The following passage from 1 Corinthians 11 is the most often read section of Scripture when believers are about to observe the Lord’s Supper together. It is a quote from the Apostle Paul and in the quote Paul quotes Jesus. Here is the passage.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
I think because this passage is so very familiar we often miss the message and deep meaning given in it. Before I move on to the main focus of this meditation I want to point out some things that struck me as I read and re-read this text.
First, Paul’s credibility. This is not something Paul heard from oral tradition, or some one said…, he makes it clear that he received this account from the Lord. He got this message from Jesus himself. So perhaps we should pay closer attention.
Second, Paul’s repetition. “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you”. This is obviously not the first time Paul has talked to the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper. “Delivered” is past tense, he had said it before, and it is worth repeating!
Third, Paul’s reminder. When you do this you are preaching the gospel. “You proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The gospel is covered. His death is the focus and we expect him to “come”. He could not come if he was still dead, so he must be raised from the dead! Each time we share in the Lord’s Supper we are teaching the gospel to one another, reminding one another of whose we are and the price paid, and of course that Jesus will come. We do it with that expectation!
Now to the part I want to focus on in this post.”This cup is the new covenant in my blood” said Jesus. So the question is raised, what then is the new covenant? Whatever it is it cost the blood of Jesus!
18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
There is no doubt the new covenant Jesus acquired for us by his own precious blood was very costly. Nothing ever could be more worth more! But what is it? Here it is from Jeremiah.
39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:39-31)
This is only part of what God said about the new covenant by the mouth of the Prophet Jeremiah, but it is a very, very good part. This, dear soul, is what Jesus purchased with his own blood for you.
God’s new covenant is amazing. The depth of his love is overwhelming! Read these verses over a few times and see what Christ has done for us.
A new heart! (Ezekiel 36:26) He gives us individually and as a community of believers the desire to fear Him “forever”. Right away we can see this is no temporary decree. It will be good for us and our children. It is the sort of grace gift that invades the next generations.
Next, God says this new covenant is “everlasting”. He will not change his mind about it. He says “I will not turn away from doing good for them”. God’s mind is set on doing good for you forever!
Next he says he will put it in our hearts to fear him. This is important enough that he repeats it. Why would he do this? Verse 39 “that they may fear me forever“, and in verse 40 “that they may not turn from me”. This is God’s doing! The new covenant is a “forever” covenant. You will not need God longer than forever.
Finally, God says something very special. It shows the depth of his love for those who are his own. He will rejoice in doing us good! With all his heart and soul he will delight in causing us to fear him and to be faithful to him.
Jesus said “This is the new covenant in my blood”. He, not us, is the strength and promise and power and purpose of the new covenant.
How can you know you are truly in this covenant with God? Day after day, month after month, year after year you fear God and are faithful to him. You do those things Jesus commanded. You love him and your neighbor. You will not do it perfectly but you will desire to please the one who purchased your redemption with his own blood.
Now rest in and rejoice about your standing with God. Make no mistake about this, the strength of the new covenant is God, not how well you can perform. This kind of love demands humble surrender and unending joy from the beneficiaries of Jesus’ love work for sinners like you and me.
When you drink the cup, remember the Lord. It is the cup of his love.