Would you like to give a 40-minute address on Covenant Theology…. to teenagers?Didn’t think so. But that’s what I was asked to do, and tried to do yesterday. Don’t know if I succeeded, but I did manage to keep within the time limit. The outline is below. Obviously it needs a bit of filling out, but it gives the general idea. I. WHAT IS A COVENANT
A covenant is a relationship, initiated and imposed by a superior, with life or death consequences 1. A covenant is a relationship: not cold/commercial, not legalistic/judicial, but a living relationship 2. Initiated and imposed by a superior: not a negotiated deal between equal partners 3. With life or death consequences: not a “take it or leave it” but life or death hang on response II. TWO KINDS OF COVENANT 1. Covenant of works then wages: if you do this work I’ll give you these wages (Gen. 1-2) 2. Covenant of grace then gratitude: here’s a gift of grace, and here’s how to show your gratitude (Gen 3:14 to Revelation 22) III. SIX PHASES OF THE COVENANT OF GRACE
Instead of revealing His covenant of grace all at once in a blinding and overwhelming light, the Lord revealed it gradually, in six phases or steps.
1. Covenant of the defeated serpent (Genesis 3:14-15): promise of victory
2. Covenant of the disarmed bow (Genesis 9): promise of peace3. Covenant of the double-edged knife (Genesis 15-17): promise of a son 4. Covenant of lamb then law (Exodus 19-20): promise of redemption, relationship, then rules
5. Covenant of the everlasting king (2 Samuel 7): promise of effective and eternal leadership6. The New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20): promise of forgiveness (not a “brand new covenant” but a “renewed covenant” to make covenant of grace clearer, fuller, wider, deeper)
IV. SIX CHARACTERISTICS OF THE COVENANT OF GRACE All six phases or revelations of the covenant of grace have these features in common (to a greater or lesser extent). 1. Sin: All the covenants initiated by God’s grace against the background of human sin 2. Sacrifice: blood-shed is associated with the covenants to emphasize the life-or-death consequences 3. Speech: God makes promises that meet the specific need of each situation 4. Sign: God accompanies all his verbal promises with visible promises 5. Sharing: God’s aim is to share his life with sinners – I will be your God and you will be my people. 6. Scope: All the covenants have non-redemptive blessings which call to faith for redemptive blessings
V. SIX WINDOWS IN THE CATHEDRAL OF GRACE Imagine a sin-darkened cathedral that God cuts shaped windows in. The windows let in increasing light that benefits (but does not save) everyone inside. But only those with faith look through the windows and see what the windows symbolize to the saving of their souls. 1. Look through the serpent-shaped window and see a defeated devil 2. Look through the rainbow-shaped window and see the peace-making God 3. Look through the knife-window and see the Seed of Abraham that will cut off sin 4. Look through the lamb- and scroll-shaped windows to see the lamb of God and the law of God 5. Look through the crown-shaped window and see the everlasting king 6. Look through the bread, wine & fountain windows and see the body and blood of Christ that forgives and cleanses from sin. Finally Christ will come again to demolish the Cathedral and be the light and life of His people forever. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God”… But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. (Rev. 21:1-5; 22-23). CONCLUSION 1. Changes the way you look at the Old Testament: Not a revelation of works then wages, but a revelation of grace then gratitude. Contrast between OT and NT is not black/white, but moonlight/sunlight. 2. Changes the way you look at Old Testament saints: not primitive legalists but brothers and sisters saved by grace through faith in the coming Christ as promised and pictured in the covenants. 3. Changes the way you look at the law: not a way of being saved, but God’s ordained way of expressing our gratitude for the grace of salvation (Jn. 14:15) 4. Changes the way you look at the sacraments: The Lord’s Supper and Baptism do not save anyone. Faith in what they symbolize (a crucified and cleansing Christ) is what saves.