Session #3 – Unconditional Covenants
Abraham’s Tent – Promises Fulfilled

Years ago someone taught me a little saying a saying that has really helped many believers to establish some ground rules for their understanding of the Bible. You might want to memorize it so you can share it later with someone else.

The New Testament in the Old Testament is concealed.
The Old Testament in the New Testament is revealed.

The New Testament can only be trusted because it stands on the foundation of the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament there are eight foundational agreements that God established between Himself and humanity at large and a subset of humanity known today as the Jewish people. Sometimes the Jewish people are also identified as Israel. In this lesson and the next, we will identify the eight agreements by pointing them out in the Scriptures. Interestingly, four of these agreements are contained in the first twelve chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

If you have not already done so, watch the Abraham’s Tent – Promises Fulfilled, Unconditionally video before completing the rest of this study.

By memorizing the key word “beginnings”, you will be able to remember that Genesis provides the reader of the Bible with the record of HIStory’s origins. It records four great events (Creation, Fall, Flood, and Nations – Genesis 1 thru 11) and the lives of four great men (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph – Genesis 12 thru 50).

When the Old Testament is diminished in any way, one falls subject to interpreting the New Testament on its own. Almost 60% of the people in the world who would identify themselves as Christians are guilty of reinterpreting the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. This group has adopted an interpretive model built on three basic premises. These three premises are represented the Theological Covenants of Reformed/Covenant Theology.

1. Covenant of Works – Reformed theologians point to Genesis 2:17 to infer that by not eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam would have had holiness conferred on him forever. Like the angels who did not follow Satan in his rebellion, Adam would have been declared by God as holy forever. This position is supported by inference only. It is not supported by Scripture anywhere. They contend that Adam broke what they have identified as the Covenant of Works. Even reformed theologians will when pressed admit that there is no Covenant of Works clearly taught in the Bible.

2. Covenant of Redemption – It is further suggested that in eternity past, God the Father made an agreement with God the Son. In this agreement it is said that the Son agreed with the Father to provide the permanent atonement for the salvation  of mankind by way of the tree (cross). God agreed to accept the Son’s offer. There is more support for this position than there is for the Covenant of Works. According to Ephesians 1:4, it was always in God’s mind that the Son would be the instrument of a permanent atonement. However, to say that there was a point in eternity past that this agreement was put into place is a considerable stretch beyond what the Bible actually says. The idea of the Covenant of Redemption stands on the foundation of the Covenant of Works, which has already been shown not to exist anywhere in the Bible.

3. Covenant of Grace – Again, there is some support for the idea of the Covenant of Grace in the Bible. Clearly, our Messiah is today our High Priest in heaven advocating on our behalf before the Father as a result of our faith in Him. Once again, this theological concept is built on a flawed premise. God’s purpose for everything He has done is the glorification of Himself. Both the Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace place the salvation of man as the focal point of God’s plan for HIStory. What about the restoration of the earth itself, His promises to Israel that are yet unfulfilled, God’s eternal purposes for the angels (holy and unholy), and His plans for Satan? God’s glory extends far beyond His concerns for man. The theological covenants of Reformed/Covenant Theology ignore great portions of Scripture in order to build a straw man’s argument.

Now let’s turn our attention to what can actually be seen in the text.

In the Bible, there are eight covenant agreements that we will become very familiar with. A biblical covenant was an agreement between God and another party. While the word “covenant” is not always used, the agreement represented can be viewed right from the pages of the Bible at specific point in HIStory. Most of the time the covenant God made was with an individual that God intended to represent a larger group of people. Sometimes that larger group was all of humanity. At other times, it was a smaller subset within humanity. Three of these covenants are made with humanity as a whole. Five of them are made with the Jewish people, starting with Abraham, their first patriarch.

The covenants fall into two categories. They are conditional and unconditional. A conditional covenant requires the fulfillment of the conditions placed on two parties for it to remain in effect. If one party in the agreement fails to keep their responsibilities, then the other party is no longer bound by their responsibilities in the covenant. Conditional covenants are governed by an “if, then” equation. In the conditional covenants of the Bible, God says to the second party of the agreement “If you do this, then I will follow through and keep my part of this agreement.” Of course, the implication of the conditional covenant is that if the party God made the covenant with failed to uphold their end of the bargain, God was no longer bound by it. The covenant was broken. Once God declares a conditional covenant broken, it was/is no longer in force. Out of the eight covenants of the Bible that we will be identifying, two of them are conditional. Conditional covenants are bad news.

In an unconditional covenant, only one party to the agreement is required to do anything. That party is God. The equation that governs an unconditional covenant is “I will”. There is Good News in the unconditional covenants of the Bible. Even though there were some things that God wanted the second party of the covenant to do, if they failed to do them, God still upheld His end of the agreement. The unconditional covenants God made in the Old Testament are still in effect today, in spite of the second party’s repeated failure.

If two of the Bible’s eight covenants are conditional, how many of them are unconditional?

