The Everlasting Covenant
If you were to ask one hundred of the most religious people you know, "Do you believe in salvation by grace?" what do you believe their answer would be? Do you have an idea that almost every one of them would agree that salvation is by grace? Suppose you were
to ask that same one hundred people, "What do you believe about THE COVENANT OF GRACE? What do you believe about the everlasting covenant?" What do you suppose their answer would be? Do you think you might get a lot of blank expressions?
Almost everybody claims to believe in salvation by grace, but you can never understand very much about salvation by grace, if do not know something about the covenant of grace. Trying to understand salvation by grace without knowing something about the covenant of grace is like trying to figure out the mysteries of an automobile without first discovering that there is an engine under the hood that makes it go.
The covenant of grace, or the everlasting covenant, is the driving force behind salvation by grace. By the same token, you will never understand much about the covenant of grace unless you know what a covenant is. Webster defines a covenant as "a binding agreement between two or more individuals or parties to do or keep from doing a specified thing."
Let me ask you: if you wanted to refer to a covenant, but you could not call it a covenant, what would you call it? Now bear in mind that a covenant is "a binding agreement between two or more individuals or parties to do or keep from doing a specified thing." What would you call that? I would call that a contract, wouldn't you? Now I do not feel entirely comfortable in referring to it as a contract. That sounds so commercial, but that is exactly what it is. This covenant is a binding agreement; God has bound himself by his own word to do all that is involved in this everlasting
covenant. God cannot lie, and as surely as God has promised to do anything, you can be sure that he will do as he has promised to do. No agreement that has ever been made between men is so firm, and sure, and binding as this agreement, this covenant between God the Father and God the Son. The salvation of untold millions of the children of God is the most important matter that has ever transpired in this world, and you can be sure that God has provided the most firm and sure foundation for their salvation.
The promises of God are much more sure and dependable than most religious people have ever imagined them to be. For that matter, they are absolutely sure, and absolutely dependable. God will do all he has promised to do. The majority of people seem to have a strange view of God and his promises. They seem to imagine that God's promises are changeable and tenuous, that they are conditioned on so many propositions and possibilities--, that we can never know for sure what he is going to do. But God is not fickle and changeable. Listen to what he said to Isaiah, "Remember the former
things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, AND I WILL DO ALL MY PLEASURE" (Isa. 46:9,10). If God has purposed to do anything, he will do it.
This failure to realize that God is faithful to his promises has left people with an uneasiness about their own salvation, and the salvation of others. Because they do not believe they can be sure about God and his promises, they are uneasy about the salvation of sinners, and that uneasiness leads them into some of the most unreasonable notions. When I was just a boy, I attended a seminar on "soul winning." We were taught the importance of soul winning, and we were instructed on how to approach people we hoped to convert. The instructor was very careful to point out the
importance of personal grooming. She told us how very important it was that our clothes be clean, that our shoes be shined, and that we had brushed our teeth and used a mouthwash. After all, it would be a terrible thing if our bad breath might so offend the person we were trying to talk to that he would not listen to us. This might be the only chance that he would ever have to hear the gospel message, and would it not be a terrible thing if he missed this one and only chance to hear the gospel and repent and be born again?
I tried to believe the lessons I was being taught, but it seemed so strange to think that some poor sinner might burn in the flames of eternal damnation -because I had forgotten to brush my teeth and use a mouthwash. There is no end to the strange conclusions that people reach, when they forget that God is faithful to all his promises.
On the next few pages I want us to look at some of the very simple lessons the Bible teaches us about this grand covenant. And these lessons are simple. This is one of the most fascinating things about the Bible. I have discovered that if you go through the Bible looking for simple lessons, the Bible is just filled with very simple lessons that you and I can understand. On the other hand, if you go through the Bible looking for deep, dark mysteries, the Bible is just filled with mysteries that no man on earth can entirely unravel. I have discovered that it makes this job of
preaching a lot easier if we spend our time looking for the simple lessons. It is easier for the preacher to explain simple lessons, and it is easier for the congregation to understand. And there is another lesson I have learned. Sometimes those very simple lessons explain some of the most profound truths. For that matter, I am convinced that, if our minds are able to understand the lesson in the first place, the lesson can generally be explained in very simple language. (Admittedly, here some questions, such as some of the how's and why's of the Bible that we cannot begin to unravel.)
