The Testimony of Jesus

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The New Covenant in the Blood

Reading: Ex. 12:1-8; Jer. 31:31-32; Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 11:25; Eph. 5:25-28; Rev. 19:7,9.

"This is the new covenant in my blood."

"The covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt... I was a husband unto them".

It is quite clear from the Scriptures relating to both the Old Covenant which God made with Israel, and the New Covenant in the blood of the Lord Jesus, that the basis of the covenant, the nature of the covenant, was that it was a marriage covenant. "The covenant that I made with their fathers... I was a husband unto them". Many Scriptures will occur to our minds in that connection. The Lord said that He had espoused Israel to Himself. He mourned through the prophet Jeremiah, "I remember for thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown" (Jer. 2:2). There are other Scriptures which establish this fact, which we will not discuss now.

Here in the New Testament the same idea comes in. In this chapter in the letter to the Romans, the apostle is speaking about being married to the law, then dying to the law, that husband; and in resurrection being free from that husband in order to be married to another, even to Christ. That is passing from the old covenant to the new, from Moses to Christ. The great truth of Christ and the church in marriage relationship is brought out in these matchless words of Ephesians 5:25: "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it", and so on. And all this is pointing on to that great consummation, the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is a great and a glorious thing, far beyond our power to understand. Certainly we cannot compass it, but here are one or two thoughts for us to ponder.

A Marriage Relationship

A marriage relationship is in view between the Lord and His people, and that is constituted by His blood. The relationship between the church and Christ is established in His blood, the blood of a New Covenant. We were seeing something of the meaning of the blood in our previous meditation - its nature and therefore its tremendous power. What then comes into this covenant relationship of marriage is the actual establishment of a relatedness which is a sharing of one life, becoming common participators in one nature, one Life, one essential Person. That is the meaning of the blood.

From what we know now in the full revelation of this matter in the Scriptures, we are able to see what lay behind those sacrifices, those blood sacrifices, from Abel's onward. It was the reaching out to secure a relatedness of perfect oneness and fellowship with God. Abel in his heart was reaching out for that. He was reaching out for the meaning of a covenant relationship with God, and he found it in virtue of the blood. The same was true of Abraham, and God made a covenant with Abraham by means of the blood; and in Israel's case also, the whole nation was brought onto this basis in covenant relationship with God by blood.

The meaning is plain. It is a position and a life of absolute fellowship and oneness with God as sharing His own very Life, that is in view. That is what God meant by this. That is why God appointed the lamb and the blood. His thought was perfect oneness with Himself to the forsaking of all others forever. That was His mind about it, and of course that explains the terrible things that are said from time to time about Israel's unfaithfulness as an unfaithful bride, because of the utterness of God's thought. No two lives any more, no two interests, no two lines of concern, but a single Life, a single nature, a single object - an utter oneness is represented in the blood of the everlasting covenant. It is a marriage relationship with all that God means by that relationship. We know how sacred God holds that relationship, what it means in His eyes.

The earthly relationship, as we have so often said, which God has established, the marriage relationship is meant to be an earthly reflection of a great heavenly eternal thing God has in mind between Himself and His redeemed - a marriage relationship in terms of one blood, one Life, one nature - no dividedness, no double elements at all, a singleness. "This is the new covenant in My blood." "Drink ye all of it."

Living by the Lord

There is a mystery about our eating and drinking. How something happens, no one knows. The processes can be described, things can be analysed, but there is a point at which no one can give an explanation. That point is where the food that we take becomes the thoughts that we think, the very sound of our voice. The meals that you have taken up to this point are now expressing themselves in your being able to be audible. Stop eating and drinking long enough, and you will lose your voice! Your thoughts will go, you will not be able to think. Somehow or other, those meals that you have been eating, that drink you have taken, has now become thought and sound and many other intangible things which are the very expression of our being.

The point is this - "eat My flesh, drink My blood". There is a mystery of how by receiving the Life of the Lord Jesus, receiving Him, He becomes assimilated so that He becomes expressed in us. There is a change from what we are, to what He is. Our food and our drink - they make up our personality presently. If you only feed on a certain restricted line of things, your very demeanour will change, you may become morose, sullen. What you need is a change of diet or you become something else, a different person according to what you mainly take in. It is a mystery, strange, wonderful, how our very personality is affected like that. Anybody who understands will at once say, "You have taken too much of so-and-so and it has made you like this. You must change, you must have something else". What we feed upon makes us what we are.

Take, eat; take, drink. There will be a result, a spiritual result. The very basis of your being, of your life, will be what you take in, and if you are taking in Christ, assimilating Christ, the miracle will be taking place in you that you will think Christ, express Christ. Christ will come out in intangible ways, but very real ways. That is the relatedness: a change taking place in us that is no longer ourselves, but it is now Christ our Life, Christ our thought, Christ our object, Christ our line of things. It is all Christ. No two lines, ours and His; no two ways, no two interests, no two worlds: only one. "For me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21). We have received Christ. We are constantly receiving Christ, and the result is that what we receive means that what we give is Christ, what we express is Christ.

