Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God

The real import of the covenant-relationship with God which we have is brought out by David in 1 Chron. 16:15-18: “Be you mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And has confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, Saying, Unto you will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance”. The covenant, the promise that God’s people really will inherit the land, becomes a law, a “word which he commanded”, something which should be thought about all the time. The sure promise of entering the Kingdom, the knowledge that by grace, according to the covenant, ‘we will be there’, cannot be accepted passively. The covenant-certainty of that great salvation becomes a command to action. We’ll now look at some of those actions in practice. Reflect a moment upon the sheer power and import of the fact that the Father promised things to us, who are Abraham’s children by faith and baptism. The Law of Moses was a conditional promise, because there were two parties; but the promises to us are in some sense unconditional, as God is the only “one” party (Gal. 3:19,20). And as if God’s own unconditional promise isn’t enough, He confirmed those promises to us with the blood of His very own son. Bearing this in mind, it's not surprising that Ps. 111:5 states that God "will ever be mindful of His covenant". This means that He's thinking about the covenant made with us all the time! And yet how often in daily life do we reflect upon the fact that we really are in covenant relationship with God... how often do we recollect the part we share in the promises to Abraham, how frequently do we feel that we really are in a personal covenant with God Almighty?

David wrote another Psalm, Psalm 50, which is really a commentary upon the implications of covenant relationship. Those who have ”made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50:3) are not to respond to this merely by a thoughtless offering of sacrifices; but rather, if they “take my covenant in thy mouth” they are to declare God’s statutes and love instruction (Ps. 50:16,17). They are to live a life of praise that is based around a Godly lifestyle (Ps. 50:23). Thus if we are in covenant relationship, we will declare that to the world; and it will elicit a committed lifestyle from us. Being in covenant with God led David to “be instructed”; and he implies that those who truly know the covenant will “declare” it in witness to others (Ps. 50:16,17).

Separation From The World

We therefore will seek all our associations only within the people of God; the things of the people of God will dominate our thinking, it will be our natural desire to meet with them and feel that the ecclesia (in whatever sense) is our preferred environment. Salt was a symbol of covenant relationship with God (Lev. 2:13); yet in the NT this salt stands for love, peace and kind speaking the one to the other (Mk. 9:50; Col. 4:6). This is the result of true membership in covenant relationship; a true and abiding love for all others in covenant. Abraham's example of consciously shunning the things of this world will be matched in us his children. The very fact we have received the promises should mean that therefore we separate ourselves " from the corruption that is in the world" (2 Pet. 1:4). We will be happy to have a light hold on possession of property, knowing that this earth is ours, it's just that for now, we are just passing through it, surveying it, after the pattern of Abraham.

Motivation To Commitment

All those in true covenant relationship with God will realize the fullness of commitment to us which He has entered into, and will likewise make a whole-hearted response and sacrifice (Mal. 2:4,5). Ps. 103:18 parallels " such as keep his covenant" with " those that remember his commandments to do them" . Covenant relationship brings a natural desire to live within the atmosphere of God's spirituality. For Israel in covenant with God, absolutely nothing- not sex, menstruation, the content of clothing fabric, diet- could fall outside the scope of their covenant relationship. And so in principle it is with us under the new covenant. Such a relationship also precludes the worship of any other God. Moses said that God had made a covenant with every member of Israel " lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turns away…to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that bears gall" (Dt. 29:14-18). The height of the demand, the extent of the implication of being in covenant with God ought to preclude the possibility of worshipping anything else. The covenant we have entered has constant and binding claims upon our loyalty. This is the implication of the promises to Abraham which form the basis of that covenant. It is worth observing that at times of Israel's apostacy, God reconfirmed Israel's covenant relationship with Him (Jer. 11:2). By reminding them of the nature of their covenant relationship, they were being led to realize that the life of sin was not for them. Ps. 89:1-3 records David breaking forth into joy simply because of the promises made to him.

Unity Amongst Us

Gal. 3:27-29 explains that through baptism into the Abrahamic covenant, there is a special unity between all in that covenant. Slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile are all thereby united, as they were in the early church. David Bosch comments: " The revolutionary nature of the early Christian mission manifested itself, inter alia, in the new relationships that came into being in the community. Jew and Roman, Greek and barbarian, free and slave, rich and poor, woman and man, accepted one another as brothers and sisters. It was a movement without analogy, indeed a sociological impossibility" (1). Likewise ecclesial life today can seem " a sociological impossibility" , but through the power of the most basic facts of the Gospel preached to Abraham, this incredible unity is possible. As a nexus " without analogy" , the true Christian community of itself ought to attract the attention of earnest men and women- just as the Lord predicted. Our unity should be the basis of our appeal to men. Because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ means that in practice, amongst those that " have put on the new man [a reference to baptism into Christ]…there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman [clear allusion to Gal. 3:27-29]. But Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore…a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another" (Col. 3:10-13 RV). These things are what the promises to Abraham are all about in practice! Because we are all now united in Christ in our status as Abraham's descendant, therefore we must see to it that through kindness, patience etc. there really is not Jew and Greek, or division of any kind, between us. Mal. 2:8,10,14 speaks of how a broken covenant with God is related to a broken covenant with ones brethren and ones partner. The nature of our covenant relationship with God is reflected in our relationships with each other.

