Understanding Covenant Basics

By William Handschumacher

Rock of Offence Special Commentary





If I could name one thing missing in the modern Church, it is understanding the "ways" of God. In Psalms 103: 6-7 David writes...


"The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel."



A lot of teaching in the Church today is based on human reasoning about God and how He thinks and acts. Many wrongly think that “theology” is divine knowledge—but theology is more man’s ideas about God rather than what God says about Himself. I am astounded at some preachers who take principles from the Bible and change them to fit some kind of religious reasoning or denominational thinking. The Bible says that God has "ways" by which he operates. When we cooperate with His ways, we get the same results experienced by the early believers in the Bible. We see the power of God manifested when we conform our lives to His ways. One problem with the Church today is the abundance of teachings based on philosophy and human reason. These religious ideologies are passed off as God's Word. Yet, God will not confirm the teachings of men when it has been falsely put forth as His Word. God has promised to confirm His Word, not what men say concerning His Word. (Mark 16:20, Jeremiah 1:11-12, Matthew 15:1-9)


UNDERSTANDING COVENANT :
ONE OF THE WAYS OF GOD



"Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day." (II Chronicles 6:14)


"Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenant and mercy...” (Nehemiah 9:32)



Our God is a covenant-keeping God. Respecting covenant is one of God's main character traits. Since this is clearly stated in scripture, we would do well to discover its meaning and how it applies to our salvation in the New Testament. All throughout the Bible, God tells us that He relates to mankind on the basis of covenant.

Below I have provided nine scriptural references from both the Old and New Testament that plainly describe our covenant relationship with God.



  • "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you—the sure mercies of David." (Isaiah 55:1-3)

  • "I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing." (Ezekiel 34:25-26)

  • "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

  • "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)

  • "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them, then He adds, their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Heb 10:16-17)

  • "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26-29)

  • "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-25)

  • "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)

  • "Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:20)




Conerning the words of Christ in this last passage, the word translated "covenant" in Luke 22:20 of the New King James Version of the Bible is translated "testament" in the original King James. The word "testament" and the word "covenant" are often used interchangeably. If you look up this word in Strong's Concordance, you find that the Greek meaning is presented as both "testament and covenant." In modern theology, the Bible is commonly presented as a book of dispensations. This is simply understood as the dividing up of history into different time frames (or dispensations). Some preachers claim that God starts a particular "dispensation" where He does something specific. When God accomplishes His goal, He then starts a new dispensation with an emphasis on something else.

When you hear someone say that
the "dispensation (or age) of
healing and miracles" is over,
what's being said is that God
doesn’t heal much anymore
because He’s closed that
dispensation and moved on to
something else. The problem with
this kind of thinking is that
you can never know when God has
decided to “change the rules”.
It cheats us of the ability
"to know" specific things about
the will of God in the believer’s
life.



Under this kind of theology, you can never really "know" what God is going to do because He might not be doing what He was doing before. This kind of thinking produces a counterfeit faith in Christians. It is a faith that can make a specific request of God but can never produce the confidence of obtaining what you requested ... because of the uncertainty of God's willingness to grant it. This kind of counterfeit faith is common in the modern church. The reader should not misunderstand my position. I am not against dispensationalism since the Bible clearly supports its teachings. Let me explain.


GOD'S WORD IS A BOOK OF
DISPENSATIONS INITIATED
BY BLOOD COVENANTS



In the Bible, God never initiates a new dispensation without first establishing it upon a blood covenant. The Bible is generally divided into two parts: The Old Testament and the New Testament. As we discovered earlier, these two sections of the Bible are also called The Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The old covenant involves the blood covenant of the Law that was initiated by Moses at Mount Sinai. The New Covenant was made through the blood of Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20). The old covenant of the Law is passing away (Hebrews 8:1-13), but the New Covenant is an everlasting covenant (Hebrews 13:20-21). The New Covenant is declared to be "a better covenant established on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). The New Covenant is the same covenant in which the early Church exercised faith. The New Covenant is declared to be everlasting, which is why it continues to govern the lives of believers today. Healing has not passed away as some falsely teach ... because the promise of physical healing was never based on a dispensation. It is a blood-bought benefit of an everlasting covenant. Can we expect God to move the same for us today as He did for the early Church? Yes ... because we have the same everlasting covenant they had.




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