My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
(Words by Edward Mote)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV.
This is likely the most well-known verse in the entire Bible, and well it should be. This one verse sums up the entire theme of the Bible. Yet, often it is quickly read or quoted without deep thought as to its meaning or intent. In this brief, succinct text is the powerful message and comprehensive sketch of the marvelous and beautiful covenant that God the Father made with His Son “from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8 KJV.
“The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God. From the first intimation of hope in the sentence pronounced in Eden to that last glorious promise of the Revelation, ‘They shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads’ (Revelation 22:4), the burden of every book and every passage of the Bible is the unfolding of this wondrous theme—man’s uplifting—the power of God, ‘which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (I Corinthians 15:57).
“He who grasps this thought has before him an infinite field for study. He has the key that will unlock to him the whole treasure house of God’s word.” Education, 125, 126. An understanding of this theme opens God’s treasure house.
Let’s add another thought. “There is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained.” Steps to Christ, 90. Every book, every chapter, every passage of the Bible needs to be understood in light of the plan of salvation.
Hebrews 2:1–3 gives us a wonderful exhortation: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.”
But what necessitated this new covenant, this plan of salvation or redemption? We find the answer in the very beginning of the Bible where we read that after the creation of the world, after explicit, loving instruction from the Creator Himself, and His holy angels, man chose to distrust and disobey the voice of his Creator, his rightful Sovereign. Man deliberately chose to become a traitor to the kingdom and government of his divine King.
His disobedience left man in a terrible situation. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ ” Genesis 3:7–13.
The immediate results of choosing to distrust and disobey the Sovereign Creator of the universe was that they found themselves naked, physically. Their robe of light was gone. To cover up their nakedness they sewed fig leaves together. From the perfect comfort and ease of a robe of light (nothing binding, poking, scratching, restricting) to wearing leaves sewn together! What a contrast. But even worse, they experienced a nakedness of soul! They felt a sense of guilt and sin.1
They experienced, for the first time, fear, the need to hide, terror, and dread of the future. And blame came into the picture. Where there had been perfect love, peace, joy, trust, thoughtfulness of the other, instead there was now protection of self at the expense of the other. Most remarkably, God Himself was blamed. With all these things came the inevitable result–separation: separation in the relationship between Adam and Eve, and even more dire, separation between man and His God, the Life-giver; resulting in the consequence of eternal death. Romans 6:23. Terrible, terrible consequences for one “little” sin. Just remember, God sees not as we see, and we need to see things as He sees them. This was not one “little” sin, as is abundantly clear from the serious results, and from what was necessary to correct the situation.
God was not content to leave man to the terrible consequences of this conscious choice. No. Praise His wonderful mercy, grace, and love.
God gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die [the second, eternal death], but have eternal life (John 3:16). Remarkably, when the Lord God visited Adam and Eve in the evening of that fateful day, His immediate response to them was one of tender mercy; in spite of the fact that laid open before His eyes were the scenes of what it would cost Himself, the angelic host, the entire universe to atone for the sin just committed. When first God saw the guilty pair, after gaining from them an account of their sin, He imparted to them hope through a promise; He gave them His covenant. This promise, this covenant, is found in Genesis 3:15, which reads, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” Who is speaking, and to whom? Who are the parties involved and what happens to them? What does it mean?
If we go back one verse we find that God is speaking (in the presence of Adam and Eve) to the serpent, also known as the devil and Satan.2 God says to Satan that enmity (extreme hatred) would exist between himself and the woman, meaning between Satan and God’s true followers. God continues by saying between your seed (that is, Satan’s followers) and her Seed, singular Seed. Turning to Galatians 3:16, we find clearly stated in the Bible just who this singular, this one Seed, is: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your Seed,’ that is, Christ.” So when God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed,” that Seed, singular, is speaking of Christ. God continues, clarifying what this means. He says, “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” God says, “He,” [that is, Christ], that Seed, “shall bruise your head.” Other translations use the word “crush.” Christ would “crush” the serpent’s head. We well know that when a head is crushed, death is the sure result. In some way, in the future, Christ would do something that would bring the sure result of death to Satan. Then God continues by saying that Satan would bruise His (Christ’s) heel.
Of course we know that in sacrificing His life upon Calvary, both of these conditions were met. Christ, by His death assured the final end of Satan. He would eventually crush his head. And in causing wicked men to crucify Christ, Satan did indeed bruise Christ’s heel. This wound, this death that looked so final, was simply a temporary wound. Christ was raised to victory and triumph over Satan, over death (eternal consequences for sin), over his power upon any who would choose to “believe on Him.” What a promise. What a merciful, loving God that would give this beacon of hope to the very ones that necessitated the tremendous sacrifice that He would have to make to give them this hope.
