Chapter 32 The Everlasting Covenant

I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:7).

There is no greater covenant in Scripture than the covenant which God made with Abraham. There are aspects of the covenant that affect Abraham personally—that he would be great, that a numerous people would spring from him, and that even kings would proceed from him. The possession of Palestine was an aspect which promised unconditional blessing to the nation Israel, of which he was the father and founder. But there was an aspect which was universal, that which promised blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).

When God counted Abraham righteous or justified while he was still a Gentile, it was because he believed God (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). His faith rested solely upon two promises given him of God. The first was that a particular seed would spring from him; the second that a spiritual seed would arise composed of those of like precious faith who would be as the stars of heaven for multitude (Genesis 15:5).

Paul interprets the particular seed as Christ—“To thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16), and the promise that in him all families of the world would be blessed as “they which are of faith” (Galatians 3:7), that is, those who would believe God concerning His Son, as Abraham himself believed (John 8:56).

Leaving aside those aspects of the covenant which have to do with Abraham personally, or with Israel as a nation, we think of that aspect which has to do with Abraham’s spiritual seed. “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).

The Covenant of Works

In the course of time, the nation called Israel sprang from the loins of Abraham. This nation was his natural seed. With Moses as the mediator, God made a covenant with this nation, but a covenant of an entirely different nature to that made with Abraham. It was a covenant with conditional promises which rested upon Israel’s obedience to the law given Moses. The promise of life was conditional upon their works, which would have to be absolute in faithfulness. Three times over the nation swore to obey: “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.”

But an imperfect people cannot keep a perfect law. The covenant, therefore, was soon trampled underfoot. Thus the promises made by God were forfeited. Since the covenant was so violated, Paul concludes most justly that “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

The Covenant of Grace

The covenant of grace is not made with sinful men but rests solely upon God’s sovereign will. It was the essence of the covenant made to Abraham and centered in the promised seed—Christ, the Son of God. In this covenant, which is called “a better covenant” in relation to the covenant of works (Hebrews 8:6), God’s beloved Son assumes responsibility for the terms and promises given in that covenant.

For God to be God of any of Adam’s race, the people must be holy (1 Peter 1:16). The Son of God assumed responsibility for this, and thus He Himself is the essence of the covenant (Isaiah 42:6). He is the essence, the reality, the fullness of it. He is the beginning and end of it. He is the foundation and edifice of it. Believing in Him and His atoning work, all our sins are dealt with, all guilt removed, reconciliation with God is effected, peace is established, and the way into the holiest opened so that Heaven is assured.

“By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament” (Hebrews 7:22). He is Surety for the Father and Surety for His believing people. By His sacrifice He releases the boundless blessings promised by the Father. Nothing can be withheld from those who believe. All must be given. In His saving of us, and His sanctifying of us through the process of time, He will present us to the Father “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27).

“To Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24). He stands between man and God. He is one with God and one with man. Union with God is eternally effected in Him. Therefore we have the promise of the Father, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips” (Psalm 89:34).

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say, than to you He hath said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

George Keith