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Doctrine of Covenants: Introduction II

July 4, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Jeremiah 31

Scripture: Jeremiah 31


Last week we began our introduction into the Doctrine of Covenants and touched upon the two great covenants of Scripture:

  • Covenant of Works (also known as the Covenant of Life)
  • Covenant of Grace

We also touched upon the many different categories of theology and how covenant theology can be found within and can help us more accurately and thoroughly understand the many disciplines of theology.

  • Prolegomena (the first things)
  • The Doctrine of man
  • The Doctrine of God
  • Eschatology
  • Sotierology
  • Ecclesiology and many others...


Looking back in history, we can see how covenant theology came about as part of the Reformation. There was a general return to the source documents of the Scripture using solid hermeneutical interpretative techniques such as the

  • grammatical
  • historical
  • theological

Returning to the Bible's root idea of the preeminence of God's glory in all all things,

Romans 11:36: For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Dr. Robert L. Reymond declares:

it is only natural that the biblical concept of covenant theology would be developed.

Those who reject covenant theology have the burden of using Scripture to prove:

  • there are two peoples of God
  • that the Old Testament saints were not saved by faith through the shedding of Christ's blood [[Heb-09#v22]],
  • how there are two plans and ways of salvation
    • one for the Old Testament
    • one for the New Testament.

They have the burden of proof to explain the words of Jesus Himself:

John 14:6 -> Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If Moses and the Old Testaments saints were preached the gospel:

  • what exactly was this Gospel if there was no knowledge of Christ in the Old Testament?

Hebrews 4: -> For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

Galatians makes it clear for us...

Galatians 3:16, 17 -> Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

Although many have created some imaginative and fantastic theories on the multiple dispensations within the Scripture;

and have developed strange ideas as to how one might procure salvation through their own efforts...

  • we are reminded that the Christian must remain straight on true.
  • The Christian must reply upon Scripture, and Scripture alone, to:
    • develop and explain theology
    • to understand how God has described who He is and how He works through providence

Introductory Principles of Covenants

Any other method is:

  • vain janglings and courting heresy and error
    • with a little sprinkling of culture and pride.

This week, we are going to continue our discussion of covenants by looking at:

  • 6 characteristics of a biblical covenants

So that we might be better positioned to recognize and understand them when they are encountered in Scripture.

While it is true the term "covenant" will not be found in the first 3 chapters of Scripture, nevertheless, if we understand the principles of covenants, we will see clearly their existence.  Nor is the word sin found in the first 3 chapters.

But the word is found in Scripture (as is the word covenant) as we we are reminded of taking a holistic view of Scripture to formulate doctrines.

Sovereign Administration

The first characteristic of Biblical Covenants that we'll look at today is that they are sovereignly administered.

  • What is a Covenant?
    • An agreement between two or more persons.(Shorter Catechism)
    • This answer may suffice for children, but it will not do for us
    • There is an agreement, to be sure, but it is more involved than just simply an agreement:
      • The Lord enters into Covenant with His people by His own sovereignty
      • The Lord places requirements placed upon those with whom He enters into covenant.
  • Scripture Illustration
    • Gen 9:8-17 & Gen 17:6-8
      • The Lord declares that He is making a Covenant.
      • Noah is not given an option as to whether or not to enter into covenant with the Lord.
      • Abraham is not given an option as to whether or not to enter into covenant with the Lord.
    • This is a sovereign administration of the covenant.
  • In [[Gen-17#v9|verse 9]] this is even more explicit:
    • the Lord declares to Abraham, “Thou shalt keep my Covenant”.
    • In the command to keep it, and in the Lord’s calling it “my covenant” we see the sovereign nature of its administration.

God is absolutely sovereign in His dealings with man

  • God has the perfect right to lay down the conditions with which man must comply.
  • Moreover Adam was, even in virtue of his natural relationship, is duty bound to obey God


  • This is the way the Lord has presented the idea of a Covenant in Scripture.
  • The Lord declares that there are things He does or will do, and commits to doing them.
    • The Lord commits Himself to Abraham and Abraham’s seed in a way that will result in their blessing above all people.
    • He declares, “I will be your God”
  • The Lord commits Abraham and his seed to Himself.
    • The Covenant-bond extends to Abraham and his seed.
    • As the Sovereign Lord,
      • He declares the right to draw these bonds for Abraham and his offspring.
      • He declares, “You shall be my people”.
    • See: [[Gen-22|Gen 22:15-18]]
    • See: [[Heb-06| Heb. 6:13-14]]
  • These are covenant-bonds
    • The Lord draws Himself into a covenant bond


  • Covenant bonds separate between certain people of the race, and others.
  • In that the Lord promises to be a God to Abraham and to His seed
  • In that the Lord does not promise to others—He passes by them.
  • This is true of other Biblical Covenants as well.
    • Gen-03:15 -> there are two seeds here; "two humanities" - Francis Shaeffer
    • Deut 29:12-15, 22-29 -> referencing the offspring to come; but it is tightly restricted to whom should be called the people of God; the rest are passed by.
  • 2 Sam 7:1-17 -> a covenant is made specifically with David and his household
  • Ps-89:3 -> the word "covenant" is not used in 2 Samuel but it is used in Ps-89:28 in reference; it is clear that a covenant is being made
  • In these Covenant bonds
    • There is a discrimination of the Lord.
    • In history, the Lord discriminates the idea of a people of His own choosing by way of His Covenant.

Proximity Element (as rightly understood).

