Thursday, November 6, 2014
What Can I Make the Bible Say? Matthew 26:28
I stated more toward the beginning of this study that we would address the topic of Jesus Christ’s atonement for sin. I also wrote that what Scripture says concerning a subject should determine what the Christian thinks. The atonement of Christ is paramount in the theology and practical thinking of every considerate Christian; for without a proper understanding of the atonement one cannot believe the gospel that saves.
Is this a true statement? Of course it is; one must understand what he believes before he can rightly believe it. When discussing the nature of the atonement and its consequences we must brush aside semantic misunderstandings. We must have a clear idea about what we are saying, and how our audience is receiving our words before a meaningful discussion about the atonement of Jesus Christ can occur. When using words such as “salvation”, “saving faith” or “eternal life” we have to be clear that our audience is speaking the same language. Eternal life, to someone who practices conditional salvation, does not mean eternal life. If it did in fact mean what the words imply they could no longer rightly practice or hold to the doctrine of conditional salvation. The Scripture is clear in implication and explanation, telling us that “eternal life” means life without cessation. Once it is received there is no termination point, either by our deliberation or another’s machinations. Christ was most explicit when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life,” John 5:24. Or “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day,” John 6:40. Or “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand,” John 10:27-29.
Having said that, let us move on to consider the various passages in the New Testament regarding our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross for sin.
A systematic search (hardly exhaustive, however) will easily begin to yield results that betray a thread throughout the NT concerning the vicarious atonement of Jesus our Lord. Matthew 26:28 states “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” What is this new covenant Christ speaks of? Hebrews chapter 8 begins a detailed outline of the covenant that supersedes the OT covenant at Sinai. We read “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer,” Hebrews 8:3. The OT priests never entered the Most Holy Place without blood of another, shed on behalf of sin. Jesus is likened to the OT priesthood in that, made our high priest, He was going to make a sacrifice on behalf of His people to establish the new covenant, which we are told is “a better covenant…established on better promises,” Hebrews 8:6. What is the nature of this covenant Christ affected? “With His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption for us…how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance,” Hebrews 9:12, 14-15.
The new covenant established in Christ’s blood is the primeval promise given in Eden made radiantly clear. The old covenant was given for a time, and given uniquely to the nation of Israel; its annulment was assured. “In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” Hebrews 8:13. The offering Christ made on the cross on our behalf is the offering He alludes to when He speaks with His disciples in the upper chamber, as recorded in Matthew. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission (or forgiveness),” Hebrews 9:22. His entrance into the Most Holy was once for all, which may be taken numerous ways. It was a one time affair for all sin for all time for all people. This summarizes the biblical phrase “once for all” when applied to the unique atonement of Jesus Christ. The latter portion of Hebrews 9:12 plainly tells us that Jesus obtained (past tense) eternal redemption on our behalf. It is finished; Christ’s work as our vicarious sacrifice for sin has passed. “Not that [Jesus] should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself…so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many,” Hebrews 9:25-26, 28.
We’ll touch on the book of Hebrews in greater detail later in this study, God willing, but for now it should suffice to demonstrate what Jesus our Lord was intending when He spoke in Matthew 26:28. The entire passage (Matthew 26:26-30) is a symbolic teaching—whose symbolism manifests in the bread and cup—that demonstrates those who are in Christ will also be partakers of the new covenant Jesus would personally establish by the shedding of His blood on the cross. Paul expounds on this point when he writes “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him,” Romans 6:5-6. The atonement brings with it transformative power, for it reaches within and affects change on a spiritual level, literally bringing one from spiritual death to life, and translating us from Satan’s kingdom to the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. More importantly to our study, however, is the power the atonement has over sin. Matthew 26:28 intimates that the sacrifice Jesus would shortly make is effective for the forgiveness (remission) of sins. We shall press on to further passages for further clarity regarding the atonement, and its impact on sin, and our race.