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Unilateral Grace

12 August 2011 by David

Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provides and offers to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promises and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he has appointed them to salvation.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. —Galatians 3:16

Nineteen centuries (according to Ussher) before Christ, a covenant was made with Christ, and through Christ, with all who were chosen in him. There are two (that I see) directions we could go with this discussion. One is union with Christ, or what it means to be in Christ. The other is the unusual unilateral nature of the covenant. The latter will be the focus of this post. Look with me to Genesis 15:
9 [God] said to[Abram], “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. … 17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram …
Did you see what happened there? Under normal circumstances, both parties to a covenant would have bound themselves in the covenant by passing between the bifurcated beasts. In this case, however, only one party made a promise and made the symbolic gesture binding himself to his oath. God, in the form of a smoking oven and a flaming torch, passed between the pieces. Abram stood by and watched.

This was a unilateral covenant, a promise made by God alone. God was not working together with Abram. And this is the pattern for all of redemptive history. God makes the promises, and he keeps them, and we are the undeserving recipients of his grace. So it has always been, and so it will always be. Like Abram, we hear God’s promises, and we stand and watch him work. From the beginning, monergism has been at the core of God’s redemptive plan.