The Eight Covenants of the Bible:

1. Edenic Covenant, Conditional Covenant – Genesis 1:26-31, 2:16-17
2. Adamic Covenant, Unconditional Covenant – Genesis 3:15-19
3. Noahic Covenant, Unconditional Covenant – Genesis 9:1-18
4. Abrahamic Covenant, Unconditional Covenant – Genesis 12:1-4, 13:14-17, 15:1-7, 17:1-8
5. Mosaic Covenant, Conditional Covenant – Exodus 20:1 thru Exodus 31:18
6. Land Covenant (See Abrahamic Covenant), Unconditional Covenant – Deuteronomy 30:1-10
7. Davidic Covenant (See Abrahamic Covenant), Unconditional Covenant – 2 Samuel 7:4-16, 1 Chronicles 17:3-15
8. New Covenant (See Abrahamic Covenant), Unconditional Covenant – Jeremiah 31:31-33

Getting a grip on what the Bible teaches is easier than you might expect. Once you have mastered the eight covenants of the Bible, you’ll be surprised how easy the rest of the Bible is to understand. The eight covenants of the Bible are like the skeletal structure of the human body. With just a little bit of effort, you are going to learn how the eight covenants of the Bible have driven all the major events of human HIStory, right up to our own time. But, that is not all! You will also discover how they provide answers to what is happening in the world around right now, and where we are headed in the future.

Best of all, you are going to discover that you don’t need a seminary degree to have a disciple making ministry of your own. Helping others understand the Bible and equipping them to teach it to others is what Yeshua’s disciples do. Helping you learn how to do that is the reason Disciple daily exists!

Study Questions:

1. According to the Theological Covenants, what is God’s central purpose and how does that affect the unfolding of human HIStory?

2. What is the Covenant of Works and what is its Scriptural basis?

3. How would you explain the flaws of the Covenants of Redemption and Grace?

4. What promises were made to Abraham in the covenant God made with Him in Genesis 12:1-3?

5. Explain the promises God made to the entire world in the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant?

6. Identify the three facets of the Abrahamic Covenant. How will these three promises made to Abraham and his descendants be fulfilled?

7. Explain which of the facets of the Abrahamic Covenant extend beyond just the Jewish people and why it is important to believers everywhere.

Now that you have grasped how unconditional covenants in the Bible work, you are ready for Session 4 – The Garden of Eden, Paradise Lost.

Share Button

3 Comments

  1. Cindy Martz
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 11:52:51

    Session 3 (on Abraham) was phenomenal. I loved the ending where Arlie gives us a proper and biblical application in that because God kept his unconditional promises to Abraham we too can trust him to keep his unconditional promise to us. I also loved that he defined what salvation is – belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua. (1 Corinthians 15: 1- 4).

    Reply

  2. Celeste Cash
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 02:25:42

    Disciple Daily,

    My husband has really enjoyed reading and then discussing this material with you! He is retaining so much. Through this material and process he is acquiring a foundation for his faith based on simple, linear facts. I can both see and hear how much stronger his faith is becoming. Thank you for sharing this material on Disciple Daily and then meeting with him on Skype to discuss it.

    I have a question for you about “The Covenant of Grace”. I don’t see how believing in this covenant is excluded by the other “meaty” topics you sited. I thought that through the birth, perfect life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to heaven, we (as believers) are guaranteed “God’s Grace”. Wasn’t that the point of Christ’s life, ministry, and death here on earth if not to offer an assurance of salvation and grace through our belief?

    Can you further explain the problem with the 3rd covenant you listed, and my question about it’s merit?

    Celeste Cash

    Reply

    • Disciple Daily Editor
      Jul 12, 2012 @ 15:11:15

      Celeste,

      That is a really good question. Let me try to explain.

      Ever since Adam’s tragic decision to attempt to become like God in Genesis 3:15, Man has always been saved by one thing. The vehicle for man’s salvation has never changed throughout all of time. Man is saved by grace through faith in God’s revealed Word at the time in which he lives. Throughout the ages, the content of that faith has changed. For the Jews during the Mosaic Law age, their salvation was appropriated by belief in the sacrificial system that temporarily covered or atoned for their sin. Today, for Jews and Gentiles, the content of faith that brings salvation is belief that Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and resurrected again on the third day… all according to what Scripture said would happen previously. So again, man is saved by grace through faith. Up to this point we are on target.

      Where one gets in trouble with the Covenant of Grace is that the proponents of the three theological covenants identified above make the salvation of man the principal way that God glorifies Himself. In fact, there is much more going on concerning God’s plan for history. The “me-ism” so prevalent in the modern church in my opinion is a direct result of the damage done by the three theological covenants that are presented throughout much of Christendom. While 60% of the people who call themselves Christians are adherents of what is known as Reformed / Covenant Theology, we know that even though the majority holds a position the majority is most often wrong. In this case, it is.

      Unfortunately, most Christians are not disciplined thinkers or Bible students. They simply parrot what the Christian “fave of the day has to say.” Disciple Daily exists to counteract this problem and equip believers with knowledge and useful tools to disciple others in a systematic fashion. Let me point you to a really good book that will help you clarify your thinking about this. It is Major Bible Themes, by Lewis Sperry Chafer. Chafer was the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary. Let me encourage you to add this book to your library. Chapter 21 covers some of this material and it is very good.

      I’m proud of you guys. Keep up the great work!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

*