Abrahamic Covenant Key

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Dec 23, 2018

(Gen 17:1-14)

Understanding the Abrahamic Covenant is among the most important interpretive keys to being – or operating as the people of God. This includes the Christian – or the people of God under the New Covenant. My ability to interpret the writings of the New Testament and verify their validity as consistent with God’s prior revelation – the Old Testament, both hinge on understanding the covenant God made with Abraham. This study will provide the biblical evidence for this claim as well as discerning what this looks like in practical application today.

  1. The Old and New Covenants are the fulfilment of God’s promise to extend the covenant with Abraham to his descendants.

1.1. As it re: to the Old Covenant (7-8) = The covenant God is making w/Abraham will (under the Old Covenant) be extended to his physical/natural descendants (“your offspring after you”) – including not only Isaac and Jacob, but also the twelves tribes of Israel (as represented by Jacob’s twelve sons), those God will later deliver out of slavery in Egypt (Gen 15:13-14; Deu 7:7-8 = Notice the reason God says He is making covenant w/them is due to his promise w/Abe; “fathers” = Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Gen 26:1-5, 24, 28:13; see also Exo 2:24, 6:2-8)

1.2. As it re: to the New Covenant (4-6) = The covenant God is making w/Abraham will extend beyond the Jews (Abe’s physical/natural descendants) to include the Gentiles (“nations”) = Literally, “peoples” – as in different races (of people). Abraham was destined to become the “father of a multitude of [different races of peoples or] nations” (“I will make you into nations”). What then is being referred to is the New Covenant. This is why God can also speak of Abraham (and Jacob/Israel) becoming a blessing to the rest of humankind – since becoming a part of Abraham’s offspring would include being in covenant with God with its associated promises (Gen 12:13 w/Gal 3:8; see also Gen 28:14 – “all the families of the earth be blessed”). Hence the reason also Paul can say what he does to the Gentiles at Corinth in (2Co 1:20). According to Paul, this promise of the Gentiles was made possible b/c of Christ – the physical descendant of Abe thru whom we receive adoption (thru faith or the baptism of faith) into the family of Abe/God (Gal 3:16, 27-29; The offspring promises Paul is referring to is not Gen 17:7-8 but rather a later prophecy – Gen 22:16-17 = “Offspring” is now singular [referring to Christ]. Notice also that God’s previous promise of blessing “all nations” has transferred to this particular person – i.e. it is no longer “in you all nations shall be blessed” [Gen 12:3], but rather “in your offspring [singular] all…nations…shall be blessed.” [18]). Understanding that it is only thru Abraham (or becoming a part of Abe’s family) that we can enter into covenant relationship w/God removes the confusion from passages such as (Heb 2:16).

So then, Abraham’s offspring include both his natural descendants (the Jews) and his spiritual/special descendants by faith (Gentiles). And the Old and New Covenants represent the fulfilment of God’s promise to extend the covenant to such individuals.

  1. The Old and New Covenants are simply re-named or re-ratified versions of the Abrahamic Covenant.

(7) “I will establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you” = Based on this statement, we should not view the Old and the New Covenants as independent or different types/kinds of covenants. If that were the case, then the word “covenant” would have been plural (indicating such distinctions). Instead, it is singular, revealing that the Old and New Covenant are simply re-named – or  re-ratified versions of the original, Abrahamic Covenant[1]

  1. Understanding that the Old and New Covenants are re-named or re-ratified versions of the Abrahamic Covenant, means realizing that they too are conditional (or require faithful obedience if the promises are to be received by their recipients), since this was the nature (or “DNA”) of God’s covenant with Abraham.

(1-2) “be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you…” = Notice, God’s promise to make covenant (and Abe realizing all of its blessings) is conditioned/dependent upon his walking before God as “blameless” -i.e. as faithfully obedient to God’s commands (see Psa 10:1-2).

That Abe accomplished such faithful obedience (signalling also our own ability to do the same) is proven by the fact that the promises (including the promise of extending the covenant to his natural and spiritual descendants) have been realized. We are also explicitly told so after his death (Gen 26:3-5).

The language of the Old and New Covenant confirm that they were/are equally conditional in nature (i.e. requiring faithful obedience in order to receive the promises)(Deu 28:1-2 w/29:18-20; Mat 5:13-20, 7:21-27; Heb 10:26-36; 2Pe 1:5-11; “blameless” = Eph 1:4; Phi 1:9-11, 2:12-15; 1Th 3:11-13; 2Pe 3:14 [NAS])[2].

  1. As extensions and re-ratifications of the Abrahamic Covenant, the Old and New Covenants likewise require that the babies of their members be brought into covenant shortly after their birth.

(9-12) = Notice God commands covenant parents to bring their babies (“eight days old”) into covenant relationship w/Him. To refuse is considered breaking the covenant – an act that will cause persons to be “cut off” from relationship and the blessing of God (14).

