Covenant is one of the most important themes or topics in the Bible. And when something is mentioned more than once in the Bible, we better pay close attention. So what is God’s covenant with man?
In Deuteronomy 7:9 it tells us that our God is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
In simple terms, God’s covenant with man is an agreement between God and man whereby God promises certain things to man. And man agrees to follow the conditions he is given by God. There are more than three covenants in the Bible.
While each covenant has several promises that God makes to man, they are tied down to one single promise: man’s salvation through Christ.
Christians need to understand how covenants function so that we can understand how the Bible fits together. In this post, we shall look at what a covenant is, the characteristics of a covenant, and God’s covenant with man.
So let’s get started:
What is a Covenant?
A covenant is an agreement entered into by two or more parties.
A covenant is different from a contract because it is entered into by people who have a personal relationship. In short, the two parties enter into it voluntarily.
The Main Characteristics of a Covenant?
There need to be witnesses when two people are making a covenant.
2. Conditions and obligations
Both parties need to meet certain conditions and obligations, or else the covenant will be broken.
But when it comes to God, not all covenants have these characteristics. Some of the covenants are unconditional, meaning they only depend on the faithfulness of one party, and that is God.
3. Outside Signs
There needs to be an outside sign that shows that the covenant was made between the two parties. In the case of Abraham, he needed to circumcise the male children and himself as a sign that he had entered into a covenant with God.
The covenants in the Bible include:
- the Noahic/universal covenant
- the Abrahamic covenant
- the Mosaic covenant
- the Davidic covenant, and
- the New covenant
Let us briefly look at some of the covenants in the Old Testament because they are equally important, and then we shall go into detail about the new covenant that we are currently living in.
1. Noahic Covenant
The wickedness of man became great. God regretted and decided to destroy man, but Noah found grace with God. Noah and his family were spared as the rest of humanity was destroyed by the flood.
After the flood, God made the first covenant with man (Genesis 9). He promised Noah that He will never destroy the earth with a flood. Then God set the rainbow as the sign of His covenant between Him and earth.
This covenant is called the universal covenant because it was made with all humanity through Noah. It also marked a new beginning for the world.
2. The Abrahamic Covenant
Found in Genesis 12:1-3, God tells Abraham to leave his country and family and go to a land He will show him. God promises to make Abraham into a great nation and to bless all nations through him.
In Genesis 15, a ceremony is made, but instead of God and Abraham moving between the halves of animals, only God moves between the pieces, making the covenant unconditional.
Later on, God asks Abraham to circumcise all males in his line. That was to be a sign of God’s covenant to him.
4. Mosaic/ Sinai or Old Covenant
Also known as the Sinai covenant, the Mosaic covenant was made between God and the Israelites on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-24). It set the children apart from other nations as God’s chosen people.
Through Moses, God promised the children of Israel that they would be His treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation Exodus 19:5 if they obeyed the commands of God. Israel agreed by promising to do everything God had spoken, making the covenant binding.
Unlike other covenants, the Mosaic covenant was conditional. The children of Israel had to meet certain conditions for God to fulfill His promises to them.
5. Davidic Covenant
In this covenant, God, through prophet Nathan, promises David that the Messiah would come through his lineage (2 Samuel 7).
God also reaffirms the promise He made to Abraham and the Israelites. He promises to provide a place for His people Israel. God also promises David that his son will succeed him as king, and it is that son who will build God a temple and his throne will endure forever 2 Samuel 7:12-13.
The Davidic covenant was an unconditional promise that rested solely on God’s faithfulness and did not depend on David’s obedience.
When God was pronouncing curses in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve disobeyed, He told the serpent that the seed of the woman would crush his head and he would strike his heel. From this point on, we see God fulfilling this promise.
God does this by sparing Noah and his family and makes a covenant with him. He then calls Abraham. God makes a covenant with him, and He also reveals His redemption plan to him. God promises to Abraham that he will be a father of many nations, and through his grandson, Jacob, a nation Israel, is birthed.
Through the children of Israel, God starts to establish a relationship with man and reveal His nature, but the hearts of the children of Israel are far from God. Later on, God promises David that the Messiah, the ultimate seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3, will come through his lineage.
Years down the road, this promise is fulfilled by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Up to the time when Christ came, no one had ever fulfilled the laws God gave under the old covenant.
Jesus came to fulfill the old covenant and establish a new covenant through His death and resurrection.
6. THE NEW COVENANT
Under the old covenant, the children of Israel were expected to follow the laws God has given them through Moses. They had to perform sacrifices to atone for their sins.
And although the sacrifices were many, they did not enable the children of Israel to change their ways. If anything, it made them aware of their sins and to sink further into them.
