Biblical Covenants

The Biblical Covenants of God

INTRODUCTION

This article provides a concise exposition of The Biblical Covenants of God. Though brief, it has been created with care so that the similar features of each covenant and the different features of each covenant can be easily identified and compared. To do well the reader must study, compare, and search the Scriptures listed.
For example, each covenant has a sign and a seal. They were chosen with much thought. The reader should learn the differences between the signs and the seals. The two words are simply defined in the material that follows. Those definitions are for teaching purposes in this article.
My goal is to simplify and organize God’s stated contractual dealings with mankind so that we may gain better understanding of our own relationship with God. How do we stand? Where do we stand?
We will first look at some general terms which we will then attempt to apply in a consistent manner to an exposition of each covenant in chronological order.

But first we must clarify what this study is not. This study has nothing to do with the modern concept called Covenant Theology. According to Millard J. Erikson’s Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, covenant theology ” … views the relationship between God and humanity as a type of agreement between them which governs the dealings of God with humans.” Also, this study does not use the manmade concept of Dispensationalism, which is a system of biblical interpretation that is based upon the idea that God’s working with humans is divided into different periods of time “during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God,” according to C.I. Scofield.
Scofield lists these: [1] Innocence (Genesis 1:28); [2] Conscience/Moral Responsibility (Genesis 3:15); [3] Human Government (Genesis 8:15); [4] Promise (Genesis 12:1); [5] Law (Exodus 19:1); [6] Church (Acts 2:1); [7] Kingdom (Revelation 20:4). Generally, covenant theology rejects dispensationalism and emphasizes the covenant of grace. Both of these concepts (though based upon the Bible) are more concerned with the biblical philosophy of history rather than with biblical exposition.

What this study is: This study will cover seven explicit covenants found in the Word of God in a simple expository manner. God’s covenants must be defined by Scripture only without going beyond what the actual verses state.
The seven covenants are: Edenic, Adamic, Noachian, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and lastly the New Covenant. Though scholars may insist that there are other covenants (Sinaiatic, Palestinian) mentioned in the Bible, the ones listed will cover them sufficiently. Although these covenants are not progressive and are not successive we will study them in chronological order. Please keep in mind that biblical covenants are not dispensations and have nothing to do with covenant theology.

WHAT IS A COVENANT?

The key Bible words to study to gain greater understanding of God’s covenants are the Hebrew word beriyth and the Greek word diatheke. Both words form the basis for the idea of a pact, agreement or covenant. In addition the Greek word conveys the idea of a last will which is why Jerome used the Latin testamentum.
Covenant Defined.
A covenant is a binding agreement. There are two kinds of covenants.
1. Unilateral (no conditions): A unilateral covenant is from the greater party to the lesser party without any fulfilling conditions by the recipient. An example would be that of a king to his subjects.
2. Reciprocal (give back, trade): A reciprocal covenant implies a mutual exchange governed by stated conditions that each party must fulfill in order to make the covenant work (be effective).
Covenants Among Men.
Covenants among men or between equals have the following elements:
1. Statement of terms agreed upon.
2. Swear by oath to observe the terms.
3. Each party invokes a curse from God upon himself in case he disregards or breaks the covenant.
4. Formal ratification by an external act, usually an animal sacrifice with God as witness.
Of course, in a modern secular environment the covenant becomes a contract whose enforcement becomes legal either before governments, courts or bureaucrats.

WHAT IS A SCRIPTURAL COVENANT?

God’s covenants with man are special. A biblical covenant is an agreement between God and man in which God pledges to bless the recipients. All the benefits conferred must be on the part of God; all the obligations must be sustained on the part of man. For example, God grants grace and mercy and man accepts and obeys or rejects and rebels.
God’s covenants are: unilateral (one way), or reciprocal (conditional). The conditional covenants are the Edenic and the Mosaic. The Edenic Covenant has not been rescinded since it was repeated to Noah both before (Genesis 6:18) and after the flood (Genesis 9:1-7). One proof is that God still ordains marriage between one man and one woman. The Mosaic Covenant is a covenant of contrasts in the Old Testament. It is explained as a teacher in the New Testament (Galatians 3:24).
Some parts of the Davidic Covenant are yet to be fulfilled (i.e. Ezekiel 48:35; Micah 7:7-20). The proof is that Jerusalem will be called Yahweh Shammah, the Lord is there. As God unites the divided kingdom of the Jews, He will keep all believers in their chosen roles (Romans 11).
Scriptural covenants contain these elements:
1. God always takes the initiative.
2. God’s covenants contain signs and seals.
a. Covenant SIGNS belong to God, but have been seen by man.
b. Covenant SEALS are of God, but man is involved.
3. God’s covenants demonstrate His love, mercy and grace.
4. God’s covenants contain commands.
5. God’s commands consist of promises that provide benefits for obedience and wrathful penalties for disobedience.

THE SEVEN COVENANTS IN BRIEF:

I. The Edenic Covenant is conditional and still applies to mankind (continues in effect) although it has been flawed by sin.

II. The Adamic Covenant describes the fall of man which dominates all creation and the promise of relief via a Redeemer.

III. The Noachian Covenant is where God gives mankind a second chance.

IV. The Abrahamic Covenant divides people into chosen and common.

V. The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant in the Old Testament and a teacher in the New Testament.

VI. The Davidic Covenant was given to King David and his descendants and will be completed in the millennium.

VII. The New Covenant is where God unites chosen and common believers in Christ Jesus. (An analysis of chosen [Hebrews] and common [Gentiles] will come after the study of all the covenants.)

( Ray Staszewski )

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