8 June 2009

Covenants

Most faiths/religions/belief systems believe that there is a pattern to life, or a design or balance. Christianity is no different. Life is described as a race or battle in which we’re encouraged to “fight a good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18). At times when man has wanted help from God, he has entered into covenants with God. Definitions of covenant are given as 1: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement : 2 a: a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.

Examples of covenants between God and man include:-

1) God’s covenants with Adam – when man decided to eat of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, forbidden to him by God, he broke the Edenic Covenant (Genesis 1:28-29; 2:15-17), resulting in the Adamic covenant which we are born into (Genesis 3:14-21).

2) The Abrahamic covenant – circumcision was the sign of the covenant for Abraham and his descendants, for which God declared that He would be their God (Genesis 17:4-14).

3)The Mosaic Covenant – The ten commandments which Moses later added statutes and laws to, on the understanding that if men followed certain rules and rituals they would be regarded as God’s people (Exodus 34:27-28; Deuteronomy 4:13-14)

4) The Covenant of Jesus Christ – The gift of salvation given through the sacrifice Jesus made for all of us, to enable God to become our spiritual father that we may once again become children of God .

The contract of Adam and Eve was formed when mankind chose not to obey God; by eating of the tree knowledge and good and evil and choosing to exercise their free will to disobey rather than obey God. Thereby distancing them and their kin from God’s spirit. By having the choice, we had the option to exercise free will, and our ancestors chose to know evil, as well as good.

The exercising of free will is demonstrated each time we choose whether to do the right, or wrong thing. Our ancestors, Adam and Eve, chose to follow a different spiritual father and we, coming from them, were born with the same father. Hence the need for other covenants which will enable us to once again return to God, such as the covenant enabled by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The covenant of circumcision with Abraham and his descendants (Acts 7:8; Genesis 17:2-21), provided Abraham and his descendant with an opportunity know that God was their God. However, the Mosaic Covenant added requirements/laws to the original covenant of the 10 Commandments (see the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and acceptance was said to be dependant upon these laws being abided by. This was not a perfect relationship, and was referred to as the “curse of the law” by the apostle Paul (Galatians 3:10-14).

The laws added after the Mosaic covenant required frequent forms of appeasement and sacrifice to try to make man acceptable enough, in terms of Godliness, to be considered a servant of God. The Levite priesthood was established so they could sanctify themselves to be considered to be holy enough to be able to commune with God on behalf of the people.

While this covenant may have provided a route to God for mankind, it was restrictive and difficult to maintain, resulting in many falling short and only being able to have a limited relationship with God for most. Even then, much of the relationship required a third party, e.g. a priest, acting on their behalf. When Jesus spoke about some of the traditions that came to make up the Jewish religion, He criticised them for teaching the commandments of men as doctrines and clarified that it is what comes out of people which defiles them (ie from their hearts) rather than what they put into themselves (Matthew 15:1-20).

The Old Testament foretold of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) which was fulfilled through the sacrifice made by Jesus. The new covenant is one of liberty where Jesus sacrificed himself to make an everlasting covenant, able to cover our sins and provide a way for us back to God (John 3:16; Hebrews 8:6-13; 12:24). The bible tells us that love will cover a multitude of sins Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8) and what greater act of love is there than to sacrifice yourself for others that persecute do not even know of you yet! This covenant surpasses the others as it is available to all and enables us to become children of God, rather than servants.

Thanks to the sacrifice offered by Jesus, to atone for our sins, God is able to send the Holy Spirit to guide us and take His rightful place as Our Holy Father (Ephesians 1:4-7). It also means that a believer no longer live according to sets of rules, but according to our leading by the Holy Spirit within us once we have accepted God’s gift, as He said in Jeremiah 31:32-34

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Although Jesus endorsed the value of the original “Ten Commandments” (Matthew 15:3-4), when He was asked which of the Old Testament commandments were the greatest, He responded that those which told you to love God and other people summed up all the law (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus gave us valuable teachings and guidance but the only thing he specified as one of His commandments was to love (John 13:34-35).

This is vastly superior covenant as it enables each person’s walk with God to be on an individual basis, tailor made and the ultimate in liberty as Paul pointed out “All things are possible, but not all things are beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12). We are encouraged to have consideration for others (1 Corinthians 8:9) and so it is our love for them that discourages us from doing others wrong, rather than not doing things because we are following rules. Free will at its best and with the Holy Spirit and God’s love for everyone, to guide you (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14).

NB: The blue writing in this passage will take you to the relevant scripture on biblegateway.com where you can also look up the scripture in other translations of the bible.

No comments:

Post a comment