It was the night before Jesus was crucified. He sat at a table with His disciples in an upper room. He was there to observe His last Passover with them, but also to enact a memorial meal which would symbolize the establishment of a new covenant.
During the course of the meal “Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take eat; this is my body’” (26). Afterwards, “He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (27-28). And thus Jesus established the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
As we discussed last time, we understand that when our Lord said, “this is my body,” and “this is my blood,” He was speaking symbolically.
1.The bread represented His body soon to be sacrificed for sins. We are told in Luke 22:19 that it was “given” for us and Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:24 that it was “broken” for us (NKJV). This means Jesus was the sacrifice, His body was offered as the atonement for our sins. That is why Jesus became a Man in the first place! “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). 2.The wine represented His blood soon to be poured out for sins. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (28). There is no redemption without the shedding of blood, and this Jesus did in order to set us free from sin. We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish!
In eating the bread and drinking the cup, our minds are fixed upon that day when Christ suffered in our stead! The Lord’s Supper helps us to envision Him who died in our place.
The focus of our attention today will be upon the blood represented by the cup. Jesus declared that His blood was the basis of the new covenant which He came to establish. Let us look to the shedding of the blood of Christ on the cross, the event which formally acted as the inauguration of the new covenant. This central historical event of the Christian faith procures forgiveness for the sinner and is symbolically set forth in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
I. The Significance of Blood
The religion of the Bible cannot be comprehended apart from understanding the momentous place of blood sacrifice. The divine holy religion ordained by the true and living God involves the shedding of blood. God’s word explicitly states, “without shedding of blood there is no remission” of sin (Heb. 9:22).
The Bible declares that all men are sinners and that the wages of sin is death (physical, spiritual, and eternal). It also states that a sinful man cannot remove the sin which incurs this penalty. Therefore, his only hope is for an innocent victim to take his place in dying. Sinful man needs a substitute to die in his place that God will accept as an offering for him.
The gospel we believe and proclaim is a message about the innocent Son of God, sent into the world by His Father, to live a perfect life and then to die as a substitute for sinners. Jesus Christ shed His blood on Calvary’s cross in order to redeem lost sinners. God the Father accepts the sacrifice of His Son as a valid payment for the debt sinners owe but cannot pay. Listen to the testimony of God’s Word regarding the significance of the shed blood of Christ.
•Acts 20:28 - “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” •Ephesians 1:7 - “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” •Colossians 1:20 - “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” •Hebrews 9:12 - “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
The doctrine of blood atonement is not a popular belief among many who attach themselves to the Christian religion. They are not true converts, because they pervert the teaching of Scripture, but they profess the name of Christ—they just don’t like the part about the blood, so they explain it away. Let me give you an example of how one man despised the doctrine of blood atonement.
Leslie Weatherhead was pastor for many years of City Temple, a Methodist Church in London, having retired in 1960. He became increasingly liberal during his years as pastor of this historic church. His final book is somewhat of an autobiography. It is a declaration of his mature belief as a pastor and was written so laymen in the modern world might not be put off by all the “superstitious beliefs” of evangelical Christians. The title of it is, The Christian Agnostic (1965, Abingdon Press). Let me read you a section or two from it to demonstrate how liberals detest redemption by the blood of Christ (this liberal preacher also denies the Virgin Birth and resurrection of Christ, along with many other cardinal doctrines clearly taught in the Scriptures).
“The idea of rebirth is an essential part of the gospel and was certainly part of the message of Jesus, but the modern layman can well do without Paul’s obsession about sin and the imagery of being washed in blood [this is pick-and- chose what you want from the Bible]. The latter has come down to us in hymns still sung by some. Can there be a more revolting idea than this of William Cowper? There is a fountain filled with blood/Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;/And sinners plunged beneath that flood,/Lose all their guilty stains” (p. 118).
“I cannot find much help in ideas about Christ’s death that see him as a Lamb offered on an altar to appease or propitiate an angry God. I cannot get help from thinking of him in the dock accepting a sentence of death from an outraged Judge, whose will he had sought to do! For sin is not a kind of debt which another can pay, or a burden another can carry. Nor can I think of a God unwilling to forgive me, if I am truly penitent, unless someone’s suffering ‘paid the price of sin’” (p. 123).
