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Covenant (1242) (diatheke from diatithemi = set out in order, dispose in a certain order <> from dia = two + tithemi = to place pictures that which is placed between two Thus, a covenant is something placed between two = thus an arrangement between two parties) literally conveys the idea of a testament, as in one's last will and testament. Remember that there were 3 unconditional covenants in the Old Testament, the Abrahamic (which is the basis on which we are saved today), the Palestinian and the Davidic covenants. The question might arise as to how or on what grounds will God fulfill the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant? Dr Johnson explains that these questions... Raise the issue of redemption, for those who had any understanding of spiritual matters would know that it is not possible for God to give an unconditional covenant to sinners, if some provision were not made for their sins. Being a holy and righteous God, He must make provision for their sin, if He is to convey blessing to them. So it raises the question of upon what grounds are the promises to Abraham and David to be fulfilled? The New Covenant begins the explanation of the grounds on which those promises are to be made a reality, because the New Covenant has to do with redemption. He states at the end of this covenant that their sins and their iniquities God will remember no more. The New Covenant is of course the one that our Lord ratifies with His death on Calvary's cross, even as He had explained beforehand at the Lord's Supper when He took the cup and said "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood which is shed for many for the forgiveness of their sins." (Mt 26:28) The significance of the Lord's Supper is that it speaks of a sacrifice and a completed redemption which in effect makes it possible for the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants also to have the certainty and assurance of their ultimate fulfillment as well. A covenant is an agreement between two parties that binds them together and conveys the associated ideas of very close fellowship (even oneness and identity as for example in the marriage covenant where two mystically become one flesh). Cleon Rogers describes covenant in the ancient world as... the uniting and community of the souls and wills of the two, which results in a common purpose, common friends, common enemies, mutual confidence, loyalty, and exclusion of strife. In all of this the will of the stronger was the dominating force. This resulting harmony is often described by the word Shalom which stresses the wholeness, harmony, and unity of the two. Along with this unity there was also the obligation to help or aid one another in time of trouble. Because of these tremendous implications it was always advisable to proceed with caution before making a covenant with anyone. (The Covenant with Abraham and Its Historical Setting. Bibliotheca Sacra. Volume 127. Issue 507. Page 240. 1970) The 3 major meanings of diatheke in the NT can be summarized as... (1) A legal technical term used when one settles an inheritance and known by our familiar English term "last will and testament" (2) A binding contract between two or more persons, as in Galatians 3:15 where the covenant is between men. (3) The major NT (and Septuagint use) is a declaration of the will of God in "concerning His self-commitment, promises, and conditions by which he entered into relationship with man covenant, agreement" (Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker Academic) Diatheke was commonly used in the Greco-Roman world to define a legal transaction in settling an inheritance (used in this sense in Hebrews 9:16; 9:17) which we often refer to as one's last will and testament. In this sense it referred to the disposition which a person made of his property in prospect of death. Vine comments that... Etymologically considered the (English) word covenant is formed from two others meaning “coming together,” and thus describes a mutual undertaking between two or more parties who severally make themselves responsible for the discharge of certain obligations. But the Greek word diatheke, from which it is translated, does not in itself contain the idea of joint obligation, it means rather an obligation undertaken by one alone. (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson or Logos) NIDNTT adds that in classical Greek usage diatheke... occurs from Democritus and Aristoph. onwards in the sense of a will or testament. It is not thought to be derived from the act. diatithemi, distribute, allocate, regulate, but only from the mid. diatithemai, control persons and things (Xen.), and especially dispose of by will (so private legal documents among papyri). It denotes, therefore, an irrevocable decision, which cannot be cancelled by anyone. A prerequisite of its effectiveness before the law is the death of the disposer. Hence diatheke must be clearly distinguished from syntheke, an agreement. In the latter two partners engaged in common activity accept reciprocal obligations. diatheke is found only once with this meaning (Aristoph. Birds, 1, 440). Elsewhere it always means a one-sided action. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan) Covenant has profound implications and is the most solemn, binding, intimate contract known in the Bible. Covenant was considered a binding agreement among the ancients, and so was not entered into lightly. After pieces of the sacrificial animal were laid opposite one another, the individuals who were cutting covenant would walk between the flesh. This walk represented the so-called walk into death indicating their commitment to die to independent living and to ever after live for their covenant partner and to fulfill the stipulations of their covenant (See this practice in Jer 34:8ff, esp Jer 34:18-19). Furthermore, this walk into death was a testimony by each covenant partner that if either broke the covenant God would take their life, even as had been done to the sacrificial animal. In short, we see the gravity of entering into and then breaking covenant. Covenant was a pledge to death. A pledge cut in blood. In covenant the shedding of blood demonstrated as nothing else could the intensity of the commitment. By cutting covenant the two parties were bound for life. Thus the shedding of blood in the cutting of covenant established the gravity and binding nature of this transaction. Both the Old and the New Covenants were inaugurated with blood. The practice of cutting covenant is found throughout history with traces or remnants of covenant truth in every quarter of the globe. (See Introduction to Covenant and Summary of Major Biblical Covenants) As noted, most of the NT uses of diatheke refer to God's declaration of His will concerning His self-commitment, promises, and conditions by which he entered into relationship with man. Diatheke denotes an irrevocable decision, which cannot be cancelled by anyone. A prerequisite of its effectiveness before the law is the death of the disposer and thus diatheke was like a "final will and testament". In reference to the divine covenants, such as the Abrahamic covenant, diatheke is not a covenant in the sense that God came to agreement or compromise with fallen man as if signing a contract. Rather, it involves declaration of God’s unconditional promise to make Abraham and his seed the recipients of certain blessings. All covenants are based on promises. Sometimes the promises are by only one party, sometimes by both. Sometimes the promises are conditional, sometimes they are not. But promises are always involved. As far as God’s covenants are concerned, it is always His promises that are significant. Men break their promises, God does not. The benefits and the power are always from God’s side, and therefore the significant promises are always from His side. Consequently, it is God’s promises in the New Covenant that here are called “better.” Here are some general aspects of covenant as recorded in Scripture (1) Initiated by one of the parties - In covenants with God, He is the Initiator (with Noah, Ge 6;18, with Abraham, Ge 17:7, cf Ge 12:1, 2, 3, 4, with Moses and Israel Ex 34:27, Jesus inaugurates the New Covenant, Mt 26:28, Lk 22:20, cf Isaiah 42:8, Mal 3:1). Examples of men who initiated covenants with other men include Abimelech with Abraham, Ge 21:27, 32; Abimelech with Isaac, Ge 26:28, Laban with Jacob, Ge 31:44). (2) Sacrifice is usually involved - clean animals Ge 8:20, animals in Ge 15:10, Jesus' body and blood in the New Covenant, Mt 26:28. The spillage of blood is usually a central part of the establishment of the covenant. (3) Offspring are affected by the covenant - see Ge 6:18, 9:9, 9:12 (every living creature included here). (4) Often accompanied by a promise or an oath - see God's promise in Ge 8:21 "I will never again destroy every living thing as I have done." In Genesis 17 (see initial promises in Genesis 12:1-3) God promises Abram (Abraham) "I will multiply you exceedingly...for I will make you the father of a multitude of everlasting covenant to be God to you and to your descendants after you. "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." (5) A sign or witness often accompanies the establishment of covenant - Genesis 9:13 "My (rain) bow in the cloud... shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth." Cf circumcision in Ge 17:14. The "well of seven" (or of the oath) in Genesis 21 between Abraham and Abimelech. (6) There is often a covenant meal - Isaac and Abimelech Ge 26:30, Laban and Jacob, Ge 31:54, meal in Ex 24:11 with the Mosaic covenant, the "Passover meal" (= Lord's Supper = communion) in Luke 22:30. In our modern society and even in the evangelical church, we have for the most part forgotten the profound significance of covenant in Scripture. Yes, we can recite the covenants but few understand the symbolism and seriousness of Biblical covenants which were the closest, most indissoluble union two parties could make. Today we make "covenants" with fine print that allows one to "get out" of the agreement with relative ease. Take for example the sacred marriage covenant, which has all but lost its holy character in society in general (some are even talking of doing away with this covenant, and many are living together without marrying which in effect is an abolition of this covenant. See Covenant: As It Relates to Marriage) and tragically even in the evangelical church where surveys show divorce rates as high as among non-believers! Andrew Murray, the gifted nineteen century writer emphasizes the importance of more than a superficial understanding of covenant writing...: Blessed is the man who truly knows God as his God; who knows what the Covenant promises him; what unwavering confidence of expectation it secures, that all its [covenant's] terms will be fulfilled to him; what a claim and hold it gives him on the Covenant-keeping God Himself. To many a man, who has never thought much of the Covenant, a true and living faith in it would mean the transformation of his whole life. The full knowledge of what God wants to do for him; the assurance that it will be done by an Almighty Power; the being drawn to God Himself in personal surrender, and dependence, and waiting to have it done; all this would make the Covenant the very gate of heaven. May the Holy Spirit give us some vision of its glory. (Murray, Andrew: Two Covenants) (See discussion of Covenant: Why Study It?) The covenant between Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18 highlights the seriousness of covenant as it was understood by the ancients (see discussion of Covenant - Solemn and Binding and A Walk Into Death). When covenant was cut, there was a surrender of rights and a merger of individual natures, so that the two became one, signifying a oneness and identity with the other party. As a result of this oneness and identity each party became the other party's covenant defender. For more background