Covenantal Obligations, Objective Blessings

He Shall Have Dominion, by Kenneth L. Gentry, page 116-121

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Covenantal Obligation

Due to the covenantal influence in Scripture, we learn that man‘s obligations are not fundamentally individualistic, but rather corporate. As we shall see in later chapters, this fits well with a postmillennial eschatology and its strong view of social responsibility.[1] Here is outline the case for the societal obligations of covenantalism.

Man was purposefully created as an organic, unified race.[2] Whereas all mankind traces its origin back to Adam, including Eve herself (Gen. 2:21-22; Acts 17:26), animals were created en masse (Gen. 1:20-25). Even angels were created en masse as non-procreative individuals (Matt. 22:30): a host.

The organic unity of the human race is vitally important to the redemptive plan of God, as seen in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Adam was the federal head of all mankind: a legal representative. In him, we are legally and judicially dead (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 5:22). Christ is the federal head of all those “chosen out of” (eklektos) mankind. In Him, we are legally and judicially declared alive (Rom. 5:15-19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Christ became flesh in order that He might attach himself to the unified race and become its Redeemer (Phil. 2:5ff; Heb. 2:14).[3]

That God’s covenant has societal implications may be seen in its being established with Abraham and his seed (Gen. 12:1-4). The significance of Israel’s organic connection is illustrated in her portrayal as a vine (Psa. 80:8-16; Isa. 5:1-7). In addition, when God made covenant with Israel in the wilderness, it included future generations (Deut. 5:3).

Because of this, God specifically promises covenant blessings and warns of covenant curses running in communities of people. Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 detail specifics of community curses and blessings, transported from generation to generation and expansively covering the broad community. This covenantal factor is also demonstrated in Israel’s history. For example, the whole nation of Israel suffered defeat in war due to the grievous sin of Achan (Josh. 7:1). They were learning corporate responsibility through this “lesson” from God. Outside of Israel, pagan communities were destroyed for their corporate evil.[4]

Neither may Christianity be properly understood in terms of radical individualism. By God’s grace, we are in covenant with Him as a community. This may be seen from a number of angles. (1) We are grafted into the community of God’s people as a branch into a tree (Rom. 11:17-18). (2) We are adopted into the commonwealth of Israel and partake of the covenants of “the promise” (singular, Eph. 2:12-16). Thus, we are included in the “household” of God (Eph. 2:19-22) as stones in a building (1 Pet. 2:5). (3) We are constituted one, inter-related body (1 Cor. 12:12-27). (4) We are part of one, connected vine (John 15:1-8). (5) Our blessings as members of the Christian community flow from our Head, Jesus Christ, through the body to us (Eph. 1:20ff).

The common societal unit among men is the family. Family solidarity involves covenantal succession, as is evident from the following: (1) Marriage, the world’s first institution (Gen. 1:26-28; 2: 18-24; Matt. 19:4), was established as a permanent obligation among men (Matt. 19:5,6; Gen. 2:24). (2) Adam’s fulfillment of his mandate to subdue the earth required family pro-creation and solidarity (Gen. 1:28). (3) The principle of family solidarity is clearly illustrated in God’s sparing the families of righteous men during judgments. See the cases of Noah, Abraham, and Lot.[5] (4) Due to this covenant, responsibilities centered around the family. Diligent child training was commanded (Deut. 6:4ff; Psa. 78:1ff; Proverbs, passim). Family protection was mandated (Prov. 13:22; 19:14; 1 Tim. 5:8). Three of the Ten Commandments specifically guard the family while the others relate to the family (Exo. 20:12,14,17). (5) Families are declared to be an heritage from the Lord.[6] Fruitfulness is a blessing, while barrenness is lamented.[7] (6) God’s blessings run in family generations, as may be seen in the cases of Noah, Japheth, Abraham, Rahab, and covenant people in general.[8] By the same token, God’s curses also run in family generations.[9]

Because of God’s covenantal love, He graciously sanctifies the offspring of the covenant faithful (1 Cor. 7:14; Rom. 14:17). In the New Testament, even, His blessings are framed in terms inclusive of family generations, rather than terms excluding family generations (Acts 2:38, 39; 16:31; 11:14): inheritance.

In all of this, we learn something of the wider obligations of the Christian faith. “We should always bear in mind that there is a collective responsibility, and that there are always sufficient reasons why God should visit cities, districts or nations with dire calamities.”[10] In the soil of covenantal corporate responsibility, postmillennial eschatology takes root and grows in the light of God’s Word.

Objective Blessedness

The covenantal foundation of the eschatological hope encourages the anticipation of God’s historical blessings in history.[11] The biblical worldview is concerned with the material world, the here and now. Christianity’s interest in the material here and now is evident in that God created the earth and man’s body as material entities, and all “very good,”[12] Christ came in the flesh to redeem man,[13] His Word directs us in how to live in the present, material world,[14] and God intends for us to remain on the earth for our fleshly sojourn, and does not remove us upon our being saved by His grace.[15] As is obvious from these four observations, Christians have a genuine concern with their objective environment.

At death, all men enter the spiritual world, the eternal realm (either heaven or hell).[16] But prior to our arrival in the eternal state, all men live before God in the material world,[17] which He has created for His own glory, as the place of man’s habitation.[18] His covenant sanctions (blessings for the righteous; curses for the unrighteous) may, therefore, be expected in history. That is to say, these sanctions are predictable.

The objectivity of covenantal blessing, which undergirds the postmillennial eschatology, is clearly set forth in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. When God’s covenant people are faithful to His Law-word, He will bless them in all areas of life.[19] When they fail Him, His curses will pursue them to overtake them (Deut. 28:15-68; Lev. 26:21-39).

