"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Saturday, September 3, 2022

WALKING The COVENANT WAY: INTRODUCTION: Part 1 of 8

~ by James Fire

Previously in DISCIPLESHIP 102, How To Study The Bible, we briefly examined the various dispensations and then the covenants found in the Scriptures. The dispensations aren’t explicit in their labeling as the covenants are (at least some of these are named as such); nevertheless we observe that every so often GOD issues new orders and responsibilities to man, which he eventually fails, which brings about new orders and responsibilities. These are various managements or economies (the Greek word for dispensation actually means, “economies”.

We will at some point review bible scholar Charles Ryrie’s incredible book entitled Dispensationalism (which he revised and expanded). I know many (not all) in the Calvinist camp disparage the idea of dispensational theology, but I think Dr. Ryrie answers the critics quite credibly – at least to my own satisfaction. I’m looking forward to doing a TTUF report on his work, using it as a basis to conduct my own articles.

We’ll begin with what we have already under the covenants section from that work, and then build on them in detail in subsequent articles (very likely to treat one covenant per article).

It's the belief of the author that each of these covenants – not just the new covenant – are all ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah of Israel, the LORD Jesus Christ. So while these covenants were introduced and enforced and then later replaced by subsequent covenants, they shall (in my perspective) find their culmination in the Person of the Messiah once He returns, establishes His kingdom and leads His saints into the eternal kingdom!.

For now, let’s go over a summary review of each of these, as detailed previously in DISC 102:

BEING CLEAR ABOUT THE COVENANTS – HOW To SEE The BIBLE

What is a covenant?

In the general sense, a covenant is simply a binding agreement or compact between two or more parties; in legal terms, it is a formal sealed agreement or contract.
There’s such a thing as a shoe covenant (DEUT 25:9-10; RUTH 4:8), as well as a covenant by salt (LEV 2:13; NUM 18:19; 2 CHRON 15:5) which was more binding than the shoe type. The most binding of covenants were those made by sacrifice and the shedding of blood. Yet the greatest of all covenants were given by the authority of GOD’s Word and declaration of truth!

This is where the GOD of the Bible differs from the God of the Quran; YHWH makes and keeps promises; Allah does not or is free to abrogate any promise made because he is sovereign and may at any time change his mind as he sees fit.

This is why we as saints have great cause to rejoice; the Word of our GOD is strong, steadfast, dependable, and wholly trustworthy – He will never go back on His Word.

MATTHEW 24:35
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

1 KINGS 8:56
Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses.

PSALM 100:5
For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

DEUTERONOMY 32:3-4
3 For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. 4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.

JOHN 14:6
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

2 SAMUEL 7:28
And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant.


This statement above is what David declared before GOD when the LORD made covenant with him that relates to his throne and how the Messiah would inherit it from him, to rule over Israel forever (LK 1:31-33).

For more on the truth and promises of GOD, see also PSALM 146:6; ROM 3:4; HEB 6:18.

In this sense, He is bound to His Word by covenant, just as sacrificial animals were bound in cords to officiate covenants made through them!

We even have an expression to reflects this; when we are in a situation in which it’s impossible for us to do anything other than what is before us, whether by circumstances or by self-imposed oaths, we say, “I’m sorry, my hands are tied.”

Some of these covenants are unilateral, where the binding obligation is held by only one of the two parties, that one being solely responsible for its fulfillment; hence the recipient of the covenantal agreement is not responsible for any aspect of the agreement and enjoys its benefits unconditionally.

Other covenants are bilateral where both parties are responsible for their part and any violation from either party will result in penalties to various degrees.

The biblical picture of a covenant involves God's relationship with his people, except that the inequality between the parties (Creator and creatures) is absolute. It is always made clear that the initiative is God's - that He makes covenants with his people and not vice versa. God initiates, confirms, and even fulfills (ultimately in Christ, both sides of) the covenant.

