“Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannuls, or adds thereto” (Gal.3:15).
Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannuls, or adds thereto. How much more, then, shall it be so with God’s covenant? Then, since the making of God’s covenant with Abram, there has never been, and never could be, anything added to it, nor anything taken from it. Let us notice God’s covenant with Abram, and what it included.
In Gen. 11:29-32 is recorded Abram’s leaving his native country because that “the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1). At that time God also said to Abram: “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). At that time also God preached the gospel unto Abram, saying: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8).
After Abram had lived in the land of Haran, and had come into the land of Canaan, God said to him: “Unto thy seed will I give this land; and there he built an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him” (Gen. 12:7).
The Lord had said that he would show to Abram the land, which was to be his. And, though he was in the land of Canaan, yet the Lord had not showed to him the land that he said he would give to him: and he could not yet show it to him, because Lot, of his kindred, was yet with him; and the first condition of the promise was, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house” (Gen. 12:1). Abram was separated from his father’s house, but so long as Lot was with him, he was not yet separated from his kindred: and so long as that was so, God could not show him the land.
But after a while, their flocks and herds increased so that “the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together”; and so, by mutual agreement, and as “brethren” they separated, Lot choosing “all the plain of Jordan.” Then, “after that Lot was separated from him,” the Lord said to Abram, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered” (Gen. 13:14-16).
And the land, which Abram then saw and which was promised to him, included the world; for this promise was “the promise that he should be the heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13). And since that is a world that includes “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11), and which God “hath prepared” for him and his children; and since it is “a better country” than any on the earth, even “an heavenly,” it is certain that the land which Abram then saw, and which included the world, was, and is, “the world to come.” And more: since this was promised to Abram and his seed—to neither without the other, but to both together; since this promised seed “is Christ;” and since while Abram was in this world, he never received any “inheritance in it,” no, not so much as to set his foot on (Acts 7:5), it is certain that the inheritance then promised to Abram, and which he then saw, and which included the world, is only “the world to come.”
This is further confirmed by that which Abram next met in his experience; for it is written that when Abram had returned from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, he met “Melchisedec king of Salem,” who “brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” “And he [Melchisedec] blessed him [Abram], and said, “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth”” (Gen. 14:18, 19). Thus the priest of the Most High, Melchisedec, who “was the voice of God in the world,” recognized Abram.
In this connection there is another important element to be noticed, that is, that Abram now meets and recognizes “Melchisedec,” “the priest of the most high God,” and in him recognizes the Melchisedec priesthood. He received blessing from this priest of the Melchisedec priesthood; and yet further recognized this priesthood in that “he gave him tithes of all” (Gen. 14:20).
Several times, now, in Abram’s experience, the Lord has referred to that “seed” of Abram. And now Abram makes definite inquiry about this “seed,” saying to the Lord: “Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be.” And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it” (Gen. 15:3-7).
Abram had now received from God, in promise, the blessing of God which would make him a “blessing to all nations;” he had received the promise of the world for an inheritance; he had received the promise of a seed in whom all nations should be blessed; he had received the benefit of the priesthood of the most high God; and he had received the righteousness of God, fitting him to enter into that eternal inheritance.
And now Abram asks: “Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” And here and now, in pledge to Abram that he shall inherit all that has been promised, God made a covenant with Abram: “And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him . . . And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates”” (Gen. 15:8-12, 17, 18).
Now it is a truth laden with meaning that in these animals and birds, which he brought and offered, there was, included every animal sacrifice that was ever allowed or commanded to be offered to God. And when Abram, as directed, had divided all these except the fowl, and had laid them in their pieces, one against another, “behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.” And “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “Unto thy seed have I given this land”” (Gen. 15:18).
The Lord did this because in ancient times “it was the custom of those who entered into a covenant with each other to take a heifer and cut it in two, and then the contracting parties passed between the pieces.” And the reason of this was that the contracting parties agreed, and thus expressed the agreement, that if either of them broke that covenant, he submitted himself to be cut in two just as was the sacrifice between the parts of which they passed.
But Abram did not pass between the parts of these victims: only God passed through. This because this is not a covenant of agreement between two persons in which each is equally responsible; but it is a covenant of promise from God, in which he alone is the responsible party. Consequently, God alone passed between the parts of the slain victims, in the making of this covenant. And, in that act, God agreed, and thus expressed his agreement, that that covenant could no more fail than that he himself could be severed in twain. Thus the Lord pledged himself, in his very life, that all the promises which he had made to Abram should be fulfilled, and that not one of these promises could fail; that this covenant to fulfill the promises could not fail any more than that God should cease to live.
Thus, that covenant of God with Abram was confirmed even there, by the sacrifice of Him who made the covenant. And when Abram, not yet fully comprehending the greatness of the blessed promises of this covenant, slipped, the Lord, in his mercy, repeated himself, and again pledged himself, —“interposed himself” —swearing by himself, and thus by his oath confirmed his covenant that his promises should not fail. (Heb. 6:17). And thus again that covenant was “confirmed.”
Therefore, since “though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannuls, or adds thereto,” how much more shall this be so of God’s covenant with Abram, which is doubly confirmed? Therefore, that covenant could never be disannulled, nor could anything ever be added to it. In that covenant, at that time, was all that ever has been since or that ever can be to anybody. And whoever has that covenant, has everything in heaven and earth, —everything in the wide universe, to all eternity.
That is the Abrahamic covenant, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29) which is made sure by that covenant.
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | January 9, 1900]