WAS GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM UNCONDITIONAL?

Someone recently said the following to me: “The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant. God made promises to Abraham that required nothing of Abraham.”

The person who made this statement did so in defense of his position on Israel, but is he correct? Did God make a covenant with Abraham that required nothing of Abraham?

What if Abraham had not obeyed God and not left his father’s house? What if Abraham had not believed God’s promise to make him the father of many nations?

The gentleman who made the statement above, also said the following:

“The problem that rises from this issue is that most people do not comprehend the concept of a covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two parties. There are two basic types of covenants: conditional and unconditional. A conditional covenant is an agreement that is binding on both parties for its fulfillment. Both parties agree to fulfill certain conditions. If either party fails to meet their responsibilities, the covenant is broken and neither party has to fulfill the expectations of the covenant. An unconditional covenant is an agreement between two parties, but only one of the two parties has to do something. Nothing is required of the other party.”

This simply isn’t true. If it were true, God would save everyone whether they believe the gospel or not, but salvation requires something of the beneficiary, namely, faith.

Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. ~ Galatians 3:6-9

Abraham became the father of many nations because he believed God. Nowhere in your Bible will you find any text that teaches that nothing was required of Abraham.

For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. ~ Hebrews 6: 13-15

Notice that Abraham obtained the promise after he had patiently endured.

The covenant God made with Abraham was not one sided. It was as much dependant on Abraham’s faith as it was God’s promise, for the covenant God made with Abraham was the promise of the gospel. Truthfully, there is no such thing as an unconditional covenant in scritpure, which requires nothing of one of the parties. The very nature of a covenant is that it requires something from both sides. In Abraham’s case, it required both faith and obedience.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. ~ Hebrews 1:8-10

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. ~ Hebrews 11:17-19

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. ~ James 2:21-23

There is absolutely no language anywhere in your Bible that claims that God’s covenant with Abraham was unconditional and required nothing of Abraham.

On the contrary, when the Lord appeared to Abraham in Genesis 17, God said to Abraham: “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” ~ Genesis 17:1a-2

Later in Genesis 22, God required Abraham to offer up his only son, and Abraham obeyed God!

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WHAT IS PAUL REFERRING TO WHEN HE SPEAKS OF “ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES” ?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ… ~ Ephesians 1:4

Have you ever wondered what these spiritual blessings, of which Paul speaks in the text above, actually are?

If you have, and you’re still not sure, I believe I have the answer for you.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is constructed in much the same way as his letter to the Colossians, which is more of a condensed version of his message to the Ephesians.

In Ephesians, Paul speaks of the “spiritual blessings” in heavenly places in Christ (1:4). He also speaks of our being seated with Christ in heavenly places (2:6-7).

In Colossians, he says something similar:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. ~ Colossians 1:1-4

What exactly is Paul talking about with all this language of “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” and “seated with Christ in heavenly places” and “dead with Christ” and “your life hidden with Christ in God”?

The answer is found in Paul’s teaching of the old man from which are redeemed, and the new man we are called to be.

In Colossians 3:5, Paul begins to unwrap what he means by saying, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…” (v.5)

Paul then gives a list of the sins of the flesh which we are to put to death in our lives, and refers to this as “putting off the old man.” He then says that we are to put on the new man created in the image of Jesus Christ (3:10) by walking in love, forgiviness, kindness, peace, etc.

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. ~ Colossians 3:12-15

Paul goes into much more detail about putting off the old man and putting on the new in his letter to the Ephesians where he employes the same language of peace as the calling of the believer.

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

This is the heavenly life to which we are called.

Sin is why Christ died, and the expression of sin is the old man of which we are instructed to “put off.” In Paul’s theology, the old man mentioned in Romans 6, as well as in Ephesians and Colossians is not some “mystical thing.” It is a direct reference to the person that sin causes us to become, and Christ died to save us from our sins, which make us murderers, liars, thiefs, blashpemers, adulterers, etc. Paul describes our old man being crucified with Christ as “destroying the body of sin.” ~ Romans 6:6

When we choose to surrender to Christ, we choose to live after the life of Christ, and thus we crucify the old man of sin: who we were in our sins.

Christ died and rose again, to set us free from our sins and to give us power over sin, that the life from above could be freely expressed in us.

