Covenants – Part II (If-Then)

Last time, we saw the difference between a contract (which is between two equal parties exchanging things of perceived equal value) and a covenant.  Covenants are made unilaterally by someone in authority (the covenant maker) and are imposed on another party to promise reward or punishment based on the behavior of the covenant receiver.

Before we push this concept further, let’s lay down another foundational truth.

  • God’s love is unconditional.  We cannot do anything to increase it, diminish it, it cannot be cut off, hindered, or earned.  God loves all people regardless of how they behave.  Matthew 5:45 “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Most Christians have no trouble with this concept for they know God loves all mankind and that love cannot be earned.  This next one, however, may be surprising.

  • God’s blessings are conditional.  Does that shock you?  That’s not a popular thing to say these days.  We like to believe that because God’s love is unconditional, so are his blessings.

Returning now to the language of the covenant, we find two key words usually contained within them: If and Then.  The mother told her son, “If you touch the icing on that cake, you’ll be sent to your room!” and a covenant has just been put into place.  The rules are firm, the covenant receiver now has the freedom to decide which outcome they will receive: blessing or punishment.

God’s Word is filled with these If/Then covenants, and God’s people are bound by the conditions, yet always have the freedom to choose the outcome.  Covenants are why God’s everlasting love is unconditional, but His blessings are conditional.  We must unlock the covenant (i.e. the blessing) by meeting the If of his conditions.  Even His salvation (offered to all) is a conditional blessing.

Romans 10:9 “..if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

These two famous verses don’t exactly use the If/Then language overtly, the feel of an If/Then covenant rings out of them.  “If you believe in him, Then you shall not perish but have eternal life.”  That is a conditional blessing.  You have to meet the condition to receive the blessing…simple as that!

2 Chronicles 7:14 is perhaps my favorite example of a God laying out conditions to meet before a blessing can be poured out.

If my people who are called by my name, will…

  1. humble themselves
  2. and pray
  3. and seek my face
  4. and turn from their wicked ways,

Then will I…

  1. hear from heaven
  2. and will forgive their sins
  3. and will heal their land.

Here, there are 4 distinct conditions that God says we must meet before He will pour out 3 distinct blessings in return.  Have you ever wondered why our land is not blessed of God?  The answer is simple, we have not met the conditions God laid out for a nation to receive His blessing.  It’s not because God isn’t loving, for He loves unconditionally.  It’s all about conditional blessings…the If/Then statements.

In John chapters 14-15 Jesus uses if many times to define the conditions that bring blessing.  In all of these examples, the then part  is implied.  See if you can insert it when you read (I added the first one for you).

  • If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  (Then) My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (14:24)
  • If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.” (15:10)
  • “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)
  • If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” (15:5)
  • If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers.” (15:16)
  • If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (15:7)

The question then is never one of whether God loves you, your neighbor or your nation.  God’s love is unconditional.  The question for you, your neighbor, or your nation is whether you will meet the conditions of His covenants so God can pour out His blessings on your life, your neighbor’s life, or your nation.  God has laid out the conditions to meet.  Now, you decide which outcome you’ll receive.

It might encourage you that God is even on your side, cheering you on to make the right choices.  I’ll leave you with His word from Deuteronomy 30:19-20. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”   

Well, go on…choose!