Early in the book (which is as far as I've gotten!!), Gentry and Wellum, professors at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, offer a comparison between contracts and covenant. I find this immensely helpful as I preach to my congregation the value of covenant in the Bible.
Here is my summary of the table found on page 140 of the book.
- The purpose of a contract is the benefits each party expects. It is thing-oriented. By contrast, the purpose of a covenant is a desire for an increased measure of intimacy. It is person-oriented.
- In a contract parties arrive at a mutual agreement that satisfactorily benefits both parties. It is grounded in negotiation. By contrast, in a covenant there is no need for negotiation since the stronger party is offering help to the weaker party. It is grounded in "gift."
- In a contract there is obligation, but the requirement is fulfillment of the terms. It is for a specified period and ends when the terms are finally met. By contrast, in a covenant there is also obligation, but it is loyalty to the relationship. It is considered binding forever.
- A contract is broken when the checklist of terms is broken. By contrast, while a covenant can be broken, the break is less clear because the focus is not on stipulations but on the quality of relationship.
At the heart of covenant, then, is a relationship between parties characterized by faithfulness and loyalty in love.