ByCraig van Echten
August 29, 2018
Brothers and sisters,
If you were to describe what the Bible is about in one sentence, what would you say?
I think there are many who would describe the Bible as a moral code. Like a book about eating etiquette, many see the Bible as moral etiquette.
Others would describe the Bible as a book of inspiring stories. Little shepherd boy David beats mighty Goliath. How often is that referred too!
Still others describe the Bible as a self help book for successful living. Like Dr. Phil, many look to the Bible for life advice.
And there are of course many who see the Bible like a ladder to the divine. Much like the five pillars of Islam or the Eight fold path of Buddhism. They think the Bible provides the religious ticket to life eternal.
So, if you were to describe what the Bible is about in one sentence, what would you say?
You might say something like ‘God redeems sinner’s for His glory.’ You could use just four words, namely Creation, fall, redemption, consummation. The point is: the Bible does contain morality, inspiring stories, and keys to successful living, but that’s not the main story. The main story is about God and what He is doing.
This morning I want to look at the framework in which this story takes place. And so this morning we are looking at the concept of covenant. For, it is within the context of covenant that God always relates to His people. And it’s in the context of covenant that baptism is rightly understood.
The first thing we are going to notice is the one covenant of Grace.
Most of you have probably heard of the concept of covenant. Covenant is a concept we find in the wider culture. In fact, most of you here this morning will be in a covenant of some sort? Marriage is a covenant. In the workplace sometimes a contract is referred to as a covenant.
In the Bible, what is a covenant? Simply put, it’s a relationship between two parties. This relationship contains certain stipulations and promises. And it’s this concept of covenant which characterizes God’s dealings with His people.
Just quickly, there’s three main, overall covenants in the Bible. The covenant of redemption made between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit prior to creation. The covenant of works with all of humanity. In this covenant, if Adam and Eve obeyed they would have lived forever. Then there is the covenant of grace which we are looking at this morning.
From Genesis 3 until the end of the Bible, God deals with His people in the context of this covenant of grace. It is a golden thread though the whole Bible. Referred to over 100 times. Here’s a quick sampling:
The covenant begins after the fall in the form of a promise (Gen. 3:15), it is formalized in Genesis 17. When God rescues His people from Egypt, He remembers this covenant (Ex. 2:24). The coming of the law of Moses does not annum it (Gal. 3:17), but makes reference to it (Lev. 26:41). In the time of the Judges the covenant of grace made reference to (Jud. 2:1). King David sings about the covenant of grace (1Chron. 16:14). King Solomon celebrates the faithfulness of the God of the covenant (1Ki. 8:23). Through prophets like Isaiah, God exhorts His people in light of this covenant (Is. 51:1).
So, it’s no surprise to hear people singing about this covenant before Christ is born. What was Zechariah’s song about in Luke 1:72-75? What did Mary make reference to in Luke 1:50-55? It was about God making good on His covenant with Abraham. It’s no surprise that New Testament believers are called “Children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7).
So you get the gist! After the fall, the covenant of grace is the context in which God deals with His people. It is a golden thread flowing through the Bible. And this one covenant embraces the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the new covenant with all their different nuances which I don’t have time to explain.
Now after giving you lots of information. Let me warm your heart. Why is it called a covenant of grace?
Lots of unbelievers I’ve spoken to understand the word ‘grace’ to mean prayer. You say grace. In the bible grace means we get what we don’t deserve. Or God’s undeserved favour.
Adam and Eve deserved God’s wrath and condemnation. But, they got what they didn’t deserve. They received grace. God calls out “Where are you.” Was God struggling to see them behind the bushes? No. This is not a geographical question. Where are you in relation to me. He is searching for his children, lost in sin. So God takes the first step toward reconciliation. That’s grace.
Isn’t this also true of every believer? We were lost and dead in sin? We were covered with guilt and shame? And as the song goes, ‘we were on the highway to hell.’ But then by His Spirit God calls to us. And regenerates us. And says to us “Where are you.” And by His undeserved favour, God initiated a relationship with us. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
So you see, there is an underlying unity in the Bible. One big story. A story of God’s covenant of grace.
This leads us to the second thing we should notice is: the beautiful promise at the core of this one covenant. There are many promises in this covenant. One only has to think of the forgiveness of sins, the adoption to be God’s children, the blessing of peace, the freedom from condemnation, the new life of the Spirit.
But, the meat in the sandwich, the costly pearl in the oyster is communion with God.
