The Everlasting Covenant

Scriptures: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22

This is another one of those passages – I spoke last week from the Ephesians passage and I mentioned how it was so chock-full of stuff that you could run an entire series for weeks on just what was in there, and it would be all over different kinds of topics.

Once again, Ephesians chapter 2 is no different. It’s so dense, in terms of thickness of stuff, that you could study things and study things and study things and learn something new every time you go back to it. Which I recommend you do, on your own time.

Now one of the places I like to check for illustrations is, and generally on a passage, I may find anywhere from 110 to 180 sermons, and the top ten or twenty have five-star or four-and-a-half-star type ratings – they’re graded by users.

Well, when I went to look for this one, to see some illustrations, there were 749 sermons. And the first six pages were five-star or four-and-a-half-star. Unfortunately most of them weren’t about my topic. But that’s OK. Because there are so many different things that you could speak about.

I’m speaking today, I’m going to touch on the Covenant. I want to remind you that we had a series on the covenants, back during Lent. There were four parts, they talked about the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant (which we’re going to touch on in a little bit), and the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

You can see the transcripts of those sermons for further study on, or we have the DVDs and you can actually get a video of the materials, if you wish.

Our purpose today is to take a look at the nature of the eternal covenant God made – first with David (from the Old Testament readings), and then even with us as Gentiles. Then we will look at some of the implications of that covenant for us as Gentiles, and look at God’s part in the covenant.

Historically, the Davidic covenant was unusual in two ways. First was the adoptive aspect of it. He was actually made, as noted in the 2 Samuel passage, a “son of God.” He had the right to call God “Abba,” Father. Dad.

Second, it was eternal. God would not disinherit him even if David and his descendants went astray. It said in the verses just past where we stopped that would “discipline them” with a rod, and then welcome them when they came back. It also mentioned that in the psalm that we read today.

This was also the first covenant that involved someone outside the Levitical line doing priestly functions.

So we have this covenant that was made with David and the people of Israel. It’s eternal, and God has said that He’s never going to stop loving His people. That covenant, then, in Jesus Christ, was extended and expanded to us as Gentiles.

The Bible tells us in Acts 10 that Peter and 3 “circumcised believers” (this is the only place where that phrase is used – because God wanted to make it clear that the issue had to do with this matter of circumcision) accompanied the Gentiles back to Cornelius’ house and preached to the people assembled there.

What had happened was, in Acts 10, Cornelius had sent some people to come and see Peter. And Peter was up on the roof waiting for lunch. And I guess like a lot of us around noontime he wanted to take a siesta. He fell asleep and he had a vision.

In this vision, there was a big table laid out with all these animals and fish and they’re almost all un-kosher, unclean. And the voice of God said, “Kill and eat.” And Peter said, “No! I’m a good Jew.”

Well, he fell back asleep, and he had the same vision again. He has this table spread, with all of these animals, and God said, “Kill and eat.” And Peter, being the stubborn soul that he is, says, “No.” Now there’s a good reason that he was named “Rocky.”

But then the third time, when he gets the vision again, and he comes to realize that God isn’t telling him, necessarily, to eat unclean food, but rather that what God makes clean, whether it unclean or not to start with, becomes clean. And that this means the Gentiles are going to be allowed to join the Church. For the first few years, it had been all Jews. If you were a Gentile, you had to become a Jew before you could become a Christian.

So Peter went to Cornelius’ house. Because immediately after that third vision, the representatives sent by Cornelius knocked on the door and said, “Would you come and preach?” So Peter said, “Yes,” and he went there.

He was halfway through his sermon – and this would be really cool if it happened here – but he was halfway through his sermon, and the Holy Spirit fell upon the crowd that was there, and they started giving signs and wonders just as the apostles did on the day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues and things like that.

So Peter turned to the Jewish Christian brethren there and said, “Can we deny them the baptism of water? It’s obvious that they’ve been baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So by this, they knew that the Gentiles were included in the kingdom of God

So the Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on the apostles “at the beginning.” Peter realized what this meant. These Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised before becoming Christians.

So first God convinced Peter that Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised, and that they were part of the kingdom of God. Then He convinced Paul of the same thing, because Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles. He started more churches than just about anybody.

Finally, God convinced the church leadership. In Acts 15, Paul went back, and they talked to the Jerusalem elders, and they sent back word saying that it was perfectly alright for Gentiles to become Christians. They just had to be baptized, and they had to refrain from drinking blood and eating strangled animals, and that was it.

No circumcision, no living kosher, all that stuff. The elders and apostles at Jerusalem sent out a letter to all churches, saying that God no longer required circumcision as a mark of His covenant.

Now you’d think that would have settled the matter. But certain Jews refused to accept it. They began to visit the churches where the Gentiles worshiped and declared:
“You’re not circumcised?” And to use a modern metaphor, “Sorry, you don’t have a green card!”
You’re on the wrong side of the border.
You have no place among the saved!
You’re still aliens!
You’re still outsiders!”

Small towns wouldn’t know anything about this, would they? I had some friends when I was pastoring in Illinois, that I visited. They were in their 70’s, and they had gone to a church for a long time, and then they began going to this church in Illinois. One of them said, “We’ve only been here for 26 years. So we’re still considered newcomers.”

