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Sermons from Galeton Community Church

Doctrine of Covenants: Introduction (partial recording)

June 27, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Hosea 6

Review 

Last week we finished looking at the Doctrine of Sin.

During our study, we reviewed:

  • The origin of sin
  • The occasion of sin
  • The nature of sin
  • The temptation of sin
  • Original and actual sin
  • The result, consequences, and effect upon mankind

We concluded that original sin, our sin, has left us in a state of misery and despair and without hope.

We inherited this state of sin from Adam when he sinned in the garden.

When Adam was placed in the garden

  • God told him to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
  • The punishment for disobedience was death.

The result of Adam’s disobedience was:

  • Spiritual and ultimately physical death
  • Loss of communion with God
  • Loss of original righteousness wherein he was created
  • The corruption of his nature
  • He became a bondslave to Satan
  • And justly liable to all punishments in this world and that to come.

But we also spoke about the cure, the remedy for our transgression.

Larger Catechism #30 –

  1. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
  2. God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

Did you notice the name given to the requirement to not eat of that certain tree?

It was called the first covenant. The covenant of works. Also called the covenant of life.

Introduction

It is called the covenant of works because

  • the work Adam was to do was “not to eat” of the tree.
  • As long as he did not eat, he would not “surely die.”

It is called the covenent of life because

  • in the “not eating of the tree”, he was promised life – the opposite of “in that day you shall surely die.”

The first covenant, the covenant of works,

  • was in force during Adam’s time in the garden.

We are no longer under the covenant of works as it relates to obedience

  • but we are under the first with respect to the effects of the punishment and curse.

The second covenant, known as the covenant of grace was introduced in Genesis 3 and has been expanded and clarified throughout history.

Each additional covenant that we read out in the Scripture is not a separate covenantt but even expanding and instructing administrations of the second.

  • Noah, Abraham, Moses, David

It is to the discussion of covenants that we now turn our attention. As having a proper understanding of covenants is necessary to have a proper and full understanding of the gospel, the Bible, and the plan of Redemption.

Open your Confession to Chapter 7 as we read the first 3 Articles.

Covenants and Major Theological Disciplines

Furthermore, we will see how the doctrine of covenants touches upon all the other theological disciplines.

  1. Prolegomena:
  • This involves the doctrine of Scripture, our pre-suppositions.
  • It is proper to think of the Bible itself as the Word of God.
    • the speeches from our sovereign Lord to us
    • how the Lord, in condescension, has spoken the truth to us.
  • In the Scriptures themselves we see this Covenantal relationship established with men
    • and in that establishment, the Scriptures themselves show a Covenantal character.
  • The Lord has condescended to us in a Covenant relationship.
  1. Theology Proper:
  • This is the doctrine of God.
  • It the understanding of the divine persons of God as they come to mankind.
  • In this we see God revealing Himself as a Covenant Lord
  • Who are these Divine Persons that present themselves to us in the administrations of the Covenant?
    • A proper understanding of Covenant Theology aids us in understanding the truth about God Himself.
    • A proper understanding of Covenant Theology aids us in understanding of our salvation as we see the three Persons of the Trinity active, working, in Covenant—with themselves, and then in Christ, with us.
  1. Anthropology:
  • The doctrine of man.
  • We learn who man is by studying Covenant Theology
    • Who are we? & Why are we here?
    • What has our Creator required of us?
    • Is there a purpose to life?
  • These questions about the nature of mankind are answered in a competent study of Covenant theology.
  1. Christology:
  • The doctrine of Christ
  • Christ is revealed as:
  • The mediator & The surety & The Great High Priest of the Covenant.
  • Especially here we drill down to the nature of the Covenant.
  • In studying the Covenant, we understand Christ and His offices.
  1. Soteriology:
  • The doctrine of salvation.
  • How men are saved from the wrath of God for breach of the first covenant.
    • What is the first Covenant?
    • Why is the breach of that first Covenant important?
    • What does it mean to be “saved”?
  • Reformed Biblical Theology is clear that it is impossible to divorce the concept of the Covenant from that of salvation generally.
    • To speak of one biblically is to speak of the other.
  • How does mankind enter into the administration of the Covenant of Grace?
  • These soteriological questions and more are addressed in Covenant theology.
  1. Ecclesiology:
  • The doctrine of the church.
  • Many have divorced Covenant Theology from a proper doctrine of the Church.
    • A right understanding Covenant Theology helps us to understand the meaning of “Church” itself.
  • The doctrine of the Church is explained and more perfectly understood through a competent study of Covenant theology.
    • What is the Church?
    • What is the breadth of the Covenant?
    • How is it administered?
  • Remember the Covenant of Grace
    • It is all about a people in covenant with God through Jesus Christ.
      • When they are called together, they “enter into covenant” with the Lord their God.
  1. Eschatology:
    • The doctrine of last things.
    • This flows out of a proper understanding of Covenant theology.
      • Who will stand in the Day of Judgment?
      • Who ascends into heaven?
      • Who descends into eternal judgment?
    • What does Covenant theology have to say to these questions?
      • We will see that it has much to say.

