The Church - Blessed Without A Covenant

Leslie M. Grant

The first covenant in Scripture was established by God with Noah and with all mankind, as well as with animals and birds (Gen.9:8-17). It provided that God would never again send a flood to destroy the earth. God's other covenants pertained to Israel, as Romans 9:4 plainly declares.

The Abrahamic Covenant

The first of Israel's covenants was given directly to Abraham: "I will make My covenant between Me and thee" (Gen.17:2 KJV). And God adds to this in the same chapter, "I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (vv.7-8).

Of course, the seed to whom God promised all the land of Canaan can only be the nation of Israel. The promise is absolute and unconditional. God cannot break His covenant, nor did He lay upon Israel any conditions to perform for it to

become effective.

The Sinai Covenant

However, in Exodus 19 another covenant is made with Israel in the desert of Sinai. In this one the Lord instructs Moses to tell the gathered children of Israel, "If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for all the earth is mine" (v.5).

The covenant is in great contrast to the one given to Abraham, for it is conditional upon Israel's obedience, and therefore not "an everlasting covenant." Only if Israel obeyed would they be a peculiar treasure to the Lord, a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.

Why did God make such a covenant after He had previously made an unconditional one? Because Israel, in vain self-confidence, considered themselves deserving of God's promises and therefore expected to receive them on the basis of  their good works. Very well: God then gives them a covenant of law, that of the ten commandments, to test this confidence in their own goodness. He would show them by their experience with law that they deserved nothing but judgement.

Although they broke the law, and therefore broke this covenant, this did not at all annul His previous covenant with Abraham, as Galatians 4:16-18 shows us. The Abrahamic covenant still stands, for it is everlasting, and not dependent on Israel's obedience.

Yet that covenant can be fulfilled only in Christ, for it was made to Abraham and his seed. "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal.3:16). While Abraham would have numerous seed, yet the blessing would come through the one seed, Christ. Because Israel as a nation rejected the blessed Lord of glory, they forfeited all title to promise. Therefore, when they are brought back to the Lord, they will claim no title to the covenant, but come only as "objects of mercy" (Rom.11:31-32 JND), virtually on the same ground as Gentiles. In this marvellous way, God will show His overruling power and grace in fulfilling His covenant to Abraham. Wonderful is the wisdom of His ways!

The New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-34 speaks of a new covenant God will make, also with Israel, in a future day. It will not be like that of Exodus 19 which Israel broke, for it will not be conditional on their obedience. Therefore, it is consistent with the covenant made with Abraham.

In bringing Israel to their true Messiah on the basis of the new covenant, God will put His law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts. This is the precious reality of new birth. What a change will take place in that nation, a change that results in blessing on earth for them. God has planned and decreed it; and we shall soon rejoice in seeing Israel fully blessed through this new covenant.

That Of The Church?

But what of ourselves, the Church of God? Are we under a covenant. No, not at all. The covenants pertain to Israel. As Gentiles, we were total strangers to the covenants of promise. While Israel had a hope because of the covenants, we had no hope. Such was the misery and wretchedness of our condition.

The fact that we had no covenant to depend on in any way, makes all the more marvellous the further fact that we are saved by absolute grace. Just as Ruth had no claim in Israel because she was a Moabitess and yet by grace became the wife of Boaz (Ruth 4:9-10), so today we have been introduced into pure grace apart from any covenants being made with us.

And yet we partake of all the blessings of the new covenant before Israel receives any blessings under it. In fact, our blessing go far beyond the new covenant, for we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph.1:3). This is the pure grace of God.

Israel will receive their blessings on earth, but ours are of a far higher and more precious character. And they are not merely promised us; we have them now, in Christ. And as to the future, the Lord will make the Church His bride without a covenant. We are not entitled to this but receive it because of God's pure grace, although previously having no hope and being without God in the world. What grace indeed! It makes the heart respond by eternally adoring the blessed God of Glory, revealed in His beloved Son.