Archive for the 'covenant' Category


God’s Wonderful Unilateral Covenant


     A premise underlying Mormonism is that all covenants are bi-lateral, namely, that both parties have to meet the conditions of the covenant.  But that’s not true.  The greatest covenant of all, the new covenant God has established, is unilateral.  This is something that the book of Hebrews brings out wonderfully in chapters 8-10.

     The writer of Hebrews begins by talking about the old covenant.  What is striking is how he describes its defect.  “For if the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.  For finding fault with them. . .” (Hebrews 10:7-8)  Notice the “them”.  God didn’t find fault with the covenant, but with the people.  The problem was that they didn’t keep the covenant.

     He then proceeds to describe the new covenant by quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34.  What is so striking is that the entire description of the new covenant deals with what God will do.  There are no conditions, no ifs.  It’s all about God’s activity.  It is a unilateral covenant.

     This was something that God had already emphasized to Abraham hundreds of years before.  Genesis 15 records what, to us, is quite a strange scene.  But it wasn’t strange to Abraham.  The Hebrew idiom for “making a covenant” is literally to cut a covenant.  That phrase reflected the custom of the day.  When a covenant was agreed upon, an animal was killed, cut in two and the two parties passed through it.  That was equivalent to our going to a notary public.  But in Genesis 15, only God, symbolized by the burning lamp, passed through.  In this striking way, God emphasized to Abraham the unilateral nature of the covenant.

     The writer to the Hebrews also emphasizes this unilateral nature.  He does that especially in 9: 15-17 where he compares the new covenant to a person’s last will and testament.  (In the Greek, the same word is translated first as covenant and then as testament.)  A last will and testament is primarily a unilateral covenant.  Sometimes people don’t even learn that they are in a person’s will until it is put into effect.

     God’s covenant of the gospel is wonderfully one-sided.  The writer to the Hebrews ends his discussion about it by returning to the quote from Jeremiah.  “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord.  I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  Now were remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”  (Hebrews 10:16-18)  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Nothing but pure grace.


June 2023

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