Honoring God’s Covenant

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats” (v. 11).

- Isaiah 1:11–17

Throughout history, God has made covenants with His people, and He promises to bless us as we honor His covenant. This means that there are always obligations laid upon professing believers when they enter into a covenant with the Lord. There are even conditions attached to the new covenant, namely, faith and repentance. Without repentance for our sin and faith in Christ alone, we cannot enjoy the covenant blessing of salvation (Mark 1:15; John 3:16; Rom. 10:9–10).

If God’s blessing is tied to the honoring of His covenant, then cursing is tied to the dishonoring of His covenant. (Deut. 28; 1 Kings 21). The Lord’s anger is particularly intense when people are dishonest about their covenant fidelity. Amos, for example, gave this word from God to the ancient Israelites who worshipped Him with their lips but did not honor His covenant demands of justice: “I hate, I despise your feasts and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21). By their worship, the people in Amos’ day professed fidelity to their covenant with God, but in reality their hearts were far from Him. Today’s passage similarly proclaims that dishonest worship is an abomination to the Lord (Isa. 1:11–17).

Lest we think such anger was confined to the old covenant, Acts 5:1–11 reveals that God still hates it when professing believers are dishonest about their fidelity to the new covenant. In this passage, Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead because they lie to the Holy Spirit about their piety. Moreover, we know that many in the first-century Corinthian church died because they did not partake of the Lord’s Supper worthily (1 Cor. 11:17–32). They came to the Lord’s Table professing that they had examined themselves and determined that they were in a right relationship to God through Christ. In reality, however, no examination had taken place. They were lying about their covenant fidelity, and they suffered the consequences.

Professing Christians put themselves at great risk when they claim to follow Jesus and yet do not live in submission to His lordship. For the good of the church and those who are dishonest about their covenant fidelity, church leaders must bar professing Christians who show impenitence from worshipping at the Lord’s Table. Otherwise, we invite the Lord’s anger (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 82).

Coram Deo

We will look more at church discipline in the days ahead. As we close our study today, let us be reminded that coming into the Lord’s presence without repentance is dangerous indeed. It is particularly risky when we claim to be following the Lord and yet are not truly obeying Him as the Lord of all things. Preventing such people from coming into God’s presence at the Lord’s Table is for their good, as it prevents them from angering the Lord even further.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 19
Numbers 25
2 Samuel 6:5–7
Acts 12:20–23

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