A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 

 

 

God's Covenants

While time and space will not permit us to go into an exhaustive study of all of God's covenants, we will briefly look at 4 of the covenants.

The student of the scriptures soon comes to the realization that God is a covenant making and covenant keeping God. God makes two types of covenants. There are the conditional two sided covenants in which God makes promises that are based on man's obedience to the terms of the covenant. Then there are the unconditional one sided covenants in which God fulfills all the terms and actions to the benefit of those embraced by the covenant.

The first covenant we read about in the scriptures is the "covenant of the law of sin and death." This covenant was set forth in Gen. 2:16, 17 as follows: "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." In this covenant God promised freedom to man to eat of all the trees of the garden but one.  As long as man did not eat of the forbidden tree he had the benefits and privileges and provisions of the garden. If, however, he ate of the forbidden tree he would die. Adam as the federal head of all mankind was free to either eat of the tree or not eat of it with attendant consequences. This was a two sided conditional covenant.

The second covenant we read about is found in Gen. 9:9 17. In this covenant God said that "I establish my covenant with you and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you...neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth."  This is a one sided covenant. All the provisions and terms of the covenant are accomplished by God. Neither man or any of the creatures are responsible to carry out any of the provisions of the covenant.  This covenant is unconditional on man's or the creature's part. This is an unconditional one sided covenant. Man's actions could in no way alter the outcome of this covenant.

The third covenant we consider is found in Exodus chapter 20 and is known as the "covenant of works" or the "covenant of the law." In Ex. 20:5, 6 we read, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." In verse 8 we read, "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." In this covenant God gave the people the ten commandments to keep. This was a two sided conditional covenant. The conditions on the people were that they would obey the commandments of God and enjoy the benefits of the covenant or they would not obey the commandments of God and suffer the curse of the covenant. The consequences and provisions of this covenant were dependant on the actions of the children of Israel. It was obey and be blessed or disobey and be cursed.

The fourth covenant we will consider is found in Rom. 8:28 30, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."

Please note that this is a one sided unconditional covenant. All the actions in this covenant are to be performed by God. Man is the recipient of all the benefits of this covenant but his actions in no way alter the outcome of this covenant. This covenant is known as the "covenant of redemption" or the "covenant of grace" as the covenant results in the "redemption" of God's people and it is all by the "grace" of God.

There are five actions in this covenant foreknow, predestinate, call, justify, and glorify. In each of these actions it is God who does the action. Those foreknown are the recipients of the benefits of the covenant. Man's actions do not alter the outcome of this covenant for the same ones foreknown are also predestinated, called, justified and glorified, without the loss of one. Again this is a one sided unconditional covenant.

Also see the series on the "covenant of redemption."


Elect on What Basis?

In this essay we will consider on what basis God foreknew or chose a people to be his covenant people.

One idea is that God looked down through the annals of time and saw who would do good or who would accept him or seek after him and thus chose them on that basis. God did indeed look down from heaven, but what he saw is recorded for us in Ps. 14:2, 3 and Ps. 53:2, 3 as follows: "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Ps. 14:2, 3) The fact is that because of the total depravity of man there is none that had the capability of doing good or of seeking after God until God imparts a new spiritual nature within in the new birth. Thus we see that of all mankind there was none that understood, or that sought after God or that did good. Thus God's choice of a people could not be on the basis of their understanding and seeking God or of their doing something good.

Furthermore, that God's choice of a people is not of works is further illustrated for us in Rom. 9:9 13, "For this is the word of promise, At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Based on this passage we make the following observations:

1. God's choice of Jacob over Esau was according to God's purpose of election.
2. God's election is not based on works, either good or evil.
3. God's choice was made before the children were capable of doing any works.

Again in Rom. 11:5, 6 we are told that God's choosing of a people is not based on works as follows: "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." Thus we are told that God's choice of a people is by grace and not works. Furthermore, we see the impossibility of mixing grace and work in this choice. It is not part grace and part work. It is either all grace or all works and he tells us plainly that it is all grace.

Now grace is defined as the "unmerited favor of God." Thus those chosen have done nothing to merit God's choosing them!

Finally we are told in Rom. 9:14 16 that God's choice of a people is not based on man's will (choice) or man's efforts: "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."

From this passage we draw the following conclusions:
1. God's choice of a people manifests God's sovereignty.
2. God's choice of a people is pure and simply mercy and compassion toward them.
3. God's choice of a people is not based on their will or choice.
4. God's choice of a people is not based on their efforts (running).
5. It is not unrighteous for God to make a choice based on his sovereign will.

In conclusion, God's choice of a people is by grace (unmerited favor) alone. God was under no obligation to choose any one, but he did and we should be extremely thankful that he did.

Next we will look at how the elect were given to Christ and when and for what purpose they were given to Christ.

