Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Covenant Maker & Keeper

I write today to tell you about one of the greatest words ever kept out of the Greek New Testament, “Suntheke.” That it doesn’t appear is one of the greatest stories of our time.

During the days of the writing of the gospels and epistles, it was the common word used to describe the word, “covenant.” Everybody knew it, everybody used it, and lawyers were as comfortable with it then as they would be today by using the word, “contract.” “Suntheke” means, “a mutual agreement between two people or two parties; an agreement ‘with’.” So, details are worked out and, when agreement between parties is reached, the covenant is entered into and binds each party. Both promise to give or to perform something, which obligates them toward a desirable goal. That’s how it has always been.

If you have ever read Deuteronomy 28, you know covenant language. God instructs his people that if they do what he wants at all times and all the time (keep his rules and commands), he will give them what they want: big-time blessing. That was the covenant. As it is with all covenants, however, if they failed to keep their end of the agreement, everything fell apart and got ugly. Of course, God had no difficulty keeping his part of the arrangement, so the covenant pressure was ever upon the people. They failed a lot, and lived in a cycle of commitment, fear, failure, sorrow, forgiveness, re-commitment, fear, failure, and so on. . .and on and on. Inherent to covenant is pressure and judgment.

Fast-forward to the days when the carpenter’s son, Jesus, died in order to give us the next covenant, the new covenant, and something wonderfully unusual happens. No one describes the new covenant as anything we participate in. The word of the day, “Suntheke,” is nowhere to be found in the Greek New Testament. Instead, a new word is used: “Diatheke.” This word means, “an agreement of one.” It’s not a mutual agreement, it’s not a contract with, and there is no pressure on anyone because there are not two parties involved in keeping the contract. There is only one in the covenant: God. In other words, God made up the arrangement (“I’ll give them everything in Christ”) and God keeps the rules (“I’ll make sure they get all the benefits”) all by Himself!

There is no pressure. There is no judgment.

There will never be a place for “Suntheke,” never be a time when God will depend upon you to keep anything in order for you to have the everything he has provided for you in Christ. That’s the deal! This is the great gospel, this is what we serve to people burdened and wearied by the “Suntheke” covenants of this world and of the past, which they were forever breaking. You know about breaking agreements, right? Well, there is no way to break this one! Jesus is the Covenant Maker and the Covenant Keeper.

Our gospel is not, “Okay, Bud. Keep your end of the bargain and God will keep his.” Instead, our gospel is, “God took you out of the equation, so he could give you everything! No worries.”

This is why it is the height of folly to make quid pro quo commitments with God: “Father, I will do this great thing if you will do that great thing.” The good news is, he’s not paying any attention. Don’t bother. He thinks you’ve already been given everything in Christ—everything! (See Ephians 1:3; Col 2:9-10) God thinks there is now no condemnation for you because he’s taken you off the hook of earning anything (Romans 8:1-4). He’s not looking and will never look at how you’ve failed, because there is no evidence (Colossians 2:13-14) and no one’s bringing charges (Romans 8:33). That perfect relationship you’ve been working on with him has already been provided for you—you can stop trying to earn it and, instead, enjoy it—and there will never be any distance between you and him because he brought you permanently near (Ephesians 2:11-16). All he sees, all he counts, is what he has done and given to you in Christ. He’s not hoping you’ll “do your best and he’ll take care of the rest,” because he has already done everything! Perfectly. So you can rest. Done deal.

You’re safe. You’re in. You’ve got it all. No pressure. No judgment. That’s “Diatheke.” You like the new covenant. Right?

1 comment:

  1. As always Ralph, thanks for your wonderful encouraging words. Most of my 37 years as a Christian have been under the Suntheke covenant and all I can say is it SUCKS! It almost destroyed me...but God...in His wonderful time He showed me the new covenant-Diatheke. What life finally, in Jesus!! It is so awesome and so wonderful. Thank you once again for always encouraging us and giving us great hope through your messages that never change. These words are LIFE to me from God - of course via YOU. Again, many thanks!! Janet