"Proof-texting" is legit, when you are backing up your theological assertions with Scripture, but we must pay attention to the contexts of every verse.
We don't interpret the Bible like any other book. The epistles of Paul are like non-biblical letters in one sense, but not in another. The Bible isn't a story to be interpreted like any other.
- God's sovereignty and our obedience
- Individuals and groups
- Word (norm), land (situation) and seed (experience)
Eternal Covenant of Redemption
The Father and Son agreed together to give a people to the Son to be adopted children of God (Eph 1:4-5; John 17:5-6). The Son agrees to serve toward this end (Isaiah 42, 52-53). The Spirit is part of this, coming to us, regenerating us, bearing witness of Christ to us (John 15:26; Rom. 2:29).
- Sovereignty and obedience: the Father plans and decrees, the Son and Spirit submit, serve and obey, though they are equals.
- Individuals and groups: a particular people is saved, but also all creation that fell into frustration is restored.
- Word (blessing on God's people received), land (restoration of world), seed (Father gives Son a people)
Universal Covenant with Creation
God is Lord of all the earth (Isa 66:1). We have an obligation to serve the Lord, simply because we are His creatures (Ps 33:5-9; 104; Isa 24:5).
Edenic Covenant (of works, or of life)
God calls Adam and Eve to a specific relationship and role in His creation (Gen 1:28). Blessing, land and seed are all in this one verse! It is worldwide, but with individual responsibility. There is one command calling for obedience: not to eat the fruit. We can call this a covenant of works, but shouldn't say Adam was autonomous. This covenant continues in creation ordinances that still apply to us: work (2 Thess 3:10), marriage (1 Cor 7), and Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28; Luke 4:16). Adam's breaking of this covenant is our own (Romans 5:16-19).
Covenant of Grace
Adam couldn't regain God's favor just by obedience. God promises a serpent-crusher (Gen 3:15). This called for faith and obedience, which Scripture says Abel had (Heb. 11:4). Frame quotes Norm Shepherd positively here, a controversial thing these days. We need a living faith (James 2:14-26), or we receive the curse.
Covenants with Noah
Here God promises to His creation a stable world. This is not a secular order, or natural law, but it is common grace. We see faith in Noah's building and entering the ark and his sacrifices; we see curses for disobedience in Ham and Canaan, and obviously in the flood, a negative type of our baptism (1 Pet. 3:20). We see the life from death theme in the flood, renewing the dominion mandate (land), and Noah's descendants spread (seed).
Covenant with Abraham
God promises to bless Abraham with land and children if he trusts Him and goes where He says. This is a conditional covenant (Gen 26:5), as all covenants are, in requiring faith. That doesn't earn God's blessing by our works, of course. The covenant is unconditional in that God will see it fulfilled in Christ. This covenant is universal and individual: Abraham will bless all nations.
Covenant with Israel through Moses
God graciously initiates redeeming Israel from Egypt. God expects faith from Israel, but does NOT reward them on earth according to their works. Rather, it's the same as other covenants: God brings curses on those who do not believe and who disobey Him. This covenant is NOT a revised covenant of works - Israel's salvation is based NOT on her works, but on "the grace of Christ mediated through the priesthood and temple sacrifices." This covenant is individual to each Israelite, and also international in that promises to Israel extend even to other nations (Isa 19:23-25). This is the only biblical covenant that comes to an end (Heb 8:13). Many of the laws remain in effect, Jesus or Paul restating them (Matt 5:17-48; Rom 13:9-10; Eph 6:1-3). "But some of the specific laws given for Israel's ceremonial and judicial life are obsolete" (75). Still, the church is the new Israel, and the promises given her are rightly claimed by Christ's people (Gal 3:9; 6:16).
Covenant with David
God promises David and his descendants an eternal throne (2 Sam 7:8-16). God will chasten disobedience, but unconditionally grant dominion to his Son, "from sea to sea" (Ps 72:8). Solomon fails, the kingdom divides, the prophets confront sin but also promise grace and restoration. Jesus is the Son of David, and we will reign with Christ (Rev 5:10; 22:5). We sing David's songs.
Jesus fulfills all the covenants as the greater prophet (Deut 18:15), priest (Heb 4:14-5:10), and king (Mark 12:35-37). Jesus comes as head of the new covenant, Lord of the sabbath, a role only God can take. His work is the basis of all earlier covenants: Israel's sins were removed by His atonement, not sacrificial animals'. This is unconditional in that God freely gives a new heart to His people. It is conditional in that we must have true faith to receive eternal life. You can be in the new covenant externally without having its blessings - we see warnings of this in Heb 6:1-12; 10:26-39. It is universal in that we go to disciple the nations (blessing = Jesus' presence, land = nations, seed = disciples).
Three of these covenants are timeless, and fit into the 3-fold grid:
Eternal covenant is normative.
Universal covenant (creation) is the situation we find ourselves in.
New covenant is our experience of salvation in Christ.
Life in covenant has several elements
The personal Lord - He is the ruler
The historical fact of our redemption (Ex 20:2) - grace
The law - what we should do
The blessings and curses - consequences for following the law or not
The administrators - real people like judges, parents, and elders - it isn't just you and God