The Portuguese-language Ave Maria Bible has a strange expression in its Doctrinal Index, in the entry on the word “covenant”. It briefly discusses the covenant with Israel, with a short list of various covenants made with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. There is a single sentence (how strange!) about Christ’s covenant, which mentions the covenant with Israel:
“Jesus Christ at the last supper and in the sacrifice of the cross raises this covenant to perfection, conferring on man true righteousness and divine adoption, Matthew 26.28; Romans 3.21ff.”
Let’s hear what the Lord Jesus himself said.
And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26.27-28 NET.And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22.20.
¶ The Covenant. Jesus instituted a new covenant. The old one made through Moses was removed and not “raised to perfection.” (Perhaps we have in the above quote a translation problem from the French edition, used as the basis.) The blood was Jesus’ (“my blood”) and not that of an animal, which marks a big difference between the new covenant and that of Moses. With these words the Lord indicates the beginning of the new manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth, the new holy people, his church, Matthew 16.18; 21.43. For the saints would no longer eat the annual Passover, to remember Israel’s departure from Egypt, but would eat the weekly Supper, to celebrate deliverance from sins.
¶ The Communion. Jesus spoke the above words when he established the supper for his followers. (It is rightfully called “communion.”) The first disciples ate the supper every first day of the Lord, to remember his sacrifice, Acts 20.7. The supper has no meaning for those who do not belong to Christ’s covenant. Those who have not been forgiven by the blood of Jesus have no right to eat at the Lord’s table. The supper reminds those who eat that they have been bought by the blood of Christ, Acts 20.28; Revelation 5.9. Paul uses the fact to establish how the Corinthians should live — twice: “for God bought you with a high price” 1 Corinthians 6.20; 7.23 NLT. The supper takes us back to the cross. In it we remember. In it we see the blood of the covenant.
¶ The Cross. In speaking of shed blood, Jesus refers to his death on the cross. The supper recalls the cross and its purpose. Shedding of blood means death. Jesus established the supper “on the night in which he was betrayed” 1 Corinthians 11.23. He established before his death what would serve for his followers to remember after his death. The supper is the gospel proclaimed in action, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11.26: “For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
¶ The Commission. Jesus shed his blood “for many.” The term “many” is a Hebraism to speak of all. Everyone will not be saved automatically — salvation is not universal. People will have to hear and accept the Good News. To hear, someone has to speak Christ’s message, “And how shall they hear unless someone preaches?” Romans 10.14c. Christ established his church, in part, so that all could hear and receive his cleansing blood. This is what God wants to happen and he sends us out so that all will have the opportunity.
¶ The Coming Together. Christ came and died “for the forgiveness of sins,” to accomplish our salvation. His blood effects our forgiveness, because he died in our place. Some seek some “church” for physical, material, or political benefits. Christ died to reconcile us to God, 2 Corinthians 5.18-21.
“Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.” 1 Peter 3.18.
Forgiveness of sins means redemption (ransom for a price), which means being brought under God’s ownership: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our offenses, according to the riches of his grace” Ephesians 1.7. This resulted in our adoption as his children, v. 5. In Christ we are now “God’s own possession” v. 11.
All this means that we can live in God’s presence again and enjoy the blessings of eternal life and inheritance. In Christ this is something entirely new and completely desirable.
Adapted from an article in Portuguese for an upcoming issue of Edification magazine.
The book, The Right Kind of Christianity, explores the nature of the Gospel of Christ in light of modern changes.