In Genesis 17:7 God said to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” Where ever you go through Bible you will see this promise.
Prior to the Exodus (Ex. 6:7), prior to entering the promised land (Deut. 29:13), promised in the new covenant (Jer. 34), and in the N.T (Heb. 8:10).
So, you see it everywhere!“I will be their God and they will be my people.” Where ever you
see the golden thread of the covenant of grace, so also you see the golden promise of God’s fellowship.
Now have you wondered why such a promise is so precious? Not only does this promise, assume all the other blessings like reconciliation, forgiveness, justification, adoption etc. This promise is the ultimate because there is nothing better than to be God’s people.
There are many people and things that we can live for in life. Money, success, pleasure, recognition etc. But do they deliver? Let me ask you this morning, if you are not living for God right now, is what you are living for really worth it?
Singer Eric Clapton said, “I had everything a man could want, even back then. I was a millionaire, I had a beautiful women in my life, I had cars, a house, an incredible solid gold career, and a future, and yet on a daily basis I wanted to commit suicide.”
John Lenon said at one point, “As a beetle we made it and there was nothing to do. We had money, we had fame and there was no joy.”
You see, the Bible says we were made for worship. But not to worship the things of the world. As the great theologian Augustine said, ‘You have made us for yourself O Lord and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you?’ We were made for God.
What a blessing when God says, “I will be their God and they will be my people.” For it is the context of this relationship that we enjoy fullness of peace, joy and satisfaction. In the context of this relationship God is our protector, provider, and ever present help. He is our satisfaction and great reward. He has secured our eternity.
And the grand vision of heaven, is not all the goodies, but to be with God Himself. To enjoy the fullness of this relationship with Him. Revelation 21 “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. This is the ultimate!
The final thing we should notice is: Since there is one covenant, and one promise at the core, there is one Savior. Most Aussies assume Christians are saved by good deeds. If you score enough points you are in! This is indeed how most, if not all other religions work. But not Christianity. As we saw before, our salvation comes by God’s grace. And how does God accomplish our salvation from sin? Not through doing enough good to outweigh the bad. But through Christ. Every believer in the Bible is saved through Christ.
Abraham trusted in Jesus. Jn. 8:56 Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my [Jesus’] day…”
Moses trusted in Jesus. Hebrews 11:26 says, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
Jesus is called the mediator of the covenant.So all the blessings of the covenant are secured in Jesus Christ. The O.T saints, through types and shadows, looked forward to Christ. We look back to the cross of Christ.
So, if you are not a believer here this morning. The key to embracing all the promises of God’s covenant relationship is simply this: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the key to the jackpot. Put your trust in Him. That means repent of sins, turn to Jesus, and follow Him. And this is what Reuben and Faith will be encouraging Pearl to do. Having Christian parents won’t save Pearl from her sins (salvation is not hereditary). Receiving Baptism won’t save Pearl from her sins (the water is not magic). Lord willing, Pearl will embrace Christ as her Saviour and Lord.
So where does baptism fit into all of this? In the Bible God commands His people to receive the sign of belonging to the covenant. In the O.T it was circumcision. In the N.T it is baptism. Both signs point to the deeper spiritual realities of the covenant. Both are signs of receiving the promises of the covenant such as forgiveness, regeneration, union with Christ, and initiation into the visible church.
Now who is this sign given to? It is given to those who profess faith in Christ. But, we also see in the Bible the sign given to the children of believers. Both Abraham and his son Issac received the sign.
Can you see the significance of that? Children are welcomed by God into the covenant of grace and all its promises. God doesn’t regard our children as pagans. Before they even come to express faith, God says to them “I will be your God and you will be my child.” It’s as if God hands a signed cheque to our children. One day they will need to cash it. In the meantime they have the cheque. They have the privilege. Can you see how baptism highlights God’s grace? He takes the first step toward our children. Baptism is not about what we are saying to God. It’s about what God is saying to us.
So in summary. We’ve seen this one covenant of grace, with this one promise, secured by our one and only Saviour Jesus Christ.
So we give thanks this morning, to be able to witness the baptism of Pearl. God has drawn near to her in grace. Pearl’s baptism also reminds us of our own baptism and how God drew near to us in grace. And the water reminds us that in this covenant our sins have been washed away.
If you are not living in covenant with God, or if you have rejected God’s covenant promises, repent, turn to Christ, come and live in covenant with God. Come and know the blessing that God will be your God and you can be His people.