The Bible’ Covenant Story. 1. What is a covenant?

We believe the Bible tells one consistent story of the redemptive purpose of God who has planned from eternity to provide for himself a people who will love and serve him.  A unity underlies the diversity of Scripture.  A key theme that runs all the way through the Bible is covenant, running from Genesis to Revelation.  We will trace The Bible’s Covenant Story, beginning with What is a covenant?

1. Divine provision

Covenants were well known in biblical times, but we need to understand how the Bible uses the term.  In the Bible a covenant is a binding agreement that governs the relationship between God and his people.  The simplest statement is in Leviticus 26:12 ‘I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people’.  Note:

            (i). It is sovereign.  The Lord alone decrees the terms on which sinners like us may become his covenant people.  He establishes his covenant (Genesis 17:7).

            (ii). It is gracious.  God is under no obligation to enter into covenant with man, yet he seeks a relationship of love with his people.  Covenanting by God is gracious condescension.

2. Twin pillars

Marriage provides a picture of Christ’s covenant with his church (Ephesians 5:22ff).  Note:

            (i). Love:  God’s covenant is the fruit of his eternal love (1 John 4:19).  His grace is love to those who deserved eternal punishment.  A covenant without love would be cold and harsh.  Our responding love overflows to the members of the covenant family.

            (ii). Law:  Covenant entails commitment and obligation.  The Lord is committed to us and in turn we are to keep his covenant law, expressing love for him.  The covenant binds us.

3. Consistent pattern

Despite differences in the form of God’s covenant through history, the heart of the covenant remains constant.  It involves several elements:

            (i). Parties:  2 parties: God and man (Adam) in Eden, God and his people (represented by Christ) in the Covenant of Grace.

            (ii). Promises:  God promises his own presence and all the provision his people need to serve him.  He promises the supply of ‘all your need’ (Philippians 4:19).

            (iii). Penalties:  There are consequences for breaking the covenant – the Fall in Eden, chastening for disobedient saints in the Covenant of Grace (Hebrews 12:6).

4. Believing participation

God’s covenant offers rich fellowship with the Triune God, with abundance of blessing.  We could not possibly deserve such gifts.  To participate in the blessings of the covenant, faith is necessary (see Acts 16:31).  It is a faith that includes repentance.  These too are God’s gracious gifts (Ephesians 2:8).  Faith unites us to Christ and all covenant blessings are conferred on those who are ‘in Christ’.  This is the life for which God created us.

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