A binding agreement that is freely entered into by two or more parties. The parties to this solemn agreement may be individuals or groups of people. They may be of equal or unequal status. A covenant also typically includes terms, oaths, and a ritual enactment (possibly a sacrifice, a meal, an exchange, or even a handshake). A covenant with God is a relationship initiated by God for salvation and responded to in faith. The old covenant was given by God to the Hebrew people. The story of this covenant is revealed in the OT (see BCP, pp. 846-847). It was by covenant that the Hebrew people entered into special relationship with God and became the people of God.

The OT tells many stories of God's covenant with the people of Israel. God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants that there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth. Noah serves as mediator of this covenant between God and all that lives on the earth. God's bow in the clouds was the sign of this covenant (Gn 9: 8-17). God also made a covenant with Abraham, in which God promised Abraham that his posterity would be as numerous as the stars and that Abraham's descendants would have the promised land (Gn 15: 1-21). God made a covenant with Moses that the people of Israel would be God's people, and God would be their God. God also promised to free them from the burdens of the Egyptians and to bring them to the land that God covenanted to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex 6: 2-8). God's covenant with Moses and the people of Israel was to be lived out by them in terms of the Ten Commandments (see Ex 20: 1-17, Ex 34, Dt 5: 6-21).

The new covenant is the new relationship with God given by Jesus to the apostles and through them to all who believe in Jesus (see BCP, pp. 850-851). At the Last Supper, Jesus shared the cup of wine with the apostles, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (Lk 22:20). We share in the new covenant as participants in Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Jesus' Summary of the Law was that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mt 22:37-40; see BCP, p. 851). We live out our participation in the new covenant in terms of the new commandment that we love one another as Christ loved us (Jn 13: 34-35; see BCP, p. 851). The new covenant is a life of love that we share with Christ and with each other in Christ's name. Christian initiation takes place in terms of the baptismal covenant (BCP, pp. 304-305), which is renewed at Confirmation (BCP, pp. 416-417).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.


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