A covenant, as described in the Old Testament, is a solemn oath between two people or groups of people, which is totally binding on both sides. God is called upon as witness, thus including God as party to the covenant. It is completed by the shedding of the blood of a sacrificed animal, and sealed in the blood of each party.
If a group of people wish to make a covenant with another group, each must select one person to represent them. He is given authority to represent the wishes of the people on their behalf. He takes upon himself the full identity of that group, and as he stands in their place making covenant for them, the people he represents are recognised as being ‘in him.’
When Jesus in his humanity went to the cross to make restitution for our sins before God, He did so on our behalf. He was our representative. We were ‘in Him.’ ‘In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace’ (Ephesians 1:7).
This had been ordained from the beginning, so that we would be a people in whom God could share His love as one with Him. ‘Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love’ (Ephesians 1:4).
This was fulfilled on the cross when Jesus became the sacrifice on our behalf in the covenant God made with His people. This was the New Covenant between God and Man. Jesus was both God and man. He came as God in the flesh (John 1:14), and yet He was also the perfect man, ‘in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). The covenant was sealed in His blood, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’ (Luke 22:20), and He was the sacrificial lamb. ‘For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed’ (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Jesus, the man, perfected a covenant with God on our behalf, which was totally binding on both sides, so that in Him we now have a new relationship in perfect love and of eternal life with the Father. Jesus came to carry out the will of God (Hebrews 10:9), ‘and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (Hebrews 10:10). However, we must identify with our representative in what He has done.
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, and we need to respond to that by choosing to be in Him. Then we can receive ‘the gift of God ... eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23), and we can say with Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to understand that I was ‘in You’ when You died on the cross, that You took my sins with You and put them to death, and that now I can receive the new life You offer, complete with the unconditional love of the Father, in full assurance that nothing in all creation can ever take it from me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.