God deals with people through the use of covenants.Throughout the Bible we read that God established covenants with individuals and with nations. Covenant is at the center of what it means to have a relationship with God.
In Genesis we discover that God walked with Adam and Eve during the cool of the day. God had a personal relationship with them, because sin and rebellion had not entered the picture.
After sin, God could not have a personal relationship with Adam and Eve, or their descendants. Humankind had entered into rebellion against God. This meant that God had to establish a peace treaty with people in order to have a relationship with them. The idea of a peace treaty is one of the ways we can understand what a covenant is. By using a covenant God extended His terms of peace to people. We can either accept these terms or reject them.
Carl Ketcherside in his book The Death of the Custodian wrote:
The fact is that God has chosen to relate to man on the basis of covenants. He is a covenant-making God. No one who ignores this fact will ever grasp God’s plan and purpose in any age (p. 15).
I want to throw this idea out to you: Our personal relationship with God flows out of God’s covenant with us. This covenant was established by Jesus, and every one who is united to Jesus has place in the covenant. There are personal elements in our relationship with God, but overall our relationship with God is tied the relationship God has with the Church. This is true because God established the New Covenant, not with a person, but with a people. We are able to have a personal relationship with God, because we are part of the chosen people of God.
1 Peter 2:9 reminds us:
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (NLT).
One of the implications of this reality is that we are not to live our lives on our own. We have a responsibility to and for each other. No one should try to walk the journey of faith alone. It is important that we help each other as much as possible, because our lives are linked, whether we like it or not.
I mention this because I think our focus on having a “personal” relationship with God sidetracks us from what God has really called us to be—a covenant people. It is great that we can mature and live by faith on our own, but that was not what we were created to do. We were created to live in fellowship with God’s people: the people of the covenant.
Leon Morris in The Atonement wrote:
It mattered intensely to Old Testament Israel that the nation was in covenant relationship with the one and only God. All its thinking and living revolved around this fact (p. 22).
I know that Israel is not a great example of covenant faithfulness, but I wonder what the Church would be like if our thinking and living revolved around the reality that we are part of God’s covenant people. Should this reality (being part of God’s covenant people) change our thinking and the way we “do church”?
At the very least it should move us from having a private faith, to being an active part of a community of faithful people. To be part of God’s covenant people means that salvation is not a private matter between me and God, because I have been added to God’s people. This means that we are responsible for encouraging each other to love and to live by faith. My relationship with God moves me into fellowship with His children. (Tweet this)
God deals with humankind through covenants. We see this reality throughout the Bible. Jesus came to fulfill the terms of the Old Covenant and establish the New Covenant. This means that our personal relationship with God flows out of the covenant God has established with the Church. Our personal relationship with God is first and foremost a covenant relationship with God.