Read all the institution accounts in the gospels noting some interconnections, emphases, and what's not there (i.e., self-examination). Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20
Remembering Christ in Covenant Perspective
We come to communion with the purpose of remembering the Lord Jesus. He is our focus in a distinct way on this Lord's Day. Every Sunday is a reminder of His resurrection and He is always our theme of preaching in the sense that He is the cornerstone of the building. When our attention is on the building, it is always related to Him. But now in communion our attention is in a special way on Him, on the cornerstone that holds the entire building together.
This morning I want to direct your thoughts to the Lord Jesus from an important perspective that is given in the institution of communion by our Lord Himself: "this cup is the new covenant in my blood" (1 Co 11:25). To understand His person and work and thus to understand Christ, we must see Him in covenant perspective. That may sound overstated because the Gospels record very few references to the term covenant. So is it as vital as we may think? To see that it is vital and fundamental, let's meditate on some biblical support and then some practical implications/applications (concerning the point that Christ must be understood in covenant perspective).
1A. Biblical support
That the person and work of Christ must be considered in a covenant framework is demonstrated in two simple claims or propositions: His blood is eternally covenantal and His mediation is personally covenantal.
1B. First, His blood is eternally covenantal
We have talked recently about the written old covenant and the written new covenant (the OT and NT). These writings, the Scriptures, document the unfolding of the history of redemption as covenant history. Historically, there are many covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, etc.). The Westminster Catechism refers to the covenant of works made with Adam and Eve though it is not named a covenant (WLC, Q 30). They do so because they see the essence of a covenant there. We discussed this under the heading of "The Covenantal Six and One" (cf. Sermon Index, 12-30-2001). Promise or covenant has been there since the beginning of creation (Heb. 4:1-4). It is truly an overarching concept. How we live out our days in a work and rest pattern is covenantally saturated.
Does this make the promise of Christ in the OT less fundamental since it enters the picture after the fall (Gen. 3:1-15)? No, because the overarching notion of covenant that dominates all of history as well as all of redemptive history is based on an eternal covenant. There is an eternal covenant and the blood of Christ is bonded to it (Heb. 13:20). This is an interesting passage in the way it relates the resurrection to the death of Christ. Remarkably, it does not say that by means of the resurrection His blood was sealed and His work accomplished.
It is the other way around. It is by means of the eternal covenant that God raised Jesus from the dead! What is in view? The perspective here begins with the eternal reality of the covenant and moves forward into history to the resurrection: through the blood of the eternal covenant, God brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead. The blood of Christ is the blood of the eternal covenant. The cross finds its explanation in the eternal covenant. He is the lamb slain from the before foundation of the world. We have to go there to understand the person of Christ and His work. This cannot be more deeply rooted. The resurrection is due to the eternal covenant relation between the Father and Christ regarding His blood. In this way, the resurrection is brought about through the eternal covenant purpose of God in Christ.
Therefore, the new covenant "in my blood" (1 Cor. 11:25) is an expression or outworking of the eternal covenant. Behind the Lord's Supper is not only Passover history, not only redemptive history, not only six and one covenant history but eternal covenant purpose.
2B. Second, His mediation is personally covenantal
That is simply to say that His mediation as covenant Lord involves a peculiar relationship with His people. Another passage in Hebrews is relevant for this point (2:8-18). There are many marvelous things taught in this text and one of them is the fact that the eternal covenant in His blood includes a personal covenant relationship that is eternal. This is beyond full and proper expression so we will have to settle for just of taste of it, though a very pleasant taste indeed.
Here is the point: Put one way Jesus had children before He took flesh and blood. Put another way, He had brothers and sisters in past times eternal before the creation of the world. This is wonderfully personal. We who know Christ today by faith were in union with Him before He was born and before we were born. This is clear in verse 14 that explains His coming into the world to share in "their humanity." Reference is to His children given to Him (cf. Jn. 17:1-3). Tasting death for everyone is conditioned by the flow of thought. He tasted death for the many (v. 10, cf. Mk. 14:24, "my blood of the new covenant is shed for many"). We are of the same family with the Lord Jesus and He is not ashamed of us though we are worthy of such treatment (v. 11). As a matter of fact, He sings with us in our gatherings (v. 12). Thus He came to free us (v. 15), to make satisfaction for our sins (v. 17), and to help us in our trials and temptations (v. 18).
2A. Practical Applications
1B. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the son of the covenant
Who then is this one who stood before the disciples and instituted the Supper? In a most fundamental sense, He is the Son of the covenant. It is in Him that God promises "I will be your God and you will be my people."
He entered into covenant for His people before the foundation of the world. With profound implication, He spoke of the glory He had "before the world was" (Jn. 17:5) and of those given to Him (Jn. 17:2, who include both the disciples and all who will believe, v. 6, 20).
2B. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is the covenant redeemer of God's elect
He thus secured eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12) for those united with Him in the blood of the eternal covenant (Heb. 13:20). It is eternal and it was secured once and for all (it was obtained on the cross according to the covenant of the triune God before time). Therefore, all who are given to Christ shall come to Him (Jn. 6:37-40). Limited atonement is thus gospel-good-news par excellence!
The atonement is the new covenant outworking of the eternal covenant. It is God's covenant purpose to deliver His elect out of the estate of sin and misery and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer. The redeemer of God's elect is Jesus Christ who being the eternal Son of God became man and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever. It is our joy and privilege to fill our thoughts in this way in special remembrance of Him.
What do you now say?
1) I need Him as my covenant Lord
This is of course an acknowledgment of our sin. We are truly unworthy. We take the last seat saying "at least let me in the door at the back because you are the Lord of the covenant and your blood is the blood of the eternal covenant. O Lord Jesus I need you."
2) I own Him as my covenant Lord
The answer must be that with gratitude we renew our covenant commitment from baptism (the other sacrament) forward in the present renewal. To own Him as covenant Lord is to dedicate ourselves to new obedience. We say "O Lord, I pledge obedience to your law clinging to your promises for dear life. I own you as my very own redeemer, brother, and friend. I commit myself to covenantal instruction to receive from His hand treasures from the storehouse both new and old."
3) I own His family as my covenant family
He is my brother translates into the fact that we are brothers and sisters in Him. This is a most profound relationship that transcends time. We have an eternal covenant relationship with Him. This must impact (ought to impact) our temporal and daily relationship with each other. Thus we say in a personal prayer, "O Lord I own this church family as my family because we are your brothers and sisters."