These Judaizers, that wanted to make you have to be Jewish, visited so many churches and caused so much confusion that Paul became angry. And many of his letters addressed this very issue. Galatians does, for instance, as well as here in Ephesians

The covenant had been extended to Gentiles. Those who were uncircumcised were counted as circumcised. Those who were outside salvation were now part of it. Those who could not have been citizens of the Kingdom of God now could! They were a part of the people of God… and so are we.

Now, if we’re part of the kingdom of God, then we are citizens of this heavenly kingdom, and we need to understand it and act on it. We see, from our passage in Ephesians, he talks about the key thing that we need to remember which is our oneness in Christ.

We have been reconciled with God, through His love for us. Jew, Gentile, male, female, it doesn’t matter. We have been reconciled with God and He is our peace. He has made all different groups into one, and broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us.

We are to live as citizens together, as family, representing God to the world. We are part of the eternal covenant that God made, starting with David and completed in Jesus Christ.

We all may experience, from time to time, some of the discipline that we need when we have begun to stray from God’s Word and way. As strange as this may sound, take comfort in that. You see, it means God thinks you are worth correcting, that you are worth continuing in a relationship with, and that your potential is worth the work it takes to bring it out. Make sure you respond to it, though, and gain the change that God requires.

He treats you as His children, as sons. I spoke last week how “son” was a deliberate word used by Paul, indicating inheritance and authority and power, that existed during that time and culture. Be a true son of God. Be a faithful representative of Him and the covenant He has made with us.

But be patient with yourself, and with God as well. Eternity is a long time. I have to admit, I have problems with this. Some of you have heard me tell this story before elsewhere. You might not believe it, but I’m kind of impatient, at times.

I was getting piano lessons, as an adult (I had started, and then stopped when my son Zach was born – kids do that sometimes to your schedules and such). I had managed to compress three years worth of lessons and stuff into a year and a half, because sometimes I’m a little bit of an overachiever.

I was playing a song, and I’d had it for two weeks. I couldn’t play all the notes, and I got very frustrated, to the point that, even though I was in my late twenties, I just pounded the keys on the keyboard, in front of my teacher.

She looked at me and she said, “Jon, you’ve only had this piece for two weeks, and you’ve only been playing the piano for a year and a half. Quit being such a perfectionist.”

I looked at her and I said, “Nan, I’m not a perfectionist. I just like to get it right.”

Well, I admit that I lied. I’m a perfectionist. And God does, in His Word, say He requires perfection. But the wonderfulness of God’s love and God’s covenant is that even if we’re not perfect, the blood of Christ shed for us covers those imperfections and enables us to be acceptable and righteous before God.

Know that God has not given up, even when you fail; that God accepts, through the blood of Jesus, our efforts as the righteousness we never really quite achieve on our own, and that He will love us still. We just have to try. And if we fail, pick ourselves up and start over again. This is fulfilling the covenant that God has made with us.

Now this last week in VBS (and I hope to have some kids here to help lead us in a song or two on August 16th – the same day the kids will testify about Camp Wyoming) we had some pretty remarkable songs. You know, the kind that stick in your head and play over and over again.

I remember when Zach was really young and we watched Lamb Chop – do any of you remember that? The little puppets? They used to have a song they would play at the end. They called it “The Song That Never Ends” Do any of you remember it? You are probably cursing me in your head right now, saying “No! No! Don’t start it!”

Well, Sandy Winters, the person who was leading the VBS, referred to one of the songs we learned in VBS called “One Thing Remains” on the last evening, and told the kids she hoped it would continue to run through their heads.

I don’t know about them; but I can tell you it has run through mine all week. Part of the chorus is “Your love never fails, and never gives up, and never runs out on me.” That phrase just kept running through my head all during my studies, my car rides here and home, and even in the shower!

What a description of God’s eternal covenant! What a description of God’s faithfulness! And of God’s love, which gives us the chance to be part of the covenant in the first place. His love never fails. It never gives up. And it never runs out, on each one of us.

We weren’t citizens, but now we are. We weren’t children of God; but now we are. He is our Father! We were lost, but now we are found. We had no purpose, but now we do. We had no hope; but now we have an eternal one that can never be taken away from us, no matter what the circumstance, because God is faithful to His promises. And God’s love will never, ever, fail us, quit on us, or forsake us.

So the real question is: Will you believe? Will you trust in the Lord to keep His covenant and to be faithful? Will you act on that trust and faith, changing your life to one that is reconciled with God, exhibiting the presence of the Holy Spirit, and witnessing to the love that you have experienced in Jesus Christ?

The song that I mentioned earlier notes also that no matter what happens, one thing remains (that’s the name of the tune) – God’s love for you. Will you take that love, and love Him back? Will you participate in the covenant of God’s people? Becoming part of the family of Christ, and the kingdom of God.

My prayer for you is that you come to that place in life that Peter, and later Paul, came to. That you accept your part in the covenant of grace that has happened for your benefit, and become a functional citizen of the eternal Kingdom.

My prayer is that you look for guidance in the Word and from the Spirit in living out that covenant, and then throw yourself into it every day with passion, with perseverance, and with power. That others who see you and know you are changed by that relationship, and draw closer to the God; and begin to ask questions about this covenant of grace, and the eternal life it brings to each and every one who believes.

And may you give witness to the love of God which never fails, as you love as Christ has loved you. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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