Identifying Covenant Terms In The Bible

Scrabble Tiles and Scrapbooking Letters 3

Some of you are undoubtedly football fans. Others have a passion for photography, while many prefer skiing, tennis, surfboarding or perhaps auto racing as favorite activities. No matter what the area of interest, each has its own language composed of specific terms and phrases. The same is true for work activities. Chemical engineers communicate with a different set of terms than heart surgeons, and the lingo of graphic artists differs from that of musicians. Biblical covenant is no different. It has a language all its own. Knowing the language, i.e., its specific terminology, is a great help in identifying covenant in the Bible.

Activities Generate Terms

The particular language of an activity, whether it be sports or medicine, is derived from the nature of the activity itself. In a similar manner, part of the language of blood covenant is derived from covenant activities and their results.

For instance, the result of two people making a blood covenant is that they become one. Therefore, to say that two individuals are one, is to say they are in covenant. Unity is another blood covenant term. Recall that making a blood covenant requires that each party gives ALL to the other. When the giving is completed, everything belongs to each party jointly, thus the concept that everything that is mine is yours, and yours is mine is a blood covenant expression.

Another aspect of blood covenant is the idea that once a blood covenant is made each party is in the other. This results from the mutual giving of all, the intermingling of blood and eating and drinking the same bread and wine.

Covenant In John 17

The following verses from John 17 illustrate how Jesus incorporates these covenant words and phrases as He prays to the Father.

10 “And all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.”

21 “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

23I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

26 “and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

In the language of the Bible, at the time when it was written, it was enough to merely make a reference to covenant to be understood, because covenant was so common and openly practiced. A modern-day analogy can be found on the sports pages of a newspaper. An article filled with terms like home runs, stolen bases, and double plays is clearly about baseball. There is no need for a glossary of terms or an explanation of the rules and objective of the game because all baseball fans know the rules and understand the jargon. Likewise it was not necessary for the writers of the Bible to explain all of the covenant expressions they used, or to describe the entire covenant making process.

Therefore, we conclude from the terminology Jesus is using in the above verses that He is clearly speaking of blood covenant.

What Does It Mean?

The ramifications of Jesus’ words are astounding. Since these ideas are expressed in a prayer prayed by Jesus to His heavenly Father, I’m not going very far out on a limb, if at all, to say that His requests were answered. This means that every believer is united with Christ, and also the Father, in the same way Jesus and the Father are united. So, if you are a believer, you are in the same relationship with Jesus and the Father as Jesus and the Father. I have to say, “WOW!” to that. Jesus and the Father are one. They are in covenant. And our covenant with Jesus is not one that differs in any way from the covenant between Jesus and the Father. Further, it means that all believers are one with each other just as Jesus and the Father are one. Believers are joined together in a special community … a blood covenant community … it is an agapē love relationship … and these blood covenant friends are now, always have been and always will be the body of Christ. They are a community of heaven dwellers currently residing on earth.

A Friend Closer Than A Brother

Blood covenant partners are referred to as friends in the Bible. Covenant friends are friends like no other. In ancient days they might be referred to as “blood brothers,” and as such they were closer than “milk brothers” because they were nursed on the same mother’s milk. Proverbs 18:24 says “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” God made a covenant with Abraham, and he was called God’s friend.

“Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend.” (2 Chronicles 20:7)

“And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,’ and he was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)

A blood covenant friendship is forever. It extends beyond death to the descendants of the covenant partners. This is a pure love relationship.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

And Jesus said to His disciples,

14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.

15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15)

Blood Covenant Community

Acts 2:41-47 and Acts 4:32-37 provide important information for our understanding of covenant fellowship among believers.

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44 And all those who had believed were together [not just in the same place, but united in covenant] and had all things in common [as in all things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine];

45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-47)

32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.

33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.

