By Tim Lee
Guest writer with endtimepilgrim.org
Art used by permission of
Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
Visit her 'Revelation Illustrated'website.
SALVATION IS MORE THAN JUST A PURCHASE AGREEMENT.
IT IS A TWO WAY COVENANT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
The Hidden Beauty of Salvation
A few years ago I saw an old school desk in the trash at our apartment complex. The desk was the kind with a swivel seat attached to a desktop, which could be raised to store books in. The desk was in good shape except it was completely pea green. My oldest son was starting school and needed a good desk for homework. In my mind I saw a little bit of sanding, some varnish, and a little black paint then desk would be as good as new, so I gathered it from the trash to start my restoration project. It didnít work that way! After several weeks of scraping away old paint and sanding I finally got to the original wood and was able to restore the desk to its original beauty.
The over the years the same thing has happened to the beauty of salvation in much of the Western Church. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was about seven. After that I grew up in the context of a Southern Baptist Church. My understanding of Salvation has been that of a transaction. A repentant person says a prayer asking Christ to be his Savior and God gives that person Salvation, and Eternal Life, deal closed and done. Maybe you have been taught to see salvation similarly. There is some truth about salvation in that concept, but like that old desk there is much more to it that has been covered up through time until much of the beauty of it is lost. Our spiritual guide and teacher, the Holy Spirit, has been revealing to me that there is much more to salvation than the simple transaction of say a prayer and you are saved.
The hidden beauty of Salvation is that it is an invitation to and an ongoing relationship with the Creator of the universe. In the churches I was in, I heard all the time "you must have a personal relationship with Jesus," but that was as deep as it went. To be more specific in revealing the beauty of Salvation, it is a covenant relationship. This is almost a foreign word to some of us today in Western Civilization Christianity. However this was the religious context in which the writers of the Old and NEW Testament grew up in. The idea of the covenant relationship with God was so common that the writers of the New Testament did not spend a lot of time developing it for their readers.
Before briefly explaining covenant to those who it may be a foreign concept, let me say that we must keep in mind that the basis or reason for God establishing this covenant relationship with us throughout His revelation to us is His great love for us. If we lose sight of that then the covenant relationship becomes, in either setting of the Old or New Testament just a system of earning Godís favor.
There are a couple of man-made covenants, the wedding covenant, and the Suzerain (King) / Vassal (subject) covenant that are similar to the covenant relationship that God establishes with us. For the sake of time I intend to show the basic elements of the covenant established by God and only compare it with these man-made covenants when it will help in understanding.
First of all the covenant relationship is Godís deal. You may not like the idea of covenant, especially in the individualistic, self-realizing Western civilization, but you donít have say in the matter. Here our first comparison comes into play. In the Suzerain/Vassal covenant the Suzerain sets up the covenant because he has all the cards so to speak. The vassal just agrees to abide by the terms. In our record (the Bible) of covenant relationship with God you never see man setting up the arrangements. It is always only on Godís terms that we enter into a relationship with Him. Another way of looking at it is as the invitation to wed. Traditionally, the groom has given the invitation to the bride to enter into this relationship with him, not the other way around. We are invited to become the bride of Christ.
Second, there are consequences for ones response to this covenant relationship. If one is obedient and faithful, then there are blessings and life. If one is disobedient then there are curses and death. These consequences affect life now and in the future. If now we cooperate with God by being obedient to His will we enjoy His blessings, which among other things is an ever deepening and more loving relationship with Him. If now we do not cooperate with God and in disobedience seek our own self-satisfaction we experience the curses or the chastisement of God to bring us back into a right relationship with Him. If we repent, we remain in this covenant relationship we and inherit eternal life. If however we, by our disobedience forsake Him and do not remain in this covenant relationship then we forfeit our inheritance of eternal life. This is the particular aspect of the relationship that you are in now if you have accepted Christ as you Savior. We are the betrothed bride waiting for our Lord (the bridegroom) to return. We are not the wife yet. That happens at the marriage supper of the Lamb provided we remain faithful and do not forsake our beloved Lord. Similar to the wedding covenant, who is going to marry a fiancee that has forsaken her husband to be?
One other comment then the Biblical proofs to back up what I have been saying. Some have made a lot of effort to show different classifications of covenants in the Bible. They have identified several different covenants in the Old Testament ending up with us being now in a Covenant of Grace. On the surface that sounds great, however the covenant relationship has always been a Covenant of Grace. God has, from the very first fall into sin graciously provided a way for man to continue in relationship with Him. It is true that God said that He was going to make a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Yet if you read the scriptures, you will see that the difference in the new one and the old one is were the law will be. In the new covenant established through Jesus Christ, God puts His law in the hearts of believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is no cancellation of the blessings or curses that are shown throughout the Bible in relation to the Godís covenant relationship with us.
Biblical Proofs that the Hidden Beauty of Salvation is a Covenant Relationship
The word 'covenant' shows up in 269 verses and in 35 of the 66 books of our Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Specific New Testament references of our Salvation as a Covenant Relationship
Jesus said, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:28 NIV also see Mark 14:24, and Luke 22:20
Paul said, "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant --not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Corinthians 3:6 NIV
The author of Hebrews said, "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant." Hebrews 7:22 NIV
Examples of the elements (a call to faithfulness, blessings, and cursings) of the Covenant Relationship seen in the New Testament
John 15:1-8, Romans 2:6-8, Romans 8:12-13, Romans 11:22, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, 1 Corinthians 15:2, Galations 6:7-10, 2 Timothy 2:11-13, Hebrews 6:1-12, Hebrews 10:19-31, Hebrews 12:25-29
In your readings of the New Testament check and see if you donít run across these elements of the covenant relationship:
1. A call to faithfulness.
2. Blessings for faithfulness in our relationship with the Lord, ultimately blessed with eternal life.
3. Curses for unfaithfulness in our relationship with the Lord, ultimately cursed with destruction.
Brothers and sisters, since we are in this beautiful covenant relationship our Lord we need to be ever anxious to spur on one another to faithfulness and quickly seek to restore those who fall into sin.
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