In our last discussion of the concept of Biblical covenant, we focused on hesed or covenant-keeping. This time, let’s go a little further into the subject of covenants and take a look at covenant as the central core of our theology…
It is extremely difficult to find a major religious theme in the Bible that is not related to covenant, and thus we say that covenant is the theological core of all Judeo-Christian philosophy and theology. Consider the following:
God: the term used most often to modify the word “God” in the Old Testament is “covenant keeper. ” (Deut. 7:7-9)
Man: was made in God’s image and given what no other creature was given, the ability to make moral choices. Man can follow God or not… a dog has no such choice. Man can choose to make a moral commitment (covenant) and to find ways to keep it. Micah asked what God required of man, and the answer was, “To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8) Note that all of these things are empty notions unless they are placed into the context of a previous moral commitment… a Covenant.
Righteousness: is keeping covenant. So it was with Adam, and in the Law (Deut. 6:25) and in the New Covenant (1John 3:7) What is “right” is what is stipulated in covenant.
Justice: in the Bible is deciding rightly (Deut. 33:21) What is right is stipulated in covenant.
Hearing: the Lord was doing what He said to do, and He said it in the covenant. (Deut. 28:2, 13, 15)
Sin: was breach of covenant or disobedience. (Deut. 28:58-61) John also said it was disobedience. Offerings were made for breach of the Law (covenant) whether one knew it or not. (Lev. 4:2, 13, 22, 27)
Sacrifices were made to atone for sins committed. The sins were defined by covenant, and the atonement was prescribed by covenant. When the Old Covenant was done away with, so were the sacrifices. (Heb. 10:1-10)
The Law was the statement of stipulations of the Old Covenant.
The People of God were those who were parties to covenant.
Blessings were stipulated by covenant (Deut. 28:1-14)
Curses were stipulated by covenant (Deut. 28:15ff.)
Prophets were not crazies running around predicting the future. They were lawyers of the covenant sent by God to press His case against a law-breaking nation; to warn the people what will happen if they do not change their ways. They confessed that their teachings were based upon the Law of Moses (Dan. 9:7-19)
The Lord’s Supper is a covenant renewal ceremony, as were the Old Testament sacrifices.
Loving the Lord is used in parallel with covenant-keeping
Called, Elect, Elected, Chosen: All of these are words that trace back to the Abrahamic Covenant.
Determinate, Predetermined, Predestined: All trace back to God’s plan to bless all mankind through Christ, the seed of woman and of Abraham… beginning with the call of Abraham.
Grace: This word deals with God’s forbearance toward mankind. Through His hesed God offers grace to us when we fail. Paul’s approach to grace was as an example of covenant love that breaks down all barriers.
Inheritance traces back to Genesis 12 where God set forth the land promise as an inheritance in the Abrahamic covenant.
Kindness is used 36 times in the Bible as a translation for hesed.
Loving kindness is an English rendering of hesed.
Mercy is shown by God to His children (who are established by covenant) as an example of His covenant keeping.
Obey means to keep the covenant.
Peace is established by a covenant relationship. It is the opposite of rebellion and enmity.
Promise is normally used to refer to covenant promises of God.
If the concept of covenant is not the core of Biblical interpretation, then what is? The Old Testament contains the writings and story of the people of God. Being one of God’s people is determined by being a party to a covenant. Everyone else is in opposition to God. This point is made repeatedly in the Bible, thus, how can there be any other central core?
We have the same problem in the New Testament. What is the church? The church is the Body of Christ on earth… but how do you get into it? You get into it by becoming a party to the New Covenant that Christ established by the shedding of His blood. Therefore, the New Testament also has a covenant as its central core. There is no other logical possibility.
Sorry that this post is a bit lengthy, next time we’ll take a look at how a person enters into a covenant relationship, a subject that should be a little bit shorter!