34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales

35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement ),

37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32-37)

These new followers of Jesus Christ and covenant friends with each other present us with a vivid picture of a blood covenant community: They are together … they are united … they have all things in common … they are one … they are IN Christ, Christ is IN them, and they are IN each other. They are also devoted to learning the teachings of Jesus from the mouths of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread (commonly called communion) and to prayer. It is important to note that they did not learn to do all these things over a long period of time, and they didn’t have to work to do these things. To the contrary, they supernaturally became covenant community members when they entered into blood covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ. Following conversion, they lived out of what they had become. They had died to the world, and were alive in Christ. It is as the words of Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died [joined the blood covenant with Jesus] and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The body of Christ is a pure blood covenant community, and this covenant is the same covenant relationship that exists in eternity between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three-in-one God. And again I say, “WOW!”

From Death Comes New Live

There are still more covenant references in this amazing prayer.

1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,

2 “even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He [Jesus] may give eternal life.

3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You [the Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:1-3)

One of the characteristics of blood covenant is that out of death springs new life. The new life of the new covenant is a new spiritual life, and as such it is an eternal life. Notice that in verse 2 Jesus prays that the Father would be glorified as He, Jesus, gives eternal life to all the Father gives Him. Everyone who by God’s grace believes in Jesus and repents, i.e., dies to self, then receives a new self, that is, a new heart, or said another way, a new life. This new life is spiritual and therefore eternal. The way to eternal life, therefore, is to enter into covenant relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and through Christ come into the same relationship with God the Father.

More Than Mental Awareness 

Also note the use of the word know in the third verse of the above passage. The Greek word for the English word know means far more than mental knowing. It is a knowledge that comes from very close experience between the parties. It conveys the idea of a personal, intimate relationship with the one being known. Therefore, Jesus is asking the Father that those for whom He is praying to come into a deep, personal relationship with Him. In other words, Jesus is expressing the covenant concept that when someone makes covenant with Him, they will also come into a personal, intimate relationship, that is, a covenant relationship, with the Father.

What’s In A Name

Further covenant evidence is found in the 6th and 11th verses of the 17th chapter of John.

6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”

11 “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.”

The covenant making process includes an exchange of names. Each party making the covenant would take on part of the other’s name. This concept of acting in the name of another person is expressed in the idea of someone being a representative for someone else. In the United States, representatives are elected to do the work of the government for the people who elected them. When they vote on a piece of legislation, they are placing a vote for the people they represent. They are acting in the name of the people. Another example is when a person hires a lawyer to appear in court as their representative. The arguments lawyers make before a judge and jury are considered to be the arguments of the person they represent. In covenant lingo, the government representative and the attorney would be said to be acting in the name of the ones they represent in the performance of their duties.

This prayer of Jesus’ to His Father in heaven is clearly a prayer that all those given to Him by the Father, that is, all who believe in Him and repent, would have the authority to act in the name of Jesus. This is much more than beginning or ending a prayer with the words, “In the name of Jesus.” Rather, it means that believers can pray and act with the same authority as Jesus as long as they are doing so from a place of covenant with the Lord.

God’s Nature In Covenant

The language of covenant also includes references to the characteristics of God. It is clear from John 17 that Jesus is in a covenant relationship with the Father. It is also understood that His prayer is that all those who would believe in Him would be brought into the same covenant relationship shared by He and the Father. Please understand that covenant is a characteristic of God. When God created the heavens and the earth, He brought into existence things that did not previously exist. Since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were already in covenant, it was not necessary for covenant to be created. In the same way, it was not necessary that love, mercy or grace be created since they already existed in God. The same is true for all of the characteristics of God’s divine nature. Therefore, just as it was not necessary that love be created, it was not necessary that covenant be created.

There is something in the heart of all women and men that yearns for love. Humans in their fallen state often have a difficult time fulfilling that desire. Many of us spend a lot of time looking for love in all the wrong places. God did not create a world that was foreign to Him, filled with things that were outside of His nature, character and being. Rather, all He created was consistent with His nature, it was a reflection of Him. Love was part of that creation as was covenant and all of His other characteristics. Therefore, it is not surprising that people would seek to be in meaningful covenant relationships. We desire to be linked with others, not just superficially, but as closely and completely as possible. The pinnacle of our desire to be united with another is to be united with the One who is covenant. It should not be surprising that blood covenant making has been practiced, although often perverted, in every culture ever studied. From earliest times, people have made covenant with each other and also with an entity they considered to be their god.

