In David VanDrunen’s book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms he gives a helpful discussion of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant, is a prominent covenant in Scripture. It is repeatedly pointed to in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, Israel is reminded of the promises God made to Abraham. In the New Testament, believers are called children of Abraham (2 Cor 11:22; Gal 3:29; Heb 2:16). Thus point is clear, the Abrahamic Covenant is of great significance as it is expressed many times and in many ways throughout Scripture. Therefore it benefits us, that we understand some of the key features of it, how this covenant is different from others, and how this understanding affects Christians today.
The key distinction of the Abrahamic covenant from the covenant with Noah, is the Abrahamic is religious in its scope and redemptive in its purpose as it sets aside a particular people for God. It is helpful to contrast this covenant with the post flood covenant of Noah. Whereas the Noahic was a covenant with all of creation, that wasn’t redemptive, and was temporary the Abrahamic is not. The Abrahamic Covenant is not concerned with the ordinary life of all people but about the religious worship and faith of a select group. This covenant that establishes true religion, offers salvation for a select people, and is eternal rather than temporary. Here are key features worth studying:
1. The Abrahamic Covenant regards the sacred and not the secular. The covenant focuses is not on the preservation of society or creation (as with Noah) but on how God will redeem a people group for himself. The Abrahamic Covenant is religious. It doesn’t speak to life of the world in general but it speaks to the religious life and practice of the sacred. Its content is sacred not secular.
2. The Abrahamic Covenant distinguishes a people for God. Out of the general population God enters into covenant with a particular person (Abraham). It is through Abraham that a special group will be brought about, redeemed, & preserved. The barren wife of Abraham is promised in this covenant that she will be the mother of offspring too numerous to count.
Gen. 15:5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Gen. 15:6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
This particular group would be set apart by a mark of circumcision. A sign signifying their hearts were circumcised to God. (Gen. 17:9-14) Abraham believes God will do all he says at his word. This is an act the Apostle Paul interprets as the prime example of righteousness by faith. Believing God’s word is how we are counted as righteous. (Gal 3:1-9; Rom 4:1-25)
3. The Abrahamic Covenant establishes a means of salvation. It has already been mentioned that when Abraham believed God this was counted to him as righteousness. What this act of justification meant was, that God no longer considered Abraham’s guilt from his sin. This first act of faith by Abraham would be the means of salvation from the guilt of sin for all who were in the Abrahamic Covenant. In order to have the righteousness of a righteous one (Jesus) applied (credited, imputed) to a sinner they would need to trust in him.
4. The Abrahamic Covenant is an eternal covenant. While the covenant with Noah was temporary this covenant is not. It is to gather a particular people to God who will be his forever. Through Abraham God would bring about individuals, nations, and kings. The goal was not only a people group, but a group of people who are saved from their sin, and they are gathered into an eternal kingdom. This kingdom is shown to us in its final state in Revelation 21-22.
This covenant with Abraham carries these four key features through the rest of the Bible story. It is God dealing with his people, to bring about their salvation, and they would inherit a kingdom that would last forever. Abraham along with all of those in this covenant would live in the world though they were distinct. The entire world would be living in the wake of the Noahic covenant but only a select group would live in the Abrahamic. Those in the Abrahamic Covenant lived in both covenants at the same time. They were in two worlds, two spheres, or two kingdoms if you want to call it that. Christians today may not be in the same situation as Abraham but the covenant situation is the same. From the general group God gathers a select group (the church) for his people to live in his eternal kingdom under the rule of the Son.