What about those covenants? : A Covenant Forgotten – Part 5

It’s amazing that so many preachers and teachers can read the New Testament and come to so many different conclusions.  Particularly I’m surprised by the many misconceptions about covenants since they are so easy to compare and contrast. I suspect that many teachers choose to view the important covenants through the lens of the doctrine they’ve grown up with and feel the need to protect.

The three major covenants are the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, His covenant with Moses and Jesus’ New Covenant. Each of those covenants is very similar, and you’ll see that each one has conditions, promises and each was ratified or officially validated by a ceremonial sacrifice.

There is not disagreement among theologians about all the covenants or about some aspects of covenants. For example there isn’t really any disagreement in theological circles about the promises of the covenants or the ratification of the covenants. It’s just about universally accepted that the Lord promised blessings (or curses) in each covenants and that each covenant was ratified. It’s the conditions in them that some just can’t seem to agree on.  

There really isn’t much disagreement over Moses’ covenant, clearly, obedience to the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses were the conditions. But when it comes to the Abrahamic many teachers deny that there were any conditions at all, while others recognize that there were certain conditions that Abraham had to meet. The same is true of the New Covenant as well. There are those who can’t see that there are indeed conditions that the Christ follower must meet and others who do.

Much of the confusion comes from centuries of teachers who read Paul’s letters out of their historical context and then misunderstand what he’s saying.  It’s important, when reading the letter to the Romans or any other letter, to pay attention to the historical and cultural context of what was written. Paul had some serious problems with Jews who followed him and taught the churches that he planted that they must follow parts of the Law of Moses.  Usually they taught those young Christians that they must be circumcised, observe the Sabbath, and/or observe Jewish dietary law.

Paul’s response was to write letters to the churches to correct what the false teachers had taught. What Paul taught is that keeping the Law of Moses is not a condition of the New Covenant, especially for those of us who are not Jewish. He then used Abraham to prove his point, because the Lord declared Abraham righteous before the Law of Moses existed. That is the lens that we must use when we read Paul’s letters. Paul was not saying that obeying Jesus was wrong or that obedience is not needed for salvation.

Below I’ve made a table that makes it easy to compare those three covenants and if you want to see the conditions and promises you will easily see them.  But first let me point out some things.

What are “conditions” and “promises”?  The promises are the rewards or punishments you’ll receive if you do whatever it is the covenant calls for you to do. The conditions are the things the covenant calls for you to do. Look at Abraham’s covenant and you’ll that the Lord gave some conditions in the first verse of Genesis 12 and later gave the promises. He gave the conditions, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you….” The Lord then gave Abraham some promises, “And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

In these few verses it’s easy to see what the conditions and promises are, and we see that the Lord simply told Abraham “do this and I will do that.” Easy to see and understand right?  We could only wish it was that easy, and you may have doubts yourself. But, if you think there were no conditions given then read what the Lord said to Isaac. 

“I will make you descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.” (Gen. 26:4) 

And there you have it. Why did the Lord keep His promises? Because Abraham obeyed the Lord, he kept the covenant.

Before I go further look at the table below and see how much all three covenants have in common.

Abraham’s Covenants

Moses’ Covenant

The New Covenant

 

Conditions

 

Genesis 12:1

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,

And from your relatives

And from your father’s house,

To the land which I will show you…

 

Genesis 17:1

This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.  And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

Exodus 19:5-8

“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

 

Exodus 20:3-17

 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

 

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not [d]leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

 

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

John 15:1-10

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

 

Promises

 

Genesis 15:4-7

“… one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”  And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”

 

Genesis 26:4-5

I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your [descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”

 

Exodus 20

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

John 15:1-10

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

 

Ratification

 

Genesis 15:8-17

He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?”  So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he [n]brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

 

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.

 

It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.

Exodus 24:1-9

 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”

 

When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

 

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

 

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

 

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

Matthew 26: 26-29

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”


2Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Notice that each covenant has its own unique conditions but that in essence each has the same condition, “obey the Lord.” Also notice how very similar Exodus 19:5-8 is to John 15:10

Exodus 19:5-8 “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

There can be no doubt that our New Covenant has conditions just as the Older Covenants do.

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Life is about choices: A Covenant Forgotten – Part 3

In the first covenant that God made with man Adam was free to do as he pleased, which he did and mankind has regretted his choice ever since. What we can learn from Adam’s story is that ultimately our eternal future depends upon our belief in the Lord’s faithfulness, and our commitment to entering and keeping our covenant with the Lord.

In the parable of the “Parable of the Bags of Gold” (Matthew 25:14-29) the Master said to the servant, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”[1] Notice that the Master did not commend the servants, who returned with a profit, for what they believed; he commended him for what they did. They obviously believed because they chose to act on what they believed. The third servant had the same information as the other two, about the master, yet he decided to believe and act differently. Was that because of what was in that servant’s heart? That third servant had no trust in his master even though he believed his master. Did the servant see the master as being the same as him? (“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.”[2])

In that same chapter of Mathew Jesus told the parable of the “The Sheep and the Goats” that described the final judgment. In that parable Jesus said, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”[3] Jesus said to the righteous, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’”  In that parable the righteous are those who chose to love their neighbors as themselves.  In other words the people who were faithful to what the Lord said are the ones who were righteous.