Covenant Theology is a special field of study that encompasses and informs all of our theological endeavors.

The Importance of Covenant Theology

A competent grasp on Covenant theology:

  • strengthens and make whole all other theological understanding.
  • It cannot be underestimated.

Covenant Theology:

  • is the cord that binds together other theological disciplines.
  • is the Bible’s own presentation of the matters above.

In other words, the Sovereign Lord has expressed Himself in Covenant and in the way He relates to us.

Read: Westminster Confession – Article 1

Man's relationship to God is framed by the term "Covenant"

According to the Westminster Divines then,

  • our relationship to God,
  • and His relationship to us, as initiated by Himself,

is framed by the term “Covenant”.

This has the following significance:

  1. We are entirely dependent upon the Lord for any kind of fellowship with Him.
    1. He must reveal Himself to us.
  2. Seeing that God is our Creator, we owe obedience to Him.
  3. This obedience is had only in that God condescends to us and reveals to us what that obedience is
    1. He directs what our service to Him ought to entail.
    2. Apart from His condescension, we would have no knowledge of our duty.
  4. He has done so covenantally, framed within the bounds of covenant concepts:
    1. covenant concepts
    2. promises
    3. commitments
    4. oaths
    5. vows

Understanding of the idea of Covenant:

  • is essential to understanding the Scriptures,
  • it is the Sovereign Lord, speaking in the Scriptures:
    • places this idea as foundational to the understanding of Scripture
    • places this idea as foundational to the expression of His mind.

In the Scriptures, there are several words that we will study to come to grips with how the Lord presents the Covenant idea.

Let us, therefore continue our study by looking at the first Principle of Covenants as presented in the Scriptures .

Introductory Principles of Covenants #1

First, Biblical Covenants are administered sovereignly.

  • What is a Covenant?
    • An agreement between two or more persons.
      (Shorter Catechism)
    • This answer may suffice for children, but it will not do for us
    • There is an agreement, but there is more:
      • The Lord enters into Covenant with His people by His own sovereignty and there are requirements placed upon them.
  • Scripture Illustration
    • [[Gen-17|Gen 17:6-8]]
      • The Lord declares that He is making a Covenant.
      • This is a sovereign administration of the covenant.
      • Abraham is not given an option as to whether or not to enter into covenant with the Lord.
    • In [[Gen-17#v9|verse 9]] this is even more explicit:
      • the Lord declares to Abraham, “Thou shalt keep my Covenant”.
      • In the command to keep it, and in the Lord’s calling it “my covenant” we see the sovereign nature of its administration.

Conclusion

Just with this brief introduction, we can see not only the necessity of understanding covenants and expressed in Scripture but also the mercy and grace of God inherent throughout those covenants.

God would have been well within His rights to sentence both Adam and Eve to immediate death – as were the conditions of that first covenant.

But instead, we see the mercy and love of God – balanced by His justice and righteousness – providing a new covenant by which man might be saved.

By accepting Scripture as the very Word of God, we will the doctrine of covenants is indeed present.

We’ll continue to see how it touches every major heading and doctrine of Scripture.

The more we understand, the greater our appreciation will be for Christ our Mediator- who is our only hope of salvation and life.