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Sabbath School Lessons on Christ and His Law
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 10: Christ, the Law and the Covenants *
Introduction: "Covenant" is not a common term these days. The modern
legal word would be "contract." The Bible speaks repeatedly of
"covenants" between God and humans. Normally contracts are entered
into by two parties with relatively equal bargaining powers. Would
"contract" be correct when referring to an arrangement between God
and humans? Could we enter into a contract with our Creator, the one
who sustains us moment by moment? Let's plunge into our study of the
Bible and see what we can discover!
- Animal Parts and Rocks
- Read Genesis 15:9-10. Can you picture this in your mind?
Abram cuts animals in half and arranges the halves
opposite each other. What do you think is going on?(Read
Jeremiah 34:18-19. This helps us understand. The Hebrew
word for "covenant" means "divide" or "cut in two"
according to Fausset's Bible Dictionary. People would cut
an animal in two, and then walk between the parts. That
signified that they had entered into a contract.)
- Can you relate the logic of this to today's
contracts? (Yes! Generally two parties enter into an
agreement in which they divide responsibilities. Each
promises something. This is called "consideration"
and it is necessary for a valid contract. I will
build you a house if you pay me a certain amount of
money. Your responsibility is to pay and my
responsibility is to build.)
- Read Genesis 31:44-45 and Genesis 31:48-49. What is the
sign of the contract here? (Stones piled up.)
- Why do you think they used stones for the contract?
- What relationship, if any, do the animal parts have
to do with the stones? (The purpose of the stones is
to symbolize or memorialize the agreement. I think
cutting the animal in half and walking between the
parts also symbolized the contractual agreement.)
- What parallel do we have today? (We write down our
contracts, and each party signs his name. The writing
is like the stones - so you have proof of the
agreement. Your signature represents you, it is your
personal identification with the contract - like
walking between the halves of the animal.)
- Read Genesis 9:8-11. What is the contract here? (God will
not destroy the earth and life on it by a world-wide
- Read Genesis 9:12-15. What symbolizes this contract? (The
rainbow in the sky.)
- We see several similarities with what we have already
studied. The animal halves, the stones, the rainbow are
proof of the contract. What is the division of
responsibilities here? We see God's part, what part are
humans undertaking? What part are animals ( Genesis 9:9-10)undertaking?(This does not seem to be the usual two-party agreement. God is the One doing all the promising.
If humans and animals have something to promise, it would
seem to be to acknowledge that God is their God.)
- Read Genesis 17:1-2. What does this tell us about the
contract between God and Abram? (It already existed. This
is a confirmation of an existing contract.)
- Read Genesis 17:3-8. What is God promising for His side of
the agreement? (He will make Abraham the "father of many
nations," He will be the God of Abraham and his
descendants, He will give them a specific land "as an
- Read Genesis 17:9-13. What is Abraham promising for his
side of the agreement? ("Every male ... shall be
- Does this seem to be more of a sign of the contract
then the actual agreement?
- Is this contract more like the flood/rainbow
contract? Are humans promising anything?
- Read Galatians 3:6-9. This is looking back at the very
discussion we just read. What does this say that Abraham
promised? What is Abraham's part of the contract?
- What does this suggest about the flood/rainbow
contract? (The same - our part is believing God.)
- Contracts and Grace
- Read Galatians 3:15. This sounds like lawyer talk. How do
you understand this? (Once you have an enforceable
contract, it cannot be set aside without the agreement of
both parties. In addition, one party cannot add to the
obligations of the other.)
- Read Galatians 3:16. How do you understand this? It seems
to say that Abraham and Jesus were promised righteousness
by faith. Did Jesus need grace? (No! This cannot mean
Jesus was saved by faith. We rely on His perfect life for
- Let's back up a minute, and read a verse that I
skipped over. Read Galatians 3:14. How does this say
that we Gentiles are given the blessing promised
through Abraham? (Through Christ Jesus.)
- Does that help us understand Paul's meaning
when he wrote that the "promises were spoken to
Abraham and to his seed" and that "seed" means
"one person, who is Christ?" (Yes. The promise
was to Jesus, because only through Jesus do all
of us receive righteousness by faith. Jesus is
our gateway to eternal life. Thus, our promise
comes only through Him!)
- Read Galatians 3:17-18. We already learned that one party
to an enforceable contract cannot add to its terms. What
does Paul say cannot be added here? (Obedience to the Ten
Commandments. The "430 years later" refers to the Ten
Commandments and the other laws given through Moses.)
- Re-read Genesis 15:6. As we discussed before, the
contract between Abraham and God was that Abraham
believed, and God "credited it to him as
righteousness." What is Paul saying about the Ten
Commandments? (Since Abraham and God already had an
enforceable contract, and since we are successors to
that contract through Jesus, God cannot change the
terms of the contract by adding "And, you must keep
the law to be saved.")
- Let's step back a minute. In seven places in the
Bible it refers to a "new covenant." See, for
example, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, and Hebrews
12:24. How can we have a "new covenant," when Paul
just explained how the original contract is the same
- Read Exodus 19:3-8. What is this? (This is a contract
between God and His people at the time of the giving
of the Ten Commandments.)
- How does this contract fit into our discussion?
This is the "430 years later" addition, and
Paul argues that it was an improper addition!
How can that be?(Paul tells us that the
original promise was to Abraham and Jesus. God
knew that His people could not keep the Ten
Commandments to earn salvation, but He asked
the people to keep them so that they would have
a special relationship with Him. When Jesus
came later, and perfectly kept the law, this
was new. At that point the promise of
righteousness by faith came to all of us
through Jesus. We get to take advantage of the
"original" deal, the original contract!)
- Read Galatians 3:19. Since the Ten Commandments cannot be
added to the grace contract, why did God give them?
(Because of our sins!)
- Read Galatians 3:23-25. How does the law lead us to Jesus?
(We know about our miserable, rotten lives. We know that
we have a sin problem. This teaches us that the only way
to eternal life is through the promise made to Abraham and
Jesus, the promise that belief credits us with
righteousness. We take advantage of that promise only
through Jesus! Praise God!)
- What does this do to my theory that the Ten Commandments
protect us from being harmed by natural law? (Nothing. It
is still true that God gave us the law because of love. It
is still true that God wants a people who obey His law
(just like at Sinai). But, it is also true that
righteousness comes only through faith - the contract that
we can take advantage of only through Jesus!)
- Friend, will you, through Jesus, become a party to the
original contract of righteousness by faith alone? Why
not accept Jesus right now?
- Next week: The Apostles and the Law.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.