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Another Way to Say it

02 August 2011 by Daniel

God made several explicit covenants that are recorded in the Old Testament. There is the Noahic covenant (that God made with Noah), the Abrahamic covenant (which God made with Abraham), the Mosaic covenant (which God made with Israel through Moses), the Davidic covenant (with David), etc. You can't miss these because they are explicit - the bible tells us that God made these covenants, and even gives us the words He used to make those covenants. That is why we call such covenants Biblical covenants: because they are plainly expressed in scripture.

Biblical covenants differ from theological covenants in that biblical covenants are defined explicitly from scripture, while theological covenants are defined implicitly (according to one or more interpretations of specific passages) from scripture.

Covenant Theology, the theology that underscores the Westminster Larger Catechism, recognizes three theological covenants (in this order): the covenants of [1] redemption, of [2]works, and of [3]grace.

The Covenant of Redemption presents all three persons in the Trinity (before the world was created) as covenanting together to accomplish the redemption of the elect through Christ by means of Christ being punished in their place, and includes under it's umbrella, both the covenant of works, and again the covenant of grace and every other covenant that followed thereafter.

The Covenant of Works is said to be implied by God's warning concerning eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. In exchance for perfect adherence to this command (i.e. obedience) Adam's life would be sustained eternally.

The Covenant of Grace promised forgiveness of sins, and a restoration of (eternal) life for all who sought this reconciliation by trusting God's provision for salvation through the sacrifice of Christ, first pictured in animal sacrifices, then eventually revealed in Christ Himself.

Whether it is blinding pride, a lack of understanding, or both (or more?) on my part, I find myself unable to accept these precepts as given. Notwithstanding, that isn't to say that I do not see God's ordination before the world began in scripture, or any such thing, rather it is to say that I don't interpret what scripture records in covenantal categories. To be sure, what Covenantal Theology frames in the language of covenants, I see expressed in terms of God's sovereignty, and am loathe to add more to it than that.

For this reason I find myself dismissing the notion that God's instruction, given to Adam, constitutes a "Covenant of Works", or that Adam's fall invoked a "Covenant of Grace" - and for this reason I do not interpret the remainder of scripture through the lens of such covenants. When I consider some doctrine that requires one to assume the existence of a Theological Covenant in order to draw the same conclusion, I will go only so far as to assume what scripture clearly states, and this can and does affect my interpretations of various doctrines.

In the case of questions 30 through 36, I am unwilling to frame my understanding of the questions in terms of the stated theological covenants, but I am willing, if the reader is patient, to express the same ideas in such terms of what I understand from scripture. My hope of course is that whatever I write, as touches on these particular questions, will look to this post as their caveat.