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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.

  1. WHAT IS A FRIEND?

    1. We all have friends.

      1. For most of us, the closest friends we have are family. A man’s wife, a wife’s husband, a child’s parents or siblings, parent’s children are usually friends.

        1. We are close to them, we enjoy their company, we share to a certain degree in their lives.

        2. It is not so with other people in our lives. Few would call the traffic warden, the bank manager or even the person who serves them at the supermarket friends. We have some contact with them, we might know something about them, but that is as far as it goes.

      2. But what is friendship? Friendship has at least three aspects.

        1. First, friends have affection, even love, often deep love for one another. They are drawn towards one another, they esteem one another highly, they delight in one another. Think of the great example of friendship in the OT, that of David and Jonathan (I Sam. 18:1, II Sam. 1:26).

        2. Second, friends have intimate knowledge of one another because they share with one another. They do this because they have a genuine interest in one another, and they trust one another. Again, David and Jonathan are a good example. They shared the experiences of life: David trusted Jonathan with secrets which he would not tell anyone else. Between true friends there is genuine, fruitful communication. There is mutual knowledge. Friends talk to one another and pour their hearts out to one another. It would be a strange friendship where a man knows nothing and cares to know nothing about his friend; where a friend will not read his friend’s letters, answer his phone calls or spend any time with him at all.

        3. Third, in friendship there is a sharing of life. Close friends, such as husband and wife, live together. Friends delight to be with one another; they enjoy spending time together. There is a closeness. They eat together, they walk together, they are wrapped up in one another’s lives.

    2. According to Scripture, it is God’s goal and purpose to have friendship with His people in Jesus Christ, and the whole history of the Bible is the history of the unfolding and development and perfection of that friendship.

      1. God’s relationship with His people is one of friendship, close, intimate, sweet friendship in love.

        1. That friendship means that there is mutual affection and love. God loves, delights in, treasures and blesses His people. In His goodness to them, He showers them with unspeakably great blessings, the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, everlasting righteousness and finally heaven. In return, God’s people love Him and they respond to His love in thankfulness and joy.

        2. That friendship means that there is knowledge. God knows His people with a perfect knowledge, and a knowledge of deep affection. He searches and knows His people. And He reveals Himself to His people, so that they do not only know about Him, but they know Him with the knowledge of loving friendship. God speaks to His people through His Word and through the preaching of the Gospel. He tells His people about Himself and His people say, “O Lord, tell me more.” He gives His people the privilege of coming to Him in prayer, and His people sing praises to Him, confess their sins, and worship Him.

        3. That friendship means a sharing of life. God not only tells us how blessed His life is, He takes us into His own blessed life, so that we taste and know that He is good. We walk with Him, He dwells with us, and we live with Him and will live with Him forever. That’s friendship.

      2. The Bible has a word to describe this friendship with God: covenant.

        1. The covenant is a very important word in Scripture. It appears almost 300 times and the Bible itself is divided according to God’s covenant, into the Old Testament and the New Testament. Testament means covenant.

        2. The word covenant means a bond of friendship which God establishes between Himself and His people, grounded in the blood of Jesus Christ. The problem is that many have imagined that the covenant is an agreement, a contract between God and men, which is conditional on what man does. They believe that God made an agreement with Israel, but Israel could not keep the covenant, and so God scrapped the covenant and took a new people and made a new covenant with the Gentiles, but one day He will restore His covenant with Israel again. Is that your understanding of covenant? An agreement! If it is, please listen carefully and test what I say tonight by the Word of God.

        3. When a person imagines a covenant like that, an agreement, a contract or a bargain, he loses the truth that the covenant is friendship with God, a covenant which God determines, which God establishes, which God maintains, which God perfects and which God’s people will enjoy with Him forever.

        4. The position I defend is this: There is one covenant, and its essence is friendship with God.

  2. THE COVENANT IS GOD’S COVENANT

    1. We see that, first, in the fact that God always refers to it as “His covenant.” Over 50 times in Scripture, the phrase “my covenant” appears.

      1. God comes to His people and He declares, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee [you] …” or “I will remember my covenant with you …” or “I will make my covenant …” Never does God say, “Let us make a covenant together … Let us sit down and hammer out the terms of an agreement …” and never does He refer to “our covenant.”

