The majority of the current generations living on earth today have been raised in a divorce and consumer culture. This atmosphere doesn’t encourage relational permanence (the idea of covenant relationships that will last). These things have shaped the worldview of many in a way that has eroded the idea of covenant.
One metaphor that is descriptive of our current culture’s approach toward relationships is the “friend/unfriend button.” You can easily accumulate friends or get rid of them with a simple click of a button. Easy in and easy out. If I no longer find your life interesting I can even disconnect with a simple “unfollow” and you won’t even know I’ve disconnected.
Another metaphor is the “remote control.” I grew up in a generation in which there was a big box that sat in most living rooms called a television. If you wanted to interact with it or change something you actually had to get up, walk across the room, and touch it. Now you sit at a distance with a remote control and with a simple click of a button, from a safe distance, you can change things that aren’t interesting to you. It is easy change with little hassle.
This worldview can creep in among the church. God’s house should be the one place on earth where God’s idea of covenant is expressed in relationships. We are joined to the “God of covenant” therefore covenant should distinguish us. Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant…with those who love Him and keep His commandments.
God’s People Have Always Been Called to Covenant
The church wasn’t created out of a conference or a convention, it was born out of a
covenant. The early church was not casually connected on a church facebook page. Their lives were intertwined as they were joined to God and each other in covenant. Act 4:32 MSG The whole congregation of believers was united (joined) as one–one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything.
The whole story of the Bible revolves around God choosing His people out from all the other peoples of the earth and entering into covenant with them. In doing so they become His holy people ( Exodus 6:1-8, 19:1-7; Deut 7 :6-8; 1 Pet 2:4-10 ; Titus 2:13-14; Eph 5:25-27; 1 Cor 10:1-11; 2Cor 6:16-18). As they walk together with Him and each other, He demonstrates His life and Kingdom through them.
We see this story unfolding in the Bible through various covenants God made with His people such as Adam and Eve Genesis 1-5; Noah, Genesis 8:20-9:17; Abraham and His descendants Genesis 12, 15, 17:1-7,15-21, Gen 22:17-18; Moses and the Children of Israel, Ex 6:1-8, chpts 19-24, Dt 7:6; David 2 Sam 7…; and the New Covenant in Christ, Gal 3:16, Jer 31:34, Heb 8:8-13 (which is a continuation, and fulfillment of aspects of the previous covenants).
God’s people often cheapen what covenant means due to our cultural mindsets. Webster’s dictionary defines covenant as “a mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, or a contract.” God isn’t Webster. He has His own dictionary and He defines covenant as something much deeper. It is more than just an agreement or a connection. It is a joining of something together that alters the future both parties. Isn’t this what a marriage covenant produces. No longer are two single people the same. Their lives are not changed/affected by the other spouse.
Another reason God’s people struggle with covenant is we understand it individualistically. We see God making a covenant with us personally. It is between us and God and is primarily for our personal benefit and future. That is not the Biblical picture. God’s covenants have corporate ramifications. They have always been about Him establishing His people (plural form) for His own possession Exo 19:3-6, Deu 7:6, 1Pe 2:4-20, Tit 2:14 who gave Himself for us…to purify for Himself a people for His own possession.
The covenant joining of God carries over in Him joining us together as His people. We see it in the way Jesus called His disciples while on earth. He didn’t call individual disciples to an isolated, independent life and purpose. He first called “Follow Me” to two guys not just one. To them He quickly added ten more. They followed Him as a family/team and He taught them to serve and love one another. When He sent them on missions He sent them out two by two (Luke 10, Mt 9-11).
The Plural Promises of the Bible
One distinction lost in English translations of the Bible is that almost all of the promises and commandments of the NT were written in the plural. The church, according to Paul was not a loose federation of isolated individuals. It was designed by God to be a joined body, a living, breathing, organism, whose members are joined and move together like a human body.
This is way different than our culture’s idea of connections. The difference is like the difference between a chord being plugged into a wall outlet and an arm being joined to a body (using the Biblical Metaphor of the church as Christ body). You can plug and unplug chords from outlets and not much is affected in either part, but if you disconnect an arm from a body it is quite another thing because it affects the future purpose of both.
This is strongly highlighted in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. They were not honoring the covenant joining of God among themselves. There were factions, they were suing each other in public courts, and were simply not considering each other in a variety of ways. Their relational life was so bad Paul warned them that their celebration of communion was causing condemnation because they “weren’t discerning the Lord’s body” correctly 1Co 11:25-27. In other words they were not appreciating their covenant joining correctly in light of Christ sacrifice. Paul went so far as to say that many are “weak and sick” due to a judgment that accompanies not properly appreciating the covenant joining in the Body of Christ. Could this also be a reason for spiritual weakness and sickness in Christ’s Body today?
1Co 11:25-30…26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
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