on these profound concepts see Covenant -The Exchange of Robes and Exchange of Armor and Belts. The idea of two becoming one (cp the mystical union of marriage in Genesis 2:24) has several aspects including the co-mingling of blood, the sharing of a common life, the exchange of names, the sharing of a meal, the idea of friendship and the establishment of a memorial (eg, wedding rings, Lord's Supper "Do this in remembrance of Me"!). For a more thorough discussion the reader is encouraged to study the topics The Oneness of Covenant and Covenant: Oneness Notes. Finally, we would be remiss if we did not emphasize that covenant conveyed responsibilities (see Covenant: Withholding Nothing from God). Finally, Scripture says "let the redeemed of the Lord say so" and my personal testimony is that as I began to study covenant, God used these profound truths to literally (and supernaturally) save my marriage covenant of 25 years (and 15 years as a believer). I firmly believe that if the truths of covenant were understood in churches across America, divorce rates would be drastically, supernaturally reduced as these truths transformed husbands and wives. (see Covenant: As It Relates to Marriage). Without question the best way to truly understand covenant in the way I have attempted to summarize it, is to study these Biblical truths for one's self. And the best course available is the 11 week course of Covenant (click to download 20 page Pdf of Lesson 1 - the overview) produced by Precept Ministries International. This study will transform your life, your marriage, and your ministry. As one of my old medical school professors used to say "you can't not know" these truth about covenant. They are too important. Consider the fact for example that the Greek titles of the Scriptures are the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant” and our English word “Testament” is taken from the titles prefixed to the Latin versions. Covenant is what the entire Bible is about beloved. You can't not know! Diatheke is used over 330 times in Septuagint (LXX) most often (some 270 times) to translate the Hebrew word Beriyth (01285). See the excellent ISBE article Covenant In The Old Testament. As discussed elsewhere, the ordinary Greek word for a compact was syntheke but this term was avoided by the Septuagint translators because it suggested the equal rank of the two parties, whereas the OT Beriyth is used for "a relationship between God and man graciously created by God, and only accepted by man". Here are the NT uses of diatheke, all translated as covenant...(See the ISBE article Covenant, The New) Matthew 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (see New Covenant in the Old Testament ) Mark 14:24 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. (see Why the New is Better) Luke 1:72 To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, (reference to Abrahamic) Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (see Abrahamic vs Old vs New ) Acts 3:25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' (reference to Abrahamic see Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4) Acts 7:8 "And He gave him the covenant of circumcision (Mosaic); and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. Romans 9:4 (note) who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants (see Abrahamic vs Old vs New ) and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, Romans 11:27 (note) "And this is My covenant with them (refers to New Covenant initially given to the Jews in Jer 31:31-34, inaugurated by Jesus with His Jewish disciples, Lk 22:20), When I take away their sins." 1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 2 Corinthians 3:6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. Galatians 3:15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Galatians 3:17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant (reference to Abrahamic) previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. Galatians 4:24 This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants (Abrahamic versus Mosaic), one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Ephesians 2:12 (note) remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Hebrews 7:22 (note) so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant (see Why the New is Better). Hebrews 8:6 (note) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant (see Why the New is Better), which has been enacted on better promises... 8:8 For finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (see New Covenant in the Old Testament); 8:9 Not like the covenant (Mosaic) which I made with their fathers On the day when I took them by the hand To lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in My covenant (Mosaic), And I did not care for them, says the Lord. 8:10 "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Hebrews 9:4 (note) having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant... 15 And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant (see Why the New is Better), in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant (Mosaic), those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.... 