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The Covenant of Grace begins in its seminal form in Genesis 3:15 but is revealed more fully in the Abrahamic Covenant. Studying the Abrahamic Covenant continues to show its relevance and importance throughout Scripture because it touches on everything from worship, sacraments, election, atonement, and much more. The key aspect I want to focus on in this post is that the Abrahamic Covenant demonstrates continuity and the preservation of the Gospel throughout Scripture.
Living in the New Covenant we tend to focus on the New Testament but there is a greatly missed blessing in neglecting the Old Testament. What happens is the focus on the discontinuity or the fragmenting of Scripture, and some have even seen different gospels or worse, a different God in the Old Testament than in the New. When we recover a sense of the continuity, however, we will be enabled to interpret the redemptive story in a more coherent manner. Briefly touching on the sense of the New Covenant as preeminently spoken of in Jeremiah 31 we read that the New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete. The question we ask is “What is that Old Covenant? Is it the covenant with Abraham, Moses, or David?” The text answers the question for us when it reads in Jer. 31:32 “ not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke,” The covenant that the New Covenant fulfills is not Abraham but Moses.
Then how are we to view to Abrahamic Covenant in light of the New Covenant? I have generally stated that the New Covenant is a new administration of the Abrahamic Covenant. The covenant with Moses was initiated by God and ended with Jesus when he initiated the New Covenant. So that the blessings and promises of the Abrahamic Covenant “He would be our God” would be secured in the faithfulness of Christ. It is the promise repeated to Isaac, Jacob and finally spoken of in the Revelation of John chapter 21:7. The eschatological goal is that God would have a glorified community in a new creation communing with Him for eternity.
It is the promise given to those who are children of Abraham which include the Christian. This is why Galatians says we who have faith are sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7) that if we are Christ’s then we are Abraham’s offspring, “heirs according to the promise”. Thus Christians can say they have Abraham as their father because Scripture says it.
This is significant also because it demonstrates that just as there has always been one God, and one people of God, there has also been one Gospel not many. When Paul speaks in Galatians that anyone who preaches a different Gospel is accused, (Gal 2:8) it wasn’t a new Gospel he was defending but the Gospel that was always known to them. So that he could say Jews know that a person is not justified by works but by faith in Jesus (Gal 2:16). Salvation by faith was not a novelty but the same Gospel preached through Scripture. So that before the New Testament was written salvation was sufficiently brought through the Law and Prophets. That is why Jesus is able to say in the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) that Moses and the Prophets were enough for someone to read and know the Gospel.
Hab. 2:4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.
The concept of the covenant is highly important for understanding Scripture. It is the key to interpreting and appreciating the Scriptures. When we understand the covenants and what their purpose, design and functions are then it helps us understand what is happening in the big picture of the bible. Covenants are often compared to marriage. However, this is one type of covenant that is not the type of covenant upon which all of Scripture is built. In Redemptive History there are three major covenants (Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace). These covenants are not all alike. If marriage is a covenant, which I think it is, it is a parity covenant. A covenant of two equal parties coming together. This is not the type of covenant Adam was in nor is it the type of covenant Abram entered into. (more…)
Brown and Keele have written a survey of covenant theology entitled Sacred Bond. It’s very readable, unlike other intros to covenant theology this one is aimed at those who don’t understand covenant theology but want a deeper explanation that doesn’t become bogged down in academia.
Chapter one discusses the covenant of redemption. The beginning of covenant theology, this is the one from which all the others flow. “The covenant of redemption is essentially God’s blueprint for our salvation.”(23) This was not God’s plan to “fix the mess Adam made, but the original blueprint for the work of Christ and the plan of redemption.” (23) So we can know that our salvation was bound to happen because had covenanted between himself that this would happen. It is also known as the pactum salutis. The importance is that here is where election happens, the incarnation of Jesus, the resurrection and the promise of heaven. (more…)
Theologians do not need simply to build bridges with churches: They need to be consumed with the church, fallen and frail as it is. Theologians need to see ecclesiology as the context for their endeavors. They must think of their mandate as arising from the church – not vice versa. – p. 100
If the church is the context for theology, what holds the church together? It is the presence of the risen Lord. And it is the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments through which the Spirit has chosen to make this presence manifest. – p. 100
Reading John Murray’s “The Covenant of Grace”, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillispburg, New Jersey
Francis Turretine defines the Covenant of Grace as: “A gratuitous pact between God offended and man the offender, entered into in Christ, in which God promises to man freely on account of Christ remission of sins and salvation, and man relying on the same grace promises faith and obedience.
