The Elements of the Covenant Reflect the Dimensions of God's Character to the Individual
The six colors on the image to the right parallel the expressions of God's covenantal character in Scripture. God's revelation is made apparent to all men. His transcendent purposes are evident in the Great Commission. God's character is personalized through priests, prophets and others who are qualified for hierarchical leadership roles in God's covenantal institutions. Within these institutions, ethics are preached and practiced. In all of God's primary covenantal institutions (the church, family, and government), believers make oaths that form the basis for blessings or curses (e.g., outcomes). Ultimately, each saint will persevere in honoring dimensions of God's character while building a succession of churches that meet needs around the globe and across the centuries.
The elements of the covenant are revealed through covenants with the patriarchs. We see the six elements as God communicates His message through covenants with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. These elements were codified when Moses came down from the mountain with the Sinai Covenant (the Ten Commandments). Various authors, such as Very Poythress from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, have shown how the elements of the covenant correspond to the Ten Commandments. See on the following table how, after God's revelation, there is a five point "THEOS" covenant sequence evident in both the first and second tables of the Ten Commandments.
|Vern Poythress' Summary of Covenantal Elements from Exodus 20 [With brief interpretation in brackets]||Priestly Table from the Ten Commandments||Kingly Table from the Ten Commandments|
|Identification of the suzerain (Ex. 20:2) [with the suzerain's identity and resource clearly evident]||R||God spoke all these words (Exodus 20:1)||R||God spoke all these words (Exodus 20:1)|
|Identification of the suzerain (Ex. 20:2) [with explicit or implict purpose of the suzerain]||T||1||Transcendence: prohibition of false worship||T||6||Transcendence: prohibition against murder (God's image)|
|Historical prologue (Ex. 20:2) [with the suzerain's authority evident]||H||2||Hireacrchy: no graven images (representation)||H||7||Hireacrchy: prohibition of adultery (covenant authority)|
|Stipulations (Ex. 20:3-17) [and ethical precepts]||E||3||Ethics: prohibition against msusing God's name3||E||8||Ethics: prohibition against theft|
|Sanctions (i.e., blessings and curses) [As in Exodus 20:7 and also v.12]||O||4||Oath: sabbath as day of judgement (baptism, Lord's supper)||O||9||Oath: no false witness|
|Recording and passing on (Ex 31:18; Duet 31)||S||5||Succession: honoring father and mother; long life as the promised inheritance||S||10||Succession: no coveting of another's property, which constitutes family inheritance|
|See www.Covenant.net/BibleReading||See www.Covenant.net /CovenantSequence||See www.Covenant.net /CovenantSequence|
The sequence evident in the Mosaic covenants and earlier covenants is also evident in the Davidic covenant and subsequent communications of God's covenantal character. In Jeremiah 32:40-44, God further reveals an everlasting covenant. His transcendent purpose is to do well always. He inspires the people to heed Him (hierarchy), so that they will [follow His ethics] and never turn away from Him. God then rejoices in doing good and planting the faithful in the land where they can enjoy blessed outcomes. A plan of succession is evident as these blessings are inherited by individuals in the villages around Jerusalem, in the citesof Judah and in the towns of the western foothills.
Each individual believer understands the elements of the covenant because God communicates His laws to them. In Jeremiah 31:31, God says, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." Jeremiah is prophesying about the believer under the new covenant, which cannot be broken. Under the old covenant, laws were broken and animal sacrifices failed to provide full atonement for sins. Under the new covenant, laws are written on the hearts of believers so that the conditions of the covenant are fulfilled by God's sovereign grace.
The revelation of Christ eventually reaffirms the teachings from Moses and the patriarchs. Christ and His apostles show believers how they can participate in the divide nature (see, e.g., 2 Peter 1:4) while experiencing new covenant teachings about God's transcendent purpose to redeem man from [t]he mind governed by the flesh, which is hostile to God and does not submit to God's law (Romans 8:7). Jesus shows how believers can submit to God's hierarchical authority while reaffirming ethical precepts from the Sinai Covenant and other Hebrew covenants (Hebrews 8:6). By understanding how Jesus fulfills the ancient covenants of Scripture (Matthew 5:17-19), the believer can more fully realize God's many promised outcomes(see, e.g., Romans 9:4). Individuals who form a covenantal relationship with Christ can enjoy the promised outcomes and count themselves as "heirs (or successor beneficiaries) according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29).
The Elements of the Covenant Reflect the Dimensions of God's Character to the Covenant Community.
While there are many promises made to individuals throughout Scripture, some of the greatest promises, such as those in Romans 9, are made to covenant communities. There are 3 main covenant communities described throughout the Bible: the 1) government, 2) family, and 3) church. These divinely-ordained institutions are described in the great confessions of faith, such as in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The WCF summarizes Biblical teachings regarding the magistrate/government in chapter 23, regarding the marriage/family in chapter 24, and regarding the church in chapter 25.
