On Friday I had the privilege of performing a wedding ceremony for two people that I love dearly, named Shane and Susan. I love these guys. They were just kids in my youth group when I first met them many years ago and I’ve got to see them grow into pretty great adults. I’ve got to help them and counsel them through difficult life decisions. And then I got the privilege of performing a ceremony to celebrate the covenant that they have made with each other, to live the rest of their lives together.
That’s what a wedding is. It’s not just an expression of love. It’s not just a promise. It’s not just a commitment. A wedding is a covenant.
Michael Horton — A covenant is a relationship of “oaths and bonds” and involves mutual, though not necessarily equal, commitments.
In a covenant, both parties take oaths; they make commitments.
And those commitments form very real and significant bonds.
Because marriage is a covenant, there is a legal aspect to marriage. In the US and in many other countries, the government actually holds you responsible in some ways to the commitments that you make to each other. And certainly, in the church, we hold you responsible to the commitments you’ve made in marriage, because in a Christian marriage, marriage is not just a covenant before the state, but it is a covenant before God.
Covenants are weighty commitments.
Now, there’s two parts of the marriage covenant, though. There’s the ceremony. That’s when the pastor or other officiator gets up and speaks and vows are taken by the bride and groom and all that. We tend to think that the ceremony is the event that makes the marriage official. And that’s true, in a sense. Once the ceremony happens, the marriage is solid. It’s done.
But, there’s a second event that is, in some ways, far more significant. In ancient cultures, once the ceremony was done—which could take moments or weeks, depending on the culture—then the bride and groom would go into their tent to consummate their marriage. To consummate something is to make it complete or prefect. So a married couple leaves the celebration and they take their first step in living out their lives together—that happens in the tent, in the bedroom.
There’s two parts of a covenant: the ceremony and the consummation.
So, we’re talking about the Lord’s Supper—often referred to as communion or the eucharist—and today and I want to specifically answer the question, ‘Why do we do this ceremony?’ Is it just a symbolic ceremony? Or is it more?
Several months ago when we were in 1 Corinthians 11, I talked about how we do the Lord’s Supper. Today, we’re more concerned with why we do it.
The disciple Mark recorded one of the shortest and most significant accounts of the event we call the Lord’s Supper. This is the last Passover meal that Jesus spent with his disciples before going to the cross to die for the sins of the world. Mark wrote,
Mark 14:22–25 (CSB) — As they were eating, he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
I want to focus on two parts of this passage.
First, Jesus says that the cup that we drink is his own blood of the covenant. This meal that Jesus shared with his disciples was a covenant ceremony, much like a marriage ceremony. This meal was the establishment of a covenant between Jesus and His people. That’s why Jesus said that his blood of the covenant was poured out for us, his disciples, his covenant people. This event is much like the wedding ceremony. This ceremony formed a covenant between God and His people.
And when Jesus died on the cross and his blood literally spilled out, that was much like the signing of the marriage license. Jesus’s death legitimized the covenant between Jesus and the church—it wrote the covenant in ink, so to speak.
But, then notice this. Jesus said that he would not drink wine again until he drank it new in the Kingdom of God.
Well, that was a figurative statement Jesus made to communicate that the covenant won’t be complete, it won’t be perfected, or we could say, it won’t be consummated until the fullness of the Kingdom of God comes. Jesus is pointing to the future when he returns to earth for His church, when he makes all things new. Jesus is pointing to the new heaven and the new earth. He’s pointing to the, what the church often refers to simply as, ‘heaven.’ Jesus made it clear that there is a period of time between the ceremony and the consummation of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus performed the ceremony with his disciples when he came the first time. He made the wedding between Christ and the Church official. The license is signed and the covenant is established. It’s legally binding. But, the terms of the covenant have not yet come to fruition. The fullness of the promises of the covenant have not yet occurred and will not occur until Jesus returns.
In legal terms, you could say that the covenant has been ratified, but it has not yet been consummated.
People always want to know why Jesus hasn’t returned yet. What’s he waiting for?
The answer to that question has to do with the specific circumstances of the covenants between God and his people.
In a marriage oaths are taken and promises are made by both parties. The oaths are the vows that are given. And the promise is, till death do us part. When marriages fail it is often because the vows are broken. The promise of ‘until death’ is abandoned because the condition of the covenant was not met when the vows were broken. That could be adultery or abuse or something like that.
Side note: I’m not saying that’s what God wants to see happen with broken vows; that’s just how covenants work.
In the same way, the promises of biblical covenants don’t come to fulfillment until the oath is kept.
