Ray Sutton

Narrated By: Devan Lindsey
Book: That You May Prosper


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Chapter Text

A young Israelite king was sitting on his throne one day. He may have been bored; he may have been worried. But he decided to spend his day counting all the money that had come into the treasury. In those times, the money was kept in the Temple, so he sent a messenger to perform the task.

When the messenger arrived, he and a priest began to calculate the king’s wealth. As they moved the great chests of gold back and forth, the king’s messenger found a strange object. He found something resembling a “time capsule.”

The messenger called the priest. Slowly they unrolled the ancient manuscript found inside. In it was a message from their ancestors. Both knew immediately what had been found. They wept, as their eyes raced through the document, reading of a time gone by that obligated them to greatness.

The king had to be told.

The priest was selected to take the document to him. At first he walked; then he ran. The guards outside the king’s palace were instructed to move out of the way, for he had a message from the past.

Running into the king’s court and interrupting the proceedings, the priest bowed and held the document up to the king. Reaching out, the teenager clasped the manuscript in his hand. He stood, frozen like a statue for what seemed like time without an end. Everyone in this great court covered with gold, silver, and precious jewels waited speechlessly to see what the king was going to do. Then he looked up. But his eyes did not meet the numbed faces encircling him. They stretched up to the heavens.

Then he cried out before all the court, “God, forgive me and my people.” He tore his clothes and fell on his face, pleading for God’s mercy.

What had happened?

King Josiah had discovered the “Book of the Covenant” (II Kgs. 22:8ff.). What was it? Judging by Josiah’s response to this book (II Kgs. 22:3, 13; II Chron. 34:3-8), it was the Book of Deuteronomy, itself the summary of the covenant.[1] Deuteronomy is the second giving of the Law (Deutero = twice + nomy = law) stated in the form of a covenant. He read, “So keep the words of this covenant to do them that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deut. 29:8).

Josiah, however, did not stop at the reading of the covenant. He re-instituted it and brought about great reform in his society. Only then could he begin to change his culture. Only then could he re-establish the dominion of the Lord. Only then could he truly prosper! For his commitment to God’s law, God identified Josiah as the greatest king in the history of Israel: not David, and not Solomon. “And before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him” (II Kgs. 23:25).

Rediscovering Our Biblical Roots

That You May Prosper is a book about the covenant: what it is and how it works. It is designed to help create what happened in Josiah’s day. Like his time, “covenant” has been forgotten. Unlike his day, it has not yet been rediscovered. (Yes, a lot of Christians talk “covenant” and talk “accountability,” but the doctrine simply has not been discussed in terms of what the Bible actually teaches.) Covenant is the answer at a time when we stand at the threshold of the death of a culture.

In the late 1960s I began to read Francis Schaeffer. He came to a conservative seminary in my home town. I will never forget the day I heard him. I will never forget a statement he made that has kept ringing in my ears for nearly the last twenty years. He said, “We are at the end of Christian civilization, and therefore, we are at the end of civilization.”

Many would not agree with the premise of his comment, but how many would really contest that we are at the end of a culture? Most people sense it. Most Christians know it. Most secular intellectuals won’t deny it. And I think the general populace would not hesitate to admit that the Christian mores that undergirded this culture for the last two hundred years are all but gone. No doubt many would applaud this decline. But Christians are left asking, “How do we recover our Biblical roots?”

Unfortunately, I don’t hear a clear solution coming from any sector. Some say evangelism. Many say small groups. A few say liturgy. Others cry for political action. Certainly all of these have their proper place, but when are we going to look to the Bible for a model? When are we going to say, “Does the Bible tell of a time like ours, when Biblical influence was lost, and then recovered?” When are we going to look to see how they, the people in the Holy Scriptures, did it? I believe the Bible tells of a time such as that. The Bible really does have the answer, and the solution is right in front of our noses. It is the covenant, and Josiah’s experience tells the story. Our forefathers knew the story. It’s time we remember what they knew.

Our Biblical Heritage

We should never forget that covenant was the single most important theological idea in early America. Not only the Puritans, but virtually all Protestants came to the New World with this concept at the center of their theology and practice. Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Continental reformed groups, and independents were children of the Reformation. Federal theology, as covenant thinking had been called on the continent, had taken root at the time of the Middle Ages. In many ways, the dawning of the Reformation was a revival of this ancient theology. Slowly it seeped into European and British cultures, but not deep or fast enough.

