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    67
    COVENANTS

    A Study in Covenant-Making from The Olive Branch

      "Praise awaits You, O God, in Zion; to You our covenants will be fulfilled" (Psalm 65;1, NCV)

    The concept of covenant-making is neither well-practiced nor well-known amongst most Christians nowadays and is one of the characteristics of New Covenant Christians, with perhaps the exception of the Promise-Keepers who have recently come to media prominence. What is covenant-making in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and what place does it have in the modern Church of God? These are some of the questions we shall be attempting to answer today.

    Old and New Testament Practices

    The idea of taking a vow or making a covenant was commonplace in the Old Testament. It was as binding as an oath (Dt.23:21-23), being almost indistinguishable from it. A covenant was no casual thing because God's Word stood behind it; once made, a man was not released from his covenant until he had fulfilled it. Covenant-taking was always a characteristic of the Israelite theocracy and was envisaged as belonging to Israel as part of its permanent heritage (Nahum 1:15). To fulfil a covenant brought great happiness and contentment (Job 22:27) because God always stood by the righteous covenant, blessing those who fulfilled it.

    The apostle Paul's vow or covenant in Acts 18:18 (cp. 21:23) was a proper expression of the Hebrew faith long since lost from Christianity because of Hellenisation (see The Olive Branch, footnote 548, p.617).

    Covenant-making was never repudiated by Christ or the apostles. Indeed, the Saviour Himself taught that oaths were binding (Mt.5:33), so much so that a Christian's daily conversation is to be as sacred as his oaths. He is not to have two standards of truth. Not until the Kingdom of God comes in its fullness and is universal in the millennial theocratic state will oaths finally become unnecessary (Mt.5:34-37). Christ Himself accepted the imprecatory oath (Mt.26:63ff) and Paul, as we have seen, also swore an oath (2 Cor.1:23; Gal.1:20). Even God the Father is bound by His own oath (Heb.6:13-18), binding Himself to perform His promises to His covenant people -- to the Patriarchs (Gen.1:24), the Davidic dynasty (Ps.89:19-37,49) and the Messianic Priest-King (Ps.110:1-4). The Guarantor of all these promises is Jesus Christ in whom they find the answering 'amen' (2 Cor.1:19ff.; cp. Is.65:16; The Olive Branch, footnote 22, p.38).

    The Witness of the Olive Branch

    The collection of revelations to the New Covenant Church of God called the Olive Branch (or New Covenants & Commandments) has much to say on the New Testament concept of covenant-making, particularly of its eternal nature.

    New Covenant Christians enter into many covenants throughout their lifetime. These include baptismal covenants, the covenants of Chrism (confirmation), marriage covenants, and Priesthood covenants. These covenants are not arbitrary or designed by man otherwise they would have no efficacy or value. They are initiated by God and are therefore backed by His sovereign will which no man may question. He told the saints on 12 October 1989:

      "Ye have made a binding declaration with Me, and the sons and daughters of the Covenant have borne witness before angels and thrones. I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, a great and mighty God who faithfully keepeth covenant, and maketh not light of that which He hath established. I am just and keep faith even though My people have not kept faith but have gone awhoring after the perishable idols of Babylon."

    In this revelation the Lord not only affirms that the covenants of those who enter the New Covenant Church by covenant are binding on those entering them but that He too is bound to bless when the covenants are upheld.

    Covenants are not to me made light of -- they are serious, a matter of spiritual life and death. New Covenant Christians who have been faithful to covenant will testify of the richest blessings that come through obedience to the covenants they have made with the Lord and how their lives have blossomed as a result, and they have observed how the spiritual lives of those who have departed from their covenants have withered away. God has been proven by us to be true to His Word.

    There are, in the New Covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ, many types of covenant, some of which are more binding than others. The more binding a covenant, the greater the blessing for faithfulness, and the more severe the punishment for faithlessness. Speaking of Holy Priesthood, the Lord has said:

      " "The oath and covenant of the Enochian Order (Elders) cannot be undone, for this Priesthood Order is eternal and spiritual: they who seek to be released therefrom cannot be released but must stand judgement. The covenant of the Enochian Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood is eternal, even as the Son is eternal, and the reward thereof is eternal, even as the cursing thereof is eternal for those who would renounce it" (NC&C 182:5-7).

    The Eldership, or Order of Enoch, is a special calling given by God to those who are mature in the faith. The covenants are of the utmost sobriety, as the revelation clearly indicates, and are not to be trifled with. Thus no-one in the Church is called to be an Elder who has not had an unmistakable call from the Lord which has been confirmed by revelation through those responsible in the Church for calling and ordaining Elders. This is exactly true of the Eldresses also, there being no distinction in the binding nature of the covenants between the sexes. The nature of the covenants of the Deaconate is a little different:

      "Those who break the oath and covenant of the Enochian Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood must suffer more than those who break the covenant of the Zadokian Order {Order of Deacons}, which is a temporal covenant. Therefore let none enter the oath and covenant of the Enochian Order lightly, lest he waiver and fall, and justice maketh its legitimate demands of him. Nevertheless the oath and covenant of the Zadokian Order is no small matter, saith the Lord. Therefore let those who enter therein lightly beware, for if they fall, they must receive the reward of their transgression, which is as the rock that dasheth down the wall of rebellion" (NC&C 182:8-11).

