The Wonder of “Persons” and “the Covenant”
Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,
“Persons” are like snowflakes: every one of them is unique!
That was one of the amazing things your mother and I discovered after each of you were born. Because you were born first, Junia, you were able to fix yourself in our minds as the exact image of what a baby is supposed to be.
What a remarkable surprise awaited us when you came along, Charysse! Of course there were many things about you that were just like your sister, but you were also remarkably different from Junia.
Then you came along, DeAnn, and finally you, Greg. Similarities in all of you, yes, indeed! But differences that made you so unique that we were at one and the same time, challenged, bewildered, and charmed.
Only God could do such a thing! Only God could have made you so much alike and at the same time so fabulously unique. That God made you in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:2) was plainly demonstrated to us by this very uniqueness. It seems that the infinitely varied glory of God must be demonstrated in this unique way in every child that is ever born: snowflakes – personalities! Magnificent!
And we haven’t said it all when we talk about the “image of God” in every person. We also need to recognize the beautiful significance of the “Covenant.” Since our discovery of the “Covenant” under Dr. Buswell’s instruction at Covenant Theological Seminary, I have become deeply convinced that the “Covenant” is as foundational to the nature of mankind as the “image of God.” I am further convinced that by creating us in His image, God received us into a Covenant relationship with Himself. Though the word covenant is not used in the early chapters of Genesis, our covenantal relationships with God are clearly implied from the very beginning.
This is particularly clear in Genesis 2:15-17. The phrase “covenant of life” is used to interpret this passage both in our Westminster Shorter Catechism 12 and Larger Catechism 20. This reflects the broad consensus of Biblical scholarship, that though the word covenant is not used in this passage, the idea of covenant is clearly present. We may conclude with delight that God created us “in His image” and entered into a “covenant of life” with us at the same moment.
So how do these grand scriptural truths apply to the four of you?
This is an intriguing question. It cannot be answered with any simple formula, but it is important to make an attempt. We must begin by noting that for each of you to be “created in the image of God” and for each of you at the same time to be “in covenant relationship with God” is a sheer wonder. What a magnificent potential this creates for each of you! We may be confident that God is intent upon developing each of you within these awesome parameters set by His image in you and His covenant with you. And this is wonderfully true for all those who belong to the family of God.
These were themes that frequently got into my preaching from many different texts. Mother and I often engaged you in conversations about these fabulous Biblical ideas while you were growing up in our home. I have to confess that I frequently felt like a stumbling babbler when I was trying to preach and I suspect that our conversations about these grand Biblical truths were not all that compelling. Yet our gracious Lord worked in us and in you to accomplish the grand purposes of His Kingdom through our family. God is working in the same way in your own families and in the families of many of your church friends. We can enrich and bless each other by frequently considering such truths together in the body of Christ. Then we simply continue living self-consciously in this “image of God” identity and “covenant relationship with God” reality. On the basis of solid scriptural teaching, we treasure these magnificent truths about ourselves and rejoice in the privilege of living according to such great Revelations from God.
There is so much more to say, but I will leave it for our next letters.
With all our Love,
Mom and Dad Alexander
Would it be helpful for us to define the covenant at this point?
I am inspired to make the attempt by a letter I received from an old friend, who was questioning the meaning of this Biblical word.
Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, Dr. Michael D. Williams prefers to stay with what he calls a “rough description”1 of the concept rather than a more exact definition. Williams is right to complain that it is most difficult to accurately define such a broad and grand Biblical concept. He supports his objection by quoting Dr. O. Palmer Robertson’s remark, “Asking for a definition of ‘covenant’ is something like asking for a definition of ‘mother’”2.
I must differ with Dr. Williams. Difficult as it is to define the covenant, I believe there is value in making the attempt. So did O. Palmer Robertson in spite of the quotation above. After that appropriate quote, Robertson straightway proceeded to give a definition of the covenant on page 15 of the book cited by Williams. Here is Robertson’s definition:
A Covenant Is a Bond in Blood, Sovereignly Administered
I like Robertson’s definition and have occasionally used it in my teaching. It goes beyond the “covenant of life” idea drawn from Genesis 2:15-17 by including the “bond of blood” feature that was only necessary after Genesis 3 and the Fall. I think it is important to include in our definition the full sweep of the Covenant based both on this Genesis 2 text and then on that multiplicity of scriptures that describe the Covenant throughout the rest of the Bible. I hope this is not too ambitious. Write me back if I need to work more at clarifying this point. It is MOST important to me. Here is my fuller definition:
The Covenant of Grace Is God’s Promise to Fallen Man to Restore Him (Us) To Glory Through the Redemptrive Acts of Our Lord Jesus Christ
This definition is very important to me because so much of what I will say in future “LETTERS” will reference the Covenant as well as the “image of God”. It is a strong conviction in my heart that the Covenant is a fundamental reality of human life. The Covenant is just as real as our flesh and blood. It is a dynamic at work in our lives through our direct and continuous relationship with God.
If we do not understand this, we become hopelessly lost in the vast sea of human speculation about what we are and where we are going. If we understand the Covenant and follow God’s leading through the Covenant, life unfolds before us like a blooming flower, revealing all the beauty and glory of God’s great love for us and His magnificent provision for all our needs all the way into Heaven.
- Williams, Michael D., Far as the Curse Is Found (Zondervan, 2005), 45
- Robertson, O. Palmer, The Christ of the Covenants (Grand Rapids: Baker), 1980, 3