I’ve often told students that in order to understand the Bible, they must first understand covenant. Without a working knowledge of the concept of Biblical covenant, the Bible is a tough book to follow, and it is this lack of understanding that has resulted in a great deal of confusion and division in the church over the centuries. In fact, many of the theological debates that go on today arise from this issue. For example, if a Christian assumes that we live under both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, he will have quite a different understanding of the Bible and the faith than a Christian who believes that we live under the New Covenant only. A Christian who believes that the Abrahamic Covenant is in force and effect will have an entirely different view of Revelation than one who believes that it was fulfilled by Jesus.
Now before you get the idea that this is a complicated subject, please rest assured that it is not; it’s actually a very simple one, so hang in there!
A few days back, I posted about God’s most notable attribute, and indicated that for the ancient Hebrew, this was restraint. It is this restraint that makes Biblical covenants possible, and it is Biblical covenants that make God’s promises both possible and reliable, thus it behooves a Christian to understand this issue.
A covenant is an agreement between parties, something like a contract or a treaty. (This is the simple non-academic explanation) This agreement or treaty (a treaty is a contract between nations, by the way) has parties, terms (or stipulations) and promises. The parties are the people who are making the agreement. The terms are the requirements under the agreement, and the promises are what the major party will do if the terms are kept. To use an example, if you were going to borrow money to buy a house, you and the bank are the parties. The terms would be the obligations of the borrower; have insurance, make the payments on time and so forth, and the promises would be that the bank would provide financing and not take away your house as long as you keep the terms. Yes, preachers, I realize this is a very simplified example but we want people to understand the concept.
OK, everybody with me so far?
There is a lot more to say about the nature of Biblical covenants, and we will cover those things in future posts. For now, let’s get the basic understanding of what it is…
God’s restraint comes into play in Biblical covenants because in agreeing to keep certain promises as long as His covenant partners keep their promises (terms) God has limited His course of action. This is how we can be assured of our salvation in Christ, for it is a function of God’s covenant promise. He has limited his action to keeping this promise and He cannot simply cast us off just because we are imperfect or because we simply make a mistake. I don’t know about you, but this is a comforting thing for me, since I have been known to have my share of miscues!
In a few days, I will post on this topic again and we’ll take the subject another step forward. Yes, I will be keeping this simple and will continue avoiding big academic terms that few are familiar with. By the time we finish our examination of the subject, if you read all of these posts, you should have an understanding of the Bible that fully 80% of Christians lack.
Did you catch that? It was an offer of a covenant:
Parties: Blogger (me) and reader (you)
Terms: Read all of the posts in this series
Promises: I’ll avoid big academic terms
You should have an understanding of the Bible that…
See you next time!