From time to time we receive a letter from a reader who would like us to use words that are more familiar. And although we generally try to define theological and biblical terms that may be unfamiliar to our readers, we do expect readers of Tabletalk to pick up their dictionaries occasionally. In an age when the average adult reads at a seventh-grade level, we want to raise the bar a little and challenge people to study words and their meanings, especially when it comes to the words of sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, there are certain words that are not found in Webster’s dictionary. And even if the Lord God Almighty were to have a dictionary, there would be certain words we wouldn’t find in it. For instance, we would not find the word oops in God’s dictionary, nor would we find the words probably or maybe.
When it comes to the language of God’s covenants with His people, He never uses such words. Rather, on every historic occasion when the Lord forms a covenant, He uses two simple words, “I will.” They are words of promise, words of hope, and words of eternal significance. Having nothing, or no one, greater by which He can swear an oath, God swears by His own being (Gen.15). His promises alone are faithful and true, just as He alone is faithful and true. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. In His covenants with His people, He makes it clear that He shall be our God and we shall be His people.
There is a common saying I have heard among Christians: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” It sounds nice, but when it comes to God’s Word and His covenants, there is only one correct way of conveying the vital truths of God’s words to man: “God said it, that settles it.” It has nothing to do with whether or not we believe it. We are indeed agents and objects of God’s covenants, but we do not dictate to God the stipulations of His covenants with us. Just as Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith, so our Lord is the Author and Finisher of His covenants with us.
Covenant theology is not some system of doctrine ordained by God to meet our every want and desire. Rather, it is the biblical system of redemption ordained by God to grant us what we need most, God Himself. In covenant theology we understand how God has set us free in Christ to live coram Deo, before His face. Thus the primary question for all Christians is not whether they believe in the covenant theology of Scripture, but whether they believe in the God of the covenants.