Tag Archives: covenant

Covenant: Part II (New Covenant)

This week, we continue exploring the two-way relationship with the Father through faith in the Son and holding up our part of that relationship.

Quick review: the Old Covenant relationship was modeled after the human suzerain-vassal (lord-servant) treaty in place at Abraham’s time. The New Covenant connection to the Father by way of the Son is a continuation because Father, Son, and mission are the same in both, and so are the terms.

Terms. God’s obligation was to send a savior and love humans (John 3:16; 1 John 4:19). He has honored the terms and continues to keep close to Him anyone who chooses to remain (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39). Jesus expects devotees to profess Christ to others openly (Matthew 10:32), confess sins, and bear each other’s burdens (James 5:13-16). They are to honor the Father with everything they are and have in complete devotion and charitably love one another (Matthew 22: 37-40).  Loving actions born of faith prove allegiance to the Father through Christ (e.g., John 14:15 and 21; 15:8).  Finally, Christ-followers are obligated to grow in spirit and make disciples who, in turn, create more disciples (e.g., Ephesians 4:11-16 and Matthew 28:18-20).

Blessings. Blessings by way of God’s knowing Christ-followers include receiving His Spirit, eternal life, and partnership in the age to come.  However, curses also exist for those whom God does not know—anyone who has rejected Him, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Knowing of God isn’t enough – He must ‘know’ us by our obedient love (1 Corinthians 8:3).

Curses. Negative consequences exist for refusing or walking away from a relationship with God. For instance, Jesus teaches that anyone who does not obey the call to be charitable to others will suffer judgment and destruction (John 15:6; Matthew 25:41-46). The same fate awaits those whose practices oppose God’s standard.  The Psalmist David calls for the unrighteous to be removed from the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28). Similarly, Jesus tells John that He will not remove the name of the righteous from the Book (Revelation 3:5). Finally, the names of the people who will choose poorly and align with the end-times Antichrist will be absent from it (Revelation 13:8 and 17:8).

Remain. A fruitful and continuing relationship demands that both parties remain in, and true to, the agreement. The covenant with the Father through Christ is no exception. The language used to denote the need to stay in a relationship with the Father refers to remaining or staying put. In scriptures like John 15:4-10, Jesus explains the need to stay with Father and Son, sometimes using conditional statements that insist people can choose to remain or leave.  The apostle John continues the theme in 1 John 4:16.

In summary, your Creator has called by giving you a way back to Him through Jesus. It’s your turn: devote, love, and stay.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

The Covenant with God: Part I

Last week, I presented an exciting riddle about 3,000 souls lost, gained, and then lost again (on American soil). I also mentioned the related relational framework (covenant) that may dictate the presence or absence of God’s provision and protection. We’ll unpack it further in this and next week’s articles.

God has sought partnership with His creation from the beginning of human time when He charged the first man, Adam, with caring for what He had made. Adam cultivated the garden and named the animals (Genesis 1:26-30 and 2:15-20). From then, a relational God who endowed humans with the ability to choose Him has regularly sought “I will if you will” engagements.

Probably the earliest example of a covenantal relationship (two-way partnership with terms and conditions) with God was what He shared with Abraham. In Genesis 15:1-21 and 17:1-14, God engaged him to fulfill a promise to provide a way back and redeem creation after Adam and Eve’s rebellion.  The relationship was based on an ancient Hittite suzerain-vassal framework that outlined the arrangement between the lord of the land and its occupants. The lord demanded complete devotion and allegiance and a tithe (10%) of what the land produced. His subjects received, in return, protection and provision. It was the standard arrangement in place at Abraham’s time, and it had a preamble that listed affected parties and a historical prologue providing the “basis of obligation.” 

Furthermore, the covenantal agreement listed stipulations (terms and conditions), blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience.  Regular readings of the treaty to keep it first and foremost in the participants’ minds was necessary.  That God used it should come as no surprise considering that Father and Son have always employed human language, practices, idioms, etc., in communicating with people.  The lord-servant arrangement was what Abraham knew. It would have made sense to him. God continued what He had started by reaffirming the agreement through Moses 500 years later.