The amazing thing about such examples of divine covenant is that they are the gracious means of relationship with God for a people who deserve to be removed from His presence forever, by a God who has no needs whatsoever, in and of Himself, for such relationship. Indeed, the heart of a covenant, as so often and wonderfully recapitulated by God Himself, is that expression of intimate relationship: "you will be my people, and I will be your God" (JER 30:22).

From Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible we have based the following information about covenants:

1. Etymology – the word “covenant” comes from the Hebrew root word baraya, meaning “to fetter, or to bind”; from which comes the noun, b’rith which has a (perhaps) secondary meaning “to share in a meal, to keep community (2 SAM 12:17; 13:5-6,7-10; PS 69:21). Alternate meaning could be “to decide, allot to” and carries with it the idea of a vassal’s loyalty and trust towards a suzerain (a king or state that rules over a serving ruler and, or their own state). he serves for favors already bestowed upon him, and most particularly those benefits granted once the suzerain has died (recipient of a last will and testament as it were).

All of this however must be subordinate to how the word is used not by the various pagan culture from which it’s derived, but by the transformed definition as so employed by the Holy Scriptures

2. Usage of the Hebrew word, b’rith – this is a legally binding obligation and is often spoken of as “a covenant of the LORD” (1 SAM 20:8) sometimes as a witness (GEN 31:50). It involves how ritual meals and or sacrifices (GEN 15:9; 26:30; 31:54; EXOD 24:8-11).

B’rith can also refer to verbal oaths that replace in some instances, the binding of a covenant by sacrifice. “Oath” and “b’rith” are at times used interchangeably (GEN 26:28; 2 CHRON 15:15). At other times the seems more of an addition to the b’rith (JOSH 9:15,20). Oaths may appear however where no b’rith is found (1 SAM 3:17; 25:34).

B’rith can also be used interchangeably with “testimony” (EXOD 31:18). The b’rith then essentially is an obligation; a relationship under sanctions, the particular nature of which is to be determined on no other basis “but simply on the parties concerned”.
2.a Parity covenants: When both parties concede or willing to concede, a generally equal standing between the two sided covenant is evident (1 SAM 23:18); also with households such as Jacob and Laban (GEN 31:54), with tribal peoples, such as Abraham and the Amorites of Hebron (GEN 14:13), or whole nations as Edom and its confederates (OBAD 7; HOS 12:1).
The Hebrew marriage agreement is likewise a b’rith (MAL 2:14; PROV 2:17), as is international trade agreements (1 KINGS 20:34). An interesting application of b’rith can be found regarding death in ISAIAH 28:15-18, as in avoiding it.

A covenant was binding for as long as the parties were agreed to it, a b’rith for perpetuity (GEN 9:16; 17:7); there is a covenant of salt (NUM 18:19), typically associated with the covenant meal. Even a handshake can be seen as an informal but binding b’rith.
The erection of stone(s) (GEN 31:45-48) or the acceptance of a token gift (GEN 21:27-30) are b’rith agreements.

“To cut a covenant” or in today’s military vernacular “cut orders” is indicative of the cutting of animal sacrifices used to bring agreement between parties as they would walk between the hewn pieces of the bodies.
It was understood by all ancient Middle Eastern cultures that to violate such a sacrificial b’rith would result in severe repercussions: the death of the violator!

The Hebrew words used to describe the b’rith and one’s loyalty to its keeping means “lovingkindness” or “steadfast love” (1 SAM 20:8) resulting in peace and prosperity of the recipients (JOSH 9:15; JUDGES 4:17; 6:23-24).

The covenants among humans are on a level of limited fidelity, whereas those covenants between GOD and men are on a wholly different level, as GOD’s own good name is on the line, and therefore He ensures that the covenant is kept according to His declared Word of Truth (2 KINGS 11:4; 2 CHRON 23:3; JER 34:15; oaths taken by men before GOD are too often broken by those who made such pledges (EZEK 17:19)). And certainly the covenant agreements between members of the Trinity are kept just as fastidiously as those made by GOD to various people(s) (PSALM 2:7-8; 40:6-8).

