What the Bible says about
Edenic Covenant Universal
(From Forerunner Commentary)
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)
This verse contains the first words God spoke to mankind. The Hebrew word translated as “blessed” can also at times signify a curse. Here, without a doubt, it signifies that God's conferring of good on the newly created couple is to be shared by their descendants.
This divine act not only confers dominion over what God created, but it also establishes that, even as God is the Creator and Giver of His wonderful creation at that moment, He is also the Giver of its continued blessings through time to Adam and Eve's descendants. In His first oral communication to them—an authoritative command to spread over the earth and enjoy His creation's benefits—He desires to establish in their minds that everything before them was a gift from Him to prepare them to face life.
The physical creation of earth, which culminated in the creation of Adam and Eve, parallels the spiritual creation this same God is undertaking in us. Even as God supplied all that Adam and Eve needed for life, so is He supplying all that we need for our spiritual creation. The apostle Paul confirms this in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Our responsibility is to hold fast to His promises in faith.
We have been given much, but much more is required of us than is required of the unconverted because God has given us gifts not given to them. This principle of God's judgment appears in Luke 12:47-48:
And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
The overriding thought in the foreground of this first and universal covenant is that the entire creation—including us and the spiritual life given us, but in context, especially earth and what it contains—is a gift from God to aid us in making our way through the physical life He has provided. This is a reality: We live and have being, and we think, plan, build, and look to the future all because of what God has done. This reality must be foundational in our relationship with Him because it provides solid footing for the humility necessary to make it work. Because He is the Giver of all good things, our thinking about ourselves in relation to Him must begin here.
In the context of Genesis 1, these blessings, these gifts, are somewhat similar to the gifts of the Spirit listed in I Corinthians 12. A dissimilarity, though, is that I Corinthians 12:11 says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He will.” Here, God supplies gifts for functions He assigns within the church rather than for all of life. But an important similarity that we must live by is that God is still gifting to meet the needs of those He is creating, but in this case the gifts are spiritual rather than physical.
The following truth is not stated in Genesis 1-3, but it is a conclusion gathered from this covenant's entire context combined with understanding gathered elsewhere in God's Word: All of God's gifts are aspects of His grace given to aid us in succeeding within His purpose.
The emphasis should be on His purpose. For example the entire creation is a gift. Whether one is converted or unconverted, it stands as a major teaching device, and receiving it bears responsibilities. Serious and honest consideration of it should lead to answering many questions about our place in a relationship with God, and to realizing some of our responsibilities. This is why Paul declares mankind “without excuse.” The fulfillment of these responsibilities lies in the uses we make of the gifts God has given.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)
God sanctified or hallowed the seventh day, the Sabbath. It takes a holy God to make holy time, and He made no time holy other than His weekly and annual Sabbaths. Though people can be made holy by God, they cannot make something holy because they do not possess a holiness that can be transferred to anything else. Since only a holy God can hallow something, any day other than what God has made holy—even though billions of people may proclaim it to be holy—cannot be holy time. It is utterly impossible. No day can be holy except the one God made holy.
This means that the Sabbath is worthy of respect, deference, and even devotion that cannot be given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it is derived directly from Him and made holy at creation. Because of God's assignment of the word “holy” to the Sabbath, this day is changed into something special. Even though it is a part of the cycle of the week, the Sabbath is separate from the other six days. It is different from the common or ordinary. The other six days are common, given for the pursuit of the ordinary things of life. The seventh-day Sabbath is a day God has reserved for man's benefit for special things, different things—spiritual things.
The Sabbath is not holy merely because God assigned it as such, though by itself, if we truly fear Him, that should be enough. How do things become holy, even things like the soil of the ground, or in this case, time? The Bible shows they become holy because He puts His presence in them. By the fact of His presence, they become a spiritual creation. God's presence is in the weekly Sabbath as well as in the annual Sabbaths, which He also created and made holy for the spiritual guidance of those He has a relationship with.
Luke writes, “So [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Luke 4:16). Jesus kept the weekly Sabbath as well as the annual Sabbaths (see John 7:2, 10). The book of Acts reports the apostle Paul and the New Testament church keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths, even Gentiles.
