The Lord’s Supper is celebrated in churches all across the world. Although there are many variations of how this practice is celebrated in each fellowship (e.g., every week vs. once a month. Grape juice vs. wine, etc.) there is no doubt that believers are convinced this is an important practice in the body of Christ.
However, when it comes to this particular practice believers in Christ must not forget the importance of the New Covenant and its intimate connection to national Israel.
Paul writing to the saints in Corinth mentioned the New Covenant within the Lord’s Supper in his epistle:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 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.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
1 Cor. 11:23-26 NASB
Paul, writing to the saints in Corinth recalled the evening that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot when Jesus took the unleavened bread, gave thanksgiving, and broke it (which is customary at a Passover feast), and said the bread was His body, pointing to the reality that His body was to be broken for them. Paul then recalled the cup (this particular cup in the Jewish tradition is known as the cup of redemption in the Passover feast, which comes after the meal) in which Jesus says this cup is the new covenant in His blood. As often as they drank of this cup they were to remember the blood that was shed concerning Jesus death.
This Supper is extremely important not just for the body of Christ, but for national Israel and the new covenant. Jeremiah in his book mentioned the details of the new covenant God will establish
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB
There are several details to note concerning this particular covenant in this passage. This new covenant will be made specifically with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (i.e., national Israel as a whole) (v. 31; 33). This covenant will not be like the Old Covenant (i.e., the Law of Moses) recalling the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their rebellion (v. 32). God would personally write His law on the hearts of the house of Israel and Judah (v. 33). No one will have to teach them and God will forgive their iniquity (v. 34). The reason the blood of Christ is intimately linked to the new covenant mentioned in the Lord’s supper is that the death of Christ is the means by which the new covenant will be a reality for national Israel in the future. The death of Christ assures that national Israel will receive all of the blessings the new covenant listed above.
How does this relate to the body Christ and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper since the church is not national Israel? Paul wrote as often they (i.e., the saints of Corinth) ate the bread and drank the cup they were proclaiming the Lord’s death until He came (v. 26). When a believer participated in the Lord’s Supper they were proclaiming the Lord’s death, that is the means by which national Israel, and the church, is forgiven.
Second, the Lord’s Supper relates to the church is that it underscores the grace of God. The new covenant mentioned was historically written around the time when Israel was rebellious to God (Jer. 31:32). They did not earn or deserve God’s favor and blessing. Yet it is God, despite their unfaithfulness who promises national Israel that He will complete these things for them (in fact, God uses “I will” seven times in Jer. 31:31-34). The death of Christ no one has earned, or deserves, but has been given due to God’s grace, which is discussed by Jeremiah and highlighted in the Lord’s supper.
Furthermore, when the previous temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans it may have been very easy to be convinced that the God was finished with national Israel. Especially after the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 AD), there were many theologians and Christians that believed the church replaced national Israel. One such example is Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) who wrote the following:
“And when Scripture says, ‘I am the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, who have made known Israel your King,’ will you not understand that truly Christ is the everlasting King? For you are aware that Jacob the son of Isaac was never a king. And therefore Scripture again, explaining to us, says what king is meant by Jacob and Israel: ‘Jacob is my Servant, I will uphold Him; and Israel is mine Elect, my soul shall receive Him. I have given Him my Spirit; and He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, and His voice shall not be heard without. The bruised reed He shall not break, and the smoking flax He shall not quench, until He shall bring forth judgment to victory. He shall shine, and shall not be broken, until He set judgment on the earth. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.’ Then is it Jacob the patriarch in whom the Gentiles and yourselves shall trust? or is it not Christ? As, therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race…”
Justin Martyr, Chapter CXXXVX. Retrieved from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.cxxxv.html. emphasis mine.
Even when the Israelites were scattered throughout the world the Lord’s Supper was to be a reminder that God would remember and fulfill His promises found in this covenant to national Israel.
Third, it is a comfort to the believers knowing that as the Lord will fulfill His promises to Israel He will fulfill His promise to the body of Christ. Paul emphasized this when He wrote to the saints in Corinth, when partaking of the Lord’s supper, they proclaim His death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26). This underscores the Blessed Appearing of the Lord Jesus and the gathering of all the saints in Christ to take them to the Father’s house (c.f., Jn. 14:1-4; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Once the gathering of the Church Age saints has occurred, God will commence with fulfilling His promises to physical Israel. The new covenant, connected to the death of Christ, reminds the body of Christ as God has been faithful to physical Israel, He will be faithful to the body of Christ also.
The Lord’s supper is a wonderful practice that God has given to His saints. It points the believer to the death of Christ, reminding the saints of the grace that has been given to them, and how they are saved. It underscores the certainty of the new covenant promises given to national Israel and how God has not abandoned them, but that their deliverance from this present evil age as a nation is near. Furthermore, it gives the church age saints comfort, knowing as God has been (and continues to be) faithful to Israel, He will also be faithful to the church age saints.
Let us as believers continue to remember and proclaim the death of Jesus Christ in the Lord’s supper. By doing this we are remembering the past and how God has given us His Son for our redemption, but we are also looking forward to the future, not just our deliverance, but the ultimate deliverance of physical Israel, because we understand by this God is most glorified. Amen.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!