The Abrahamic Covenant

David M Ephraim

There is only one plan of salvation, and anyone who is saved in the kingdom of heaven will be there through the provisions of this plan. Paul speaks of God's plan as a mystery (Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7) in the sense that it cannot be fully understood by the unaided human mind, and that some phases of it were not revealed until the coming of the Saviour. The plan has been made known through divine revelation (Romans 16:25, 26), and Paul believed it was his mission to preach the wisdom of God concerning this mystery. I Corinthians 2:7, 8; Ephesians 3:3-7.

The plan of salvation was revealed progressively. Between the first promise of a Saviour and His appearance there was built up a larger and fuller picture. Prophet after prophet contributed broad views and details regarding the life and work of the coming Messiah. The earthly experience of the Saviour and the New Testament writings add immeasurably to an understanding of the plan.

The Plan Announced

On the day Adam and Eve sinned they heard the plan announced that the "seed of the woman" would ultimately destroy the power of their tempter. Genesis 3:15. This is often called the "protevangelium," the "first good news," or "first gospel." Christians have always understood it as a prediction of the coming Saviour. This was the first announcement of what came to be known as "the everlasting covenant."

The Genesis 4 story of the sacrifices of Cain and of Abel indicates that God had already given specific instruction regarding blood sacrifice, doubtless to Adam and Eve when the first animals were slain. Thus there was kept before our first parents and the descendants the constant reminder that sin leads to death, and also that there is a Saviour who would take their place if they were willing to accept Him as their substitute.

A Sacrifice and a Covenant

The firmness with which the sacrificial offerings were established as part of worship is illustrated by Noah's first act after he left the ark. Genesis 8:20. (Note the kind of animals Noah used for his sacrifice.) Genesis 8:21, 22. A little later this decision and promise were communicated to Noah (Genesis 9:8-17) as God's covenant with Noah and his descendants.

What was involved in the covenant with Noah? What promises were made by God? Were there conditions calling for response on the part of man? What time limits were placed on the covenant?

These and many other questions must be answered in order to have a clear understanding of the uses of the word.

A Covenant With Abraham

The significance of God's promise to Abraham "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," is apparent only in the light of later revelation. Several times during Abraham's life the promise was repeated and an additional explanation was given. Later Old Testament writers refer to God's covenant with Abraham, and New Testament passages give us still more understanding of its meaning.

The covenant went through several developing steps.

The first major recorded step in the revelation of God's plan beyond its announcement in Genesis 3:15 was the divine covenant with Abraham. It revealed the family line through which the promised seed would come, and that God's power would preserve the seed. The blessings of the covenant would not be enjoyed or maintained unless certain conditions were met on the part of its beneficiaries. But the conditions were actually not conditions for establishing the covenant. They were to be the responses of love, faith, and obedience. Thus covenant keeping was maintaining an established relationship rather than a condition on which the covenant was established.

This viewpoint has a definite bearing on the meaning of breaking the covenant. Covenant breaking is unfaithfulness to an established relationship. When the covenant is broken, what is broken is not the condition of bestowal but the condition of fulfillment.

Genesis 3:15 was the first announcement of the good news or the gospel of Jesus Christ; the revelation to Abraham was also a presentation of the gospel. It included righteousness by faith and blessings to those who by faith are the children of Abraham. See Galatians 3:6-9. It was another phase in the progressive revelation of the everlasting gospel, the only way a man can be saved. This covenant was an arrangement whereby men could be brought into harmony with God's will and enabled to obey Him. It was made with Abraham and his descendants not for their benefit alone, but in order that they might be agents to spread the story of salvation to all nations. It was not a covenant different from God's everlasting plan to save men, but a statement of that plan suited to God's purposes for the Hebrew nation who would be Abraham's descendants.

Though there was a ceremony by which the surety of the covenant was pledged, it was not until the blood of Christ was shed that the Abrahamic covenant was ratified and completed provision for man's salvation was made. Hebrews 9:15. The ultimate fulfillment of the promises to Abraham is the inheritance of the world by those who are righteous through faith in Christ. Romans 4:11-13. The Abrahamic covenant later became known as the "new covenant" because the blood that ratified it was shed later than the blood of animals shed at Mount Sinai to ratify the "Old covenant," and because in Christ's first advent there was anew revelation of the working of God's plan. For practical purposes it may be considered synonymous with the plan of salvation.


  Bible Studies:

    - The Bible

    - The Origin of Sin

    - Salvation

    - Heaven

    - Faith

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    - Oil of the Spirit

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    - Jesus

    - The Sabbath

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    - The Seal of God

    - The Second Coming

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    - Not Enough Room

    - God's Health Plan

Everyday Bible Studies:

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    - His Righteousness

    - Guaranteed Security