Exodus 23:22. But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
The covenant that God is making with the Hebrews at Mount Sinai is your basic ancient “King and Vassal” covenant that was common to this time period. And all of these “King and Vassal” covenants followed the same structure: If-Then.
If you (the vassals) do ___ – Then I (the king) will do ___.
So in our verse above: IF you obey – THEN I will protect you from your enemies.
This structure is really made clear in the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 28: 1-2. If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, [then] the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
And then a list of blessings follow.
The same was true for cursings too.
Deuteronomy 28:15. However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, [then] all these curses will come on you and overtake you:
A gruesome list of curses follows.
You Lose! – the result of all If-Then contracts made with God.
Because of this If-Then structure we often call the Mosaic or Old Covenant a conditional covenant. Of course God will always uphold his end of the bargain. But the nation must also uphold their end of the bargain. And what if they don’t? Spoiler: they don’t. And they get carried off into a brand new slavery, needing a brand new rescue, a brand new Exodus (but that’s a whole other set of blogs).
What about our New Covenant with God through Jesus Christ? Is it an If-Then covenant? Yes.
But here’s the good news. The IF in our If-Then covenant is faith. Not works. Not doing. Not striving. Not even obeying. Faith. Plain and simple. IF you believe, THEN you will be saved.
Acts 16:31. “ [If you] Believe in the Lord Jesus, [then] you will be saved—you and your household.”
John 5:24. Very truly I tell you, [If] whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me [then] has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
Revelation 3:20. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door (faith), [then] I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Romans 10:9. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, [then] you will be saved.
Our covenant based upon faith in Christ is possible because Christ perfectly obeyed the Old Mosaic Covenant. He obeyed all the IFs and he deserved all the covenantal blessings that come with that obedience.
The people of Israel, and all of humanity really, failed to obey any and all of God’s IFs and so we deserve the covenantal curses. The ultimate curse being death.
The great cosmic plot twist is that Jesus, the law keeper and the one deserving of all blessing and honor, took our place and died the death of a law breaker on the cross. He became our curse.
Galatians 3:13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
Jesus completely satisfied the Law. He perfectly obeyed all that God commanded. He never broke a Ten Commandment. He followed all 613 laws perfectly. Even down to the heart of the law. He always loved God with all his heart, soul, and strength, and his neighbor as himself. How do we know? The cross. There is no greater evidence of Christ’s love for God and neighbor than the cross.
But the cross is also the curse of the law breaker. Dying on a cross is literally a cursed death. Beyond this the cross was separation from the Father. It was exile. It was slavery. It was the curse of the Garden. IF you eat from that tree THEN you will surely die. The curse of death placed on all humanity, Christ bore on that cross. The curse declared by God through Moses in the Old Covenant, Christ bore on that cross.
Jesus fulfilled all of the Law’s requirements but also all of the Law’s punishments. All it’s blessings and all its cursings. All its IFs and all its THENs.
IF we trust in what Christ has done for us on the cross THEN we are placed into Christ receiving all the blessings of his life. How? Because our union with Christ means that we have been crucified with Christ (curse received) and raised to new life with Christ (curse reversed and blessing received).
Now we no longer relate to God from an If-Then covenant. We relate to God in a brand new Because-Therefore covenant.
Our motivation for obedience is not “If we obey then we will be blessed.” Or “IF we disobey then we will be cursed.” NO! The blessing and cursing has already happened at the cross and at the empty tomb of Jesus or Savior.
Now our motivation is “Because I have been blessed in Christ therefore I will obey.” Our faithful obedience doesn’t gain us blessing, nor does our faithless disobedience gain us cursing. In Christ we are faithful to God from freedom, not from slavery. From grace not law. From love not fear. Knowing that there is no blessing left to gain, but that we already have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3) allows us to relate to God from unconditional love and grace, not conditional Ifs and Thens. And that’s good news.
“To live is Christ” has moved us from an If-Then relationship with God to a Because-Therefore relationship with God because Christ in us has satisfied every IF and every THEN in his life, death, and resurrection.