The requirement of infants taking the covenant sign and subsequently entering into covenant w/God including all its blessings – most especially the blessing of justification is God’s special provision (and incredible mercy) to the newborn children of His people (Psa 22:9-10) “you have been my God” = A statement indicating both covenant relationship and justification (consider Mat 7:21-23 = Losing your former justification and covenant relationship w/Christ means also the right to call Him your God. He will instead claim to have “never knew you”).

4.1. It is b/c this requirement remains that Peter includes it in his preaching about Christ and the New Covenant at Pentecost (Act 2:38-39) = Peter’s words are nothing less than a direct allusion to (Gen 17:7-8). The special provision afforded to God’s people from the time of Abraham (thru the Old Covenant) remains intact – as wb expected, given that the Old and New Covenant are (once more) simply extensions/re-ratifications of the covenant where such provision was established. The reason Peter speaks of baptism rather than circumcision is b/c baptism (or the baptism of faith – 1Pe 3:21) is its New Covenant application. IOW: baptism is spiritual circumcision (Col 2:11). With this in mind can you imagine a Jew going home to his wife and newborn with the Baptist’s version of the gospel? “The baby was in covenant but not anymore. He’ll have to wait until he can make his own decision”. Hardly would that be considered “good news” (the meaning of the term, “gospel”) nor something any Jew with children brought in under the special provision of Gen 17:12 and Lev 12:3 would accept.

“The Bible teaches that one of the features of the New Covenant was to be the restoration of the covenantal parent/child relationship, not the dissolution of the covenantal parent/child relationship.” –Doug Wilson

Consider also:

4.1.1. God invited His people’s children to participate in the Passover feast – an event open only to those in covenant – i.e. justified (Exo 12:24 w/43-48).

4.1.2. (Gal 4:4-5) = Jesus was “born under the Law” (i.e. placed into covenant thru the special provision of being born to covenant parents) so that He could “redeem those under the Law” (i.e. those in the Old Covenant including – no doubt, their children). This passage proves that Jesus’ justifying work was (at the very least) available to OC Jewish babies. Are we to think then this provision wasn’t extended to Gentiles? The prior verses prior make it clear that it was (Gal 3:28-29).

4.2. It is with this understanding Paul can say both faith is the “end of law” and by faith “we uphold the law” in the same letter and not be in contradiction (or deemed a schizophrenic) (Rom 3:28-31 w/10:4) = Paul’s war was not with the Law in general, but with those who were not acknowledging that the covenant sign of (physical) circumcision established under the Abrahamic and codified under the Law (or Old Covenant) – even for the “foreigner” or non-Jew (Gen 17:12b-13) had been upgraded to spiritual circumcision – or the covenant sign of faith (referring again to baptism – the place where we put “faith” in Christ and it is accepted before God, 1Pe 3:21). In this way, we now fulfil (or “uphold”) the Law since we are still practising circumcision, while at the same time bringing to an “end” the Law’s application of cutting off literal foreskins.

Closing Contemplation/Challenge: As before, God’s promise of making covenant w/our descendants is dependent/conditioned upon our faithfulness. As such, the parents of newborns must commit to living and raising that child in obedience to God and His commands (Consider Exo 20:5-6).

[1] E.G. I will sell my cars to Fred and his kids VS. I will sell my car to Fred and his kids = The latter allows for different kinds/types among the father and his kids whereas the former does not. Though the kids may make upgrades or improvements to the car, it remains the same car. In this same vein, it wb entirely accurate to call the Old and New Covenants, the Abrahamic Covenant 2.0 and 3.0 (respectively).

[2] Some believe God made two covenants with Abraham, one unconditional (foreshadowing God’s New Covenant) the other conditional (foreshadowing the Old Covenant). Genesis 17:1-14 is viewed as the conditional covenant, since the promises are dependent on the faithfulness of both God and Abraham, whereas Genesis 15:1-18 is considered the unconditional covenant – or unilateral covenant, seeing that God (in this chapter) is the only One making promises or taking vows. This understanding, however, fails to consider that the phrase “made a covenant” in verse 18, is better translated “cut a covenant” referring only to the first step in the ancient process of covenant-making: the “solid offer” or solicitation of covenant with oath-backed promises (Heb 6:13-17; e.g. putting an offer on a house – to persuade the owners that you are viable candidate with which to enter into a purchasing contract/covenant, you provide earnest money and a letter proving you can get a loan for the amount). Historical evidence confirms that the ritual of sacrifice depicted in verses 9-17 (of ch. 15) is consistent not only with later cultic practice associated with atonement (Lev 1:6-8), but also for taking oaths. Genesis 15, therefore, does not represent a different covenant – at this point, no covenant has been established. This takes place only in Genesis 17:1-2  – and is again conditional, since the realization of the promises dependent on Abraham’s faithfulness (“walk before me, and be blameless that I may make [literally, confirm] my covenant between me and you”). Understood from the perspective of marriage, Genesis 15 represents the proposal for marriage (backed by the oath-sign of the wedding/engagement ring), whereas 17, is the actual wedding day; the time when there is a mutual exchanging of vows and confirmation of the marriage.