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|Covenants... Still having difficulties understanding them what was their purposes for each of them? Are they nullified under the new covenant? Thank-you for your help in this area...|
|Answer / Solution|
|Pastor Mark's tapes, "The Gospel and the Covenatants are an excellant resource on this subject and have helped thousands of people to understand this topic. Go to our tape resources and listen!
A covenant is an agreement between two people or two groups that involves promises on the part of each to the other. The concept of covenant between God and His people is one of the most important theological truths of the Bible. By making a covenant with Abraham, God promised to bless His descendants and to make them His special people. Abraham, in return, was to remain faithful to God and to serve as a channel through which God's blessings could flow to the rest of the world (Gen 12:1-3).
Even before Abraham's time, God also made a covenant with Noah, assuring Noah that He would not again destroy the world by flood (Gen 9). Another famous covenant was between God and David, in which David and his descendants were established as the royal heirs to the throne of the nation of Israel (2 Sam 7:12; 22:51). This covenant agreement reached its highest fulfillment when Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of the line of David, was born in Bethlehem about a thousand years after God made this promise to David the king.
A covenant, in the biblical sense, implies much more than a contract or simple agreement. A contract always has an end date, while a covenant is a permanent arrangement. Another difference is that a contract generally involves only one part of a person, such as a skill, while a covenant covers a person's total being.
The word for covenant in the Old Testament also provides additional insight into the meaning of this important idea. It comes from a Hebrew root word which means "to cut." This explains the strange custom of two people passing through the cut bodies of slain animals after making an agreement with each other (Jer 34:18). A ritual or ceremony such as this always accompanied the making of a covenant in the Old Testament. Sometimes those entering into a covenant shared a holy meal (Gen 31:54). Abraham and his children were commanded to be circumcised as a sign of their covenant with God (Gen 17:10-11). Moses sprinkled the blood of animals on the altar and upon the people who entered into covenant with God at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:3-8).
The Old Testament contains many examples of covenants between people who related to each other as equals. For example, David and Jonathan entered into a covenant because of their love for each other. This agreement bound each of them to certain responsibilities (1 Sam 18:3). But the striking thing about God's covenant with His people is that God is holy, all-knowing, and all powerful; but He consents to enter into covenant with man, who is weak, sinful, and imperfect.
In the Old Testament, God's CHOSEN PEOPLE confirmed their covenant with God with oaths or promises to keep the agreement. At Mount Sinai, the nation of Israel promised to perform "all the words which the Lord has said" (Ex 24:3). When the people later broke this promise, they were called by their leaders to renew their oath (2 Kings 23:3). By contrast, God does not break promises. His oath to raise up believing children to Abraham (Gen 22:16-17) is an "everlasting" covenant (Gen 17:7).
The New Testament makes a clear distinction between covenants of Law and covenants of Promise. The apostle Paul spoke of these "two covenants," one originating "from Mount Sinai," the other from "the Jerusalem above" (Gal 4:24-26). Paul also argued that the covenant established at Mount Sinai, the Law, is a "ministry of death" and "condemnation" (2 Cor 3:7,9)-a covenant that cannot be obeyed because of man's weakness and sin (Rom 8:3).
But the "covenants of promise" (Eph 2:12) are God's guarantees that He will provide salvation in spite of man's inability to keep his side of the agreement because of his sin. The provision of a Chosen People through whom the Messiah would be born is the promise of the covenants with Adam and David (Gen 3:15; 2 Sam 7:14-15). The covenant with Noah is God's promise to withhold judgment on nature while salvation is occurring (Gen 8:21-22; 2 Peter 3:7,15). In the covenant with Abraham, God promised to bless Abraham's descendants because of his faith.
These many covenants of promise may be considered one covenant of grace, which was fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. His death ushered in the new covenant under which we are justified by God's grace and mercy rather than our human attempts to keep the law. And Jesus Himself is the Mediator of this better covenant between God and man (Heb 9:15).
Jesus' sacrificial death served as the oath, or pledge, which God made to us to seal this new covenant. He is determined to give us eternal life and fellowship with Him, in spite of our unworthiness. As the Book of Hebrews declares, "The word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever" (Heb 7:28). This is still God's promise to any person who turns to Him in repentance and faith.
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
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