What exactly are the covenants found within the Bible and why are they there? The most familiar covenant found today is the one between a man and his wife in marriage. When the pastor asks those to be married to repeat, “forever or for worse… to love and to cherish ‘till death do us part,” this is covenant language. Contractual language would be, “you do this and I’ll do this for you.” But covenant language is much more permanent. You in effect are saying, “We are making this covenant, and even if things go south and you do not hold up your end of the bargain I will still fulfill my end.” This is the exact way that the new covenant is made within the Bible.
The word covenant is actually where we get the word “testament” from, such as the Old Testament and New Testament sections of the Bible. The five covenants found within the Bible are times when God is telling his people the terms of their relationship and how he will interact with them. The first covenant was made with Adam and Eve, and was a covenant of works. This was then followed by four covenants of grace made throughout the rest of the Bible: covenants made with Abraham, Moses, David and finally the new covenant made with Jesus Christ.
This was a covenant of works. God had made Adam and Eve to live in perfect relationship with him, but they were not to eat of the fruit of one particular tree. There were several promises of blessing including having a multitude of descendants, and also unhindered fellowship with God. But Adam transgressed the covenant, and thus God promised to send his Son to rescue the us in the future.
This is the fist of the covenants of grace, and through faith. The promise of all of the covenants of grace is eternal life by obedience to God by faith. The sign of these covenants in the Old Testament is circumcision, while the sign of the covenant in the New Testament is baptism. The Abrahamic Covenant was made in about 2,000 BC and promises Abraham a great nation of descendants that would be God’s people as well as blessing upon those who bless him. The condition of this covenant was faith in God and for Abraham to walk before him blamelessly, and the sign was circumcision.
The covenant made with Moses was around 1,440 BC and promised Moses that he would be their God and that they would be his people. The conditions were the laws given to Moses as well as the sacrifices that looked forward to the perfect Sacrifice, Jesus Christ. The sign of this covenant were the tablets that had the 10 Commandments written on them that were stored in the Arc of the Covenant.
The covenant made with David was made around 1,000 BC. This covenant renewed God’s covenant with Abraham and promised to build him a kingship that Jesus would ultimately come through. The problem, however, with each of these covenants was us. There were laws to obey, but we as sinful humans could never perfectly obey these laws. So they looked forward to a coming Savior and a new covenant that God had promised them.
This promised covenant was looking forward to Jesus Christ. God has placed his laws in our minds and in our hearts, and the condition is to simply have faith in Jesus as our Lord and repent of our sins. The promise is that he will be our God and give us eternal life with him. And when we do sin (which we all do), there is grace because Jesus lived a perfect life on our behalf. He is the mediator of the new covenant for us and we should not think to go back to the old laws, which would be slavery. Jesus did what Adam in the first covenant could not, and gives this grace to us. So this week, thank God that he provided a way for us to be in right relationship with him through Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection through the new covenant.