Chapter Three


Would you deny the importance of keeping serious commitments, serious promises? Would you deny that serious consequences which produce suffering and harm are the result of people failing to keep serious commitments and serious promises?

I believe we are in agreement that a wedding is the creation of a serious commitment based on serious promises. Would you agree to marry a person who said to you, "Today, I promise you that I will be your mate for life. But I don't know if that will be my promise to you tomorrow."

When the president, the governor, judicial appointees, and law enforcement officers accept their positions, they each take a solemn oath of office in which they unconditionally pledge to faithfully discharge the responsibilities of their offices.

How would you feel about a president who openly disregarded his oath and clearly failed to care for his responsibilities?

How would you feel about a governor who openly violated his oath of office and declared he felt no obligation do what he pledged to do?

How would you feel about a judge who felt no obligation to keep his promise to preserve justice?

How would you feel about a sheriff or chief of police who unapologetically refused to keep his oath to enforce the law?

Every one of these situations involves a serious covenant agreement. That which is good never results when people become covenant violators.

  1. Last Sunday morning we carefully examined the critical importance of circumcision as the sign of God's covenant with Israel.
    1. In Genesis 17, God first made this covenant with Abraham to all those who would be his descendants through the child God promised Abraham.
      1. Abraham immediately accepted the covenant by having every male in his household and among his servants circumcised.
      2. From that day forward, circumcision was practiced by Israelites as the sign of the covenant that existed between them and God.
      3. Those descendants who refused to be circumcised were not to be permitted to be a part of the community of Israel.
    2. Hundreds of years later when God delivered Abraham's descendants from Egyptian slavery, they were commanded to keep the feast of the Passover annually as a memorial to their deliverance.
      1. Exodus 12:43-48 clearly states only the circumcised could keep this holy feast.
    3. For 40 years these people wandered in the wilderness.
      1. No one born in that 40 years was circumcised.
      2. In Joshua 5:2, the first thing Israel did after crossing the Jordan River into Canaan was to circumcise all the men of the nation to validate the covenant with God.
      3. God declared that on that day he rolled the reproaches of Egypt from their lives.
      4. Circumcision was not a mere ritual, symbolic act, or ceremony.
  2. I want you to carefully consider the covenant agreement that existed between God and Abraham, and God and Abraham's descendants.
    1. In the covenant God made with Abraham, in their agreement, what were God's promises to Abraham, and what responsibilities to God did Abraham promise to keep?
      1. Part one of the covenant with Abraham is stated in Genesis 12:1-3.
        1. God's promises to a childless Abraham were:
          1. God would make a great nation from Abraham's descendants, which is also the obvious promise of a son.
          2. Through that nation God would make Abraham's name great.
          3. God would bless those who were friendly to Abraham.
          4. God would curse those who were enemies to Abraham.
          5. God would bring into existence a blessing that could bless every family on earth through Abraham.
        2. The responsibilities Abraham was promising to accept if he entered the agreement were:
          1. He would leave the land of Ur and leave his extended family.
          2. He would follow God wherever God would lead him.
          3. He would be a blessing.
      2. Part two of the covenant is stated in Genesis 17.
        1. God's promises to the childless Abraham were:
          1. I will now establish our agreement by giving you the son I promised.
          2. An enormous nation is going to descend from that son.
          3. In fact, many nations will descend from you.
          4. Kings will come from you.
          5. I will be God to you and to your descendants.
          6. I will give the land of Canaan to your descendants.
        2. Abraham's responsibilities which he must promise to accept were:
          1. You will live for me.
          2. You will be a blameless person of integrity.
      3. In the covenant God offered Abraham, there had to be a point of binding agreement.
        1. There had to be a moment when Abraham accepted the promises and God was bound to those promises.
        2. There had to be a moment when Abraham accepted his responsibilities and was bound to those responsibilities.
        3. There had to be a confirming sign that the covenant had been accepted and was in force.
        4. That moment occurred when Abraham and his household and servants were circumcised.
          1. God clearly stated that circumcision was the sign that the covenant had been accepted and was in force.
          2. Rejection of circumcision was rejection of the covenant.
          3. The covenant did not include or exist for any descendant of Abraham's who was uncircumcised.
