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Covenant obligations

NORM FIELDS
Minister, Church of Christ Northside

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 covenant is basically an agreement between two or more parties. By the nature of the agreement, there are certain obligations on the part of all those included in the covenant arrangement. In a marriage, two people are making a commitment to each other to uphold certain obligations on the part of both people. A rental lease includes obligations on the part of both the landlord and the tenant. Both have to agree to, and keep, their part of the agreement.

While this is the basic gist of a covenant relationship, there are different kinds of covenants. It’s important for us to understand what type of covenant we have entered into with God through our obedience to the gospel (Rom. 10:17; Acts 8:12; Acts 22:16). A parity covenant is a covenant between equal parties. Both have the same “negotiating” power as the other. Neither has greater or lesser power and authority than the other in the terms of the agreement. 

A suzerain covenant is an agreement between two kingdoms (nations) of unequal power. One of the countries has greater power and control over the terms of the agreement than does the other. This is the type of covenant that would have been between a subjugate nation and their conquerors — like Jerusalem and Rome. The obligations agreed to by the stronger of the two was for appeasement of the subjugate people, not because they had to make such agreements.

We don’t have a parity covenant with God because we are not equal with God, and we don’t have a suzerain covenant with God because we are not forced to enter or accept God’s covenant. It is like a parity agreement because we can choose whether or not to enter into God’s covenant, and it is like a suzerain covenant in that we are not equals with God and have no negotiating power in the terms of the covenant. God is the sole arbiter of the terms of the covenant. We can either accept his terms or reject them (and be lost), but we cannot change them.

As with any covenant, if we do choose to accept God’s terms then there are obligations that we are agreeing to keep. God has said that, on his part, he will bless us and provide us a hope and inheritance beyond anything we could hope to attain through any other covenant. God’s part of the covenant is contingent on us keeping our obligations to his covenant. If we fail to keep our part, then we shouldn’t expect that he will keep his part. 

However, he is always willing to allow us to correct the breach and continue in the blessings of his covenant if we will repent and seek his forgiveness for failing to keep our obligations. 

This is another great difference between his covenant and human covenants. He is merciful where men are not. He is just where men are not. He is loving and forgiving and kind where men are not. He loves us and wants to keep covenant with us, so, he is merciful to forgive when we fail. He is encouraging and generous to strengthen us when we work to keep our part of the covenant.