God’s Word, the Bible, is His record of how He has progressively unfolded His redemptive plan throughout human history within the context of a covenantal framework.
Although Scripture speaks of God’s “covenants” (Rom. 9:4; Eph. 2:12), as we will see, Scripture indicates that they are all part of one overarching covenant of grace. The covenants are all interrelated and build off of the previous covenant as they move progressively towards culmination in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the new covenant. Our study will consider each covenant in the chronological order in which God revealed them. We will consider the primary promises of each covenant as well as how the covenants relate to each other. Before doing so, however, it would be helpful at this point to see an example from Scripture as to how the covenants all dovetail into one overarching covenant. While we tend to think of “the gospel” solely in terms of the New Testament, Paul writes elsewhere notes that Abraham believed the Gospel:
“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the Gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’ … [Christ] redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal. 3:6-8, 14) 3
Note here that Paul says Christ “redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (3:14). The “promise of the Spirit” is not explicitly listed among the covenant promises made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; etc). This particular promise came centuries later when the prophets speak of the new covenant that God will establish with Israel. That being the case, how can Paul make the claim that “the promise of the Spirit” is a “blessing given to Abraham” (Gal. 3:14)? The following passage from Ezekiel is helpful, as the Lord speaks through the prophet about the new covenant: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols … And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land of your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God … On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt … They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden…’ They will live in the land … where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers … (Ezek. 36:25, 27-28, 33, 35; 37:24-26)
The promise of the Spirit is here directly linked to the previous covenantal blessings given to the “forefathers.” For example, the mention of land and the promised relationship between God and His people and the concern for Israel’s children clearly point back to the Abrahamic covenant. The mention of decrees and laws recalls the covenant God made with Israel through Moses and indicates the continuity between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant. The Davidic covenant also figures prominently in this passage and there is reference to the Promised Land becoming “like the Garden of Eden.” These various promises culminate in the new covenant, demonstrating the unity and progression of God’s redemptive arrangement. This passage from Ezekiel demonstrates how the original Abrahamic covenant was expanded considerably through the promises of the subsequent covenants. Each successive covenant was inseparably linked to its predecessor, and this served to advance the purposes of the previous revelation. Therefore, Paul may rightly state that the Abrahamic covenant ultimately contained the “promise of the Spirit.”
Coinciding with this, consider what Paul goes on to say following his remark about the Abrahamic covenant and the promise of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 3:14: “Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed … The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in 3 his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise … If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:15-16a, 17-18, 29) Having considered briefly this amazing continuity between God’s covenants, we will now consider an overview of the promises of each covenant and see how they point to and find their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.