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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The New Covenant - The Nature of Blood Covenants


In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:23-26)
Just A Memorial Meal?
We've heard this passage so many times that there may be a tendency to think of the Lord's Supper as simply a solemn celebration to remind us that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. But we must not gloss over Jesus' statement that the cup was the New Covenant in his blood.
Covenants, especially covenants ratified in blood, are more binding than legal contracts. They bring two parties together in an agreement which lasts forever, possibly even beyond the grave, and which cannot be annulled. The Old Covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants was a blood covenant, sealed with the shedding of blood in circumcision. The New Covenant has been sealed with the blood of Jesus.
All covenants have terms and conditions. The book of Deuteronomy lays out the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant also known as the Law. This is not the place to detail those conditions because as Paul tells the Romans, we are not under law but under grace (Rom 6:15). But knowing something about covenant terms in general will help us to identify the terms of the New Covenant.
Characteristics of Covenants 
These are common characteristics of covenants:
  1. Partners in a covenant are known as Covenant Friends. This is why Abraham was known as a friend of God.
  2. Sometimes names are changed. For example, Abram became Abraham.
  3. There may be an exchange of weapons as was the case when David and Jonathan entered into a covenant friendship.
  4. A sign may be given such as Noah's rainbow.
  5. A meal is invariably part of the covenant. In the Old Covenant this was expressed through the sacrificial system.
Characteristics of the New Covenant
There are equivalent characteristics in the New Covenant:
  1. Jesus  called his disciples friends (Jn 15:13-15).
  2. New names are promised (Rev 2:17).
  3. Spiritual armour given (Eph 6:10-18).
  4. Baptism is the sign (Rom 6:3).
  5. The Lord's Supper is the covenant meal (Matt 26:28)
Covenant Terms
The question then arises, what are the actual terms of the New Covenant? If Deuteronomy is the covenant document for the Old Covenant, where is its equivalent for the New Covenant? What does it say? We will look at this next time.

  

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