I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE (JEREMIAH 31:33)
Covenants play a vital role in the Bible since they are how God aims to restore humanity to its divine calling. However, what is a covenant? The term “covenant” means a coming together of two or more parties to make a contract, agreeing on promises, stipulations, privileges, and responsibilities. There are two basic types of covenants:
WHAT IS A BILATERAL/CONDITIONAL COVENANT?
A bilateral/conditional covenant is an agreement between two equal parties. One of the most common examples of a bilateral covenant is marriage. In a marriage, a husband and wife formally commit to a lifelong relationship of faithfulness and devotion to one another. They exchange vows and promises and work together as partners to achieve common goals such as building a life or raising children. However, unfaithfulness or failing to fulfill the responsibilities of a married partner can negatively impact the marriage.
WHAT IS A UNILATERAL/UNCONDITIONAL COVENANT?
A unilateral covenant, also known as an unconditional covenant, is an agreement between two parties of unequal power. An example of this type of covenant is the one between God and humans, where the recipient does not take part in drafting the covenant. They are responsible for listening to the terms and conditions of the covenant and either accepting or refusing them.
JOHN WESLEY’S UNDERSTANDING OF COVENANT
John Wesley’s concept of the covenant of God is fundamental to Christian discipleship. He believed that our relationship with God is established on a covenant. As per John Wesley, we can only identify ourselves as God’s people by acknowledging the covenant, obeying God, nurturing our relationship with Him, and constantly reminding ourselves of our commitment to walk with God.
The Abrahamic covenant with God is mentioned in Genesis 12:1-3, and the ceremony is recorded in Genesis 15. God promised to bless Abraham if he remained faithful to Him. In the covenant with Abraham, God said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse whoever curses you, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2–3).
- The covenant between Abraham and God is considered the beginning of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Abraham agreed to God’s will, which led him to leave his beloved country and search for a new land and destiny. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 CHRONICLES 16:9a). God is inviting us into a close and intimate relationship with Him. Are you ready to say yes to God?
- The covenant of Abraham was significant because it marked a season where a man, chosen by God for a divine assignment, trusted, obeyed, and had complete faith in God. God invites us to avoid iniquity and pursue an intimate relationship with Him.
- The Abrahamic Covenant is the starting point of God’s formal revelation of grace to humanity, with a plan for salvation, redemption, and reconciliation for all humanity. It calls us to trust the Lord, regardless of our circumstances.
The book of Exodus begins with the descendants of Abraham growing in number in Egypt, which makes the new Pharaoh feel threatened. As a result, he enslaves God’s people. The Israelites cry out to God for help, and God hears them. God sent Moses as His chosen leader to lead the people out of Egypt and towards the land that He promised to Abraham.
God’s covenant with Israel established four divine promises based on the condition that Israel keep the covenant of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19-24). These promises include:
1. Israel will be a treasured possession of God and will receive special blessings from God if they obey the covenant.
2. Israel will be a kingdom of priests, and as a royal priesthood, they will have access to God.
3. Israel will be a holy nation, set apart from all other nations, as long as they keep the covenant with God.
4. God will be an enemy to Israel’s enemies and defend Israel from all adversaries.
The Mosaic Covenant is significant because it makes Israel God’s light to the dark world. They were to be a separate and called-out nation so everyone would know and worship Yahweh. Similarly, in our covenant with God, we are called to be His righteous people within our families, communities, and worldwide. This way, others can see the divine light of God shining through us.
Although the Mosaic Covenant had an intricate sacrificial system, it could not take away sins, as mentioned in Hebrews 10:1-4. This implies that the Mosaic Covenant, with all its detailed laws, could not save people. It is not that the Law itself was problematic, as it was perfect and came from a perfect God. The issue was that the people lacked the power of the Holy Spirit to follow the Law perfectly.
The New Covenant
The New Covenant is a promise made by God to forgive sins and restore fellowship with those who have turned their hearts towards Him. Jesus Christ acts as the mediator of the New Covenant. According to Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you,” referring to Jesus’ death on the cross as the seal of the New Covenant.
The prophet Jeremiah also predicted the coming of the New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:33 declares: “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” says the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”
Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My laws, and you will keep My commandments and do them.”
How can someone become a part of the new covenant?
- Jesus shed His blood to remove the sins of the world (John 1:29).
- The new covenant grants us forgiveness of sins.
- Salvation is only possible under the new covenant, which is without curses.
- Anyone can become part of a new covenant made possible by their faith in Christ Jesus.
- The Mosaic Covenant was a covenant that was written on stone tablets. The new covenant is spiritual written on the flesh of hearts.
- The indwelling Holy Spirit helps believers obey the word of God and keep His commandments.
What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul begins to describe how those who enter into covenant with Jesus Christ should their lives and urges Christians to live in the light of what God did for us. He also reminds us that our covenant with Jesus is only possible because of God’s mercy so we are now under grace, not law.
Modern philosophy suggests that our body’s needs should guide our actions. However, the Bible teaches us to surrender our will to God and to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. Although our body can be a great tool, it can also become a terrible master.
“Presenting your body as a holy sacrifice” means God desires you, not only your work. He wants your complete being – body, soul, and spirit.
In the new covenant, we must resist conformity to the world’s ways and fully embrace the transformation that comes with Jesus Christ.
We are advised not to be shaped by the world’s values and thinking patterns but rather to let God renew our minds.
Therefore, we must resist anything not in alignment with the word of God and stay true to our faith.