“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).
One of the great truths in the Bible is that God makes covenants with men and nations. The following covenants are mentioned in Scripture.
God made a Covenant with Noah. In this covenant God assured Noah that judgment would not again come to men in the form of a flood. God also promised that the recurrence of the seasons, and of day and night should not cease (Gen. 9; Jer. 33:20, 21).
God made a Covenant with Abraham. The condition of this covenant was that Abraham was to leave his country, his relatives, and his father’s house in order to follow the Lord into the land that He would show him. The promise for living this life of faith was a fourfold blessing: the descendants of Abraham would increase into a numerous people, Abraham would enjoy material and spiritual prosperity—”I will bless you”, the name of Abraham would be exalted—”make your name great”., Abraham was not only to be blessed by God, but to be a blessing to others by the coming of the Messiah through his descendants (Gen 12:1-3).
Later, the promise of a son was added to the covenant provisions (Gen. 15). About fourteen years after the making of the covenant it was renewed with a change of his name, and the establishment of circumcision, which was to be the sign of accepting, and ratifying the covenant (Gen. 17).
God made a Covenant with Israel. This took place at Sinai, when the people had intimated their acceptance of the words of the covenant as found in the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:28; 24:3), and promised to keep the same. Their obedience to the commands of the law was to be rewarded by God’s constant care of Israel, temporal prosperity, victory over enemies, and the pouring out of His Spirit (Ex 23:20-33). The seal of this covenant was to be circumcision and was called “His covenant” (Deut. 4:13). It was renewed at different periods of Jewish history (chap. 29; Josh; 2 Chron. 15:1; 23; 29; 34; Ezra 10:1; Neh. 9:1-10:39).
God made a Covenant with David. This was, in reality, but another and more specific form of the covenant with Abraham; its main object was to mark with greater exactness the line through which the blessing promised in the Abrahamic covenant was to find accomplishment. The royal seed was from then on to be in the house of David (2 Sam 7:12; 22:51), and, especially in connection with the One who was to be preeminently the child of promise in that house, all good, first to Israel and then to all nations, should be realized (Ps 2; 22; Isa 9:6-7; etc.).
God has made a Covenant with the Church and confirmed it with an oath. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 4:10-13).
As God makes covenants with men, so men are allowed to make covenants with one another. The Bible records the covenant that Abraham made with Abimelech, that Abimelech made with Isaac, that Jacob made with Laban, and the covenant that Jonathan made with David. Following in the pattern of what God has done, and what Scripture allows, a local Church congregation can enter into a covenant relationship with one another in order to establish the purpose for the existence of the assembly. Every church member will know there is a covenant to keep.
A Covenant to Keep
To promote the worship of God in a way authorized by the Bible. “The word worship is a shortened form of the old [English], which means showing God the worth He holds in your life. We show the Lord His value through acts of praise and prayer, through study and fellowship, through adoration and respect” (Oxford English Dictionary).
“In worship we meet the power of God and stand in its strengthening” (Neals F. S. Ferré, 1769-1821)
“If we haven’t learned to be worshipers, it doesn’t really matter how well we do anything else” (Erwin W. Lutzer (1941-)
“If worship does not change us, it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. Worship begins in holy expectancy; it ends in holy obedience” Richard J. Foster (1942- )
Worship is to edify Christians through preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God.
Worship is to promote spiritual fellowship among believers.
Worship is to administer the Church ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Worship is to prepare Christians to obey the Great Commission as given in Matthew 28:18-20.
Worship is to provide Biblical ministries of service to those in need.
Believing that these six purposes are honoring to the Lord, all new members are invited to enter into a covenant relationship before God with one another. We take this covenant as seriously as the words indicate lest we break the commandment which says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Deut. 5:11).
The provisions of the Church Covenant can be set forth.
As members of the Lord’s Church, we desire to humble ourselves before the Lord in order to receive grace so that we might find spiritual strength to serve the Lord, and be blessed by Him.
We covenant to uphold the historic doctrines of the Church as expressed in the Bible and embraced by the Church since the first century. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).
We covenant to display no heinous sin through immoral or unethical conduct. “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
We covenant to fulfill our responsibilities cheerfully and gratefully without causing dissension, or showing disregard for the authority structure of the Church. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:6-14).
We covenant to refrain from any attitudes, words, or conduct that may cause division in the Church or sow discord among the brethren. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).
We covenant to fulfill any position of leadership without becoming domineering, quarrelsome, sectarian or in any other way abusive of that authority. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. 11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3 John 9-11).
We covenant to maintain a position of separation from the world and its influences. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
We covenant to settle all spiritual disputes within the Church structure without going to law. “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren” (1 Cor. 6:1-8).
When the conditions of this Covenant have been breached, we covenant to strive to acknowledge our shortcomings. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
We covenant to seek the forgiveness of those who have been hurt. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23).
If we know of another person who has grievously violated this Covenant, we covenant to endeavor to approach that person privately. “Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another” (Prov. 25:9).
We covenant to correct a brother in a spirit of genuine love. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
We covenant to first correct our own inappropriate attitudes and actions before trying to correct another person. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5).
“The current popular notion that judging others is in itself a sin leads to such inappropriate maxims as ‘I’m okay and you’re okay.’ It encourages a conspiracy of moral indifference that says, “If you never tell me that anything I’m doing is wrong, I’ll never tell you that anything you’re doing is wrong.” (Elisabeth Elliot Gren, Leadership,
As lovely as the concept of a church covenant is, realistically, there will be occasions when someone will turn away from the provisions of the covenant relationship, without repentance. There will be a withdrawal from the church fellowship without a valid Scriptural reason. When that happens the church leadership is compelled to take appropriate steps to reclaim, rebuke, or remove, that person from the official church membership. This is to be done, not out of bitterness, but out of fear of God. Fear of God brings an honest confession that His Law has been broken.
Church accountability is important, not only legally, and practically, but also spiritually. The objective of being responsible to one another is designed to move the heart towards spiritual maturity, and mutual love. Therefore, there is a covenant for the church to keep. May the Holy Spirit enable us to keep faith, with God, and with one another, that which is pleasing to the Lord.