Does God want you to be like Him? I have to reveal right up front that this is a trick question. During a seminar on the topic of covenants, I’d even warn people beforehand not to call out their answer but someone always would. And that instinctive shout in response was always wrong.

You see, this question is deceptive. It contains an aspect of bait-and-switch that is easy to overlook, and it’s been that way since time immemorial. This is the question Eve should have asked when the serpent rocked up and dangled a similar bait in front of her: ‘God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like Him, knowing good and evil.

Wanting to be like God is the primal temptation.

Wanting to be like Jesus is so subtle and insidious in its appeal that we often fail to notice the dark voice hidden in the heart of it: the call to be separate from God.

God doesn’t so much want us to be like Him as He wants us to be one with Him.

The oneness between God and mankind was torn apart in Eden when Adam deliberately disobeyed. God calls out to him in the cool of the evening, ‘Where are you?’—a question which, by its very nature, indicates oneness has already disappeared.

Humanity was created for oneness with God.

Likeness implies separation—as if we’re looking in a mirror to compare the closeness of an image. Oneness on the other hand implies union. The last thing Jesus did before He was arrested on the night before He died was pray that all of us might be one. His prayer was all about ending the separation between God and us, so that we might be One Body motivated by One Spirit, under One Lord.

All of those images in the epistles about Christians being part of a body are calls to oneness. The church is not called the ‘communion of saints’ without reason. It’s about oneness. Paul does write in Romans 8:29 about being conformed to the likeness of the Son but he immediately places this in the context of covenantal community.

Now oneness might seem an impossible ideal but, even in ancient times, there was an institution for achieving it. Jesus made use of this institution, so it is in fact God-hallowed. Oneness came about through raising a covenant.

Oneness is the most significant aspect of covenant. It’s the essence of its nature and it’s what differentiates it from contract.

Just as there’s a subtle difference between likeness and oneness, so there’s a subtle difference between contract and covenant. A covenant contains contractual obligations, but it’s not simply a particularly solemn pledge: it’s about coming into oneness with another. And when it comes to divine covenants, it’s about a reconciliation of humanity and God so that the terrible rift caused by sin is no more.  

This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.

Thank you to Lorna Skinner of for the background music.

Covenant is at the heart of the Christian faith. It’s necessary to understand it in order to understand what can go wrong with it and how covenant violation affects our ability to come into our life’s calling. The Covenant Series of books begins with God’s Poetry, available as both print book and e-book.