The New Covenant:  Living Under the Grace of God

Shared on March 27, 2024

While others came to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, Jesus came for another reason. Our study this week closes out our journey to the cross. Join Pastor McCrary to take a look at the pivotal moments of the Last Supper and Jesus on the cross. You will see in this week’s study the institution of the new covenant and the sealing of the new covenant.


There is one more stop that I want to make on our journey to the cross.  In last week’s study, we saw that God said to Jeremiah that He would make a new covenant with Israel and Judah.  This new covenant was one that the Lord promised David would come through his seed.  This same new covenant can be traced back to Abraham and even back to the garden of Eden. 

Our journey to the cross has followed down the path of four covenants from God.  The four covenants that we have studied:  the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic.  This week, our journey takes us to the upper room on the first day of Unleavened Bread.  In this pivotal moment, the new covenant is instituted by Christ.  For this study we are going to focus on scripture from Matthew 26:17-30, but we will also cross reference often.

The Last Supper

Jesus came to Jerusalem for one specific reason during His final week.  While others were there to celebrate Passover, Jesus came to do God’s will.  What is the will of God?  God desires for sinners – all people – to repent (Luke 5:31-32).  God desires for all to be risen with Christ at the last day and dwell with Him for everlasting life (John 6:40).

Prior to what we call “Passion Week”, Jesus had ministered throughout the land for three years.  Jesus taught that mankind should love the Lord with its whole heart and then love each other.  Jesus did many miracles that glorified the Lord and brought many to God.  So, when the first day of Passover came, Jesus made preparations for all that would happen next (Matt. 17:17-19).

Choices made

In this pivotal moment, choices were made.  At evening time, Jesus and all twelve of the disciples sat down for supper (Matt. 26:20).  This part of the supper, you could consider to be like the first part of the Last Supper.  Matthew 26:21 tells us that Jesus and the disciples were already eating when He said one of them would betray Him.

A lot of us often have the Da Vinci painting in mind for how the supper looked but that painting is all wrong.  There was no fancy dinner nor a long fancy table that the disciples sat in- these were poor men!  Also, the custom of that day was for people to recline on couches across from each other as they sat at the table.  So, these occasions, while being holy celebrations, would have been a lot more relaxed.

The other gospels point out that this supper started out pretty relaxed.  While they ate, there were several discussions with one of the topics being about greatness (Luke 22:24-30).  As relaxed an environment it may have been, the mood began to change when Jesus said one of them would betray Him.  Each of the synoptic gospels point out how all the disciples asked Jesus if they were the betrayer (Matt. 26:21; Mark 14:19; Luke 22:23).

In this pivotal moment choices had been made.  Throughout this series of studies, we have seen where the same choice had to be made.  For example, in the garden, Adam and Eve disobeyed when given God’s instructions.  Noah chose to obey God’s instructions.  Abraham chose to obey God’s instructions.  The children of Israel chose to disregard God’s instructions.  

I would tell you that in this pivotal moment, all of the disciples had made their choice.  You see, eleven of the disciples were genuinely concerned about betraying Jesus.  Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, had already received his thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15).  The other disciples were there to celebrate, while Judas sought the right moment to betray Jesus.

As Jesus and Judas reached for a piece of bread at the same time, Iscariot asked, “Is it I (Matt. 26:25)?”  Judas thought Jesus didn’t know that he had already betrayed Him, so he was trying to play it off.  So, when Jesus confirmed that He knew what Judas had done, it likely caught him off guard.  John tells us in his gospel that he watched Iscariot get up and leave the feast immediately (John 13:30).

God’s New Covenant Instituted

After Iscariot left, Jesus took some bread, blessed it and broke it into pieces for the disciples.  Jesus said to them, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matt. 26:26).  Jesus began to institute what we call “Holy Communion” or “The Last Supper”.

Something that I do want to point out about this moment is Judas missing from this moment.  I think that it is very important that Iscariot wasn’t present for this moment.  Why is that?  You see, Iscariot had made the choice to turn away from Jesus and go the route of a sinner.  The eleven that remained with Jesus chose the path of being faithful.

So, after supper had ended (1 Cor. 11:25), and he took the cup, Jesus said something that is key to our study.  Jesus said to the disciples, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28).”  By the choice that Judas made, he could have no part in any of this!  While the new covenant is for the world, only those that can take part in it are those who choose to be faithful to God!

The Feast of Passover was a feast that all of Israel was commanded to take part in (Ex. 12:17).  However, at the Last Supper, the new covenant was being agreed upon.  Jesus changed what the bread and the cup once represented to Himself.  You see, Jesus would now be the Passover for all that would choose to believe.  

Who is it that can take part in this feast— the Holy Communion?  Well, everyone is invited to take part in this feast, right?  Jesus said to Nicodemus that God loved the world and whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  Anyone can come to this feast but only those who believe can truly eat of it.  Again, Iscariot could not have part in this covenant since he chose sin.

When I was growing up, Holy Communion was very sacred.  I can still hear deacons asking if one had been baptized before serving them communion.  While baptism doesn’t mean that one is of sincere faith, that was all they had to go on when it came to communion.  With those things said, God knows the heart and the choices that we have made.  Only those who are of sincere faith are those that truly come into agreement with the new covenant through Christ.

