A Framework of Grace (2)
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1.2-4
For all the promises of God in Him areYes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 2 Corinthians 1.20
A great idea, but…
God’s gracious covenant sounds like a really great idea. He has determined to do good to His chosen people, to restore them to Himself, shelter them in His forgiveness and love, constitute them as a nation of priests and kings, and deploy them for the work of restoring and renewing all of creation. To that end, God rules the vast cosmos so that it serves the purposes of His covenant. He makes all things in life and the world work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8.28).
Truly, God’s gracious covenant is a great idea.
Such a great idea, in fact, that it seems too good to be true. Those precious and very great promises – blessing, influence, protection and provision, power to bless the nations – are very attractive. It’s clear that, within the framework of those promises, people like us could find meaning, purpose, security, and the wherewithal to make a solid contribution to the world.
All we have to do is obey God’s Law and keep all His Word. And that’s precisely the problem with people. Or, as Shakespeare might say, “Aye, there’s the rub.”
For we know ourselves, don’t we? We know we struggle with obedience. We neglect God’s Law. Give lip-service to prayer and worship much of the time. Pick at the crumbs of Scripture rather than feast on the meat. And tend to keep our faith at a low profile status when we’re out in the world, where we should be exerting influence and extending blessing.
And these failures of obedience to God’s covenant responsibilities not only keep us from realizing His promises, they provoke Him to bring sanctions and discipline against us, to bring us back within the framework of grace He has established (Heb. 12.3-11).
The covenant is a really great idea. But who can keep it?
It’s God’s covenant
Only God, that’s Who. And He intends to do just that. He Who has called us into this covenant will be faithful to keep us there, and He made it clear from the beginning that this was His design.
Genesis 15.1-20 records an important incident in the beginning days of God’s covenant with His people. Abram was puzzled. God had made precious and very great promises to him (Gen. 12.1-3), but he could not figure out how to attain them. He was weak in his body, and his days were slipping away. He had no strength to achieve what God had promised. He couldn’t even have a child, the first token of God’s promises.
So when God reiterated the promises to bless and multiply him abundantly, Abram could not help but ask, “How?” God’s response was fourfold. First, He restated the promise of a child, and through that child multitudes of offspring to come. Abram may have been childless, but he wasn’t Godless. God would make the promise happen.
Second, He emphatically reminded Abram Whom he was bound to in this covenant: “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it” (v. 7). Remember what I’ve said in the past, Abram, and how I’ve led you and been with you all this time. Remember all that I’ve done for you and through you. Remember that this covenant is My Word to you.
Third, God sealed the covenant with Abram by a ceremony that was common among kings in those days. Animals were slain and divided to make a pathway. When kings performed this ceremony, to seal a treaty or covenant, both would stand at the head of the path and declare the terms of the treaty. Then, with their families and armies watching, they would walk the pathway to the end. By so doing, they invoked the penalty of death – like the slain animals that formed that path – for whichever of them broke the terms of the treaty.
In the case of God’s gracious covenant, only the symbols of God walked the covenant path (v. 17). God took upon Himself all the obligations of the covenant, and He exposed Himself to all its threats and sanctions for the disobedience of any of the parties.
God would be faithful to His Word, and He would cover any unfaithfulness of His people.
Finally, God applied the promises of the covenant in specific, temporal terms, bringing into focus a place and time to live toward for Abram and the generations that would succeed Him (vv. 13-16, 18-20).
Christ the covenant-keeper
In Jesus Christ, God fulfills the promises and obligations of His gracious covenant; and He bore the sanctions and wrath for our disobedience. Jesus stands at the head of that bloody path and cries, “Come to Me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He that believes in Me shall never die. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And at the end of that path He displays His nail-scarred hands, ensuring that we may be free from the penalty and power of sin, to serve Him as agents of grace all our days.
Jesus is the Cornerstone of God’s covenant. All the promises of God’s gracious covenant resolve into Jesus. As we come to know Him, grow in Him, are transformed into His image, and serve Him as those He has sent to specific places and people (Jn. 20.21), we experience the power of God’s promises enabling us to leave behind the world and its corruptions and to partake of the divine nature by His indwelling Spirit. We realize the blessings of God’s gracious covenant because the God of the covenant supplies everything we need in our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 4.13, 19).
God’s covenant is a really great thing, and the greatest thing about it is that it is entirely fulfilled, realized, and lived through Jesus Christ. Wonderful, the matchless grace of Jesus!
1. What can keep us from knowing the precious and very great promises of God’s covenant? How can we avoid this snare?
2. What do we mean by saying that Jesus is the Cornerstone of God’s covenant?
3. All the precious and very great promises of God’s gracious covenant resolve into Jesus. What does that mean?
Next Steps – Transformation: Obviously, we need to know Jesus, and grow in Him, if we are to realize the precious and very great promises that are “Yes” and “Amen” in Him. What can you do to begin focusing more clearly and more consistently on Jesus, both in your times with God and in your daily life?
Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
God's Gracious Covenant (2)
- T.M. Moore
- September 6, 2019
Jesus is the grace of God's covenant.
A Framework of Grace (2)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.