Even though there was an old covenant, there was an anticipation of the New Covenant as man could not keep his side of the covenant.
The Difference Between The New Covenant and the Old Covenant
The New Covenant is different from the old one. Here is why:
❖ A Change of Heart
In the new covenant, God promises to change men’s hearts and give them a new spirit. Instead of writing the laws on a tablet of stone like in the old covenant, God’s laws are written on man’s heart.
Instead of man having a cold and impenetrable heart, God gives him a new heart and spirit where the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in it. Through the blood of Jesus, the heart of man is cleansed and changed to become a holy dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
❖ Only One Great Sacrifice
Unlike the Old covenant, where different kinds of sacrifices had to be made to atone for man’s sin, there was only one great sacrifice in the new covenant, and that was the death of Jesus.
His death on the Cross ushered in the new covenant that God had promised in the Old Testament.
With this new God’s covenant with man, our sins past, present and future are covered. Meaning that man does not have to keep on making sacrifices like it was with the old covenant.
Since the blood of bulls and goats would not cleanse man once and for all – there needed to be a better sacrifice that would free man from his sin once and for all.
❖ The Promise of Eternal Power
In the old covenant, people tried to keep all the commandments that they were given. But those laws did not have the power to change their hearts and transform them.
However, the new covenant comes with a promise of eternal power as it can change the spirit and hearts of men. And cause them to be obedient to the Lord.
❖ A Personal Relationship with God
The old covenant created a barrier between God and man. Even though people, for example, the Pharisees, knew all the laws, their hearts were not close to God.
Jesus said that they honored God only with their words, but their hearts were so very distant from Him. In other words, the Pharisees did not have a personal relationship with God.
In the new covenant, God promised that “I will be their God and they will be my people” Jeremiah 31:33. This shows that God established an intimate relationship with man through His son Jesus Christ with the new covenant God. There is nothing that separates us from God. The wall of separation that had been erected by sin was broken.
Today man can have an intimate relationship with God if he accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Instead of seeing God as a harsh judge ready to punish us anytime – when we mess up, we see Him as a Father who embraces the prodigal son when they turn back from their old ways.
Hope this article –Benefits of Pleasing God, will give you deeper understanding of how to establish an intimate relationship with God.
❖ Intimate Knowledge
In order not to forget the law, the children of Israel had to learn the Torah. God encouraged them to write the laws on the doorpost and teach them to their children to not forget them.
In the new covenant, God said that His children don’t need to be taught His commands by others because they would have an intimate knowledge of what He has promised.
❖ Forgiveness of Sin
Something unique about the new covenant is that God forgave man even before we turned away from our sins. It is written even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Roman 5:8).
God did not wait for man to make sacrifices of bulls and goats. He did not wait for us to ask Him to sacrifice His Son. God gave up His only Son to die on the Cross for us while we were still in the kingdom of darkness.
We do not have to keep on living in cycles of defeat and condemnation. Why? Because God does not remember our sins anymore. In the past, people would be punished for the sins that they committed.
For example, when David carried out a census, he was punished for what he had done. There were consequences for the sins that someone committed.
Today God remembers our sins no more, for we are under grace and not the law. Yes, we may have to face the consequences of our actions, but we don’t pay for our mistakes. Jesus has already paid it all.
❖ Gentiles can Enjoy the Blessings
The Old Testament was only binding between God and the children of Israel. But gentiles have been brought into the new covenant by the blood of Jesus. They get to enjoy the same blessings as the Jews.
The total fulfillment of the New Covenant will be marked by the second coming of Jesus and the imprisonment of Satan in the lake of fire.
Today, anyone can receive the gift of salvation freely. Our responsibility in this new covenant is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, to be in an intimate relationship with Him, and to follow His voice.
We do not have to make sacrifices of bulls and goats for God to forgive us. We don’t need anyone to teach us the truth 1 John 2:27. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts when we accept Jesus as our Lord. He, the Holy Spirit, leads us in all truth.
Final Thoughts on God’s Covenant with Man
There are different kinds of covenants that God has entered into with man all through the Bible. Understanding God’s covenant with man will enable you to understand the Bible deeply.
Most of these covenants are unconditional. It means that the fulfillment of the promises is dependent on His faithfulness and not man’s.
Even though the covenants differ, they all had a common factor – they were a preparation for the New covenant.
Each covenant also shows us how faithful God is. We can see Him fulfilling His promises to the different parties involved even after they are dead.
I hope you will enjoy this short video – History Is The Outworking Of God’s Covenant With Man by my favourite teacher Derek Prince.