Or it is a gratuitous agreement between God the offended one and man the offender concerning grace and glory in Christ to be conferred upon man the sinner on the condition of faith”
Institutio Theologiae Electicae, LOC. XI, Quaest. II. & V.
“The Covenant of Grace is an agreement between God and the elect sinner; God declaring his free goodwill concerning eternal salvation, and everything relative therto, freely to be given to those in covenant by and for the sake of the Mediator Christ; and man consenting to that goodwill by a sincere faith”
De Oeconomi Foederum Dei cum Hominibus, Lib. II, Cap. I&V.
The question is in biblico-theological study, if the usage of Scripture, covenant (berith in Hebrew and diatheke in Greek) may properly be interpreted in terms of a mutual pact or agreement. – Murray. p 8
The covenant we see between man such as Abraham and Abimelech or David and Jonathan is not the same as the covenant made between God and man. – Murray p. 9
covenants made by man with God
they bind themselves in bond to be faithful to the Lord in accordance with His recealed will – Murray 11
Noahic: The features of the covenant plainly evince that this covenant is a sovereign, divine administration, that it is such in its conception, determination, disclosure, confirmation, and fulfillment that it is an administration or dispensation of forbearance and goodness, that it is not conditioned by or dependent upon faith or obedience on the part of men. It is an administration of grace which emanates from the sovereign good pleasure of God and continues without any modification or retraction of its benefits by the immutable promise and faithfulness of God. – Murray p.14
Abrahamic: The covenant isa sovereign dispensation fo God’s grace. The grace dispensed and the relation established do not wait for the fulfillment of certain conditions on the part of those to whom the grace is dispensed. Grace is bestowed and the relation established by sovereign divine administration. -Murray p.18
But what about the requirements to stay in the covenant of Abraham? “The uncircumcised male…shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (Genesis 17.14)
The continued enjoyment of this grace and of the relation established is contingent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. For apart from the fulfillment of these conditions the grace bestowed and the relation established are meaningless. The conditions in view are not really conditions of bestowal, that are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and of the covenant presupposes the covenant relation as established rather than the condition upon which its establishment is contingent. – Murray p. 19
A covenant which yields its blessing indiscriminately is not one that can be kept or broken. – Murray p.20
What is the covenant of works? This doctrine is probably one of the more crucial doctrines in Reformed Theology that is also one of the more over looked doctrines of covenant theology. Generally people are quick to embrace the soteriology of reformed theology however, this is probably the more fundamental doctrine of Reformed Theology that should really be grasped for reasons still to follow.
The big idea ultimately is understanding Adam and everything he was supposed to have done, what he did and what the consequences are for what he did. This will allow the believer to understand Jesus better and what he was supposed to have done, what he did and what the consequences are for what he did. Just as Adam’s work will forever affect those who come after him, so with Jesus the same is true. As Adam was placed in a world that was considered good. He was in a place that was considered good and he had the ability to deny temptation. Jesus was in a fallen world. His mission was to be perfectly obedient even unto to death in perfect submission to the will of the Father. There in his faithfulness he did what Adam didn’t do. He earned an audience before the King.
When we see Jesus as the second Adam we understand that it isn’t reduced to Jesus dying for his people. We see that Jesus also lived for his people. He died for his people then he rose for his people. Now in his resurrected body, he intercedes for his people.
Had Adam been perfect in his obedience to God, he would have been able to merit the results of his work. Adam was not destined to remain in the garden forever. Adam was in the garden as a probationary period. When we understand this it helps the believer to not only better understand the rest of the Scripture but to understand the works of Christ in his life on earth and in his resurrected state in heaven at the right hand of the Father.