2.b Suzerainty (a sovereign ruler, overseer) covenants: When the parties are not equal the b’rith may become a disposition (1 SAM 11:1; EZEK 17:13-14) or guaranteed (JOSH 9:6,15; HOS 12:1) by the superior party. Often in Scripture there is the presentation of this frequent lack of two-sidedness. On the one side there are words like “to establish, to command, a statute” associated with the initiator and for the other, that is the beneficiary “to obey or to transgress it” (JOSH 23:16; JER 34:10).

B’rith often describes the legal relationship between GOD the LORD and man the servant. This is a monopleuric, sovereignly imposed injunction from GOD, legally binding according to His pleasure. Divine suzerainty covenants also involve redemptive, promissory elements (examined in 2.c).

Two b’rith found in JER 33:20,25 wherein GOD’s ordering of “day and night” is established and ZECH 11:10 regarding GOD’s breaking His b’rith with the people [of Israel], suggesting that GOD used to order the world history in favor of Israel (DEUT 32:8), but has now freed all peoples from such covenant obligation.

Then there is the situation that concerns GOD’s pre-redemptive arrangement with Adam, a b’rith (HOS 6:7) and its not inaptly styled the covenant of works. For though Eden exhibits n partnership of equals, and no voluntary mutual agreement was reached prior to GOD’s sovereign disposition, there yet existed a certain balance of obligations and benefits that were equally binding upon the two parties concerned. Never again has history witnessed such a situation with the exception of the life of the man Christ Jesus who was [is] the representative last Adam and who fulfilled all righteousness (1 COR 15:45)

2.c Promissory covenants or suzerainty covenants: A promise ratified by covenant is what’s seen here. To inaugurate a king (2 KINGS 11:4); to free slaves (JER 34:8); the recipient of the promise might be GOD Himself (EZRA 10:3) to make a covenant with GOD in putting away the foreign wives. In 2 KINGS 23:3a Josiah made a covenant to confirm the words of GOD’s b’rith that were written in the rediscovered Book (2 CHRON 29:10) More frequently however it’s GOD that makes the b’rith and thereby assures men of His promises. A b’rith by grace, which is always the matter where GOD is concerned. It is a self-imposed obligation for the deliverance of sinners, displaying His elective love. The worker is one, namely GOD that works these b’rith to His desired effect, the redemption of man from his sinful state and thus enabling him to walk in the holiness that GOD requires.

The New Testament refers to such b’rith as “testament” that is, New Testament (HEB 9:15-17); the last will and testament of the dying GOD bequeathing an inheritance of righteousness to Israel – and to all the Gentiles who approach GOD in this New Testament by faith.
A b’rith as such, wherein GOD would sacrifice His Son for inheritance to beneficiaries was unknown in Old Testament canon, but realized in the New Testament Scriptures. Where the Old Testament declares that GOD saves because of the blood of the b’rith (ZECH 9:11), the New Testament clarifies this in that it’s by the new covenant made sure by the blood of His Son (HEB 9:15). This was intimated from the very beginning where the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (GEN 3:15).
3. Features:
3.a Unity and Development: Covenantal restoration according to the New Testament occurs only through one’s identification with the righteous life, substitutionary death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (MATT 3:15; PHIL 3:21; COL 1:27; 1 PET 2:24; JOHN 14:6). This also applies to all the saved of all ages, Old Testament saints and New. While Israel stood under the blood of bulls and goats, they recognized that the true sacrifice of GOD forthcoming, of which the Messiah would have His most integral part, would be the efficacious atonement (EXOD 24:8; HEB 9:19). The testament of GOD was revealed to the patriarchs (2 KINGS 13:23; 1 CHRON 16:16-17), as well as Israel at Sinai (LEV 26:42,45).
The Asaphite singers of the exile prayed GOD to have respect unto the b’rith (PS 74:20).
Ultimately all of this culminates in the words of the LORD Jesus:

“This is My blood of the [new] testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (MATT 26:28).
“Old and New Testament” have their meaning in such revelation as given to Jeremiah:

JEREMIAH 31:31-32
31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD
.

