This feature article was written by Rev. Gise VanBaren in the March 1, 1984 issue of the Standard Bearer.
The truth concerning man’s relation with God is one which deserves our attention and our understanding. Nothing can be more important than one’s standing before God. It is very literally a matter of life and death.
There is a relationship of fellowship between God and his people. That relationship has been called a “covenant relationship.” This concept is fundamental unto a proper understanding of our duties and responsibilities before God and with men. Within the church it becomes very plain that some sort of beautiful relationship exists between God and this people of his church. It is also to be clearly understood that this relationship exists only because of and through the cross of Jesus Christ.
“Covenant” involves a coming together, a dwelling under one roof. The term emphasizes that God and his people have a basis for unity. This, we believe, is the purpose of God’s revelation outside of himself—that a people might eternally dwell with him in Christ.
This covenant with God must not be misunderstood. Many use the term “covenant” rather freely—while defining it in an unscriptural way. Some have regarded the covenant of God with men as a form of alliance. As two nations might sign an agreement for cooperation with mutual stipulations, so the covenant of God with man is presented. God will perform his part of the agreement provided that man carries out his part.
Connected with that, the covenant is presented as a way to an end. It is become the way to attain glory. It is, so it is said, God’s arrangement whereby he, with man’s assistance, will get some into heaven. With man’s obedience and cooperation, God will be able to save him and exalt him to the glory of heaven.
Rather, it is the teaching of scripture that God’s covenant with man is itself the purpose and end of God’s grand design of creating all things and redeeming his people in Jesus Christ. God’s covenant with man is not an after-thought. It is his eternal plan to reveal outside of himself the blessedness of the relationship which exists within himself.
The full, glorious realization of this covenant relationship will be seen in heaven. There, the purpose of God will be fulfilled when his people can perfectly and forever have communion and fellowship with God. This is the goal which God has in mind. His purpose is not simply to bring a people to a wonderful place—but he will bring them into wonderful fellowship with himself. The purpose is not simply to enjoy the good things of a perfect world—but to enjoy speaking with God which is life itself. All of creation and all of the body of Christ will be united in beautiful harmony to the praise of the name of our God.
This covenant fellowship is already enjoyed by the child of God in this earth. He has the opportunity to speak with God through prayer. He has the desire and opportunity to read his word. He knows that God speaks to him through his word and by his Spirit. There is the foretaste of eternal fellowship already now. This is the essence of eternal life, as Jesus taught, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
The reason that God determines that this shall be the essence of the glory of heaven is that it is his pleasure to reveal outside of himself to his people that glorious relationship which exists within the Triune God eternally. God, after all, plans all things in order to show within his creation the beautiful fellowship which exists in the Trinity between Father, Son, and Spirit.
Though it is difficult for mere creature to comprehend, we confess that there is in God eternal communion of the three persons in one being. That is life—the life of God. Without that interaction, there could be no living God. Were he not three persons in eternal fellowship, there would have been no creation and no salvation.
Jesus spake of this eternal fellowship in John 5:19, 20: “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, they ye may marvel.” Of the Son, too, scripture declares (Heb. 1:3), “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, and when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.” And Father and Son fellowship in the Spirit. The Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son as Jesus points out in John 15:26: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”
This covenant life of fellowship which eternally exists within God, is the basis for the manifestation of covenant life between God and his people in Christ. God would show, in the highest way possible, the wonder and glory of that fellowship.
One recognizes through all of scripture how wonderfully God shows this covenant when he created all things and now redeems his creation and people through Christ. The truth concerning the establishment of this covenant between God and his people, a truth often ignored, is that God himself establishes it. It is not a cooperative effort, not an agreement between God and man. Rather, God himself establishes his covenant. He showed this great truth to Abraham in Genesis 15:9-18 in response to the question of Abraham, “Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit the land of Canaan?” God commanded him to take three animals and a dove and young pigeon. The animals were to be divided in half. Normally, when a covenant or agreement was made, the participating parties would together pass between the divided animals. In this case there was an obvious difference. When it was dark, Abraham saw a smoking furnace and burning lamp pass between the pieces—signifying the presence of God passing between. But Abraham, with whom the covenant was established, did not pass between the parts. What did that mean? It pointed to the wonderful fact that the establishment of God’s covenant with Abraham and all his spiritual seed was through the power and act of God—and not with the help of men. The covenant is established by God himself.
God further pointed out in scripture that, after the fall, the covenant is possible only through the blood of the Lamb. In Genesis 17:10, God spake to Abraham, “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.” This circumcision, the shedding of blood, pointed to the truth that the covenant can be established only in the way of shed blood—ultimately of Christ himself on the cross. For God will establish a relationship with his people only in the way of having their sins covered—thus satisfying the just demands of the righteous God. Other scripture confirms this same wonderful truth.
Another important truth which God had revealed concerning this covenant is that it would continue in the line of generations. The covenant was not made with single individuals haphazardly gathered from the peoples of the earth. Rather, God would fellowship with his people and their spiritual seed. Already to Abraham God had said, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generation for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). The same truth was repeated in the New Testament when Peter declared in Acts 2:39 at Pentecost, “For the promise is unto you and to your children….” This fact explains the church’s emphasis not only on the covenant, but also upon covenantal instruction of the youth and their baptism in infancy.
This covenant which God himself establishes through Christ, is the basis for hope and comfort for the child of God. Surely, first, there is no fear or terror of that One with whom we can now have fellowship and communion. God is God. He is just and righteous in all of his ways. He will not allow sin to go unpunished. But he has also provided the way of redemption—the cross. Now in communion with God, we can enjoy guidance and encouragement in our earthly journey to glory.
There is also assurance of God’s blessings daily. Those who enjoy a covenant relationship with God, can do so because he bestows all spiritual blessings upon his people. They receive the gifts of love, mercy, wisdom, knowledge. They have what they need to live a covenantal life in this world.
All of this has to do with our relationships with each other—and especially of our relationships within the home. How does our relationship with God reveal itself in our relationships with one another? He who loves God will love his brother also.
Then the covenant child of God will not be guided or set his standards by that which the world has to offer. By way of advertising as well as through its corrupt dramatizations, the world clearly sets forth what its standards and goals are. The heart of man is set upon material things. He finds his pleasure in earthly, worldly amusements. He considers this life as the end of all things.
For the Christian, it is not so. He has the word of God to serve as his guide. That word directs in a godly walk and holy life. It is the standard of measurement for the Christian life. He who begins to understand what is involved in the covenant of God with man, will spend much time with the word of God. Though so many scoff at the very idea, there is really no other answer for proper holy living than that found in scripture. The family which prays together (and studies scripture together) stays together. Where scripture and prayer are ignored in the home, there usually one finds troubles and disruptions.
Of what I have to say, this is the sum: apply the truths of the covenant to our family living—and the blessings of God will rest on such a household.