NOTE: Over the next ten days, I will be presenting a series of blog entries that center of the Covenants of God and how, through these, we can learn of His faithfulness. Please take a few minutes each day to read these. I have been blessed by God as I have studied these covenants, and I believe you will be blessed as well as you consider His passionate, redemptive love for you. I will include a link to the Scripture reference for each days blog, but I encourage you to pull out your own Bible and read it directly for yourself.
Introduction to the Covenants of God: A God of Promise
2 Timothy 2:13
Yahweh is a God of promise. From His very first interaction with man in Genesis 1, to the final chapter of the Revelation we see this. His promises are true. If we cannot trust Him to keep His Word, then we might as well go on about our lives without Him. This may seem like a simple point, but it’s absolutely essential that we start here. When Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16), we must trust that He means that.
Faith is only as good as the source that we are placing our faith in. God is worthy of our faith. There is no greater picture of the faithfulness of God than Israel. 4,000 years ago Yahweh made a covenant-promise with a shepherd from Ur named Abram. And today, in spite of thousands of years of persecution and attempted annihilation, Israel stands - in the land of the promise - with its capital resting in Jerusalem. Sixty years ago, against all odds, this ancient nation was reborn, fulfilling hundreds of promises of the Bible. We can be sure that God’s covenants will be honored.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines covenant as: 1: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement 2: a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action. A covenant is much more than a promise. Promises are broken all the time. They’ve become common. But to Yahweh our God, promises are His character. They are so connected to His nature that He always keeps them, regardless of us. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
Most Christians look at the word “covenant” and think of their Bible. We understand that the word testament (as in Old Testament and New Testament) can also be translated covenant. Because of this division of “old” and “new,” we seem to spend less time looking at the “old” covenant and more time studying the “new” one. After all, why study something that is old and doesn’t really apply anymore? But there is much more to the Covenants of the Bible than we’ve been taught.
Types of Covenants
There are two different types of covenants in the Scriptures. There are unconditional/unilateral covenants, and conditional/bilateral covenants.
Unconditional/unilateral covenants of the Bible are covenants where God takes the responsibility for the fulfillment of the covenant. The conditions of the covenant are completely dependent on God. While there may be expectations put upon those with whom God covenants, the fulfillment of the covenant itself is totally in His hands. These covenants are distinguished by the words, “I will.” Here is a simple example from everyday life to make this clearer.
I have two sons. The fact that they are my sons has nothing to do with them. My wife and I chose to have children, and Samuel and Nathan are the result of that decision. Because they are my sons, I have the right to expect certain things from them. But their obedience or disobedience does not change the truth that they are my sons. It is not dependent on them in any way.
Conditional/bilateral covenants of the Bible are covenants where God has made an agreement with man that is dependent on man’s keeping up their part of the agreement. These covenants are distinguished by the words, “If you…I will.” Again, let’s consider another example using my sons.
Like all kids today, my oldest son, Samuel, loves to play video games. As parents, we have chosen to use video games as a privilege or reward. If Samuel is doing well on his schoolwork, has completed his responsibilities around the house, and has exhibited a good attitude, we allow him to spend some time playing his games. If he has not completed his chores, is not doing well on his schoolwork, or has a rotten attitude, he isn’t given that opportunity.
I realize that these examples are over-simplified and not even covenants themselves, but I believe that they clearly illustrate a point: unconditional/unilateral covenants are totally dependent on one party; conditional/bilateral covenants are dependent on both parties. Now that we understand the different types of covenants, we can begin to look at the individual covenants of the Bible.
The 8 Covenants of the Bible
There are eight different covenants in the Bible. In addition to being divided between unconditional and conditional, they can also be categorized by whom the covenants are made with. All eight covenants are the same in that they are made by God. However, God made these covenants with different parties.
The first three Covenants – the Edenic Covenant, the Adamic Covenant, and the Noahic Covenant are covenants that God made with all of mankind. The last five covenants – the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant are covenants that God made with Israel.
In the next blog of the series we will look at the first covenant of the Bible - the Edenic Covenant. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions as it relates to today's blog. I look forward to hearing from you!