What is a Covenant
A covenant is an agreement or promise between two or more parties, in the biblical context it is an agreement between God and His people. A covenant can be either unilateral or bilateral; it is bilateral when in order for the promises of the covenant to be fulfilled both parties are required to be faithful in keeping the covenant; that is, if the receiving party fails to keep the covenant a consequence will be inevitable, hence a covenant is unilateral when the giving party relies not on the faithfulness of the receiving party to fulfill the covenant promises. God is always faithful and ready to fulfill what He has promised.
God is the one who initiates the covenant to His people and never the other way around, man is unfaithful and incapable of keeping the word of God let alone what he himself promises except it is by the grace of God that enables him. God initiated many covenants in the bible with different people, some were conditional while some unconditional. Many of them stressed the necessity of obedience as a conditional factor to receiving what God promised. On the next section I will discuss a few of these covenants in brief:
The Abrahamic Covenant
The Abrahamic covenant is the covenant that God made with Abraham mentioned in Genesis 15:18, God promised to make Abraham a great nation; He promised to bless him and his descendants. Abraham had no children yet God promised to bless him and his seed. There was nothing that Abraham was required to do but to believe in the promises of God and what God wanted to be for him.
The Sinai Covenant
This is the covenant that God made with the house of Israel upon Mt Sinai; He was renewing with them the covenant that He made with their ancestor Abraham. This covenant had certain conditions and entailed a blessing if they obey God”™s commands and a curse if they fail to obey Him.
The Covenant of Grace
The covenant of grace or the New Covenant is the covenant that God made in Jesus Christ who is the mediator of the New Covenant, this covenant God made with the church before all ages. We first hear about this covenant in the book of the prophet Jeremiah 31:33. There is a disagreement among evangelicals on the understating of this New covenant, the major difference is in the understanding of whether this covenant is new and distinct from the old covenant or it is as the reformed people say a continuation of the Old Covenant. Baptists differ with the reformed people on the concept of the New Covenant, the former believes that the New covenant is new and not a continuation of the Old, the latter believes it is a continuation of the Old but only differing in administration.
Both agree to the fact that Jesus is the essence of the covenant and they both agree that faith makes us become members of the covenant. The other difference argued is on whom the members of the covenant are, the Baptists believe the members to be those who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ but the reformed people believe to be those who have made a profession of faith and also their children. “As children were included in the Abrahamic covenant so are they included in the New Covenant by virtue of the faith of the parents.” the reformed argues. Just as the children in the Old Covenant received circumcision as a sign and seal of the covenant, so the children of believers receive baptism as a sign of their inclusion in the New Covenant.
Covenant and Election
Many views have been proposed among evangelicals on the relationship between covenant and election, some use the two terms interchangeably as though they possess the same meaning. The Baptists believe that those who are in the New Covenant are those whom God before all ages elected to become partakers of divine grace in Jesus Christ, and therefore children cannot be inside the covenant as they cannot practice faith in Christ in their infancy. But the Reformed people view covenant and election differently; they believe covenant and election is not one and the same thing. In the reformed perspective, there is covenant and there is election; not everyone in the New Covenant is an elect, but all the elect are part of the covenant, that is, there is a remnant inside of the New Covenant that is not the elect of God but is being given the promises of God based upon faith and obedience.
Christ is the center and the essence of the covenant and in Him all things hold together. Faith in His as the mediator of the covenant is an essential element. All the Promises of God are being given on the basis of Christ; to the one who is given the promises and yet trample over the blood of the covenant, it would have been better for him to never have been born than that he should treat the blood of Christ as an unholy thing. But to the one who believes, a crown of righteousness awaits him in glory. 2Timothy 4:8.
Soli Deo Gloria