Covenant Love


It sounds too good to be true, but it is God's intended destiny for every person who has ever drawn breath.


The nature of spirit and matter

We naturally think of matter as being real and anything non-material as being "less real". In fact, spirit is the ultimate reality. Spirit is simply what God is. Spirit doesn't decay or deteriorate with time, like physical matter does. (For example, radioactive elements are running down.) Scripture talks about the ultimate fate of this physical universe.

"...The heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded." Psalms 102:25, 26

All physical matter from hydrogen atoms to the most complex organic compounds is made from spirit and will ultimately return to spirit. Physical matter is limited. It occupies space and time and is limited by these (it cannot occupy two locations in space at once and cannot normally share that space/time with other matter).

Spirit, on the other hand, can merge with spirit and is not limited by space or time. But not all spirit automatically merges with other spirit. The best way I can describe how I understand it is this. If I have a pocket radio I can listen to various radio stations from in my bedroom, up a mountain or down in a valley (as long as the signal is strong enough). This means that those signals are all around me but unless I have the equipment and it's set to the correct frequency to receive one of them, I cannot listen to it.

The signals are all around me, throughout the whole of the earth's atmosphere. In other words they are sharing the same space and time but are distinct and not merged because they are of differing frequencies. So I have to be able to tune into the exact one I want.

Well, my illustration is that God is Spirit and he is everywhere, but we aren't aware of him unless we can get onto his wavelength.

We can contact him because we each have a spirit inside us. This spirit is put inside every single person the moment they draw their first breath.

"The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the spirit (Heb. RUACH also means breath) of life and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)

That is what the Bible tells us we are made of: dust of the ground, i.e. physical elements (mainly water) and spirit.

It's through this spirit in us that we are able to experience thoughts and emotions and ideas on a human level. It's the spirit in man that puts them above all animals.

It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty that gives him understanding." (Job 32:8)

So we are able understand things on a human level because God has put a spirit in us that gives us human capacities to understand human things. We can do such things as imagine, dream, visualise abstract concepts, calculate, appreciate beauty etc. etc.

We don't automatically make contact with God and, in fact, we naturally are "tuned away from God" ever since Adam, the first man "fell". But by a "re-tuning" which God alone can do, it's possible for us to connect through the spirit in us which connects with the Holy Spirit, who is God.


What we all want is intimacy

Human intimacy is primarily a spiritual activity. It has a physical aspect and can have a sexual aspect. But the experience of intimacy is a "God plane" relationship. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit experience intimacy with each other on a deeper and more powerfully rewarding level than anything that humans can contemplate. But because we are made in God's image, he has given us human types of this so that we can catch a glimpse of the glory that is to come.

"...A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:31, 32)

So, the intimacy of marriage is a type of a Godly intimacy. Such intimacy isn't limited to marriage.

"Jonathan became one in spirit with David and he loved him as himself." (1 Samuel 18:1)

Interestingly, this kind of spiritual bonding between these two men led them to make a covenant with each other.

"And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself." (1 Samuel 18:3)

This illustrates the point that covenant is a God plane relationship that human beings can enter into.

The merging of spirit is spiritual intimacy and it is the deepest experience that a human being can have. It is spiritual first but then it powerfully impacts upon the emotions, the intellect and the body. It is possible to have physical intimacy (sex) without spiritual intimacy. But actually, this is shallow by comparison and does not lead us to closer intimacy. It doesn't satisfy the deepest human urge to know and be known that is in normal circumstances, present within each one of us.

Don't settle for anything but God's best

This is a profound but simple truth. We all crave intimacy by nature. (Sometimes, I know, through abuse, a person may reject intimacy but that is not a natural condition). This is a godly desire that he intends to satisfy firstly through intimacy with himself through the Holy Spirit (one of whose names is the Comforter). Secondly, and no less vitally he intends for this to be satisfied through intimacy with other human beings. This, in fact, is another way in which we experience intimacy with God as the love of God as well as human love is shared with others.

When we try to experience intimacy by getting the physical and emotional enjoyment of it without the covenant "giving" of ourselves in relationship, we actually cut ourselves off from God's best for us.

"How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. …Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men... It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead." (Proverbs 1:22, 23, Proverbs 2:12, 16-18)


The mystery of covenant love

The closest thing that we humans have to experiencing the love that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoy together is "covenant". And in our western world the only remaining vestige of this is marriage. (And we think we are making progress!) Other societies have understood this much better and have retained covenants between men as well as marriages. (E.g. you have probably seen cowboy films where the Indians made a covenant by becoming blood brothers.)

A covenant between two people is a biblical concept and involves a commitment that will only be broken by death. It is made for three reasons:

  • Love
  • Mutual protection
  • Mutual (usually material) benefit

It is usually sealed with blood and it means a commitment totally to each other. The result of it is that each side of the covenant binds themselves in perpetuity to be committed to love one another and do good to one another despite anything negative that might happen in the future, to share all they have and also to support one another to the very death when attacked by an outsider.

The Bible says that "Love is stronger than death" and that's covenant love. It depicts Godly love (Greek "AGAPE").

How do we understand the Trinity and how the Father relates to the Son and the Holy Spirit? Well, probably we will never understand more than a fraction in this life, but "covenant love" is the closest we will get. It is total commitment of everything one has and is, plus complete identification with and affection towards the other one for ever.

Because we are made in God's image, it isn't surprising that we can enter into covenants as well. God cut a covenant with a man which you can read about in Genesis 15. The man was Abram who later had his name changed by God to Abraham. (The details are all there in Genesis 15 and it involved the shedding of blood in sacrifices and promises that God made to his covenant partner.)

Later on, when Abraham's descendants became a nation (Israel), God made a covenant with the nation. We Christians call it the Old Covenant, because there was a later one that we call the New Covenant. This Old Covenant has been a source of much misunderstanding for Christians to this very day. Unfortunately they are taught that because it's in the Bible then it applies to us today. Actually the Old Covenant was doomed to failure from the start because a covenant requires that both parties are faithful to their promises and Israel was never capable of that. The whole point of the entire Old Covenant is to show us that we are incapable of ever earning our salvation by our works of obedience. If our salvation depended even 0.01% on us then we would all be lost for eternity. Praise God, the New Covenant shows that it doesn't.

Let me explain.

God's Covenant Love for Mankind

When Adam sinned he cut himself off from God and God's blessings on his life. His descendant, Cain had the ground cursed for him and mankind began a long downward spiral.

The fact was that God had genuinely delegated authority over the earth to mankind and was therefore not about to take it back just because mankind was making a mess of things. The devil tries to do that but not God. The devil tries to gain control over people by deception and fear but God respects human dignity and doesn't run roughshod over people even when he sees that they are making mistakes.


How does it work?

When two individuals enter a covenant relationship with each other, they will never derive the maximum benefit if they go into it purely for selfish benefit. It can't work that way because it's a spiritual relationship. For example a man and woman may marry and derive much pleasure from each other initially but there comes a time when they hit difficulties. Now this is all for a reason. If they remain committed to each other despite sufferings, the selfishness that blocked their initial intimacy from becoming more than sensual is burned away and their union deepens and becomes richer.


Some "experts" teach that we can solve the problems of jealousy and pain in relationships by making ourselves sexually available to anyone we want to without hang ups. This isn't true. We were made in God's image and our sexual activities are not simply for procreation but are a channel of grace. They should only be entered into within a covenant relationship where there is commitment for life. Without revelation from God, I can understand why some don't appreciate this, but it is true for those who don't have faith in God as much as for those who do. So much misery has resulted from ignorance of this fact.

On the other hand, where individuals satisfy all the criteria for covenant (i.e. total commitment of everything one has and is, plus complete identification with and affection towards the other one forever) then that sexual union should not be condemned by legalists. This applies to relationships between partners who make a commitment to love no matter how much it may hurt. Gay men and lesbian partners, celibates who commit themselves to God, can alike learn and receive the very love of God as they follow a covenant lifestyle. As such their covenant relationships should be sanctioned by the church (whether or not they are called "marriages").


Covenant and Authority
So, God is a covenant-making God. This describes the conditions under which he expresses his inexhaustible and supreme love. The love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is covenant love.

In giving his life for the sins of the world, Jesus entered a New Covenant in his blood with the Father. It was total commitment and self-giving without reservation on behalf of both parties.

It is stronger than death!

It cannon be broken or annulled.

It sustains your salvation.

Under the terms of the New Covenant, everything belonging to the Father belongs to Jesus. That means he inherits glory! He took our sins and paid for them all. He died. But the grave couldn't hold him because the covenant with God is stronger.

Equally, (and this is less understood) everything belonging to Jesus belongs now to the Father. Okay, you may ask, what did Jesus have that the Father might want? A loincloth maybe?

Much, much more than that. He has the church!

You see, when God put Adam on the earth he delegated authority to him over the earth. He GAVE him the earth the rule over and subdue. The devil tries to take control of the earth through lies and fear and through illegitimate means but God doesn't just come in and take over when men make a mess of things. He will only come in when someone invites him because he is careful not to violate the autonomy that he originally gave man.

That's why Abraham is so important. He made a covenant with God and allowed God into human affairs to bless him and his descendants (both physical and spiritual). God then had a covenant people to work with so that from them there would be individuals who would have faith.

Now Abraham was far from perfect but he did trust God. God cut a covenant with him and it enabled God to bless him and his descendants. Abraham had a period of testing but eventually came to the place where he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to his covenant partner, God. Now Isaac was more precious to him than his very life and because he was willing to do that, God was able to say, "Abraham, because you are willing to do this, I can now make my covenant with you unconditional. I will bless you and your descendants after you for your sake."

He consequently had the right to take one of Abraham's descendants and introduce into the cosmos the son of man who was untainted by the sin of Adam. He needed a willing virgin who would allow him to impregnate her with the seed of God so that the Messiah could be born. Someone who would be fully man and fully God. When she said to the angel, "I am the Lord's servant...May it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38) she gave God the right as covenant partner with Israel to cause her to become pregnant. At those momentous words the angels in heaven broke out in triumphant joy, because the way (by permission) was opened for the Messiah to come into the earth.