By Douglas T. Hawkins
Resolved: The Scriptures teach that the ccup (drinking vessel) in the communion represents the new Covenant.
I’m thankful for this exchange and for the opportunity to stand in defense of this proposition. To minimize any misunderstanding, let me tersely define my proposition. By the term “Scriptures,” I refer to the word of God. By “teach,” I mean to impart the knowledge of. As indicated, the word “cup” denotes a drinking vessel. By the term “communion,” I mean the Lord’s supper. By “represents,” I mean metaphorically symbolizes. And finally, by the “New Covenant” I mean the new arrangement or the agreement that was ratified by the blood of Christ. These definitions should suffice, but if further clarification is needed, I will be very happy to accommodate brother Moore in my next article. I will now systematically prove that this proposition is unmistakably true .
The New Covenant and The Blood of Christ
The Bible teaches that God established a new covenant at the time of Christ’s death on the cross and that this new covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ. The writer of Hebrews said, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (8:8). Due to the imperfect nature of the first covenant, God fully intended to effect a new covenant that would provide the forgiveness of sins to all who believe and obey. Romans 11:27 states, “For this is My covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins.” This promise of a new covenant and the forgiveness of sins was accomplished through the shedding of Christ’s blood. Just as blood was a required means of confirmation for the first covenant, in order to ratify the new covenant, the blood of Christ had to be poured out. Hebrews 9:18 says, “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.” Taking the blood of animals, Moses sprinkled the book and all the people saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you” (Heb. 9:20). Accordingly, the Lord, when referring to his own blood, used the same language as Moses. Christ said that his blood was the “blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). In other words, his blood was the inseparable seal of the new covenant. Because the blood of Christ effectuated this new promissory agreement with its terms and conditions, it was a better covenant (Heb. 8:6).
Before continuing, I want to make a few fundamental observations that I’ll come back to momentarily: (1) The blood and the covenant are two separate and distinct things with an integral relationship. (2) The blood ratified the new covenant. It is not a symbol of the new covenant. (3) The new covenant became effective at the death of Christ (Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 9:14-17). That the law of Moses codified the specific terms of the old covenant is seen in Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 4:13. Thus, when the old law was “nailed to the cross,” the old covenant was annulled, and the new covenant was inaugurated.
The Death of Christ: Three Things Happened — Three Things Are Represented
Three things of significance oc- curred when Jesus died on the cross, and in turn, these same three things are emblematically pictured in the Lord’s Supper. (1) Christ’s body was sacrificed (Heb. 10:10). (2) His blood was shed (John 19:34). (3) The new covenant was ratified (Heb. 9). When instituting the memorial, Jesus said: (1) Something is (represents) my body (Matt. 26:26). (2) Something is (represents) my blood of the new covenant (Matt. 26:28). (3) Something is (represents) the new covenant in my blood (Luke 22:20).
Unfortunately, here is where broth- er Moore and I come to a parting of the ways in our understanding of the Scriptures, and so I would like for you, dear reader, to notice comparatively the Lord’s three statements. In his response, brother Moore will untenably say that the statements “. . . the blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28) and “. . . the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20) are identical expressions of the same thought but in reverse order. Are they the same? Absolutely not. They’re not even cousins much less twins. One statement declares that something is (represents) Christ’s blood — “For this is my blood of the new covenant.” And the other statement says that something is (rep- resents) the new covenant — “This … is the new covenant in my blood.” The modifying prepositional phrases in the two statements do not change the metaphorical affirmations at all. Godspeed translates the phrase in Matthew 26:28 as “this is my blood which ratifies the agreement” and the phrase in Luke 22:20 as “This . . . is the agreement ratified by my blood.” In other words, something represents the blood that ratified the agreement and something represents the agreement that was ratified by the blood. This vital point must be clearly under- stood for it is the vortex of this stormy controversy. To say the phrases are the same is grammatically incorrect. If you can understand that the statement “this is my body” means that something represents my body, and that the statement “this is my blood” means that something represents my blood, then it should not be too difficult to understand that the statement “This . . . is the new covenant” means that something represents the new covenant.
What Represents What?
Having conclusively shown that the body, the blood, and the new covenant are equally represented in the Lord’s supper, I’m now ready to discuss what metaphorically symbolizes each of them. To establish this, we are going to study the Lord’s statements in Matthew 26:26-29 and Luke 22:20.
1. The Body of Christ. The Bible says in Matthew 26:26 “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body’” (NKJV). By tracing the pronoun “this” back to its antecedent, we learn that the bread represents Christ’s body. When Jesus said, “this is my body,” he referred to the bread that he had taken, had blessed and had broken. Thus, the expression “this is my body” means “this (bread) is my body.”
