What is covenant and why is it important? Q & A from Wednesday Night Bible Study, October 11th,


So last week, what did we talk about? We talked about what a covenant is. What is a covenant? Is a covenant like an agreement or like a contract? Yes and no. A covenant is kind of like a contract or an agreement, but with differences. A few big differences are that a covenant is more about relationship than about trying to get benefits. It is more person oriented than it is benefit oriented. And one other big thing is a covenant is initiated by the stronger party. There are lots of examples of covenants in the Bible between people, though the English word covenant is not always used. Why is it not so important what English words are always used? In Genesis 14:13-19, Joshua 9, Genesis 31:44, 1 Samuel 18:3, Proverbs 2:17 and Malachi 2:14 So often times, it can speak of between people as being a treaty or alliance or even friendship. But the most important way that covenant is used in the Bible is in God establishing relationship between God and man. And this is where we see the biggest, most real meaning of the word. All human ways of the word being used is just God setting the stage for it’s ultimate significance. A covenant is God initiating a relationship between himself and man. The best definition I have ever heard of this relationship is “A covenant is a promise of unreserved fidelity (faithfulness) of whole soul commitment. It is a bonded relationship of unreserved commitment.” (John Murray) It’s kind of like I tried to explain with that Fiberfix tape illustration. If you guys haven’t had a chance to watch that commercial I tagged you in. You should. It’s awesome! In our day, as far as lawyers are concerned, a covenant is simply and agreement two parties enter into. When people decide they don’t want to be in it anymore. Things are divided up. Property is divided. Money is divided. Time with kids is divided. So on and so forth. But that is not the meaning of covenant in the Bible. When God makes a covenant with man. He doesn’t discuss terms. He doesn’t bargain. There is no agreement whether there will be a covenant or not. There just is. He comes to man and says this is how it is. He comes to man and says now I am making my covenant with you. When thinking about God’s plan and God’s purposes. Covenant is about a God who unreservedly commits himself to the relationship he has established with man. We don’t get to decide if we are in a covenant relationship with God or not. We just are. We can either be in a good relationship with him or not. We can either be covenant keepers or covenant breakers. But either way we are in a relationship. That’s a given. In many ways it is like being in the United States. If you are born here. You are a citizen.

That’s a given. Now, you can either follow the laws or not follow the laws. Your citizenship can either go good for you or it can’t. It’s up to you. The only difference is you can renounce your citizenship, and leave - break the relationship if you want. The difference with God is, you can get outside of his world. You can get outside of what he has created. Why is the idea of covenant important? 1st - We know no matter what it is an important concept. The original Greek and Hebrew words for it are used 100’s of times in the Bible, if not 1000’s if you count different variations. Our two halves of the Bible are literally named: OT and NT. So it just has to be important. It’s only up to us to figure out why. 2nd - One of the most repeated passages or phrases in the Bible is: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and egracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6, and is repeated in numerous other passages; NEHEMIAH 9:17, 31; PSALM 86:15; JONAH 4:2, JOEL 2:13) Steadfast love and faithfulness is at the heart of who God is and is at the heart of what Covenant is. Covenant is fundamentally part of who God is. It’s on the very first pages of scripture. We were not just created and then given a covenant. We were created as covenant creatures. Because God’s very existence is covenantal: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Always characterized by faithful love and loyal obedience. A Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that live in unceasing devotion to one another, reaching outward beyond who they are in themselves in overflow of the perfectness within to create a community of creatures to serve as a picture of who Godhead is in himself. It is through covenants that we learn more fully of who God is. And since it is who God is, in himself, it is not surprising that these are the types of relationships he wants to have with all creation, especially those who are stamped with his image and likeness. And 3rd - The sooner we realize it and understand what it is, our purpose and existence in the world will make much more sense. Having greater significance and meaning to everything. We are not just mere accidents. We are created in God’s image, meant to have a relationship with him. And until we have a right relationship with him, nothing will seem as it should. What are the 6 major covenant of the Bible? 7 if you want to be ambitious? Adam (Covenant of Creation), Noah (Common Grace Covenant), Abrahamic Covenant (Covenant of Grace) Moses (Sinai Covenant, Covenant w/ Israel) Davidic Covenant (The Covenant of the Messiah) and the New Covenant (Fulfillment of all the Covenants) Now: Just to make a side not about the New Covenant. I have heard it said, there could be two stages to it. The first stage is with all believers everywhere and the 2nd stage is yet to happen, but will be specifically with the nation of Israel. Now, that very well could be. God often does things in two stages. Certainly it would be hard to ascertain from reading the OT that Jesus was going to fulfills all things through two stages. That is a first coming and a second coming. There is a reason why it was a mystery how he came the first time. The were expecting someone to come and restore the Kingdom back to what it was like during King Davids and Solomons glory days. So, just saying, there could be a two stage fulfillment to the New Covenant. But anyway those are the 6 major covenants. Why is it important to understand what a covenant is and what these covenants are? 1st - It helps give structure to the Bible. As the Jewish Rabbi said, “If we could delete all references to covenant - which we cannot do, we would only have a bunch of stories, seemingly un-connected. But as it is, within the covenants, we have a structure that can house a plot.” And it’s true. Because we have Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. We have touch points. We might not know all the intricate details of everything that happens between. But because we have these touch points, these major covenants, all of a sudden we have hooks on which to hang things on. The Bible begins to make sense, and we see how the storyline of the Bible unfolds and how it fits together and how everything is intricately related. How does the idea of covenant and understanding of the storyline of the Bible in this way affect your life? Number one, right off the top of the bat, because we are in a covenant relationship with God whether we like it or not. Every single person on the face of the earth is either in Adam or in Christ. In fact every person comes into this world as in Adam, as under sin, as a lawbreaker (Romans 5:12). Adam, as mankind’s covenant representative head failed. By the way that is what the name Adam means. Man. So Adam was mankind’s representative. God always works through mediators, representatives. If we don’t like it, that is the way God does things, it kind of stinks. First of all because he is not asking us permission, and second because there is only one way to be saved, and that is through a representative. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ didn’t come into the world to condemn the world. He came into the world to offer a way of salvation because the world and everyone every born into it, or ever will be born into it, and everyone’s only hope ever is Jesus. So you see the significance of this. Everyone in the whole world right now is in a relationship with God. The only thing is, it it either a good one, that is a saving one through Jesus, or a condemning one, through Adam. People don’t get to choose to be in a relationship with God or not. We just are. God does not bargain over or hassle over terms. The terms are set. Perfect obedience.