God remembered His covenant with Israel when the people were captives in Egypt (Exodus 2:24). Upon their rescue via Moses, God confirmed the treaty using the same suzerain/vassal framework:

1.         Preamble/Title: “I am Yahweh your God . . .”          

2.         Prologue: “. . . who brought you up out of the land” (provides obligations and motive).

3.         Stipulations/Obligations: “You shall have no other gods before me. . . .”

4.         Periodic reading of the treaty.

5.         Witnesses.

6.         Curses and blessings.

Additional covenantal artifacts exist in scriptures such as Deuteronomy 4:32-40, 6:4-25, and chapter eight.

In summary, a God who exercises choice created humans in His image, and He sought reciprocal relationships with willing participants in the Old Covenant (Old Testament). Next week, we’ll see that this is still the case in the New Covenant (New Testament).

Covenantal Anesthesia

Today, we prevent unwanted pregnancies not by abstinence but contraception. No discipline; no problem. Do whatever feels good. Promises made in the dark remain unkept in an age where words and actions are disconnected and often in complete opposition.

Today, we avert the consequences of other ungodly acts such as homosexuality through medicine and contraceptive methods. Lying and litigation are acceptable means by which to achieve objectives. These aren’t God’s ways or representative of His love, which equates to justice and mercy. His speech results in action; He has always done what He says He will do. This was the posture of the early Church: speech-action that mirrored their faith and produced good works accordingly. Their speech and actions were indistinguishable.

Second-century Christian and Church leader Justin notes this of his contemporary Christians: “… community doesn’t consider people true Christians if they simply quote Christ’s teachings but don’t live them.” (Justin, 1 Apol. 16.8 by Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, 15). He also lists the saying of Jesus under four categories: sexual ethics, actionable/charitable love, patience, and truth-telling. (ibid.) Many early Church leaders reported that the Christians lived among the non-Christians in community eating, drinking, and working beside them. However, their charity, honesty, and purity as well as patience under trials and hardships set them apart and made an impact that attracted those around the Christians to desire to learn of God’s kingdom and join the faith. Not so today in a world of watered-down preaching full of funny stories and anecdotes framed by entertaining music, coffee, and donuts; no so in a world where churches become the most expensive light-killing lampshades on the planet by hiding and entertaining consumers.

Today, the Western Church looks mostly like the world: same behaviors and worldviews; similar lack of patience, unrepentance, unforgiveness, divorce statistics, selfish driving habits, litigation, financial irresponsibility, and so-on. Why? In my experience as a minister, researcher, and writer, a driving factor is the lack of choice where a covenant with God is concerned.

Removing the consequences of immorality, lying, etc. through contraception, litigation, and ungodly laws can lure us into believing that the lack of consequences imply acceptance. Similarly, and in my experience, Western Christians are lured into believing that God exists to serve them and that prosperity is the goal because covenant and consequences have often been removed in the Church. Churchgoers are anesthetized by receiving a half-baked gospel where, if anything, a silent and personal ‘sinner’s prayer can save them without reciprocation. They are told there’s nothing they have to do – Jesus did it all! No self-discipline, no charity, no sacrifice, no two-way marriage-like covenantal response. No consequence for the pleasure-seeking individual uninterested in communal care who practices behavior antithetical to God’s ways. No accountability. No ongoing spiritual formation or discipleship (Barna, The State of the Church, 2016, for instance: https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/). What to do?

There can be a fix – a positive change that once again draws others to our faith. Turn off the anethsiea of a covenantless gospel; stop entertaining and teach. Hold Christians accountable for ungodly behavior and gently train through discipleship. Move out of the church buildings and live out faith among others in our communities whether at work, play, or dwelling so that they may see our good works, patience, and purity and wonder just as the ancients did.





The “A-B-C’s” of God’s Law and Covenant

What is the Old Testament ‘Law’ (note the capital L) and what does it have to do with today’s New Testament Christian? To answer these questions, we must first understand where the Law came from.

Long ago, God formed a covenant with mankind through the nation of Israel with Abraham, reaffirmed through Moses. There was no formal Law before God revealed it to Moses in about 1445 BCE. The covenant God formed with Israel was to be as close and as binding as a marriage contract and the resulting relationship. This is why He called Israel His ‘wife’ and the Church is called the ‘bride of Christ’. The Law given to God’s bride through Moses and the prophets would serve to guide her in this relationship with God. It would also become an unachievable standard by which we realize our sinful and imperfect nature (i.e. Romans 5:20 and 7:7; Galatians 3:24).