The Mosaic covenant anticipated the arrival of the new covenant that would replace it with the circumcision of the heart (DEUT 30:6; JER 3:15-17) – but only in the sense of atoning propitiation – no longer the sacrifice of mere animals, but by the shed blood of the LAMB of GOD; the righteousness of Christ is placed upon all His saints, so that they wouldn’t be obligated in keeping the Mosaic Law for righteousness, but rather, the righteousness that the Law demanded would be granted by grace (ROM 8:31-33; 10:4-5; GAL 2:21). Christ, GOD the Son, the perfect, changeless One Who has become the Mediator of a better [the second] covenant (HEB 8:6-7; 9:15; 13:8; PS 2:7; 110:1).

On the basis of HEBREWS 9, one may define the b’rith as a legal disposition by which qualified hers are bequeathed an inheritance through the death of the testator: five aspects are entailed: (1) the testator who gives and is the mediator (HEB 9:15), (2) the heirs referred to as “the called” (HEB 9:15); (3) the method of effectuation, the gracious bequest that is executed upon the death of the testator (HEB 9:16); (4) the conditions by which the heir qualifies for the gift (HEB 9:28); and (5) the inheritance which is given eternally (HEB 9:15,28).

3.b Objective features: There are five of these: (1) monergism: accomplished by one worker, namely GOD, Who functions as the suzerainty as sole designator that does not at all include man who is the beneficiary of what GOD establishes (EPH 2:8-9; ISA 63:3,5). (2) the death of the testator (HEB 9:16-17; 7:27); Christ’s sacrifice serving two purposes: that men may stand in His righteousness and He in their condemnation (ISA 45:24; 53:11; 2 COR 5:21; 1 PET 2:24). This provides GOD’s greatest revelation of the b’rith. It’s earlier expressions were simple but dramatically pictorial, emphasizing that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (GEN 8:21; EX 24:8; HEB 9:22); the latter however demonstrated with greater and increasing clarity the sacrifice of the Messiah (DAN 9:26). (3) The promise that is made, salvation in terms of reconciliation with GOD. This truth of the b’rith is seen throughout Scripture, from start (GEN 17:7) to finish (REV 21:3). (4) This feature relates also to heirship, the eternality of the inheritance (JN 3:16; 10:27-29). LEVITICUS 2:13 “the salt” of the b’rith, speaks of this eternality of the promise of GOD. GOD is always mindful of His covenant (1 CHRON 16:15; PSALM 105:8-10). (5) Then there is this confirmatory feature

3.c Subjective features: While monergistic in initiation, it still requires a human response, a meeting of the conditions that GOD has laid down for inheritance, that is, a commitment. Loyalty to the king between humans is a lesser example of our own loyalty to the King of kings! Receiving the King in the b’rith is to receive His kingdom and this reception by the means of repentance (EZ 18:30-31; LK 13:1-3) and acceptance of His deliverance (PS 27:14; JN 1:12) with those who are faithful and remember Him (DEUT 7:12l 8:18; DAN 9:4).

Faith if genuine must be demonstrated by obedience (MT 7:24; JAMES 2:14-26). DANIEL 2:44 speaks of Christ’s incarnation to set up a kingdom, and EZEKIEL 20:37 describes of bond of the b’rith.
So, how many covenants are there in the Bible and what do they mean?

GOT QUESTIONS (www.gotquestions.org) has a good answer! Check it out here.

What are all the covenants in the Bible?

Answer: The Bible speaks of seven different covenants, four of which (Abrahamic*, Palestinian*, Mosaic^, Davidic*) God made with the nation of Israel. Of those four, three* are unconditional in nature; that is, regardless of Israel's obedience or disobedience, God will still fulfill these covenants with Israel.

One of the covenants, the Mosaic Covenant, is conditional in nature^. That is, this covenant will bring either blessing or cursing depending on Israel's obedience or disobedience. Three of the covenants (Adamic, Noahic, New)* are made between God and mankind in general and are not limited to the nation of Israel.