  • The Lord enters into Covenant with His people He declares to them:
    • He will be with them
    • He will dwell among them
  • He will dwell in their midst
  • That they are to draw near to Him in the same way, covenantally.
  • This is such a distinctive feature of the Covenant:
    • The Lord, to that Church under age, sets a Tabernacle, a dwelling, in their midst, and sets His Name there, and meets with His people there.
      • "Ohel Moed " - a dwelling place, the tent of meeting, the tent of trysting, where God meets with His people.
      • Exod 40:34-38 -> the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle; as long as it remained, it was understood that God was there.
      • Exod 29:45-46 -> the Lord will dwell among the children of Isreal, and He will be their God.
  • lev 26:11-13 -> see the covenant concepts
  • Isa-12:6 -> "in the midst of thee"
  • Exek 37:27-28, 26 -> "dwelling with His people is part of the covenant concept"; this proximity concept
  • ezek-43:47
  • John-01:14 -> "and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us"
  • "dwell" - to live, to take up residence, to pitch a tent, to tabernacle)
  • it is the Greek word that corresponds to the Hebrew word "Ohel Moed"
  • it is the embodiment of the covenant that the Lord Jesus Christ would come and tabernacle/ dwell among us
  • Rev 21:1-3 -> this is the covenant concept, repeated through Scripture
  • These passages show this continuous concept of the Covenant
    • that God will dwell with His people.
    • the union and communion aspect that is a Covenantal mark.
  • Note: this started in the Old Testament and ended in the New Testament
    • this is a consistent, Covenantal understanding

Requirements or Stipulations/blessings.

  • The Lord places stipulations upon Himself.
    • binding Himself to what He will do, upon the veracity of His own Word and power.
    • Gen 22:15-18; Heb 6:13-18 -> where the Lord draws Himself into a covenant.
  • Ps 105:9-10 -> there are requirements/ stipulations that must be obeyed.
  • Note also that this oath of the Lord was a constant companion to the faithful in Israel: Luke-01:73
  • The point here is that in order for there to be a Covenant, there must be:
    • two parties,
  • Each Covenant administration has stipulations in the Covenant model.
    • Where the Lord draws His people into Covenant with himself.
      • He sets out the demands of the Covenant.
      • Exod19:1-8 -> the stipulation of obedience are provided.
    • Consider it faithfully with the stipulations the Lord places in the Covenant for His people.
      • Faith, repentance, fidelity to Him, etc.
      • These are stipulations.
  • In them we see that they are beyond our reach.
    • They are stipulations nonetheless.
  • Do not confuse obligations with merit.
  • The blessings promised are inducements to obedience.
  • None of the performances rise to the level of the perfection required for communion with God.
  • The threatening given for disobedience is also inducement to obedience.
    • They are not given so that the man in covenant may not be judged because he has not sinned.
    • We all sin daily, in thought, word, and deed.
  • But this can be understood in the following model: Command-Obedience-Promise-Blessing

Characteristic of a federal or headship nature of administration

  • This can be seen of both Adam and Christ as “public persons”
  • In that what they have done in covenant they have done not for themselves only
    • but for their posterity
    • and for those considered united to them in the Covenant bond as well.
  • This will become for clear in the study of covenants.
    • For now, there are the two great passages in the NT
    • Rom 5:12-21 -> there is the concept of headship in the covenant that is very important to understand.
    • 1 Cor 15:20-25 -> here also, is the concept of headship only to those that belong or (are in) Christ.
  • This public nature will figure largely in the temporal administrations of the Covenant
    • looking at the word "seed" and it's meaning
      • in Adam
      • in Noah
      • in Abraham
      • in Moses
      • in David (son or offspring)
    • in each one of these, we are looking at Christ, the head of the covenant, by whom salvation comes
    • This destroys the individualistic/ pietistic nature of the Christian Religion (as it is presented by many today).
  • Covenant Theology places the Biblical understanding of a people, in Christ, brought into Covenant with God -> to the forefront.
    • It ought not to be said "God made a covenant with me"
    • Rather, God made a covenant with Christ and then with me (in Christ)
      • God does not deal with anyone apart from Christ
    • When contemporary Christianity presents an individualistic conception of religion is a sub-Biblical model
      • what takes place in one’s closet...
      • what takes place in one’s family...
    • when it is to the detriment of the public necessities of a people called before the Lord for worship and service as a community of saints


And so we must end today as we are running out of time.

But here we have examined 6 characteristics of biblical covenants that you will find throughout the Scripture.

Refusal to see the doctrine of covenants as presented in Scripture is:

  • a failure to let the Word of God speak for itself
  • might betray a tendency to read into the Bible what one already wants to see

Today we are taking communion...

Communion is a wonderful example of covenants.

The visible church, membership in a church, is a covenant between you and Christ.

It has elements of each characteristic we’ve discussed today:

  1. Sovereign Administration – the covenant being given to man, sovereignly administered to the visible church
  2. Commitment-bonds – those bonds whereby the church is expected to obey
  3. Discriminating – this covenant is discriminating between those within the church, those members of the visible church, and those outside the church living in the world outside the mediatorial kingdom of Christ
  4. Proximity element – Christ, as Head of the Church, is within the church and ministers to them through the Word and the Sacraments
  5. Requirements/ Stipulations – Man is expected to publicly and openly confess Christ, swearing obedience and allegiance to Him. This is done through open covenant in local church membership.
  6. Federal Headship – being members of the visible church, we can expect to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.
    1. We can expect to be forgiven of our sins in Christ
    2. We can expect to be found in Christ

Without a proper understanding of Covenant Theology...

  • Man has been led to believe they don’t need the church
  • That they can ignore the covenants of Christ and sovereignly administer their own covenants and their own stipulations

But we must guard against that impiety.

We must learn to seek after Christ. Listen to Christ.

Rest in Christ.

Be obedient to Christ.

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