Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant
The Confession recognizes the Bible’s teaching that the relationship between God and man must be initiated by God. Without God’s initiation, man would not even know of God. Man would have no idea how to obey God, nor would man even desire to do so. God, therefore, condescends to initiate relationship with man through covenants.
God’s first covenant with man was the Covenant of Works established in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. In this covenant God gave Adam life, many blessings, and one command: “Do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:16-17). God wrapped the command in a threat: “In the day you eat, you shall surely die.”
The covenant was initiated by God and included great blessing from God. It also contained a responsibility of man, and a consequence for failing to uphold that responsibility: death! We all know what happened. Man failed to keep his part of the Covenant of Works by breaking God’s one law. As a result, though Adam and Eve did not die physically on the spot, (a) they experienced spiritual death; (b) they began to die physically (and eventually they did die); and (c) all Adam’s offspring have been born spiritually dead ever since (Romans 5:12-21).
The good news will continue in Part 2.
Last time: The bad news is that when Adam sinned breaking the covenant of works, all of humanity became sinners (Romans 5:12-21). This time: The good news s that on the very day our first parents sinned, God unveiled the first installment of the Covenant of Grace (Genesis 3:15-16, 21). God has related Himself to man through the Covenant of Grace ever since.
Though man brought himself under the curse of the law by sinning, God graciously and immediately instituted the Covenant of Grace. Under this covenant God offers forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Heaven (rather than eternal wrath). This Covenant of Grace is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He kept the Law for sinful men and He died to pay the penalty for sinful men.
This covenant, though declared to all people, is only applied to those who trust in Jesus Christ as the only way to God (John 3:16-18).
One major problem is that left to ourselves in sin, no one will trust in Christ for salvation, because in our sinful fallen state no one has any desire to trust in Christ and repent of sin (John 5:50).
That brings up the next essential factor of grace in the Covenant of grace. God elects some (but not all) to be spiritually reborn by the Holy Spirit. When a person elected to salvation is reborn, God graciously changes that person’s heart, giving him both the faith to trust in Christ and a desire to repent and follow Christ.
Salvation is all of God and all of grace.
God’s Covenant of grace was first extended to Adam and Eve immediately after their sin in the Garden of Eden. There in the Garden of Eden, God foretold of a Deliverer who would come and defeat the devil (Genesis 3:15). This Deliverer was said to be “the Seed of the Woman.” From our vantage point on the time line, we can see that this clearly points to the virgin-born Son of God; but if a person had no information beyond what is written in Genesis 3:15, that person would not know that this the coming Deliverer was Jesus.
Throughout the Old Testament, God continued revealing more information about the Covenant of Grace, making numerous covenants with His people, each time giving promises to His people that progressively pointed more clearly to Jesus as the Deliverer.
The fullness of the Covenant of Grace was revealed in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (Matthew 26:28). All of the preceding covenantal promises were fulfilled in Christ when He lived sinlessly and died vicariously for those He came to save.