God as the God Who Promises and Blesses

Here is more paraphrasing of important material in Dr. Terence E. Fretheim’s The Pentateuch

God as the God of the Covenant Promise:

    1) Is the basic image for all that follows in the Bible.
    2) God makes a covenant with Noah and all flesh.
    3) It is a unilateral covenant with the entire creation , human and nonhuman, in which God binds himself – thereby limiting the divine options – with respect to the future: not to destroy the earth in floodlike ways again.
    4) Covenant is thus introduced into the narrative as a word with universal associations (God is shown to be interested in much more than just Israel)
    5) The God who makes covenant with Abraham is one who has already established a promissory relationship with the creation. This covenant make all other covenants possible.
    6) Abraham’s covenant is grounded in the prior one, revealing as it does God’s most basic way of relating to the world-in commitment and patience and mercy, not in anger.
    7) Covenant with Noah reveals the basic structure within which all other covenants occur:

      i. God elects (6:8)
      ii. God saves (6:18; 8:1)
      iii. Human beings respond in worship and faith
      iv. Only then does God establish covenant.

    8) This fourfold structure is characteristic of God’s covenants with Abraham (12:1-2; 12:10-20; 14:20; 15:6; 15:8), with Israel (the covenant is not made until Exodus 24), and even with David (2 Sam. 7)

My own understanding of the above points is that there are implications for our faith relationship with Jesus Christ and His Father. Nobody is chosen in the Old Testament just for the sake of being saved. Failure to move forward God’s agenda to redeem humanity can have dire consequences. This implies that a full Christian life of faithful obedience is probably required before God establishes the fullness of the blessings of the New Covenant with His church at Jesus’ return. Jesus expects us to keep working so long as He has not yet returned.

God as the One Who Blesses:

    1) Blessing is given creationwide scope from the beginning.
    2) Blessing is integral to God’s creative action, with respect to both animals and human beings (1:22, 28),
    3) Blessing includes even the temporal structures (time and liveable space) of the created order.
    4) Even in the wake of sin, as the curse begins to have a devastating effect on the created order, blessing still abounds in the pre-Abrahamic world (9:1, 26) and softens the effects of the curse (8:21-22).
    5) Blessing belongs primarily to the sphere of creation
    6) Blessing is a gift of God mediated through a human or nonhuman agent that issues in goodness and well-being in life in every sphere, from spiritual to more tangible expressions. (Neither entirely physical nor entirely spiritual.)
    7) As such, all the families of the earth are not dependent on their relationship to Abraham for blessing; it rains on the just and the unjust, and families continue to thrive.
    8) What, then, is the point of Abraham’s election to mediate blessing?

      a. The blessings will be intensified (made more abundant) by this relationship
      b. Life will be brought closer to God’s intentions for the creation.
      c. Israel itself will continue to need special divine blessing all along the way (Num. 6:22-27).

My understanding of the points immediately above is that God’s promises are strongly rooted in His earthly creation. Note that the blessing in Gen. 1:26 is also a command. Being fruitful and filling the earth with both creatures and human beings is exactly what God is wanting to accomplish throughout the redemption process. Our willing assistance in spreading the gospel for redeeming human beings (by making disciples) accomplishes this basic and non-negotiable long-range goal of God’s. This is the “command” part of the blessing He bestows upon Jesus’ disciples.

That’s why God’s city in Revelation 21-22 contains the urban park version of the Garden of Eden. God’s good earth is now fully inhabited and fully habitable by all manner of creatures – forever. This is not floating around in heaven all day long playing harps. This is the ecosystem management that we were originally designed for.


About John Valade

I facilitate and teach in Wascana Fellowship. I have been married to Wanda since 1984. M.Div. from Briercrest Seminary, SK in 2011 and B.R.E. Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University College) in 2000.
This entry was posted in Faith, gospel, Religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to God as the God Who Promises and Blesses

  1. Randy Olds says:

    By dire consequences, do you mean that you believe that salvation can be lost through not having faithful obedience or just that there are earthly consequences?

    I am beginning to have some sort of compatibilist understanding of election (leaning toward middle knowledge), but I still keep coming across writers who indicate that our actions here on earth really do matter at the Final Judgment. Even N.T. Wright hints at this in his latest book “Justification” where he tries to differentiate between initial justification and Final justification, an area of his book that I was not entirely able to follow.

    In your mind, is it covenant that is revocable by our disobedience, or simply blessing?

    • John Valade says:

      By “dire consequences” I had the idea of others missing out on being blessed due to our unwillingness to extend saving knowledge to others. All sin has consequence in that it takes the creation further out of alignment with God’s will. I guess I’m trying to say that our actions do matter in the cosmic scheme of life. Each person who comes to Jesus Christ is another person who is added to the rolls of those who “fill the earth” forever.

      If Jesus Christ must use somebody else later to do what He wanted me to do now, I have made God clean up a greater mess than He had to. It’s not that He cannot or will not clean it up. It’s just that He desires our participation in cleaning up the mess, just like any parent when a young child makes a mess.

      I’m still processing this myself, but I suspect that, like Abraham, the fulfilment of the promise is at least partly based on a lifetime of committment to following God. He does not make the promise unconditional until very late in Abraham’s life, after the ultimate demonstration of faith by being willing to sacrifice the son of promise. I don’t think that means “once saved always saved,” but I also don’t believe a whole lot of agonizing over whether we have “made it” is necessary, either. The book of Hebrews seems to indicate some level of continuing committment is necessary.

  2. Randy Olds says:

    Ahhh, I get it! I wasn’t quite following the “dire’ consequences” portion of your post.

    I had not picked up on the “unconditional” portion of the Abrahamic covenant as being post-Isaac. In Roman’s where Paul discusses justification, he uses Genesis 15:6 which is definitely pre-Isaac. Exactly where in Genesis is Abraham’s covenant distinguished as being unconditional post-Isaac and what differentiated the latter from the covenant in Genesis 15?

    I find “once-saved, always saved” difficult to support scripturally, but I do agree with the “New Perspective on Paul” ideology wherein there is a whole lot more emphasis on finishing the race by living out a life of obedience to God in order to be assured of a crown.

    I struggle with anything that smells of a Pelagian “works-based” salvation, but I do agree with many of the New Perspective theologians who assert that what we do in this life really does matter. With that said, although I agree that Hebrews indicates that salvation can be lost, I tend to think that is much easier said than done, probably only via complete apostasy.

    • John Valade says:

      Thanks, Randy. I have always looked at Gen. 22:11-19 as the point where God promises unconditionally to grant Abraham the blessings he originally had attached conditions to, such as in Gen. 17:1-2, where the requirement is to walk before God and be blameless in order that God would later confirm the covenant. There seem to be a number of covenant-related statements and ceremonies throughout the life of Abram/Abraham, so it is entirely possible that I am mixing up conditional and unconditional promises.

    • John Valade says:

      I also agree with you that it is not easy to lose out on salvation. I also think that complete apostasy is the only way to lose it.

      The way I put the works question to myself has always been along the lines of, “Why would I want to knowingly do something that I know God disaproves of?” Or, phrased more postively, “Why would’nt I want to do what God wants me to do?” I think this way of looking at it has prevented me from going too far into either the legalistic ditch or the lawlessness ditch. It also took into account wherever my understanding of God’s written or Sprit-moved Word was at any given time. You can only do what you know to do at any given time. Learning how to be and what to do is what growing up is all about.

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