Q&A: Conditional Covenants

Conditional Covenants

Are divine covenants conditional, with requirements for loyalty?

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Answer

The question might be asked, are all divine-human covenants conditional and, therefore, do they all have an element of human responsibility? I think I would answer that question, yes, they're all conditional. But that doesn't mean they're a relationship of equals or that they're even a relationship based on merit, in no way. Probably one of the best places to think about this is in the renewal of the covenant with Isaac. God said to Isaac that because your father Abraham walked in my ways, observed my statutes, my law and my commandments, therefore, I blessed him so that I might fulfill the promises to him. You see, Abraham's obedience to God's requirements, the stipulations of the covenant, were the means, the God-ordained means by which he would bless the nations. And now, if you look at Abraham's relationship with God, it was one that was sovereignly initiated. It was sealed where God … took the curses of the covenant toward himself in the splitting of the animals in Genesis 15, but none of that removed the conditions upon Abraham. And so, obedience to God's commands — which we could easily call that faithfulness to God's commands, faithfulness to trust the Lord — is the mechanism by which he administers the blessings of the covenant. But that is not to say that obedience merits God's response. It's only because God has agreed, covenanted to bless, that he graciously blesses for the obedience rendered.

Answer by Rev. Michael J. Glodo

Rev. Michael J. Glodo is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.