Here is the sermon for Sunday morning May 11th, 2008.
COVENANT LESSONS PART 1
WHAT IS THE COVENANT?
Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at the covenant that God made with Abraham, and some similarities and teachings that the Apostle Paul had to say concerning these.
Matthew 26:28 ESV – for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
As New Covenant believers in Jesus Christ, we often talk about covenant. But do we really know what it means? Are there examples in Scripture of covenants that God made with people? If there are examples, then why did God make covenants with them? Is there anything special about the people that God had made covenant with?
These are just some of the questions that I had as I began this study. I will tell you this, I probably don’t have the complete answer to give to all of these questions, but hopefully, the Lord will use Scripture to answer as many of these questions for us if possible.
Covenant is a very important subject to God. In the Bible, I actually counted myself 263 times it being mentioned. I read another author that stated it is mentioned 264 times, so I’m sure I missed one some where. This is not including the Hebrew and Greek words for covenant being translated with a different word. If we included them, then the count would be much higher.
As I was praying a couple of weeks ago, just trying to stay in the Lord’s presence as I was flipping through Bible, I stopped flipping on the story concerning what is called, “The Abrahamic Covenant,” which is God’s covenant with Abraham. I started just reading through the story, and notice just a few similarities with Paul on a couple of occasions, plus recalling some things that Paul wrote concerning Abraham.
So this study may go a little slow at first getting through some introductary issues, but hopefully by the time we end it, you will have a greater appreciation and humility concerning God’s New Covenant that He has made with us.
Let’s look at this subject of covenant this morning.
1. What does the word, “covenant” mean?
A. Before we can get into meat of God’s covenant to us, we must first learn what a covenant is.
Some people think it is like a contract, or an agreement between two or more parties.
And while the Greek word may have some similarities to this, it goes much deeper than that. In fact, there are different meanings between the Greek word for covenant and the Hebrew word for covenant. So I want to explain what each one means.
B. The Hebrew word for covenant.
The literal meaning is, “to cut and separate, to tear, or rip apart an animal or object and walk in between the pieces as an act of pledge and promise.” We’ve all seen the sign of eternity, which is very similar to a figure eight. Well, many scholars feel that when the Lord made His covenant with Abraham, that He walked in between the pieces in this figure eight fashion. If this is true then God is actually the one that established the symbol for eternity, not man.
Let’s look at the text describing this.
Genesis 15:7-18a ESV – 7 And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…
C. The Greek word for Covenant.
A disposition, especially of property by will, a will or testament. An agreement by means of cutting and dividing, and blood being shed. In the New Testament it is used in the sense of a will and testament giving to an heir.
Notice how Paul uses this type of Greek philosophical understanding of covenant and being an heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 ESV – 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
D. Other definitions of the word, “covenant.”
The Reformation Study Bibles definition is, “Covenants are solemn agreements, negotiated, that bind the parties to each other in permanent defined relationships, with specific promises, claims, and obligations, on both sides.”
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines covenant this way, “an agreement between two people or two groups that involves promises on the part of each to the other. The Hebrew word for “covenant” probably means “betweenness,” emphasizing the relational element that lies at the basis of all covenants. Human covenants or treaties were either between equals or between a superior and an inferior. Divine covenants, however, are always of the latter type, and the concept of covenant between God and His people is one of the most important theological truths of the Bible.”
2. God has always dealt with His people by instigating covenants.
A. Here are a few Scriptural examples.
Genesis 6:18 ESV – But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
Exodus 2:24 ESV – And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
Exodus 6:4 ESV – I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners.
1 Samuel 20:8 ESV – Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you.
1 Kings 8:23 ESV – O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart…
2 Kings 13:23 ESV – But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now.
Psalm 25:14 ESV – The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 89:34 ESV – I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Romans 11:27 ESV – and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.
3. God now deals with mankind through the ultimate covenant – the new covenant.
A. The New Covenant was instituted through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
B. All covenants were selective.
C. The New Covenant is selective as well.
Christ died for all mankind. But only those who put their absolute faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and repent of their sins are children of the new covenant. In theological terms, these would be called, “The elect.” Which during this morning sermon we will not discuss the terms, “election,” or “effectual calling.” This will be discussed in a future sermon. I do want to make one thing very clear – every person who is has turned from their sins, and put their faith in Jesus Christ and are saved by His grace, are those whom God has chosen and drawn to Himself.
God has always dealt with the human race through covenants. He deals with us now through the new covenant. This new covenant was established by Jesus through His sacrificial death on the cross.
Do you want to be a child of the covenant this morning? You are not born into it by natural means, or it is not something in your blood or family history. It is not something that you will evolve into either. The only way to become a citizen of the new covenant is for the Father to first draw you, and you put your faith in Christ, repenting of yours sins and by His grace and undeserved favor – He saves you. He doesn’t save you for what you bring to the table for Him. He saves you simply because He loves you and He has chosen you for Himself.
Do you feel that drawing this morning? If so, then come forward, turn from your sins and turn to God, calling on Him to save you through Jesus Christ.