When these diverse, yet similar, Protestant groups came to America, they implemented what many Europeans had wanted for centuries. Their rationale for applying the covenant was simple. The members of the Godhead related by covenant.[2] Since heaven is a model for earth – as the Lord’s Prayer says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10) – man is supposed to organize all of his life according to the same structure. People from England and the Continent were ready for this kind of society. They came to the New World because it offered what they had never been able to find in Europe: a society based not on “status but contract.”[3] Their theology mandated it, and they acted on it.

The idea of a society based on the theology of the Reformation quickly spread through their literature. These were people with a religion of the Book, the Bible, and consequently they were heavily involved in the printed word. Because of this, the covenant idea probably became so pervasive. Two groups of note are the Puritans and the Anglicans.[4]

The Puritans produced thousands of sermons, books, and tracts.[5] The covenant theme occurs often. One of the first books ever published in America was a book on the covenant, the Gospel-Covenant by Peter Bulkeley.[6] Other works basically reflected the same point of view, but maybe their greatest influence was expressed in their creeds.[7] In whole or in part, these statements of faith found their way to many different religious groups in America and England.[8] As covenant dominated their documents, the idea was able to cross denominational boundaries.[9]

The Anglicans were also quite influential in spreading covenant theology. Anyone who doubts the theological links between the Puritans and the Anglicans in seventeenth-century colonial America should consult Perry Miller’s essay on “Religion and Society in the Early Literature of Virginia.”[10] The Anglicans’ commitment to good Christian literature was commensurate with their dedication to the thought of the Reformation.[11] In 1695, Thomas Bray wrote, Proposals For Encouraging Learning and Religion In The Foreign Plantations. What he really had in mind was books.[12] The result was the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) in 1699. The king gave them their charter. One of the greatest movements in the history of the Church began. The S.P.C.K. disseminated a mountain of Christian literature in this part of the World. What kind of books? Mostly the print coming out of and influenced by the Reformation. Thus, the Anglicans, like the Puritans, created a conduit through which Federal theology poured into the New World.

Christians in the West have forgotten this story. They have forgotten the covenant. Somehow, they must rediscover it. But what in particular about the covenant shaped society? There were five key concepts.

Key Covenant Concepts

First, the covenant taught a transcendent view of God. Not that He is distant but that He is distinct from His creation. This distinction meant God is Lord over everything. Men are not imbued with deity. Consequently, no one man or sphere (Family, Church, or State) is allowed to have absolute power. Europe had been dominated at times by clans, ecclesiocracies, and monarchical dictators. The application of God’s transcendence did not allow any of these to have total control. It brought about a true separation of institutional powers, all ruled directly by God.

Second, the covenant taught a concept of authority, or hierarchy, based on representation. According to this system, people should be able to choose the kind of government over them. Once chosen, however, as long as the representatives met their duties, they were to be obeyed.

Third, covenant meant a society based on ethics, particularly the laws of the Bible.[13] “The covenant involved ethics in the very stuff of grace itself.”[14] Peter Bulke1ey said:

We must for our part assent unto the Covenant, not only accepting the promise of it, but also submit to the duty required in it; or else there is no Covenant established betwixt God and us; we must as well accept of the condition as of the promise, if we will be in Covenant with God.[15]

These colonial Christians did not believe in works salvation, rather in a salvation that works. Miller remarks that their view of ethics included more than “individual honesty and charity; it included participation in the corporate organization and the regulation of men in the body politic.”[16] Men were judged, in other words, on the basis of behavior, no matter what their status. This gave “good” people a true chance to have upward mobility, something they could have never had as readily in the Old World.

Fourth, the covenant implemented a system of sanctions based on an oath. Once an oath was made, a man was expected to keep it. Any violation met serious sanctions. Perjury in the realm of the State was in many cases punishable by death. Adulteration of the marriage oath met the same end. Apostasy from the Church covenant resulted in banishment. The oath and the sanctions that enforced it were an effective stabilizing factor in American culture.

Fifth, the covenant implied a system of continuity based on something other than blood relations. The Puritans attempted to make experience the test for church membership. Also, a person had to be a member of the Church to be able to vote. Granted, these were misapplications. The first misapplication – experientialism – led to the Halfway Covenant, in which the grandchildren of church members were baptized, even though their parents had never joined the church formally. Though baptized, these “halfway covenant” children were not regarded as church members.[17] The other misapplication – political – corrupted the Church. Nevertheless, we do find hints of an extremely important aspect of a society rooted in contract and not in status. The mechanism of contract provided social continuity, and not blood or class. America, more than any other culture, had become a place of opportunity for the “little guy.”