And only one has or ever will perfectly obey. And that is Jesus. So we can either choose to have a relationship with God by surrendering our life to him through Jesus Christ under the terms of his mercy and grace or we can choose to stay in a relationship with under the terms of our own works and under the sin inherited from our first father Adam. It’s up to us, and it’s up to everyone else out there. But it is our job, for those of us who know him to let people know there is a better way. Sin promises pleasure and happiness, but in the end all of it’s apples are filled with worms. We are in the end no matter what, in a covenant with God. The thing is, we will either be treated as covenant breakers or covenant keepers. We all come into this world as covenant breakers. But through Christ we can be treated as covenant keepers. Now, just in case it seems like we are making this up. Here are just a couple passages pointing this out very clearly. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:12-19) "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-24) One other covenant I will give you the significance of real quick, that is the New Covenant. Lord willing, we will look at the ones in between in the future days ahead. The significance of the New Covenant is just that. The significance of the new covenant is that it fulfills the Covenant with Adam or Covenant with Creation. Which ever one you want to call it. The New Covenant solves man’s two biggest problems throughout all of history. First: We have a way for our sins to be forgiven. Through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No more sacrifices. Man sinned. And the perfect man came and paid the penalty on our behalf. But the perfect man also lived a perfect life on our behalf. Fulfilling all the law. So not only are all of our sins totally wiped away because of his perfect sacrifice but we are also given his righteousness because of his perfect life so that we are acceptable to God. Not only through Jesus are we not under God’s wrath anymore, but we are also now acceptable and looked upon with delight by God because of Jesus. If Jesus would have only died on the cross. Well, are sins would have been forgiven, but we would have still been left with the dilemma of being able to live a perfectly obedient life. But Jesus did both for us. It’s a double imputation. Imputation means credited. And it’s hugely important theological concept. Our sins were credited to Jesus. He didn’t actually become sinful. He was counted as sinful or looked upon as sinful. And then he paid for our sins. And then his righteousness is credited to us. We don’t actually become perfectly righteous when we believe. But we are looked upon or treated as such the moment we do. This one verse in 2 Corinthians gives the idea very well: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (vs. 21) So the first problem the New Covenant solves is our standing before God. It takes care of our sin problem and righteousness problem, once and for all, on the account of Jesus. And number two: Man’s fundamental problem besides being a sinner, even because of being a sinner, is an utter impossibility to consistently follow God. We could be credited forgiveness and we could be given an alien righteousness because of and on the account of Jesus but if we were just left to ourselves after that happened, we would eventually walk away from God, and wouldn’t be able to keep believing on him and following him with our life. Only believers go to heaven. Only believers connected to Jesus by faith will go to heaven. And our only hope that we will keep believing and keep having faith is not in and of ourselves and our own will power. Our only hope at the end of the day is that God the Holy Spirit will keep us in and through belief. Man’s two biggest problems is our sin problem and our ability to follow God consistently and the New Covenant solves both these problems. The two biggest promises fulfilled or benefits of the New Covenant are Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 31:33-34, Romans 2:29, Ephesians 1:13, 1 Corinthians 1:21-22 2 Corinthians 3:6, 13-18)