The Cup Of The New Covenant

Mark 14:24 [widescreen]On Thursday of Holy Week we remember that first Lord’s Supper when Jesus said “this cup is the new covenant in my blood.”

Do you have any idea how much meaning is poured into that cup?

Perhaps this excerpt from Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life will help you get a taste of how sweet the new covenant promises are for those who are in Christ Jesus:

When Jesus lifted the cup of wine at the first Lord’s Supper, he said “this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25). When we feed on and drink of Jesus by faith in his gospel as it is proclaimed at the communion table, he wants us to remember that through his sacrifice we have inherited the new purity, new passion, new power, and new partnership that his Father promised in the New Covenant (Ezekiel 36:25-28).

A 17th-century pastor, Walter Marshall, wrestled with his inability to live a holy life of loving God and loving others, so he searched the scriptures and sought the counsel of godly men until he learned “four things God must give you if you are going to live a holy life.” These four happen to correspond with the four promises of the New Covenant (aka the gospel) which are ours as we embrace the cross of Christ as ours. Let’s revisit these four ideas from Chapter Two, this time at perhaps a different level of understanding.

Four Needs, Four Gifts

A New Purity. The first thing God must give us if we are going to live a holy life is purity. Walter Marshall put it this way: “You have to be totally assured that you are reconciled to God and accepted by him. You have to be absolutely sure that the chasm sin has caused between you and God has been completely filled, and that you are now totally under his love and favor.” This purity that we need to be assured of was accomplished when the promise of Ezekiel 36:25 came true in Christ, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.”

When I first feasted by faith on Jesus’ sacrifice, I received the Father’s  acceptance because my disobedience was paid for, and I received his approval because the perfect obedience (righteousness) he requires of me was provided for me by Jesus. This occurs because of what the Bible calls justification: my sins are pardoned, so I’m accepted; I have the Son’s perfect record, so I’m approved. I am pure: a gift from God.

A New Passion. The second thing God must give us is passion, or what Marshall calls willingness and ability to obey God: “Your heart has to be freely motivated to obey God’s Law. . . . You must have a total inward inclination to want to obey God and to avoid sin.” This is not something we could ever produce by ourselves, so God made it possible by fulfilling in Christ the promise of Ezekiel 36:26, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

When by grace our faith is awakened and we are empowered to grab hold of the message of the cross, God gives us the Spirit of his Son through  adoption. Through the Spirit we, like Jesus, can cry out “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:14-16)

Think about that. We who once were children of wrath with hearts enslaved and inclined to sin, now have the same desire to obey our Father that Jesus has (Galatians 4:7-9, 5:13-15). This is not to say that obedience is our only desire, for in this life we are frail and fallen creatures subject to temptation. But every true child of God can sense that desire to obey the Father, a desire that cannot be present apart from salvation. Through the gospel we get a heart transplant. God replaces the me-first hearts of his adopted sons with the you-first heart of his only-begotten Son (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When I continue to feed by faith on Jesus’ sacrifice, I live sensing the Father’s  acceptance because the Holy Spirit pours the Father’s love into me, convincing me that I am free from sin by the grace of God—no longer ashamed, but hopeful (Romans 5:5), no longer dead, but alive (Romans 6:11), no longer a slave, but a son (Romans 8:15-16). This gives me a new Godward passion.

A New Power. The third gift God must give us is the power to continue obeying God. Walter Marshall writes, “You have to be totally assured that you have sufficient strength both to will and to do what God calls you to do. . . . God wants you to know that you have the power from him to live a holy life.” God did this for us by fulfilling Ezekiel 36:27: “I will put my Spirit in you and will cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

As I feast by faith on Jesus’ sacrifice in an ongoing way, I continue to receive the Father’s  approval because the Holy Spirit puts the life of Jesus in me and gradually conforms me to the image of Jesus the Servant, so that I might live and love like him by the power of the Spirit (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:19-20, 3:16, 20; 2 Corinthians 3:18). This is what the Bible calls sanctification: “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which our whole person is made new in the image of God, and we are made more and more able to become dead to sin and alive to righteousness.” [Westminster Shorter Catechism]

A New Partnership. The fourth and final gift God must give us in order for us to be able to live a holy life is partnership with God for the future. Again, we read from Walter Marshall:

“You have to be absolutely assured that you are going to have a happy, eternal future with the Lord in the new heaven and earth. . . . If there is no eternal future with the Lord, why would anyone choose suffering for Christ rather than sin? . . . God uses the sure hope of the glory of heaven to encourage his people to obey him” (Hebrews 6:11-12, 12:2; 1 John 3:1-3).

This gift from God is promised to us throughout Scripture, but especially fittingly as part of the New Covenant: “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:28).Through the gospel we are restored to a new partnership with the Father and the Son, by the Spirit, in the family business of reconciliation, living and serving with him forever, and “making all things new” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Revelation 21:1-5, Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:19-20).

The ultimate fulfillment of this promised new partnership is reserved for the new heaven and earth in that “happily ever after” part of our story that the Bible calls  glorification (Romans 8:29-30). But as I continue to feast on the gifts of the Father in this life, through the process of sanctification the Spirit progressively transforms me by the gospel. This enables me increasingly to live out here and now the glorious partnership that will be perfectly and permanently ours then and there (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Philippians 3:20).

All Walter Marshall quotes are from The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ by Walter Marshall (Modern English Version by Bruce McRae)

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