Now it seems perhaps going a long way to say that is God's thought about a marriage relationship, but it is. The marriage relationship according to God is this, that the wife joined to the husband receives, participates, in his life and she has but one life - that is his; one interest - that is his. She comes into line with him. How important, therefore, in a decision of this kind to be quite sure that that is what God is going to look for, and we have got to see that that is possible. I do not want to diverge to a homily on the marriage relationship, but this is God's idea - one life, and the other being altogether yielded up to that one life, being governed and dominated by that one life so that they are no longer two lives, but one. That is God's thought because it is a reflection of this higher relationship between Himself and His redeemed, between His Son and His Son's Bride; assimilating Christ so that it is one Life.

Our Committal to the Lord by Faith

Now notice that whenever we find in the Scriptures a covenant being brought into view, a covenant in blood, the factor of faith is always present. "By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain". A covenant was made then, was entered into. When you come to Abraham a little later, you have the same thing. Faith is the basis of the covenant made with Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham and that covenant was entered into in that day described in Genesis 15, when Abraham prepared the sacrifice, divided it in two, laid it there before the Lord and the lamp passed between. A horror of great darkness assailed, the birds of the air came down to devour, and he fought them off until the going down of the sun. Then God made His covenant; there was the blood shed, there was the ground provided for the covenant and God made His covenant with Abraham. But we are told so much about the faith factor coming in over it. "By faith Abraham..." it is all by faith; his whole life is by faith. The same is present with Noah. "By faith Noah..." and God made a covenant with Noah and the altar was built and the sacrifice offered and the rainbow was given as a sign of the covenant. There was the blood. By faith, all by faith. And with Israel. Every time there is a covenant coming in, the faith element is basic.

How true it is in the New Covenant. It is all to them that believe.

What does this mean? In the covenant in blood, the marriage relationship is set forth.

What does it mean that it is all in faith? I think it is quite simple. In a marriage relationship there is a big step of faith taken - on the one side especially. On the side of the wife, it is a tremendous step of faith. It means nothing less than this: an utter committal over on to another. I am giving myself for good, for bad, for better or worse. I am giving myself, my life, my very being, right over to another, and now I have simply to believe that that other one will not fail me, will not let me down, that I shall have been justified in the end in giving myself to that one.

That is what Abel did; he handed himself right over in faith to God and took the blood as the sign, the token, that he had done that. That is what Abel did. He handed himself right over to God and made the blood the basis of that handing over. That is what is in God's mind all the time with the blood - the handing over utterly in an act of faith, complete faith, which says, "I give myself in perfect trust to another; I have no questions, no reservations". It is a great act of faith, abandonment in faith. That is one side of the covenant. That is the meaning of our taking and drinking. We are saying that we have handed right over to the Lord in utter faith, we trust in Him, count on Him, as a bride in a right relationship, in the relationship which God means to be represented by marriage, as the bride hands herself right over in perfect confidence, lets herself go, no longer tries to realise her own life but lets another do it. Of course, if there were more marriages like that, it would be a very happy world. But that is God's thought, at any rate, to hand over for the other to realise the life and trust the other one to do it. That is what we have done when we have entered into the covenant in the blood of the Lord Jesus. We have handed over to Him to realise everything, and we trust him to do it. He has taken us for that very purpose.

The Lord's Committal to Us

But there is the other side of the covenant. A covenant always has two sides, and when we, on our side, enter into the covenant in His blood by faith, which means our utter abandonment to Him, He from His side, the other side of the covenant, says, "I am all for you when you are all for Me; I am committed to you, all My resources are at your disposal!"

And, you know, we are tested on this matter. We are so much tested on the question of the covenant relationship. Abraham was tested on this thing. "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, and offer him" (Gen. 22:2). It was almost as though God said, "Did you mean it - all for Me? Prove it". It says, "God did prove Abraham". God is proving us as to whether we mean it from our side, whether we are so over to Him that we have no other outside interests, and trust Him absolutely. That is what the blood requires, calls for, and means.

But is it not true that after every test, whenever we have been tried anew in this matter of trusting the Lord, committing all to the Lord, of standing true to the covenant relationship, the Lord comes back Himself from His side and says, "Because thou hast done this thing... in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed" (Gen. 22:16-17). From His side He is always ready to come in and to give that increase of His when He has proved our faith, and through trial got us more deeply established in the relationship with Himself.

This is just a little glimpse further into the meaning of the blood of the New Covenant and into the meaning of what we do here so often, what we mean by the Lord's Table, what we mean by the blood of Jesus Christ - an established relationship in utterness of abandonment to the Lord and faith in Him to realise all that is possible in our lives to His glory.

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