Covenant Theology Month
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The Four C's of Covenant Theology
Covenants are not natural. Though we naturally owe obedience to God, he owes nothing to us, he is the creator and we are his creatures. This means that covenants are God’s way of gracious condescension to us. It is through covenants that he relates to the whole of creation, his own people and more importantly, the mission of his Son.
In creation, God made a covenant with Adam, the first human being and representative of humanity. If Adam kept the rules of the covenant and specifically abstained from eating from the tree of knowledge, his people (all humanity) would receive blessing throughout the whole of creation for eternity. Adam failed to keep the covenant. Instead of receiving the covenant blessings, he received the covenant sanctions – his people would die and they would all have to look forward to the promised coming Messiah (Gen 3:16) to, one day, redeem them and free them from death.
After humanity was cursed for breaking the first covenant, God created a holy people for himself; the children of Israel. He made covenants with Israel throughout the Old Testament where they would receive blessing and prosperity if they kept the terms of the covenants. The first of these was the Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision, where they would receive the land of Canaan, with blessing and prosperity within, if they kept the precept of circumcision. Through the cutting of the flesh they were marked as the holy people of God. However, these Old Testament covenants had no power to save within themselves (Heb 10:1-4). True salvation was not found in them, but in the New Covenant to come which contained a far better prophet, priest and king – our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This means these covenants with Israel had a greater function; they were to preserve the line within Israel through which the messiah, Jesus Christ, was to be born.
The covenant theology contained in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith is indispensable, having far-reaching implications in both personal and corporate Christianity. At its centre is the Mediatorial dignity of Jesus Christ. He is the jewel of this theological crown. In fact, he is the Covenant; that is, he is the very embodiment of God’s covenant relationship with his chosen people (Isa 42:6). The covenant is empty of all meaning without him. Its foundation is in him; its promises are concerning him; its fulfilment is due to him; its establishment is because of him; its blood of ratification came out of him; its present blessings flow from him; its consummated blessings are for him. He is our Covenant.
Second London Confession of Faith
Chapter 7: Of God's covenant
1 The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.
(Luke 17:10; Job 35:7,8)
2 Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a 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.
(Genesis 2:17; Galatians 3:10; Romans 3:20, 21; Romans 8:3; Mark 16:15, 16; John 3:16; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; John 6:44, 45; Psalms 110:3)
3 This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.
(Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 11;6, 13; Romans 4:1, 2, &c.; Acts 4:12; John 8:56)
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