These seminal ideas of the covenant shaped American society. They created the strongest nation in the history of man. As they have diminished, so has every sphere: Family, Church, and State. A brief overview of these institutions in light of our five basic concepts demonstrates what the loss of covenant has done to modern society.


First, God is transcendent. He directly relates to each sphere of society. Family, Church, and State are not stacked on top of each other. The Family does not have to go through the State, nor the Church, to get to God. This gives the Family institution a sacred character. No longer is the Family viewed this way. The State has crippled its God-given powers. A civil judge once said, “Whilst marriage is often termed by text writers and in decisions of courts a civil contract… it is something more than a mere contract….It is an institution.”[18] By this he meant that the Family is a covenant. But the State does not believe this way any more. The Family is under attack from the State and society at large. Who can doubt the Family’s loss of sacredness? Now other “gods” rule it.

Second, as for authority, most families are not sure “who’s in charge.” There was a time when the father was head of the house. Everyone knew it. Everyone acknowledged it. But the advent of the working mother has created a conflict. It’s not the 1950s anymore. High inflation and debt have changed the economics of Western culture. A collapsing economy has forced the woman to go to the market place. When she does, she starts to bring in a sizeable portion of the family income, maybe as much or more than the husband. This threatens the relationship, and the wars begin. The rise of wife abuse statistics indicate the extent of the conflicts. War has been declared in the home. It remains to be seen whose authority will take charge.

Third, the covenant laid out a clear sense of right and wrong, ethics. The first colonists believed in the morality of the Bible, an objective standard. And every family was raised on this morality. Today, the family has lost this sense of right and wrong. Its children are indoctrinated with “values training” in public schools. The philosophical background for such training comes straight out of the Humanist Manifesto I & II. Students are taught, “We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction.”[19]

How frightening it is to think that the future leaders of our civilization will believe this way!

Fourth, it used to be that when a couple said their vows before God and man, their oath was taken seriously. Divorce was socially unacceptable. Our times tell us something about how people feel about their marriage oath. Thirty-eight percent of all first marriages in the United States fail. Seventy-nine percent of those people will remarry, and forty-four percent of these second marriages will fail.

The fifth area of the covenant is continuity. Most families cannot maintain the bond implied by this word. Indeed, studies indicate that “Christians” are not doing well at raising up a Godly “seed.” They are losing their children to the government school system.[20] They are losing them to the humanists who write the screenplays for television shows. They are even losing them to the humanists who teach in Christian colleges.[21]

Also, the rapid death of the “family business” points to the loss of continuity. Each year a growing number of family businesses is terminated, not because there are no living heirs, but because the heirs are not interested. Some students of the “small business” believe this is one of the largest causes for the collapse of the “small business.”[22]

At one time the family was understood as a covenantal unit. The loss of this idea has had staggering effects. The five foundational concepts of covenant have proven to be critical to the family’s life or death, sickness or health. It seems that as the traditional marriage vows have been altered or destroyed – “In sickness and in health, for richer for poorer… till death do us part” – so has the entire institution. But the family is not the only institution that has lost its covenantal moorings.

The State

The New Deal, the Great Society, and all the other social innovations of our “progressive” society have failed.[23] Why? These grams are products of a government in violation of basic covenantal principles.

First, the State has attempted to become transcendent. This assumption of the role of God has been the “Second American Revolution,”[24] title of John Whitehead’s insightful work. Today’s foremost Christian Constitutional authority, lawyer, and author, his thesis is clear: the judicial procedures of the last 100 years have so completely re-interpreted the Constitution that the intent of the original 1776 American Revolution has been lost. He refers to a comment made in 1907 by Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes – “The Constitution is what the judges say it is”[25] – and compares it to one made in 1936 by the Third Reich Commissar of Justice: “A decision of the Fuhrer in the express form of a law or decree may not be scrutinized by a judge. In addition, the judge is bound by any other decisions of the Fuhrer, provided that they are clearly intended to declare law.”[26] Today, the Supreme Court has become our Fuhrer. We are left wondering, “Who really won World War II?”

Second, these quotes indicate confusion over authority. The representative concept was a covenantal idea, as we shall see in greater detail later. The magistrate was to represent God and the people. It could easily be argued, however, that we no longer have a functional representative system. The Supreme Court, a group of appointed-for-life officials, has the real power. The most recent example is the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling (January, 1973). After the states failed to pass pro-death amendments in the early 1970s, the Supreme Court still made death the law of the land. Do we have a representative system? Where were our elected representatives? The Congress has the right to overturn the future effects of any ruling by the Supreme Court simply by withdrawing the Court’s appellate jurisdiction.[27] By removing the abortion question from the Federal courts and the Supreme Court, the issue would be returned to the states, where it began, and where all other capital penalties are enforced. (Abortion is murder; murder is a capital crime; therefore….) So where were our elected representatives? Evidently, we have an authority crisis in our land!

