We received the following question from one of our readers:
“Within the last year in the Standard Bearer there have been two articles about covenant breaking. I have been brought up in the Christian Reformed Church and have heard much about breaking the covenant. Now I am hearing more and more of a “Covenant breaking” in our Protestant Reformed Churches. Would you please write an article for the question box in theStandard Bearer that the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ keeps the Covenant? Here are some verses that show that this is true: Psalm 25:10, Exodus 20:6, Psalm 103:17, 18, Deuteronomy 5:10, Psalm 73:23; Psalter numbers 278:5 and 281:4.”
As the writer suggests, there are many passages in Scripture that speak of keeping God’s Covenant.
In fact, Scripture lays great emphasis on the fact that God is a Covenant-keeping God. He is Jehovah, the Almighty, Unchangeable, ever faithful Covenant God.
When He establishes His Covenant with Abraham as the father of all believers and with his spiritual seed, He assures Abraham and us:
“I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
There are innumerable passages, both in the Old and New Testaments, that speak of God’s faithfulness in keeping covenant with His people in Christ. To mention a few: In Deuteronomy 7:9 we are told:
“Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.”
And then we have that ever beautiful Psalm, which expresses throughout the wonder and riches of God’s faithfulness, beginning in the triumphant note:
“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations.”
See also verses 2, 5, 8, 24, 33. Paul speaks of God’s faithfulness in I Corinthians 1:9:
“God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Notice, God is faithful to us in Christ, having chosen us in Him, as our Covenant Head. He keeps covenant even when it requires the death of His dear Son. He draws us unto Himself by the Spirit of the Son into everlasting communion of life in glory.
In His faithfulness God blesses and preserves His people in the hour of severest trials (I Cor. 10:13). The writer to the Hebrews encourages the believers:
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised).”
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It becomes evident, already in the passages referred to, that God’s faithfulness is always associated with His mercy. God keeps covenant with us, not because of any merit or worthiness in us, nor because we keep covenant, but only in His sovereign mercy, based upon His love in Christ Jesus. Our faithfulness is the fruit of His work of grace. We read in Malachi 3:6:
“For I am the Lord (Jehovah) I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy upon thee.”
See also such passages as I Kings 8:23, II Chronicles 6:14,Nehemiah 1:5, Psalm 73:24 and other passages. God’s mercies are always in Christ Jesus, based on His atoning death of the cross, wrought in our hearts by His Spirit, through the preaching of the Word.
Therefore it is only Jehovah’s faithfulness in mercy toward His people that they keep covenant with Him. God declares in Isaiah 59:21:
“As for Me, this is My covenant with them, saith the Lord: My spirit that is upon them, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest.”
Scripture always connects our keeping covenant with the keeping of His commandments. The books of the law are called “Books of the Covenant” (Ex. 24:7). The two tables of the law are called “the tables of the Covenant” (Deut. 9:9). The principle of the law is that we shall love the Lord our God with our whole being. God shows
“mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.”
II Samuel 22:22 speaks of “keeping the ways of the Lord.” Also our Baptism Form speaks of our part (not as parties, but as our part) in God’s Covenant.
“Therefore are we by God through baptism, admonished of, and obliged unto new obedience, namely, that we cleave to this one God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; that we trust in Him, and love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our mind, and with all our strength; that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.”
The difference between the old dispensation and the new is that in the old dispensation the members of the church were servants, still under the bondage of the law, looking for its fulfillment in the promised Savior, while in the new dispensation we are sons, walking in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.
It is, therefore, only Jehovah’s mercy and grace by His Spirit in our hearts, through the means of the preaching of the Word, that we can and do keep God’s Covenant. Many passages in Scripture speak of the faithfulness of God’s covenant people. Psalm 101:6:
“Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with Me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve Me.”
In I Corinthians 7:25 Paul speaks of having obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. Ephesians 1:1 and Colossians 1:2address the church as the faithful in Christ Jesus. Therefore Jesus can admonish us:
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
And Paul can say as his pilgrimage draws to a close,
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearance.”
This is in harmony with the promise of our Lord, Luke 19:17:
“And He said unto him: Well done, thou good servant, because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.”
Finally, Scripture teaches throughout that God’s covenant is His relationship of friendship with the believers and their spiritual seed in the line of continued generations. Rather than refer to the innumerable passages that could be cited, let us take note of the word of the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 18:19:
“For I know him (Abraham), that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
In the context the Angel of Jehovah with two other angels come to Abraham in the form of a lord with his two servants to sit and eat with him, to commune with. him and assure him and Sarah of the birth of the promised seed, Isaac. As the Angel is about to depart, Abraham seems reluctant to have Him leave. He accompanies Him on His way; and then, in the privacy of the two of them, the Angel of Jehovah (which is the Old Testament manifestation of the Christ) informs Abraham of the pending destruction of Sodom. In verses 17 and 18 we read:
“Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do: seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?”
The Lord says of Abraham, “I know him.” This is not a mere acquaintance, a mere knowing about Abraham, or even a foreknowledge of what he will do, in the Arminian sense. Knowing in Scripture usually has a far wider connotation. God knows Abraham according to His sovereign election in love, having chosen him to the unique position as father of all believers. God knows Abraham as redeemed in the promised Christ, so that God worked faith in him, equipping him with His Spirit and Word to walk in fear, in order that he may bring up his children and instruct his servants in the ways of the Lord.
From this follows that God blesses the instruction to Abraham’s seed, particularly in Isaac, in Jacob, and in the patriarchs, so that in them it bears fruits of justice and judgment, uprightness of heart, and obedience to God by serving Him.
Thus God realizes His eternal purpose, “that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken to him.” This refers back to the covenant promise ofGenesis 17:7:
“And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
Still today God continues to realize His promise to Abraham’s spiritual seed through the instruction in the covenant home and in the church (Psalm 78:1-6).
The full realization of this covenant faithfulness is attained in heaven, as we read in Revelation 21:3:
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.”