Many Christians are confused on whether God’s covenant is conditional or unconditional of the present life and future response of its recipients. In his work Covenant Conditionality and a Future for Israel, Ronald Pierce gives a comprehensive explanation of this. First, the covenants given by God differ in the explicitness of their confidentiality. For Abraham, it is argued that there is an overt rationale for God’s promise, wherein God pronounces His blessing upon Abraham if he does his part. In Genesis 12 and 17, God commands him to leave his country so that he may receive his blessings. Moreover, Genesis 22 and 26 tell of God’s divine intervention as His response to his obedience. In other words, this covenant is in a form of “You do this and I will do that”. For the Davidic covenant, God’s promise regarding David’s lineage in the throne of Judah is seen to be based on the faithfulness of the kings. It is more in a form of “If you do this, then I will do that”. If the kings become faithful to God, the promise to David will be fulfilled – as implied in 1 Kings 2:2-4. It implies that the fulfillment of the promise depends on the responsible living by the king and the people. In God’s covenant for Israel, the people are called to continued responsibility in their behavior before God. Deuteronomy 7:7-11 calls the people to love God and keep His commands. Otherwise, they will be punished.
Second, there is the unconditional nature of all God’s covenant towards the people, including Abraham, David, Israel, and the New Testament believers. Although God may require the recipients to do their part, God’s promises, as well as its fulfillment, are given unconditionally. For instance, although Abraham did his part, God proclaimed to him in Genesis 15:7 that it is He who brought him out of Ur. Also, God already proclaimed the future slavery of Abraham’s slavery and their redemption from God without any reference to Abraham’s obedience. Verse 18 even tells that God has already given the promise land beforehand. For David, it is worthy to note that many of the kings in his lineage are great in their unfaithfulness and wickedness. Nevertheless, God unconditionally allowed these wicked kings to remain on the throne. In fact, the promise is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah who descended from David. For Israel, God chose them unconditionally, as read in Deuteronomy 7:7-8. Their obedience is merely the definite manifestation of the relationship resulting from the covenant. Even for the New Covenant people, the Apostle Paul explained this in many passages including Ephesians 2:8-10. Paul himself was chosen by God on the way to Damascus without any condition given by God to him. However, as a result of God’s work in Paul, evidence of this salvation is manifested – including obedience to God’s Word. Further, another case that shows God’s fulfillment of His purpose and will, regardless of men’s response, is in the life of Jonah. Even though he chose to disobey and run away from God, God still made ways to have His purpose fulfilled. Thus, God’s promises are given and are fulfilled unconditionally. In fact, obedience itself is the work of God in the heart of men, as explained in Ezekiel 36:22-27. However, obedience is the only appropriate response to God, as manifestation of God’s initial work in the people’s lives.
Pierce, Ronald. “Covenant Conditionality and a Future for Israel.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37.1 (1994):27-38. Print.