Third, America was originally built on a clear sense of right and wrong. There was fixity of law, or ethics. Not so any longer. Whitehead explains this loss of “fixity of law and absolutes above men” in the following comment.

Justice Hughes’s statement [quoted above] was representative of a clear break with the American legal past. His view of law deviates from the American concept of constitutionalism-limited government under the rule of law.

This concept was laid down in the colonial documents, including both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. But in its adoption of the English common law [which applied accepted biblical principles in judicial decisions], the Constitution was acknowledging that a system of absolutes exists upon which government and law can be founded. Moreover, under constitutionalism the people are governed by a written document embodying these principles and, therefore, not by the arbitrary opinions to be found in the expressions of men.[28]

Fourth, the concept of oath has been almost completely destroyed by attacks on the use of the Bible to administer it. If men do not swear by God, there is nothing transcendent to enforce the oath. There are no real sanctions. So we are left asking, “Where is social justice in our land?” Crime is up. On the one hand, the State is slow to respond to the fears of the average American. Crime is high on everyone’s list of American crises. It seems that one has to commit a multiple killing before the ancient law, “an eye for an eye,” is honored. On the other hand, some Americans are prepared to take matters into their own hands. More and more “vigilante” movies appear each year. Handgun sales are higher than ever. Self-defense courses are full. All sorts of protection devices are being installed. As one drives through the affluent, yet barred-windowed sections of cities, perhaps he asks himself, “Who’s really in prison in this society?” No oath, no sanction, no justice. The innocent are captives to thugs in high places.

Fifth, the State faces a huge crisis over the continuity question. It has to do with immigration laws. I have already mentioned that the Puritans attempted to get around a blood basis of continuity by only giving the vote to church members, and that they were unsuccessful. Even though they failed, however, they had the right idea. The vote should not be on the basis of blood. Yet, the way the Constitution was written hindered what the Puritans wanted. If a person is born in America, he will be allowed to vote at age 18. Blood, not covenant, actually forms political continuity in the U.S. It is not a question of citizenship. Birth should entitle one to this status. But authority to vote should have some covenantal qualifications. Someone can be born in the country but be totally at odds with the American system, and yet have full voting privileges. This has always created a dilemma for preserving the ideals of the Founding Fathers.

Again, we see that the decline of covenant thinking has changed a major institution. The State today is not the same as it was when our nation was established. To become a truly Christian civilization, it must return to the covenant.


Finally, the Church has also been influenced by the decline of covenant thinking.

God is transcendent. Not only should He be Lord over Family and State, but certainly He should be recognized as such in the Church. He is supposed to be Head of the Church. When He is not, the Church is left open to attack. The State becomes “Lord” of the Church. Anyone who doubts the State’s “Lordship” should consider how many churches are 501 (c) (3) organizations. They have sought tax exemption, yet the law says such exemption is automatic for churches. In effect, they have gone to the State to ask for permission to exist. The implication: the Church no longer takes instructions from the true Head. It goes through an alternate “priesthood,” the IRS.

The whole issue of authority has come into the Church. Do Church officers have any real authority? Does God hear them? Do the people hear them? I know of a church where it was discovered that one of the leaders was leading a double life. When he came to church he was a good husband and loving father. Meanwhile, he was leading the life of a gambler and adulterer across town. The pastor wanted to have the man removed. Members objected and instead removed the pastor.

How about ethics in the Church? Does the Church know the difference between right and wrong? Probably not. For decades a certain theology has taught that Christians are not supposed to obey the Ten Commandments. The thinking goes, “That’s in the Old Testament. God was one way in the Old and another in the New. I’m not under law, but grace.” Now after so many years of this kind of thinking and preaching, Christians do not know how to live. Take a look at the number of large churches in your town that are involved in the pro-life movement. This issue should be fairly clear cut. Killing babies is wrong! Right? I imagine that your town is like all the rest. The big churches are not interested in the pro-life issue. They will not take a stand because it is too controversial. They are not motivated to take a stand because they do not know right from wrong. They really do not believe abortion is murder. If they did, they would call for the death penalty for abortionists and abortion-seeking mothers. How else is murder to be treated in Old and New Testaments (Rom. 1:29-32)?