This was not an easy thing for the Father, or His Son. “Before the Father He pleaded in the sinner’s behalf, while the host of heaven awaited the result with an intensity of interest that words cannot express. Long continued was that mysterious communing—‘the counsel of peace’ (Zechariah 6:13) for the fallen sons of men. The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8); yet it was a struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son to die for the guilty race.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 63. Oh, no. This was not an easy thing.
Why was it so very difficult for the Father to “yield up His Son to die for the guilty race?” Let’s consider two quotes from that beautiful book, The Desire of Ages. The first is found on page 131, and the second, page 49. After reading the first part of both quotes, please note particularly the last phrase of each, and then meditate on the true meaning of that phrase. “Never can the cost of our redemption be realized until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer before the throne of God. Then as the glories of the eternal home burst upon our enraptured senses we shall remember that Jesus left all this for us, that He not only became an exile from the heavenly courts, but for us took the risk of failure and eternal loss.”
“Satan in heaven had hated Christ for His position in the courts of God. He hated Him the more when he himself was dethroned. He hated Him who pledged Himself to redeem a race of sinners. Yet into the world where Satan claimed dominion God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life’s peril in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, at the risk of failure and eternal loss.”
Do you really comprehend it? For us He took the risk of failure. When you and I fail, we have a Saviour. We have a contingency plan. We have a way out. But Jesus, if Jesus had failed, that was it. There was no contingency plan for Him; no way out; no other option; no Plan B. And as if that isn’t enough, the last part of that phrase says, it would have been eternal loss. Never again would He have seen His Father. Never again would He have experienced the joys, the bliss, the perfection, the beauty of heaven or the worship and adoration of the heavenly hosts. For Him, the loss would have been final and eternal. Is it any wonder that it was a “struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son to die for the guilty race”?
This is the covenant God and His Son Jesus made on our behalf. This is the incomprehensible plan of salvation provided on our behalf. “God was to be manifest in Christ, ‘reconciling the world unto Himself’ (II Corinthians 5:19). Man had become so degraded by sin that it was impossible for him, in himself, to come into harmony with Him whose nature is purity and goodness. But Christ, after having redeemed man from the condemnation of the law, could impart divine power to unite with human effort. Thus by repentance toward God and faith in Christ the fallen children of Adam might once more become ‘sons of God’ (I John 3:2).” Patriarchs and Prophets, 63, 64.
We have covered who made this covenant (God the Father and His Son, Jesus), when it was made (before the foundations of the earth) and to whom it was given and when, (Adam and Eve immediately after their sin). Now let us look at the conditions necessary to make this plan a reality, and what it cost God the Father, Jesus, the angelic host, and in fact the entire universe.3
As you read this list, please deeply contemplate the meaning of each.
- Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin.
- It would separate God the Father and His Son.
- Christ would reach the depths of misery to rescue the human race.
- Man’s salvation cost their (the heavenly angels) Loved Commander unutterable woe.
- Jesus must leave heaven and come in contact with the degradation of earth.
- Jesus had to endure sorrow, shame, and death.
- Jesus would stand between the sinner and the penalty of sin.
- He did this even though few would receive Him as the Son of God.
- Jesus would leave His high position as the Majesty of heaven (humble Himself).
- Jesus would by His own experience know the sorrows and temptations of man.
- He would endure every insult and torture Satan could inspire.
- He must die the cruelest of deaths.
- Jesus must pass long hours of agony so terrible angels could not watch.
- Not only could the angels not watch, they were forbidden to interfere.
- He had to endure anguish of soul.
- He died from a broken heart.
- Jesus took the part of the sinner, lifted up on the cross.
- Jesus bore the weight of the sins of the whole world.
- Jesus took human nature on Himself.
- This plan involved all heaven. (Think, for example, of the change in the lives of the holy angels who now minister to those degraded and in every way inferior to themselves. Have you ever thought of what their lives were like before sin—what consumed their time?)
If Jesus were successful with carrying out this first part:
- He would redeem fallen man from the law and bring him again into harmony with heaven.
- God would take away our sin.
- `Christ would by His death ransom many.
- He would destroy Satan who had the power of death.
- Jesus would recover the kingdom that man had lost by sin.
- He would provide a way for the redeemed to inherit the kingdom and dwell therein forever.
- He would provide the means to blot out sin and sinners forever.
- The kingdom of glory, interrupted at the entrance of sin, would be restored at the eradication of Satan, of sin and of those who refuse to separate from sin.
If Jesus were not successful with carrying out this first part, the result would be eternal loss.
Lest we forget ourselves and think that Jesus’ death on the cross is all that is required, let’s think again of the tremendous price our salvation cost our God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Oh, how could we ever think we can do despite to His laws and love? Or even simply turn away? Though we in no way had anything to do with making this covenant, or in carrying out the requirements to make possible our salvation, we must realize that we do have a response to make, a response of devoted love.