20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you." Hebrews 10:16 (note) "This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And upon their mind I will write them," He then says, (see New Covenant in the Old Testament ) Hebrews 10:29 (note) How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 12:24 (note) and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 13:20 (note) Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, Revelation 11:19 (note) And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm. The choice of diatheke, rather than suntheke, which is the common word for covenant, is no doubt deliberate. Suntheke was the common word in the OT for agreements and for covenants and usually implied that the parties to the covenant contracted on equal terms. Suntheke referred to covenants in which the two parties had obligations. Diatheke in ancient times generally referred to a man's will (or so-called last "will and testament"). A man's will is not something that depends on the obligations on the part of two people. In other words we don't think of the one who receives the benefits as an obligation. It is a benefit and something you receive by the will of the person who had died and convey something to the recipient. As already alluded to the more common word suntheke is passed over when we come to the New Covenant, which stresses that the New Covenant is one in which only one person has obligation and that is the Lord God. It is an unconditional covenant, a one way disposition of the benefits which the Lord Jesus Christ has won for us. When God enters into this covenant He disposes everything, as a man disposes of his property by making a will. Clearly, this points to the truth that it is a covenant of grace! Barclay adds that... the normal Greek word for a covenant between two people is suntheke/syntheke (not used in the NT), which is the word everywhere used for a marriage covenant or an agreement between persons or states. In all normal Greek in all ages diatheke means, not a 'covenant', but a 'will'. Kata diatheken is the regular term for 'according to the terms of the will'. In a papyrus a testator leaves houses and gardens in accordance with the dispositions (diathekas) which are deposited in the temple of Aphrodite, with Eunomides the governor, and with Ctesiphon the lawyer. Why should the NT never use suntheke and always diatheke? The reason is this. Suntheke always describes 'an agreement made on equal terms', an agreement which either party can alter. But the word 'covenant' means something different. God and man do not meet on equal terms; it means that God, of his own choice and in his free grace, offered man this relationship, which man cannot alter or change or annul, but which he can only accept or refuse. Now the supreme example of such an agreement is 'a will'. The conditions of a will are not made on equal terms. They are made by one person and accepted by the other, who cannot alter them and who could not have made them. Our relationship with God is not something into which we entered in our own right and on our own terms; it is something given to us solely and completely on the initiative and in the grace of God. (Barclay, William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964) Enacted (3549) (nomotheteo from nómos = law + títhemi = to put, set) means to legislate, to make or give laws, establish as law. The perfect tense indicates these better promises were enacted at point in time and remain in effect. Upon (epi) - Upon the basis of better promises. At every point Christianity is seen to be better than Judaism. Better promises - The chief of the better promises is forgiveness of sins. Promises (1860) (epaggelia from epí = intensifies verbal meaning + aggéllo = to tell, declare) originally referred to an announcement or declaration (especially of a favorable message) but in later Greek came to mean a declaration to do something with the implication of obligation to carry out what is stated (thus a promise or pledge). Epaggelia was primarily a legal term denoting summons, a promise to do or give something, but in the NT speaks primarily of the promises of God. Epaggelia is used in Hebrews 14 times in 13 verses (27.4% of all 51 NT uses) (See notes Hebrews 4:1, Hebrews 6:12, 6:15, 6:17, Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 11:9, 11:13, 11:17, 11:33, 11:39) TDNT summarizes this word group writing that it has the following nuances... a. The first sense is “to indicate,” “declare,” “declaration,” “report.” b. When the state declares something, it becomes an “order.” c. In law we find the senses “accusation” and “delivery of a judgment.” d. We then find the senses “to declare an achievement,” “to show one's mastery,” “to profess a subject.” e. Another sense is “to offer,” “to promise,” “to vow.” As regards promises, tension between word and deed is felt, so that promises are often seen as worthless. f. A special type of promise is the “promise of money,” and in this sense the idea of a “subscription” or “donation” arises (state liturgies, gifts to rulers at their accession, priests promising gifts in support of their candidature). g. In the Hellenistic period we also find a sacral use for the “proclamation” of a festival. Among all the instances, only one example has been found for the promise of a deity. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans) ><> ><> ><> A Better Way - We are always looking for better ways to do things. We have faster computers, more efficient cars, and better-sounding compact disc players--vast improvements over the abacus, the Model-T, and the Victrola. God is the originator of the better way. The author of Hebrews said that animal sacrifices were only a "shadow of the heavenly things" of which Christ and His death on the cross are the reality (Heb 8:5; 9:11-15). Before Jesus came, people waited for the annual Day of Atonement, when the high priest entered the Most Holy Place. The Jews call this special day Yom Kippur. In that awe-inspiring place where the ark of the covenant was located, the High Priest offered the blood of animals on behalf of himself and the Israelites. When Jesus Christ came to earth, something better was revealed. He Himself became our High Priest by sacrificing His life and shedding His blood to atone for our sins. Now, when we accept His gift of forgiveness, we can rejoice that the penalty of our sins has been paid and our guilt removed. Salvation through Messiah Jesus is the only way we can be forgiven and have fellowship with God. Have you found this better way? --J D Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved) Oh, precious is the flow That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus. --Lowry Christ's sacrifice is exactly what God desired and our sin required

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