In the Bible, there are two covenants, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Many people have identified multiple covenants in what we call the Old Testament, in the Bible. But, the Old Testament covenants are all different revelations of the same covenant between God and His people that began in the beginning. I want to look at the failure of the Old Covenant on the part of humankind. And then to the grace of the New Covenant where God takes responsibility for the vow and the promise.
We are going to do that because Jesus said that the ceremony of the Lord’s Supper is about the covenant that God established with His church through Christ’s blood. It is the holy ceremony that precedes the fulfillment of God’s promise to His people.
So, what I’d like to do is go through several of the revelations of the Old Covenant and demonstrate the reason that the consummation never came in Old Testament times. And then I’d like to go to the New Covenant and give some application that flows from our understanding of the New Covenant and our celebration of that covenant when we partake in the Lord’s Supper.
We’ll start with the…
The first part of the Old Covenant is the…
There are a couple parts of the creation covenant and I think that this covenant demonstrates clearly God’s intention in creating the world in the first place.
What we see in the creation story is that God created everything in the universe, the stars and planets in the heavens, and the earth, and everything in the earth. He created everything and declared that it was good. Humankind, however, was a special part of God’s creation.
After creating humankind,
What’s interesting here is that humans immediately received the blessing. God blessed them and then gave them the condition of the covenant afterwards. In order to continue to enjoy the goodness of God forever, they had to do three things.
1. They had to have children and fill the earth.
2. They had to take care of the earth and the plants and animals on it.
3. And they had to avoid death by not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
There’s three things you need for a kingdom: a King, a land, and a people.
God was obviously the King. God gave them the land, the Garden. And He commanded the first humans to multiply, to create a people. God created everything and then placed everything created under the dominion of humankind in order that humankind would build a Kingdom for God on the earth.
What’s the meaning of life?
Genesis 1 and 2: Build God’s Kingdom!
But, as you probably know, the first humans ate the fruit from the tree. They defied the orders of the King, and because of that, the covenant was broken, which brings us to the next covenant, the…
Even though humanity was disobedient and chose death over God’s blessing, God wasn’t willing to give up on humankind. He was still going to see His Kingdom be built on the earth.
After being deceived by Satan in the Garden, humanity continued in a downward spiral of sin and immorality. They began to follow divine beings that rebelled against God instead of the one true God. When God flooded the earth in the days of Noah it was to remove immorality from the earth and restore the creation covenant.
When Noah left the ark,
Notice, God got rid of all evil on the earth and those people who were not loyal to Him. And he called Noah to do the same task that the first humans, Adam and Eve did many years before. Multiply and fill the earth. Have lots of kids and spread over all the earth. God still had the same purpose for humanity, to build a Kingdom for His glory. And the promise of the covenant with Noah was this.
Humanity was charged to spread the fame of the one true God all over the earth to build God’s Kingdom. And God would never again destroy them. It was a condition and a promise.
But, several generations later, the people of the earth began to again worship gods that were not the one true God and they began to build large cities with walls as defenses so that they could make a name for themselves upon the earth. They were not making a Kingdom for God’s glory. Instead, they worked to glorify themselves on the earth. And that caused great strife, fighting, and wars between the nations of the earth.
You might recognize this story as the Tower of Babel story.
So, God confused their languages so that the nations of the earth would separate from each other and go their own ways.
But it wasn’t long after that God would make another covenant with humankind, because he was still working to create a Kingdom for His glory upon the earth. So, we turn to the…
The Babel event separated people from each other, but God’s covenant with Abraham was about bringing the people of the earth back together into a single kingdom.
You can see here that God promised blessing to Abraham for his obedience. He was called to believe God could and would make good on His promises. And Abraham did obey.
Now, there were two promises made to Abraham. Here in this passage we see that God was going to give a land to Abraham’s descendants, who we know became the nation of Israel.
But, there was another promise. The LORD told Abraham,
Remember the Creation Covenant.
God was creating a Kingdom for His glory and it was to be a world-wide Kingdom. So, the nations were separated at Babel, but that’s OK, because here God is foreshadowing that out of Israel would come blessing for all of the nations of the earth. God intends to bring together all of the nations of the earth into one perfect and complete Kingdom.
In every Old Covenant, we see the same thing. God is creating a Kingdom for His glory. Let’s look at God’s…
Israel is one of the nations that came out of Abraham. There’s a lot to be said about this covenant that can’t be said today. But, I want you to realize that the failure of the Old Covenant, thus far, is that the people of the earth continually walk away from the one true God to worship gods that are not God.
