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Word Study on Covenant

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COVENANT A pact, treaty, alliance, or agreement between two parties of equal or of unequal authority. The convenant or testament is a central, unifying theme in Scripture, God's covenants with individuals and the nation Israel finding final fulfillment in the new covenant in Christ Jesus.

    Each covenant had special conditions effecting the power in authority and the one becoming a vassal or imposing demands on each partner of a covenant between equals. Breaking covenant conditions meant treason and extreme punishment (Ezek. 17:12-18; compare Amos 1:9).

    God's Covenants with His People God's grace in relating to His people by initiating covenants with them is a major theme of the Bible. The Old Testament story can be related as the story of God making covenants with His people and responding to them out of that covenant relationship. The New Testament can be described as the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant hope in the establishment of God's new covenant in Jesus Christ.

    Noah received God's first covenant (Gen. 9:9-17). This was a divine oath or promise not to repeat the flood. This covenant extended beyond Noah to all the animals who had experienced the massive destruction and death associated with the flood. The rainbow stands eternally as a sign of God's promise. This covenant called for no human response. It was solely a promise and oath from God. God's covenant with Noah was not a divine afterthought to the flood, a way of making up to His creation for all the destruction. God established the covenant relationship prior to the flood (Gen. 6:18).

    God made His second covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:18; 17:2). As the covenant with Noah involved a righteous man (Gen. 6:8-9), so the covenant with Abraham involved a man of faith (Gen. 15:6). God initiated His covenant with this type of person, but this does not mean that the person earned God's covenant with good works. Rather, this type of person was open to God's actions and could be directed by God for His purposes. The covenant with Abraham, like that with Noah, involved divine promises, not human obedience. God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants after a long sojourn to a foreign land. He symbolized this promise through an ancient covenant ceremony (compare Jer. 34), known from other cultures also, in which animals are cut and covenant participants pass through. Normally, the human covenant partners swear that they will abide by covenant conditions or will face the fate of the animals. For Abraham, the rite became a sacrifice to God and a sign of his devotion to the rite even when attacking birds threatened to spoil it. Abraham did not walk through the divided animals. Symbols of God's presence did. God made the oath to keep His promise. Genesis 17 shows the initiation of circumcision as the sign of the covenant. God's covenant promise was extended to include international-relations, many descendants, and to be God of the people descended from Abraham forever.

   Making covenants with His people characterized God and distinguished Him from the other gods of the nations. Israel's God was the one "who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart" (1 Kings 8:23; 2 Chron. 6:14; Neh. 1:5; 9:32; Ps. 105:8, 10; compare Isa. 54:10).

   Covenant in the New Testament The New Testament by use of the Greek diatheke transformed covenant into testament, diatheke referring to a binding will a person made to ensure proper disposal of goods upon the death of the person making the will (see Gal. 3:15; Heb. 9:17). Still, the New Testament followed the Septaugint, the earliest Greek translation, in using diatheke to translate the Hebrew berith or covenant. New Testament language is thus Greek with a strong Hebrew flavoring.

    The Qumran community which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls gave new significance to covenant theology. They saw themselves as the people of the new covenant. They had strict regulations for applicants for membership, and they expected members to obey the Old Testament law as they interpreted it.

    Jesus used the last supper as opportunity to interpret His ministry, and particularly His death, as fulfillment of Jeremiah's new covenant prophecy. His death represented the shedding of the blood of the new covenant. People who repeated the rites of the last supper drank the blood of the new covenant, remembering His death as the sacrifice for sins (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

    Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, interpreted the announcement of John's birth as evidence that God had remembered His holy covenant (Luke 1:72). Peter told skeptical Jews that they were children of the covenant with Abraham and that Christ had come first to them to fulfill the promise of blessing to Abraham by turning them away from their sinful ways (Acts 3:25). Stephen reminded those who would murder him that the covenant of circumcision with Abraham continued as part of God's history of salvation leading to Jesus (Acts 7:8). Paul confirmed that just as a human last will and testament could not be changed by another person, so God's covenant with Abraham could not be changed or annulled (Gal. 3:15-17). Paul asserted that with the coming of Christ and Israel's rejection of Him, God still had a covenant to save Israel (Rom. 11:27). Paul interpreted Christ as the one who had made the meaning of the Old Testament plain, removing the veil that caused the Jews to continue looking only to Moses rather than to look to Christ as God's final revelation (2 Cor. 3:14). Paul was a minister of the new covenant, not of the old (2 Cor. 3:6), a ministry of the Spirit and of life, not of dead literalism.

