Text: Galatians 3:15-25
THREE COVENANTS BETWEEN GOD AND MAN
“A covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.” [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 515]
- “Agreement”: Two parties are represented, God and man.
- “Divinely imposed”: Man can never negotiate with God or change the terms of the covenant. He can only accept or reject the terms of the covenant. Probably for this reason, the NT authors do not use the ordinary Greek word for contracts or agreements in which both parties were equal (syntheke), but rather chose a less common word, diatheke, which emphasizes that the provisions of the covenant were laid down by one of the parties only. (In fact, the word diatheke was often used to refer to a “testament” or “will” that a person would leave to assign the distribution of his or her goods after death.)
- “Unchangeable”: The covenants between God and man may be superseded or replaced by a different covenant, but they may not be changed once they are established.
In this passage, we see three of God’s covenants with man:
- The Abrahamic Covenant: This covenant was a covenant of promise. (1) It would bring blessing to all nations through Abraham (Genesis 12:3). (2) It was dependent on God alone (Genesis 15:12, 17-18). (3) It would be fulfilled by Abraham’s ultimate Offspring (v. 16; Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7). The promise was believed by Abraham, resulting in his justification (Genesis 15:6).
- The Mosaic/Old Covenant: This covenant was a covenant of law. (1) It did not change the Abrahamic Covenant (v. 17). (2) It was inferior to the Abrahamic Covenant because it was temporary (vv. 19b; 24-25) and given through a mediator (v. 19c). (3) It showed man his sinfulness (v. 19a). (4) It showed man his need of a Savi0r (v. 21). The law was broken by man, resulting in his condemnation (v. 22a).
- The New Covenant: This covenant is a covenant of grace. (1) It is based on the cross of Christ (Matthew 26:28). (2) It promises eternal life with God (Revelation 21:3). (3) It fulfills the promise of blessing for all nations (Revelation 7:9). God in His grace invites us to put our faith in Christ, resulting in our justification (v. 22b).
OLD VS. NEW
The Old and New Covenants give us very different perspectives on life:
- The Old Covenant showed us that, on our own, we are hopeless.
- The New Covenant shows us that, through faith in Christ, there is hope!