Now we come to the areas of oath and sanction in the Church. Church membership is serious. Most churches require some sort of membership commitment and/or vows. But the real test of the oath of allegiance to the Church is discipline. Just mention the word, and no one knows what you are talking about. Jesus taught that some may have to be put out of the Church (Matt. 18:15-18). When was the last time you heard of a church doing such a thing? Is this because everyone in the pew (or pulpit!) is so good? Hardly. Recently in Oklahoma, a woman was excommunicated for adultery – as a matter of fact she committed adultery with the mayor of the city. Her behavior scandalized the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She could have been forgiven, of course. But she did not want repentance. She wanted to live in open sin and have all the benefits of a member in good standing. The church cast her out. She sued the church and won. The State upheld her violation of a sacred oath to the Church!

Finally, continuity has also been a concern in the Church. The Church has faced the problem of maintaining continuity of belief in the midst of diverse religious opinions. Most churches give voting privileges to anyone who can commune. But since not everyone who communes believes the same way, yet all adult members have the power to vote, the church tends to drift toward the lowest common doctrinal denominator. I have heard of a church where a group of Masons joined. They brought in many of their friends. Eventually, they controlled the vote and voted to shut the church down. It was turned into a Masonic Lodge. Even if this is not true, it is certainly possible. The solution is to separate voting from communing privileges. Most churches, however, are not willing to take this kind of action.

So the Church, along with the other two institutions, has declined. The great concepts of the covenant have slowly been set aside. If they are to be redeemed, covenant is the answer. But if we do not know what it is and how it works, we will not be able to restore our world. Like King Josiah, we have to discover, understand, and implement it. And how we need to find the covenant! Just go to a Christian bookstore and ask for a book on the covenant. I dare say that you could probably find one sooner in a “secular” bookstore. We are a generation that has lost the covenant. We do not know what it is; we do not understand it; and we certainly do not know how it works. Ironically, this is the single most important Biblical concept in the history of our civilization. We have lost the most valuable information that has contributed to our national and personal success. This brings me to the main concern of That You May Prosper.

The Covenant’s Structure


How do we discover the covenant? We have to be convinced that it is the central organizing principle of the Bible.[29] The only way to come to this conclusion is to understand the covenant itself. If we do not know what a covenant consists of, we will never be able to see it in all the segments of the Bible. Then, after we know the meaning of a covenant, we can consider how it works.

So, That You May Prosper has two parts: covenant and dominion. My primary purpose in the “covenant” section is to define the covenant. The Book of Deuteronomy is a model, a place where all of its parts can clearly be seen. Deuteronomy is to the covenant what Romans is to systematic theology. But how do we know Deuteronomy is a covenant? Moses says, “He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments [Words]” (Deut. 4:13). Deuteronomy is the second giving of the Ten Commandments, a “new” covenant so to speak. Moses says of the book as a whole, “Keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deut. 29:9). Deuteronomy is definitely a covenant document.

Significantly, scholarship of the last few decades has uncovered the similarity between Deuteronomy and other ancient near-eastern covenant treaties, usually called suzerainty treaties: Hittite (sixteenth-thirteenth centuries B.C.) and Assyrian (eighth-seventh centuries B.C.). Suzerains were ancient kings who imposed their covenant treaties on lesser kings called vassals. The structure of these treaty documents is not identical to Deuteronomy, but close enough to help us better understand its structure. Suzerainty covenants had six parts.[30]

Suzerainty Covenants 

  1. The Preamble: Like an introduction, it declared who the suzerain (king) was as well as his great power.
  2. The Historical Prologue: A historical summary of the suzerain’s rule. In short, the one who controls history is lord and demands complete
  3. Stipulations: These were the specific laws of conquest to be observed, the stipulations being the very means of dominion. Also, they distinguished the servants of the suzerain from the other people of the world.
  4. Blessing and Cursing: This section outlined the ceremony where an oath was taken, receiving sanctions in the form of blessing and cursing. The character of this oath was “self-maledictory.” The vassal swore his allegiance to the suzerain. It is called “self-maledictory” because the vassal condemned himself to death if he broke the covenant. In other words, if he was faithful, he was blessed. If unfaithful, he was cursed.
  5. Successional Arrangements: The covenant document also specified successors to the suzerain so that the vassal could pledge his allegiance to them. Another feature is the enlisting of witnesses, often “heaven and earth,” to the sealing of the covenant.
  6. Depository arrangements: The covenant also stated how and where the covenant document would be stored and preserved. In the event there was a breach of covenant, this document could be produced to begin a process of prosecution against the offending vassal, usually called a covenant lawsuit.