The above 3 primary institutions work together to create secondary institutions, which include the 4) school and 5) business. Five obvious secondary "rooms" are displayed on the graphic to the right. When reflecting on Christ's influence in culture, some thinkers add the 6) "arts and entertainment" sphere as well as 7) "media and press" sphere. In all 7 of these areas, Godly leaders have opportunities to uphold elements of the covenant when doing God's work. Some refer to the 7 areas as "mountains" (www.Covenant.net/7Mountains) where Christ wants believers to respect the Lordship of Christ, law of God and leading of the Spirit (www.Covenant.net/Trinity).
The six elements of the covenant are evident in the government, family and church. For example, a mature church can define God's special (1) revelation in a creed or confession focused on God's (2) transcendent purposes revealed in Scripture. The church trains elders to hold firmly to the doctrines of grace, while giving (3) hierarchical authority to the most qualified leaders. Church elders can preach God's (4) ethical law with a power that convicts, leads to confession, and prepares church communities to enjoy God's blessed (5) outcomes. Such churches provide excellent models that people will want to replicate around the world as part of God's (6) succession plan. Such churches can work with the family and government, God's other two covenantal institutions, to help reflect throughout society a mature understanding of the above six dimensions of God's gracious truth.
Because the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19) and because God's law is written on the hearts of all men (Romans 1:18, 2:15, etc.), anyone can have enough knowledge of God's and God's law to understand the core of the diagram to the right. Through general revelation, God calls men to know Him and His natural law. Through the special revelation of Scripture, God reveals the Gospel and doctrines of grace. Careful preaching about God's revelation reveals God in a way that leads men to know Him and want to know more about Him. This naturally leads to higher levels of understanding about the doctrines of grace, the covenant of grace, covenant communities, and the covenant community church. As shown on the diagram, the church (in red) is connected to the family (in blue) and government (in yellow). The church is, of course, very different from the family and government (as explained, for example, in WCF chapters 23-25) but these 3 institutions are all revealed by God to have a transcendent purpose carried out by a Godly hierarchy of leaders who know and apply ethical precepts so that people can enjoy blessed outcomes (while being protected from curses) as part of a divine plan of succession around the world and across the generations.
In the government, family and church, God raises up mature men who meet for prayer and accountability. When mature elders gather, the meetings are comparable to the gathering of Jesus and His apostles in the "upper room." In the following diagrams, the upper room symbolizes the most holy gathering of the most mature church leaders. Mature church leaders have a vitally important role in overseeing the preaching and teaching of sound doctrine. As doctrines about God, the gospel, grace and the covenant are preached and taught properly, more men are raised up as qualified elders who can meet in the upper room. These elders can have the experience, wisdom, and qualifications to help the church interact with the family and government while directly or indirectly influencing what happens in the classroom, courtroom, board room, and family room.
The 3 covenantal institutions and 5 rooms shown on the above diagrams have common underpinnings that are depicted in two different ways. The diagramsshow, for example, how five inner circles can all be depicted with six dimensions. God communicates His character, the Gospel, the doctrines of grace, and the covenant of grace to individual using the six solas of the reformation. (For more information about how the six solars correspond to the 6 elements of the covenant, see www.BiblicalGrace.com.)
The diagrams communicate how divine character guides the building of covenant communities. The revelation (1)inspires men and women to understand His transcendent purpose and mission (2). Mature believers submit to God's law and his righteousness through a hierarchical process (3). This righteousness is made known through Biblical ethics (4). Following or disregarding the ethics leads to curses or blessed outcome (5). Faithfulness leads to abundant blessings that can be used to create more churches as God's plan of succession (6). This succession plan also involves families, governments and rooms build around these institutions. (For more information about how these institutions work together while reaffirming the six elements above, see Appendix Two of this book or the free book available from www.Legacies.info.)
The covenantal institutions and rooms shown above, if faithful to the six elements summarized above, can establish the solid foundation and equip qualified leaders to address all types of social ills. As illustrated at www.BiblicalReason.com/Problems, there are nearly 40 major Spiritual, Judicial, Educational, Familial, and Commercial problems that can be addressed in the Upper Room, Court Room, Classroom, Family Room, and Board Room. Solutions are summarized at www.BiblicalReason.com/Solutions.A broader covenantal vision is summarized at www.Covenant.net/1000Points.
In this world we will have troubles, but, "Take heart! [Christ] has overcome the world." (John 16:33). Christ's message of victory begins with His revelation, transcendent purpose, hierarchy, ethics, outcome and succession plan. Each individual can participate in the divine nature summarized by the covenantal teachings. As individual believers learn to communicate covenantal elements to others, mature believes can covenant together in mature institutions where Christians encourage mutual respect for divine character qualities.
When a local church, superintended by qualified preachers and teachers, holds firmly to the covenantal elements, strong relationships are formed and Christ's work is done throughout the community. By building mature local churches, we create models that can be replicated around the world and across the generations. Then believers can unite with, "a hymn of praise to our God" because "many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him." (Psalm 40:3)
For an in-depth discussion of how God communicates His character through the elements of the covenant,
please see the following books:
|Frame, John. The Doctrine of God (A Theology of Lordship)|
|Poythress, Vern. Reading the Word of God in the Presence of God: A Handbook for Biblical Interpretation|
|Sutton, Ray. That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant|