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3 Covenants of Scripture

The to-do list is a long paper trail when you are preparing to move overseas.

Meet with lawyers, accountants to plan and prepare; medical appointments, vaccinations; spending time with friends and family for the “see ya laters” along with the logistical issues of selling the car, the house and moving all the “stuff” somewhere.

The house seemed one of the more daunting tasks.

We advertised locally, and eventually were able to find a buyer. With sweet relief, we signed the contract, checked the box “sell house,” and set our sights on the next task.

The week before possession date, we moved out, cleaned, and left…but they never moved in.

It seems they changed their mind, and decided not to purchase our home. We were shocked, and panicking. How could they do this? What were we going to do? While we had a few more months to sort it all out, it reminds me how quickly agreements can be broken, and the great effort of fixing them.

When we think about business contracts, we think about each person fulfilling their end of the bargain, it’s not about the people on each side, it’s about what each person will give and gain from the agreement.

“Covenants in the Bible, however, are about more than contracts. They are about people. A covenant is a commitment that establishes a relationship between two or more persons.”

Scripture teaches us about three covenants: the covenant of works, the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption. These commitments are between God and humankind, establishing relationship, restoring relationship and securing our relationship for the future.

Covenant of Works

The Westminster Confession of Faith states that, “the first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”

This was a commitment between Adam and the Lord, to obey God’s command not to eat the fruit of the prohibited tree, and if he did, God would bless him with life. “Adam and Eve would be God’s treasured people, in paradise, in his presence – if they kept the covenant.”

Adam represented all of humanity, both in his covenant and in his fall. “All three gifts- people, paradise and presence were squandered by Adam in the garden. And so we see curse instead of blessing.”

Even now, “God still requires perfect obedience in order to receive the full blessings of the covenant. But on this side of the fall, none of us can meet these requirements, so now all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.” Here we see the evidence of our broken relationship. Created by the Father, yet unable to follow in perfect obedience, we face hardship, work, and separation from him.

Covenant of Grace

“The stipulations of the covenant of works are still on us, but they no longer possess the ability to bless because we are no longer capable of fulfilling these obligations.” With our sinful nature, we cannot follow in perfect obedience. Our weakness and temptation with great pull draw us away from his perfect nature.

Yet, “the entire bible shows the unfolding of God’s plan and promise to bless his people through this one covenant of grace.” When we are dead in our sins, God made a way for us to live. It is not something we earn, or achieve, it is his gift and his accomplishment for us.

Covenant of Redemption

The work of redemption began with the Father, a salvation pact between the “father and the son to save a people chosen in Christ before the ages began.”

The covenant of grace makes the covenant of redemption possible. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection offers us restoration in our relationship with God. We receive by faith, forgiveness of our sin, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and his presence with us in the Holy Spirit.

Practical Application

The covenants of scripture point us to the gospel. They invite us into relationship with our Creator, in our state of sin and weakness, in light of our disgruntled behaviors and meager strength.

Our walk with Jesus is about a relationship with the Almighty Father, the Wonderful Counsellor, and the Prince of Peace. He rescues us from a life of sin, into a life of his fullness and presence, by grace and through faith.

While we pursue this relationship by acts of obedience, and practice of spiritual disciplines, we remember that grace abounds to us, not as we continue on in our sin, but as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).

As we plan our goals for the coming year, we reflect on the grace of God who has brought us this far, and trust that as we draw near to him, he will draw near to us. “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). His faithfulness to us is steadfast, even when ours is not, and he will satisfy us.

If you’re interested in a deeper study of the covenants of Scripture, “Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological and Historical Perspectives” published by Crossway, is a great resource.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the Crossway Blog Review Program. I want to say a big thank you for that, and for the opportunity to post an honest review.

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