1) The Adamic Covenant can be thought of in two parts: the EDENIC Covenant (innocence) and the ADAMIC Covenant (grace) (GEN 3:16-19).
1.a The Edenic Covenant is found in GEN 1:26-30; 2:16-17. The Edenic Covenant outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This covenant was conditional.
1.b The Adamic Covenant included the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve, as well as God’s provision by grace for that sin (GEN 3:15-19). This covenant was unconditional, as mankind didn’t have any requirements and all the action taken is the sole responsibility of GOD.
2) The Noahic Covenant was an unconditional covenant between God and Noah (specifically) and humanity (generally). After the Flood, God promised humanity that He would never again destroy all life on earth with a Flood (see GEN 9).
God gave the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, a promise that the entire earth would never again be flooded on a global scale; it also served as a reminder that God can and will judge sin (2 PET 2:5).

3) Abrahamic Covenant (GEN 12:1-3, 6-7; 13:14-17; 15; 17:1-14; 22:15-18). In this unconditional covenant, God promised many things to Abraham. He personally promised that He would make Abraham’s name great (GEN 12:2), that Abraham would have numerous physical descendants (GEN 13:16), and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations (GEN 17:4-5).
God also made promises regarding a nation called Israel. In fact, the geographical boundaries of the Abrahamic Covenant are laid out on more than one occasion in the book of Genesis (GEN 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21).
Another provision in the Abrahamic Covenant is that the families of the world will be blessed through the physical line of Abraham (GEN 12:3; 22:18). This is a reference to the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham. If any condition was required of Abraham, one could say that he needed to express faith to believe it.

4) Land (Palestinian) Covenant (DEUT 30:1-10). The Palestinian Covenant, or Land Covenant, amplifies the land aspect that was detailed in the Abrahamic Covenant, but was associated with the Mosaic Covenant in that Israel’s assurance of remaining in the land was based on their conduct.
According to the terms of this covenant, if the people disobeyed, God would cause them to be scattered around the world (DEUT 30:3-4), but He would eventually restore the nation (vs. 5). When the nation is restored, then they will obey Him perfectly (verse 8), and God will cause them to prosper (verse 9).

5) Mosaic Covenant (DEUT 11). The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant that either brought God's direct blessing for obedience or God's direct cursing for disobedience upon the nation of Israel.
Part of the Mosaic Covenant was the Ten Commandments (EXOD 20) and the rest of the Law, which contained over 600 commands—roughly 300 positive and 300 negative. The history books of the Old Testament (Joshua–Esther) detail how Israel succeeded at obeying the Law or how Israel failed miserably at obeying the Law. DEUT 11:26-28 details the blessing/cursing subject matter dependent on Israel’s obedience, or not which also included dwelling in the land as outlined in the Palestinian Covenant.

6) Davidic Covenant (2 SAM 7:8-16). The Davidic Covenant amplifies the “seed” aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. The promises to David in this passage are significant. God promised that David's lineage would last forever and that his kingdom would never pass away permanently (vs. 16; see also PSALM 89:3-5,19-37). Obviously, the Davidic throne has not been in place at all times. There will be a time, however, when someone from the line of David will again sit on the throne and rule as king. This future king is Jesus (LUKE 1:32-33)!

7) New Covenant (JER 31:31-34). The New Covenant is a covenant made first with the nation of Israel and then, ultimately, with all mankind.
In the New Covenant, God promises to forgive sin, and there will be a universal knowledge of the Lord. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses (MATT 5:17) and create a new covenant between God and His people. Now that we are under the New Covenant, both Jews and Gentiles can be free from the penalty of the Law. We are now given the opportunity to receive salvation as a free gift and walk in the righteousness of the Law (ROM 3:21; ROM 4:13; 8:4; 9:31; 10:4-5; GAL 2:21; PHIL 3:9) without having to deal with the over 600 individual laws under the Mosaic Covenantal Law (EPH 2:8-9).

We will address in the next article, the ADAMIC Covenant, subdivided into the Edenic and Adamic aspects of it; from there we will address each of the remaining six covenants in their own article.

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