🚂 This is entry
4 of the blogtrain The Covenants of God.
The story of how God fulfills the Covenant of Redemption is found in Chapter 7 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. It’s an excellent summary. I’ll quote each section and make a few comments.
For another overview of the covenants, check out “Understanding Biblical Covenants Is As Easy As 1, 2, 3” by Kevin DeYoung.
The story of begins with God’s promising life “to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience” (WCF 7.2). This is a covenant of works, although we ought to recognize the " voluntary condescension on God’s part" (WCF 7.1).
The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant. (WCF 7.1)
The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. (WCF 7.2)
But Adam failed in his obedience.
Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe. (WCF 7.3)
Because of his disobedience, the reward was not attained by the first covenant and was made unattainable by his failure. However, God made a second covenant where the principle of reward was grace instead of works.
The second covenant is is called a covenant of grace with reference to mankind because the promised reward of life is based not on our obedience but on God’s grace given to us through Christ.
We must receive the reward of life through Christ is because he is the “second” or “last” Adam.
With whom was the covenant of grace made? The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed. (LC 31)
Jesus makes grace possible for us through his obedience to God. Unlike Adam, who disobeyed and earned death for his posterity, Jesus obeyed and earned life for his posterity. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). Through his suffering, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal 3:13); “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11).
Important! —Notice how “life and salvation by Jesus Christ” in 7.3 belongs to the “fruition of [God] as their blessedness and reward” in 7.1. This is important for understanding the nature of our life and salvation, especially when we keep in mind the Covenant of Redemption.
This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed. (WCF 7.4)
The first claim here is that “the covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament.” We’re going to leave aside for now and deal with it in another blog post.
But I do want to highlight though is how section 4 points us to a second reason why we need Christ. Not only is he the second Adam who earns for us the reward of life through his obedience, he is also the offspring of Abraham and the heir of the promise who bequeaths to us an inheritance in his death. Remember what Galatians says:
“Now the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring. It does not say “And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring” who is Christ. (Gal 3:16)
Paul says the offspring (i.e. Christ) receives an inheritance, but it does not come by the law: “for if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal 3:18). Happily,
“the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe…. for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3: 22, 26, 29).
Thus, Christ is both the promised one and the heir of the promises. When we put our faith in him, as Abraham did, we become heirs as well.
Abraham was saved because instead of relying on his works, his faith was in the promise of God, which was counted to him as righteousness. And in God’s wisdom, the promised offspring would also be a second Adam.
God’s gracious promises would be revealed and fulfilled overtime, like the blooming of a flower. The flower is the same from bud to bloom but looks different at different moments in time, similar is the covenant of grace.
Section 5 explains the covenant of grace in the Old Testament first, particularly post-Moses.
This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament. (WCF 7.5)
Finally, we read about the covenant of grace in the New Testament, particularly in the post-ascension, post-Pentecost era before Jesus returns.
Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the new testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations. (WCF 7.6)