Watch our Livestream 10am Sundays Give Online

What I Didn’t Say in My Sermon About the Covenant with Abraham

• Daniel Baker

Posted in Sermons

On Sunday morning I skipped my third point for the sake of time. Let me take a few minutes here and give you that material.

First I need to set it up. I was preaching on Genesis 15 and 17, the two main chapters of the Abrahamic covenant. We looked at these chapters to show us what a life of faith looks like.

Faith is believing God’s words and deeds (his deeds as interpreted by his words). Faith is a singular thing, but it also contains elements that are helpful to parse out. It incudes understanding. You have to understand something at least at a basic level to believe it. Then there’s acknowledging something as true. This is a basic sense that something is true and not false, trustworthy and not untrustworthy. But the third element of faith is trust. You begin to entrust yourself to the promises made. You build your life on them and place your full confidence in them.

I used the example of William Shatner—aka Captain Kirk!— going up in the Blue Origin rocket. He understood enough to know the science could work and that other rockets were successful. He had confidence the scientists behind it were trustworthy and knew what they were doing. But in the end, he had to entrust himself to them and the rocket—and get in and strap himself to that seat. That’s what faith looks like.

In Genesis 15 Abraham famously heard God’s promises about his descendants being as many as the stars (Gen 15:4–5) and he “believed the LORD, and [the LORD] counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). This is the first clear statement about justification by faith in our Bibles. New Testament passages like Romans 4:1–5 bring out the great importance of this moment in Abraham’s life.

But the life of faith also includes obedience: “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]; walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1). In Genesis 17 that obedience is made more specific with the practice of circumcision (17:9–14). Circumcision is “the sign of the covenant” with Abraham like “my bow in the cloud” (Gen 9:13) is the sign of the covenant with Noah, the Sabbath is the sign of the covenant with Moses (Exod 31:13–17), and baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the sign of the new covenant with have in Christ (1 Cor 11:23–26).

Okay, now for what I didn’t get to.

In Genesis 17:7–8 we have the first statement of what is sometimes called “the Covenant Formula,” the summary of the covenant of grace:

“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Gen 17:7-8)

The two main parts of the Covenant Formula are God’s commitment “to be God to you” and then his description of his people as, “I will be their God.”

Later the form of this promise will be,

“I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.” (Exod 6:7)

“I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33)

When you distill down what it means to be God’s people, this is it. It means that God is our God, and we are his people.

This promise will be echoed in a huge number of verses in all parts of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (Gen 17:7; Exod 6:7; Lev 22:33; 26:12; Deut 29:10, 12–13; cf. Deut 26:16–19; 2 Sam 7:24; 1 Chr 17:22; 1 Kgs 6:13; Ps 50:7; 95:7; 100:3; 144:15; Isa 40:1; Jer 7:23; 11:4; 13:11; 24:7; 30:22; 31:1; 32:38; Ezek 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27; 34:30–31; Zech 8:8; 13:9; Hos 1:9–10; Rom 9:25–26; 2 Cor 6:16; Heb 8:10; Rev 21:3, 7).

This promise ties together God’s whole plan of salvation in every era of salvation history. This is what God is doing—and really, what he’s always doing.

But the Bible also reflects an enormous amount of progress in God’s revelation. We’ve seen that the early chapters of Genesis present truth that echoes throughout the Bible, but there is also development.

God’s revelation is like the acorn that becomes a sapling that becomes a small tree that becomes the mighty oak. It’s the same organism the whole time, and it’s perfect at every phase, but there is also development.

We see this progress in our knowledge of God. We know who God is in a greater way in the New Testament than the Old. To know him as Father, Son, and Spirit, and especially as the Son who will come to us as Jesus Christ and give his life for us, is surely greater knowledge than Abraham knowing God as Yahweh, El Shaddai, or Adonai Yahweh, though this is profound knowledge, too.

And there’s progress as God’s people. This doesn’t mean we are better people than the Old Testament saints. It just means we have a greater understanding of what it means to be God’s people. We have a better understanding of concepts like salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8–9), reconciliation (Rom 5:9–11), the Spirit of adoption we have (Rom 8:15); union with Christ (Rom 6:3–4). There’s a fullness of the Spirit (Acts 2:17–21; Eph 3:19) available to us now that surpasses what was true in the Old Testament. And we see the new heaven and new earth opened for us in greater detail than was there in the Old Testament (Rev 21–22).

But still, the Covenant Formula helps us to see that while there is development throughout the Bible, there is one God in covenant relationship with one people the whole time.

And because this covenant relationship comes to us just like it did with Abraham—by grace—we call it the covenant of grace.

He is our God, and we are his people. And it’s true for us because of his eternal, effectual grace.

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Ps 100:3)


Cornerstone Fellowship Church logo

We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.

Email Updates & Newsletter

Times & Location

10am on Sundays

401 Upchurch St, Apex, NC 27502

© 2024 Cornerstone Fellowship Church of Apex