Covenant Signs, Covenant Meals, and the Lord's Supper

Discussion in 'Covenant Theology' started by JTB.SDG, Jun 13, 2017.

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  1. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    From what I understand, our NT sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper) come directly from the idea of covenant signs. Thus, baptism is linked to the OT sign of circumcision. I'm trying to think more deeply about the Lord's Supper in this manner. But it seems to not equate in an exact manner, since it seems that the sign of the Mosaic Covenant was actually not the Passover, but the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17). The Lord's Supper is a NT sacrament. But it's the fulfillment of the OT Passover, which was not necessarily, per se, the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, but rather seems to be a covenant MEAL. Is this making sense? How are we to think of these things? Was the Passover exclusively an OT covenant MEAL in the context of the Mosaic Covenant, but in the NT it is transformed into a sign as well as a meal? Thanks.
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    You might want to see the Lord's Table as considerably larger than you may presently be envisioning it. Not just because it is for accommodating Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the saints of both the old and the new ages, Mt.8:11.

    But because: setting before the NT congregation in most of our churches is one simple, symbolic stick of furniture that is crammed with virtually the entire symbolism of the OT--the sacrifices that began in Genesis; the whole Levitical system instituted by Moses, already expanded into a grand Temple by the day of Solomon; days, months, times, and years; practically everything. It's a really, really big Table. Cosmic.

    Look at it like this:
    Exodus 24:10-11, "And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink."​
    The Book of the Covenant was read before the people, v7, and they swore to it. Their representatives went and ate a fellowship communion meal with the Lord of glory. The Israelites kept the Passover as an annual covenant renewal; and also the Day of Atonement. They covenant-renewed in many ways.

    Don't force a one-to-one correspondence with a NT service and an OT, however convenient that may seem to follow from the connections between the Abrahamic covenant-sign and the Christ covenant-sign. The present mode of worship is not simply a series of replacement actions for OT ritual.
  3. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    Bruce, thanks for your thoughts.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
  4. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    This is good advice. For example, Rev. Buchanan mentioned the Day of Atonement. There is not a one-to-one correspondence between that day and the New Testament, but there is a one-to-one correspondence between how each sacrifice dealt with a different problem created by sin, and how Jesus as a sacrifice accomplished those same solutions. On the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16):

    1. When Israel sinned, the sins needed to be taken away. Sins were transferred to the scapegoat, goat #2, a sin offering. The scapegoat took away sins, and was released alive into the wilderness. The scapegoat made atonement.

    (1 John 3:5 NIV 1984) But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.​

    2. When Israel sinned, it defiled the tabernacle and the atonement cover, the place where God met with His people, making that place unclean. Goat #1, a sin offering, was slaughtered and the high priest took some of the blood into the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the atonement cover to make atonement by providing cleansing because of the uncleanness of the people. This blood was also sprinkled on the tabernacle and the altar.

    (1 John 1:7 KJV) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.​

    3. When Israel sinned they needed forgiveness of sins. Ram #2, a burnt offering, made atonement by providing forgiveness of sins.

    (Eph. 1:7 NIV 1984) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace​

    Covenants are similar in that time needs to be spent with what the Scriptures say to learn the terminology and the associated meanings.

    It depends on what you mean by "signs". In the covenant God made with Noah after the flood the "sign" of the covenant was the rainbow. (Gen. 9:13).

    Consider one small aspect of the Lord's Supper and the terminology involved.

    (1 Cor. 11:25 NASB) 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.”​

    To start to understand this, one needs to find the "new covenant" in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:31-34 and Eze. 36:22-32) to see what the new covenant promises are. And one would need to look at covenants God made with men to understand that when a covenant has blood it is a covenant sacrifice which ratifies that covenant. Even in the covenant God made through Noah, Exo. 24:5-8, the blood mentioned was sprinkled on the altar (see the Day of Atonement) and was sprinkled on the people to ratify (inaugurate, put into effect) the covenant. So even sprinkling of blood signifies more than one thing.
  5. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    The sacraments come from the idea of covenant signs. The rainbow in the Noahic Covenant teaches us a good bit about baptism and the Lord's supper. For instance, when THEY see the rainbow, GOD remembers His covenant; then later, they don't even necessarily need to *look* for the rainbow sign to be *effectual*; for it's GOD who both SEES and REMEMBERS the sign. A lot here about baptism and the Lord's Supper.

