It is hard to believe that we are already 4 lessons into our study of the subject of covenant. The past 3 weeks have been a great time of fellowship around the Word of God. It has also been a very challenging time as the Word of God has examined our hearts and lives.
We have seen that when we enter into covenant with God, He gives us the new-self, allowing us to be able to walk in obedience to the Lord every moment of every day. During the last lesson, we discovered that we also have responsibilities in the New Covenant. We are to take on the enemies of God. The #1 enemy of God is our old-self. In order to overcome the old-self, we have to trust in the Lord moment by moment, living by His Word. As we live like this, God opens our eyes to the needs of the people around us, their spiritual needs and we want to serve them so that we can share the Good News of the Gospel with them, the only thing that will set them free from the power of the old-self.
I just wanted to add some random thoughts that I have had while pondering God and His Covenant.
God is the only Deity who exists outside of His creation yet, has chosen to bind Himself to His creation via Covenant.
God comes to us. We do not set out on a journey to find Him.
Christianity offers something that no other world religion can, the ability to say no to sin and temptation because of the new-self. We are set free from sin’s power over us when we enter in the New Covenant. All other religions leave us trapped in sin’s death grip.
In this lesson, we are going to cover the seriousness of being in covenant with God. Can we enter into covenant with God and then continue to live as we please? Let’s find out what the Word of God has to teach on this subject.
I. The Abrahamic Covenant
The covenant with Abraham is initiated by God. We see it being “cut” in Genesis 15. There are several covenant practices that we see performed in this covenant between God and Abraham. It begins with God. The Word of the Lord comes to Abraham. Abraham wants to know how he can be certain that God will keep His promise. God responds with covenant. God enters into a solemn, binding with Abraham and his descendants. Animal sacrifices are made. There is blood involved . God walks between the pieces of flesh. By doing this, God in essence says, “may it be done to Me as it has been done to these animals, if I break the covenant with Abraham”. Since God is eternal, Abraham has the assurance that God will keep His end of the covenant. The eternal Jehovah, the self-existing One has now bound Himself to His creation for all eternity. He cannot break His Word or He will cease to exist. Since He is eternal, He cannot break His Word. Abraham will be blessed if he obeys God and lives in light of the covenant. Not only will Abraham and his family be blessed, the entire world will be blessed by Abraham’s obedience and God’s faithfulness to His covenant. There are consequences to disobedience, or choosing not to be in covenant with God. Disobedience cuts off the flow of blessings in Abraham’s life and in his family’s life. We see that in Genesis 16. If someone chose not to enter into the covenant with God by not being circumcised, they were to be cut off from their people. They are self condemned and would pay the price for their choices. Covenant is not something to be entered into lightly. It is a solemn, binding agreement. It is a pledge no longer to live for yourself but to live now, and always, for your covenant partner. There are numerous benefits and also responsibilities. We would be wise to know the responsibilities just as much as we know the blessings/benefits.
II. The Old Covenant
Now let’s turn our attention to the Old Covenant. This covenant is unique to God and the people of Israel. This covenant is found in Exodus 24:1-11. The conditions and benefits are found in Deuteronomy 30:15-20. God initiates this covenant, like He did in the covenant with Abraham. Again, we note some common practices of covenant in Exodus 24. This is a solemn, binding agreement instituted with the shedding of blood via animal sacrifices. Half the blood is sprinkled on the altar while the other half is sprinkled in the people. There is a covenant meal. Again, we see the idea of obedience bringing blessings or benefits to the people of Israel. On the other hand, disobedience would bring about curses and death. In Jeremiah 34:8-22, we see this played out just as God forewarned. The people of Israel were unfaithful to the Lord and He raised up enemies to take them into captivity. They paid a heavy price for their disobedience. Once again, we would be wise to know the responsibilities just as much as we know the blessings/benefits.
III. Jonathan and David’s Covenant
In this covenant, we see a difference from what happened in the two previous covenants. This covenant is between man and man, instead of between God and man. They cut the covenant in I Samuel 18. We learn more information about this covenant in I Samuel 20:13-17, 23, 42. When Jonathan and David cut covenant, there was a bloody sacrifice involved, showing the solemnity of this covenant. This is not something that either of them took lightly. While making the covenant, they exchanged robes and weapons, signifying that they were going to live for each other, to protect and support each other. In essence, their independent way of life was over. If the covenant were obeyed, then blessings would extend both ways to their house and families. If they were to break their agreement, or if one were to break the agreement, then God would punish that person. This was an eternal covenant between the house of Jonathan and the house of David. Their descendants were also to honor the covenant. We would be wise to know the responsibilities just as much as we know the blessings/benefits.
IV. The New Covenant
This is the final covenant that I would like to examine in this article. It is the New Covenant, initiated by Jesus Christ with His disciples. This covenant is found in Matthew 26:26-28. The benefits and responsibilities are found in I Corinthians 11:18-34. There are some covenant practices that we see here. There is a sacrifice involved. Jesus is the sacrifice. There is a broken body and there is blood. We also see another covenant meal. The purpose of this covenant is also revealed to us by Jesus Christ. It is done for the forgiveness of sins. According to Romans 2 and I Corinthians 11, the benefits of this covenant, specifically, obedience to this covenant are immortality, eternal life, glory, honor, and peace. Also, we are no longer under the condemnation of sin. We will not be judged by God for all of our sins. On the other hand, if we disobey, there are consequences. In I Corinthians 11, we discover that each time we take the Lord’s Supper, we are to examine ourselves and our walk with God to see if we have sin. If we do, yet do not confess those sins, then we bring judgment upon ourselves. In other words, if we are not walking in obedience to the Lord, He tries to get our attention via weakness (impotence in the Greek), sickness, and ultimately death. We will be judged now because we are no longer going to be judge with the rest of the world because of the New Covenant. If you read through the book of Romans, noting the words believe and faith, you will discover that they are attached to obedience. In other words, belief and faith are demonstrated in our obedience to the Lord. Claiming faith and belief but not walking in obedience is what James calls “dead (useless) faith”. We would be wise to know the responsibilities just as much as we know the blessings/benefits of the New Covenant.
So, my dear friend, do you realize how serious entering into covenant with God really is? I am afraid that we have focused so much on the benefits and ignored the responsibilities over the years and because of that, we have many people who come in the front door of the church, get baptized, and then quietly slip out the back door to enjoy the rest of their lives the way they want to because they have gotten the get out of hell insurance paper stamped. Of course we all want the blessings of covenant but few are willing to accept the responsibilities. May the Lord help us understand what we are getting into when we enter into covenant with Him and present the Good News of the Gospel in the light of its context, covenant. This is a solemn, binding agreement that should not be entered into lightly.