      2. We see that in the so-called covenant formula in Scripture. The formula goes something like this, “I will be your God and ye will be my people …” or “I will be their God and they shall be my people …” or “I will make a covenant with thee to be a God unto thee …” God simply comes to His people and tells them that this is how it is going to be. He does not say, “Would you like to be my people?” He came to Adam that way “I am your God. Know me. Love me. Walk with me. Serve me” He came to Abraham that way, “I am the Almighty God, walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee …” (Gen. 17:1).

      3. We should also notice at this point that God has one covenant. Never does God say, “my covenants.” And even when He makes what seems to be a new covenant with Abraham, with Israel, with David and the New Covenant with the New Testament people of God, it is essentially the same covenant. God does not scrap the former covenant and start anew. He continues and develops His one covenant, but it is the same covenant.

    2. In the Covenant, God comes to His people with promises and He swears an oath.

      1. God comes to His people and He says to them, “I will bless you exceedingly, and you will be my people. As your God, I will be unto you everything a God is to His people. I will be faithful and true. I will love you freely. I will provide for you. I will give you life with me. I will share my life with you. We will dwell together forever. You will taste and know that I am good.”

      2. God promises that He will never break His covenant. Read Psalm 89:30-34. He says that His friendship with His people is from everlasting to everlasting. And when we sin and betray Him in that friendship, He does not say, “Now, I will cast you off.” But, “I will forgive you, again and again. I will restore you to myself. You will be my people, and I will never ever let you go.” There may be need for chastisement, but God will never destroy us. Never will there come a time when God will see, “I am fed up with this people. I want different friends.” He remembers that we are dust, and He remembers that we are miserable sinners, and His purpose is to deliver us from sin forever so that we serve Him in heavenly bliss in eternity.

    3. The covenant, then, can never be an agreement, a contract or a bargain between God and men.

      1. The covenant is friendship with God. Men can sit down as equals at the bargaining table, and can hammer out an agreement of terms mutually agreed upon. Men can agree to fulfill certain conditions and stipulations. In the Bible, men did that with other men.

      2. But God does not enter into an agreement with man, not with a creature of the dust, and certainly not with a sinner. God does not come to the sinner and say, “OK, here is our agreement. I promise you eternal life, if you believe on me, if you accept the terms and if you obey me faithfully.” He does not even come to the sinner with easier terms. “OK, I see that perfect, lifelong obedience was too strict. I have modified the agreement. Now, the condition is faith. Believe and I will be your God.” God & man are not equals, and besides, man cannot perform any conditions to merit eternal life.

    4. The most fundamental reason why the covenant is not an agreement is that the covenant has its source in the life of God Himself.

      1. Have you ever wondered why there is friendship, family life in the world? Have you ever wondered why no man is an island, why human beings need fellowship? It is not because men are social animals who have evolved from other social animals. It is because the Creator Himself is a God of fellowship. Therefore He created men and women who are capable of, and who need fellowship.

      2. God, the living God, is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He lives within Himself a life of blessed friendship. In heaven, there are not three detached business associates, but three close friends, indeed a close-knit family of perfect Persons. The Son is “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18). Jesus spoke this way in John 14:10, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me … the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” God’s life is one of deepest love, for God is love; His life is one of intimate communion & knowledge; the Father and the Son share fully with one another in the Holy Spirit. Here is how Proverbs 8:30 describes it, “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Beautiful life!

      3. And, it was God’s eternal purpose, to reveal this blessed family life of friendship to His people, and to take them into that life, so that they could taste it and experience the joy of it forever.

  3. THE BIBLE SPEAKS OF THE ESSENCE OF THE COVENANT AS FRIENDSHIP

    1. Proof that the covenant is friendship is abundant in Scripture.

      1. First, there is the teaching in Scripture that God’s people are His close friends.

        1. Abraham was God’s friend, so when God entered into a covenant with Abraham, it was friendship. Godly king Jehoshaphat prays to God in these words in II Chron. 20:7 (“Art thou not our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend forever?”). James 2:23, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness and he was called the Friend of God.” Of Moses we read that he spoke with the LORD “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Ex. 33:11).