Elder Vernon Johnson


Elect Given to Christ

In this essay we will look at how the elect were given to Christ and when and for what purpose they were given to Christ.

First that the Father gave the elect to his Son is evidenced by the following verses of scripture:

A. Matt. 1:21 "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
B. John 6:37 39 "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."
C. John 10:28, 29 "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
D. John 17:1, 2 "...Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him."
E. Heb. 2:13 "And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me." These verses of scripture are sufficient to prove that the Father gave to the Son a people.

Now let us look to when this gift was made. In Eph. 1:4 we read, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."  This verse teaches us that God made choice of a people to be his before the foundation of the world and gave them to Christ in covenant at that time. These then are the ones that God foreknew in Rom. 8:29.

Next, let us consider for what purposes were the elect given to Christ in covenant before the world began. In looking back at the scriptures we have already quoted we can make the following observations:

A. The elect were given to Christ that "he may save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21)
B. The elect were given to Christ by the Father that they all will come to him. (John 6:37)
C. The elect were given to Christ by the Father that none of them be "cast out." (John 6:37)
D. The elect were given to Christ by the Father that none of them be lost. (John 6:39)
E. The elect were given to Christ by the Father that they all be raised up again at the last day. (John 6:39)
F. The elect were given to Christ by the Father that they all be preserved in Christ Jesus. (John 10:29)
G. The elect were given to Christ by the Father that he give eternal life to all the elect. (John 17:2)
H. The elect were given to Christ by the Father that all the elect should be holy and without blame before God in love. (Eph. 1:4). In addition, the elect were given to Christ by the Father that:

I. The elect be adopted into the family of God. (Eph. 1:5)
J. The elect be made accepted by God in Christ. (Eph. 1:6)
K. The elect have redemption through the blood of Christ, the
forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God's grace. (Eph. 1:7)
L. The elect obtain an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. (Eph. 1:11)
M. The elect should be created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)

In all of the above we see where the Father gave the elect to Christ in covenant for the work that Christ would do on their behalf and thus procure all the blessings reserved for them in the covenant of redemption.

In our next essay we will consider the Lamb's book of life as it relates to the elect.


Lamb's Book of Life

We read of a time in the 10th chapter of Luke when the Lord sent out seventy disciples beside the twelve apostles to teach and preach in the cities of Judea. When they returned they were rejoicing because the devils were subject unto them through the Lord's name. Among the things the Lord told them after their return was, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." Among the lessons this teaches us are:

A. There are those whose names are written in heaven.
B. To have ones name written in heaven is a cause of great rejoicing.

Next, we may ask ourselves when were those names written in heaven?
The answer to this question is found in Rev. 13:8 and Rev. 17:8 as follows:

A. Rev. 13:8 "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
B. Rev. 17:8 "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not;...and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world..."

Thus we may conclude that there are those whose names were not written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world, which in turn, infers there are those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world. Since the Lord (Lamb of God) in covenant stood slain from the foundation of the world, then those who were chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4) had their names in covenant written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world.

Furthermore, we now consider some of the blessings that are specifically tied to the Lamb's book of life:

A. Luke 10:20 teaches us it is a cause to rejoice.
B. Since the Lamb of God taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29), then having ones name written in the Lamb's book of life is tantamount to having ones sins taken away.
C. According to Rev. 20:15 having ones name written in the Lamb's book of life exempts one from being cast into the lake of fire ("And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire").
D. According to Rev. 21:27 having ones name written in the Lamb's book of life enables one to enter into the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God.
E. We read in Heb. 9:15 17, "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." The Lamb's book of life is the Lord's testament. The Lord is both the testator and the mediator. Those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life are the heirs. When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross as the "Lamb of God" then the testament came of force and those whose names were written therein became the legal heirs of the testator (Jesus Christ). Just as a person on earth may leave a "last will and testament" once that person dies his testament comes of force. It should be remembered names cannot be written into a testament AFTER it comes in force. In addition, once the testament is in force names cannot be stricken from the testament. All whose names are there at the time the testament comes in force are the legal heirs and that inheritance becomes sure to them.

Certainly the above are powerful blessings to having ones name written in the Lamb's book of life. How can you or I be assured that our names are written therein? Paul wrote in Phil. 4:3, "And I entreat thee also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life." Now was Paul given an opportunity to look into the Lamb's book of life and see that those he mentioned were written in the book? Of course not! Paul knew their names were written therein because of the evidence. He could see by the evidences of their labors that they were children of God and therefore had their names written in heaven. When God grants us to see the evidence in our own labors that we are children of God then we can have the same assurance and confidence that our names are written in heaven.

Finally, those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life are the same ones whom God foreknew in the covenant of redemption because the ones he foreknew are the ones that are ultimately the heirs of glory. Next, we will consider God's elect in light of the bible teaching of the "seed of Abraham."

Primitive Baptist