All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Divine Covenant: Singular or Plural?
Based on Exodus 32

Most Christians don’t understand God’s covenant, but since God’s covenant is the plan of salvation, it must be understood!

A covenant is generally understood as an agreement between two equal partners. But this is not so with God’s covenant, since it’s based on the ancient Hittite suzerainty-type covenant. God elaborates the whole plan of salvation and the people can either accept or reject it. They cannot negotiate any of the terms, or modify it in any way.

As Christians we know we must overcome sin, but most of us believe we need God’s help to do this. However, this idea is both deeply flawed and unworkable. We quickly find we cannot succeed, and then either try harder (and fail again) or give up. I came close to that, myself, when I was a young man, but more on that, later.

speak of two divine orders, or dispensations—one of law, and one of grace. Others say God had a covenant of works in the Old Testament, and a covenant of grace in the New. So what is the reality?
The “Old” Covenant

After Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the Lord enters into a covenant relationship with them at Mount Sinai—one that will save them from sin and restore their relationship with Him. In Exodus 24:1–3, God calls Moses up Mount Sinai to worship Him, and when Moses tells the people all the words of the Lord, they respond, “‘All the words which the Lord has said we will do.’”

Sacrifices are offered to the Lord to ratify the covenant, legally binding them to each other. The Lord is now their God, and they are His people. Because they’re bound to each other, half of the sacrificial blood is sprinkled on the people, and half on the altar, symbolizing that if either party breaks the covenant, the sacrificial victim’s fate will be theirs.

Although God’s covenant is based on divine grace, the people in their weakness try to keep it by their own strength and soon break it by worshipping the golden calf. It now becomes known as the old covenant of works—because they tried to keep it in their own strength.

Hebrews 8:13 (KJV) refers to this covenant when it says that God “made the first old.” The Greek word for “old” does not mean old in time but old in quality, because it is useless for salvation. However, God did not make His first covenant useless—the people did. They perverted it by trying to keep the law by their own strength.

The “New” Covenant

In Jeremiah 31:31–34, the Lord promises that He will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah. The word “new” has the connotation in Hebrew of freshness, renewal, or restoration. It does not have the concept of new in time, but new in quality. The ancient Greek translation of Jeremiah 31, quoted in Hebrews 8:8–12, clearly shows that the “new” is really new in quality, not chronologically. The covenant will no longer be written on tablets of stone, separate from the people. Instead, it will be written on their hearts and minds by the Lord Himself. The Lord will accomplish this task, making it a work of divine grace rather than human effort.

God Does It

Is the covenant singular or plural? God always gives the same covenant to sinful man down through time—so it is one in content. However, human reception of the covenant makes it essentially two different covenants. For the people, one covenant is of works when they try to keep it in their own strength, but it is a covenant of grace when, by faith, they allow God to write His law on their minds and hearts.

When David sinned with Bathsheba, he didn’t ask the Lord to help him do this or that. He asked Him to “cleanse me,” and “restore me.” God had to do that.

We don’t understand this concept. We pray, “Lord, help me overcome sin,” as if we were doing part of it, and God is only helping.

But God doesn’t help. He does it. Our only part is to constantly choose whether or not to allow Him to do it all. We are saved only by His power and grace.

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