Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

God's Gift of Covenants (Romans 9:4-5)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Well, let us hear again, if you've been with us for the last few weeks, from Romans nine versus four and five. Romans nine versus four and five. Here I'm Paul, gives this list of things that belong to Israel, things that are especially given to them, these various lists, that this very list of various things that are given to Israel but also belong to us. I'm now that we belong to them. So let's hear God's word. Romans nine, verses four and five. They are Israelites and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises. To Them Belong the Patriarchs and from their race, according to the Flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen, please be seated well, as we continue to go through these verses, I hope and am praying that each week that you hear this, these couple verses each wish, each week that you hear this list that God gives us of these things, that he is given to Israel and given to us as well in Christ, that it will become, week by week, more and more meaningful to you, that each word is, we've discussed it and cover word it, thought about it, according to the scriptures, will become weighty in a way, perhaps that it wasn't before, that the content of your faith and the one whom you put your faith in, even Jesus, would become clearer to you, that the sight by which we see, that faith by which we see, would become stronger, that he would be more visible to you as you understand what it means that God gave to Israel the adoption and that we too have been adopted in Christ, that he gave to Israel the glory and to us as well, who have been shown the glory of grace in the face of Jesus Christ. And now today the covenants, another particular gift that God gave exclusively to Israel among all the nations in the world, but which we gentiles now belong to as well and can praise God and thank him for it and understand who he is. I'm all the more the covenants, this word that God that Paul uses, that God uses in his servants, is a very important word. Many people who read the Bible don't think very much about the covenants of the Bible, but Paul singles them out here. He says this is something worth highlighting. If we're going to talk about why Israel is special, what special things God has given to them, you've got to talk about the covenants. It's central to who they are at central to who that what the Bible is and that's why it's a shame that so many people, when they read the Bible, aren't thinking about the covenants. Now this is I think, mostly do because mostly because they haven't been trained to think about it, they haven't learned about these things, they don't know. There's a really excellent to volume work called the economy of the covenants between God and man by Herman Witsius, a Dutch reformer were living around the time of the PURITANS. In that too, in that two volumes he covers in various very detailed ways the various covenants that God makes. Well, the introduction to the most recently published translation of that work, Ji Packer, provides a healthful explanation of why people often struggle with...

...this. As I said, that they haven't really been trained to. Ji Packer writes that if you're hunting on a map of the Pacific for a particular Polynesian Island, you're going to likely notice dozens of all kinds of little names. You'll be you'll search for all these various that you may be searching for one island but see all of these others meanwhile, while you'll never notice these giant letters stretching all across the map that say Pacific Ocean. Have you ever had that experience where you sort of Zoom your perspective out you go, Oh, this is a continent and it's called this where you didn't really see it before? It's like that with the covenants of God. We focus on all kinds of very important biblical things, justification, sanctification, church, government, baptism, the Lord Supper. We can think about God's will, we can think about how we ought to pray, we can think about how we give money and on and on and on. But all of those are held together by a kind of superstructure, a covenantal superstructure. It's like the architecture of a building. You may not always be a paying attention to it, but boy it's important. It's the thing that's holding it all together. It's the thing that's holding it up. But there's a great advantage in paying attention to it. In coming to understand the the bigger context of all of these things that we discuss, of every single verse and chapter in the Bible, in coming to understand the covenants, you begin to see his packer says that. S Packer says that everything is anchored in God's resolve to relate to his human creatures and to have US relate to him. In Covenant, everything is anchored to that. At all is attached to that, belongs to that, and so that means that in coming to understand the covenance of the Bible, it'll make a big difference in both the way you read God's Word and in the way you worship the god of the word. It makes a difference and how you read the Bible and how you worship the God of the Bible. In terms of reading the Bible, for example, we of course will be babled to be able to better understand what Paul means when he says the Covenant, at the very least this one verse. Will be able to understand what he's talking about and why he's highlighting this. But it'll also make you a better exeget a better student of God's word by a hundred times. The scripture is always talking in the New Testament about how there's this one people of God. We're called children of Abraham. How can that be? That'sus. Answered by covenant. How is it that there can be one mediator? How is it that Jesus can be the savior of both all the people after him and before him? The answer is covenant. How is it that there is this kind of similarity or sameness in the piety of the Old Testament and New Testament? Faith, repentance, good works, worship of God according to his word, all of these things. Why is it so similar between the old and the new? Covenant Answer the questions. What about the great differences? Why don't we sacrifice animals anymore? Why don't we go and worship at then the temple? Why is the Kingdom of God separated and spread out all across the world instead of concentrated in one particular geographic area? Covenant again answers these questions.