Strength Against Materialism

Abraham was promised that his children would have Yahweh as their personal God, and would eternally inherit theearth. This earth on which we live is ours! We are rulers of all we survey. All things are ours (1 Cor. 3:21). We are just strangers here, waiting for the call to rise up and take what is now ours. This is fundamental. We are brainwashed by capitalist materialism to think that we must work our hearts out to achieve ownership of things and land now; so we can put a fence round it and say it's ours, buy a security system or rent a guard to make sure it stays ours, buy insurance to make sure no 'act of God' will take it from us... all this is quite contrary to the most essential teaching of the promises to Abraham. Personal 'ownership' of property and possessions may well be something which is inescapable for us; but let's never forget that actually all things are ours, and we buy these things with the same feeling Abraham must have had when he had to buy part of his own land in which to bury his wife. It was his land, but he hadn't at that time received it. And so with us, with the whole world and all that is in it.

The promises God makes involve a solemn commitment by Him to us- the serious, binding nature of His oath to us is easy to forget. God swore to David “by my holiness” (Ps. 89:35). The Hebrew for “holiness” is the very same word translated “dedication”. David’s response to God’s dedication to him was to dedicate [s.w.] all the silver and gold which he had won from this world, to the service of God’s house (1 Kings 7:51; 1 Chron. 26:26; 2 Chron. 5:1). Our response to God’s dedication to us should be a like dedication of what we have to Him. Covenant relationship with God requires much of both Him and us. The case of David is a nice illustration of the meaning of grace. David wanted to do something for God- build Him a house, spending his wealth to do so. God replied that no, He wanted to build David a house. And He started to, in the promises He gave David. And David’s response to that grace is to still do something- to dedicate his wealth to God’s house, as God had dedicated Himself to David’s house. This is just how grace and works should be related in our experience.

Inspiration To Forgiveness

The promises to David are described as the mercy of God (Is. 55:3; Ps. 89:33,34). God having a son is the sign of His love for us, and this must elicit a response in us. David himself marvelled that such mercy had been shown to him: " Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house…you knowest your servant" (2 Sam. 7:18-20). And yet in the very next chapters, we read of how David made a renewed attempt to show mercy to the house of Saul. Mephibosheth says that he is " your servant…what is your servant, that you should look upon such…as I am?" (2 Sam. 9:8). Mephibosheth is using the very words which David used to God; David is showing mercy to Mephibosheth in the very way in which the promises of God to him were the " mercies" shown to David. Appreciating that the promises concern us personally, and that they reveal such loving grace from the Father, can only lead to a similar response in showing love and grace through entering into the lives and destinies of others.

Personal Relationship With God

The most oft repeated feature of the promises to Abraham can be easily overlooked. Notice how the personal pronouns are the key words: " I will establish my covenant…between me and you and your descendants…to be your God…I will be their God" (Gen. 17:6-8). God Almighty is committing Himself to Abraham and Abraham's seed in a way so insistent and so awesome that only contemplation of it can elicit the true sense of wonder which we ought to have at being in covenant relationship with God Almighty. The fact that the basis of our relationship with God is an eternal covenant means that we do not drift in and out of fellowship with God according to our awareness of Him. We are His people. Every hour of every day. This is why Asaph can rejoice that despite his low moments of being “brutish…as a beast before you, nevertheless I am continually with you” (Ps. 73:22,23).


“The sure mercies of David” result in the wicked man forsaking his way (Is. 55:3,7). Such is the wonder of God’s promise to us that we really have no excuse to sin. Every sin is in a sense a denial of His promises. God told David that he had no excuse for what he did with Uriah and Bathsheba, because he had given him so much, “and if that had been too little, I would have added unto thee…” (2 Sam. 12:8). “Too little” sends the mind back to 2 Sam. 7:19, where the promises to David are described as a “little thing”; the promises were so wonderful that David should not have allowed himself to fall into such sin. And us likewise. David was humbled when he received the promises, just as we should be by realizing that we really are in covenant relationship with God. “Who am I…?” was his response (2 Sam. 7:18). Like Jacob, he felt himself unworthy of all the “mercy and truth” shown him in the promises (Gen. 32:10).


Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ (Jn. 8:56)- and this is surely an allusion to how he laughed [for joy] at the promise of Isaac. He " gladly received the promises" (Heb. 11:17 RV). And realizing that through baptism the promises are made to us ought to inspire a deep seated joy too. Yet we will only achieve this if we firmly grasp the real, pointed relevance of the promises to us; that we who are baptized are each one truly and absolutely in Christ, and the promises apply to me personally.


(1) David Bosch, Transforming Mission (New York: Orbis, 1992)

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||