Thus, words in the bible that describe the nature of God are also covenant terms. Words such as love, mercy, grace and forgiveness are not only characteristics of God, but also components of covenant.

Covenant Love And Covenant Power

Jesus said, “If you love [agapē] Me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) He is saying that those who revere Him will keep His commandments. But the word love also indicates a blood covenant relationship. Jesus said this love, this blood covenant love, was the greatest love of all, “Greater love [agapē] has no one than this, that one lay down his life [die to self and make and keep the covenant] for his friends.” (John 15:13)

When one is in a blood covenant relationship, they willingly and without hesitation do whatever their covenant partner, their friend, asks of them. That is a foundational requirement of a blood covenant, and that is the reference in the above verse. To not do whatever you are asked is to deny yourself since you and your covenant partner are one, and your friend’s very nature lives in you. And if we who are in covenant with Jesus are to do what He asks, shouldn’t He do the same? Of course, He should, and so he promised.

Whatever you ask in My name [as His covenant representative], that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

And just in case we aren’t paying attention, Jesus says the same thing in the very next sentence.

“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)

Notice that He used the expression, in My name, in both statements. In my name is a covenant indicator. You should understand at this point that to ask God for something in the name of Jesus does not mean saying, “In the name of Jesus,” while praying. What it does mean is to make your request from a position of being in a blood covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus is saying in the above verses that anything or whatever will be given to the one who asks from a place of being in and living out of a blood covenant relationship with Him.

Jesus tells the disciples before he ascends into heaven that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. (Acts 1:8) John 14:13, 14 speaks of great power with the use of the words whatever and anything. But they also speak of covenant with the use of the phrase, in My name. Jesus is saying that a believer, a covenant friend, has unlimited access to the power of God. Power over every sin. Power to live in perfect unity with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Power to be a bright light of forgiveness and hope to a world dying in darkness. Power to live in physical, spiritual and emotional health and wholeness. And power to execute signs and wonders according to the will of the Holy Spirit. All of this power comes to us through the person of the Holy Spirit, but it is housed in, or perhaps better put, is available only because of the nature of blood covenant. Each covenant partner’s sole desire is to fulfill the desires of their covenant friend. Jesus immediately follows the two statements above with these words,“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Jesus is saying that if you have an agapē love relationship with Him, that is, a blood covenant relationship, you will do all He asks of you. Blood covenant is a mutual, two-way giving relationship. What is expected of one is true for the other. However, Jesus’ statement in John 14:15 begins with the word, If you love [agapē] me.” He will do anything and whatever if you love Him. That is to say, if you are in covenant with Him, if your love for Him is an all-giving, God kind of love … agapē love … and if you will do whatever and anything He asks of you. God operates on the principle of “I will if you will.” Therefore, to the degree that you keep His commandments, you will become a vessel of His power.

In The Image Of God

Seeing that each party of a blood covenant vows complete obedience to the other, we understand that total, absolute obedience is a fundamental covenant characteristic. The first indication of this in the Bible is found at the beginning, in the first chapter of Genesis. In the third verse, God commanded, “Let there be light.” The creation responds in covenant obedience, therefore, the verse is completed with the words, “And there was light.” Each time God commands that something occur, the Bible tells us “it was so.” This is a picture of absolute, total covenant obedience. Clearly the creation process is a covenant making activity.

This brings us to the final step of the creation, the creation of man, and another piece of the covenant language glossary. Verse 26 tells us that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” And the 27th verse says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We have come to understand that human covenant partners in ancient days would actually take on each other’s physical appearance since they exchanged robes, weapons and shields. But they would also be a reflection of their partner inwardly since the life of their partner was within them. Recall the words of Jesus to His disciple, Philip.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’” (John 14:9)

Jesus is saying that He is one with the Father, in covenant with Him, and therefore He is the very image of the Father. Colossians 1:15a says, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God.” And Hebrews 1:3 says, “He [Jesus] is the radiance of His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” Hence, when the Bible speaks of someone being in the image of another, it a reference to the existence of a covenant.

In Retrospect

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, and uncovered several words and phrases that are covenant indicators in the Bible. Here’s a glossary of terms you can use as a reference.

