One of my favorite things to talk about is the Bible. Related to this, I also LOVE theology. I took three systematic theology graduate courses about five years ago, and I have been hooked ever since. I’m hoping you’ll be hooked too after enjoying some of my posts related to theology. I’m definitely no expert, but I certainly love to think about these things (and you should too).
The reason that theology is so interesting to me is not just for the benefit of knowing something that sounds intelligent, but it has more to do with what we do with the theology behind the passage. It’s the famous, “so what?” question. Sure, it’s nice to know things that scholars love to dig into and research, but what will we do with it for our lives? If we have knowledge but are completely unchanged by what we know, is it really worth knowing? That’s why I’m writing Theology Thursdays (although it remains to be seen if I will actually stick with Thursdays…we shall see).
One of my favorite topics in the theology course had to do with covenants. There are varying views concerning this topic alone, but for my post, I’ll be looking at covenant theology (rather than dispensationalism…if you don’t even know what that is, great, neither do I, really! haha). Also please note that this is going to be very brief so you don’t get bored 😉
You are wondering what is meant by covenantal theology (right? please say yes). To boil it down: God did it all. We reap the benefits. Seriously! That’s it. But for those who aren’t really satisfied with that answer. I’ll give the main points from one of my lectures (Systematic Theology III with Douglas Kelly at RTS).
1. God sovereignly establishes the covenant.
I can almost hear you saying, “ok, and?” Well, it means that God is the one who initiated the covenant. What covenant, you ask? The covenant of grace. It is every covenant (or promise) that God makes with every human in the Bible (starting with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, David, and finding its fulfillment in Jesus). I’m not talking about the promises like Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you…), but about true covenantal promises that have to do with God initiating the promise and expecting the individual to agree to the terms. In other words both God and the individual are committed to the covenant. (Something else that can get confusing is the issue of multiple covenants. The way covenantal theology sees it is, God makes one covenant – the covenant of grace – and each of the successive covenants are just a part of the greater covenant. I believe this is one point that differs from the dispensational view.) It is important to note that a covenant is an agreement between two parties. This comes in handy later, trust me.
2. God sovereignly administers the covenant.
Establish. Administer. Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to. No, it’s actually not the same thing just said in a different way. In this point, God determines the nature of the relationship to the covenant and the obligations for the individuals agreeing to the covenant. In other words, man doesn’t get to bargain with God about the terms. God sets it up.
3. God sovereignly fulfills the conditions of the covenant.
EEEeeeeEE! This may be my favorite part. 🙂 You see, when two individuals enter into a covenant, both are required to fulfill their side of the bargain. If one party does not keep his end of the covenant, it means death for him (there is a great video by Ray VanDerlaan on this very topic). Do you remember when God makes the covenant with Abraham (then Abram) and has him cut up several animals, then God (the smoking firepot and flaming torch) “walks” through the blood? (You’ll find that in Genesis 15.) It was a very sobering moment for Abram because when God did this, He essentially said, “may this happen to Me if I do not hold up My side of the covenant.” But what about Abram? He didn’t walk through the blood! This is because God elects to fulfill the conditions of the covenant for both Him and Abram (we’ll see an even greater picture of this in Christ). The main point here is that none of us could possibly hold true to the covenant with God, and He knows it.
4. God sovereignly sustains the covenant.
If this doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will (especially since the last point was pretty awesome too). God by His will empowers believers to fulfill the requirements of the covenant. In other words, it is Him at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” He gives us faith, leads us to repentance, softens our hearts for obedience (all important requirements in keeping the covenant). It’s absolutely beautiful. Take it in. He gives us everything we need to be faithful in covenant to Him. Only my God would think of doing something like that.
So there it is! Four points about covenants. Sorry it ended up being a little longer than I originally thought! There’s so much more I wanted to say…maybe another day. 🙂 Stay tuned for the “so what” discussion (since that is, after all, why I wanted to write about theology in the first place!).