God Going the Second Mile for Us.

God has a special interest in every individual believer. It is an intense, close-up interest, which has its root on God binding Himself to the believer in a covenant bond in such a way that God stakes His own honour, yes, even His very existence on keeping the believer secure in his salvation. This is graphically illustrated for us in Genesis 15, verses 10 to 21. These are ominous verses to read, but then covenants had ominous implications for those entering into them. They were not things to be entered into lightly. The benefit of grasping this is crucial to our understanding of covenant relationship, which in turn is crucial to our ongoing joy in our salvation.

In order for us to understand this passage, we must understand the background. In Abraham’s day, when something of immense consequence was to be agreed between two parties, they would enter into a covenant agreement. The procedure involved the killing of  a small number of animals and cutting them into pieces. The pieces of each animal were then divided into two mixed heaps with a space between the heaps sufficient for two people to pass through. The two parties then stood, one at each end of the passage between the pieces. At the crucial moment of  confirmation of the agreement, the two parties walked between the pieces, each from one end of the passage to the other. Each was saying, “If I break this agreement, then let me be cut in pieces like these slain animals”. The one that broke the agreement could rightly and lawfully be cut in pieces by the other.

When we look at the passage in Genesis 15, we see something astonishing beyond all imagination. God appears as a “smoking furnace and a burning lamp”, and He, and He only, passes between the pieces. Abraham does not pass between the pieces. What is God doing here, He is saying, your salvation depends entirely on Me. If I fail to keep my promise to you, then let me be as these cut-up animals. How secure is the christian in his salvation? So secure that if one was saved and then lost, the very Godhead would fall. This would mean that the the universe, presently upheld moment by moment by God,  would crumble. It simply cannot happen.

Why did God not require Abraham to pass between the pieces? because God knew what was in fallen man, even in faithful Abraham. He knew that it was impossible for fallen man, even when saved, to walk in perfect obedience, and so keep ‘his side’ of a two-sided covenant. God in His abundant mercy did not enter into that kind of covenant with Abraham,  nor does He with us, because that covenant would not last a moment. The wisdom, goodness and grace of God shines forth here in a way that causes us to fall on our faces before God in love, adoration and worship

This leaves us with a very important question: how do the promises made to Abraham connect with sinners in the present age, making them RightWithGod, and keeping them RightWithGod? We will begin to deal with this  very important question next week.






Covenant Relationship.

The bible has much to say about covenant and covenants, but it can all seem very complicated, and something  we might be tempted to pass over. If we just try to ignore the whole matter, we will never completely understand the christian life, and especially our relationship to God. My desire is to explain covenant relationship in the simplest possible way.

When we become christians, and get RightWithGod, we enter into a relationship of friendship with God. Where there was enmity, there is now friendship, and this is surpassingly wonderful. But this friendship is more than ordinary friendship: we enter into a covenant friendship with God. What is the difference? The difference is that in the covenant, God binds Himself to us  in such a way that He stakes His own honour on keeping us secure in Christ for the rest of our lives, and to continue and finish His work in us in order that we will be fully prepared for our home in heaven at the end of our lives. Our salvation and sanctification are not dependent on ourselves, they depend on the omnipotent power and unchangableness of God. It means that our failures, and they are many, will not ever, ever, ever destroy our relationship with God. We change, and are often undependable, but God changes not. Of course covenant relationship also involves our obedience, and we shall look at that at a later date, but what we must grasp first of all is the fundamental thing about covenant relationship: that God has, of His own free will, brought this relationship into being the moment we were united to Christ, and it is an indissoluble relationship. It will endure forever.

We read something of the indestructibleness of this covenant relationship in Isaiah chapter 54, verse 10: “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord who has mercy on you.”

Some say that God’s covenant is the same as God’s promise. This is not so. Yes, God has made a promise to the sinner to save him and to keep him the moment he receives Christ, and God will never break His promise. In binding Himself to us in covenant relationship, God goes further. It is as if He goes the second mile to assure the believer. This is made clear in Hebrews chapter 6, verses 17 and 18: “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise, the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: so that by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” This hope, of course is centred on Christ, who is now at the right hand of God, verses19 and 20: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil ( that is, in heaven). Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus made a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec”.

Covenant relationship is of the essence of being RightWithGod, and hence of the essence of a rich and happy christian life.



The Bible as the Word of Christ.

Last week we discussed the importance of the bible in the life of the christian. This is such an important topic that we must say a lot more about it.

It is like this. If we do not get this clear in our minds, and allow some space for the possibility that the bible is not God’s final revelation of His will to His church, but that He still gives special revelations of His will to some people, then the very foundations of our faith become unstable, uncertainty creeps in, and our faith is easily thrown into confusion. We do not have that anchor which is essential for an enjoyable christian life, that is, that God has given us a final and complete revelation of Himself, His will and His purpose in written form, and that that is all that we need in order to know the way of salvation, and to live a happy and enjoyable christian life, RightWithGod.

It is best for us if we settle our view on this one way or another as soon as possible, once and for all. The quality of our christian life depends on it, and our enjoyment of our christian lives depends on it. Settle it now. Know exactly where you stand in relation to the bible as God’s final revelation to His church. Finalise now where you stand on this all-important question, and my earnest prayer for you is that you will embrace the bible as God’s final revelation to His church, and you will soon learn how to navigate this life, and keep yourself RightWithGod. There is no greater joy possible in this life than that.

Now, we refer to the bible as ‘The Word of God’, what do we mean? We know that God is one and indivisible, and yet, at the same time,  He is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is triune, that is, three and one at the same time. We can never fathom this mystery of the three-in-one, no one ever has, but the fact of  plurality in God is clear from the beginning of the bible: in Genesis 1: 26 we read, “And God said let us make man in our own image.” The question we face in reference to the bible is, Which of the three persons in this Trinity is the author of scripture? The answer lies in the very important principle, that none of the persons of the Trinity ever acts independently from the others. This applies especially to the authorship of the bible. All three persons are involved to give us one complete word of God. This has the very important effect for us, that we can say that we can receive the bible as the word of Christ, who, as well as being man, is also God the Son, the Second Person in the Trinity, who took human nature into permanent and irreversible union with Himself. Because of this, He was able to suffer the penalty of sin in our place, and has now ascended to heaven where He especially is able to represent us and where He makes continual intercession for us. Thus the realisation that the bible is the word of Christ brings us emotionally much closer to it.