        2. In the NT, the same language is used. Jesus tells His disciples three times in John 15:13-15 that He is their friend and they are His friends. Because Christ is our Friend, He reveals Himself and His Father unto us. In John 11:11 He speaks of “our friend Lazarus.” In Matthew 11:19 the Pharisees scornfully call Him “the friend of publicans and sinners,” which is true. And in Luke 12:4 He says, “And I say unto you my friends [and then gives them a warning about not fearing man but fearing God] …” In James 4:4 we are warned that friendship with God requires us to be enemies of the world.

      2. Second, there is the teaching that God’s people are His children.

        1. What is the relationship between a father and his children? Do fathers sit down with their children and make agreements?“I will be your father if you do this, and you will be my son under the following terms and conditions.” No, of course not. Fathers tell their children that they love them, they promise to care for them, and in response children love their father.

        2. Moses was told to bring the following demand to Pharaoh: “Thus saith the LORD. Israel is my son, even my firstborn. And I say unto thee. Let my son go, that he may serve me …” (Ex. 4:22). In Ps. 103:13 we read, “As a father pitieth his children so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him.” In Jeremiah 31:9 we read, “I am a father to Israel and Ephraim is my firstborn.” in Malachi 3:17, Jehovah declares, “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”

        3. And of course the NT is full of examples of the fatherhood of God, who takes us to be His children. II Cor. 6:18 says, “Touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you and will be a Father unto you and ye shall be my sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty.”

        4. Incidentally, an important aspect of God’s covenant of friendship is His promise to include the children of believers. This was true with Noah, this was true with Abraham (“I will be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee” [Gen 17:7]), this was true with Israel (“They shall be my people and I will be their God, and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever for the good of them and of their children after them” [Jer. 32:38-39]). God is so rich in mercy, that He not only takes His people to Himself to be His beloved people, but He takes our children too, as children, for, as Peter says in Acts 2:39, “the promise is unto you and to your children …”

      3. Third, there is the teaching that God’s people are His bride or His wife.

        1. The closest earthly friendship possible between human beings is marriage. So close is this friendship that the Bible calls it a one flesh union for life. It is even closer than the bond between a mother or father and their children. Marriage is not a business agreement, although some have made it that way, but it is a sharing of life, it is a dwelling together in love.

        2. Throughout the OT, God declares that He is espoused or married to His people. Here is Jeremiah 3:14, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you and I will take you one of a city …” Here is Ezekiel 16:8. Here is Hosea 2:19. And when God’s people sinned against Him, what is the symbol of her treachery? Adultery, harlotry, whoredom, spiritual fornication. All because Jehovah is married to His people.

        3. Again in the NT, the Bridegroom comes, who is Jesus Christ. The Church is the Bride of Christ. Paul says of her, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (II Cor. 11:2). And the book of Revelation describes heaven as the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

      4. Fourth, there is teaching that God’s people are His peculiar treasured people.

        1. God does not view His people as business associates, or junior partners. He views them as His beloved people, a weak, vulnerable people whom He rules as a gracious king, as a flock of precious sheep whom He shepherds and leads with gentleness. God is not a tyrant, and when He gives them His law, it is not to oppress them, but for their own eternal good.

        2. In the OT, God chose His people and declared to them, “Thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the earth” (Deut. 7:7). Over and over again in the OT, God says, “My people, my people, my people.” And I am their God. And in Hebrews 11:16 we read, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Wonderful!

        3. In the NT, the same truth is taught. Jesus comes to save “His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The book of Titus says of the Christ that He “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (2:14); Peter repeats it, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (I Pet. 2:9-10). Jesus is our Shepherd, our gracious Lord and King.

    2. Since they are friends they dwell together. Again, this is a recurring theme in Scripture, both OT and NT. Business associates do not dwell together in love, but friends, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, they do.

      1. In the beginning, God created His people, Adam & Eve, & He made them a home, the Garden.

        1. God made them in His own image, so that they reflected some of God’s perfections. He made them in knowledge, so that they knew the true God in love, they had a deep, personal knowledge of their Creator. He made them in holiness, so that in body and soul they were devoted to God; it was their daily delight to serve God and to worship Him and devote all things to God’s glory. And He made them in righteousness so that they lives were in perfect harmony with the perfect and good will of their God.