Understanding the ways, these legal relationships that God has made with his people answers all these questions. So that means when you go to your Bible and you're looking at a particular verse or particular chapter, we always talk about context. Right, you've got to let pay attention to the context if you're going to understand the passage well. Don't forget about the context of the whole Bible. The covenantal context in the ways in which God is dealing with his people. Understanding the Bible and better through covenant also means that you'll understand the gospel better. The central message of Jesus coming to save sinners from the lost is explained and undegraded in so many ways by these covenants that God has made and, as I say, it'll help us not only understand our reading of the evinance of the Bible, but also our worship of God. If you want to deepen your relationship with God, it makes sense to understand that relationship. Let me give you an example. Imagine that you fell into a coma and you woke up in your memory wasn't quite there, but there was this person by your bedside loving you, caring for you, doing all kinds of Nice things. They were there all the time. You were kind of going in and out of sleep, but there they were and you recognize that. Well, that would be a wonderful thing, right. You would meet, you would know and you would love and you would appreciate this person who is desiring to help you. But what if, after a certain amount of time, somebody came in and said Hey, Christopher, that's your wife? It changes things, doesn't it? Right now this person is not just the person who's showing love to you, who's caring for you. There is something else going on there. There's a kind of relationship. To know that you're married to this person kind of changes everything, doesn't it? It's like that with God. To Know God in terms of the grace that he gives, the faith in which we believe, the repentance which we which we offer to him, all these things. This kind of relationship is good. But to understand the kind kind of relationship it is the covenants that he set up. What is it? What are the parties? What are the obligations? How do we make sense of that relationship? It adds depth to our understanding of God, which in turn, should affect our hearts and move our wills. It will affect the way we believe in worship. It will affect what how we live our lives. So all this to say, understanding the covenants is very, very important. It's critical if you're going to understand who god is, if you're going going to understand the Bible, if you're going to answer basically every exegetical question there is, you have to understand the covenants. You have to understand the way in which God himself has unified his word. So let's get to it. Paul has said that God has given to them the covenant. Now I am going to very briefly, in the very briefest way that I can, at least this morning, try to explain and show what this means and what he means by this. But if you want something that explains more and aren't quite ready for Whitsius has to volumes and the thousand pages, let me...

