Introduction: “Covenant” is not a common term these days. The modern
legal word would be “contract.” The Bible speaks repeatedly of
“covenants” between God and humans. Normally contracts are entered
into by two parties with relatively equal bargaining powers. Would
“contract” be correct when referring to an arrangement between God
and humans? Could we enter into a contract with our Creator, the one
who sustains us moment by moment? Let’s plunge into our study of the
Bible and see what we can discover!

  1. Animal Parts and Rocks

    1. Read Genesis 15:9-10. Can you picture this in your mind?
      Abram cuts animals in half and arranges the halves
      opposite each other. What do you think is going on?(Read
      Jeremiah 34:18-19. This helps us understand. The Hebrew
      word for “covenant” means “divide” or “cut in two”
      according to Fausset’s Bible Dictionary. People would cut
      an animal in two, and then walk between the parts. That
      signified that they had entered into a contract.)

      1. Can you relate the logic of this to today’s
        contracts? (Yes! Generally two parties enter into an
        agreement in which they divide responsibilities. Each
        promises something. This is called “consideration”
        and it is necessary for a valid contract. I will
        build you a house if you pay me a certain amount of
        money. Your responsibility is to pay and my
        responsibility is to build.)

    2. Read Genesis 31:44-45 and Genesis 31:48-49. What is the
      sign of the contract here? (Stones piled up.)

      1. Why do you think they used stones for the contract?

      2. What relationship, if any, do the animal parts have
        to do with the stones? (The purpose of the stones is
        to symbolize or memorialize the agreement. I think
        cutting the animal in half and walking between the
        parts also symbolized the contractual agreement.)

      3. What parallel do we have today? (We write down our
        contracts, and each party signs his name. The writing
        is like the stones – so you have proof of the
        agreement. Your signature represents you, it is your
        personal identification with the contract – like
        walking between the halves of the animal.)

  2. Rainbow

    1. Read Genesis 9:8-11. What is the contract here? (God will
      not destroy the earth and life on it by a world-wide

    2. Read Genesis 9:12-15. What symbolizes this contract? (The
      rainbow in the sky.)

    3. We see several similarities with what we have already
      studied. The animal halves, the stones, the rainbow are
      proof of the contract. What is the division of
      responsibilities here? We see God’s part, what part are
      humans undertaking? What part are animals ( Genesis 9:9-10)undertaking?(This does not seem to be the usual two-party agreement. God is the One doing all the promising.
      If humans and animals have something to promise, it would
      seem to be to acknowledge that God is their God.)

  3. Circumcision

    1. Read Genesis 17:1-2. What does this tell us about the
      contract between God and Abram? (It already existed. This
      is a confirmation of an existing contract.)

    2. Read Genesis 17:3-8. What is God promising for His side of
      the agreement? (He will make Abraham the “father of many
      nations,” He will be the God of Abraham and his
      descendants, He will give them a specific land “as an
      everlasting possession.”)

    3. Read Genesis 17:9-13. What is Abraham promising for his
      side of the agreement? (“Every male … shall be

      1. Does this seem to be more of a sign of the contract
        then the actual agreement?

      2. Is this contract more like the flood/rainbow
        contract? Are humans promising anything?

    4. Read Galatians 3:6-9. This is looking back at the very
      discussion we just read. What does this say that Abraham
      promised? What is Abraham’s part of the contract?
      (Believing God.)

      1. What does this suggest about the flood/rainbow
        contract? (The same – our part is believing God.)

  4. Contracts and Grace

    1. Read Galatians 3:15. This sounds like lawyer talk. How do
      you understand this? (Once you have an enforceable
      contract, it cannot be set aside without the agreement of
      both parties. In addition, one party cannot add to the
      obligations of the other.)

    2. Read Galatians 3:16. How do you understand this? It seems
      to say that Abraham and Jesus were promised righteousness
      by faith. Did Jesus need grace? (No! This cannot mean
      Jesus was saved by faith. We rely on His perfect life for
      our salvation.)

      1. Let’s back up a minute, and read a verse that I
        skipped over. Read Galatians 3:14. How does this say
        that we Gentiles are given the blessing promised
        through Abraham? (Through Christ Jesus.)

        1. Does that help us understand Paul’s meaning
          when he wrote that the “promises were spoken to
          Abraham and to his seed” and that “seed” means
          “one person, who is Christ?” (Yes. The promise
          was to Jesus, because only through Jesus do all
          of us receive righteousness by faith. Jesus is
          our gateway to eternal life. Thus, our promise
          comes only through Him!)

    3. Read Galatians 3:17-18. We already learned that one party
      to an enforceable contract cannot add to its terms. What
      does Paul say cannot be added here? (Obedience to the Ten
      Commandments. The “430 years later” refers to the Ten
      Commandments and the other laws given through Moses.)

      1. Re-read Genesis 15:6. As we discussed before, the
        contract between Abraham and God was that Abraham
        believed, and God “credited it to him as
        righteousness.” What is Paul saying about the Ten
        Commandments? (Since Abraham and God already had an
        enforceable contract, and since we are successors to
        that contract through Jesus, God cannot change the
        terms of the contract by adding “And, you must keep
        the law to be saved.”)

      2. Let’s step back a minute. In seven places in the
        Bible it refers to a “new covenant.” See, for
        example, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, and Hebrews
        12:24. How can we have a “new covenant,” when Paul
        just explained how the original contract is the same
        unbroken contract?

      3. Read Exodus 19:3-8. What is this? (This is a contract
        between God and His people at the time of the giving
        of the Ten Commandments.)

        1. How does this contract fit into our discussion?
          This is the “430 years later” addition, and
          Paul argues that it was an improper addition!
          How can that be?(Paul tells us that the
          original promise was to Abraham and Jesus. God
          knew that His people could not keep the Ten
          Commandments to earn salvation, but He asked
          the people to keep them so that they would have
          a special relationship with Him. When Jesus
          came later, and perfectly kept the law, this
          was new. At that point the promise of
          righteousness by faith came to all of us
          through Jesus. We get to take advantage of the
          “original” deal, the original contract!)

    4. Read Galatians 3:19. Since the Ten Commandments cannot be
      added to the grace contract, why did God give them?
      (Because of our sins!)

    5. Read Galatians 3:23-25. How does the law lead us to Jesus?
      (We know about our miserable, rotten lives. We know that
      we have a sin problem. This teaches us that the only way
      to eternal life is through the promise made to Abraham and
      Jesus, the promise that belief credits us with
      righteousness. We take advantage of that promise only
      through Jesus! Praise God!)

    6. What does this do to my theory that the Ten Commandments
      protect us from being harmed by natural law? (Nothing. It
      is still true that God gave us the law because of love. It
      is still true that God wants a people who obey His law
      (just like at Sinai). But, it is also true that
      righteousness comes only through faith – the contract that
      we can take advantage of only through Jesus!)

    7. Friend, will you, through Jesus, become a party to the
      original contract of righteousness by faith alone? Why
      not accept Jesus right now?

  5. Next week: The Apostles and the Law.