Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 26, 1960

The Nature Of A Covenant

Jerry F. Bassett, Willits, California

In the letter to the Galatians the Apostle Paul discussed the covenant that God had made with the Jews through Moses in years past. Although that law is abolished in Christ (Gal. 3:16-29), it is nonetheless important to notice that in explaining its abolishment Paul sets forth a principle which characterizes any covenant God makes with man. Notice his brief statement in Gal. 3:20, "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one."

The purpose of a mediator is to stand between two parties to mediate the terms of a covenant. It is obvious that if there is only one party involved there is then no need for a mediator. Hence, "a mediator is not a mediator of one. . ." However since "God is one," and since a mediated covenant is under consideration, it follows that a second party must exist to accept the terms and bear the responsibilities of God's covenant. This point is well illustrated by the covenant God made with the Jews. God was the "party of the first part" or the one who stated the terms of the covenant. The Jews composed the "party of the second part" or the one which was to accept and keep those terms. Moses was the mediator who stood between the two parties mediating the terms according to God's revelation. (Ex 19:16.) Further, since there were two parties entering into covenant relationship it follows that both incurred, and were to bear the responsibilities of that covenant. God was absolutely free from obligation to sinful man, yet, out of his loving mercy he promised the Israelites that they should be a peculiar treasure unto him, a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. As these blessings were set forth within the framework of a covenant the nature of such a system is seen in the fact that Israel would receive the promised blessings only if they met God's conditions. God said, ". . . if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant. . ." It can be concluded from this that the nature of a God-given covenant requires those who are under it to keep its conditions if they are to receive the blessings offered therein.

Salvation — The Promise Of God's Covenant In Christ

The law of Christ under which men are to serve God now (Matt. 17:5, Rom. 1:9) still requires service in a covenant relationship. In I Tim. 2:5 Paul wrote, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." This covenant of which Christ is the mediator is also the same covenant in which God extends to man the promise of forgiveness of sins, and thereby the salvation of his soul. (Heb. 8:1-13.) Verse 12 says "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Since this blessing is offered to man in a covenant relationship the very nature of such teaches that man must meet the conditions set forth to receive that blessing. God owed sinful man nothing, yet he give his only begotten son a sacrifice on the cross to purchase man's freedom from sin and death. (I John 4:9-10.) This being accomplished he now offers to all men every pardon from sin and hope of eternal life, if they will obey his voice and keep his covenant. The terms of pardon are, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16.)

God's promise of salvation is yours to enjoy if you will obey. God has done his part in providing the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Now you must do your part by accepting and fulfilling the terms of the covenant. God has never promised his favor to anyone in any age who refuses to obey his commands. On the other hand, in every age, as also at this time, to every obedient and faithful soul God promises eternal life. "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Rev. 22:14.) This is the nature of the covenant.