You might be wondering what a man like that does with the verse before us wherein Jesus says, “For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” His solution is simple. He says that Matthew 26:28 is “unauthentic,” i.e., Jesus didn’t really say this (p. 113)! The reason he believes Jesus didn’t say this is not because it isn’t in the Greek manuscripts of the NT, but because it doesn’t fit his theology! It can’t be true because modern minds reject atonement by blood.
Dear friends, a man can castigate all he will blood atonement, but it cannot rightly be removed from the Bible. he very Passover meal which Jesus was eating with His disciples involved the killing of an innocent lamb and the application of its blood on the altar. In the first Passover (Exodus 12), the blood was taken and placed on the doorposts of the house. Jehovah God said, “and when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (13). Judgment came to those who were not covered by the blood; pardon was extended to those who were.
Approximately 362 times is the word “blood” found in the OT Scriptures. “On 103 occasions it refers to the blood of sacrifices” (Morris, The Atonement, p. 52). OT religion involved the offering of blood sacrifices in order to atone for sin. The shedding of blood was the means of averting destruction (p. 61).
But animal sacrifices could not take away sin (Heb. 10:4). They were ineffective. The blood of an animal could not clear the conscience of the worshipper of God (Heb. 9:9). A bull a goat or a lamb just could not put the sinner right with God.
But the blood of Christ can! His sacrifice is effective. The sacrifice Jesus made meets the demands of the law and enables God justly to extend forgiveness.
You might then ask, what was the purpose of the OT sacrifices, if they could not take away sin? There are two main reasons for the sacrifices of the OT:
1)They underlined the hideous nature of sin by showing what was required in removing it. Sin is so terrible that it must be atoned. Sin is so ghastly that it must be removed by sacrifice. 2)They point to the cross of Christ and help us understand what His sacrifice is all about. Jesus was a Lamb who could take away sin. He was God in the flesh and His body and blood was offered to God as the ultimate sacrifice.
It is the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). No other blood can atone for sin. Note how Jesus speaks of “my blood . . . which is shed for many.”
Never minimize the importance of blood sacrifice in Christianity. There is no salvation apart from the blood of Jesus Christ.
II. The Establishment of Covenant
Jesus speaks of “my blood of the new covenant.” Blood and covenant are associated together. Covenants in the Bible are established on the ground of blood being shed. O. Palmer Robertson, author of an excellent book entitled, The Christ of the Covenants, defines covenant as “a bond in blood sovereignly administered” (p. 4). He says “when God enters into a covenantal relationship with men, he sovereignly institutes a life-and-death bond.”
The word “covenant” means “an agreement or contract between two” It is used also for “will” or “testament,” which becomes operative at death (Heb 9:15-17), hence our New Testament. Either “covenant” or “testament” (KJV) makes sense here, although covenant is the idea in Heb 7:22; 8:8 and in most other places in the NT.
In the Hebrew to make a covenant was to cut up the sacrifice and so ratify the agreement (Gen. 15:9-18). The expression “to make a covenant” literally means “to cut a covenant” (Palmer, p. 8). It indicates the sacrifice of an animal in establishing the covenant.
In our text, Jesus has in mind the solemn words spoken at the ratification of the Sinaitic Covenant, where “Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words” (Ex. 24:8). When Jesus now says “For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” He is drawing a contrast with the Old Covenant. When His blood was shed, the new covenant, which was spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet, was inaugurated.
The OT envisioned a new covenant brought to bear upon the physical seed of Abraham (the nation of Israel). In the NT it is applied, at least in a preliminary form, to the spiritual seed of Abraham, the Church (B. Ware, Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church, p. 84). Jeremiah provides us with the prophecy and Hebrews with the reference of its fulfillment.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 - " Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Hebrews 8:7-13 - “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
This is the covenant Jesus was talking about. It is new in contrast to the old. It is not a renewal of the old covenant, as some would say. This is illustrated by the parable Jesus gave of the old and new wine skins in Matthew 9:17. . . The new covenant is not the old covenant with a few minor adjustments—it is a new covenant.