    2. From the moment this covenant was offered to Abraham, it included Israel, the promised people and nation who descended from Abraham. In God's covenant with Israel for which circumcision stood as the sign, what were God's promises, and what were Israel's responsibilities?
      1. First, please note that only the descendants of Abraham through his promised son of Isaac were eligible to enter this covenant with God.
      2. What were God's promises to Israel if these people continued to live in the covenant God made with Abraham?
        1. There are the covenant promises of Exodus 23:25:
          1. God will bless them with food and water.
          2. They will suffer no sicknesses.
          3. Their wives will have children, and there will be no miscarriages.
          4. They will live long lives.
          5. God will cause the Canaanites to turn their backs and run from them as they conquer the land.
          6. God will allow them to conquer the land gradually so it will not turn back into wilderness inhabited by wild beasts.
          7. God will give them a large land area.
        2. This is the covenant promise of Deuteronomy 17:17-26: God guaranteed them victory over the Canaanites and possession of the land.
        3. These are the covenant promises of Deuteronomy 28:
          1. God will bless their cities and their farmland.
          2. God will bless their children.
          3. God will bless their herds and livestock.
          4. God will bless their crops and food.
          5. God will bless them personally everywhere they are and everywhere they go.
        4. These are the covenant promises of Deuteronomy 30:
          1. When they fail to keep God's covenant and suffer the dire consequences, and when they repent whole heartedly and return to obedience, God will do the following.
          2. Return them from the place of their captivity and bring them back home to Canaan.
          3. Create a new relationship of love with them.
          4. Punish their enemies.
          5. Restore their prosperity.
      3. What were Israel's responsibilities that they promised to assume in accepting the covenant?
        1. In Exodus 19:1-6:
          1. They would obey God. (v. 5)
          2. They would honor the covenant agreement. (v. 5)
          3. They would be His holy nation. (v. 6)
        2. In Exodus 20: They would live by the 10 commandments.
          1. They would not worship any other God.
          2. They would not build idols.
          3. They would respect and honor His name because His name was holy.
          4. They would make Saturdays holy by not doing any work.
          5. They would take care of their fathers and mothers.
          6. They would not murder.
          7. They would not commit adultery.
          8. They would not steal.
          9. They would not commit perjury.
          10. Their actions would not be governed by greed.
        3. In Deuteronomy 28:9,13,14:
          1. They would carefully keep God's commandments.
          2. They would walk in God's ways.
          3. They would not turn away from what God had said.
          4. They would not worship other gods.
        4. All the laws in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are a part of Israel's promised agreement:
          1. The way they treat their fellow man.
          2. The way they treat their families.
          3. The way they treat the poor.
          4. The way they do business.
          5. The way they destroy and drive the Canaanites out.
          6. The worship sacrifices they were to make.
          7. The way they worshiped and the place they worshiped.
          8. The treatment they gave the priests and Levites.
          9. The dietary codes.
          10. The moral codes.
          11. All of these were a part of their responsibility in the covenant.
        5. Circumcision was still the confirming sign of the covenant.
          1. The agreement was confirmed by circumcision.
          2. The promises and the responsibilities were binding.
        6. Then why did Israel never receive all those promises?
          1. The prophets repeatedly answered that question: Because they failed to keep the covenant--they failed to live by their responsibilities.
          2. They were circumcised; they accepted the sign of the covenant.
          3. But they did not do as they agreed, as they promised--they did not live by the covenant.
  3. Now I want you to examine the covenant agreement between God and Christians.
    1. Last Sunday morning:
      1. I verified from Scripture that those who obey Christ are the true Israel.
      2. I verified from Scripture that baptism is the sign of our covenant with God.
    2. The New Testament clearly states that the salvation agreement made possible by Christ is a covenant between God and the Christian.
      1. In Luke 22:20 when instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus declared the fruit of the vine represents the new covenant in his blood.
      2. In 2 Corinthians 3:6 Paul states that God made them ministers of a new covenant.
      3. Hebrews:
        1. 7:22 states Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant.
        2. 8:6-13 describes the advantages of the new covenant over the covenant with Israel.
        3. 9:15 and 12:24 states Jesus is a mediator of a new covenant.
        4. The literal meaning of Old Testament and New Testament is the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
    3. What is the foundation of this new covenant with God?
