Today is a new day. It’s the first Sunday of a brand new year. And on this new day, I want us to consider the new way.
Hebrews 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering…
Today is a day filled with a lot of uncertainty. There is a lot of uncertainty about our economy. There is uncertainty about terrorism and war. There is uncertainty about our health and well-being. For many of you there is uncertainty about your employment and financial situation. Some of you are experiencing uncertainty in your family. Yet though this world is filled with a lot of uncertainty, the Lord doesn’t want His children to live in fear. He wants us to live with confidence. After all, we have a ‘new and living way!’ We have full access to the throne of grace and therefore we need to live in hope!
On this first Sunday of a brand new year, we are observing the Lord’s Supper. The reason we are doing this today is because the Lord gave this to us to be a reminder of our new and living way.
Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
I. The Old Covenant
Most of us recognize that our Bible is divided into the Old and the New Testament. The word ‘testament’ actually means covenant, therefore we could say – the Old and the New Covenant.
Many draw a great distinction between a covenant and what we today call – contracts. Indeed there are great similarities and differences. One major difference is that a contract is often for the purpose of protection, while a covenant is written for the purpose of promise. John MacArthur writes that – ‘covenant means promise.’ Therefore, to make a covenant with someone is to make them a promise
One of the most significant covenants that people participate in today is the Marriage Covenant. Scripture teaches us that God ordained marriage to be an unconditional covenant relationship between a man and a woman that would last a lifetime. Though the vows sometimes differ, there is one thing that has been common in every marriage ceremony I have ever performed – there are no ‘if’s.’ Never have I had a couple to say – “If you do this, then I will do that.” They always promise to each other – ‘for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death us do part.’ Therefore the marriage relationship is secure based upon the covenant made between the man and his wife.
B. Covenants in OT
The concept of covenant comes from the teachings in the Old Testament. Throughout scripture we find a number of covenants made between:
3. God and man
a. Noah – (Gen 9)
God promised to Noah that never again would He destroy the earth with a flood. The symbol of that covenant was a rainbow. Something significant we should note about that covenant was that it was unconditional. By that we mean that regardless of how man acted in the future, God would never again send a world-wide flood. That was God’s promise to Noah and every time we see a rainbow in the sky, we’re reminded of that promise.
b. Abraham (Genesis 12)
Another great covenant in the Bible is the covenant God made with Abraham. In that covenant God promised Abraham –
(1) A land
(2) A great nation (Israel)
(3) A seed (ancestor) that would bring blessing to the entire world. We know the fulfillment of that promise was the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again we’re taught in scripture that God’s promise to Abraham was unconditional. There were no ‘if’s.’
c. David (1 Chronicles 17)
Then there is the covenant that God made with David. In this covenant God promised David. The focal point of God’s covenant with David was a son, an ancestor that whose kingdom would be established forever. Like the covenant God made with Abraham, the fulfillment of God’s promise to David was the Christ (the Son of David). Again, it was an unconditional promise to David. It was not based upon what David would or wouldn’t do. It was based upon the fact that it was what God wanted to do.
d. Moses / Israel
There is a fourth great covenant in the Old Testament. It is the covenant that God made with the nation Israel through Moses. And there is a major difference in this covenant – it is conditional. The word ‘if’ appears in this covenant.
Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
Deuteronomy 28:1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 14 And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: 16 Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. 18 Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. 19 Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out .
The word ‘if’ is in this covenant; therefore it is a conditional covenant. Why did God make a conditional covenant with Israel?
1. The Purpose of This Covenant
What was the purpose of this covenant? Was it to make them Jews? Was it to make them God’s people? No, that had already been settled in the covenant God made with Abraham.
What then was the purpose? It was to teach them how to live so that God could bless them. As Paul describes it in Galatians 3 – it was a ‘school master.’
2. The Problems with This Covenant
But there were problems with this covenant.
a. The Problem of Works
First there was the problem of works. The Jews began to believe that by this covenant, they could work their way to heaven. They turned the school master into a task master. ‘Do this, don’t do that, and by the way – you must be circumcised!’ Note what Paul teaches us from the book of Romans –
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Those from the Old Testament who are in heaven, are not there because they earned their way to heaven by fulfilling the law. Would you agree with me that David is in heaven? Why? Was it because David earned his way? Did David bat 1,000? No! You remember his sins of adultery and murder. How then was David able to go to heaven?
Psalm 51:1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned , and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
David is in heaven because of the mercy of God.
b. The Problem of Weakness
This covenant failed, not because God failed by giving men an evil law.
Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
This covenant failed because man was unable to fulfill his part.
Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh …
Here’s an interesting thought – ‘Did God know that this covenant would fail? Did He know that man would not be able to keep His part?’ Of course He did. Why then did God make this covenant with Israel? Here’s the key that unlocks the door –
i. The unconditional covenants will never fail because they are based upon God’s grace.
ii. This conditional covenant failed because it was based upon man’s goodness. Many have tried to fulfill this covenant. Paul did before he became a Christian. Yet note what Paul said –
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is , in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
God knew that man would not be able to keep his part of the bargain. Not only would man not be able to earn his way to heaven, he wouldn’t be able to live a godly life on his own. The prophecy of Ezekiel contains an interesting portion of scripture –
Ezekiel 36:24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
e. A New Covenant
Though many do not realize it, there is a fifth great covenant in the Bible. It is what many call ‘The New Covenant.’ Unlike the old covenant that was based upon man’s goodness, this new covenant is based upon God’s grace. It is unconditional, therefore it will never fail.
II. The New Covenant
Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 ikewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
1. Many covenants had a symbol:
a. Noah – rainbow
b. Abraham – circumcision
c. Davidic – throne, scepter, crown
d. Mosaic / Old – stone tables / 10 Commandments
2. What are the symbols of the New Covenant?
a. Broken bread
b. Cup of wine
3. What do they symbolize?
a. They symbolize the perfect sacrifice.
b. They symbolize what was needed:
i. To satisfy the demands of the old covenant
ii. To satisfy the justice of God
iii. To open a new and living way!
1. Bread: the humanity of Christ that was punished for our sins
2. Cup: the deity of Christ that purchased our salvation
There is one last passage that we must look at today in order to understand the significance of the New Covenant and this special supper.
Hebrews 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Only God knows what 2011 will hold for each of us. I am sure that there will be good times and bad times. Yet regardless of what lies ahead, we have God’s promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us and that He will see us safely home.