    It's an accepted truth that sacraments come from OT covenant signs. Baptism comes from circumcision, Abrahamic covenant sign. The Lord's Supper seems to be different. Bruce, I did think your first sentence was a little unfair. I think it's a fair question. Yes, there's lots *more* we could say about the Lord's Supper, but my intent wasn't to teach but to simply ask/notice, that it seems to fit more into the mold of covenant MEAL rather than covenant SIGN.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  6. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I wrote "might" and "may" because I didn't want to send an "unfair" message. You posed a question, not quite signaling which direction you might be heading or leaning by it. I offered my thoughts to you and other readers, having thought myself on similar questions; and having preached numerous times on the sacraments, as well as on Ex.24.

    You seem to imply there's a strong distinction to be made between a "sign" and "meal." And you point to the use of a particular term; but the same term is used in Ex.13:9 & 16 in reference to the Passover. So, it's not the case that "The Sabbath is the Old Covenant" sign, corresponding to a similar statement, "Circumcision is the Abrahamic covenant sign." The fact that Ezekiel (see ch.20) picks up on the language of Sabbath-sign tells us only this: that Ezekiel knew his Torah. It does not "confirm" that the Sabbath was THE sign of the Old Covenant par excellence.

    Even if you could reduce the signs of the Old Covenant (Moses') to just these two--Passover and Sabbath--I say here is evidence that the very notion of "sign" is not confined to a single item, a single ritual, or some one element that alone does the signal function. A certain aspect--or several--may be highlighted as the major sign(s) for some purpose; but in no sense does this remove the signal function of all that is tied to the main thing designated. Surely, in a situation like Israel, those who possess these and the rest of the signs of God's presence are themselves signs to the whole world, cf. Is.8:18.

    Your first post stated this: "The Lord's Supper is ... the fulfillment of the OT Passover, which was not necessarily, per se, the sign of the Mosaic Covenant...." I hope Ex.13 at least calls the linguistic matter into question in your mind. But I don't want to see you just reverse course on that subject and say the opposite (that it is indeed one of two signs); because the Lord's Supper is not just replacing (so to speak) the one sign of Passover by another. As L.Coppes put it (and possibly others, he's one I know right off my head), the [last] Passover is the occasion of the Lord's Supper institution, more than it is the [principal] OT precursor to the Lord's Supper.

    The Lord's Supper represents the fulfillment of all the Old Covenant stood for. The Passover is but a minuscule fraction of what the Table "fulfills," for the Table is our sensible sign of Christ's presence, and HE fulfills all the Old Covenant and indeed the whole OT. It is for this cause I pointed to a rather unique MEAL (Ex.24) that has no separate memorial outside of the feasts (including Passover) and the sacrifices.

    I encourage you to go further than (maybe) you seemed ready to go in the first post. I genuinely hope this reply is not perceived the least bit unkind or dismissive; or my previous, on reconsideration. These are deep and rewarding meditations, as I regard them; and I commend the interest you show in them.
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  7. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    I am hoping this long explanation will also be helpful.

    It is well known that the Old Testament is filled with types, and that Jesus is the fulfillment of those types -- He is the antitype. From experience I can tell you that it is possible to focus on one aspect of a type and end up completely missing the meaning of it. This seems to apply to thinking of the Lord's Supper only in the context of "meal". For example, just in one part of this "meal" there is the "cup". Jesus says this cup is my blood of the new covenant, and this is repeated three more times in the New Testament. Yet these words of Jesus are quoted all of the time without unpacking them. What is a covenant? Why does God make covenants (what is He demonstrating to us about Himself)? What in the world is the blood of a covenant? What does it do? What is the new covenant? What are its contents? Is there an "old" covenant? Is the new covenant different from the old covenant? Is the new covenant better? All of this from just one short statement by Jesus about one part of this meal.

    My point here is not to denigrate thinking of the concept of the Lord's Supper as a "meal" but to point out God in His Word in many places gives us clear clues to follow. Just one aspect of the Lord's Supper, the cup, is filled with a wealth of information.

    This idea of unpacking the Scriptures, of following clues, is why I chose the Day of Atonement as an example instead of "meal" because the explanatory pieces are more centrally contained. "Atonement" has a whole Day of Atonement in the Old Testament. I can tell you from experience that it is possible to study that day in Leviticus chapter 16 and completely miss the explanations provided in that very text. If you ignore the duplicate sacrifices there are three sacrifices which deal with three different problems created by sin and God's solutions to those three problems. And the New Testament applies this concept to us through Jesus Christ.