The Biblical covenant in Deuteronomy has five parts.[31] It preceded the suzerainty treaties and was not a copy of them. The suzerains copied the Biblical pattern to form geo-political covenants. Deuteronomy, on the other hand, was the restatement and expansion of the Ten Commandments. Not only does Moses say as much (Deut. 4:13), but the parallel between the five-fold pattern in Deuteronomy and a double five-fold pattern in the Ten Commandments demonstrates the connection.[32] Nevertheless, studies in suzerain treaties have been helpful in understanding the basic structure of the Biblical covenant. I have used them in this regard, especially the work by Meredith G. Kline.[33] Therefore, let us briefly overview the five points of covenantalism.

The Deuteronomic Covenant

True Transcendence (Deut. 1:1-5). Kline and others point out that the covenant begins with a “preamble.” But what does the Biblical preamble of Deuteronomy teach? Here we find that God declares His transcendence. True transcendence does not mean God is distant but that He is distinct.  

Hierarchy (Deut. 1:6-4:49). The second section of the covenant is called the “historical prologue.” Suzerain treaty scholars point out that in this section of Deuteronomy, the author develops a brief history of God’s Sovereign relationship to His people around an authority principle. What is it? And, what does it mean? Briefly, God established a representative system of government. These representatives were to mediate judgment to the nation. And the nation was to mediate judgment to the world.

Ethics (Deut. 5-26). The next section of the covenant is usually the longest. The stipulations are laid out. In Deuteronomy, this section is 22 chapters long (Deut. 5-26). The Ten Commandments are re-stated and developed. These stipulations are the way God’s people defeat the enemy. By relating to God in terms of ethical obedience, the enemies fall before His children.

The principle is that law is at the heart of God’s covenant. The primary idea is that God wants His people to see an ethical relationship between cause and effect: be faithful and prosper.

Sanctions (Deut. 27-30). The fourth part of Deuteronomy lists blessings and curses (Deut. 27-28). As in the suzerain treaty, Kline observes that this is the actual process of ratification. A “self-maledictory” oath is taken and the sanctions are ceremonially applied. The principle is that there are rewards and punishments attached to the covenant.

Continuity (Deut. 31-34). Continuity determines the true heirs. This continuity is established by ordination and faithfulness. It is historic and processional. The covenant is handed down from generation to generation. Only the one empowered by the Spirit can obey and take dominion. He is the one who inherits. The final principle of the covenant tells “who is in the covenant,” or “who has continuity with it,” and what the basis of this continuity will be.

These five points of covenantalism are the foundation of That You May Prosper. As I have said, it has two parts: covenant and dominion. In the “covenant section,” I spend the first five chapters explaining the five points of covenantalism in detail.[34] In the next half, I move to their application.


The subtitle of this book is Dominion by Covenant. After we have assessed the covenant, we need to ask, “How does it work?” It is my thesis that covenant is the mechanism for dominion and success. After all, Moses says, “Keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deut. 29:9). If we really believe the Bible, then covenant is the key to daily living at every level.

In the “dominion section” I begin with a comparison of the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28-30) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20). Some Christians do not understand their Commission from the Lord. It is a renewal of the cultural mandate; it has the covenantal structure; it means Christians are to take dominion by means of the covenant.

Having established that dominion is by covenant, we get down to specifics. I concentrate on the three institutions of Biblical society (Family, Church, and State), and I show how they were intended to function according to the covenant. Then I also point out historical examples from our own history. Someone might think that this covenant structure is overly idealistic. It is not; it has been tried before; it has been successful. The covenant is practical.

Finally, I conclude the book with a brief summary on how to apply the covenant to society-at-large. I call it “Little by Little.” I don’t want the reader to think we can impose this covenant concept on our culture by force, so I touch on the role of the witness: both in evangelism and in filing covenant lawsuits. After a short consideration of evangelism, seeing so much has already been written on this subject, I focus on the lawsuit. Very little has been said recently about this idea. I rely on the prophet Hosea as a guide, because his book follows the covenantal structure. But more importantly, the prophet shows us how he used the covenant to bring a covenant lawsuit against the wicked. From this chapter, you will learn how to defeat the wicked when you are under-capitalized, out-classed, and under-manned.

So, That You May Prosper has two parts: covenant and dominion. When you finish, I hope you will see life differently. Perhaps covenant will have real, practical, life-changing meaning in your life! If our society could think and live this way, we could renew our forefathers’ “errand in the wilderness” and change it into a garden. We could then see again the days of the new and final Josiah, a glorious rule by King Jesus!