    In the New Testament only Hebrews makes covenant a central theological theme. The emphasis is on Jesus, the perfect High Priest, providing a new, better, superior covenant (Heb. 7:22; 8:6). Jesus represented the fulfillment of Jeremiah's new covenant promise (Heb. 8:8,10; 10:16). Jesus was the perfect covenant Mediator (Heb. 9:15), providing an eternal inheritance in a way the old covenant could not (compare 12:24). Jesus' death on the cross satisfied the requirement that all covenants be established by blood (Heb. 9:18,20) just as was the first covenant (Ex. 24:8). Christ's blood established an everlasting covenant (Heb. 13:20). If Israel suffered for breaking the Sinai covenant (Heb. 8:9-10), how much more should people expect to suffer if they have "counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing" (Heb. 10:29).

    The Greek word testament eventually gave its name to the two parts of our Bible--the Old and the New Testaments. In many ways the name is appropriate to show that the two parts of Scripture rest on God's gracious action in redeeming His people and making a covenant with them, showing them the living conditions in the kingdom of God, conditions which also reflect His grace because they are best for the citizens of the kingdom.

Trent C. Butler


Heb 6:4  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

Heb 6:5  And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

Heb 6:6  If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

1089. geuomai, ghyoo'-om-ahee; a prim. verb; to taste; by impl. to eat; fig. to experience (good or ill):--eat, taste.

3353. metochos, met'-okh-os; from G3348; participant, i.e. (as noun) a sharer; by impl. an associate:--fellow, partaker, partner.

3895. parapipto, par-ap-ip'-to; from G3844 and G4098; to fall aside, i.e. (fig.) to apostatize:--fall away.

388. anastauroo, an-as-tow-ro'-o; from G303 and G4717; to recrucify (fig.):--crucify afresh.

Heb 10:23  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

Heb 10:24  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

Heb 10:25  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Heb 10:26  For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

Heb 10:27  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

Heb 10:28  He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

Heb 10:29  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? Heb 10:23  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

Heb 10:24  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

Heb 10:25  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Heb 10:26  For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

Heb 10:27  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

Heb 10:28  He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

Heb 10:29  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

1596. hekousios, hek-oo-see'-oce; adv. from the same as G1595; voluntarily:--wilfully, willingly.

2983. lambano, lam-ban'-o; a prol. form of a prim. verb, which is used only as an alt. in certain tenses; to take (in very many applications, lit. and fig. [prop. obj. or act., to get hold of;

3765. ouketi, ook-et'-ee; also (separately)  ouk eti, ook et'-ee; from G3756 and G2089; not yet, no longer:--after that (not), (not) any more, henceforth (hereafter), not, no longer (more), not as yet (now), now no more (not), yet (not).

G2556; from an obsol. equiv. cheres (of uncert. der.); more evil or aggravated (phys., ment. or mor.):--sorer, worse.

5098. timoria, tee-mo-ree'-ah; from G5097; vindication, i.e. (by impl.) a penalty:--punishment.

2662. katapateo, kat-ap-at-eh'-o; from G2596 and G3961; to trample down; fig. to reject with disdain:--trample, tread (down, underfoot).

2839. koinos, koy-nos'; prob. from G4862; common, i.e. (lit.) shared by all or several, or (cer.) profane:--common, defiled, unclean, unholy.

1796. enubrizo, en-oo-brid'-zo; from G1722 and G5195; to insult:--do despite unto.

1 John 2:18  Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

1 John 2:19  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

500. antichristos, an-tee'-khris-tos: from G473 and G5547; an opponent of the Messiah:--antichrist.

1831. exerchomai, ex-er'-khom-ahee; from G1537 and G2064; to issue (lit. or fig.):--come-(forth, out), depart (out of), escape, get out, go (abroad, away, forth, out, thence), proceed (forth), spread abroad.

2258. en, ane; imperf. of G1510; I (thou, etc.) was (wast or were):--+ agree, be, X have (+ charge of), hold, use, was (-t), were.

3306. meno, men'-o; a prim. verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):--abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), X thine own.

5319. phaneroo, fan-er-o'-o; from G5318; to render apparent (lit. or fig.):--appear, manifestly declare, (make) manifest (forth), shew (self).

3956. pas, pas; includ. all the forms of declension; appar. a prim. word; all, any, every, the whole:--all (manner of, means) alway (-s), any (one), X daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no (-thing), X throughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.

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