation is impotent, nothing in your life works out) 2. if you do not come to your senses and repent then God sends sickness 3. if you still do not come to your senses and repent then the next step is death. God judges you now on this earth because you are in covenant with Him and He cannot judge you on Judgment Day. He spared you from that when you entered into the New Covenant with Him.
Where do you stand today, my dear friend? Have you entered into the New Covenant with God through the Lord Jesus Christ or did you “get saved” receiving your fire insurance and get out of hell free card? Do you live according to the New Covenant, saying no to sin and yes to obedience to God? Do you take your covenant seriously? May the Lord help us walk with Him in love and obedience daily.