In some ways, the book we call the Bible is a legal document.
According to the Church’s view, God has made two primary contracts with humanity: The Old Contract (or covenant) and the New Contract. The Old Contract is the account of a legal agreement God made with a particular tribe that would serve as a template for a more universal contract with the entire planet.
Many scholars think the Hebrew word we translate covenant comes from a root word that literally means “to cut”. Covenant-making often involved animal sacrifice…and it was a serious agreement held for life. Blood was the collateral used to show the gravity and binding power of the agreement.
One bizarre way of entering a covenant or contract was to cut some animals in half and then both parties would walk between the pieces. That’s what was going on when God spoke through Jeremiah about a covenant broken by Judah:
“Those who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.” JEREMIAH 34:18
It was actually a covenant the king had made with the people of Judah, with an oath to God, that they would free their slaves. In the end, they didn’t and it really upset God.
But that’s a topic for another time.
God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 reflects this. Abraham is told to cut particular animals in half and arrange the pieces opposite of each other. When nighttime came—whether this was in a vision or whatever—it reads that a fire passed between the carcasses. It’s implied that God Himself “passed between the pieces.”
A blood contract was serious. It’s where street gangs get the idea of blood brothers. You cut your palm, someone else cuts theirs, you shake, and your blood mingles making you brothers for life.
The New Contract—is God’s promise to all of humanity. It’s His terms of the agreement and His conditions. The new contract is written in the blood of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews says we can now enter the Holy of Holies with boldness “by the blood of Jesus . . . through the veil, that is, His flesh.” That veil in the temple—the curtain that separated the Presence of God from everyone but the High Priest in a room called the Holy of Holies—was torn in two from top to bottom according to Matthew’s account, by which we, in essence, walked between the pieces.
There is a conditional aspect to it, like any contract. We have to enter into it by our active and conscious surrender to the terms of the contract. Every contract has conditions.
But wait a minute—isn't God’s love unconditional?
True. His love is unconditional. I have two daughters that I love like crazy and that will never change. But when they were little, there were still conditions that had to be met in order to get the full benefit of my parenting.
When they were in our house, they had bedtime at a certain time. Food fights were not permissible. They were not allowed to make fun of other people. No one could take the other person’s stuff without asking. No whining. Certain movies weren’t allowed.
If they broke the rules, there were parent/child consequences. That didn’t mean I didn’t love them. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t bother to discipline them if they weren’t my children and I didn’t love them. I didn’t care what other kids did in the mall—let them run around like banshees…that’s someone else’s problem.
My kids didn’t have to earn my love. I just loved them. But they did need to obey if they wanted to live in harmony—in relationship—with the family.
This is why Christianity is more than a philosophy, or creed, or doctrine, or Sunday experience. It’s a unique relationship…and like any relationship, there are similar conditions for harmony.
How are you leading your people in understanding the basics?
Dave Workman | The Elemental Group
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