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  • Rick LoPresti

Covenant identity

The world is in an identity crisis. People do not even know what gender they are. This has gotten so confusing that the proponents of this cannot even define how many genders there are, and some say it is infinite. Yet they demand that those who do not subscribe to this approach to identity recognize and honor their self-identification. They even say that if we do not, we are committing a crime which is an act of violence. How can they demand others accept their definition of identity when they do not even have a definition? This is what happens when people do not find their identity in God through the scriptural definition of identity. This is also true of all aspects of the Bible. Once we move off of a scriptural foundation, the only other source of ideas is the imagination of man, which is fallible at best and utterly deceived at worst (Jer 17:9-10, Rom 8, 1Cor 1-2). Worse yet is the deception the devil offers man, preying on his fallen nature (Gen 3:1-7, Rev 12:9, Rev 13:4, Rev 20:7-8).

God makes covenants with men. A covenant is similar to a contract, but deeper and more sacred. A covenant is like a contract in that it is a clear arrangement between two parties with defined obligations and benefits for both. However, a covenant in the Bible, especially between God and man, is more because it is not just a legal arrangement, it is a relational one. Marriage is not just a contract. It is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman (Gen 2:18-25, Mal 2:10-17, Mt 19:1-9, Eph 5:22-33). Marriage is so special in the eyes of God, that throughout the Bible it is a symbol of His relationship with those people with whom He is in covenant, particularly Israel in the Old Testament (Is 54:5, Jer 31:32), and the church in the New Testament (Rom 7:3-4, 2Cor 11:2, Eph 5:22-33, Rev 19:7-9, Rev 21:2). When Israel fell into idolatry, it was described as adultery against God (Jer 3:1-20, Eze 16, Hos 1-2).

God has made several covenants with man. He made one with Adam (Gen 2), Noah (Gen 6:18, Gen 9), Abraham (Gen 12:1-3, Gen 15:18, Gen 17), and Israel (Ex 19:5-6, Ex 24:7-8, Ex 34). The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is not that God changed. God did not change. He is God and cannot change (Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8). It was the making of a new covenant that brought about change. The word testament means covenant. God's nature did not change in the New Testament. God is still the Holy One who loves righteousness, hates sin, desires relationship with man, and will judge evil. However, the arrangements of the covenant did change. For example, that is why we no longer offer animal sacrifices. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb 8-10). God's relationship with man has always been, and still is, based on covenant. If we seek the relationship with God that He intends for us, there is only one way to enter into it - by His covenant. Everyone has a basic identity in God, because He created us all whether we accept it or not (Acts 17:22-31, Rom 1:18-32, Rom 2). Yet there is a much closer, deeper, and more personal relationship God wants to have with us, but we can only have it when we enter into covenant with Him. That means we have to enter in and abide according to the terms He gave. He said we must repent, be baptized in His name for the remission of sins, and receive the Holy Ghost (Mt 28:18-20, Mk 16:15-20, Lk 24:43-47, Jn 3:5, Jn 20:21-23). The apostles advertised this covenant (Acts 2:37-39, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 19:1-7). They also reaffirmed it to those who entered into it (Rom 6:1-4, Rom 8, Col 2:8-12, Gal 3 especially verses 16 and 27).

The most sacred covenants were entered into by blood. Sometimes people would kill an animal, cut it in half, and walk between the pieces as a sign of the seriousness of the covenant (Gen 15, Jer 34:18). The covenant of Abraham was sealed this way, and the law of Moses was sealed in blood (Ex 24:8, Lev 17:11, Heb 9:18-22). The new covenant was also sealed in blood, but not the blood of an animal. It was the blood of Jesus Christ Himself (Mt 26:28, Heb 10:29, Heb 12:24, Heb 13:20). That is how serious God is about this covenant. Since the only reason given in the Bible to be baptized in water is that it is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 22:16), then baptism is more than a public act before men. It is more than joining a local church. It is entering into a blood covenant with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is part of the fulfillment of the old covenant (Mt 5:17-18, Acts 3:25, 1Cor 5:7, Heb 8-10). It is part of how we obtain the New Testament identity God offers us in Christ (Rom 6:1-4, Col 2:8-12, Gal 3:27). We identify with His death in repentance, His burial in water baptism (which is one of the reasons to be immersed), and with His resurrection in receiving the Holy Ghost (Rom 8).

The identity of the people of God is inseparable from entering into covenant with Him. This was true for Abraham (Gen 15:18, Gen 17), Israel (Ex 19:5-6, Deut 27:9-10, Deut 28:9, Deut 29:1 and 10-15, Ezra 10:3, Neh 1:5, Ps 25:14, Ps 50:5 and 16, Eze 16:8), and the church. A covenant is always a two-part arrangement. God is always faithful to do His part of the covenant, sometimes even when we are not. He is like a husband that loves and forgives his wife even when she is unfaithful. However, that does not mean that we are excused from upholding our part of the covenant (Acts17:30-31). He requires the keeping of His commandments (Lk 6:46, Jn 14:15, 1Jn 5:1-3). We don't just get baptized in water as some empty outward religious act. We are entering into covenant with Him to abide in His commandments (1Pet 3:18-21). Yet He does not require some impossible thing from us. He calls us to do what we should be doing anyway (Deut 10:12, Mic 6:8, 1Jn 5:3). He also empowers us from within by His Spirit to do it without (Jer 31:31-33, Heb 8:6-13, Heb 10:16). That is how we find our true identity in Him. Then the confusion about who we are can finally be laid to rest forever. When our identity is questioned, we can answer with scripture like Jesus did when the devil was questioning His (Mt 4:1-11). However, if our lifestyle does not affirm the scriptural covenant we allege, we cannot claim this identity (Acts 19:14-16). No one is perfect (Rom 3), but we all must find a place of change to embrace who God wants to declare us to be, so we too can lay claim to it.

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