...recommend to you a book that was written by a former pastor of mine and another friend and colleague, Zack Keel and Michael Brown. The book is called Sacred Bond, covenant, Covenant Theology explored. I believe there's a copy on the back table. If not, will try to get one there. But sacred bond it's called by Zach Keel and Mike Brown and here in that book they go through, as I'm going to do in a very brief way, each of the covenants and explain how they relate to one another why they should matter to us as Christians. It's a very helpful book if these things are new to you. The first covenant that we have in the Bible is actually not given to Israel. In particular, I don't think it's exactly what Paul has in mind when he says to Israel belong the covenants, but nevertheless we have to start there because it explains why covenants were given to Israel. The first covenant we have in the Bible is a covenant that God made with Adam and Eve and all of us, with all of humanity. There's a very clear covenant in terms of what was required. Do not eat this tree. You don't eat it, you obey me, you live. You Eat it, you disobey me and you will die. Adam was given other commands to to work and keep the garden, to expand it, to grow, to be fruitful and multiply, but there was this particular stipulation which God but is very clear about, and it was on that particular stipulation that those of you who know the story, you remember what happened. Satan comes and he questions God, he questions Adam and Eve on this point and they fall. They fall into sin. You know what way to describe it covenantally is, is they broke the covenant. God said, I am the king, I am the Lord, this you will do. This is tells us something about covenants. Sometimes they're mutually arranged equal parties, or close to it at least, like in a business partnership or in a marriage. You come together and you agree to do this thing, to enter into this covenant relationship with one another. That's not what happened and with Adam and Eve, and rightfully so. God Creates Adam and says this you will do. Children and parents are as a sort of similar example. They have a certain covenantal relationship between the two. It's not one that was come to by agreement, but it isn't a measure imposed, and rightfully so. Children must obey their parents because parents are parents, and humans must obey God, because God is God, and this is what he did with Adam. But Adam and Eve did not obey. They broke the Covenant, and then the Covenant stipulations turned into Covenant Curses. The effect happened. God said do this and do disobey me, and you will die, and that is what happened. They were cursed, they were sent out of the guard and they were told to dust, you will return. This is the situation then, that all of humanity, Israel and non Israel, finds themselves in. But God says to humanity, God says to Adam and Eve, in the context of the curse, as the Covenant has been broken, as the curses of the Covenant are coming down hard upon them, he gives them this seed of a promise and he says to them of you will be born a child who will essentially set these things right. It's put in terms of crushing the head of the servant, but as scripture develops, will see that this seed promise begins to flower and we understand more and more what that means. The next big event that we see in scripture,...

I'm skipping over God's covenant with Noah for the moment, is the covenant with Abraham. And I mentioned God's covenant with Abraham in particular because this is the first covenant that God makes with Israel in particular, or more specifically with Israel's father, Abraham. God says to Abraham that he is going to do something special for him that this seed that was promised to all humanity is now being promised to him in particular, and that through him, all the nations of the world humanity as a whole would be blessed. Listen to what God says to Abraham, his name at this point in our history. Abram, in Genesis twelve now, you always said to Abram, go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. So God gives him a command, and then he adds, and I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who, Him who dishonors you, I will curse, and in you all the families of the Earth shall be blessed. All the families on the earth do not deserve to be blessed. There should be no expectation on humanity's part that blessings coming, except for that seed promise. Remember that seed promise back in Genesis Three fifteen. There is an expectation and a hope for that, and here it's becoming realized. God Calls Abram and his wife and says to them and to their children he will give this promise and God will bless them and all the families on the earth through them. This promise that's given to Abraham is then made even more formally in Genesis fifteen. I'm with a covenant. He does this. I'm first with promises, but he also does this with a particular ceremony. In verse seven of Genesis Fifteen we read I am the Lord who brought you out of the Earth of Chaldee'Z to give you this land of promise. If that sounds a little bit familiar, it's because God's going to say a similar thing to Israel when he says I brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you this land of promise. That's not an accident. It's covenantal things holding that together. So he says this to Abraham and he says Abraham says, but Oh, Lord, yeah, way. How am I to know that? I shall possess it? He said to him bring me a half or three years old, a female got three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle, dove and a young pigeon, and he brought all of these, cut them in half and laid each half over against another. Then, as the sun goes down, God puts Abram into a deep sleep and then he has this vision where God passes through those animals. Well, if you don't understand covenance, this is all very weird. Why is Abraham cutting animals? Why is God moving through them in this way, in this smoking fire, pot and all these kinds of things? Well, what he's doing is he's enacting something that Abraham would understand very well, that everyone in the ancient world would understand. God's making a covenant. This is what you do. So, for example, if I told you that to people yesterday stood together and the front of a church or before a judge and said with this ring, Ivy wed and exchange, these value got high, I know what that is. It's...

