Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

February 11, 2007

Christian Mind Paper Part VI

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 2:43 am

The Covenants in History

The essential feature of the two types of covenants that are worked out in history, is verbal. The covenant of works insofar as it involves man, once with Adam, and once with the entire nation of Israel has the verbal property of command or law, “do this and live”. The covenant of works insofar as it involves the man Jesus Christ is the same, “do this and you will be given the inheritance I promise”. The covenant of grace has the verbal property of pure promise. “I will”.1

So, the two types of covenants correspond to two types of speech – law and promise. In history, these two types of covenants are worked out as follows: The basis of a covenant of works and a covenant of grace in the modern handling of reformed theology is seen in ancient near Eastern treaties that predated Abraham and Moses. What reformed scholars and some non-Christian archaeological historians see is the suzerainty treaty form. In these treaties, the great king (the suzerain) would establish a covenant with a lesser king or ruler wherein the suzerain would promise to not destroy the lesser vassal king as long as the vassal adhered to stipulations (laws). This is exactly what the Mosaic covenant was modeled on2.
They also see a second kind of treaty in the ancient near East. This is what is called the royal grant treaty. In this kind of treaty the great king offers an unconditional grant of blessing to the lesser king. There are no stipulations with this kind of treaty. This kind of covenant is what we see in the Abrahamic covenant and also in the Davidic covenant and also in the new covenant. Interestingly and what is often confused, is that the new covenant abrogates the Mosaic covenant as the Israelite theocracy is terminated, but with respect to the Abrahamic covenant, it is intensified in Christ as it is extended to the whole world who, in Christ, are Abraham’s seed.

The key point however, is that God’s covenantal relationship here is a verbal one. And to relate rightly to this covenantal God is fundamentally a communicative relationship. God speaks and we respond. Scripture could not be more clear on this point. “We walk by faith and not by sight”(2 Cor 5:7) and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”(Rom 10:17)

1See Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12:2,3, 2Samuel 7, Jeremiah 31:31ff

2And as was mentioned above, so was the Adamic treaty in creation. In reality of course, God providentially works through means, and the obvious conclusion is that suzerainty treaties are God’s common grace providence that have him only as its author and that no “modeling” is actually necessary.


So, believe it or not, the next entry (part 7) will actually start the defense of my thesis. All the previous was basically filler.


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