The first lesson the Bible teaches us about this covenant, this binding agreement---is that MAN IS NOT A PARTY TO THIS COVENANT. This is a point that most religious people have failed to realize. If they could learn this one fact, it would eliminate very much of the confusion that presently plagues the religious world. We who have a hope in Christ Jesus are the beneficiaries of this covenant, but we are not parties to it. We did not make the covenant; rather the covenant was made on our behalf. Listen to what the Bible says. II Sam. 23:5, "Although my house be not so with God;
YET HATH HE MADE WITH ME AN EVERLASTING COVENANT, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow." The chapter begins by saying "these be the last words of David." This is David speaking, and in this text David personifies the Lord. He speaks as if it is the Lord speaking. Lest there should be any doubt that David is here personifying the Lord, in verse one, the Holy Spirit refers to David as "the ANOINTED of the God of Jacob." In the original language the word that is translated "anointed" is the Hebrew word "Messiah." "Messiah" is one
of the titles of Jesus Christ. He was the expected Messiah. "Messiah" (Mashiyach) in the Hebrew, and "Christ" (Christos) in the Greek are the same word, and they mean "anointed." So to remove all doubt as to whether David personified the Lord, THE SPIRIT LITERALLY CALLS HIM THE "MESSIAH." Now David was anointed of the God of Jacob" in a different way than Christ was, but he was anointed in such a way as to represent Christ Jesus. David the son of Jesse represented the Greater David, the son of God.
This covenant, this binding agreement, was made between the Father and the Son on behalf of his people. God the Father and God the Son entered into a binding agreement with each other with regard to the salvation of his people. In a few minutes we will see just how binding that agreement is.
The next lesson we notice about this covenant is that it is "AN EVERLASTING COVENANT;" it has no expiry date "Yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant." Most of our agreements have an expiration date, and sometime that can be a problem. Almost one hundred years ago the United States finished building the Panama Canal. The French tried to build it and failed, and then the United States took over and finished the job. We took out a hundred year lease on the canal. We made a mistake. With individuals a hundred years is a very long time, but with nations one hundred years is
not very long. Several years ago we gave the canal back to Panama. That looked Like a mistake at the time, but our lease was running out anyway. But this covenant, this binding agreement, will never run out; it has no expiry date.
The love of God for his people is not so fickle, and tenuous, and changeable, as some people have imagined it to be. If God ever loved you, he will always love you. He is an unchangeable God, and his love is as unchangeable as he is. Jeremiah said, "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an EVERLASTING LOVE; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." The love we have for our own children is only a faint illustration of the love God has for his children. I learned long ago that there is nothing my children could ever do that would cause
me to quit loving them. They have not always pleased me. Sometimes I have been very upset with one or another of them, but it seems to have been at those times when I was the most displeased that I was the most fully aware that there was nothing any one of them could ever do that would cause me to cease loving them. No doubt, you have had the same experience, but you can be sure that as unwavering and as unconditional as your love is for your children, your love is very fickle compared to the constancy of God's everlasting love for his own. The love of God is one of the
attributes of God, and his love is as unchangeable as he is.
The next lesson the Bible teaches us about this covenant is that it is comprehensive. It leaves nothing to chance. It is "ordered in all things and sure." "Although my house be not so with God; yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ORDERED IN ALL THINGS AND SURE."
God's salvation of his people is not such a stopgap, plan-as-you-go, back up and start again, arrangement as some people seem to imagine. God knows exactly what he is doing, and he knew what he was going to do before he ever started.
Keep it always in mind that a covenant is "a binding agreement between two or more individuals or parties to do or keep from doing a specified thing." God the Father entered into an agreement with his Son with regard to the salvation of his people, and this agreement fixed and secured every provision that was necessary for the salvation of his people.
Suppose you were about to build a new house. You have found a contractor willing to do the work, and he is having the contract drawn up. one day he brings the contract for you to sign. You think it might be a good idea to read the contract before you sign it, and here is the way it reads: "We agree to build a right nice house, on a fair sized lot, somewhere south of town; we agree to start before very long, and to charge a reasonable amount for our services." Would you sign the contract? No, of course not. I believe that before I entered into any kind of contract I would want
every detail spelled out in very clear language. Do you believe that God would enter into any such agreement with regard to the salvation of his people? The salvation of untold millions of poor sinners from eternal damnation is the most important matter that man knows anything about, and you can be sure that God would never leave any part of that work to chance. God knows exactly what he is doing. God the Father and God the Son agreed on every aspect of this grand work before he ever called this world into existence.
Paul referred to this great work as a will or testament. Heb. 9:16,17, "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." It is in the nature of wills that wills name names, and this will, this testament, names every one of the heirs of promise. It is a very poorly drawn will that fails to name the beneficiaries of the will.
benefit of time and eternity is salvation from sin by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and God would not engage in that great work without knowing exactly what he was doing, and who was going to be benefited by it. Before God ever created the universe he chose his people; he recorded their names in his book, and
he determined all that he was going to do on their behalf. Rev. 13:8, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The lamb was not slain from the foundation of the world; that happened at Calvary. He says that their names were written in his book, "from the foundation of the world" Eph. 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
It is a foolish person who starts any work without knowing what the outcome is going to be. God knew exactly what the outcome was going to be before he began; he knew who he was sending his Son to die for, and who he was going to save. He suffered and died for all those whom the Father gave him in the covenant of grace, and he will save everyone he died for.