What the Bible says about
Cup as Metaphor
(From Forerunner Commentary)
At Jesus' final Passover service (Matthew 26:27-29), He poured wine into His cup, blessed it, and passed it around to His disciples. Each disciple took a sip from it. Though nowadays we pour wine into many separate vials for Passover, the principle is the same since the wine comes from one source, all of it is blessed together and all of it pictures the same thing—drinking from the cup of the Lamb. Perhaps the meaning is more poignant and easier to grasp by recalling Jesus' Passover service, when the disciples literally took a sip from His cup. When we commemorate this in our Passover service, we are also drinking from the cup of Christ, blessed by our Savior.
Have we consciously rejected the cup of this world, of Babylon, in favor of the "cup of the Lord"? God will not mix the contents of these two cups; they are totally incompatible. We must choose one or the other. Paul says, "We cannot drink of the Lord's cup and of the cup of demons" (I Corinthians 10:21). We must totally reject this world, this Babylon, and that awful cup of the Woman, full of her abominations and of the blood of the saints (Revelation 18:6).
If we have lived in this world—and we all have to some degree—we have sipped from that awful cup and have been affected by its contents. We must now unconditionally reject it, empty it, discard it, and replace it totally in favor of the new cup of blessing from God.
Notice, Christ commands us to drink of His cup! "Drink from it, all of you," Jesus says (Matthew 26:27). He does not say "drink the wine," but to drink of the cup. We know the red wine symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the remission of sins (verse 28). We know we need to remember that it took the blood of the Son of God to forgive our sins, and we certainly rehearse that aspect of this service every year. We know that by drinking the wine, we accept His shed blood in our behalf, forgiving our sins and wiping our sinful slate clean. Thank God for that! But drinking of His cup adds so much to the meaning of the Passover wine.
In I Corinthians 10:16, Paul refers to this cup as "the cup of blessing." He asks, "Is it not the communion [margin, fellowship, sharing] of the blood of Christ?" In the Jew's Passover meal, several cups are consumed. Notice what Vine's Expository Dictionary says under article "Cup":
The cup of blessing, I Corinthians 10:16, is so named from the third (the fourth according to Edersheim) cup in the Jewish Passover Feast, over which thanks and praise were given to God.
So as we drink of the cup of the Master, we should understand that it is a wonderful "cup of blessing," thanksgiving, and praise that we offer to God as we drink it!
Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?
In "Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?" (Forerunner, March 1999), the author tells of an ancient Hebrew tradition: When a young man and woman were to be betrothed (engaged) for marriage, the groom poured wine into his cup and invited the woman to drink of it. The choice was hers: If she drank from it, she was considered betrothed to the young man. She was agreeing to experience all the things that his life entailed, the good as well as the bad. When the woman drank of the cup, she drank of the marriage covenant and accepted it. Paul refers to this when he tells the church in II Corinthians 11:2: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
As Jesus sat at His last Passover with His disciples, He poured wine into His cup and blessed it, telling the disciples, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28). By literally drinking from His cup, they each accepted the terms of the New Covenant. It was a symbolic betrothal or engagement of the church, the Israel of God, to Christ. This is part of what we commemorate with each Passover service—our spiritual engagement to Christ, which will culminate with the marriage feast after He returns (Revelation 19:9).
Before we were called out of this world, we all walked according to the course of the world (Ephesians 2:2-3). We were the sons and daughters of disobedience, conducting ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind. We drank from the cup of Babylon by ingesting a false religion and the culture around us that God says is filthiness (Revelation 17:1-6; 18:1-6).
This is why God tells us to come out of Babylon—so that we do not share the sins in her promiscuous cup and the consequences that God promises He will pour out upon her.
Formerly, we were slaves to sin and its consequences. Now, under the New Covenant, we drink from Christ's cup and agree to His terms. This frees us from the death penalty of sin as well as making us responsible to remain faithful to this spiritual engagement.
Paul warns us that God is jealous toward His people, and that they must choose to whom they will be loyal: "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?" (I Corinthians 10:21-22).
It is plain that we must make a choice: We either drink of the cup of Christ and remain faithful to our commitment, or we drink of the cup of demons and the sinful system they rule. These two cups are mutually exclusive. We cannot have both!
If we have drunk from Christ's cup, can we continue to sip from the cup of this world's culture or its false religious system? Can we drink of His cup, accepting His proposal for marriage, and still have intimate interactions with Babylon? Even in our morally debased secular world, this would be grounds for nullifying that covenant of future marriage.
David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Three)
According to tradition, when a young Hebrew man and woman were to be betrothed, the groom poured wine into his cup and invited the woman to drink of it. It was up to her. If she drank from it, she was considered betrothed to him. If she did not, no marriage would take place. Paul tells the church in II Corinthians 11:2: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. ForI have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." When the bride drank of the cup, she drank of the marriage covenant or contract, accepting it.
