What is a covenant?
A covenant is a treaty or binding agreement between two parties. The Hebrew word berith which is translated covenant literally means cutting, implying the fact that a covenant was confirmed with the shedding of the blood of a sacrifice. This meant that a covenant was a blood oath.
The New Covenant is primarily stated in contrast to the Old (Mosaic) Covenant. These two covenants are the only conditional covenants God makes in the scriptures. God’s promises in the covenants are eternal, but the agreement itself depends upon men accepting the terms of agreement.
What are some of the differences between the New and Old Covenants?
- The Old Covenants terms/rules had to be learned (Exodus 24:12)
- The Old Covenant had to be obeyed according to the ability of men (Romans 7:5)
- The Old Covenant was confirmed with the blood of animals (Exodus 24:8)
- The Old Covenant had severe consequences for failure to obey (Deuteronomy 28:15-68)
- The New Covenant is Holy Spirit taught (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
- The ability to obey the New Covenant is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God (Hebrews 9:14)
- The New Covenant is confirmed by the blood of the Son of God (Matthew 26:28)
- The New Covenant is crowned with God’s mercy and forgiveness for those times men fail to obey (Hebrews 8:12)
The first Lord’s Supper was a Passover observance by Jesus and His disciples. (Matthew 26:19-20) It was also the institution of the New Covenant. It makes sense for us to honor the New Covenant on Passover.
During the Passover observance, it was customary for the head of the feast (Jesus in this case) to lead the table in remembrance of the four great “I WILLS”, promises of God to Israel as stated in Exodus 6:6-7. These were memorialized by the taking of a cup of wine for each declaration. The four promises and cups were:
- I WILL bring you out (the cup of sanctification)
- I WILL bring you out of bondage (cup of deliverance/praise)
- I WILL redeem you (the cup of redemption)
- I WILL take you to me for a people (cup of acceptance/praise)
On the night of the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus took the first three cups with His disciples. The last cup, the one in which He said “this is my blood of the new testament (covenant) which is shed for many for the redemption of sins” (Matthew 26:28) was the cup of redemption. Redemption (Hebrew gaal) means to be purchased out of slavery, or to pay a ransom and free. It had to be done by someone who was a kinsman (family). Jesus paid the purchase price (His blood) to redeem us from slavery to sin (Romans 6:12-16). Jesus refused to take the fourth cup (the cup of acceptance) because Israel had not yet accepted Him as Messiah. (Matthew 27:20-25, Zechariah 12:10). The next time that He takes the cup will be with all believers and redeemed Israel at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).
Some notes on the Lord’s Supper taken from the early church -
- Important passages for meditation before taking the Lords Supper include Matthew 26:26-28, John 6:22-71 and 1 Corinthians 11:20-34.
- The Lord’s Supper was done weekly, sometimes with every meal
- The Lord’s Supper is a spiritual and physical blessing to all who take it worthily
- The Lord’s Supper brought sickness and death to believers who took it unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:20-34)
- Unleavened bread (symbolizing purity) and red wine sometimes mixed with water were normally used
- Because the Lord’s supper was normally done in small groups, personal confession was often practiced before taking it, to cleanse the conscience and help the believer take it in a worthy manner
- The point of the Lords Supper is to remember what Jesus did for us (Crucifixion) and to remember our commitment to the New Covenant with Him