The covenants of promise
Grit and Grace
May 13, 2023
At Mountain Bible Church this Spring, we are going through an Eschatology sermon series. Eschatology is a theological category that deals with the doctrine of prophecy or future things to come.
The basis of all Bible prophecy is the Abrahamic Covenant that God made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 15) and the enlargements of that covenant to Israel found in the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:10-16) and the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). These are called covenants of promise (Eph. 2:12) in contrast with the Mosaic Covenant which is called a covenant of death and condemnation.
The covenants of promise are to read literally, they are eternal and they are unconditional. Whereas, the Mosaic Covenant, or Law, was only given for a temporary time to the nation Israel and was not unconditional and was never intended to have any bearing on the church. The fact that it was given to Israel (not the church) and was fulfilled in Christ means it has no application to the church today. It has become obsolete and was abolished by Christ when He died on the cross.
Growing up in church we would sing a song in Sunday school called "Father Abraham." It's an important song that teaches children that we are children of promise and not children of Moses or legalism. The promise God made with Abraham was completely unconditional, and the covenant with Moses was completely conditional. You may not know the importance of this difference between these two types of covenants but they're of gravest importance to your spiritual health. The nature of these two covenants effects your perception of God and how He relates to you and you to Him, and they have a huge effect on every other relationship in your life.
To illustrate this point let me give you two examples. First, a child who is reared in a home based on merit and demerit might say, "I messed up, my dad is going to kill me." Secondly, a child who is reared in a home oiled by God's grace might say, "I messed up, I need to call my dad." Do you see the difference?
The Mosaic Covenant consisted of privileges that could be obtained or forfeited through meeting certain conditions. If one obeyed the stipulations of the covenant there would be blessings, and if one disobeyed there would be curses (Dt. 28). However, God's promises to His people don't work on such principles of reward and demerit (Rom. 4:4-5). There are no conditions put on God's love and faithfulness. His love and His grace are given without any strings attached whatsoever.
Let me ask you a question, how many relationships in your life are based on this kind of unconditional love? Ideally, this unconditional love and commitment that God shows the world should characterize the husband/wife relationship, the parent/child relationship and the church/member relationship. The nature of the Abrahamic Covenant is so important that it has a bearing on our salvation, our eternal security, our future resurrection and all prophecy of things to come. Matter of fact, it is impossible to know about soteriology, ecclesiology or eschatology without a firm understanding of the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 15; Matt. 22:23-32; Gal. 3). If you are not interested in eschatology, you are dismissing one-third of the Scriptures that are vitally important to your Christian maturity.
Israel had an opportunity to continue their relationship with the Lord on the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant (Ex. 19:5), but they chose to pass from grace to a relationship with God based on rules instead. Their acceptance of the Law was in direct proportion to their lack of faith and trust in the Lord. Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote, "Thus they deliberately forsook their priceless position under grace, which was according to the covenant made with Abraham, and assumed the impossible responsibility of law by which they must stand or fall before God on the basis of their own merit." In this sense, upon receiving the law, the nation "fell from grace by choosing a covenant of works in place of the glorious mercy of God. The experience of that nation is the experience of every individual who trusts in his own good works or merit, and does not depend on the boundless grace of God, which in Christ Jesus is provided for and offered to all."
When given a choice, humans tend to choose rules and regulations instead of a free and organic relationship. The promises of God's unconditional covenants that He made with Abraham and David and the nation of Israel are so much better than the conditional covenant God made with Israel in response to their unbelief. The promises are eternal, given directly by God, the means of blessing, are entered into by faith, are for all people and every nation, are superior and brings life. The Law was added, temporary, given indirectly, the means of curse, based on works, given to Israel alone and not the church, inferior to the promise, and only brought death and condemnation. The church is founded on better promises (Heb. 8:6)!
We'd love to invite your elementary aged children to our yearly Vacation Bible School the week of July 17-21, 5-7 p.m. This year's VBS will be based on the story of Apostle Paul told through the imagination of Sonic the Hedgehog. Our youth group meets every Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in our student building. Ages 6-12 are welcome.
Chris Frost is the pastor of The Mountain Bible Church of Tehachapi, and an on-call chaplain at Adventist Health Hospital. He is a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM) and has spoken at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and worked on projects with Lexham Press and Kregel Academic and is published in "Bibliotheca Sacra." His newest adventure in 2023 will be his studies in Oxford on the apologetics of CS Lewis. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.