328: Covenant of Grace

I. Introduction and Definition

A. Relationship between the Pactum Salutis and the Covenant of Grace (CoG)
B. The CoG is the covenant in which God elects His people, secures their salvation, and applies that salvation to them.

1. Since Fall, man has labored under double burden; subject to both the curse and the terms of the Covenant of Works (CoW)

2. In the COP, the Triune God eternally has made provision for this need.

a. The Father had given the Son a people

b. For that people, the Son would pay the curse and fulfill the terms of the CoG.

c. The Spirit would apply both the forgiveness and the righteousness won by the Son to the people given Him by the Father.

3. This eternal COP was manifested and moved forward through specific covenants that God made with individual men or groups of men in history.


II. Overall Structure of the CoG

A. Contains both the pre-temporal, intra-Trinitarian COP and the outworking of that Counsel in history. Both part of one covenant; neither makes sense without the other.
B. Differ in how covenantal reward is dispensed.

1. The rewards of the CoG are all of those things necessary to move men from being ‘sinners’ to being ‘righteous’; the ‘every spiritual blessing’ of Ephesians 1.3; the ‘Golden Chain’ of Romans 8.29-30.

2. In the COP, rewards given in accordance with merit.

a. Very ‘contractual’

b. Federal/covenantal administration of the CoG

3. In the historical outworking of the CoG, given without regard to merit. Given, not earned.

a. More like a ‘testament’ than a strict ‘covenant’

b. Testamentary administration of the CoG

C. CoG is both a covenant and a testament

1. Nuanced and rich meaning of διαθηκη

a. Francis Turretin: ‘it [διαθηκη] peculiarly denotes a testamentary disposition with a federal agreement.’ (Institutes, II.170)

b. An expansive view of the CoG

2. διαθηκη is not ‘ambiguous’; it is ‘complex’. Fits the expansive CoG described in the Scriptures.

3. Brings clarity to debated occurrences of διαθηκη; e.g. Matthew 26.28; I Corinthians 11.25.


III. Parties to the CoG

A. Two primary options

1. God and the elect; or Christ and the elect

2. God the Father and God the Son

B. Bearing on conditionality of the CoG
C. Best option – the parties are God the Father and Jesus Christ, with all of the elect being in Christ.

1. WLC #31

2. Christ and Adam; Romans 5, I Corinthians 15

3. Ephesians 1.3-4

4. Psalm 89.3-4

D. Role and importance of Christ as Mediator

IV. Are There Conditions in the CoG?

A. Some nuancing – both conditional and unconditional

1. In CoP, with Christ as the Head of the elect, is conditional.

a. There were conditions placed upon Christ;

b. Romans 5.18; Philippians 3.8-9

2. In the historical outworking of the CoP, is unconditional.

a. Christ freely bestows the blessings of the covenant.

b. Blessings bestowed not ‘because of merit’, but ‘in spite of demerit’.

B. An important caveat – in the historical outworking of the CoG, there is a very specific kind of conditionality. See Turretin, Institutes, II.185

1. Antecedent conditions.

a. These have a causal force; when they are performed, they necessarily compel a specific result.

b. The result depends on the condition.

c. Since the condition comes before the reward, it is an ‘antecedent’ condition.

2. Consequent conditions.

a. These are means to ends.

b. These come after a party has determined to do something.

c. These do not find their purpose in what they procure, but in their role in bringing to pass something that had been determined beforehand.

3. Even in the historical outworking of the CoG, there is a ‘consequent conditionality’.

4. Most especially, the blessings of the covenant are given to those who possess faith.

a. John 3.16

b. John 3.36

c. Romans 10.9

d. Hebrews 11.6

5. Faith is a means; an instrument.

a. Ephesians 2.8

b. Ezekiel 36.24-28

6. All of this is the work of the Holy Spirit within the CoG; see WLC #32

7. This specific form of consequent conditionality leads to greater certainty within the CoG; e.g. Romans 4.16.

C. A complex answer

1. CoG is conditional in regard to Christ’s work in the CoP; unconditional in regard to the elect within the historical outworking of the CoP.

2. Within Christ’s unconditional giving of the blessings of the covenant to the elect, there is a conditionality of order.


