Home
RCE
Publications
Covenant
  The Hidden Principle: Come Unto Christ
 
 
  Lessons on the Covenant Relationship
 
 
  Lesson 1
 
 
  Lesson 2
 
 
  Lesson 3
 
 
  Lesson 4
 
 
  Lesson 5
 
 
  Lesson 6
 
 
  Lesson 7
 
 
  Lesson 8
 
 
  Lesson 9
 
 
  Lesson 10
 
 
  Lesson 11
 
 
  Lesson 12
Manuscripts & Editions
Insights
Hebrew Nature
Bible Connection
Archaeology & Geography
Chinese Connection
Testimonies
Search

PrePrint

The Hidden Principle: Come Unto Christ
by Raymond C. Treat

"Come unto Christ" is an important phrase in the Book of Mormon. It is important because it occurs frequently, because Jesus emphasizes it and because it is so closely associated with the principles of the gospel such as repentance and baptism.

To find out just how frequently it occurs we need to include all the variations on the phrase such as "come unto him," and "come unto me," referring to Jesus Christ. A preliminary search in the Book of Mormon reveals 43 references. In 17 of these references Jesus is speaking, or someone is quoting Jesus. In one case, Jesus is quoting the Father. Another important thing about these 43 references is that 26 of them are directly related to the covenant-making process that we see in the principles of the gospel and that the remainder are indirectly related.

By contrast, a preliminary search of the Bible reveals only 14 "come unto Christ"-type phrases, of which three (two are quotes by Jesus) are directly related to the covenant-making process in the principles. The rest are related indirectly.

These facts-frequency of occurence, many quotes by Jesus and a close association with the principles-ten us that "come unto Christ" is an important phrase in the Book of Mormon.

What does "come unto Christ" mean? After looking at the "come unto Christ"-type verses such as Omni 1:47 [1:26], we learn that to "come unto Christ" means to "offer your whole souls as an offering unto him." This describes a covenant relationship. In other words, to 11 come unto Christ" means making a covenant with the Father through belief in and obedience to the words of Jesus Christ.

How does "come unto Christ" relate to the principles of the gospel? It comes after repentance and before baptism in many references (3 Nephi 9:92 [21:6]; 12:33 [27:20]; 14:2-3 [30:2]; Mormon 1:65 [3:2]; Moroni 7:36 [7:34]). If "come unto Christ" is a covenant-making step, then what is the purpose of baptism? Most of us believe that we make our covenant in the waters of baptism. However, Alma 5:27 [7:15] tells us that water baptism is a physical witness of a spiritual covenant already made:

Yea, come and go forth and show unto your God that ye are
    willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant
    with him to keep his commandments,
And witness it unto him this day by going into the waters
    of baptism.

In this verse the principle of repentance is followed by "enter into a covenant," which is followed by baptism. The phrase "enter into a covenant" follows the same pattern as "come unto Christ."

Because they are sandwiched between the same two principles of the gospel in various references, we believe that "enter into a covenant" and "come unto Christ" are synonymous.

This pattern reveals that upon turning our fives around, we come unto Christ by entering into a covenant relationship prior to water baptism. Then we are baptized in water as a physical witness of a spiritual covenant already made. In Mosiah 9:41 [18:10] we also find that our covenant is made prior to baptism. Alma extends this invitation to his people at the waters of Mormon:

Now I say unto you,
If this be the desires of your hearts, what have you against
    being baptized in the name of the Lord as a witness
    before him that ye have entered into a covenant with
    him,
That ye will serve him and keep his commandments,
That he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

Notice that baptism is a witness that "ye have" (already) "entered into a covenant." In Alma's charge to Helaman in Mosiah 9:44 [18:13], he repeats this same sequence: baptism is a testimony of a covenant already made. These three verses have shown us that there is a covenant-making step after repentance and prior to baptism which is to "come unto Christ."

Perhaps an even better example that the covenant comes before baptism is found in the story of King Limhi and his people in the land of Nephi after they were discovered by Ammon and his search party from Zarahemla:

And now since the coming of Ammon, King Limhi had also
    entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his
    people,
To serve him and keep his commandments;
And it came to pass that King Limhi and many of his people
   were desirous to be baptized,
But there was none in the land that had authority from God.
          Mosiah 9:175-176 [21:32-33]

Here we see clearly that the covenant is made before baptism. In this case, Limhi and his people were not baptized until they gathered to Zarahemla, long after they had made their covenant with God in the land of Nephi. Not only did Satan remove many covenants from the Bible 1 Nephi 3:169 [13:26]), he also attempted to remove the covenant-making step essential to the life of every believer. When Jesus Christ appeared to the believers in Land Bountiful, he emphasized the importance of this covenant step:

And again I say unto you,
Ye must repent,
And become as a little child,
And be baptized in my name,
Or ye can in nowise receive these things.
And again I say unto you,
Ye must repent,
And be baptized in my name,
And become as a little child,
Or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
            3 Nephi 5:39, 40 [11:37-38]

The preferred order is in the first sequence: repent, become as a little child and be baptized. To become as a little child is a synonym for coming unto Christ and making a covenant. We find confirmation of this in Third Nephi 4:51 [9:22] where we read, "whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive." Little children ask many questions, believe readily and are teachable.

In the second sequence above, the second and third items are reversed: repent, be baptized and become as a little child. These verses tell us that repentance and baptism are not enough to inherit the kingdom of God but that we must become as a little child. In other words, we must make a covenant. This makes sense when we realize the significance of the covenant-making step (see Recent Book of Mormon Developments vol. 2:34-39) and that baptism in water should be a witness of a covenant already made prior to baptism as we are told above in Alma 5:27 [7:15].

This sequence is also important for those who were baptized and did not understand the significance of making a covenant prior to baptism. Jesus is saying rebaptism is not required; you can make your covenant with him now.

Perhaps we could have suspected the existence of seven principles had we pondered the symbolic meaning of the number six versus the number seven in the word of God. Six is the number of man whereas seven is symbolic of perfection and completion.

If the covenant-making step is so important why have we not seen it in Hebrews 6:1-2, the famous reference to the six gospel principles? The obvious answer is found in Nephi's vision in First Nephi 3:168-169 [13:26]:

For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the
    Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious;
And also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away;

Perhaps we could have suspected the existence of seven principles had we pondered the symbolic meaning of the number six versus the number seven in the word of God. Six is the number of man whereas seven is symbolic of perfection and completion. Certainly we all agree that the purpose of the gospel is to perfect and complete us.

The message of the Father to Book of Mormon believers today is "repent and come unto my beloved Son" (3 Nephi 9:106 [21:20-21]) and enter into a covenant relationship to serve him and keep his commandments. If we do, we will find out just how precious the covenant relationship is. We will also be prepared to assist in restoring the knowledge of the covenant to the house of Israel, beginning with the Lamanites.

This article taken from the Zarahemla Record, issue 65 Jan/Feb 1993.