[1] Scholars have debated whether the “Book of the Covenant” was actually the Book of Deuteronomy. For a while, this notion was seriously contested. Now, however, most Old Testament scholars agree that the “Book of the Covenant” was indeed Deuteronomy or some portion thereof. Edward McGlynn Gaffney, “Of Covenants Ancient and New: The Influence Of Secular Law On Biblical Religion,” Journal of Religion and Law II (1984), pp. 117-144. Gaffney refers to Wilhelm De Witte, Dissertation Critico-Exegetica, Qua Deuteronomium A Prioritus Pentateuchi Libris Diversum, Alius Evivsdam Recentioris Auctoris Opus Esse Monstrator (1805). On the basis of De Witte’s work, Gaffney says, “Shorn of its nineteenth century rationalism, the suggestion of Wilhelm De Witte in 1805 that the law book referred to in these passages was a portion of Deuteronomy now enjoys the status of virtual consensus among contemporary biblical scholars” (p. 121). Gaffney then refers to a more contemporary scholar, confirming De Witte. Norbert Lohfink, “Zur Dekalogfassung von Deut. 5, 9” Biblishe Zeitschrift (1965), pp. 17-31.

[2] Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1958), p. 93.

[3] Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, [1939] 1954), p. 399. Although Miller did “ground-breaking” work, he erroneously believed the “covenant” idea was original to the Puritans. George M. Marsden, “Perry Miller’s Rehabilitation of the Puritans: A Critique,” Church History 39, no. 1(March 1970: 91-105), categorically proves that the Puritans derived the “covenant idea” from the teaching of John Calvin in Geneva.

Also, the Christian colonists did not believe in a social contract theory, because their view of covenant forced them to have a high view of authority. God establishes institutions through this authority, not the consent of the people. For example, those coming to the New World from England all sought charters from the king. They were not anarchists, striking out on their own without accountability.

[4] Granted, the Puritans and Anglicans differed on their views of worship. Although the Puritans made some helpful contributions to American society, they were inconsistent with their view of covenant when it came to worship. They argued, “Do what the Old Testament teaches, unless the New Testament changes it.” So they defended the right of magistrates to use the Old Testament civil laws as a guide. The Anglicans on the other hand used the same kind of argument regarding worship. They, too, held to the great reformational idea of the covenant. They, too, believed that the Old Testament should inform one’s interpretations of the New Testament. They looked at the Book of Revelation and saw that the form of worship was remarkably similar to the worship of the Old Testament. God had not done away with a basic “routine” around the throne of God. Thus, their worship was not plain and stark like the Puritans’ worship.

[5] The Puritans also shaped culture through their high moral standards of living. Today, laws of the early Puritans against blasphemy, homosexuality, and adultery are still on many of the individual states’ books, even though they are no longer taken seriously. And, Puritan family life is still studied to find out what made the interior of their lives so rich. Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family (New York: Harper & Row, [1944] 1966), pp. 133-160.

[6] Peter Bulkeley, The Gospel-Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace Opened (2nd ed., London, 1651). All future references to Bulkeley’s work will be to this edition.

[7] The most famous Puritan doctrinal standard is the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1640s. Even though it was produced in England, it spread to America to the New England Puritans. Presbyterian and Congregational groups quickly began to adopt it. The New England Puritans wrote the Cambridge Platform, very similar in many respects to the Westminster Confession of Faith.

[8] The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith 1677 is virtually a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the major differences falling in the area of baptism, etc. Nevertheless, it is almost word for word the same. Most of the early Baptist groups used this modified version of the Westminster Confession. W. L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge: Judson Press, [1964] 1979), pp. 235-296.

[9] Benjamin Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and Its Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931), p. 56. One of its greatest interpreters, he says of the Westminster Confession, “The architectonic principle of the Westminster Confession is supplied by the schematization of the Federal [Covenantal] Theology.”

[10] Perry Miller, Errand Into The Wilderness (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, [1956] 1970), ch. 4.

[11] Charles and Katherine George, The Protestant Mind of the English Reformation (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961), pp. 50-55. Specific reference is made to such great Anglican thinkers as Bishop Ussher, who was firmly entrenched in covenant theology. For that matter, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the confessional standard of the Anglican Church, is remarkably similar to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Both are products of the same pool of theology.

[12] Edwin Scott Gaustad, A Religious History of America (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), pp. 76-77.

[13] Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), a liberal Jew and professor at Harvard Law School, argues that Western culture is clearly based on Christian law and influence, a background so much the warp and woof of society that the American way of life cannot continue to function if this background is abandoned. Even writers who want to deny America’s Christian roots cannot avoid the reality that “America was generally Christian in the structure of its law, its institutions, and its culture.” Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, George M. Marsden, The Search For Christian America (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway, 1983), p. 150.