        2. And, He came to them in the cool of the evening, after their day’s work was done, and He walked with them and talked with them. God spoke to Adam and Eve about the wonders of His love, and they responded by loving Him.

        3. And when in foolishness and rebellion they sinned against Him and hid from Him, because they had chosen friendship with the devil, God sought them and promised to restore that friendship by making them enemies of the devil and of his seed through the coming seed of the woman.

      2. In the early history of God’s covenant friendship, we read of individuals walking with God.

        1. Enoch (Gen. 5:22) and Noah (Gen. 6:9) walked with God. That means that their lives were directed in the paths of communion with God. As a man walks with His friend, so God’s people walk with their God. Amos 3:3 asks the question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed.” Walking with God means to walk in ways agreeable to God, not in ways which are hateful to God.

        2. This was not true only of these two men but of every child of God; they so framed their lives that they lived and walked in harmony with God, loving Him, serving Him, obeying Him and avoiding sin which displeases Him. And when they sinned, they sought Him in sorrow and brought a sacrifice to cover their sins, as a sign of the sacrifice Christ would offer for them.

        3. Later, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sojourned with God. They considered themselves to be pilgrims and strangers, living with God in the midst of a wicked world and looking forward to their heavenly home.

      3. Later, we read of the tabernacle and then the temple in the land of Canaan.

        1. The purpose of the land of Canaan was that God’s people might have a home where they could dwell as God’s people in safety and in peace. Before this time, God’s people had know the bitterness of slavery. Now they would enjoy a rich inheritance. And every Israelite in Canaan had his own portion, a lot given to him in inheritance, a picture and token of his place in heaven. That is why Naboth would not sell his portion to Ahab in I Kings 21. Naboth’s vineyard was not simply a portion of land, it was his portion of land. He had received it from his fathers. Naboth could sing as he worked his vineyard, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup. Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Ps. 16:5-6).

        2. Even before the people entered into Canaan, the Lord had Moses construct an elaborate tent, called the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 26:11 God says, “And I will set my tabernacle among you and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God and ye shall be my people.” The tabernacle was God’s house. There He chose to dwell as Israel’s covenant friend in her midst. And He gave instructions on how He must be approached. He gave priests and sacrifices and feast days and offerings of blood. And He was pleased to dwell in the Most Holy Place between the cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant. There was the cloud of God’s glory, the same cloud, remember, that had accompanied Israel throughout the wilderness wanderings. Later, God had the Temple built, a much more elaborate and beautiful and permanent dwelling place. The Temple was the house of the Lord and the people of God lived with Him in one house.

        3. But, there were limitations and imperfections in the way God dwelled with His people. God dwelled in the Most Holy Place. And none of the people could approach Him. He was in their midst but they had to keep their distance. Because they always had to remember that God is not their equal. They are sinners. God is holy. But God had determined on even closer fellowship with His people. The tabernacle and temple were not good enough. They could not permit that close fellowship that was needed. It was like a husband and wife living in one house but they were not in the same room and between the rooms there was a thick curtain which they could never get through. As it were they could talk to one another through the curtain and once a year they could send a messenger with blood but God had promised something better.

      4. In the NT we have Immanuel, God with us

        1. How could God and His people have that close fellowship that was promised? Only if a way could be found to remove the sin barrier between God and His people. Only if God’s holy character and righteous standards could be satisfied. That happened in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the Covenant. He stands between God and man and restores the friendship that was ruined through sin. And He makes God and man so close that He actually becomes man. The Eternal Son of God united to Himself our nature and He never discards it again. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises of fellowship with God; He is the fulfillment of all the pictures of the Old Testament worship. He is the true tabernacle, and the true temple. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” is literally, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

        2. The earthly temple made with hands could never be satisfactory. God would not only dwell among us. He would dwell with us. Immanuel: God with us! And more than that, He would dwell in us, by the Holy Spirit. That is why the NT describes the Church, not the building but the people, as the temple of God. “Know ye not that ye are temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (I Cor. 3:16). Eph. 2:19 speaks to Gentiles now taken into God’s one household of faith: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.”