...a marriage right. Well, that's what Israel does when they hear these passages, this cutting of the animals that's moving through. This is a covenant and this is symbolism in which God is saying, may the curse, the blood that is represented by these animals, this death that is happening, fall upon me, if I do not keep my promise to you, Abram, if I do not keep these things to you. We read this in verse eighteen. After this vision. On that day, Jehovah made a covenant with Abrams, saying to you or to your offspring, I give this land from the river of Egypt to the Great River Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kennazites, the Catamites, the Hittites, the parasites, the rethiame, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Geergashites and the jebusites. This was somebody else's land, but of course it's ultimately God's land and he can do with it as he pleases, and ask he what he pleases to do is to give one person among all the people in the world, one person Abraham and his children, this land. Oh God has all kinds of reasons for this and there's all kinds of ways in which this happens, which will have to think about another time. But this is what Paul means when he says to Israel, God gave you the covenants. God didn't go to the CANITES or the Kennaesites or the catmites or the hittites or the parasites or the AMMONITES, even go to them and say to you, I give this land. He says, you're out of here, I'm giving it to Abraham. You see why Paul says is making a big deal out of this. You see why Paul is saying to Israel and to US overhearing this, this is special, this is a big deal. God has made a covenant in which he has granted to you, Abraham, and to your offspring after you, this land. But it's more than the land. We might sum it all up in this promise that is repeated throughout scripture and is given to Abraham. I will be your God. So much is meant by that, similar to the phrase at the beginning of the Lord's prayer, our father. So much is meant by that. It means aim and his children had to have protection, provision, rest, forgiveness of sins, blessing, all kinds of things and many things within fulfilled within that. Well, I need to move on. This is what the promise God gave to Abraham and it was partially fulfilled. It's first fulfillment we see when Israel comes into the Promised Land and Deuteronomy one hundred and ten says, look at yourselves, you're as many as the stars in the heavens. It's a promise that's been fulfilled, but, as we will read later on in scripture and consider at the end of the sermon, that's a promise that was fulfilled in even greater degrees in Christ but, as I say, we need to move on. God makes this promise to Abraham and this is these children. These are children that he essentially adopts. Right he goes among all the people of the world and he says you are mine here, I belong to you, I am your God, I am your father, I will keep you and protect you. Well, if he adopts Israel in Abraham, then he disciplines them under Moses, under his care and to show them his love, it's time to teach them the law under Moses, under this covenant that God makes with them. He says this is going to...

...be hard, this is going to be difficult. In fact, there are prophecies, even as he's making a covenant with them at Mount Sinai, that they will not keep the covenant, that, like Adam, they will break this covenant. And indeed that this is what happens. God, in all the laws and all the sacrificial system God gives to Moses and he teaches them. He teaches them that the righteousness that he requires is not the righteousness that we think he requires. We often think God wants perfection, and then we redefine perfection as trying our best or having good intentions. No, God's perfection is perfection with no qualifications. God Is Holy, not in his intentions or to the best of his ability. God is holy in every part of him. Not that he even has parts. He is holy. This is our God and he wants this for his people. If he's going to have communion with us, then we must be holy as he is holy. And so there is law after law, after law after law, demanding this, and there's purification, ritual after ritual after ritual, dealing with all these aspects of life when people become unholy. Throughout the rest of these first five books of the Bible, particularly in the latter ones, we read of all of these requirements. The weight of the law comes upon God's child so that Israel will learn the holiness that God requires and the holiness that they are not able to give. This is the great message of the Old Testament. You can't do it, despite the fact that I've rescued you saved you, given you promises, given you my law. I've said it all up perfectly for you. Not just go and do it. What's holding you back? There's sinful nature. The sins that are in them are holding them back. They cannot meet the law. And you know what happens with that covenant? As I said, they break it and God does exactly to them what he did to all those peoples we read about before. He kicks them out of the land, just like he kicked Adam and eve out of the garden. He sends them into exile for breaking his covenant. But this covenant was not only to teach them of the obedience that was required and although obedience that they could not give. God wasn't just trying to shame his children. He was teaching them, he was training them, he is pointing them to the salvation that he offers, to the righteous requirements of the law that he would provide. And that's what he does in Jesus. Before we get to the new covenant in Jesus, will add one more covenant that Paul has in mind. He has in mind the covenant with Abraham. He has in mind the covenant that with Israel under Moses, and he also has in mind the covenant with David. All of these fit together under this great covenant of Grace, we might call it, in which God is bringing his people to salvation and the enlargement of this program of salvation in Jesus. What does he do under David? Here God gives his people not just a law, as he does under Moses, but he gives them a king, a king who will point them to that law, a king who will obey that law and show them obedience, a king who will, all, be all about leading them in worship, particularly through...

