Pastors Outline God's Promises to Us
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COVENANT VS. CONTRACT
As Pastors Copeland and Stephens make clear, a biblical covenant is a sacred agreement between God and His people, which He initiates and ratifies. Biblical covenants often included the cutting of an animal, words of promise or curse, and the seal of the covenant, a token of the agreement. A contract, on the other hand, is legally binding, and cannot be altered without the consent of all parties. It’s an agreement you can break, while a covenant is a pledge, a perpetual promise. One seals a covenant while one signs a contract.
In biblical times, covenants were ratified in blood. The death of an animal pointed to the appeasing of God’s holy wrath for sin and foreshadowed the shed blood of Christ for sinful people. It was typical for both parties to the covenant to pass between dismembered animals, signifying their agreement to the terms of the covenant. In Genesis 15, God made certain promises to Abraham, which were ratified by the sacrificing of animals. However, in this case, God alone passed through the animals, indicating that He was binding Himself by a solemn oath to fulfill the covenant.
THE OLD COVENANT
Copeland and Stephens cover six Old Testament covenants, the first they refer to as the Eden Covenant, followed by the ones made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. As Stephens explains, “Each covenant is a progressive revelation of the Messiah, the Lamb that would take away the sin of the world, hidden in plain sight. They become the path back to that place Adam once enjoyed.” The covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David “…all pointed to the moment in history when Jesus, the promised Seed, would fulfill them.” These covenants find their full and final expression in Jesus. For example, Jesus is the ultimate “seed” in the covenants with Adam, Abraham and David. Also, Jesus fulfills the everlasting priesthood in the covenant with Moses and the everlasting kingdom promised in the covenant with David.
THE NEW COVENANT
The covenant that God’s people are under now is, of course, the New Covenant, the covenant of grace, which was ratified by the shed blood of Christ upon the cross. At the heart of this covenant is God’s promise of redemption. God has not only promised to redeem all who put their trust in Christ, but has sealed and confirmed that promise with a most holy vow. We serve and worship a God who has pledged Himself to our full redemption. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood applies to believers today. Unlike the Old Testament covenants which were primarily for the Jews, this new covenant fully incorporates non-Jews. See Ephesians 2:11-14, “Remember that ye, being in time past Gentiles in the flesh …being aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
Jesus through His birth, death, resurrection and ascension fulfilled all of the prior covenants. When at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus stood up and read from Isaiah, he was reading about Himself! “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Luke 4:21. The new covenant can only be fully and richly understood in the light of the Old Testament covenants. This is because the Old and New Testaments are really one story.
Every covenant promise had a contradiction which seemed to indicate that it would not happen, and had to be overcome by faith in order to benefit the person in the covenant. For example, in the Abrahamic Covenant, Abraham’s and Sarah’s age casts doubt on its fulfillment. As Stephens says, “The plumbing simply no longer worked.” In David’s life, his great sins against Bathsheba and Uriah made the fulfillment of his covenant questionable.
The contradiction in the New Covenant is not something tangible or physical like it was for Abraham and Sarah. Rather it is a spiritual contradiction. We are given a recreated spirit the moment we are born again, but we are still living in the same body with its frailty. We have been delivered out of the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His love, yet we still live in a fallen world. Like Abraham did when faced with contradiction, we are to respond to these contradictions by placing faith in our loving Father and Friend. Faith works through love (Galatians 5:6), not through striving to keep the law. This is because “…love is God’s motive for everything He does. It’s the basis for all of the covenants He’s ever made with mankind…. our covenant with God is based His love for us, rather than our love for Him.”
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