First seal of the new covenant

After the feast, scripture follows Jesus as He went to pray in Gethsemane.  We know that after He finished praying in the garden, Judas betrayed Jesus and He was arrested (Matt. 26:36-56).  As Jesus said, “all this was done so that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”  

You and I have to keep in mind God’s plan on our journey to the cross.  The Lord promised the devil in the garden, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (Gen. 3:15).”  A snake, when it attacks, will often attack at the heel but we can crush its head and kill it.  The devil, being the serpent to mankind, is defeated by having his head crushed.  Jesus was the one to crush Satan’s head.

The new covenant, Jesus made very clear, was made in His shed blood.  So, Jesus had to be betrayed and arrested.  Jesus had to shed blood for the covenant.  Therefore, Jesus had to die for the covenant.  Jesus had to die for God’s will to be done!  Without Jesus’ death and shed blood, there would be no covenant.  If Jesus did not die, His words during the feast would have been empty.

Jesus’ death was required to confirm God’s everlasting covenant with mankind.  Jesus had to die to defeat sin and proclaim victory.  Jesus had to die in order to rise again on the third day as holy and righteous with all authority.  Something many of us often overlook is the fact that Jesus died a sinner.  Jesus is our propitiation- the atonement offering for our sin.   

As we saw in last week’s study, God is faithful to what He promises.  God promised to defeat Satan, and He promised to restore mankind back to glory.  Through Christ, the Lord fulfilled those promises.  In Hebrews 6:17-18, the writer stated that God made an oath on His promise by two immutable things.  The first oath (seal) to this promise is Christ— His death and resurrection.  

Living Under Grace

Something I pointed out in my most recent study was if a covenant was conditional or not.  Out of the four covenants that we studied prior, only one of those covenants were conditional.  The Mosaic Covenant was dependent on Israel being faithful to their vow with God.  The Noahic, Abrahamic, and Davidic covenant was solely dependent on God’s doings.

With that in mind, what do you think about the new covenant made through Jesus’ shed blood?  Do you think the covenant through the blood of Jesus is conditional or unconditional? 

The covenant of grace 

To help you answer that question, once again, let’s remember John 3:16.  Let’s remember that God gave His only begotten Son because He loved the world.  The love of God, His grace, is unconditional, right?  Do you understand what it means that the love of God is unconditional?

Now, someone might have enough pride to say that God has to love us.  Some people believe that God has to love them because of their nationality.  The children of Israel believed that because they were Abraham’s children, it was automatic that God would love them (John 8:31-33).  Jesus explained to them that Abraham had his salvation but they still needed to heed His word.

On that same note, some believe that God has to love them because He created mankind.  Yet, as we saw in our study of the covenant with Noah, the Great Flood was because of mankind’s sin.  The Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh (sinful) (Gen. 6:3).  God does not have to love us nor does He need to love us.  However, God wants to love us and that is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  

Jesus made it clear that the covenant made through His blood is unconditional because it was made by God’s grace.  Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).”  The Mosaic Covenant made it very clear that we are unable to save ourselves!  The path to glory required the journey to the cross to be made— it required Christ!

Though the covenant of grace is unconditional, there is a condition for one to live under God’s grace.  Did I just confuse anyone?  Let me further explain this statement.  Again, it will help us to look at John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8.  

Pay close attention to Jesus saying, “whoever believes in Me will not perish but have everlasting life.”  Of course there is no “if and then” condition, but you better believe faith is required to enter God’s kingdom.  In John 3:18, Jesus said, “he who does not believe is condemned already.”  Those who are condemned already do not live under the grace of God.

You see, those that live under the grace of God live under God’s mercy.  Since after we believe we are still susceptible to sin, the door of mercy is open to us.  What this means for us is that we can approach the throne of grace and obtain mercy plus find grace to help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).  John wrote that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Mercy, forgiveness, and salvation are all promises of the new covenant – the covenant of grace.  For those that deny this covenant, let us not forget that God made an oath on a second immutable thing.  To Jeremiah, God promised the new covenant would be engraved on hearts rather than stone (Jer. 31:33).  Has the Lord engraved His covenant on your heart?

The new covenant is engraved on the hearts of all who are of sincere faith and enter into the covenant.  When you are of sincere faith the Holy Spirit will come to dwell with your soul.  The Holy Spirit is the second immutable thing that seals the oath of the new covenant.  

Jesus said to the disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away (John 16:7).”  Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension back to glory led to believers receiving the Holy Spirit.  Through the dwelling of the Spirit, the new covenant is engraved on our hearts.  The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and glorifies Christ to us.

God is Faithful

Many take for granted the covenant but it should not be taken for granted.  Though the covenant of grace is unconditional, we must believe in order to come under grace.  When we are of sincere faith, and have obtained God’s grace and mercy, we also gain salvation.  When you have obtained salvation, because the covenant is engraved on your heart, you will never lose salvation.  

The reason why I wanted to share this series of studies with all of you is to show you that God is faithful.  The journey to the cross is one that is of faith.  On mankind’ part, the journey is one of great struggle.  The reason why there is struggle is because faith is not so easy.  If faith was easy, then everyone would believe in the Lord.

Why is faith not easy?  Because our nature is sin— disobedience.  Temptation and sin is always calling at us and no matter how much we fight against temptation, we eventually lose.  So, because we are fallible creatures, the path to the cross had to be made.  As the Mosaic Covenant proved, we need help if we desire to be holy and righteous.

Thankfully, promise after promise, God has proven faithful.  Thankfully, the Lord is merciful and made a path possible for us to become holy and righteous.  So, just because faith isn’t in our nature, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be faithful.  You see, that – the effort of faith – is what pleases God.

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