Introduction to Bible Covenants
The Old Testament is often linked to the Old Covenant. This is a simplification of a complex topic. The Old Testament contains several covenants, some still binding now, some not.
The God we serve is among other things a covenant making God. This means God enters into covenants with his people. What is a covenant? It is an agreement, like a modern contract, where God agrees to do his part, and the people he covenants with agree to do their part.
The Bible describes many covenants that God has made with his people across time. One example is the "Rainbow Covenant," were God promised never again to destroy the world by a flood. Another example is the Sinai covenant, where God enters into a agreement with the entire nation of Israel, promising national blessings if they agreed to obey.
The covenant that most Christians are familiar with is the "New Covenant" in the blood of Jesus. Through the New Covenant alone everyone has access to everlasting life.
Like other covenants the New Covenant was prepared and executed by God the father through Jesus his son for our participation. Each person who wants a part in this covenant must participate out of individual free will. How, specifically, do we participate in the New Covenant? By accepting the blood Jesus shed on the cross and by letting Jesus be Lord (or Boss) over our lives.
The New Covenant is conditional in that it requires something from us. To be part of this covenant, or "under" this covenant, we are required to believe that Jesus is our personal Lord, confess it to others, and act in that belief. When we have done this, God executes his side of the covenant, by giving amongst other things, everlasting life.
This condition is so light, with so few requirements, that it is generally considered to be an unconditional covenant. Indeed, many people in the New Testament enter into this covenant in ways that are even less burdensome than described here. Consider the thief crucified with Jesus, the woman at the well, the adulterous woman and the man lowered on the mat. All of these people are under this covenant yet there is no formal record of them even doing the things normally expected of modern Christian believers. The New Covenant really is free of external conditions.
The main issue to consider when exploring the nature of the other covenants between God and man is the nature of the conditions imposed on each party. Different covenants entered into at different points in history had different conditions placed on the parties. The New Covenant is remarkable in several respects, the primary one being the lack of external requirements on the part of believers. Believe, and demonstrate that belief through action, to be saved.
Other covenants were not this way. The Sinai, or Mosiac, Covenant required intricate Temple rituals be performed by the Levites on behalf of the community at large. The covenant also specified detail civil laws dealing with property. It also included detailed moral regulations governing many aspects of inter-personal relations. It also carried a series of specific blessings and curses