...the building of the temple. God says to David, Israel's great king, after Saul's great failure. He says to David and second Samuel seven and in first chronicles seventeen, I will give you a son. You hear that language again, the offspring right. I will give you a son who will straign on my throne forever, ruling over a people and bringing about a time of rest. We all know, though, I'm particularly if you've been listening to the sermon series in First Chronicles, that Solomon fulfills this in a measure, but not completely. God gives to them this great king which in many ways builds the anticipation, helps them to understand the kind of thing that was required, but in the end ultimately fails, not because God fails, of course, but because Solomon Fails, because Solomon is just like every other Israelite. He's just like you, it's like me. He has sin in him, he's born in original sin. He cannot obey the law of God like God requires. But nevertheless, in all of these things, God is holding his people together. We don't have this people and that people in one part, one kingdom and another kingdom. It's all one people moving forward in history under God's Covenantal Care Failing, yes, but being preserved by God as well. So when Paul has in mind the covenants, he says he's sang to them. To No other nation did God call out of the world and give them a promised lamd to no other nation did God meet with on a mountain with eightning and thunder and clouds and darkness and give them his own special law to know whether nation did he promise a king that would rule over them forever and ever. Israel, you have something good. God is being gracious to them and he continues that graciousness under Jesus. But before we get to that, I want you to imagine yourself if you're not a Jew. As a Jew, how should you receive this kind of news? If you are being told and reminded that you God has poured out His grace on you and your people throughout all of history, has elected you specially among all the peoples of the world, to bless you forever and ever, how should you receive that? By saying, well, I'm done with you, I don't care anymore. I don't want to hear your word, I don't want to follow it. I don't want to know about the Messiah who's come. I don't want to know about these fulfilled, fulfilled promises. I don't want to worship the one who has come as the offspring of Abraham. I don't want to worship the one who was given as king under as Dave Son. Does that make any sense? God is giving these things, he's reminding the Jews of these things through Paul to say believe all of this has been given to you. receive it by faith in the one who has come. Now imagine yourself as a gentile, is one who hasn't been given all of these things. Imagine Yourself, like ruth, standing outside of Israel, living. She was a Moabidus, living outside of the promise, this promise to Abraham, not hers,...

