A Covenant Fellowship

“The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.”
Deuteronomy 5.2

The theme for the month of April focuses on the covenant between God and Israel. It is important that we understand the significance of this covenant.

We read in Exodus 19.1-6, “In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came to the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘This is what you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.’

God’s offer of a covenant to the Israelites was in keeping his oath to Abraham (see Genesis 15.18; 18.19; 21.2). God had also made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17.10-27; Acts 7.8). Moses reminded the nation of Israel of this in Deuteronomy 5.2,27-30. The Bible reveals that God has always offered man a relationship by means of a covenant. In doing so, God laid out covenant terms and man accepted those terms. There was then a ratification of the covenant. This was the process of accepting the terms. Ratification was necessary because it involved man’s commitment to obedience. Obedience from a willing heart is what God desired. The following passages bear this out.

Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.”
Exodus 19.8

Then Moses came and reported to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!”
Exodus 24.3

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it as the people listened; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”
Exodus 24.7

In committing to obedience, Israel was also making a declaration about God. We see this from Deuteronomy 26.17a: “Today you have declared the Lord to be your God.” God’s covenants are the means by which he has a special relationship with certain individuals. Each covenant had its own unique terms. Noah and Moses were both told to build arks. However, there was a huge difference in their sizes and purposes. Yet both men were to obey what God commanded of them (Genesis 6.14; Deuteronomy 10.1).

Fellowship with God is only possible when there is relationship with him. A relationship cannot exist apart from a covenant. The important thing to learn is how one enters into a covenant relationship with God. This is where a covenant factors in.

A relationship with God is based upon a covenant. The covenant terms existed in the form of commands, statutes, laws, and ordinances; these were to be observed. As long as there was obedience to the terms, there was fellowship with God. Fellowship with one another had no significance apart from this. Fellowship with God was broken when the terms of the covenant were transgressed. We find this from the writings of the prophets. Isaiah wrote of Israel, “They have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24.5). Jeremiah wrote, “They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers” (Jeremiah 11.10).

The importance of a a relationship as it relates to fellowship can be seen from the marriage institution. Marriage was ordained by God and as such it is not an ordinance that any man or society can regulate or amend. The fellowship in a marriage between a man and a woman is only legit if the man and woman meet with God’s law regarding who can marry. The importance of this relationship of marriage is seen from Hebrews 13.4: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.” Because marriage is a covenant relationship, the “bed” is not defiled when shared by those lawfully married (Genesis 2.24). Without a covenant relationship, the coming together of two is reduced to a sharing (joint participation) in sin (i.e., fornication and/or adultery; 1 Corinthians 6.16).

As the terms (vows) are to be honored in a marriage relationship, so it is true in God’s covenants. Fellowship is severed when the covenant’s terms are transgressed. To transgress these terms is to commit sin (Joshua 7.11). Let us remember that under the new covenant of which Jesus is the mediator, fellowship with God is as the apostle John wrote: “If we say that we have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the book of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1.6-7).