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He Obviously Did

29 August 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 33. Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administrations of it under the old testament were different from those under the new.

Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the old testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the old testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.

Q. 35. How is the covenant of grace administered under the new testament?
A. Under the new testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fullness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.

It's a bit of a mystery how folks were saved in the Old Testament. Oh, we know in part, and see in part, how God could have accomplished such a thing, but in light of all the revelation we have on this side of the cross, the other side at times seems a dim mirror. Those systematic theologians who want every question answered may wish for a bit more detail in regard to this, but they have an answer: the signs and symbols God provided for Israel in the Old Testament were "sufficient to build up the elect."

Now, the cynic in me might say that this phrase, "sufficient to build up the elect," is simply a Calvinist cop-out, playing the God-is-sovereign-over-all-things trump card with a shoulder-shrugging gesture of "I dunno, but He obviously did." But saying that God's provision in the Old Testament was sufficient for the elect is more than just a bunch of nice sounding weasel words; it is another verification of who is really in charge of salvation, and for those of us on the other side of the cross, it should provide great encouragement and hope.

God's active work in salvation is assumed throughout Scripture, and it is not my point here to write a lengthy treatise about it. For those interested, have a look at Ephesians 1, for example, and consider how each member of the Trinity works in harmony to bring about the fullness of salvation in the life of the believer.

The God who planned out salvation to the level of detail that Yahweh did--a God who can orchestrate all of history, including the sinful acts of men, in order to accomplish His purposes--a God like that can ensure that all the ingredients necessary for your salvation and my salvation are present.

The statement that the signs and symbols under the Old Testament administration of the covenant were "sufficient to build up the elect" doesn't tell us that God makes the rules so He can do what He wants; it declares to us that His revelation in all places and all times is adequate for those who are going to be saved. When combined with God being both just and the justifier (Rom. 3:26), the picture Scripture paints is one of a saving God who provides all we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).