Such blessings are alluded to in a number of places and under a variety of images. Among these blessings are the reduction of disease,[20] abundant food production,[21] temporal longevity,[22] blessings upon offspring,[23] economic prosperity,[24] national stability and peace.[25] In fact, such passages provide the biblical basis of progress in history, not just linear movement, but upward linear progression.[26]

The material things of life must be kept in perspective, but Christ promises they will be given to His people: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). He even promises His people that if they leave all for Him, they will receive many times more in this life: “Then Peter said, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’ So He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come everlasting life’ ” (Luke 18:28-30).

Conclusion

All of the various covenants in Scripture are equally “the covenants of the promise” (Eph. 2: 12). The covenant concept runs throughout Scripture. It frames God’s creational process, structures His dealings with man, and, most important for this book’s thesis, insures the success of His divine program in history. This program is not the defeat of Christ’s redemptive work in history: the gospel of salvation, the building of His Church, and the establishment of His comprehensive, worldwide kingdom: Christendom.[27]


[1] See Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990). R. J. Rushdoony, God’s Plan for Victory: The Meaning of Postmillennialism (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn, 1977).

[2] The development of the seed-line in history is a significant aspect of the biblical revelation, as the genealogies of Scripture attest. See especially Matthew 1 and Luke 3.

[3] There is no corporate guilt for angels, but neither is there salvation for fallen angels.

[4] Josh. 2:10; 6:21; Exo. 20:16-18;Josh 8:1,2,24-29; 10:29-43; 1 Sam. 15:3. Cf. Lev. 18:24-27. See: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., God’s Law in the Modern World (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, forthcoming), ch. 6. Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (rev. ed.; Presbyterian & Reformed, 1984), Part 7.

[5] Gen. 6:8, 9, 18; 7:1, 7; 12:1-3; 17:1, 2, 7; 19:12-16.


[6] Psa. 127; 128; Gen. 33:5; 48:9; Isa. 8:18.


[7] Gen. 25:41; Exo. 23:26; Deut. 7:14; Psa. 113:9.


[8] Gen. 9:9; 9:27; 17:2-7; Josh. 2:12-14; Psa. 103:17, 18; 105:8; 115:13, 14; 37:25, 26: Prov. 3:33.

[9] Exo. 20:5; 34:6, 7; Deut. 5:9. Note: Gen. 9:24-25; Hos. 9:11-17; Psa. 109:1, 2, 9, 10; Prov. 3:33.

[10] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), p. 260.

[11] See Chapter 6, below. See also: North, Millennialism and Social Theory.


[12] Gen. 1:1-31; 2:7.


[13] Rom. 1:3, 9:5; 1 John 4:1-3.

[14] Rom. 12:1-2: Eph. 5:15-17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

[15] John 17:15; Job 14:5; 2 Cor. 5:9-10.

[16] 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 16:22-23. On the doctrine of hell, see: Gary North, Sanctions and Social Theory (forthcoming). See Chapter 13, below.

[17] 2 Chr. 16:9; Psa. 33:13-15; Prov. 15:3; Acts 17:28; Heb. 4:13. No U. S. Supreme Court “right-to-privacy” decision can alter this truth.

[18] Psa. 24:1; 115:16; Provo 15:3; Dan. 5:23; Acts 25:24-31; Rev. 4:11.

[19] Deut. 28:1-14; Lev. 26:3-20, 40-46. Cf. Psa. 37:25; 112:1-3; Prov. 13:22.

[20] Exo. 15:26; 23:25; Deut. 7:15; Psa. 103:3.

[21] See Exo. 23:24-25; Deut. 8:7-9; Psa. 67:6; Isa. 30:23-24; 65:21-23; Jer. 31:12; Ezek. 34:26-27; 36:29-38; Amos 9:13; Zech. 8:12ff.

[22] Deut. 4:40; 5:33; 32:46,47; Isa. 65:20; Zech. 8:4.

[23] Deut. 5:29; 7: 13.

[24] Deut. 7:12-16; 8:18; 28:1-15; Psa. 112:3; Prov. 13:22. See Gary North, “An Outline of Biblical Economic Thought,” in North, An Introduction to Christian Economics (Nutley, NJ: Craig, 1973), ch. 18.

[25] Josh. 1:5; Isa. 2:4; Mic. 4:3; Isa. 11:6-9.

[26] See the path-breaking economic commentaries on the Bible by Gary North, The Dominion Covenant (1982), Moses and Pharaoh: Dominion Religion Versus Power Religion (1985), The Sinai Strategy: Economics (1986), Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (1990). All are published by Institute for Christian Economics.

[27] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Greatness of the Great Commission: The Christian Enterprise in a Fallen World (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990)

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Blessings and curses run in communities, in families and tribes and nations. Therefore, it is important that we turn ourselves – and our families – towards obedience to God and so gaining His blessings, and away from disobedience to God and s gaining His curses.


To quote again, with my bold and no footnotes:

The covenantal foundation of the eschatological hope encourages the anticipation of God’s historical blessings in history. The biblical worldview is concerned with the material world, the here and now. Christianity’s interest in the material here and now is evident in that God created the earth and man’s body as material entities, and all “very good,” Christ came in the flesh to redeem man, His Word directs us in how to live in the present, material world, and God intends for us to remain on the earth for our fleshly sojourn, and does not remove us upon our being saved by His grace.

God’s people are expected to fight, and win, in time and on earth.


The covenant concept runs throughout Scripture. It frames God’s creational process, structures His dealings with man, and, most important for this book’s thesis, insures the success of His divine program in history. This program is not the defeat of Christ’s redemptive work in history: the gospel of salvation, the building of His Church, and the establishment of His comprehensive, worldwide kingdom: Christendom

And so, we have our orders.

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