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What the Bible says about Covenantal Relationship with God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:22

The Edenic covenant begins by listing its blessings. God speaks directly to Adam and Eve, but since all humans came from them, this covenant is addressed broadly to the entire human race. The overall picture shown in this universal covenant is that the entire creation—the earth itself with all that is on it, humanity, and the life given us—is a multitude of gifts from God. The key to understanding this is the phrase, “and God blessed them” (Genesis 1:22). Both the Hebrew term and the English translation of “blessed” indicate the same sense: “to do good for,” “to favor,” “to endow,” “to bestow prosperity or happiness,” and even “to honor and exalt.”

The Bible begins with the fact that, because of what God has done, we exist; we live and have being; we think, plan, build, and look to the future. We did not give ourselves even one of these necessary gifts. This is where our relationship with God must begin, where we must start in our thinking about ourselves. These realities, if taken to heart honestly and seriously, are major factors regarding our place in life.

The covenant's emphasis is on His purpose. The earth itself is a major teaching device, and receiving it brings responsibilities whether one is converted or not. The most critical question is “How will we use what we learn from the creation to enhance life?” Caring for the creation requires work, as does spiritual salvation. So, earth is also given to us for our use within the parameters of His creative purposes.

Perhaps most important, the Edenic Covenant introduces the sovereign Creator God Himself. In the first five verses of Genesis 1, He stands alone, drawing our focus to what He wants us to learn first about Him. He presents Himself as standing at the beginning of all things; He precedes everything.

A second major point of focus for our thinking about God is that this covenant reveals that He is orderly. Every step in the creation week is taken in a scientifically logical progression. First, God must provide light so that what follows can live and grow. Then He makes the firmament, an atmosphere for creatures to breathe and live in, etc. This establishes that the creation and His purposes are not at all haphazard; randomness is not part of His nature. His orderliness establishes the principle that God is purposeful and has a plan that He is following step by step.

A third idea this covenant illustrates is that in the beginning everything is morally perfect like Him. No sin is present.

A fourth point we can infer from it is that no aspect of the creation is to be worshipped. Everything God made and gifted to us is inferior to the One who made all things. Only the Creator is to be worshipped.

Fifth, God charges mankind with populating and subduing the earth. “Subdue” does not indicate mankind is to have an adversarial relationship with earth. The Hebrew term can have that sense, but when used in a peaceful context, as here, it is to be understood differently. It is illogical to conclude that, after giving us this beautiful gift, God wants us to proceed to beat it into submission.

In this case, subdue indicates “harness its potential” and “use its resources beneficially.” Humanity is not to allow it simply to go “wild.” This command includes such things as cultivating its fields and mining its mineral riches. We should harvest its trees in a constructive manner to build homes and make furniture. It includes domesticating its animals and exercising dominion over them without abusing them. Men are not to rape the earth but to manage through work what has been given.

Mankind is created in God's image and is to rule in God's behalf as His servant and as He would. In other words, man is to follow God's pattern. There is, of course, more to being in His likeness, but ruling is part of mankind's likeness to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Four)

Jeremiah 3:8-10

God is speaking about the two nations, Israel and Judah. Israel had gone into captivity over a hundred years before Jeremiah came along. God is relating what Judah did after it saw that Israel had gone into captivity for its sins.

He uses marriage as an analogy of His relationship with His people—first with Israel and Judah and later with the church—in order to help us see clearly what is required of us. He calls Israel His wife, but Israel was not faithful in that the people committed idolatry. God considers this spiritual idolatry as being the same as, or similar to, the committing of adultery in a human marriage.

This is why He calls idolatry "adultery." It is unfaithfulness to a vow, a contract, a covenant, or an agreement. The two partners in the agreement, God and Israel, said, "I do" to be Husband and wife. God was faithful, upholding His part of that relationship, but Israel was unfaithful to those vows, committing adultery through idolatry, by worshiping other gods.

