Biblical Christianity

Q&A

God's Covenants

Posted on May 27, 2009 at 8:40 PM

How does God relate to man? Since the creation of the world, God's relationship with man has been defined by specific requirements and promises. God tells people how he wants them to act and also makes promises about how he will act toward them in various circumstances. The Bible contains several summaries of the provisions that define the different relationships between God and man that occur in scripture, and these summaries are often called "Covenants".The word covenant occurs 286 times in the Old Testament and 33 times in the New Testament. The following definition of a covenant in a theological standpoint is as follows: A covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the condition of their relationship. The word agreement is there in order to show that their are two parties involved, God and man who must into the provisions of the relationship, the phrase 'divinely imposed' is also included to show that man can never negotiate with God or change the terms of the covenant: he can only accept the covenant obligations or reject them. The definition also notes that covenants are 'unchangeable'. Thy may be superseded or replaced by a different covenant, but they may not be changed once they are established. Although there have been many additional details specified in the covenants God has made with man throughout the history of scripture, the essential element at the heart of all of them is the promise, ' I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33, 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Since the covenant relationship between God and man occurs in various forms throughout scripture from Genesis to Revalation, For example, after God clearly defined the aspects of the covenant He was making with the nation of Israel, including the blessings for honoring it and the consequences for ignoring it (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28-30), both parties-God and the people of Israel-accepted it. Through this process God and Israel entered into a covenant relationship, a binding commitment to honor and fulfill their respective roles. There are exactly seven covenants made by God referred to in Scripture, neither more nor less. First, the Adamic which concerned man?s continued enjoyment of Eden on the condition that he refrained from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. But Adam failed to keep his part of the agreement, see Hosea 6:7 margin. Second, the Noahic which concerned the earth and its seasons, see Genesis 9. Third, the Abrahamic which concerned Israel?s occupancy of Palestine, see Genesis 15:18, etc. Fourth, the Mosaic which concerned Israel?s continued enjoyment of God?s favors, conditioned by their obedience to His law, see Exodus 24:7, 8; Exodus 34:27. Fifth, the Levitic which concerned the priesthood, promising that it should remain in this tribe, see Numbers 25:12, 13; Malachi 2:4, 5; Ezekiel 44:15, which proves God?s faithfulness in respect to this covenant in the Millennium. Sixth, the Davidic which concerns the Kingdom and particularly the throne, see 2 Samuel 23:5; 2 Chronicles 13:5. Seventh, the Messianic or New Covenant of grace; this may be defined as that gracious agreement between the offended God and the offending sinner, in which God promises salvation through faith in Christ, and the sinner accepts this by faith, promising a life of faith and obedience.

      The Eternal Covenant, then, leads to the Covenant of Grace. Where the Eternal Covenant was made between the Father and the Son, the Covenant of Grace is made between God and Man. This latter covenant is where God promises to Man eternal salvation based upon the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The manifestation of that covenant occurs in our world in a sequence of additional covenants that God made with individuals: Adam (Gen. 2:15-17), Noah (Gen. 9:12-16), Abraham (Gen. 17), the Israelites at Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28), believers in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-37), etc. I present the view that there are two main covenants. However, there is disagreement as to the number of Covenants. Some say there is really only one, the Eternal Covenant, with all others falling under it. Some say two, some say three, and others four, etc. There really is no absolute answer.

Understanding Covenant is important for several reasons:

We learn that God deals with Man covenantally.

Since a Covenant is an agreement, it is a promise made by God. Since, we can rely on God's word for eternity, we can take great comfort in His covenant promising us eternal life in His Son.

It helps us to see the Bible as a covenant document. The Old and New Testaments are Old and New Covenants.

With Covenant understood as a framework through which the Bible was written we can better understand it, God?s dealings with us through it, and our responsibilities to God as well as His to us.

We can better understand the symbols used by God in covenant ratification: The Lord?s Supper and Baptism.

Requirements and promises in the Eternal Covenant:

The Father required of the Son, that He should atone for the sins of those whom the Father had given Him (1 John 2:2; John 6:39; 10:11,15), and should do what Adam failed to do by keeping the law (Gal. 4:4-5; 1 Pet. 2:22).

This requirement included the following particulars:

That he should assume human nature (John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9).

That He should place Himself under the law (Gal. 4:4-5)

That He, after accomplishing forgiveness of sins and eternal life, should apply them to the elect (Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:14).

The Relation of the Eternal Covenant and the Covenant of Grace

The Eternal Covenant is the model for the Covenant of Grace. The former is eternal, that is, from eternity, and the latter temporal in the sense that it is realized in time. The former is a compact between the Father and the Son as a surety and head of the elect, while the latter is a compact between the triune God and the elect sinner.

If there had been no Eternal Covenant between the Father and the Son, there could have been no Covenant of Grace between God and sinful man.

The Holy Spirit, which produces faith in the sinner, was promised to Christ by the Father, and the acceptance of the way of life through faith was guaranteed by Christ.

{various covenant information was cited from carm.org}

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