2. The Blood of Christ. Again the Bible says in Matthew 26:27-29, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’” (NKJV). This passage is another critical point of dissension for brother Moore and me. The question that has to be re- solved is: to what does the pronoun “this” in Matthew 26:28 refer? Now actually, brother Moore and I already agree that the pronoun “this” refers to the fruit of vine. Brother Moore, however, will speciously contend that Jesus is saying the “cup” is the blood and subsequently, the cup (v. 27) is used in a figurative expression.
Problematically, this position ignores how scholars say the word “cup” in Matthew 26:27 is used, and too, it hastily overlooks that there are two elements found in v. 27. (1) There is the cup (a drinking vessel) that is explicitly stated. (2) There is the contents of the cup (fruit of vine) that is necessarily implied by the command to drink. Notice carefully. The Scripture says in Matthew 26:27, “And he took the cup.” This statement very simply narrates what Jesus did that fateful night in Jerusalem. The expression does not use any figure of speech. In fact, all reputable Bible scholars agree that the word “cup” in this verse is used literally and means “a drinking vessel” (cf. Thayer, 533) However, the cup that Christ took and gave to the disciples obviously was not empty for he said, “Drink from it all of you.” In order for these men to drink from the cup, there had to be some kind of liquid contained within it, but there is nothing inherent in the word “cup” that suggests a certain liquid. Therefore, the liquid that they drank had to be stated. When Jesus said in v. 29, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine,” he wasn’t qualifying the meaning of the word “cup” nor was he showing how the word cup was previously used. He simply established that fruit of the vine was what both he and the disciples had drunk. We have then: (1) the cup and (2) the contents of the cup. The cup is not the content and the content is not the cup. In Jesus’ statement, “For this is my blood,” the pronoun “this” refers grammatically to the cup, but by metonymy “this” emphasizes the contents of that cup, which is the fruit of the vine. The Lord said, “For this (the fruit of the vine in the cup) is my blood.” Hence, the cup is not the blood because the fruit of the vine represents the blood. Consider this parallel sentence. He picked up the cup, took a drink out of it, and said, “This is delicious, but I’ll not drink anymore of this coffee until tomorrow.” What is the antecedent of “this” in the statement “this is delicious”? Cup. What is delicious? The coffee. Is the cup the coffee? Absolutely not. Neither is the cup the fruit of the vine.
A.T. Robertson said: “Poterion (cup) means a literal cup, while in verse (28) touto (this) means the contents” (Quoted by J.D. Phillips in The Cup of the Lord 12). E.E. Stringfellow of Drake University said: “In Mt.26:28, ‘this’ is a neuter word, and must refer to ‘cup’ which is neuter, but the reference is, by metonymy, to the contents of the cup, as indicated by the context” (Phillips, 19). Therefore, the statement “For this is my blood” means “For this (f. of v.) is my blood.”
3. The New Covenant. Once again, the Bible says in Luke 22:20 “Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’” As you can see, Luke provides additional information that was not recorded by Matthew and Mark. According to Luke (and Paul, 1 Cor. 11:23-25) Jesus took the cup, filled with fruit of vine, and specifically referred to it by saying “This cup is (represents) the new covenant in my blood.” We are now ready to formulate some conclusions.
- What represents the body? The bread.
- What represents the blood? The fruit of the vine.
- What represents the new covenant? The cup.
I previously told you that the blood and the covenant are two things that sustain an integral relationship. Indissolubly bound, one could not possibly exist without the other. With- out the stated terms, promises, and conditions of the new covenant the shedding of Christ’s blood would be pointless. On the other hand, if a covenant is made and a new system established, blood is required as a seal. The interdependent relationship is very clear. In the same sense, God chose two distinct elements that are integrally dependent upon each other to symbolize the blood and the covenant. The fruit of the vine could not possibly stand alone, and too, an empty cup would not serve any good purpose. For ease of explanation, I have addressed what represents the blood and what represents the covenant separately, but in reality, the two cannot be disjoined. The Lord took a cup of fruit of the vine, and he explained that by it, both the blood and the covenant are inseparably portrayed. When looking at it from the vantage point of the fruit of the vine in a cup, Jesus said “this is the blood of the covenant” but when looking at it from the standpoint of a cup filled with fruit of the vine, he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” As brother Wayne Fussel said, “Just as the New Covenant conveys the benefits of the blood, the cup conveys the representative of that blood. And the presence of the fruit of the vine in the cup is that which makes the cup significant. There is no covenant without blood. The cup does not represent the testament without the emblem of blood.” Brother Moore, dear reader, my proposition is proven. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant.”