Posts tagged ‘Abraham’

Our Covenant Keeping God

Throughout history, Jehovah has always dealt with mankind according to covenants. He is a God of order, and does not rule in an arbitrary or capricious manner. Rather, He lets us know the conditions of His covenant so that we know what His promises are and can then exercise faith in His Word to us. Thus, Jehovah establishes covenant relationships and has signs to serve as a reminder of that covenant. Unfortunately, due to the divisions of our Bibles into Old and New Testaments, there is a common misperception that there are only two covenants. In fact, there are three covenants contained in the Hebrew Scriptures and one in the Greek Scriptures.

The first covenant, one that is still in force, is the Noahic covenant. It was established between God and Noah after the flood.

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9:9-13 NKJV)

I am thankful that this is in effect, as another worldwide flood would be a bummer. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow, and still occurs today. In Hawaii, it occurs on a daily basis! This covenant is also one that is unconditional, and was entered into after Noah sacrificed an animal on the altar in worship. Thus it was established by the shedding of blood.

The next covenant I want to consider is the Abrahamic covenant. In this one, God covenants with Abraham to give his descendants through Isaac possession of the land of Israel perpetually. Jehovah also promised that through Abraham’s seed (Jesus) all nations will be blessed. This covenant is also unconditional, and is still in force. In fact, those of us who have been reconciled unto God by His Son are those who are part of “the blessed.”

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21)

Again, there were no conditions listed, and the covenant was sealed with a blood sacrifice.

The next covenant was the Mosaic covenant, made between Jehovah and the nation of Israel. This covenant was conditional unlike the others. It is within this covenant that most of the Bible is given. This covenant was given at Mount Sinai and was in force until John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). The covenant, though perfect from God’s side, was beyond human ability to fully keep. It was designed to be temporary, and served to condemn the world under sin. The sign of the Mosaic covenant was circumcision. This covenant was fulfilled at the cross when Jesus Christ ushered in the New Covenant with the shedding of His own blood. While the Mosaic covenant has been fulfilled and is not in force, but in no way does that negate the Noahic or Abrahamic covenants.

The current covenant is the covenant of Grace. It was also initiated by the shedding of blood, but this time by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The sign of our New Covenant are both internal and external. Internally, we experience circumcision of the heart at baptism (Colossians 2:12), and externally we show the covenant to others when we partake of the elements of communion on the first day of the week. What is the significance of this? It is that we are in covenant relationship with Jehovah God, whose nature is that of a covenant maker and keeper. He is not going to change His mind and decide to cancel our covenant. We are secure in Christ. No one is ever lost because God abandoned them or lost them. Jesus doesn’t fire people; they quit on Him! His part of the covenant is completed. We only need to accept the offer of salvation as He has prescribed, and walk in covenant obedience to Christ.

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 forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, 21)

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Circumcision of the Heart

The Old Testament is replete with types and shadows that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. One of those Old Testament symbols of the covenant was circumcision. Circumcision was so integral to the Old Covenant that the concept of an uncircumcised Jew was unheard of.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he says that baptism is the spiritual fulfillment of circumcision.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11, 12 ESV)

Now that we are in the New Covenant with Christ, we experience a circumcision that is spiritual and of the heart. And according to Paul, this spiritual circumcision occurs at baptism. Fittingly, the concept of an unbaptized Christian is just as foreign to the New Testament as an uncircumcised Jew was to the Old Testament.

But is this verse in Colossians saying that baptism is what saves us? Well, was Abraham declared righteous before being circumcised or afterwards? According to Romans chapter 4, at what point was Abraham declared righteous?

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:7-10 ESV)

It was Abraham’s faith that caused him to obey the commandment of God and be circumcised, and it would be accurate to say that if Abraham had refused to obey God that he did not have faith. His obedience proved his faith. In the same way, we are declared righteous when we have faith, and that faith is proven, or validated, by our submitting to baptism.

Thus, salvation is by faith, and that faith is shown by our baptism. Righteousness comes by faith, and is not of works. We are saved by faith, not by faith plus a ritual. But that sign of the covenant must not be diminished or disregarded, either. Just as faith without obedience is out of context, obedience without faith is useless as well. But the connection of the old circumcision to baptism is clear. And Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God before he was circumcised. In the same way, we are declared righteous when we believe, and we submit to the sign of our covenant relationship when we are baptized. Failure to do so proves we didn’t really believe in the first place.

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