“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20
When we speak of salvation freely given, we often mistakenly equate this with salvation being unconditional. It is an understandable mistake, salvation was offered to the whole of the world through Jesus Christ because of the unconditional love of God. But, because God’s love is also unrelenting, unwilling to settle for half-measures, salvation cannot be seen granted as an unconditional offer.
Jesus described His coming sacrifice and resurrection as a new covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two parties, it requires something from both parties, and it must be entered into freely. This new covenant was to take the place of the old covenant between God and man. The old covenant was tied to the requirements of following the Law. It had grown twisted by man’s lust for power and mankind had failed time and again to meet our end of the bargain. Rather than the Law providing the basis for a life lived in relationship with God and in harmony with the world, men had used it to bind one another in the chains of sin. Christ came to offer us the means of grace, the path by which we could once again live in direct communion with God.
We speak of this often. He came to break the chains of sin. He came to set us free. He came to pay our debt. We do not however grasp what that means, or the necessity of our part of the agreement because of the unrelenting nature of God’s love. It was not the Law that held man in the bondage of sin. It was our nature itself that held us there. The only means by which we can be set free from those chains is by an acceptance of the covenant between God and man offered in the blood of Christ. We talk a lot about Christ’s part of that bargain: the offer of eternal life and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, sent to dwell within us as comforter, advocate, counselor and protector.
We so often fail to examine and understand our part of the covenant. God made it simple, if not easy. He did not command that we try by our own power to follow the Law. He did not command that we try by our own power to change our sinful nature. He did not seek to dominate us by pressing the Spirit on us to accomplish those things for us. Instead, He commanded that we acknowledge our sinful nature, repent of it, and profess Jesus Christ as our Lord. In more modern vernacular, we admit we do bad things, we express an honest desire not to do bad things anymore, and we tell God that we are willing to let Jesus be the boss of us.
There is a lot of quibbling in the world today about the truth of Christ being to only way to God. There is much made of the idea that we can just be really good people and go to heaven. There is a desire to make a wider path, a more ecumenical agreement. There is only one new covenant though. God set the terms. He did so because He loves us unrelentingly, and the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit is the only power that can truly cancel our sinful nature and keep us safely in the arms of God. Jesus Christ is the means of grace that grants us the indwelling of the Spirit. All else is dross.
Father, sometimes we forget that Your grace demands our willingness to change and to let go of the things that hurt us. We seek ways around Your commands because we do not understand Your ways. Yet, we know Your love is perfect, and You desire our greatest good. Please forgive us for losing sight of our commitments to You. Open our eyes to our transgressions, and grant us the clarity of the Holy Spirit as we seek to share Your new covenant with the world. In Jesus Name, Amen.