        3. When Christ died on the cross for the sins of all of His people, and when He rose again, He purchased for us the right to be the friends of God and He purchased for us the right to have the Holy Spirit dwell in us. Now, God is so close to us that He dwells in us. The curtain between the people and the Most Holy Place has been torn in two; the way into the Most Holy Place is by the blood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:19-20). This is something God’s people longed for in the OT but never saw. And, beloved, the temple will not be rebuilt. It has passed away and in its place we have something better and richer.

      5. The final dwelling place will be heaven

        1. When all God’s people have been born, called, gathered and saved, Christ will return and take all of them to be with Him in heaven. Then the covenant will be consummated. Then the marriage feast of the lamb will take place and then God’s people will enjoy His friendship forever.

        2. That is Rev. 21:3 “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”

  4. WHO ARE THE FRIENDS OF GOD?

    1. With whom does God establish His covenant or with whom does God enter into friendship?

      1. God does not establish His covenant with all men. In Noah’s day, God only established His covenant with one man and his family, Noah. God set His face against the rest of mankind to destroy them. And that has always been the case. God is not the friend of all men.

      2. God does not even establish His covenant of friendship with all who live and grow up in the “sphere of the covenant.” God did not establish His covenant with all the children of Adam. Very soon the line of Cain showed itself to be the seed of the serpent, not the friend of God. The same is true with Noah. God rejected Ham and especially Canaan, Noah’s grandson. God did not establish His covenant with all of Abraham’s line either (there was the line of Ishmael, which was rejected), nor with all of Isaac’s children (Esau was cast off), nor with all of Israel’s descendants, nor with all of David’s descendants. Many who lived among the friends of God and among the people who had the promises of God were never themselves friends of God. The Word of God is true in all ages, “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6).

      3. God established His covenant with Christ. Christ is God’s true friend, the one God loves supremely, the one in whom God delights and whose glory He seeks. Christ is the true Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Christ is the true Seed of David (Rom 1:3, II Tim. 2:8). In Psalm 89 when God made promises to David’s Seed, He made them to Christ. And in Christ, God establishes His covenant with all the elect, and the elect show themselves by faith (Gal. 3:29).

      4. This means that God was never a true friend to all the Jews. He was only a friend of true Israel. Not all Israelites were the friends of God. Only the elect within the nation were His friends. They unbelieving, reprobate Israelites lived in Canaan, they enjoyed many of the outward privileges of being Jews but they never truly knew God as their God, and they were never truly God’s people. They hated the true God, they despised His benefits, they trampled His covenant underfoot and they perished.

    2. God has one covenant, one friendship, one people and one purpose through history. Let us make quick survey of the various manifestations of the one covenant of grace.

      1. The word covenant is not used in reference to Adam and Eve, but the idea of friendship is clearly there. We see it in their life with God in the Garden, in their being made in God’s image and in God’s promise to restore friendship through the Seed of the woman in Gen. 3:15

      2. The first time the word “covenant” is used in Scripture is Gen. 6:18, “But with thee [Noah] will I establish my covenant …” Notice that word “establish.” In does not mean to make a brand new covenant, as if God were starting from scratch. It means literally “to cause to stand.” It presupposes an existing covenant. And God says, “My covenant,” that is a covenant which He has made previously with others. It is a continuation, a development, a further, richer revelation of the previous covenant. This covenant tells us that God will preserve the creation for the sake of His people, and that aspect of the covenant is fulfilled in the New Heavens & the New Earth in Rev. 21.

      3. Next, we have the covenant with Abraham. In Gen. 17:7 God says again, same word, “I will establish my covenant” I will make the covenant to stand, but now, Abraham, I am adding something to it: I am adding a sign and seal, circumcision and the promise of the land. That land is picture of the land of heaven, and in thee Abraham, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Here God shows that the covenant will include Gentiles. All of these aspects are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Essentially, the covenant is the same Noah knew. And God says it is an everlasting covenant.

      4. Next, we come to the covenant with Israel and Moses. We read in Ex. 2:24, “God heard their groaning and God [… did what … made up a new covenant, a new way of friendship? No, ] “and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.” The same covenant, the same friendship. God remembered it: God thought kindly & mercifully upon His miserable people in terms of that covenant.