    Rom. 5:11 (KJV) And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.​

    And in the previously posted verses the specific understandings of the problems of sins which were addressed on the Day of Atonement are also directly applied to Jesus. If we would have taken the Old Testament concept of "sacrifice", thought of it as a singular thing, and that Jesus is the New Testament sacrifice, we would miss a lot of meaning. Also for atonement we could focus on the definition of it, the etymology of it, the doctrine of it, and we would miss much in meaning which is clearly provided in the Scriptures. Some paths to follow in Scripture are more clear than others.
  8. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I think you're mistaken here, brother, and I think that's the source of your trouble. New Testament signs don't come from Old Testament signs, but they do serve the same spiritual purpose as Old Testament signs.

    Baptism serves the same purpose as circumcision. In Colossians 2, Paul refers to regeneration as "circumcision made without hands" and as being "buried" and "risen" in "baptism"--spiritual baptism, that is. The point is that both circumcision and baptism are symbols of regeneration. In this sense, they correspond. Circumcision, on the other hand, did not become baptism. Does that make sense?
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Joshua 5 could shed some light on it.
  10. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    A sacrament IS a covenant sign. That's what it is. (That's straight from Ligon Duncan). How do we understand what the sacraments are? In that they are NEW TESTAMENT covenant signs, the way we understand them is through understanding the nature, place, and function of OLD TESTAMENT covenant signs (also straight from Ligon Duncan). Are you tracking with me so far. Okay, so now think of baptism. How do we understand what baptism is? We study the OT SIGN of circumcision. All I'm trying to ask is this: If it's true that the sacraments are covenant SIGNS. And if it's true that the way to understand NEW TESTAMENT covenant SIGNS is by understanding OLD TESTAMENT covenant SIGNS. And if it's true that there is a direct correlation between NT baptism as the covenant SIGN of the NT people of God and circumcision as the covenant SIGN of the OT people of God; doesn't it seem odd that our other NT sacrament (IE, covenant SIGN), the Lord's Supper, does not have a direct correlation to an OT covenant SIGN. I can deal with the fact that there just isn't the exact correlation; I'm just trying to ask the question.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    So, what do you make of Ex.13:9 & 16? What is the actual sign spoken of there? Is it not the Passover, "for by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt"? Thus, the great salvation-moment of the OT, the precursor to our Lord's exodus, of which he speaks Lk.9:31.
  12. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, sacraments are covenant signs, and there are New Testament signs/sacraments, and there were Old Testament signs/sacraments. My point is that the Old Testament sacraments were not transformed into New Testament signs/sacraments. There were a multitude of sacraments in the Old Testament, and only two in the New, and we don't have do draw a direct connection between any particular OT sacraments and particular NT sacraments except insomuch as the represent the same covenant graces.

    So contrary to a popular mistaken notion, circumcision didn't become baptism, and the Passover didn't become the Lord's Supper. Neither are the OT sacraments fulfilled in NT sacraments.
  13. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That's true enough. But it doesn't mean we understand each of our sacraments only through a single Old Testament covenant sign. Take baptism, for instance. We understand something of it by understanding circumcision, but we also understand it by understanding the flood (1 Peter 3:21) and by understanding the crossing of the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2) and by understanding the priestly washings (Hebrews 10:22).

    Your initial question shows that you realize difficulties will pop up when you assume a one-to-one correspondence between an Old Testament sign and our current sacraments. Picking the single, correct Old Testament sign becomes impossible—because there isn't just one! The sacraments demonstrate all we have in Christ, and Christ is previewed all through the Old Testament.
  14. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    And another New Testament usage of baptism is,

    Rom. 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    Col. 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.​

    Jesus tied His death and resurrection to the Old Testament sign of Jonah.

    Matt. 12:39-40 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.​

    So the Old Testament sign of Jonah is tied to baptism and means we die with Christ that we may be raised with Christ.

    Trying to make this a teaching moment, how are things like this found? In this case by searching for where forms of the word baptism are used in the New Testament. Jack gave examples where only one step is needed to make a connection. My example requires two steps, but is just as simple.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
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