More than Just Conservative (XVI)

He [Solomon] said, ‘O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no god like you in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before you with all their heart’ (II Chron.6:14).

From Genesis onwards, God revealed Himself as a God of covenant. He brings people into covenant with Himself through sacrifice, and in the New Covenant this is the blood of Jesus Christ.

It is God’s covenant with man through Jesus Christ which must be at the foundations of every society. It is not merely a political doctrine; it has religious roots in scripture. The Christian roots of true conservatism have been evident throughout history, going back as least as far as the Magna Carta, which was written by an Archbishop. It is these religious roots that generally lead conservatives to be distrustful of government in general and to favour small government, individual freedoms, balanced budgets and lower taxation.

These are good, but these are not enough. Why? We have to deal with the issue of God’s covenant.

In 1985, a U. S. Anglican minister named Ray Sutton made a remarkable discovery. He had been considering the Bible’s symbols of covenant: in the Old Testament, circumcision and Passover, and in the New Testament, baptism and communion. What did they have in common, and what precisely, is the covenant?

One Old Testament scholar he consulted, Meredith Kline, suggested that Deuteronomy’s structure had significant parallels with the ancient pagan world’s suzerain (king-vassal) treaties. The king (suzerain) would initially announce his sovereignty over a nation, demand loyalty, impose sanctions for disobedience, offer protection for obedience, publish a law code, and establish the rules of succession.[1] Kline suggested that these might have five, six or seven parts. Were these treaties original documents, or had they in their day, been taken from Biblical literature? Intrigued, Sutton looked at Deuteronomy himself, to see if there was an identifiable structure; he found five parts.

Then, he examined other books of the Bible that were known to be divided into 5 parts: the Psalms, and Matthew’s Gospel. He also found a five part structure in some of Paul’s epistles, such as Romans. This led him to a conclusion: there was a 5 part structure to the Biblical covenant.[2]

A .The Covenant Structure:                                                                                                            

What is a covenant? God comes before man and ‘lays down the law’- His law. Man must either conform to God and His law, or be destroyed. As He told Adam, “Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and you will die.” God deals with men as a king deals with his subjects. His covenant is to prosper us when we obey and curse us when we rebel. [3]

Sutton concluded that a Biblical covenant has five sections:

1) An announcement that God is transcendent- the supreme Creator and deliverer of mankind. God is completely superior to and different from men and the world He created, yet He is also present with it: immanent.

2) The establishment of a hierarchy to enforce God’s authority on earth.

3) A set of rules or laws man must follow in exercising his dominion over the earth. God will judge man by how he follows these rules.

4) A list if judgments that will be imposed by God, who blesses man for obedience and curses man for disobedience.

5) A program of inheritance– a lawful transition that mortal men need in order to extend their dominion over creation.[4]

This can be abbreviated, this way:

1) Transcendence/Immanence (presence)

2) Hierarchy/Authority (submission)

3) Law/Dominion (stipulations)

4) Judgment/Oath (sanctions)

5) Inheritance/Continuity (survival)

B. The Structure Elaborated:                                                                                                 

Remarkably, the Great Commission itself is essentially a paraphrase of the five components of the covenant: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat.28:18-20).

Covenantally, these verses can be considered this way:

1) Christ is sovereign over heaven and earth, yet present with His people. He is both transcendent (high above) and immanent (present) with us.

2) He is the Supreme Commander over a hierarchy, so His followers are to bring the nations under Christ’s authority through baptism.

3) His kingdom is a kingdom of law, meaning ethics, for Christians are commanded to teach men to observe (obey) all that He commands.

4) He judges the nations, for baptism is a covenant sign, a form of oath taken before God; violating the terms of the Biblical covenant always brings cursing (Deut.28:15-68), while obedience brings blessings (Deut.28:1-14).

5) There is continuity over the generations of men, for He promises to be with His people always, to the end of the age. [5]

The knowledge of the covenant structure ought to send us Christians back to the drawing board. Why? We have nothing to contribute to society, unless we are operating in obedience to the covenant, based in the blood of Jesus.

Jesus said, “You are My friends, if you do what I command you” (Jn.15:14). In the New Testament He spoke the language of covenant, found right throughout scripture, such as Deuteronomy.29:9:  “so keep the word of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.”

If Jesus spoke and lived the language of covenant, isn’t it time His people did too?

 [1]Gary North, “Liberating Planet Earth,” 1987, p.52.

 [2]Ray Sutton, “That You May Prosper,” 1997. Sutton details his discoveries and conclusions. This paper draws heavily from his work.

[3] Gary North, “Inherit the Earth,” 1987, p.5.

[4] North, p.6.

[5] Gary Demar, “Ruler of the Nations,” 1987, p.4.