The Covenant with Abraham: is it conditional, unconditional or both?

Nick Lica

The requirements of the covenant

The promise of the covenant

The character of the covenant


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Gene Gets wrote: Next to Jesus Christ, Abraham is no dobt the most significant man mentioned in the Bible! True, Moses stands out as the greatest prophet in Israel. But if it were not for Abraham, there would have been no nation for Moses to lead.

Genesis 12 is the beginning of Abraham’s story. In fact here begins the main story of the Bible. What presedes appears as history compressed. Brifly we can read about creation of the universe, creation of man and the origin of sin. We can observe then the rapid multiplication and spread of violence and wickedness and then God’s judgement apon the sin-sick society. So in Genesis 1-11 we can observe two God’s attepts for a relationship with man. In fact that were 2 covenants with two men that finaly didn’t work: the covenant with Adam and Noah.

Genesis 12:1-3 is God’s plan and new strategy for saving the world. Technically, the covenant with Abram is not found in chapter 12, but in chapters 15 (verse 18) and 17 (verses 2,4,7,9,10,11,13,14,19,21) where the word covenant appears. It is there that the specific details of the covenant are spelled out. Here in chapter 12 the general features of the covenant are introduced.


I. The presentation of the covenant

A covenant is defined as an agreement between two or more persons to do something specified. A ccovenant is a formal agreement or treaty between two parties with each assuming some obligation. God's covenant, with man is an agreement, a contract between God and His people. According to that contract or agreement, God agrees to save His people and to bestow upon them all the blessings of grace and salvation; while, on the other hand, that promise of salvation must be received by the people of God in faith. And that faith is a condition.

Abram's most valuable possession was his covenant relationship with God. In that covenant relationship God says three things: one, I shall be your God; two, you shall be my people; and, three,d I shall dwell in the midst of you. Within that covenant relationship Abram gets to walk with God and to talk with God. Within that covenant relationship Abram receives the promise of a son; and through that son the promise of a land, of numerous descendants and a great nation, of a name.

Within that covenant relationship Abram finds purpose in life and a reason for existence. Within that covenant relationship lies Abram's glory, Abram's hope, and Abram's treasure.

II. The requirements of the covenant (things to do, God‘s vision) v.1

In Genesis 12 God decided to begin again with a man in order to build a nation in the future that will gain the whole world for the Lord. Always when God wanted to do something great he started by calling a man who was fully dedicated for him, who had faith in God and who obeyed Him. God developed in Abraham these qualities and the covenant between him and God became the foundation for the future nation of Israel. The covenant with Abraham in some sense was conditional because he had to do some things in order to be used by God and stay in that covenant. Once again, God asked a man to trust Him--to let go of all that he had and follow Him. In exchange for leaving his home, his countrymen, and most of his family, God would give him something new and far more wonderful.
First requirement from Abraham was to leave

When he heard these words he was not at the age when to move is a joy. He was 75 years old when he faced the bigest challenge of his life. Jim Elliot once said: “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose!” Abraham had to give up three important things for an anciant man at that time: his country, his nation and his household.

Second requirement from Abraham was to go

Not only that Abraham had to leave things that he loved but even worst he was challenged to go in country that he did not knew. A dictionary explain that the term “go” is literally “go by yourself” and can emphasize loneliness, isolation; ideas of parting and seclusion are often implied. In fact God want Abraham to find himself and to establish him his own identity. He needs to find his own place by disassociating himself from the familiar backroand and the group of his friends, style of life and traditions.

He responded to the call of God—who is always the initiator—by faith and left, though there was no visible certainty of his future.

Third requirement from Abraham was to fullfil God’s vision

His creational purposes were to have a love relationship with the man. Man was created for felloship with God. But sin distroyed this relationship and God’s vision was to redeem human nature from sin. Through Abraham God wanted to form a nation who will be a blessing for all the nations.Godhad in mind the whole world but he started with one man who obeyed and wanted to fullfill His eternal purposes.


III. The promisse of the covenant (land, a seed, blessing) - v.2

Three major promises are contained in verses 2 and 3: a land; a seed; and a blessing.

a). The first promise of the Abrahamic Covenant was The land,

At the time of the call, Abram did not know where this land was. At Shechem, God promised to give ‘this land’ to Abram (12:7). It was not until chapter 15 that a full description of the land was given:

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: … ’ (Genesis 15:18).

This land never belonged to Abram in his lifetime, even as God had said (15:13-16). When Sarah died, he had to buy a portion of the land for a burial site (23:3ff.).

b). The second promise of the Abrahamic Covenant was that of a great nation coming from Abram. This promise demanded faith on the part of Abram, for it was obvious that he was already aged, and that Sarai, his wife, was incapable of having children (11:30). It would be many years before Abram would fully grasp that this heir that God had promised would come from the union of he and Sarai.

c). The final promise was that of blessing—blessing for him, and blessing through him. Much of Abram’s blessing was to come in the form of his offspring, but there was also the blessing that would come in the form of the Messiah, who would bring salvation to God’s people. To this hope our Lord, the Messiah, spoke, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

Beyond this, Abram was destined to become a blessing to men of every nation. Blessing would come through Abraham in several ways.

  • Blessing for him personally. He also promises Abraham personal blessings: he will be blessed, his name will be great. . . he will be a person of reknown. God will stand with him reward his benefactors and punish His enemies.

  • Blessing for his Descendants. God promises that Abraham's descendants will become a great nation. Those who recognized the hand of God in Abram and his descendants would be blessed by contact with them. Pharaoh, for example, was blessed by exalting Joseph. Men of all nations would be blessed by the Scriptures which, to a great extent, came through the instrumentality of the Jewish people.

  • Universal Blessing Ultimately, the whole world was blessed by the coming of the Messiah, who came to save men of every nation, not just the Jews. God promises that the whole world will be blessed because of Abraham. This wonderful promise points to Jesus. It is a reminder that one of Abraham's descendants (Christ) will make it possible for the whole world to know God's blessing.


IV. The character of the covenant

At the other hand the covenant with Abraham was before the law so was a grace covenant. Abraham did not deserved such a grace and promises from God; but God did nnot choose Abraham in an act of favoritism but rather tu use him as a chanel through whom He would reach the world with the message of salvation.

In my opinnion if we speak about the grace covenant in the case of Abraham it exclude the possibilities of conditional or unconditional. Grace is beyond these terms and this can be only accepted or rejected. In fact we are in the same possition as Abraham was – grace time. We are also justified by faith in Jesus. In him we have the grace covenant. In my opinion the grace covenant is a matter of decission and free will. In Christ Jesus, the covenant relationship is our greatest treasure as well as for Abraham. In Christ we can say that God is our God, that we are His people, and that He lives not just in our midst but even within us as individuals.
We are saved by grace and by faith in Jesus Christ. And this the foundation of the Abrahamic covenant and ours.