[14] Miller, Ertand, p. 88.

[15] Bulkeley, The Gospel-Covenant, p. 316; cited by Miller, p. 88; cf. part IV of Gospel-Covenant.

[16] Ibid., p. 89.

[17] Edmund S. Morgan, Visible Saints (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, [1963] 1968). Morgan argues that the “experiential” tests for church membership that they introduced in the early 1630s actually militated against their covenantal theology. Instead of having “objective” tests, they became overly subjective. They tried to do what only God can do, that is, look into men’s hearts.

[18] Maynard v. Hill, 1888. Cited in Ray R. Sutton, Who Owns The Family: God or the State? (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1986), pp. 3-14. I devote the entire book to ten court cases that have changed American family life. In this particular chapter, “A Covenant, Not A Contract,” I develop the sacred nature of the Family.

[19] Humanist Manifesto II (1973), principle 3.

[20] Robert L. Thoburn, The Children Trap: The Biblical Blueprint for Education (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1986).

[21] Gary North, “Foreword,” to Ian Hodge, Baptized Inflation: A Critique of “Christian” Keynesianism (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986).

[22] Robert E. Levinson, “Problems in Managing A Family-Owned Business,” Management Aids No. 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Small Business Administration, 1981), p. 3. Leon Danco, Inside the Family Business (Cleveland: The University Press, Inc., 1980), pp. 248-250.

[23] Charles Murray, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980 (New York: Basic Books, 1984).

[24] John Whitehead, The Second American Revolution (Elgin, Illinois: David C. Cook Publishing, 1982).

[25] Ibid, p. 20, quoting David J. Danelski and Joseph S. Tulchin, eds., The Autobiographical Notes of Charles Evans Hughes, p. 143.

[26] Ibid, p. 20, quoting Ernst von Hippel, “The Role of Natural Law in the Legal Decisions of the Federal German Republic,” p. 110.

[27] Article III, Sect. 2, Clause 2. After the War Between the States, the Supreme Court was anti-Reconstruction because its members had held their positions since the 1840s. When a Southerner named McCardle filed against certain acts of the military rule of the South during Reconstruction, the court accepted the jurisdiction. Congress, on the other hand, being pro-Reconstruction, voted to determine the jurisdiction of the court. President Johnson vetoed the bill, but Congress overrode his veto. The Supreme Court thereupon withdrew from the case, declaring that the decision of the Congress had removed its jurisdiction. The Court affirmed that Congress interprets the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The case was Ex Parte McCardle vs. Mississippi (1869). See The Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1972), pp. 750-752.

[28] Whitehead, Second American Revolution, pp. 20-21. Emphasis and brackets mine.

[29] Walter Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961). Eichrodt organizes the entire Old Testament in terms of the covenant. Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1(1962), p. 178, states that although he does not believe in a consistent covenantal thread in the Old Testament, he has to admit, “The belief that Jahweh took Israel (by means of a covenant) as his own peculiar people is, of course, very old.”

[30] George E. Mendenhall, “Covenant,” Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary Vol. I (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), pp. 714-723. It should be noted that Mendenhall’s overview of the covenant in this article actually lists seven parts of the suzerain treaty: Preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, deposit arrangements, witnesses, blessing and cursing, and oath. But it is generally agreed that the suzerain covenants had six parts. See also, George E. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Near East (Pittsburgh: Biblical Colloquium, 1955).

[31] Meredith G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp. 131-153. Also, “Deuteronomy,” Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Nashville: Southwestern Co., 1962), pp. 155-204.

[32] See Appendix 1 for a development of how the Ten Commandments follow the covenant structure.

[33] 33. See Appendix 7: “Meredith Kline: Yes and No.”

[34] We also have to answer, “Is this covenantal structure other places in the

Bible? Or, is this just something unique to Deuteronomy and Moses? After all, we live in the New Covenant age. Maybe the same points are no longer valid. Can we find them in the New Testament?” As a matter of fact, once the five points of covenantalism are understood, we discover the pattern everywhere. In Appendixes one through six I show the covenant structure in several places in the Bible. Since Deuteronomy is actually the republishing of a previous covenant, we start with the Ten Commandments. We see the covenant structure twice, forming a twofold witness. Then we examine Psalms, Matthew, Romans, Revelation, and Hebrews 8. The five-fold pattern is a structure for both Old and New Testaments. Certainly there are differences, and we will consider them as well.