The old covenant is regarded as obsolete and antiquated (Heb. 8:13). It was Christ’s death for sin which brought to an end the Old Covenant and which provided the basis for the new covenant’s enactment.
NOTE - The only passage in the NT to use the language of “old covenant” is 2 Cor. 3:14; the book of Hebrews calls it the “first covenant” (8:7, 13; 9:1, 15, 18).
The primary factor in the new covenant is the blood of Jesus. His shed blood is the basis of it. Jesus inaugurated the new covenant at Calvary. The cup at communion represents it and reminds us of it.
III. The Procurement of Forgiveness
Pardon of sin requires the shedding of blood and Jesus declares that His blood of the new covenant “is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Blood, covenant and forgiveness are all inseparably related.
Forgiveness of sin is one of the constituent parts of justification. In pardoning sin, God absolves the sinner from the condemnation of the law, and that on account of the work of Christ, i.e., he removes the guilt of sin, or the sinner's actual liability to eternal wrath on account of it. All sins are forgiven freely (Ac 5:31; 13:38; 1Jo 1:6-9). The sinner is by this act of grace for ever freed from the guilt and penalty of his sins. This is the peculiar prerogative of God (Ps 130:4; Mr 2:5). It is offered to all in the gospel (Easton).
Forgiveness is based on the blood of Christ. Note the use of the word “shed. It means to “pour out.” It is used: (1) literally of fluids pour out (Rev. 16.1); spill (Matt. 9.17); of blood shed; idiomatically ai-ma evkku,nnein and evkcei/n lit. pour out blood, i.e. murder (Matt. 23.35; Rom. 3.15); (2) and figuratively (a) of spiritual gifts and benefits give in abundance, cause to fully experience, generously provide (Acts 2.33); (b) pass. of rushing headlong into some type of behavior give oneself over to, plunge into, devote oneself to (Jude 11).
It speaks of sacrifice in the present context. It means Jesus would die a violent death in order to atone for sin.
Note also that His blood is “shed for many.” His death is a vicarious sacrifice for all who were given to Him by the Father to redeem. He died for all His people, referred to here by the word “many.” This reminds us of a statement already used by our Lord in Matt. 20:28. It also it an echo of Isaiah 53:4, 10, 12.
Forgiveness is a significant part of the new covenant. Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant is marked by two primary things. (1) The forgiveness of God’s people - “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (34). (2) Internalization of the law - “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (33).
These two parts of the new covenant are rooted in the historical events of the Cross and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.
1. The forgiveness of sins is based on Christ’s death on the cross. The forgiveness of sins, on which the new covenant rests, was accomplished by the pouring out of Christ’s blood as a sacrifice at Calvary. There was lots of blood shed in the OT but none of it was sufficient to atone for sins. But by His one act of dying on the cross, Christ finished forever all that was necessary to cleanse every sinner from the guilt and stain of sin.
The contents of the cup of communion signify his blood which brings into being the new covenant and which procures the forgiveness of sins.
2. The internalization of the law is based on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who was poured out upon the church on the day of Pentecost. Interestingly, the Spirit came upon the people after Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus ascended to heaven and then sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). The Holy Spirit has come to abide with us, to take up residence with us.
The Holy Spirit is the One who transforms us - 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The Holy Spirit enables us to obey God, to keep His law - Romans 8:2-4, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The Spirit’s work is vital in the operation of the new covenant!
Let us not be guilty of despising the blood of the covenant. The book of Hebrews has a warning to those who turn away from the truth of the gospel. Hebrews 10:29 asks, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” For that person, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (v. 26).
Even drinking the cup of communion in an unworthy manner brings judgment upon a man (1 Cor. 11:29-30).
May God help us to have respect for the blood of Jesus Christ. And let us look to the Lamb of God who was slain for sinners. He who looks to Him in faith is forgiven all his iniquities.