Today, no one can truly be called ‘Christian’ unless they’ve entered into a similar covenant with God through our Christ. That marriage-like agreement and its “I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine” promise begins with a change of heart and corresponding behavior that moves our direction and actions toward God and His ways (repentance). We give ourselves to God and then reaffirm our commitment to Him and our Christ – the Savior of mankind as foretold by God through the prophets – whenever we drink from the Communion cup.

But . . . salvation from God’s wrath to come and eternal life with Him through a following of our Christ doesn’t nullify the Law as some suggest (see Paul’s response in Romans 3:31). Jesus fulfilled the Law by His coming, death, resurrection (i.e. Matthew 5:17-18), but it still serves a purpose and the words contained within it and the Torah (Old Testament) that houses it are very valid, even today. We may no longer be under the religious requirements of the Law (i.e. any of hundreds of rules from tithing to sacrifices), but that ancient guide can tell us a lot about how we’re to walk with God and treat our fellow man.

Want to know the mind of God – what He likes and what He hates? Interested in knowing where you came from, spiritually-speaking? Then study the Old Testament and the Law – the Scriptures referenced by the Apostle Paul (2Timothy 3:14-17)!

The old covenant between God and His bride, Israel, brought us the Law. God’s new covenant with the world through our Christ fulfilled the ancient Law and provides the Spirit to all who truly believe and follow. The perfect law is now written on the hearts/minds of followers through the Spirit (i.e. Romans 2:13-15; prophecy of Jeremiah in Chapter 31, etc.). And, we still have the ancient Law as it existed to instruct, guide, and provide a sanity check in our daily activities (i.e. Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:8).

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

“Taking the Mystery out of Communion”

Communion is defined as sharing; intimate fellowship or rapport (Merriam-Webster).

What do Christians so intimately share and why? What you’ll discover is that our communion ritual has its beginnings in God’s covenant with Israel and the Passover celebration – something we’re certainly encouraged to participate in.

In fact, Jesus was celebrating the Passover Seder when He announced that His body would be broken and His blood shed for a new covenant with God. Jesus then encouraged His disciples to remember His coming sacrifice whenever they partook of the Passover elements – probably because of their fulfillment with His coming, death, resurrection, and salvation.

The Passover flat bread and lamb’s blood had significance then . . . and now. Let’s take a quick look at the communion components before discussing how they’ve been used to represent God’s actions and fulfillment of fulfillment of His words through the prophets:

  • The bread: from the Passover, and as our ‘bread of life’ – Jesus.
  • The wine: blood the Passover Lamb and Jesus shed for salvation.

Old Covenant/Passover fulfillment:

  • The bread – matzo – had no yeast and represented the urgent departure of the Israelites from Egypt. Its holes and stripes represent OT prophecies about the piercing and beatings our Christ would endure (Isaiah 53:3-5).
  • The wine represented the blood of the old covenant between God and Israel. Today, Jews celebrate the Passover with a Seder meal that includes matzo and four cups of wine: Sanctification, Deliverance, Redemption/Blessing (1Corinthians 10:16-17), and Hope – usually associated with the return of Elijah.

New Covenant fulfillment:

  • The bread represents the ‘bread of life’ (Jesus) broken for us to offer salvation from God’s judgment to the world (John 6:35-58). The matzo bread was broken and hidden in a specific manner during the Passover celebration. Jesus did this and made His comments about being broken for the forgiveness of sins while conducting the Seder. God asked Him to do this and He accepted the assignment: inhabit a human form, live a perfect life as a blemish-free sacrificial lamb, and then be sacrificed at the exact time the Passover lambs were to be sacrificed.
  • The wine represents the blood Jesus shed for salvation as our ‘Passover Lamb’ (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 5:7). It is the Seder Cup of Blessing and the covenant cup (like in a traditional Jewish wedding). One of the many prophecies and ‘dress rehearsals’ Jesus fulfilled (and is still fulfilling) was that of a traditional Jewish bridegroom. Let’s look at these things in greater detail.

