In my last few posts here, we’ve been looking at eschatology, or the study of end things. We’ve taken a parenthesis in this study to examine some thoughts on what the Bible says about covenants. This is necessary because of the eschatological system that we paused at, dispensationalism. If you need a quick review of that system, see here Understanding Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is more than just a particular view of the end times. As stated before, it’s actually a hermeneutic, or science of interpretation. While hermeneutic might sound like a technical, complicated word, it’s really not. It’s simply describing the way in which one interprets a particular literary work. As it relates to the Bible, it is the way, or science/system, of interpreting the Bible. For a more thorough discussion, see here http://www.bible-researcher.com/baugh1.html
In this post, we continue our look at the New Covenant and its membership by concentrating on the Mediator of this covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ (For an excellent summary of Christ as Mediator see this post: 1689 Chapter 8) By Mediator, it is meant that Christ “mediates” or acts as an arbitrator, between God (the Father) and man. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. John Owen, in his commentary on Hebrews, writes “A mediator must be a middle person between both parties entering into the covenant; and if they be of different natures, a perfect complete mediator ought to partake of each of their natures in the same person.”
We are first introduced to this idea of the mediatorial work of Christ in Mark 14 during the upper room Passover meal of Jesus and His disciples,
“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
From this passage we can begin to see the connection between the covenant (New) and the death of Christ, i.e. the shedding of His blood. This is even more explicitly stated in Luke 22:20, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Here we see Jesus making specific reference to the New Covenant and its direct connection to His death.
Similarly the Apostle Paul references this connection outlined by our Lord in his first letter to the Church at Corinth,
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-30
In this particular passage, Paul also references Jesus’ words from the Passover prior to His death. We see not only the relationship between the New Covenant and Jesus’ death, but also the association with communion, or the Lord’s Supper, with both the New Covenant and remembering Jesus’ death. This will be important in helping to determine the membership of this covenant. We have previously asserted (Regeneration) that membership of the New Covenant is limited to the regenerate as evidenced by their repentance and faith in Christ and at this point we must return to that particular question from several posts ago specifically regarding membership in the New Covenant. As previously stated, only the regenerate belongs to the New Covenant, as seen in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 (It is common language, particularly within Reformed Baptist tradition to assert membership of the New Covenant is limited to the elect, but it would seem clear that it should be more specific, i.e. the regenerate elect).
Despite the promise of the New Covenant in these Old Testament passages, we do not see the inauguration of this covenant until the New Testament, specifically through the death of Christ as noted in the passages above. So while Jeremiah and Ezekiel inform our understanding of what is to come, it really is incomplete without seeing greater detail that the New Testament provides. Which brings us to our passage earlier from Paul. Paul not only quotes Jesus’ statement about his blood and body represented by the wine and bread, but specifically references the New Covenant connection to this communion time. He follows with this warning, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Paul is writing to the Church, i.e. believers, and he is warning them against partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Just what this unworthy manner has been of some debate, but what is clear is that Paul is exhorting believer’s to do a spiritual examination of their hearts before they share in communion with Christ, remembering His death and longing for His second coming. This is important guidance for determining who should partake in Lord’s Supper, which has been identified as a sign of membership in the New Covenant. By way of implication of this passage, it must be exclusive of believers only, those we have who have been regenerated in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Some have argued that membership in the New Covenant is extended to all Israel or all those who are believers and their children. But this cannot be. We’ve seen that the New Covenant benefits are for the regenerate and now, on the basis of the New Covenant purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, we see again that only believers are to partake in the Lord’s Supper because for them and them alone it is a sign of their inclusion in the New Covenant.