Saturday, May 6, 2017

everywhere a sign: from the rainbow to the wine (part 2)

The Word for today:
Luke 22:47-62
What do the rainbow, circumcision. Sabbath, Passover, baptism, and communion have in common? They are "signs of the covenant." When Jesus pronounced the New Covenant in his blood, he told the disciples to commemorate his sacrifice with the bread and wine of "communion."
"Communion" is best explained in its whole-Bible context. Today, in part 2 of a 3-part series, Stand in the Rain paints in more of the biblical background of our communion ritual.
The biblical covenants are the terms of the relationship between God and man. We might think of the covenants as "contracts," but thinking of them that way takes out all of the romance.
Perhaps the best contemporary analogy for the covenants are the promises we repeat at our weddings:
"I Franklyn, take you Shelley, to be my wedded wife. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness."
(By the way, Shellster, I do!)
And the best analogy for the signs (or tokens) of the covenant are the rings we exchange. The rings have no meaning in and of themselves. In fact, they need not be worn at all. So too with communion: it never saved anyone. What saves us is Jesus' sacrifice on the cross--which communion only commemorates.
The sign itself does not bring about salvation. The sign only confirms the covenant promises. Nowhere in the Bible will you find a covenant sign which effects a relationship. A covenant sign always reflects a relationship.
Yesterday we looked at the rainbow and circumcision, the "signs" of God's covenants with Noah and Abraham, respectively. Let's look at a few more signs today…
"The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day forever. It is a permanent sign of my covenant with them. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but he rested on the seventh day and was refreshed." (Exodus 31:16-17)
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)
The Sabbath of rest and remembrance symbolizes that when it comes to salvation, our job is simply to accept (rest in) what Jesus has done for us.
God rested when he finished the work of creation:
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-3)
We rest in Jesus' work of re-creation, finished on the cross:
"It is finished!" Jesus said. No further work of ours is necessary.

Baptism, the all-encompassing "sign"
While the Passover (which we will discuss tomorrow) is a pre-enactment of the cross, and communion is a re-enactment of the cross, baptism is the sign of the entire gospel!--
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
...having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)
But wait, it's even more. Baptism is also the the sign of the gospel's results--a new life, a new Spirit, and a new body!--
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Remember, baptism does not make you a believer; it shows that you already are one. Like the other "signs," baptism does not save you; only your faith in Christ does that.
"Everywhere a Sign" will conclude tomorrow, when we look closely at the Passover Supper and The Lord's Supper ("Communion").

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