The Covenant Love of God
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:33–39)
Unmerited Covenant Keeping Love
Often people will state that the God of the Old Testament is quite different from the God of the New Testament, and they either are implying that there are two different Gods in the Bible, or they are trying to say that God has somehow changed His character over time. Neither approach is correct. In fact, the idea is that God is somehow more loving in the New Testament than He is in the Old Testament. In this lesson we shall see that God’s covenant love in the Old Testament is the foundation of our Christian confidence in the New Testament testimonies of God’s faithful love to His people.
“The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8)
Why did God love Israel and keep covenant with them? Simply because He loved them. Israel had no redeeming features about them. They were the smallest of all nations. They were also consistently rebellious and disobedient. The only thing that prompted the love of God toward them was the fact that He chose to love them, and that He had chosen Abraham and made a perpetual covenant with him. As we read Ezekiel chapter sixteen we find that the LORD took Israel as though she were an abandoned infant, rescued her, cleaned her up, clothed her, fed her, and then married her when she was grown. In short, God entered into a covenant with Israel though Israel did not deserve it. God’s love, even in the Old Testament, is an unmerited, committed, covenant love.
The love of the LORD to Israel is seen as a forgiving and heart changing love. Israel did not keep covenant with God, though they promised that they would (See Exodus 24:7;Hosea 6:7). Again, a reading of Ezekiel chapter sixteen demonstrates this truth. Despite this, God told Israel that He would change their hearts so that they would obey. “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6) Again we read, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27) Later we see Jesus speaking to Nicodemus about being born again of water and of the Spirit (John 3:1-9), and we can see that He was alluding to this passage, in which God promises to change hearts so that we might obey Him.
When God makes a covenant, He is true to His word, faithful to His promises, and always lives up to what He says He will do. Thus it is that, when Balak would try to get Balaam to curse Israel, Balaam was led of the LORD to say, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) God keeps covenant. Not only so, but we also read Samuel’s words of assurance to fearful Israel, when they realized they had sinned: “For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.” (1 Samuel 12:22) Israel had sinned and failed to keep covenant with God, yet He promised that He would keep covenant with them!
We can continue on in the Old Testament and read how that God promised idolatrous, erring Israel that He would indeed send Babylon against them to destroy the city and humble the nation, yet He would continue to keep covenant with them. “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) This covenant love is illustrated in Hosea’s covenant keeping love to Gomer (Hosea chapters 1-3), and highlighted by the LORD’s declaration, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4) Although Israel treated God as an unfaithful wife mistreats her husband, yet He chose to love them, forgive them, and continue to keep His promises!
When Jeremiah wept over the desolations of Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple and the city, he could take heart in the fact that the LORD is a covenant keeper. Knowing the promises of God to Israel throughout all generations, Jeremiah stated, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21–23) Again, Malachi speaks for God, saying, “I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) God’s love is an unmerited, faithful, covenant keeping love to those who are His.
God’s Covenant Love As Seen in The New Testament
“He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;” (Luke 1:54) “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:68–75)
The New Testament presents the same covenant keeping God to us that the Old Testament does. Our text above shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Israel. Furthermore Paul tells us, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) Jesus’ work was to fulfill the promises of God to Israel.
God’s covenant promises were not to Israel only, however, because He had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed in him (Genesis 12:1-3). Thus we read of Simeon saying, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29–32) Jesus came to bring the blessings of Abraham to the Gentiles also. Paul told the Romans, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:8–13) Gentiles are included in Christ’s covenant, and I’m taking the time to wrtie this because I’ve lately read a couple of people who have stated things to the effect that the New Covenant is a future covenant that pertains only to Israel; and another stated that he felt sorry for anyone who thinks that they are part of a blood covenant with God. Jesus, however, when establishing the Lord’s Supper “took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27–28) This covenant love is shed for many for the remission of sins.
We continue and see that it is through Christ’s blood that our sins are forgiven. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7) “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” (Colossians 1:13–14) “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:22–28) “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” (Revelation 1:4–5) Through Christ God is a covenant keeping God, establishing His New Covenant through the blood of the cross of Christ.
These things fulfill the promise of God to make a new covenant with Israel: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:31–37) Jesus stated that this covenant comes through His blood, so that our sins can be forgiven (Matthew 26:28). Paul stated to the Hebrews that this covenant that God makes through Christ is the fulfillment of this promise (Hebrews 8:7-12). It is to be noted that this covenant is not peculiar to Israel, but is to all who are in Christ; because the promise is that “they shall all know me.” (Jeremiah 31:34;Hebrews 8:11).
The important thing about this covenant is the duration of it. God promises, saying, “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:35–37) This is a promise that God will keep covenant with all who are in covenant with Him. He will not turn away from those who are His! It is with this in mind that we then can begin to see the glories of the eternal security that the believer has in Christ.
Paul told the Romans that our security rests in the fact that Jesus died, arose, ascended to the Father, and makes intercession for us (Romans 8:33-34). He then proceeds to explain that there is not a single thing in all of creation, ourselves included, that can separate us from this covenant keeping love of God that is in Christ. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39) I realize that there are those who say that a person can lose his salvation, but this teaches us something that is very different from that. It explains that God keeps covenant with us, and that His unmerited love is a love that never ceases to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:5-2:2), sanctify us (Ephesians 5:25-33), and will ultimately present us before Him holy and without blame in love (Ephesians 1:3-7).
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)