According to Jesus, all of those who belong to God are now covenanted with God. For example, Jesus said that his blood represents this new covenant:
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28 ESV)
In the same way, Paul recognized that he currently served people who were under a new covenant with God:
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 ESV)
Finally, the author of the book of Hebrews explains how Jesus (as our high priest) is a better mediator of this new covenant:
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. (Hebrews 7:22 ESV)
So, all of those who are in Christ – who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ – are covenanted together with God… not based on their (our) ability to keep a covenant, but based on God’s promises (for example, see Hebrews 10:23).
We are in a covenant with God, and are therefore covenanted together with one another. Our covenant with God includes new familial relationships with others who are covenanted with God. Just as God is our father, his children (and all of his children) are our brothers and sisters. Our familial responsibilities toward one another are included in our relationship with God.
Thus, I cannot choose how I should treat someone who is in Christ. That relationship and those responsibilities are already ours because of our joint relationship with God.
So, the question that I’ve been struggling and wrestling with is this: If we are already covenanted with God and if we are already brothers and sisters with one another, then why do we need a separate “church covenant”?
A “church covenant” can only do two things: 1) It can remind of us our relationships and responsibilities which already exist, whether we have a covenant or not. And 2) it can specify with whom we share those relationships and responsibilities.
If we are relying on a “church covenant” for reason #1 above, then the “church covenant” is nothing more than a reminder of the new covenant in Christ. We are already covenanted with God through Christ, and therefore covenanted with all other people who are part of the same covenant. Thus, this is really not a “church covenant” but the new covenant.
The problem with #2 above is that our relationships and responsibilities extend to all brothers and sisters in Christ that God brings into our lives. If we use a “church covenant” to include some believers and exclude others, then we are dividing the body of Christ and making distinctions that only God can make. We are trying to choose who to love and who to serve. (Of course, this makes life much easier, but it doesn’t make it a life that lived according to the gospel.)
So, why do we need a “church covenant”? Why is one covenant (the new covenant in Christ) not enough?