The Bible tells us, “If you love Me …” John 14:15, and then states what we will do. Even using earthly standards, what an ungrateful wretch anyone would be if, ransomed at great cost from a kidnapping, they spat in the face of, slapped, or simply walked away from the one providing the ransom. With the kind of cost we have just outlined that God and Jesus paid for our ransom, is there any request or requirement on the part of God that could be considered too high for what They have done? No, no, a thousand times no.
Furthermore, we must remember that what is required is not based on “works.” Paul addresses this when he says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8–10 KJV). What is required must be based on, and flow out of, a response of love for the great sacrifice that was made on our behalf. The response is one of total devotion to the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me.
Yet, what God asks of us is not difficult or unreasonable. He only asks two things. These two things are very simply outlined in two succinct and straightforward texts. First, I John 1:9 KJV tells us, “If we confess our sins.” Notice the word of condition here. If, a little two letter word, but full of import. If we confess, and only if we confess, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a promise. He is not only faithful to forgive us, but He, because of His great sacrifice is also “just” in forgiving us, and He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Now to the second requirement, the second principle that God requires of us. (Just remember, God will not ask us to do anything that He will not give us the power to do.) Matthew 5:48 NIV: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Well, that is quite a statement. It not only says what to be, (perfect), but it even specifies how perfect, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Lest you doubt, thinking this is an isolated text, here are a few of many others. I John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” I John 3:3: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” I John 3:6–9: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
“If you love Me.” Friend, do you love your Redeemer? He says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15.
Paul says the same thing. “In view of your participation in the gospel [the plan of redemption, the covenant] from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:5, 6. This is a very clear teaching in the word of God. Jesus died that we might have the power to overcome Satan and sin.
Our God is a God of such love as words cannot even express. His heart of infinite love yearns over His wayward children. Consider these words of yearning: “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ’ Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel’ (Ezekiel 33:10, 11 NKJV)?” It is this heart of infinite love that conceived, implemented and carried out the conditions for our salvation.
To our God and His Son, this plan, this covenant was of such importance, He desired us to know and understand it to such a degree that it is the central theme throughout His entire Word as we read in the quote at the beginning from Education, 126.
Each individual on this earth is unique. Each processes thought differently. Different things spark our understanding. God understands our minds better than we ever could. And He so desires each and every one to be able to grasp the knowledge of the covenant that He gave it many names. Let’s explore some of the various names for this covenant.
The various names for the covenant will be in italics. Of course there are endless numbers of texts that refer to this covenant. Remember this covenant is the one great theme of the entire Bible so we can’t possibly list them all here. This list is intended to heighten the knowledge and awareness of this wonderful plan, and picture a number of the different titles or phrases by which it is known such that in your own personal studies they boldly stand out as you study.
Psalm 111:9 NKJV – “He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name.”
Psalm 103:17, 18 NKJV – “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.”
Psalm 25:10 NKJV – “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.”
Ezekiel 37:26 NKJV – “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.”
Ephesians 3:8–11 NKJV – “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Hebrews 9:12 NKJV – “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
Hebrews 9:15 NKJV – “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
Revelation 14:6 NKJV – “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.”
Romans 1:16 NKJV – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
Colossians 1:6 NKJV – “Which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.”
Colossians 1:13, 14 NKJV – “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
The Signs of the Times, June 21, 1899 – “The blood of the cross sealed the irrevocable covenant which ensures to our Redeemer the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.”
The Signs of the Times, August 24, 1891 – “The terms of this oneness between God and man in the great covenant of redemption were arranged with Christ from all eternity. The covenant of grace was revealed to the patriarchs. The covenant made with Abraham [or Abrahamic Covenant] four hundred and thirty years before the law was spoken on Sinai was a covenant confirmed by God in Christ, the very same gospel which is preached to us. ‘The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. …’ (Galatians 3:8). The covenant of grace is not a new truth, for it existed in the mind of God from all eternity. This is why it is called the everlasting covenant. The plan of redemption was not conceived after the fall of man to cure the dreadful evil; the apostle Paul speaks of the gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ, as ‘the revelation of the mystery, which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith’(Romans 25, 26 RV).”
Exodus 19:5 NKJV – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.”
In summary, “ ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). Oh, the mystery of redemption! the love of God for a world that did not love Him! Who can know the depths of that love which ‘passeth knowledge’? Through endless ages immortal minds, seeking to comprehend the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder and adore.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 63, 64.
Anything other than this new covenant is simply sinking sand. The new covenant is our only true foundation, or solid rock in this time of storm. It is my hope and prayer that each one will do more than just “wonder and adore” but freely, ardently give your heart to our merciful, gracious, long-suffering Saviour, and through the power of His new covenant, fulfill His command, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
1 See Patriarchs and Prophets, 57, for a more complete narration of the consequences of their fall.
2 See Revelation 12:9; 20:2; II Corinthians 11:3
3 Patriarchs and Prophets, 63–70, for deeper study.
[All emphasis supplied.]
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible.)
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.