What is a…
Hebrew: בְּרִית—transliteration: berith
meaning: a contract or agreement between two parties
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word berith is always translated this way. Berith is derived from a root which means “to cut,” and hence a covenant is a “cutting,” with reference to the cutting or dividing of animals into two parts, and the contracting parties passing between them, in making a covenant (Genesis 15; Jeremiah 34:18-19).
The corresponding word in the New Testament Greek is diatheke, which is, however, rendered “testament” generally in the King James Version. It ought to be rendered, just as the word berith of the Old Testament, “covenant.”
This word is used…
The word is used with reference to God’s revelation of himself in the way of promise or of favor to men. Thus God’s promise to Noah after the Flood is called a covenant (Genesis 9; Jeremiah 33:20, “my covenant”).
We have an account of God’s covernant with Abraham (Genesis 17, compare Leviticus 26:42), of the covenant of the priesthood (Numbers 25:12-13; Deuteronomy 33:9; Neh. 13:29), and of the covenant of Sinai (Exodus 34:27-28; Leviticus 26:15), which was afterwards renewed at different times in the history of Israel (Deuteronomy 29; 2 Corinthians 23; 29; 34; Ezra 10; Neh. 9).
In conformity with human custom, God’s covenant is said to be confirmed with an oath (Deuteronomy 4:31; Psalm 89:3), and to be accompanied by a sign (Genesis 9; 17). Hence the covenant is called God’s “counsel,” “oath,” “promise” (Psalm 89:3-4; 105:8-11; Hebrews 6:13-20; Luke 1:68-75). God’s covenant consists wholly in the bestowal of blessing (Isaiah 59:21; Jeremiah 31:33-34).
The term covenant is also used to designate the regular succession of day and night (Jeremiah 33:20), the Sabbath (Exodus 31:16), circumcision (Genesis 17:9-10), and in general any ordinance of God (Jeremiah 34:13-14).
Covenant of Works
This covenant is also called a covenant of nature, as made with man in his natural or unfallen state; a covenant of life, because “life” was the promise attached to obedience; and a legal covenant, because it demanded perfect obedience to the law.
See: Covenant of Works
This covenant is abrogated under the Gospel, inasmuch as Christ has fulfilled all its conditions in behalf of his people, and now offers salvation on the condition of faith. It is still in force, however, as it rests on the immutable justice of God, and is binding on all who have not fled to Christ and accepted His righteousness.
Covenant of Grace
The Covenant of grace is the eternal plan of redemption entered into by the three persons of the Godhead, and carried out by them in its several parts. In it the Father represented the Godhead in its indivisible sovereignty, and the Son his people as their surety (John 17:4, 6, 9; Isaiah 42:6; Psalm 89:3).
The conditions of this covenant were:
On the part of the Father…
- all needful preparation to the Son for the accomplishment of his work (Hebrews 10:5; Isaiah 42:1-7)
- support in the work (Luke 22:43)
- a glorious reward in the exaltation of Christ when his work was done (Philippians 2:6-11), his investiture with universal dominion (John 5:22; Psalm 110:1), his having the administration of the covenant committed into his hands (Matthew 28:18; John 1:12; 17:2; Acts 2:33), and in the final salvation of all his people (Isaiah 35:10; 53:10-11; Jeremiah 31:33; Titus 1:2)
On the part of the Son the conditions were…
- his becoming incarnate (Galatians 4:4-5)
- as the second Adam his representing all his people, assuming their place and undertaking all their obligations under the violated covenant of works
- obeying the law (Psalm 40:8; Isaiah 42:21; John 9:4-5)
- suffering its penalty (Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13), in their stead
- What’s so NEW about the New Testament? Answer
- Lord’s Supper—Communion (signifies, seals, and applies to believers all the benefits of the New Covenant)
- alliance covenant
- Covenant of Works