Nothing in the Bible changes the day God set aside and made holy at creation. The Catholic Church publicly lays claim to changing the day of worship to Sunday and charges the Protestant churches with following their lead. Can the Catholic Church make anything holy?
Everything that truly matters reveals the Edenic Covenant to be universal in application. This means that, along with everything else in that covenant God charged us to submit to, the Sabbath is still in effect. Nothing holy has been created to replace the Sabbath God created in the first week.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)
This verse is notable partly because it contains the first use of the term “covenant” in Scripture, falling under the unwritten “Law of First Mention.” In the remainder of the Bible, it appears 252 more times. It is a significant term because of what “covenant” means to our relationship with God.
Theologians attach many definitions to it, such as the simple “a promise.” Charles Hodge defines it as “a promise suspended upon a condition, and [to which God] attached to disobedience a certain penalty.” Another termed it as “a bond sovereignly administered.” Modern legal terminology is adequate: “A covenant is a legal document establishing the terms of a relationship between parties involved together in the accomplishment of a purpose.”
Despite Genesis 6:18 being the first time “covenant” is used, it is not the first time the sense of a covenant appears in the Bible—and definitely not the last. It is but one of many to come as God's purpose unfolds. What does a covenant accomplish that assists both God's purpose and mankind's understanding of the life the Creator has given him? Humans need a clear understanding of this question if they are to have a good relationship with God. Deuteronomy 29:29 gives the answer: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Covenants, sometimes specifically and sometimes broadly, spell out each party's responsibilities within a relationship the parties have formed to accomplish a purpose. Biblically, a covenant may not be formally proposed and executed by God with man, as the sense of a covenant within a given context may be apparent to a thoughtful reader. Thus, what researchers call the Edenic Covenant is indeed a covenant even though it is not formally proposed, as the terms of the relationship between the Creator and those He created in Genesis 1 are easily discerned. Adam and Eve were to obey the Creator's rules as He personally revealed them and to do so without sin.
In like manner, some researchers perceive a second covenant, which they call the Adamic Covenant. Again, it is not formally proposed by God to Adam and Eve because their sins and the judgments God imposed so obviously altered life and the relationship between God and humanity. A formal declaration of a new covenant was not necessary. It appears after our first parents' sins and God's judgments, since those factors so seriously and obviously altered the relationships among all concerned.
Mark this truth well: The sins and their judgments altered not only the lives of Adam and Eve but also all who came after. Thus, their effects touch us too because those sins and God's judgments dramatically changed the world we live in (see Romans 8 for an expansion on this thought). Each covenant reveals God's purpose more explicitly to meet the demands of His purposes, but overall, as the “Big Picture” unfolds through the course of the Bible, it also reveals that His central purpose has never changed from the beginning. God declares in Malachi 3:6, “I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”
The “Big Picture” reveals that God's purpose from the beginning has been to make man in His image and likeness. God did not cause us to sin; we have deliberately chosen to sin. We must live by faith and keep His commandments. We are saved by grace through faith, which is a gift of God. We must repent of sin and accept Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth, as our personal Savior. We must grow to love God with all our soul, mind, and might, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
The motivation for our submission to God has always been the wonderful mixture of trust in His Word—faith—combined with a deep, personal love for Him for what He is in His character. New elements are introduced with each covenant, as God's purpose is progressively developed to expand mankind's understanding. Each distinguishing mark of His purpose unfolds as humanity needs to understand its place in what is happening within God's creative process.
The Noahic Covenant, like the Edenic Covenant, is also a universal covenant. Though it is made with Noah, its purpose is to redefine the relationship between God and all mankind in the world that arises after the Flood. Only eight people remained. At least partly, this covenant was given so that Noah and ultimately all humanity could come to know that the Flood did not abolish the covenant following Adam's and Eve's sins and the application of God's judgments. Though the Flood was devastating, mankind is still bound to obey what was previously ordained. The Noahic covenant announces that the Flood did not change God's purpose. It did not wipe away man's original responsibilities, just the lawbreakers.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)
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