A Glossary Of Blood Covenant Words And Phrases

  • Give, giving — A fundamental component of blood covenant. Inherent in the meaning of giving is a free transfer of possessions. In blood covenant, the transfer is not limited to possessions, but also includes an exchange of lives … even to the extent of including each partner’s wants, desires and aspirations.
  • Two become one — A transfer, or exchange, of lives results in the covenanting partners becoming one. In Bible terminology, to say that two or more individuals are one, is to say they are joined by means of a blood covenant.
  • Unity, union, united — When two become one through blood covenant, they are then united.
  • Everything that is mine is yours, and yours is mine — Another way of expressing oneness and unity.
  • In, as in I in you and you in me — When two or more people are joined in a blood covenant, they are said to be in each other.
  • Friend(s) — Blood covenant partners are referred to as friends in the Bible. Blood covenant friends are closer than brothers. In other words, a blood covenant relationship is a more solemn compact that even family relationships.
  • Death, die, dying — The giving of all one has, is or ever will be is referred to as the death of blood covenant partners. This is also expressed as dying to self, putting to  death the deeds of the body, or sanctification.
  • Life, eternal life — From the death of two covenanting partners comes a new life. When a blood covenant is made, the individual lives of the covenanting parties cease to exist. In their place, a new life is formed out of the commingling of the two. The result is one life in two persons. This can be represented mathematically as 1+1=1. God is one life in three persons or 1+1+1=1.
  • Know, to know, to be known — In the Hebrew and Greek Bible texts, the word know means much more than to obtain a collection of facts about something or someone. In both languages, there is the understanding of a deep, personal relationship brought about by extensive experience. Thus to know another person in this way is to be in an intimate, experiential relationship such as marriage or blood covenant. You must rely on context to distinguish the actual meaning.
  • Name, your name, in the name of — Blood covenant partners exchange names or incorporate a part of their partner’s name into their own. The changing of names most often indicates the existence of a blood covenant. Consider the name changes of Abram to Abraham and that of his wife from Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul. The idea of one going in the name of another is similar to the idea of representation. Lawyers represent clients in legal proceedings by speaking in the place of their clients. In blood covenant language, a lawyer speaking for a client would be said to be acting in the name of the client.
  • Love — A characteristic of God. The Bible says God is love. Love is not a feeling in the Bible as it is thought of today in general society. Rather, love is an attribute of blood covenant. The characteristics of blood covenant are perfectly defined in the word love, and they are laid out for us in chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The words covenant and love are interchangeable. A blood covenant relationship is a love relationship of the highest order. Love is: patient, kind, never jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails. This is love between covenant partners, between Jesus and every believer, between believers and God. Without love we are but noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.
  • Obedience, faithfulness, steadfastness — It is understood that blood covenant partners will do anything and whatever is asked of them by their covenant friend(s).
  • Image, in the image of — Blood covenant friends are one … their lives are duplicates. Therefore, they not only look like each other, they exhibit the same behavior. They are united in every way. Thus, the Bible refers to blood covenant friends as being the image of each other. This is the meaning of God creating man in His image.

These covenant words and phrases can be found throughout the Bible. This is true because the Bible is a covenant document. It consists of two covenants which we commonly call the Old and New Testaments. Though there are two covenants, they are inseparably joined to each other with the new covenant being the fulfillment, or completion, of the old. The new covenant, as the fulfillment of the old covenant, is in many ways radically different from the old covenant upon which it stands. The old covenant is physical in nature, while the new covenant is spiritual. It is as if the old covenant was turned inside out. Another way to think of it is that the old covenant was given a new spirit. This is analogous to what happens when a person is born again. They receive a new spirit. The new spirit is still housed in the old physical house, the body, but the heart of the person is entirely new. A new life has been created and they are a new person. In similar fashion, the new covenant is the new life that continues to live in its old house, the old covenant. We will highlight additional covenant terms and phrases as they are encountered in our study of Biblical covenant.

This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical Covenant, Biblical Insights, Christian, Covenant - First Things, Identifying Covenant Terms in the Bible and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply