God’s Nature, Plans And Covenants

God’s covenants can only truly be understood is if we see they are based on the foundation of His eternal nature, character, plans and purposes. God’s eternal perfect nature and character existed long before He made any covenant with humans.

Psalm 89:34-35 is an example which shows that God’s holy nature lies behind His covenants: “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David.” Amos 4:2 refers to God swearing by His holy nature and character: “The Lord God has sworn by His holiness…”


Truths about God’s nature on which covenants are based


God’s covenants are based on the facts that:


         He is a perfectly faithful Creator and Father. 1 Peter 4:19 states that God is: “…a faithful Creator.” In various ways, every covenant God has made has reflected His nature as a Creator, Recreator and Father.

         He has been and always will be perfectly loving in nature and character (see 1 John 4:8). All of His covenants are manifestations of His infinite love.

         He is eternally holy and righteous (see Revelation 4:8 and Psalm 119:142). So all of His plans and covenants do not in even the smallest way compromise with sin or anything that is wrong. God Himself defines what is sin and wrong in terms of what is not consistent with His own nature. Verses such as Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 89:14 and 97:2 show God never does anything unrighteous or unjust to others. Deuteronomy 32:4 says: “…for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”

         He is eternally the Supreme Ruler or King or Lord (see Psalm 103:19 and 1 Timothy 6:15). As a result, no-one or nothing can prevent the fulfilment of His eternal plans in relation to humans and the natural creation. These plans manifest through or without covenants. Daniel 4:35 says of God: “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done.’” See also Psalm 115:3, 135:6 and Isaiah 43:13. God’s plans and covenants are closely related to His Kingdom.

         He is the perfectly just Final Judge (see Psalm 9:4 and 96:10). God is the combined Supreme Ruler and Judge. All His plans and any of their manifestations in covenants were expressions of His perfectly just governmental-legal judgements and decrees. Even His grace and mercy expressed in His eternal plans and covenants are not in any contrary to His perfect justice. This is because Christ's death has met all the demands of God’s justice for punishment and has been the grounds on which God the Judge expresses His wonderful grace and mercy to sinful humans (see Romans 3:25-26).

         He has been perfectly gracious and merciful in nature from eternity past (see 2 Timothy 1:9). Psalm 103:17 teaches God has had mercy as a part of His nature from the eternal past to the eternal future: “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him…” To varying degrees, all God’s covenants are expressions of His perfectly gracious, merciful nature. This applies even to the Mosaic Covenant.


God’s eternal plans or purposes


God had plans or purposes in eternity past which were perfectly consistent with His eternal nature. These eternal plans were made in relation to His later creation of humans and natural things, saving of humans and restoration of His to-be-corrupted creation.

Psalm 33:11 says: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.” Isaiah 46:10-11 states: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.”

Psalm 139:16 and Proverbs 19:21 also refer to God’s plans. Psalm 139:16 says: “…And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Proverbs 19:21 states: “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel – that will stand.” These plans or purposes were not one broad covenant but were manifested later in the realm of the natural creation and time:


         usually through specific covenants – the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants.

         without a specific covenant from the time of the Fall to the establishment of the Noahic Covenant.


God’s eternal plans for salvation, redemption and Christ’s rule


Some of God’s eternal plans were expressed in the eternal salvation of every believer existing from the time of the Fall till the time just before the future Great Final Judgement. God saved and will save these believers as a pure manifestation of His gloriously gracious merciful nature and character, without there being one broad covenant which covers this whole period.

God was willing to be gracious to people throughout the whole of history because Jesus’ eternally pre-planned death enabled God to express His gracious nature without Him acting contrary to His own perfect holiness and justice which demand the punishment of sinners.

1 Peter 1:18-20 and Revelation 13:8 show Jesus’ death was an established fact in God’s plans even prior to Adam’s Fall. 1 Peter 1:18-20 says: “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” Revelation 13:8 states: “…of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Remember the Noahic, Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants did not offer eternal salvation by God’s grace through faith. This is even though the Abrahamic Covenant promised a Seed through whom all nations would be blessed by God’s grace (see Galatians 3:14-16). Also note God saved people after Jesus’ death and resurrection through His eternal plans being manifested through the New Covenant.

God’s purposes will be outworked eternally in future as well. Luke 22:22, Acts 2:23, 4:28, Ephesians 1:9-10, 3:11, 2 Timothy 1:9 and 1 Peter 1:20 refer to God’s eternal plans in relation to Christ's later death, the resulting redemption of sinful humans and the gathering together of all things in heaven and earth under Christ's supreme rule.

Referring to Christ, Acts 2:23 says: “Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” Acts 4:27-28 states: For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”

Ephesians 1:9-10 says: “having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him.” 2 Timothy 1:9 states: “who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our work, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

Note in all the verses in the above two paragraphs and in Luke 22:22 and Ephesians 3:11, the words “purpose”, “purposed”, “determined” and “foreordained” in the original Greek relate to God’s eternal purposes and not His covenants. In the original Greek New Testament, the word for covenant – “diatheke” – is not used in any of the above verses.

Ephesians 3:9-11 refers to God’s eternal purposes or plans: “and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Jesus Christ our Lord.”


Many but not all of God’s plans involve His covenants


God’s Biblical covenants are eternally planned. But His eternal purposes are not limited to covenants. Many of His plans are Biblical covenants, but not all.

For example, God had plans for His angels living prior to the time of the creation of humans. These plans about His angels are not fully stated in His Biblical covenants. Also, God has not recorded in His Biblical covenants every specific detail of His plans for the lives of every believer in this earthly life and in the eternal future. Only some of these details are written in His Biblical covenants.


God’s recreative activity


God’s recreative activity relates not only to humans (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), but also to the whole of God’s natural creation (see Romans 8:19-22 and Revelation 21:1).

God’s Covenant with Noah relates to the preservation of God’s natural creation and the human race. But also the Noahic Covenant is part of His whole ultimate salvation plan for the natural creation and humans (see 1 Peter 3:19-21).

When Genesis 1:31 says God saw that everything He had created was very good, this did not mean He believed His creative work was finished. God knew the first humans would later fall, producing a need for His recreative activity through Christ.



Bible Study Questions


1.              What does Psalm 89:34-35 reveal about God’s nature and covenants?

2.              What are some of the aspects of God’s nature on which His covenants are based?

3.              List some verses which refer to the fact God has eternal plans or purposes.

4.              When do 1 Peter 1:18-20 and Revelation 13:8 say God planned Jesus’ death?

5.              Why is it wrong to say God’s eternal plans are limited only to what He has revealed in His covenants?

6.              Explain what God’s recreative activity is related to?


Other arguments against a broader Covenant


Here are arguments against the broader Covenant of Creation and Covenant of Grace views:


         There is no clearly set out unambiguous explanation in Scripture of the supposed broader Covenant of Creation or Covenant of Grace. So any attempt to prove such views involves reading into Scripture more than it actually states. The latter problem is called “eisegesis” meaning “interpreting the Scripture on the basis of a pre-determined religious view instead of forming our views from Scripture”.

         The Hebrew and Greek words for “covenant” are used in the Bible in relation to the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants, but not in relation to any supposed broader Covenant of Creation or Covenant of Grace.

         In Romans 9:4, Paul refers to “covenants” and not just one broad covenant in relation to Israel: “who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.” Similarly, Ephesians 2:12 mentions “the covenants of promise” and not just one covenant.

         Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus, Paul or any other person refer to the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants as being sub-covenants of one supposedly broader covenant.


Note in the original Hebrew of the above verse, the word “everlasting” is “olam”. In Deuteronomy 32:7, Isaiah 61:4, Micah 7:14 and Malachi 3:4, the word “olam” refers to the distant past, but not the eternal past. But in Genesis 21:33, it is used in relation to God’s eternal nature. In this verse, the Lord is called “the Everlasting God”. Other verses which use “olam” when referring to God as “everlasting” or “eternal” are Deuteronomy 32:40, 33:27, Psalm 90:2, 92:8, 93:2, Isaiah 40:28 and Jeremiah 10:10.



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