When you drink the cup of the new covenant

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.

Knowing Christ is the only cure for racism

One day each year Americans officially acknowledge our racist past. On Martin Luther King Day government offices and schools close and black folks have parades and speeches and white people and others go play golf, do some chores around the house, and see an editorial in the local newspaper about racial reconciliation or the lack of it.

Our beloved United States of America has a history of racism that us both ugly and undeniable. We hear far more about how badly African-Americans have been treated than any other because it is more current. But God help us if we forget how our forefathers treated the indigenous Indians who had lived on this continent long before they arrived here. And, let’s not forget the way we treated the Japanese and other Orientals after Pearl Harbor. We rounded them up like cattle and stripped them of their dignity and freedom. Even though our actions were driven by fear in their case, and greed in the case of the Native Americans, it was nonetheless racist.

Some you who are young adults might not know this but Americans didn’t invent racism. I could give a short history lesson about Europeans, Africans, the middle east and on and on but the fact that racial problems exist is well established, and on that we can all agree. Even some of our most quoted and admired Biblical characters were guilty.

Peter was a Jew and loud and proud. He was not unlike almost everyone he knew because his friends and closest associates were all Jews too. God would change that. In the Bible in Acts 10 is the story of God giving brother Peter a vision that would rock his world.

Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.” (Acts 10:9b-16)

Standing at the gate were messengers from an Italian army centurion, a Gentile named Cornelius. When Peter heard what they had to say he invited them in.

The first lesson for Peter, and for us about racial differences is this. What God has made clean, do not call uncommon. This object lesson was not only for Peter but for others as well including you and me. God made a decision that Peter would go preach Christ to the Gentiles and that they would believe. (Acts 15:7) It was God who chooses sons and daughters from every tongue and tribe and place and those who are chosen are “one” in Christ.

It was none other than Jesus himself who modeled what Peter and others of God’s people would eventually do. Remember the story of Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well? He went out of his way, (literally) to meet that woman who was not a Jew and had a sordid past and was at the present time living with a guy who was not her husband. God chose her to make clean.

In what I think is the most remarkable prayer in the Bible, Jesus prayed that his followers would be united, that they would be one. After Jesus had interceded for his followers he then prayed for you and me. He prayed for us!

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me,that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23)

You see, only in Christ can every difference be either put aside or celebrated.  Someone has said “The ground is level at the foot of the cross“. I get it. When we stand there with people from other races, from other faith heritages, we stand in grace. It is our common union with Christ that joins us with others. In Him alone teeming millions are made one.

News outlets report daily of the slaughter of people whose only offence is wrong race or wrong religion. It is as old as human history and it will not end until God makes everything over. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” and when the result of that work is fully realized there will be no more fighting over racial differences.

Until then, we must guard our hearts and do the hard work of loving people different from us. Peter started off well. He was obedient to his calling to take the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles. And, he defended them and God’s plan to the church leaders who were themselves pious yet wicked sinners. But, as time went on Peter fell into the trap of loving the praise of men more than the will of God. Paul tells the story in his letter to the Galatians.

11 But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)

Peter was a hypocrite. I am sometimes a hypocrite too. If we care more about what the leadership of the church thinks, or some family member, our a boss at work than what God has said and modeled we are headed for trouble.

The Christians across town, or in my pew, doesn’t have to look like me, or dress like me, or sing like me, or…..anything else to be my spiritual siblings. If our dialogue with our brothers and sisters centers more on Christ and his grace and less on religion, politics, and culture we will be far closer to being the people God intends.

As followers of Jesus you and I don’t have the luxury of choosing who we will love and accept. Our marching orders are to love everyone!

Let’s be aggressively loving like Jesus did. We will be better for it and our part of the world will be a better place to live. I’ll end with one more Scripture passage.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:5)

Royce Ogle




O Come Emmanuel!

man in praise

…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.
(Isaiah 7:17)

This ancient promise was fulfilled over 2,000 years ago when a virgin girl named Mary gave birth to a child with no human father. He is truly the Son of God.

His coming was and is “God with us”!

His passion was “God for us”!

The announcement of His birth included this bit of information.

…he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21b)

And so it is, this one of lowly birth and social status is the only Savior. The Holy Scriptures are explicit. Jesus, who is the Christ, is the only one who can save from sins and death.

 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)

Not any depth of personal morality, not any acts of kindness, not ten thousand rites and rituals can set ungodly men and women right with God. It is Christ Jesus alone who fulfilled the Father’s requirement for righteousness. It was the God-man who took upon himself the sins of the whole of humanity and offered his holy life in a cruel execution so that God can now declare those who trust him to be righteous and His own dear children.

Every promise of good from God to sinful humans is centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ our Lord.

All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

How can we not be thankful for this unspeakable gift? Emmanuel has come!

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

History Repeats Itself in the Churches of Christ.

Just now I finished reading an insightful, scholarly article by John Mark Hicks titled “K. C. Moser and Churches of Christ: an Historical Perspective”. It is published on Abilene Christian University’s “Restoration Quarterly” section of their website. You can read it here. I have always enjoyed and appreciated bro’ Hick’s writing due to his attention to detail, documentation, and yet easy readability.

This post might be of particular interest to Church of Christ folks and especially preachers and teachers. Others might find this historical feast by bro’ Hicks very interesting as well.

Hicks paints a word picture of a church movement shaped by particular men, the periodicals they published and wrote for, and the schools where they were educated and where they taught. My intention is not to repeat what John Mark Hicks wrote but to point out one man who had a penchant for swimming upstream in the river of Church of Christ tradition/theology and made a mark on the Restoration Movement Churches that is still present today.

The man was K. C. Moser. Evidently he was the first real “change agent” in the Churches of Christ. Way back in the 1930’s he recognized that the gospel of Christ was being compromised and substituted by a “plan of salvation” that leaned very heavy on what man should do to be saved and little on the person and work of Christ.

On December 1, 1932, Moser published an article in the Gospel Advocate entitled “Preaching Jesus.” To preach Jesus, according to Moser, is to proclaim him as the Son of God who bears the sins of the world as a sin-offering to God. Consequently, when Philip encountered the Eunuch, he “preached not a plan, but a man.” Moser was concerned that the conditions of salvation were preached “apart from their reference to the atonement.” “When this is done,” he argued, “the conditions of salvation become pure law and salvation is based on mere works.” As a result, grace is voided.

Moser’s first book, “The Way of Salvation” bore this interesting subtitle. “Being an Exposition of God’s Method of Justification Through Christ.” It was the first of his many written works that proved to be very troubling and disturbing to many of Moser’s brothers in the Churches of Christ. He was roundly criticized by many of them. He was branded a “traitor” and as a “Baptist in sheep’s clothing”.

Moser advocated for preaching the “man” (Christ Jesus) rather than the “plan”. As Hicks points out, for many Moser and others who agreed with him, helped to move the focus of salvation away from “ecclesiology back to Christology” Moser’s commentary on Romans was his most important work. “The Gist of Romans” was perhaps the pinnacle of all Moser did. in Hick’s article the following appears.

During this time, he wrote his thematic commentary on the book of Romans entitled The Gist of Romans It was first printed in 1957, with a second edition in 1958.(53) The book’s theme reflects the emphases of Moser’s writing over the past three decades. His concern was still legalistic preaching and the subtle legalism to which it gives expression. His purpose was to give “an exposition of the fundamental doctrines of salvation through Christ” as they appear in Romans. He was set for the “defense of the cross” as opposed to the defense of the “conditions of salvation, or some theory.”(54) The preacher, according to Moser, must not only know what to tell someone to do to be saved, he must first understand what salvation is. Only when one understands the “fundamental doctrine of the atonement, of grace, and of faith” can anyone be a gospel preacher.(55) Moser feared that many of his preaching brothers did not truly or fully understand the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. He was not alone in his fear. G. C. Brewer had expressed similar fears. He was concerned that many were preaching a creed instead of Christ, and “too many us instead of trusting in Christ, depend upon working out our own salvation as though this means that we should achieve it by works of merit in this life.”(56)

Moser and Brewer, two men who had shared the burden of proclaiming the gospel of grace, both feared the context of the mid-1950s. Both saw the danger of legalism; both saw the need for trusting in Christ alone for salvation. The 1960s, with the turmoil of the “Man or the Plan” controversy, saw a brotherhood coming to conscious reflection on the doctrine of grace and a renewal of the doctrine of “God’s righteousness” as the ground of salvation.

Those are pretty plain and pointed concerns and they exist today. Fortunately, Moser and Brewer, and others of their contemporaries who shared their views of gospel grace are not alone. Men like Cecil Hook, Ketcherside, Edward Fudge, Leroy Garrett and several who are currently preaching in churches of Christ, like Moser, are contending for the historic gospel of Christ just as these men have. I could name several here but will not.

Enter Anglican Bishop and theologian N.T. Wright and the “New Perspective on Paul”. Wright, was shaped partially by his predecessors, Lutheran theologian Krister Stendahl, E.P. Sanders and James D.G. Dunn. It was Dunn who first coined the term “The New Perspective on Paul”. While N.T. Wright does not wholly agree with the others who began this movement (Wright said “there are probably almost as many ‘new perspective’ positions as there are writers espousing it – and I disagree with most of them”) He agrees with them that the historical understanding of justification and righteousness as espoused by K.C. Moser is wrong.

Many of my friends have very passionate opinions in their wholesale agreement with N.T. Wright’s version of the so called “New Perspective…” But, I contend none-the-less that in the end what they are buying is a modern version of a works based theology of salvation, though very, very subtle. I think it is very telling that those groups which have been most accepting of the NPP are Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches, and Churches of Christ.

Due largely to the influence of Bishop Wright, it is becoming increasingly popular for church of Christ ministers to forsake the historic version of the work of Christ for sinners that Moser advanced in favor of this “new perspective”. The idea that based wholly upon the worth and work of Jesus Christ a sinner can be justified instantly and be assured of eternal life is frequently substituted by the theory that only at the end of one’s life can a person finally be decisively declared eternally safe by God.

The most obvious problem with the latter view is that it assumes God doesn’t know the end of a man’s life until the end of a man’s life. It assumes that God can’t know if a person will remain faithful until he has been faithful. God does know. He knows the end from the beginning.

These words spoken by the Apostle Paul (who Wright assumes we have misunderstood for some 1500 years) stand in stark contrast to Wright’s theory.

38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39)

Wright contends that Paul did not have in mind the Law of Moses when he mentioned that man is not justified by “works of the law”. I ask, What did Paul have in mind in the passage above?

A gospel is not the true gospel unless there is hope for the wicked. If wicked sinners can not have their sins removed, if they can’t have eternal life, if they can’t count of being resurrected from the dead, if they can’t live without guilt, that version of the gospel is not good news.

When Paul spoke of the “works of the law” in Romans 3 and in Galatians 2 and 3 he meant exactly what he did in Acts 13 above. The passage in Galatians 3 is as clear as can be.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Galatians 3:9-10)
How anyone can miss this is a wonder. Is there any doubt that Paul had in mind the “Book of the Law” when he said “works of the law” in the same breath? Yet the “New Perspective on Paul” insists that is not what Paul intended.
Those who rely on their own morality, their own faithfulness, even in part for their salvation are guilty of relying on “another gospel”. Once more, hear Paul’s words.
Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39)
This is the gospel in a nut shell. “…through this man forgiveness of sins in proclaimed”. “By Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses”, or by good works, or by covenant faithfulness. Christ alone is the hope of sinners!

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:13-31)

Paul’s version of the gospel offered up Jesus Christ as our righteousness, our redemption, and our sanctification. Jesus the God man, the suffering servant who bore the sins of us all and made it so that God can be just and justify the ungodly. Paul insisted that a gospel different than the one he preached was “another gospel” which was really “not another”, it was only a lie. That is still true. I’ll go with Moser on this. Subtle or not subtle, a modified gospel is not good news at all.