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Clifford McLain's avatar
January 7, 1986

The New Covenant Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper

The New Covenant Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper

As the New Covenant by its very name directs our attention to that covenant that has been rendered old, so also does the occasion of the institution of the memorial ordinance of the New Covenant direct us to the Passover.

The purpose of the Passover is given in Ex. xiii. It was instituted on the day when the Lord made the Old Covenant with Israel (Heb. viii. 9), not the day when Israel agreed to keep the terms of the covenant (Ex. xix).

The Passover was given in order that they might:

“Remember this day in which ye came out of Egypt” (Ex. xiii. 3).

What the Passover was to the Old Covenant, the Lord’s Supper is to the New. It was instituted on the same night as the Lord became the antitype of the Passover, when He made provision for the New Covenant:

“This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, this do ye as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. xi. 25).

Both the Passover and the Lord’s Supper were continued as a remembrance, with the object of being a testimony to those who should witness them:

“And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt, and it shall be a sign unto thee . . . thou shalt, therefore, keep this ordinance in his season from year to year” (Ex. xiii. 8-10).

“For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Cor. xi. 26).

“Shew” in the latter reference is kataggello, to “preach” or “proclaim,” as in Acts iv. 2. This was not therefore intended in the first place as a private devotion, but rather as a testimony. The subject to be thus shown was that aspect of the Lord’s death that related to the New Covenant:

“For this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. xxvi 28).

We have observed that although this blood of the covenant has been shed, and sins have been borne away, yet the New Covenant remains to be made with Israel:

“And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is My Covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins) (Rom. xi. 26, 27).

The day when the New Covenant is made is the day when the Lord shall come again to Zion to turn Israel’s heart to Himself. The hope that was to be before those that remembered the Lord’s death in this way was “until He come” (1 Cor. xi. 26). What this coming is, is defined in the same epistle (1 Cor. xv) as the “parousia,” various aspects of which are the hope of Israel’s heavenly and earthly callings.

“Until He come” (1 Cor. xi. 16) is in the Text Rec: “achris hou an elthe,” literally “until He may come,” the sentence being rendered hypothetical by the presence of “an,” “a partical expressing possibility, uncertainty or conditionality” (Green). Some of the later revisers have omitted the “an,” but this is not the only instance where this partical is connected with the Lord’s coming or events related thereto:

“Till the Son of man may come” (Matt. x. 23).

“Until they may have seen the Son of Man coming” (Matt. xvi. 28).

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away until all these things may be fulfilled” (Matt. xxiv. 34).

In the case of the last reference we know that that generation did pass, and the things foreseen in Matthew xxiv did not receive their complete fulfilment. What was implied was that they might have been fulfilled.

“Till He may come.” What proviso was there made with the promise of His coming?

“Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, Whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” Acts iii. 19-21).

The only condition was Israel’s repentance. The period of the Acts was a time of expectancy and yet of uncertainty, there was the possibility of Israel’s national repentance and of the immediate return of the Lord Jesus. Not only might the things of Matthew xxiv be fulfilled in their day, but also “all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”

This atmosphere of uncertainty entered into their very lives at that time:

“Judge nothing before the time until the Lord may (an) come” (1 Cor. iv. 5).

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short, it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none” (1 Cor. vii. 29).

“Your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. V. 23).

The preaching to the Jew first was necessary that the opportunity might be afforded them of fulfilling the condition of the Lord’s coming, but every fresh step Israel took along the road of rejection led away from the hope of the Lord’s return. As the years of the Acts passed the probability of the immediate parousia of the Lord became increasingly remote.

We have seen that Acts xxviii. 25-28 was the direct negation of the conditions necessary for the New Covenant to be realized (Heb. viii. 10); it was also the negation of the conditions necessary for the Lord’s return in those days. The New Covenant, therefore, ceased to be possible for the time being, and the ordinance of the New Covenant ceased to testify of an imminent hope. As a fact the Lord Jesus has not yet come, and Israel instead of having entered into the blessings of the New Covenant are scattered throughout the world.

The New Covenant ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was given to remind believers of the blood of the New Covenant by which they were redeemed, to show forth that death, and to keep before them the hope of the Lord’s return in a dispensation when it could be said He might come. Acts xxviii. 28 is the boundary line after which the hope of the New Covenant expressed in Jer. xxxi. 31-33; Heb. viii. 8-13 and Acts iii. 19-21 must be postponed until the change of 2 Cor. iii. 16.

From the Study: The New Covenant