      5. Next, we come to the cov. at Mt. Sinai. What happens with Israel and the Law? Does God scrap the cov. with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? No. God continues and develops the covenant. Gal. 3:17 makes that explicit (“And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was 430 years after, cannot disannul that it should make the promise of none effect”). The Law was added to the promise of the covenant but the Law did not change the promise of the covenant.

        1. The Law had a different purpose: “It was added because of transgressions until the seed should come to whom the promise was made …” (Gal. 3:19). In other words, God confirmed the covenant with the Seed of Abraham (that is, with Christ, and all the elect who are in Christ) some 430 years before the Law was given at Mt. Sinai. So, God declared unconditionally to Abraham that He would be Abraham’s Friend and God and the Friend and God of Abraham’s seed. That promise stands forever.

        2. Because of transgressions, God gave to Israel a Law, to curb and hem them in, for their own good until the Seed should come. That Seed is Christ. Israel needed strict education under the Law with priests and sacrifices and rules covering everything they did because they were immature. They were children who needed a picture book. They were children who needed rules and regulations. And they could not become mature and grow up to manhood until Christ came to die for their sins and purchase for them the gift of the Holy Spirit who would write God’s Law on their hearts. With the coming of Christ, the children of God have a new freedom. The Law is no longer their Schoolmaster. The Law’s role was to lead Israel to Christ. Now the Law has a different function: to guide the Christian in his life of thankfulness. Christ says to the Christian, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” You can read all about that in Galatians 3-4.

      6. The last OT manifestation of the Covenant is with David. There God continues His covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Israel but adds something new. The Covenant will have a King. That King will be of the line of David and God will preserve the line of David until the true King will come. That Kingdom will be an everlasting Kingdom of righteousness. The kingdoms of David and Solomon especially were pictures of the Kingdom of God, but the true King is Christ. “And behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

    3. The Promise of a New Covenant

      1. In the OT, already, the people of God understood that there was imperfection in the friendship that they could enjoy with God. The holiness of God in His temple, the priests, the animal sacrifices, the Law, which for many was an intolerable yoke, meant that God could not have the fellowship with His sinful people that was promised. God prepared His people for the New Covenant and even made explicit promises concerning it. The outstanding example of this is Jeremiah 31:31-34. Here is a promise of a covenant where God will not give a law which will be an intolerable burden, but He will give His Spirit and enable His people to keep His Law because He will write that Law in their hearts. Hebrews 9 quotes this passage and proves that this covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ in the gathering of a catholic church, that is, a church made up of believing Jews and believing Gentiles.

      2. The term New Covenant does not mean that God has scrapped His previous covenant so that His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Israel and David is replaced by a new covenant.

      3. And that is the teaching throughout the NT. Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant. He is the one who in His Incarnation, death of the cross and resurrection confirms the Covenant. He establishes the firm basis for our friendship with God. Only He could do that. Only He could make God and His people one in the friendship which is the covenant, the everlasting covenant of grace.

      4. And why is it called the new covenant? Not because it is brand new, and a complete replacement of the covenant. But it is new, because it is better, it is a fulfillment of the Old Covenant and a development of it. It has better promises, it has richer blessings, and it fulfills all of the promises of the Old.

    4. Let me conclude by way of summary

      1. The covenant is one sided or unilateral. God conceived of it, it is God’s covenant, and God makes the covenant, establishes the covenant and perfects the covenant.

      2. The covenant is unconditional. It is made with Christ, the elect one, and in Christ, with all the elect and with no one else. It does not depend upon man, upon man’s works, upon his faith, upon his faithfulness. It depends entirely upon God.

      3. The covenant is therefore gracious. None deserves to be in covenant with God. It is the highest expression of God’s mercy to take His people into His covenant friendship and cause them to taste and know that He is good.

      4. And the covenant is essentially friendship. It is the expression of God’s love and mercy, it is God dwelling with us His people in love, it is the intimate knowledge of God in that love and the sharing of life with God forever. There is no higher bliss than this.

      5. And our response to the covenant is love and gratitude. Love this God, walk with this God, cling to this God and serve this God. Amen.