Understanding this symbolism, it is no wonder that Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 26:28, "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." As we drink of His cup, we accept His invitation to be betrothed to Him and to be forgiven of our sins so we can be like He is—sinless, spotless, and without fault in His presence at the Marriage Supper.
Yet it means far more! Remember that "drinking the cup" meant to accept whatever that cup represented. When the mother of James and John approaches Jesus with her request to have her sons sit on each side of Jesus when He came into His Kingdom, Jesus replies with a question:
But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you [James and John] able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able." (Matthew 20:22)
They do not take the cue from Jesus that they may have to drink more than they care to swallow! They answer affirmatively before they realize what Christ's cup contained. Jesus continues in verse 23:
So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on my right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father."
What happened to them? James the son of Zebedee was the first apostle martyred, early on by Herod (Acts 12:2). Though John was the longest-lived of the twelve, apparently living nearly 100 years, he certainly suffered greatly at the hands of persecutors. Not only did he spend many years in exile on the Isle of Patmos, one tradition says he miraculously survived being boiled in oil! Beyond this, he had to watch the church disintegrate through apostasy and persecution.
Part of what Jesus' cup entails is suffering. When we drink of His cup, we are saying we are willing to suffer with Him and experience with Him whatever He ordains for us. We symbolically pledge that we are willing to walk down the same path He walked, with similar consequences.
We do not just drink the wine at Passover—we drink "of the cup" of Passover, meaning we are proclaiming our willingness to share in similar trials as Jesus did. We proclaim we are willing to endure whatever He has appointed for us as our lot.
We are also identifying ourselves with Him exclusively: We are cupbearers to the King of kings and to Him only. Psalm 16:5 says, "O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; you maintain my lot." The Eternal is our cup! Do we grasp the meaning of this? We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We cannot simultaneously identify with Christ and Satan. Our lives, our actions, our words, our thoughts, continuously announce which is our father, God in heaven or Satan. Drinking of Jesus' cup means to live His way of life and renounce Satan's ways.
Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, just a short while after urging His disciples to drink of His cup. As He prayed fervently and emotionally to His Father in heaven, the symbol of the cup was fresh in His mind. Just as He had given His disciples a cup from which to drink, so had the Father placed a cup before Him! Notice Matthew 26:39: "He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'"
In the Old Testament, the cup is also a metaphor for the divine punishment of sin. Hence, Jesus' death would involve far more than just physical torture and death. Christ would become the target of untold divine wrath, as every sin that had ever been committed would be heaped on this one sinless Being! He who had sought always to do the will of His Father perfectly, He who had heard His loving Father exclaim, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," would now experience His Father's overflowing wrath for all sin, including all the worst sins! Some of what He suffered was for our sins—yours and mine.
Jesus knew that death and incurring God's wrath for sin comprised the climax of His mission on earth as the Messiah. But now, as that hour approached, His awareness of God's wrath against sin became even more intense! The Bible explains this in detail in Romans 1:18—3:20. To Jesus, it was an unimaginable horror!
The second and third times He prays in the Garden, He changes His words slightly, as He realizes He definitely has to drink of that cup: "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done" (Matthew 26:42, 44). He now fully accepts the fact that the only way to get past this ordeal is to go through it.
The cup is still on Jesus' mind even after the soldiers from the High Priest come to capture Him. When Peter tries to defend Him physically with a sword and misses Malchus' head, cutting off his ear instead, Jesus says to Peter: "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" (John 18:11). Indeed! And shall we not drink the cup which our King has given us?
Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?
What was this "cup" that Jesus asked might pass from Him if it were His Father's will? Was He, in a moment of weakness, asking His Father to prevent Him from going through the coming hours of physical torture? This is doubtful considering that Jesus, with the fullest knowledge and foresight of all the horrible details, had spent His entire human lifetime, and millennia prior to it, in preparation for this day.
A brief word study on these verses may prove helpful here. The word "cup" is translated from the Greek noun poterion, which can mean the vessel's liquid contents as well as the vessel itself. It is obvious, of course, that Jesus drank the contents, not the vessel. Poterion derives from pino, "to drink."
The word "pass" is translated from the Greek verb parerchomai, which can refer to the passage of time. From this, we can deduce that Jesus may have been asking His Father to make the time it would take to complete this awful "drink" pass as quickly as possible, but even then, only if it fit in with His Father's perfect will.
Most of us have at some time had to drink some horrible-tasting medicine, and although we knew that it was beneficial for us to drink it, the procedure still seemed to take an eternity! By prior agreement with His Father, Jesus was at this time voluntarily draining an enormous cup of spiritual "drink," which was ultimately a healing medicine for mankind but at the same time was to Him a deadly poison.