    The oath and covenant of the Deaconate is no less serious than that of the Eldership. Accordingly the Church is at pains to ensure that only those who have been genuinely called be the Lord are admitted to Priesthood orders...for their own sakes, quite apart from the well-being of the Church which will receive their ministry.

    The strictness of the New Covenant is brought into sharp focus in the Olive Branch :

      "If a man doth not choose the right when he hath received the spirit of knowledge and wisdom, he must lose the light and pass beyond the arms of grace and mercy, and into the cold and lonely world of Abaddon. And his knowledge shall profit him nothing, for knowledge is an orphan without love and discipline" (NC&C 182:12-13).

    And what is this love?

      "And love is obedience to the truth, which is knowledge of the Way of the Lord" (NC&C 182:14).

    which perfectly reflects the words of Jesus to His disciples:

      If ye love Me, keep My commandments (Jn.14:15, KJV).
      He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me (Jn.14:21, KJV).
      If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I keep My Father's commandments, and abide in His love (Jn.15:10. KJV).

    This obedience does not come naturally to us because it runs contrary to the inclinations of our fallen human nature:

      Verily, verily, I say unto you, that a man must choose that which is right even if it goeth contrary to his nature and the feelings of his heart, for only the truth can save. For the feelings of a man's heart -- his desires and expectations -- are fashioned by his perception of truth, even if that "truth" is the "truth" of a false god, and is therefore itself false (NC&C 182:15-18).

    The whole concept of covenant-making is revolting to our fallen human nature, because it would make us responsible and accountable before God and men. Little wonder that the majority of Christians reject it but who would rather go their own way.

    "The responsibility of a football coach is to make the players do what they do not want to do so that they can become what they have always wanted to be"

    The true Gospel is not easy but worth it. I am reminded of the saying of an American football coach who was asked what the secret of his success was. His reply was something like this: "The responsibility of a football coach is to make the players do what they do not want to do so that they can become what they always wanted to be." This is true of a minister of God who has the responsibility of guiding the Saviour's sheep in the ways of discipleship, making them do what their fallen human nature rebels at doing so that they can be what they have always wanted to be -- exalted sons and daughters of God.

    This is the calling of the Priesthood of God. It is a thankless calling as a rule but absolutely necessary. So sacred is the calling that God places them under covenant to carry out their calling according to His precepts and not man-made ones.

    The entering into of covenants is a matter of personal choice and not compulsion, however:

      Let those who are standing at the doors of the New Covenant who hesitate to choose, carefully weigh the Law in the balance and choose. Great blessings await those who are pure and undivided, but those who are divided, who are unable to choose one way or the other, have chosen no way, and it is as though they are in the wilderness (NC&C 182:26-27).

      Keep all the commandments and covenants by which thou art bound, and I will cause the heavens to shake for thy good. Zion shall rejoice and flourish in the mountains if My people are true and will prepare themselves diligently, saith the Lord (NC&C 196:32-33).

      Behold, I will provide for the needs of My saints if they will first seek the Covenant, exercising faith in all My promises, for I, the Lord, know your every need, and will not leave you lacking spiritually or materially (NC&C 211:9).

      See that ye are faithful unto your covenants otherwise My Coming shall be delayed yet further and the devil shall enjoy his works of darkness longer (NC&C 244:23).

      I will bless the saints with material prosperity only as they are true and faithful unto every covenant and commandment, seeking to build by faith and by works, through the infinite grace of He who hath called you and sent you out, the Kingdom of God upon the earth (NC&C 337:8).

    And behold, the deeper ye go into the Covenant, the greater the possibility of deception and spiritual destruction if ye rebel and are disobedient.

    Sober thoughts indeed. Indeed, this has been our very testimony as we have watched faithless brethren and sisters rebel and forget all they have learned and witnessed the disintegration of their spiritual lives. But for those who have been faithful, we have witnessed only blessings, a blossoming of spiritual knowledge, a deepened faith, and an abiding love that withstands everything the devil throws at it.

    May you, the seeker after truth, approach the Lord in faith, whether it be to enter into His sacred covenants or to renew faith because of past sins unrepented of. We invite you to gather to Zion and worship the Lord in purity and truth.

    Praise awaits You, O God, in Zion;
    to You our covenants will be fulfilled

    (Psalm 65;1, NCV)

    This page was created on 11 April 1998
    Last updated on 11 April 1998

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