What springs to mind when you hear the words “Covenant Theology?”
Complexity? Confusion? Controversy? BIG (unread) books?
Yes, me too.
Yet, if it was really so complicated, why would God have used covenants so much to teach His infant people Israel?
Yes, there are mysterious depths to covenant theology that we will never plumb. But I’m convinced that there’s a simplicity to it as well that even the simplest child can grasp. As is often said of the Gospels: “Shallow enough for a child to paddle in, but deep enough for an elephant to wade in.” With covenant theology, lots have done the wading elephant bit (and drowned us in the process), but few have done the paddling child bit.
But that’s what I want to do today. A bit of pleasant paddling in the soul-refreshing shallows of “covenant theology for the rest of us.”
Let’s start in a old dingy cathedral with no windows and no doors. Inside this black and bleak building is fallen and dying humanity. In order not to blind those dying inside that He wants to save, God decides to gradually cut some windows in this cathedral in order to slowly let in the light of His covenant of grace.
First, He cuts a small snake-shaped window in one wall, which, on close inspection, reveals that the snake’s head is crushed. Everyone inside benefited from the light, just as all humanity benefited from God’s curse on the newly-dangerous snake. However, though many just admire the shape of the window and enjoy the light that comes through it, together with its natural benefits, others look through the window by faith and see a welcome spiritual reality shining brightly through it – a defeated Devil.
Some years later, God cuts another cathedral window, this time rainbow-shaped. Again, everyone inside the cathedral benefits from the natural blessings of relatively stable and peaceful seasons that flow through this window. Others, however, look through the window by faith and see a more wonderful spiritual reality shining brightly through it—a peacemaking and pacified God.
As the years pass, more windows are cut, one in the shape of a knife in Abraham’s time, a couple in the shape of a Lamb and then a Law-scroll in Moses’ time (and that order is vital), and one in the shape of an everlasting crown in David’s time. Everyone in Israel benefits from these signs, at least outwardly. However, those with faith look through these windows and see the spiritual realities that they signify, and are drawn into a saving covenant relationship with God.
That’s what covenant theology is all about: RELATIONSHIP. A covenant is a relationship, initiated and imposed by a superior, with life-or-death consequences.
While some used these Old Testament covenants to enter into that saving relationship with God, many just took the outward, natural, and national benefits. That’s why God promised a New Covenant in Jeremiah, that would be far more effective in bringing far more people into a saving relationship with God.
When Jesus instituted the New Covenant, He cut more and brighter windows in the shape of bread, wine, and baptismal water (bath or basin – you choose!). This time, it’s not just Israel’s window; the whole world is invited to look at it and through it.
Again, sadly, many just take the outward signs but show no interest in what they signify – forgiveness and cleansing through a suffering Savior. But lots of others see through these signs and enjoy the closest possible intimacy with God.
I will be your God
The covenant of grace shines increasingly into the world’s darkness from Genesis 3:15 on, as God increasingly expresses His desire to bond with us in a saving relationship. “I will be your God and you shall be my people.”
We await one final development in the unfolding plan of God: the return of Jesus for His people. Then He will demolish the cathedral, its walls and windows: “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
Then the essence of the covenant of grace will be fully realized and experienced: “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Then we will hear the divine voice say forever: “I will be his God and he shall be My son.”
Below you’ll find a digital poster presenting covenant theology in graphical form. It’s one of a series of digital posters that Dave VanBrugge and Cameron Morgan designed to accompany Jesus on Every Page. The book goes on sale today and if you buy the book before August 31, you can get all eight posters as part of a package of $100 of Old Testament freebies. RHB have the book for sale at a lower price than Amazon! They’re also offering a pack of 5 for $50.
RSS/Email readers may have to click here to view the poster.