Lesson 4: A Humanitarian by Making a Wonderful Covenant
Study Guide Pages 27-33
Signing a contract is often a significant event in a person’s life. Think of a sports star inking a new contract. Or a couple signing the papers to close on a house.
In most cases, two parties sign a contract. In the case of the sports star, not only the star but also the owner’s representative sign. With the couple buying a house, the previous owners sign along with the new owners. These contracts are based on the premise of “if, then.” If one party does something, then the other party will act.
Such contracts are called bilateral. Rare are unilateral contacts where only one party signs and acts regardless of what the other party does. The most common example are wills. In most wills, there are no ifs. The heirs inherit no matter what they do.
Therefore it’s extremely exciting that the most important contract of all, God’s plan of salvation, is unilateral. The Bible doesn’t use the word contract. Instead, it talks about covenants, a word which usually describes especially important contracts. As I said, it is beyond exhilarating that when we hear God talking about eternal life, he speaks in terms of a unilateral covenant. He is the one who does all the work to put it into effect.
God made this point in a vivid way with Abraham in the Old Testament. Today, most contacts are put into effect when they are notarized by a notary public. Then, and only then, are they official. In the Old Testament, they had a striking ceremony which served a similar purpose. The two parties would cut various animals in half, lay the halves in two rows, and then both parties would walk between the rows. This put the covenant into effect. Interestingly, the Hebrew term used to make a covenant literally means “to cut a covenant.”
In a marvelous vision, God gave Abraham, he used the picture of this ceremony to teach Abraham that his covenant of eternal life was unilateral. For God was the only one who walked through the two rows! Abraham was an observer – and a recipient – a recipient who didn’t have to do anything!
God has enacted this same unilateral covenant with you. He offers you eternal life as a gift. He can do this because Jesus died in your place to pay for all your sins. Jesus kept all the commandments perfectly and gives you all the credit.
Key Bible Verses
God made a blood covenant with Abraham to show him what he would do for him.
And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
Jesus’ death on the cross was another way God made a one-sided covenant. Through this covenant also cut with blood, we receive all the promises of God in Jesus Christ.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Questions to Consider
- Think about the last time you made a covenant or signed a contract. What stipulations were in place for you and the other party? What were the consequences for breach of contract?
- What is the principal difference between a bilateral and a unilateral covenant?
- Why is it comforting to know that the covenant that God made with us is one-sided? What prompted God to make this unilateral (one-sided) covenant with Abram?
- What was God teaching Abram as he made his way alone through the bloody animal pieces?
- How does God’s relationship with Abram and the covenant he made with him help us better understand God’s relationship with us now?
- How does the fact that eternal life is a gift from God change the way we view and live life in the here and now?
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