People have a fidelity issue. Fidelity means relational faithfulness. It’s a special term that refers to loyalty or faithfulness in marriages or other relationships. The people of the earth were being called to be faithful to God as the people of His Kingdom and they continually walked away from him to serve other gods and the passions of the flesh.
So, look at the first part of God’s covenant with Israel:
Do you see?
Like a husband who jealously refuses to share his wife with another man, God is a jealous God who will not stand for unfaithful people prostituting themselves by worshiping other gods. This passage is the first half of what is often called the Ten Commandments and it all has to do with covenant faithfulness to the LORD.
Israel was called to fidelity and if they were faithful, then God would bless them with all the promises already given to Abraham. They would be God’s Kingdom on the earth. They would be a people with a bountiful land. And they would be a light to all the nations of the earth to point them to the one true God. That is, if they were faithful to God…which they were not.
So, the final part of the Old Covenant is the…
And I won’t say much here, but this covenant was about fixing the infidelity of Israel. Israel was not faithful to God and God was not going to give up. He is building a Kingdom for His glory!
The LORD told David, the second King of Israel,
Now, this was a literal promise for David’s literal offspring. God was telling David that Solomon would rule on the throne of Israel. But, that word forever carries a lot of meaning. Not only was God saying that David’s son would be the next King, but that out of Solomon would come kings who would rule in Israel, forever. This passage is the reason that Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. He is demonstrating that Jesus Christ is the literal offspring of King David and has every right to rule God’s chosen people.
But, there’s a problem. All of the covenants are about building a Kingdom for God’s glory, but at every turn God’s people were adulterous and defied the covenant God made with them. People always turn aside from God.
So, how would God’s Kingdom be built on the earth if humans are so incapable of building it?
Let’s look at the…
Remember, we’re talking about the Lord’s Supper. During that event, Jesus said,
And by that Jesus meant the New Covenant that was declared by the prophet Jeremiah, who said,
Jeremiah says that the New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant that God’s people were completely incapable of keeping. There are major differences.
Remember the issue of the Old Covenant was covenant fidelity. The heart of the human was to turn away from God.
But, here with the New Covenant God deals with the infidelity by changing the hearts of His people. We call this the doctrine of regeneration.
How can God be certain that a person will remain faithful to Him?
Well, God places his Spirit inside the person. He changes their heart to be like His own heart, to love what He loves, and to care for the people He cares about. God makes our hearts like His own so that we will always be faithful to Him.
It’s just like a husband. How does a husband keep a wife?
He works diligently to continually capture the heart of His wife.
How does God keep His people?
He works diligently through His Spirit to capture the hearts of His people.
So, when Jesus held out the cup at the Last Supper and said, “This is my blood of the covenant,” he was acting out the very event of God’s love, when Jesus’s blood was poured out on the cross for our sins. Likewise, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly to act out the same event of God’s love, when Jesus’s blood was poured out for us, so that we could be God’s covenant people.
The Old Covenant failed, because humanity is so depraved that we will always walk away from God, but under the New Covenant, God changes our hearts to be like His. He does the work humans would never do.
And that’s what is taught in the New Testament as well. The New Testament teaches that you are saved when you choose to be loyal to God and not to the temptations of the flesh or the powers of this world. We are made God’s people because of our fidelity before Him.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
Notice the ruler language Paul uses.
Does sin rule you or does God rule you?
That’s the ultimate question of faith. That’s why, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week, I often remind you that Jesus died for your sins. And in the same way, you are called to die to yourselves, and give yourself to God.
And I get it. It’s super hard. Denying the passions and the habits of the flesh and all the temptations of immorality in the world is not easy. There’s nothing special about me as a pastor when it comes to temptation. I don’t get a pass from God on that front. I have to do the same thing you do, deny myself, die to myself, and daily choose to follow Jesus.
And the beautiful thing about regeneration, the beautiful thing about that new heart, is that, when everyone in the world is daily choosing to follow their own lusts and passions and they worship false gods, gods that are not God, I have a new heart. I can set my mind on Christ. I can actually make that choice to follow Him, every day, every hour, because of the heart that God has given me.
So, remembering that we are talking about the Lord’s Supper, we asked the question, Why do we take the Lord’s Supper? Why do we do this every week? Why do we do it at all?
The answer to all of those questions is that we need to.
And that brings us to some application. This is probably a good time to take out your…
…cards that Trey asked you to begin filling out before the message. Please add your name and your next step. We ask for that so that we can be praying for you throughout the week.
You can put down any step that God is calling you to do today. Maybe your faith is good, but your habit of church attendance is not. You might just need to commit to come every week. Or at least, next week.
