Having seen that the kingdom of God is the central theme that unites the Old and New Testaments, we are now prepared to examine more carefully how the great King of this kingdom governs His realm through covenants that determine the relationship between Him and His people. Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series The Promise Keeper will guide our study of this important topic.
Just as with the theme of the kingdom of God, the idea of covenant is fundamental to understanding the Bible. Covenantal terminology and assumptions are found both implicitly and explicitly throughout the canon of Scripture, and our Creator’s relationship to His creation is normally expressed through covenants.
There is no precise English equivalent to the term covenant, as there are many nuances to the idea in the worldview of the ancient Hebrews. Nevertheless, we are able to give a basic definition: a “covenant” is an agreement, made in the context of a relationship, between two or more parties to fulfill obligations these parties make one to another. Clearly we see that even our modern day society depends on covenantal transactions, since things like business contracts and marital agreements are essential to the functioning of our culture.
We would be in error to say the covenants between human beings are identical to those between God and man, though there are similarities. For example, God and man are not equal parties, and God is never required to make covenants with us. Moreover, unlike human beings, it is impossible for the Lord not to keep His covenant oaths. He is the Rock and the God of faithfulness (Deut. 32:4), so He is always true to His word and will always do that which He has sworn to do.
There are a variety of covenants found in the Bible, but one of them, the covenant of redemption, is the ground for all the others. In several biblical texts, we find allusions to the covenant of redemption, which is the agreement made between the members of the Trinity to bring us salvation. Under the terms of this covenant, the Father plans salvation and sends the Son to redeem His people. The Son consents to do the work necessary to save the elect (John 10:17–18), and the Spirit agrees to apply the work of Christ to us, sealing us forever into His salvation (Eph. 1:13–14).