“Second, do you acknowledge God’s covenant promises, which have been signified and sealed to you in your baptism?”
God made a covenant
The Bible tells us from beginning to end that God has a personal relationship with people. This relationship is called covenant. God took the initiative to make this covenant, but he expects it to be a two-way street: he loves us and we love him; he blessed us and we worship him; he is our faithful God and we are his loyal people.
God’s covenant with us is a covenant of grace. When Adam and Eve fell in sin, they broke the relationship with God in a terrible way. We all became enemies. Only because of his grace, his forgiving and loving attitude toward his enemies, can we still have a good relationship with him.
(The relationship of God with Adam and Eve before the fall may also be called “covenant”. Theologians often call it a “covenant of works”. But even before they sinned, their relationship with God was pure based on his goodness and his initiative.)
In the history of the Old Testament, the covenant of grace develops:
- After their fall into sin, God let Adam and Eve live and promised a Saviour. (Gen 3:15)
- After the Flood, God promised to Noah that he would protect people. (Gen 9)
- God made a covenant with Abraham: Abraham’s and his family were to be God’s special people. (Gen 12, Gen 15, Gen 17)
- This covenant was renewed with the Israelites on Mount Sinai, when God proclaimed his law. The life of the Israelites in the Promised Land was a picture of what all the covenant means.
In the New Testament, the covenant of grace reaches it fullness when Jesus came. At the Last Supper, the Lord said to his disciples: This is the new covenant in my blood.
When Jesus said this, he hinted at the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-34. According to that prophecy, what are some important aspects of that covenant?
The new covenant based on Jesus’ blood is richer than the old covenant ever was.
|old covenant||new covenant|
|with Abraham’s family (Israelites)||with all believers and their children|
|a law written on stone||a law written in our hearts|
|the Promised Land, a picture of God’s Kingdom||the Kingdom of God itself|
|the Saviour promised||the Saviour has come|
Covenant promises and baptism
The Form for Public Profession of Faith speaks of God’s “covenant promises”. Indeed, God’s promises are at the heart of the covenant. Because God has promised to save us, and he is perfectly faithful, we can trust that we are indeed safe.
A good summary of the covenant promise is: I will be your God and you will be my people.
When a person is baptized, he or she receives a personal token of God’s promises. We baptize children of believers because we believe that they belong to God’s covenant. If you were baptized as a child, you have been in a relationship with God that is full of wonderful promises to you.
Read the traditional Form for Baptism of Infants, especially the part explaining what it means to be “baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. Summarize what each of the three divine Persons promised to you.
God’s covenant is a two-way street. When he makes his promises to us, he also expects us to live the life that belongs to these promises. The Lord himself paved the way for this: in the name of Jesus he forgives all our sins; and by the Holy Spirit he gives us the wisdom and power to live a holy life for him.
Some people misunderstand this. They don’t take their active role in the covenant seriously. They don’t want to fulfill any covenant obligations. They don’t want to devote their lives to God. It is a terrible mistake to think that God will save them no matter what. It is wrongheaded to think that just being “in the covenant” will save you and bring you into heaven.
You should realize that God makes living promises to us, not plain predictions. The difference is that true predictions must happen, no matter what; but a promise does not have to be kept if the other person show no interest at all. If you keep God at an arms’ length, ignore what he says to you, and keep sinning carelessly, then you should not expect to get anything from him. The Bible calls such an attitude “breaking the covenant”. It is a terrible sin!
God’s covenant faithfulness
The Bible assures us, over and over, that God is faithful to his covenant. He does what he says. He is faithful in spite of our sin. In 2 Timothy 2:11-13, the Bible assures us:
As we discussed before, it is dangerous and foolish to be deliberately unfaithful to God. He must be taken seriously. But if we are serious about serving him, not even our worst sins can stand in the way of God’s covenant promises.
- Baptism is called a sign and a seal of the covenant promises. What do these two words mean?
- Can you think of a person in the Bible who was a careless covenant breaker?
- The From for the Public Profession of Faith asks if you “acknowledge God’s covenant promises”. How do you acknowledge these promises in your every-day living?
Memorize: Heidelberg Catechism q&a 74.
Journal item: Celebrate God’s promises! Write down between 5 and 10 promises that God has made to you—based on the Bible, and in your own words. “God has promised me that …”