But, I want to give you a few other ideas.
The first is this. When we choose to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, recognizing that God empowers us to keep His covenant, we are able to…
Our tendency is to push God away. That’s what your flesh wants you to do, to flee from God. Even as a Christian, that will not change, not in this life.
You know this is true. This has happened to you, where you get through a day and realize you didn’t pray all day, not even once. Or you might go days on autopilot—get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch television, go to bed, rinse, repeat. It’s not that you are particularly sinful, but your life has no evidence of your loyalty to God. You need to break that pattern.
And there’s like a million things you can do. Start a Bible in a year reading plan first thing in the morning. Sign up for a verse of the day. Go on Facebook and follow several Christian pages like Sonrise Church, and Bible Gateway, and Faithlife, and Christianity Today. That way when you check your social media, you’ll be reminded to set your eyes on Christ.
And obviously, come to church every week as we said to set your eyes on Christ, to focus your life on God.
A second thing is this. There is no covenant between you and God. You heard me right. You may have picked up on this in our discussion about the covenants, but the New Covenant is between Christ and the Church, not you as an individual. So, you may need a…
…as your next step.
Rampant Western individualism has unleashed an all out war against the church in the Western World. In Western Christianity, the individual self is sovereign. This has infected the church profoundly, in both its faith and practice. The emphasis on “me and my personal relationship with God” has replaced the biblical assumption of covenantal solidarity between Jesus and His bride, the church. But, the New Covenant, requires solidarity among us as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not the church if we are not the church united. Independent Christian is an oxymoron. Christians are never independent and if they are, then they are not Christians.
On this point I’m not talking about church attendance.
I’m talking about church ownership. When you say ‘Sonrise is my church,’ What do you mean by that?
Do you mean that you come here to sing and to learn sometimes … or even most of the time? Or do you mean that you take ownership and responsibility for the work that this church performs in the community around us?
Do you believe that the Great Commission is the churches job and that excuses you from the work? Or do you believe that the Great Commission is the churches job and thus take it upon yourself to tell others about Jesus?
You together are the church and if you are not together, then you are not the church! So, there’s again a plethora of ways this applies.
It applies to your service. If you see yourself as part of the church and not just another independent Christian, then you will come in on Sunday morning ready to serve the church as they come through the doors. If you’re an independent Christian, you come ready to be served by the church. And that’s a whole different thing.
If you have ownership over the church then it’s reflected in your giving to the church. If you’re an independent Christian then you might give as if you are receiving a service from the church. But, if you have ownership, you give to further the work of the church and that’s a whole different thing.
If you have ever considered leaving a church because you don’t like something about it, that might be an independent Christian mindset. I don’t mean leaving a church because of unbiblical beliefs or practices. I just mean leaving over preferences like music and preaching style. Someone who has ownership over the church is going to continue to support and work in the church even when the church does not line up with their preferences.
When you partake of the Lord’s Supper, it’s not just you in your seat and Jesus. This isn’t something you can do at home by yourself. It is a covenant between Christ and His church and thus we do this together.
So, that should give you an idea of ways you might need to commit to the Church.
And a final thought is that, all people fall under the covenant of creation. Every person is born into a relationship with God as creator and judge. But not all people are a part of the New Covenant. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper reminds us of the New Covenant and the pattern of the Old Covenant. It reminds us that all on our own, we can never please God as in the Old Covenant. And as we take the Lord’s Supper we ought to be reminded that Jesus did everything necessary on the cross to give us new hearts so that now we can please God.
Some of you believe yourselves to be Christians because you prayed a prayer with a pastor, or you were raised in the church, or maybe you were baptized as a child and you consider yourself a Christian for that reason. But, a Christian is one who is committed to the church and who has fidelity, or loyalty, to Jesus Christ. A Christian has died to themselves and has committed every living breath to the Lord Jesus Christ.
And some of you know you’ve never done that and you aren’t a Christian.
So, if you have never made that commitment, then I’d encourage you to do two things today. First, if you would commit to Christ today, mark the box on your Next Step card that says, ‘Commit to Christ as Lord.’ Do that if you are ready for that commitment. And then as we partake of the Lord’s Supper, do so with us. And thank God that he has done everything to give you a new heart, so that on the day of Judgment, when you stand before Him, he will know you, and you will know Him, and you will enter forever into His presence.
Listen, you don’t want to relate to God as judge, because we are all guilty. We have all been unfaithful to God. So, you don’t want to stand before God until you are confident that you are innocent before Him by the blood of our savior Jesus Christ. Make that commitment today.