Notice how strong God's language is: He uses the word "treacherous." He calls Judah's unfaithfulness, her idolatry, her spiritual adultery "treachery." It is a word that is reserved for the most despicable breaches of trust. We do not like to use it even when speaking of adultery, so we soften it, using a euphemism like saying he or she "had an affair." God calls it what it is—treachery, an egregious violation of allegiance, of trust.

Whether a person is treacherous, that is, unfaithful, or whether he is faithful to his vows, both results have to be worked at, but the former comes easier than the latter because treachery follows the natural course of human nature. We have all done what Israel and Judea did through sin, alienating ourselves from Him.

God does with us individually as He was willing to do with Israel and Judah as nations. He says, "Yes, you've committed these unfaithful sins, but if you'll just return to Me, I'll still accept you as my wife." He is willing to forgive. The condition, however, is repentance—real change in attitude and behavior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works

1 Corinthians 11:25-29

Verse 25 reads, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." It employs a figure of speech in which the word "cup" is a metonymy, meaning that the cup represents what it contains: literally wine. The wine symbolized His blood, thus, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood."

A covenant is an agreement, a contract, between two parties. It is a device to bring people into a binding relationship to accomplish some undertaking. This particular covenant is unusual in that it is in His blood.

In his commentary on I Corinthians 11:23-34 (p. 104), William Barclay makes a very interesting comment on this. He changes a few words and provides proof that the change is grammatically legitimate. He paraphrases it in this manner: "This covenant cost Me My life." This agreement, the New Covenant, is made at the cost of the most precious, the most valuable and dearest Life that has ever lived on the face of the earth, that of our sinless Creator. It did not come cheaply.

Barclay's paraphrase is justifiable because the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:14). The giving of that specific Life by His shed blood made possible the establishment of a covenantal relationship with God. This relationship is the fruit of Christ's sinless life and subsequent death. Passover portrays what makes salvation a reality for us because justification before God is its fruit. We can consider Christ's making this relationship possible the most important accomplishment of all that He has done through His death.

Our relationship with God is our salvation. We could have no salvation unless the relationship existed because we would still be cut off from God. Once established, this relationship must be developed and to be developed, it must be continued! "If you continue, you will become free," says Jesus. This begins the process of truly coming to know God, and to know God is eternal life (John 17:3).

Within the context of I Corinthians 11, a major point deals with people not properly discerning the sacred gravity of what the symbols represent. Some in Corinth were making a mockery of the Passover. The church members gathered for a meal, and some were getting drunk, others ate in a gluttonous manner, while a few received little food because others were hogging it all. What they did edified the body not at all! They experienced very little of the right kind of spiritual fellowship.

The apostle writes his epistle to correct a corrupt situation. His point is that, in doing what they did, they were not discerning the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. If they had truly understood their significance, they would not have acted in this manner. They were not properly interpreting and applying the meaning to their own lives. In treating Christ's sacrifice in a frivolous manner, their application especially went awry. They went through the motions of taking the Passover but without appreciating the reality that the symbols represented.

The word "unworthy" in I Corinthians 11:27 means "lacking in merit or worth." The Corinthians had no appreciation of the precious value of what the symbols represented to their personal salvation. They were missing the eternal character of what they were observing, caring little about who had died and grasping almost nothing of the love that went into His act. They were truly profaning the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ and putting Him to an open shame.

A major point of understanding about observing Passover is that our attitude toward Christ's sacrifice affects our approach to life in general. Above all, it will affect our relationship with the Father, as well as with one another, because the strength of our obligation to submit to Jesus Christ will be diminished. We will not feel it all that important to submit in obedience.

If God wants us to understand anything by our observing the Passover, it is 1) the tremendous costs it took to free us and to maintain that freedom, and 2) how far Jesus Christ, our Example, was willing to be "pushed" without giving in to sin in even the smallest of matters. Let us take Passover soberly, with the serious significance of what it represents at the forefront of our minds.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love


 




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