...the giving all of the Lat of Moses, not hers. The promise to David and a great king over the people, not her king. None of that had anything to do with her. But she looks and sees in Naomi this bitter woman, she calls herself that, a bitter woman who's angry with God, who is fleet God's judgment and problem and providence with her husband. She sees in Naomi something. I don't really know how, but she sees in Naomi something and says your God will be my God. I wonder if ruth can do that before the promise to David, before Jesus came, if Ruth can stand outside the Covenant as a gentle say that's what I need. Your God will be my people, your people will might be my people. She wants to change everything. She's saying, let me in, I want to belong. Should that not be our promise or are our response? Rather, when we hear of these things, when we are listening to this list, this list of gifts, when Paul says, going back to Romans Nine, when Paul says to the to Israel, says they are the Israelites, to them belong, the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, the promises, the Patriarchs. You should be one step away from jealousy, full throned jealousy. You should be going, ah, I wish I had that, I wish that could be mine. Isn't that a wonderful thing that God has given? As a gentile who separated from these promises, that's a bad thing. But you know what, we don't have to be as gentiles. You don't have to be angry at God, we don't have to be upset at God, we don't have to be frustrated with him, because he is not. Sent us a bitter woman a once in a lifetime opportunity to tell us a little something about what it's like in the place that she just left, like meeting a disgruntled Church member and somehow coming coming to become a member of her church. He sends profits and apostles out into the world. He Sends Preachers of the Gospel all over so that we, thousands of miles away from the original land of promise, can hear the gospel of God, can hear it in this sort of full throated happiness and joy and openness that says come and believe. And instead of the preacher like Naomi pushing us off and saying now you don't want to come, don't bother, stay where you are, all these kinds of things, you have people like me saying come on, come on, come on, come on, come in, come in, come in, because the promise is no longer limited to Israel in this way that it always has been. This is the great hope for gentiles like us. God has thrown open the doors in Jesus and says come on in. The blessings that were promised to Abraham and all the people's on the earth in him are being fulfilled as God, through his spirit, sends out the preaching all throughout the world and calls us to believe. So don't just stand outside, longing to belong, wishing that you could be a part of God's great plan. Believe in the offer of salvation that he's giving to you. And that offer of salvation comes to us in Jesus, who, I will finally make explicit to you. Jesus...

...comes, he the author of Hebrews, says, to establish a new and better covenant, a new and better covenant than the One with Moses, than the one with David, the fulfillment of the one with Abraham and all these things. He fulfills these things and he establishes something that takes away the heavy weight and burden of the law. He says, you are no longer obligated to obey the law in order to live. That's it. I release you from it. I will fulfill it for you. Jesus says an he does unlike David, unlike Solomon, unlike Abraham, unlike Moses, unlike Aaron and Joshua and all the rest. Jesus comes in humanity and divinity and he perfectly obeys the law of God. He fulfills the stipulations of the Covenant. He's the one person in all of history who stands up and says I am the righteous man, and he's not pretending, he's not full of himself, he's not lying. He stands up and he says I am the righteous man, because he is the righteous man. And just like all of these other covenant mediators, he comes to fulfill the promise, not just or to fulfill the law, not just for himself but for those under him. As the king goes, so goes the people, and it's true with Jesus. He goes not only into this world to fulfill the law, but also to die for us who haven't fulfilled the law. He takes away all of the wrath and curse that was promised to Adam, that was shown in the cutting of the animals, that was threatened and fulfilled on the mountain of Sinai and in the kicking out of the people from the land, in the exile, in the removal of kings from the throne, all of those curses that were just shadows of the greater curse of Hell itself. Jesus takes on himself on the cross, as we read earlier from Second Corinthians, he who knew no sin, became sin so that we might be freed and forgiven of our sin. So this is what Jesus does. He establishes this new covenant with us and with us in him, with him as Lord and King, with us in a new position of freedom and grace. He gives us rest now and promises it for ever in the heavenly places, we will enter into a better land than Abraham or his children ever experienced here on this earth. And Abraham himself knew that, because the author of Hebrew says that Abraham was hoping not just for something in this world, but he looked forward to a heavenly city, the one which is promised to all who believe in Jesus Christ. So when Paul says that he gives to Israel the Covenant, this is what he has in mind, the covenant of Salvation That followed upon the covenant of Death in Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and finally Jesus, a once and final covenant with a once and perfect sacrifice forever and ever. This is the marriage that we are in. If you are waking up from a coma and beginning to...

...realize who it is that sits at your bedside, rejoice, give praise to God, embrace your husband and say I love you, and go forward and serve God in Covenant Life and in obedience to him. Let us pray.

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