Wedding – Covenant – fulfillment:

God called Israel His ‘bride’. We are called the ‘Bride of Christ’ because He and we have been fulfilling the marriage covenant since Jesus’ time on earth. No other relationship between humans should be as close as that of a husband and wife, so the comparison makes sense. Here are but a few steps that have, and will be, completed:

  • Choosing of a bride: The father of a potential groom would search for a wife for his son. We have been selected as a pure bride for our Christ (2Corinthians 11:2).
  • Contract (covenant) – first cup of wine (Matthew 26:27-28). When a suitable bride had been found, the two families would meet to discuss the potential union. If the young man and woman agreed, they would essentially say, “I will be yours if you will be mine!” This is akin to what God said to His bride, Israel. To cement the deal, the couple would drink from a cup of wine called the “cup of covenant”.
  • Separation and the building of a home (John 14:2-3). After vows, the giving of gifts, and ceremonial bathing (like the baptism we experience), the couple would separate for a short time. The boy and his father would prepare a home for the couple. This betrothal separation would normally last a year in a traditional Jewish wedding process; however, we continue to wait. Why? Because God’s timing is His timing, and He’ll wait until the number of those who’ll accept His mercy has been met.
  • Marriage and second cup timed by the groom’s father. This is also the final Seder cup and the second covenant cup in heaven: Matthew 26:28-29; the gathering for the marriage: Matthew 24:21-36; the marriage: Revelation 19:5-9). The father of the groom, at a time known only to him, would summon the groomsmen to announce that it was time for the marriage ceremony, which consisted of a supper and second cup of wine. The groomsmen made their announcement with shouts and trumpet calls.

We now understand that communion is a way of remembering the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf and reiterating our vow in the new covenant with God through Jesus. Should everyone take communion? No!

First, only those who have promised their lives to God and our Christ should consider engaging in the ritual.

Second, there are unsuitable ways to take communion (remember that drinking the cup of covenant serves as a reiteration of our vow to ‘be a faithful bride’ until our groom returns).

  1. With an impure heart (1Corinthians 11:23-28). Taking the cup during communion while practicing sinful behavior (akin to being an unfaithful bride) is a contradiction and a lie. This is why we must be careful!
  2. For the wrong reasons (1Corinthians 11:20-22). In this case, some of the people in Corinth were using the communion table for eating and drinking – even getting drunk! This was a total abuse of the ritual, which is meant to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and our covenant. It also reeked of gluttony . . .

In summary, Jesus’ sacrifice of flesh and blood mirrored the Passover Lamb of the old covenant with God and paved the way for the salvation of all mankind in a new one. Followers of the Christ remember His sacrifice and the new covenant (synonymous with a human marriage relationship) by taking symbolic bread and wine together.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

It’s all About God, the Father of Spirits!

It’s easy in our ‘Jesus culture’ of roughly the last 100 years or so to get lost in emotion and lose sight of “Why?

The will – desire, by definition – of our God the “father of spirits” has been to reconcile with His creation from the time mankind walked away from Him in the Garden of Eden1. Covenant after covenant have been witness to this extraordinary effort by our God: first through Noah, then through Abraham and Moses, and finally through Jesus’, the promised savior.

Jesus voluntarily became our ‘one sacrifice for all’ at the request of God the Father as a way of accomplishing His desire to reconcile2. But, the ‘new covenant’3 made possible by our Jesus is still a covenant with our heavenly father.

We are to strive to be perfect like our God the Father is perfect4 as we await a heaven-bound gathering to be with Him. Our prayers are to Him, although Jesus intercedes for us. Those who enter into this final covenant do so by being obedient out of faith to God’s commandments. And we are brothers with Jesus in the sense that we will inherit the kingdom of God the Father5.

Believe in Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s promised covenant with mankind (the “Why?”) and then obey because you believe. There, you’ll find righteousness and the way to God the Father through our Messiah.


Scripture references:

  1. Romans 5:10-11, etc.
  2. i.e. John 6:38-40
  3. Luke 22:20; Romans 11:26-27; 2Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 13:20 -21; many others
  4. Matthew 5:48
  5. i.e. Matthew 25:34 and Revelation 21:7