The virtures of the new man in Christ, ruled by the peace of God, is what Paul is speaking of when speaks of the spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus and those things which are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

The Holy Spirit comes to us with the glorious life of the enthroned Christ, empowering us to live in this dark and sinful world as true ambassadors for Christ, with a life and peace that is only heaven can give.

HAS GOD’S LAW BEEN ABOLISHED?

In the book of Romans Paul does not disqualify the law. In fact he says the complete opposite: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” ~ Romans 3:21

Paul never disqualifies the law in any of his epistles, but skillfully explains the purpose of the law. According to Paul, the law was weak through the flesh. The written code with it’s commands, decrees, and statues, as was given to Israel, was weak because it could not put a stop to sin, it could only regulate it.

Only by the power of Christ can sin be permenately dealt with, and only by the power of Christ can we live victorious over sin. Those who are changed by the power of Christ are not under the written code of law as the Israelites were, because their law was given to regulate sin, not deliver them from it.

Does this mean that we are without any law now that we are in Christ? Absolutely not!

Serving Christ doesn’t mean we are now lawless. That for which the written code was given is fulfilled in us by the power of Christ. The goal was never the command, but the purpose for which the command was given. The goal of “thou shalt not kill” was “love your neighbor.” The goal of thou shalt not covet or steal is “love your neighbor.”

When Christ came, he did not come to abolish God’s law, but to fulfill it, and those who follow Christ fullfil the law as well, for they do the will of God from the heart.

God’s law is fulfilled in those who live according to the power of Christ. This is why both Jesus and Paul tell us that love fulfills the law.

The virtues of godliness such as kindness, self control, patience, peace, etc., are the very things to which the Law gave witness. The law (the written code) had no strength to free us from sin and empower us with righteousness. Nor did we have this strenght in ourselves, for we had become servants to our own sins. Thus Paul says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” ~ Romans 5:6

Now that Christ has come, we have the strength to please God from our hearts and the law does not condemn us, for we are justified in Christ!

God’s law has not been abolished, but the administration of it in written code has. God’s law is now made manifest through those who have the power of Christ ruling their lives. The goal of God’s law wasn’t to keep us from murdering our neighbor, it was to teach us to love them.

In Romans 2 Paul speaks of the work of the Law in the heart and speaks of the same when he tells the Thessalonians, “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. ” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:9

The Law of God is eternal, but the administration of his law has changed. No longer is it the ministation of death in written code. It is now inscribed on the hearts and minds of those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. ~ See Hebrews 10:16-22

Now it is administered as the commandment of love which only Christ can give, and properly know as “the law of Christ”!

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. ~ 1 John 2:7-8

THE NEW COVENANT REPLACED THE OLD

Once you really get it, that the New Covenant replaced the Old, you’ll never read the Bible the same again. It will become a new book to you.

The Old Covenant, by definition is the law given to Israel under Moses. This is what the New Covenant, established by the blood of Jesus, replaced.

The New Covenant, was promised to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In the Biblical narrative of the story of Israel, the coming of Jesus Christ (not his second coming, but his first) is the main event! It is the climatic ending of national Israel’s history under the first covenant which held them in bondage under a curse.

The New Covenant was God’s promise to the house of Israel and the house of Judah in the day he would deliver them from their ungodliness.

Salvation for Israel is not somthing in waiting, which hasn’t happened yet. Salvation for Israel has already come in the person of Jesus Christ, and this is why the announcement of Christ takes center stage in the story of Israel.

It was so grand, that God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Israel’s redeemer and to make the announcement to Israel that this man is the Son of God: the one we have all been waiting for!

Yet, not all those who were of Israeli descent accepted the message, and just as the Israelites who sinned and rebelled against God under the law were judged, even so those who rejected Jesus were also judged and cut off from covenant with God just as Moses said they would be. ~ See Acts 3:22-23

But there is good news! God is able to graft them in again, if they will believe the gospel. ~ See Romans 11:23

Once you understand that the gospels and the book of Acts belong to the narrative of the story of Israel, the Bible will become a new book to you.

The coming of Jesus was not an intermission in God’s dealings with Israel. The coming of Jesus was the salvation God had promised to Israel by his prophets, who also declared that when Israel was saved, the whole world would be invited into the blessing!

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. ~ Romans 15:8-12

Salvation for the Gentiles is not a dispensational interruption in God’s dealings with the Jewish people. Salvation for the Gentiles was promised to come when God would save his people Israel.

The message of the Kingdom of God is the same for the Jew as it is for the Gentile: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!