The Two Covenants

E.J. Waggoner

The Covenants of Promise

The covenant and promise of God are one and the same. This is clearly seen from Galatians 3:17, where Paul asserts that to disannul the covenant would be to make void the promise. In Genesis 17 we read that God made a covenant with Abraham to give him the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. Galatians 3:18 says that God gave it to him by promise. God's covenants with men can be nothing else than promises to them: "Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things." Romans 11:35, 36, KJV. After the Flood God made a "covenant" with every beast of the earth, and with every fowl; but the beasts and the birds did not promise anything in return. Genesis 9:9-16. They simply received the favor at the hand of God. That is all we can do—receive. God promises us everything that we need, and more than we can ask, or think, as a gift. We give Him ourselves, that is, nothing. And He gives us Himself, that is, everything. That which makes all the trouble is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all they want to make bargains with Him. They want it to be an equal, "mutual" affair—a transaction in which they can consider themselves on a par with God. But whoever deals with God must deal with Him on His own terms, that is, on a basis of fact—that we have nothing and are nothing, and He has everything and is everything and gives everything.

The Covenant Ratified

The covenant (that is, the promise of God to give men the whole earth made new after having made them free from the curse) was "previously ratified by God." Christ is the Surety of the new covenant, even the everlasting covenant. "For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why we utter the Amen through Him, to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 1:20. In Him we have obtained the inheritance (1 Peter 1:3, 4), for the Holy Spirit is the firstfruits of the inheritance, and the possession of the Holy Spirit is Christ Himself dwelling in the heart by faith. God blessed Abraham, saying, "In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed," and this is fulfilled in Christ, whom God has sent to bless us in turning us away from our iniquities. Acts 3:25, 26, KJV. It was the oath of God that ratified the covenant made to Abraham. That promise and that oath to Abraham become our ground of hope, our strong consolation. They are "sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19), because the oath sets forth Christ as the pledge, the surety, and "He always lives" (Hebrews 9:25). He upholds all things by His word of power. Hebrews 1:3. "In Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17. Therefore "when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He interposed with an oath." Hebrews 6:17. This is our consolation and hope in fleeing for refuge from sin. He pledged His own existence, and with it the entire universe, for our salvation. Surely a firm foundation for our hope is laid in His excellent Word!

The Law Cannot Make the Promise Void

Do not forget as we proceed that the covenant and the promise are the same thing, and that it conveys land, even the whole earth made new, to Abraham and his children. Remember also that since only righteousness will dwell in the new heavens and the new earth, the promise includes the making righteous of all who believe. This is done in Christ, in whom the promise is confirmed. Now, "no one annuls even a man's will, or adds to it, once it has been ratified." How much more must this be the case with God's "will"! Therefore, since perfect and everlasting righteousness was assured by the "will" made with Abraham, which was also confirmed in Christ, by the oath of God, it is impossible that the law which was spoken four hundred and thirty years later could introduce any new feature. The inheritance was given to Abraham by promise. But if after four hundred and thirty years it should develop that now the inheritance must be gained in some other way, then the promise would be of no effect, and the "will" or covenant would be made void. But that would involve the overthrow of God's government and the ending of His existence. For He pledged His own existence to give Abraham and his seed the inheritance and the righteousness necessary for it. "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." Romans 4:13, KJV. The gospel was as full and complete in the days of Abraham as it has ever been or ever will be. No addition to it or change in its provisions or conditions could possibly be made after God's oath to Abraham. Nothing can be taken away from it as it thus existed, and not one thing can ever be required from any man more than what was required of Abraham.