V. Unity of the CoG

A. A growing/recurring tendency to see the covenants as related, but not united under one CoG.
B. New Covenant Theology (NCT)

1. Proponents

a. Formerly nebulous and fractured

b. Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant (2012)

c. Pervasive, ‘low-level’ presence of this approach; e.g. Tom Schreiner

2. Basic position

a. ‘Thus, rather than speaking in terms of a single, overarching “covenant of grace”, the unity and continuity of the various divine-human covenants will be explored in terms of God’s universal purpose – a purpose that is given clear expression in the Genesis creation narratives, and that finds its ultimate fulfilment in the new creation inaugurated through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Paul Williamson, Sealed with an Oath, 31)

b. A recognition of the individual covenantal administrations.

c. A skeptical rejection of an overarching CoG.

d. In place of an overarching CoG, substitute the idea of ‘one purpose of God’.

e. Very reminiscent of John Murray and the CoW

i. Skeptical rejection due to lack of terminology

ii. Substitution of other terms

iii. End up trying to replicate what has been excised

f. A sort of ‘covenantal dispensationalism’

3. Possible to critique

a. Internally

b. Systematically

c. Biblically

C. Unity of the CoG seen in the existence of the Pactum Salutis

1. Forms the cohesive, unified, covenantal purpose that is pursued in and through the various covenantal administrations.

2. The CoP becomes the overarching CoG.

3. Obscured if CoP separated into a CoR.

D. Unity of the CoG seen in the Immanuel Principle

1. Articulated as the goal of each of the individual Divine covenants

a. First found in Genesis 17.7 (Abraham)

b. Reiterated to Moses prior to the exodus (Exodus 3.15)

c. Declared to Israel in the aftermath of Sinai (Exodus 20.2)

d. Spoken in the context of the Davidic covenant (Psalm 2.1-8; Acts 4.25)

e. Confirmed after the Exile, giving shape to the New Covenant promised by the prophets (Ezekiel 36.28)

f. Reiterated in the New Testament (II Corinthians 6.16; Revelation 21.3)

2. This unity of purpose indicates a unity of covenant

3. The challenge of this

E. Unity of the COG seen in the method of accomplishment – justifying faith

1. Uniform presence

a. From the beginning – Genesis 3.15

b. With Noah – Hebrews 11.7

c. With Abraham – Genesis 15.6

d. With Moses – Deuteronomy 18.18-19

e. Throughout the Old Testament – Habakkuk 2.4

2. Faith of OT believers the same as the faith of NT believers

a. Abraham

i. Galatians 3.8-9

ii. Romans 4

b. David

i. II Corinthians 4.13 citing Psalm 116.10

c. Hebrews 11

i. Abel; verse 4

ii. Enoch; verse 5

iii. Noah; verse 7

iv. Through Abraham to Moses; verses 23-29

d. Hebrews 12.1-2

3. The OT promises spoke of Christ; it was in Christ that OT believers believed.

a. John 5.39

b. Luke 24.13-27

4. Summary – throughout all of the various historical administrations of the COG, God has been pursuing the same purpose (the Immanuel principle) and He has been pursuing it through the same means (justifying faith in His Messianic promises).

a. Witsius: ‘if the salvation be the same, and the author of it the same, the manner of communion with him the same, it is certain the covenant itself cannot be more than one.’  source

F. Unity of the CoG seen in the recurrence of Genesis 3.15 imagery throughout the Scriptures

1. Romans 16.20

2. Hebrews 2.14

3. I John 3.8

4. Revelation 12

G. The language of hakim berith ( ברית הקים ) in Genesis 6.18

1. The existence of a prior covenant is clearly asserted.

a. There was a prior covenant still in force and able to be reestablished.

i. Rules out the CoW

ii. Rules out any ‘Covenant with Creation’

iii. Must be the CoG, first announced in Genesis 3.15

b. If the Noahic covenant is the renewal of the CoG, then the Noahic covenant tells us a great deal about that prior covenant.

2. Indicates that there is a previously existing covenant, bound up with simultaneous deliverance and judgment, that still stands in such a status that it can be meaningfully renewed; and that is of such a sort that it can be renewed with subsequent generations of men.

H. The overall, organic continuity of the mounting covenantal administrations