      1. The resurrection of the crucified Jesus who has been enthroned by God as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36)
      2. The shedding of Jesus' pure blood of atonement. (I Peter 1:18, 19; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7)
    4. What are God's promises to the Christian who has entered into this new covenant agreement with God?
      1. There are promises based on the blood of Jesus.
        1. The gift of redemption--God buys us out of sin. (Ephesians 1:7)
        2. The gift of propitiation--God atones for our sins. (I John 2: 1, 2)
        3. The gift of sanctification---God sets us apart from sin and makes us holy. (I Corinthians 1:30)
        4. The gift of justification--God regards our past sins as never having happened. (Romans 5:1)
        5. The gift of forgiveness--God destroys all our guilt. (I John 1: 7, 9)
        6. This is the total destruction of guilt and total cleansing, and it is done by grace, not merit.
      2. There are relationship promises:
        1. We become brothers and sisters with Jesus. (Hebrew 2: 10, 11)
        2. We become the children or family of God (Ephesians 2:19)
        3. God becomes our father to whom we can cry, "Abba!" Or "Daddy!" (Romans 8)
      3. There are kingdom promises:
        1. We are given citizenship in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
        2. We become an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who belong exclusively to God. (I Peter 2:9)
      4. There are security promises: Romans 8:28-39:
        1. God will use everything that happens in our lives, including those bad things, to work for our ultimate good.
        2. God proved He was solidly on our side in the death of Jesus, and He will not desert us.
        3. He will not listen to Satan's accusations against us.
        4. Christ will intercede for us.
        5. No external being or force has the ability or power to rip us away from God's love.
      5. There are eternal promises:
        1. Resurrection to eternal life after death. (I Peter 1:3-6; I John 5:12)
        2. A continuing home in heaven with God (Revelation 21:1-4)
          1. No tears.
          2. No death.
          3. No grief.
          4. No sorrow.
          5. No pain.
    5. What responsibilities does the Christian promise to assume if he accepts this covenant with God?
      1. First, please note, just as with Israel, that there is only one group of people who are eligible to enter this covenant with God. Those people:
        1. Who believe Jesus is God's Son.
        2. Who believe that He died His death of atonement on the cross and was resurrected from the dead.
        3. Who turn from sin through repentance.
      2. The person who accepts this covenant with God agrees to accept the responsibility:
        1. To live a life of holiness (I Peter 1:13-19)
        2. To live a transformed life (Romans 12:1,2)
          1. He will deliberately destroy his evil life and his evil past. (Colossians 3:5-17; Ephesians 4:17-24; Titus 2:11-14)
          2. He will learn to live the new spiritual existence.
          3. He will live his whole life as a representative of Jesus.
        3. To replace the love of materialism with the love of God. (I John 2:15-17)
        4. To love other people as Christ loved people. (I Corinthians 13; I Thessalonians 4:9-12; I John 3:13-18)
        5. To care for the spiritually weak. (Romans 14: 1-15:3)
        6. To destroy the passions and desires of ungodliness. (Galatians 5: 16-21,24)
        7. To bear the fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23)
        8. To obey Christ's teachings. ( I John 2:1-6)
        9. To restructure his relationships. (I Peter 2:13-3:12)
        10. To live by Christian moral and ethical principles. (Ephesians 4:25-32)
        11. To be worshipers of God and Christ. (Hebrews 13:15; Philippians 3:3; I Corinthians 11:23-34: I Peter 5:2)
        12. To pray rather than worry. (Philippians 4:6,7; I Timothy 2:1-4; 8)
        13. If necessary to suffer for doing good with a Christ like mind, spirit, and attitude. (I Peter 2:21-25; 4:1-11)
      3. As with Abraham's covenant with God, there must be a moment of binding agreement.
        1. There must be a moment the person accepts God's promises and God is bound to those promises.
        2. There must be a moment when the person accepts his responsibilities and is bound to those responsibilities.
        3. There must be a confirming sign which declares that the covenant has been accepted and is in force.
        4. That moment occurs when a person is baptized into Christ.

Why is it that so many Christians do not have and enjoy the promises of the covenant? Because they have made the same mistake Israel made. They have accepted the sign of the covenant--they have been baptized. But they are not living the life of the covenant.

If you are an adult of any significant age, it is probable that you have made several serious promises in your life. If you are a Christian, may I assure you that you have never made any promise as serious as the commitment you made when you were baptized into Christ.

If you are not a Christian, you need to understand one truth clearly. You cannot have God's promises without accepting God's covenant.

transcribed by Christy Hesslen
Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
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