This spiritual drink was a mixture of two ingredients that could not have been more repulsive to Them both. The first ingredient was the sin of the whole world. The second was Their separation from each other. Jesus' spiritual poison did not just taste horrible. It racked His body and His mind with stinging agony (I Corinthians 15:56; Luke 22:44). Perhaps, in agreeing to drink of this cup, He even accepted a taste of the fiery fate of those who would never repent, as foretold through the prophet Jeremiah that the poison was like fire that had been injected into His bones (Lamentations 1:13).
Jesus' Final Human Thoughts (Part Two)
1 Corinthians 11:25-29
Verse 25 reads, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." It employs a figure of speech in which the word "cup" is a metonymy, meaning that the cup represents what it contains: literally wine. The wine symbolized His blood, thus, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood."
A covenant is an agreement, a contract, between two parties. It is a device to bring people into a binding relationship to accomplish some undertaking. This particular covenant is unusual in that it is in His blood.
In his commentary on I Corinthians 11:23-34 (p. 104), William Barclay makes a very interesting comment on this. He changes a few words and provides proof that the change is grammatically legitimate. He paraphrases it in this manner: "This covenant cost Me My life." This agreement, the New Covenant, is made at the cost of the most precious, the most valuable and dearest Life that has ever lived on the face of the earth, that of our sinless Creator. It did not come cheaply.
Barclay's paraphrase is justifiable because the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:14). The giving of that specific Life by His shed blood made possible the establishment of a covenantal relationship with God. This relationship is the fruit of Christ's sinless life and subsequent death. Passover portrays what makes salvation a reality for us because justification before God is its fruit. We can consider Christ's making this relationship possible the most important accomplishment of all that He has done through His death.
Our relationship with God is our salvation. We could have no salvation unless the relationship existed because we would still be cut off from God. Once established, this relationship must be developed and to be developed, it must be continued! "If you continue, you will become free," says Jesus. This begins the process of truly coming to know God, and to know God is eternal life (John 17:3).
Within the context of I Corinthians 11, a major point deals with people not properly discerning the sacred gravity of what the symbols represent. Some in Corinth were making a mockery of the Passover. The church members gathered for a meal, and some were getting drunk, others ate in a gluttonous manner, while a few received little food because others were hogging it all. What they did edified the body not at all! They experienced very little of the right kind of spiritual fellowship.
The apostle writes his epistle to correct a corrupt situation. His point is that, in doing what they did, they were not discerning the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. If they had truly understood their significance, they would not have acted in this manner. They were not properly interpreting and applying the meaning to their own lives. In treating Christ's sacrifice in a frivolous manner, their application especially went awry. They went through the motions of taking the Passover but without appreciating the reality that the symbols represented.
The word "unworthy" in I Corinthians 11:27 means "lacking in merit or worth." The Corinthians had no appreciation of the precious value of what the symbols represented to their personal salvation. They were missing the eternal character of what they were observing, caring little about who had died and grasping almost nothing of the love that went into His act. They were truly profaning the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ and putting Him to an open shame.
A major point of understanding about observing Passover is that our attitude toward Christ's sacrifice affects our approach to life in general. Above all, it will affect our relationship with the Father, as well as with one another, because the strength of our obligation to submit to Jesus Christ will be diminished. We will not feel it all that important to submit in obedience.
If God wants us to understand anything by our observing the Passover, it is 1) the tremendous costs it took to free us and to maintain that freedom, and 2) how far Jesus Christ, our Example, was willing to be "pushed" without giving in to sin in even the smallest of matters. Let us take Passover soberly, with the serious significance of what it represents at the forefront of our minds.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love
The phrase "drinking of the cup" eventually symbolized sharing the consequences of what was in that cup. It also came to mean accepting what the king dealt out. The whole world drinks of Babylon's cup, full of the wine of her fornications and abominations. Since "drinking of the cup" means accepting whatever is appointed for one to experience—both good and bad, joyful or sorrowful—all who drink of Babylon's cup will share in her future.
In the Bible are numerous references to this cup of God's wrath and how Babylon and other nations will drink from it, symbolizing the divine punishments being inflicted (Revelation 14:10; 16:19; Psalm 11:6; Isaiah 51:17, etc.). Revelation 14:10, for example, speaks of drinking "of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation." Drinking of a cup means participating in whatever that cup contains.
Those whom God is calling out of Babylon are asked to drink of another cup. The psalmist writes, "I will take up the cup of salvation" (Psalm 116:13). This cup has far more positive ramifications for us than the curses boiling within God's cup of indignation! The cup of salvation contains all the blessings of God, especially those of eternal life and reward in His Kingdom.
Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?
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