One of the main vehicles used in society that stipulate requirements for establishing relationships is a contract. A contract is a written or verbal agreement between two or more parties that establishes their mutual relationship. All the parties commit to adhere to the agreed upon requirements. The failure of one party to meet their contractual obligations is called a breach of contract. A breach may support the other parties’ desires to make the contract null and void. Men and women freely enter contracts in order to legally bind all the parties to perform the requirements of the agreement.
We know that contracts are entered into voluntarily and that they are agreements made between equals.
The Christian faith also includes the idea of contracts, but with significant differences. The main difference is that the Christian faith’s contract is called a covenant and it is not made between equals.
The distance between God and man is so great that God initiated covenants to establish the requirements for a relationship with him. (Taken from Chapter Seven, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)
The Bible reveals two major covenants that God made with man. Both are revealed in Genesis. The first of these is called the covenant of works, Genesis 2:17. God promised life to Adam if he obeyed God’s command. The consequence for disobeying God was death.
The second covenant that God made with man is called the covenant of grace. It is first revealed in Genesis 3:15. In the covenant of grace, God promised to crush the head of Satan by the “seed” of the woman. Not only is this the first revelation of the covenant of grace, but it is also the first prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God declared that Jesus, born of a virgin, would deal a mortal blow to Satan. This was accomplished on the Cross. Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory over death, confirmed by his resurrection. (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
There are many other covenants in Scripture, for example, God’s covenant with Noah, Abram, Israel in the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. Yet all of these are part of the covenant of grace. It is within the context of what is called covenant theology that the gospel is set and understood.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity.” God chose to reveal his faithfulness by way of covenants, supremely the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
The Bible also speaks of another covenant, one not made with man. This covenant was made within the Trinity. It was made in eternity. It is called the covenant of redemption. (John 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-21) This covenant was made between God the father and God the son. The essence of the covenant of redemption is that the son agreed to lay down his life in accordance with the father’s will to accomplish redemption. Jesus is the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. (1 Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6)
One of the clearest promises of God was made in Genesis 17:7. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” God promised to be God to Abram and to the seed of Abram who is declared by the Apostle Paul to be Christ. (Galatians 3:16) This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled his promise. The final fulfillment of God’s promise is yet to come. Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’”
God is always faithful to his word. God’s “steadfast love” is a declaration of his loyal love for his people. (Psalm 118) God has declared that he will accomplish all that he has promised. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) Christians are secure not because of our faithfulness but only because of the faithfulness of our covenant God.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.