All through scripture we see people making choices. Adam and Eve chose to disobey the Lord. Noah, by choice, walked with God. Following Israel’s choices is like taking a wild roller coaster ride, one moment they would choose to follow God and soon after they were sacrificing their children to false gods. King Saul chose to follow God and then chose not to. Solomon chose to follow the Lord with his whole heart and then chose to follow him somewhat. David, on the other hand, followed God and all but one of the Apostles chose to follow Jesus to the end.

One way to view those stories is that they are stories of those who would choose to be in and stay in covenant with the Lord, those who would choose to not be in covenant with Him, or those who would enter and then leave His covenant with them.

There may not be any place in scripture that shows that we must make our own choices better than Joshua 23-24 does. Israel had journeyed from Egypt, wandered in the desert, conquered nations and was able to rest for a moment. Their leader, Joshua, gathered them to hear him speak and after he reminded them of the great things the Lord did for them, that they saw Him do, he reminded them that they must make a choice. “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” [4]

The Lord doesn’t force us to follow Him and He didn’t force Israel to serve Him. Adam and Eve had to make a choice to obey Him as did Noah, Abraham and many others. The Lord made covenants with them all. Every time we see the Lord making a promise or giving a command, in Scripture, we are seeing a form of a covenant.  The Lord promises His faithfulness to mankind in the Bible through covenants and it is through covenants that He expresses his expectation that man be faithful to Him.


[1] Matthew 25:23 (NASB)

[2] Psalm 18:25-26 (NIV)

[3] Matthew 25:46

[4] Joshua 24:1

No Compromise

“We are susceptible to heretical teachings because, in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way that we would have it be, rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. As they lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life, heresies pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart. ”
… C. FitzSimons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy

So often the things that lead us from the Lord seem so harmless. We say to ourselves we can do this or that, believing that our faith and walk will not be affected. Devils whisper in our ear that we can watch this movie, listen to that music or spend our money on this thing. We are led away from the light so slowly and deliberately that our eyes adjust to the darkness without us even knowing it happened.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy. “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

Remove the compromises from your life. Pray the Lord will adjust your eyes to the Light. Be noble. Be holy. Be useful.

Peace, Steve

WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Any computer geek will recognize this acronym. Any older person will recognize the phrase from the old Laugh In comedy show as the catch phrase of Flip Wilson’s Geraldine character.

The Apostle Paul could have used this phrase in some of his writings. Paul wrote “Yes, when Christ died, he died to defeat the power of sin one time—enough for all time. He now has a new life, and his new life is with God. In the same way, you should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive with God through Christ Jesus.” Here the Holy Spirit of God directs Paul to tell us how we should view ourselves. Very clearly he’s saying that we should not see ourselves as an addicted person, a person who’s depressed, a person who can not forgive or as person who can not conquer any sin. We should instead see ourselves as we really are, and that is in Christ we are “more than conquerers”. What you see is what you get.

Many might say “I’ve tried that, it just doesn’t work for me”. Paul would tell you to keep at it. He said. “…brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” The many might still say “it just doesn’t work”. And to that Paul says “Those who live following their sinful selves think only about things that their sinful selves want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about the things the Spirit wants them to do.” In other words, are you really thinking about the high things or are you allowing your mind to wander into darkness. What you think is what you get.

Here’s an example, there are people I know who can’t seem to quit smoking. They can’t understand why they can’t, but if they would just listen to what they say, they might have a better insight. Here’s just a few of the things I’ve heard them say. “It’s just not that easy”. “Some people can easily quit, I’m not one of those people”. “I NEED a cigarette”. “I’ve tried, I can’t quit”. “It’s just the way that I am”. “I guess I’m not as strong as others”. Haven’t we all heard those word’s come from ourselves and those we love. It’s so easy to see that those who say these things have settled for defeat. This defeatist thought process can also be applied to anger, depression, addictions, negative attitude or any other sin. What you believe is what you get.

Don’t settle for less. Encourage those around you to expect more. We should all lift each other up. We do it by reading the Word of God and learning the way of the Spirit, by praying, by appreciating even the smallest blessings and by rejoicing in all the He has given us.

Be noble. Be holy. Be useful. Be relevant.
Peace, Steve

Inspired By The National Debt

As our country was celebrating its new found freedom, a man in England was pondering his countries national debt and made an amazing comparison. Think of how uncorrupted our country was at that moment in time. Zoom to the present, our government is morally bankrupt and has more debt than the entire planet has ever known. Peace, Steve

“As the young minister traveled through the rugged country near England’s Cheddar Gorge, the clouds burst and torrential sheets of rain pummeled the earth. The weary traveler was able to find shelter standing under a rocky overhang. There, protected from the buffeting wind and rain, Augustus Toplady conceived one of the most popular hymns ever written, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”

In March 1776 Toplady published the hymn as part of an article in The Gospel Magazine, which he edited. He wrote that just as England could never pay her national debt, so a man could never by his own merits satisfy the justice of God. In the middle of the article, he burst into song, printing for the first time the hymn “Rock of Ages”, which so ably describes Christ, the Rock of Ages, as the remedy for all our sin.

Augustus Toplady died of consumption at the age of 38. As he neared the end Toplady proclaimed, “My heart beats every day stronger and stronger for glory. Sickness is no affliction, pain no cause, death itself no dissolution…My prayers are now all converted into praise.”

( Quoted from Toplady’s Song in the Storm @ Glimpses of Christian History Christian History & Biography Copyright ©2008 Christianity Today International )

1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

2. Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Check out this very cool Bob Dylan version