The Covenants with Abraham and Israel: One or Two?

mick-haupt-eQ2Z9ay9Wws-unsplash.jpgIn his commentary on Deuteronomy, Daniel Block considers the relationship between God’s covenant with Abraham and his covenant with Israel. Entitled “the covenant with your forefathers” in Deuteronomy 4:31, he asks whether this is a reference to God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Exod 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:4)? Or a reference to the covenant God made with Israel at Horeb (Deut 4:13)? Or is it somehow a reference to both?

In eight points, Block shows why it is best to see these two covenants as organically related. Instead of singularly referring to the covenant with Abraham or the covenant at Horeb, he explains that God’s covenant with Israel continues the covenant with Abraham. Adding legislation to the original covenant with Abraham, it extends the promises to Abraham and adds national stipulations for Abraham’s offspring. In this way, Block helps us read Moses on his own terms and to see how the biblical covenants relate to one another. Here’s how Block explains it: Continue reading

Noah as a Second Adam: Eight Evidences

covenantIn his short study on biblical covenants, Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World, Tom Schreiner provides a helpful comparison between Adam and Noah. As our men’s Bible study looks at this section of Scripture today, I share Schreiner’s eight evidences for seeing textual connections between Adam and Noah. Clearly, Moses wrote Genesis 1–11 to show how Noah is a Second Adam.

Here are his eight observations. I’ve added the italicizes to highlight the observations.

First, God’s work of ordering and shaping the creation occurred when the earth was covered with water and chaos (Gen. 1: 2). So too, after the flood the earth was inundated with water, and a new beginning took place when the water receded.

Second, God created the birds, creeping things, and animals to flourish and multiply on earth (Gen. 1: 20–21, 24–25). After the flood, the birds, creeping things, and animals again began to propagate on the earth (8:17–19). Continue reading

Six Biblical Evidences for a Covenant in Creation

covenantA few years ago, Crossway Books began a series called Short Studies in Biblical Theology. These books are wonderful introductions to various topics on biblical theology. So far they have included,

Most recently, I read Tom Schreiner’s book on covenant, where in 120 pages he unpacks in plain language the biblical covenants from the covenant in creation to the new covenant in Christ. While the whole book is worth reading, I found his discussion on the first covenant a helpful introduction to God’s with mankind mediated through Adam, what some have called a creation covenant.

Six Evidences for a Covenant in Creation

On this disputed understanding of Genesis 1–2, Tom Schreiner summarizes six reasons for seeing a covenant in creation. While his work does not delve into the technical aspects of the debate, his clear presentation should give the reader a strong biblical case for seeing God’s creation in covenantal terms.

Here is a summarized version of his list with a few reflections on his points. Continue reading

The Lord’s Supper and a Biblical Theology of Feasting

mealJust as the food we eat expresses and establishes the relationships we have, so too meals in the Bible establish and express kinship relationships. Even more, a meal is often a central part of entering into a covenant. And once that covenant is established, a shared meal is one of the greatest ways our identity is formed and reinforced. Let’s follow these two strands through Scripture to see how they shine light on the Lord’s Supper.

Covenant-Making Meals

In Genesis 26:26–33, Isaac and Abimelech “cut a covenant” (v. 28); this covenant is followed by a meal: “So he made a feast, and they ate and drank” (v. 30). Likewise, when Jacob and Laban “cut a covenant” to repair the breach of trust between them (Genesis 31:43–54), a sacrifice and a meal ratified the agreement: “Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread” (v. 54). This pattern of sacrifice and feasting accompanied most covenants in the Old Testament. And we certainly see the Lord feeding his people and feasting with them throughout the Old Testament. Continue reading

Robert Letham on Union with Christ

Robert Letham’s Union with Christ is a good overview of a subject that is vital for understanding how we receive all the benefits Christ procured through earthly life and death.  One of the things I appreciate about his approach is the way he defines “union in Christ” in covenantal categories.  Even if appeals to the classical “covenant of grace” / “covenant of works” approach to the biblical covenants, his approach rightly assigns “union in Christ” to a covenantal concept.

Of late, I have heard some people speak about “union in Christ” and Christ’s mediation (a la 1 Timothy 2:5) without paying attention to the biblical idea of the covenants.  Letham corrects this sort of approach.  He shows how “union in Christ” cannot be explained our understood apart from understanding Christ as a “covenant head” and someone who is united to us in a “covenantal” relationship.  Here is how he summarizes his understanding of Union in Christ:

Continue reading

Repentance as a Gift in the Old Testament

Testamentum Imperium, an online international journal, just published a copy of a paper I wrote called “Repentance as a Gift in the Old Testament.” It traces the idea of repentance throughout the Old Testament and argues that God’s grace precedes and enables repentance, as it explicitly does in the New Testament (cf Acts 3:26; 2 Tim 2:25).

Researching this subject affirmed in my thinking how important it is to rightly understand the covenant structure of the Bible, how much greater the New Covenant is than the Old, and how humanity is absolutely dead without God’s gracious intervention.  Faith and repentance, in the Old and New Testaments depend on God’s regenerating work.

Moreover, the paper reiterated to me how many systematic disputes (e.g. Credobaptism vs. Paedobaptism, Covenant Theology vs. Dispensationalism) are tied to a misreading of the covenants in Scripture.  Differences of (scholarly) opinion on the continuity and discontinuity of the Bible lead to differing views of many doctrines.

In my paper, I argue that genuine acts of repentance under the Old Covenant anticipate the greater reality of the New Covenant.  In this way, repentance is always a gift from God that not only offers but effects contrition and corresponding faith in the life of his saints.  While there are many instances of insincere repentance–one thinks of Pharaoh–all genuine repentance is initiated by God’s sin-conquering grace.  Repentance is therefore one of God’s great gifts, as it is instrumental for the sinner’s salvation.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the paper: “Repentance as a Gift in the Old Testament

Still learning how to read the Bible, dss