Doctrine of Covenants: Introduction III
July 18, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith
Scripture: Jeremiah 31
Scripture: Jeremiah 31
If you recall, last week we spoke about the importance of vows and oaths in the visible church –
Looking especially at their importance as they relate to outward administration of the covenant of grace.
We learned that all professing Christians are commanded and expected to take vows in the visible church – refusing or failing to do so is rebellion against God.
We reviewed the solemnity and seriousness of those vows as seen in the events of Pentecost and in Exodus 24.
We also learned that Christ, as Mediator, mediates for mankind only within His Mediatorial Kingdom which is the church.
If you are outside the church, you cannot expect to benefit from the outward administration of His graces – no matter what you tell yourself, you cannot replace church membership with a television or with self-study.
Last week we also witnessed people taking their vows of church membership.
Being obedient to the commands of Scripture:
- They were not content to drift from church to church.
- They were desirous of committing to the church.
- They wanted to take proper vows in the membership of the visible church.
- There were desirous of being able to partake of the means of grace that Christ has promised to give to His people – through the church that He established as a gift unto men.
The week prior, we examined many characteristics of covenants so that we might be able to recognize them when they are encountered within Scripture.
It was nice to see our new church members set a good example for the rest of us.
Did you notice how the membership in the church, the taking of vows, was connected to the understanding of covenants in Scripture?
If there is no understanding of covenants, you won’t have any foundation for membership if the church.
- how would you explain the necessity and importance of taking vows in the visible administration of the covenant of grace?
- How would you understand the mediatorial kingdom of Christ and the pouring of the means of grace within the covenant bonds of the church?
The Covenant and the Gospel
In fact, the Gospel cannot be understood properly unless viewed within a Covenantal framework.
The ministry of Christ, our Savior, is described as a ministry within the bounds of covenant language.
- He is a mediator:
- Heb-08#v6 - mediator of a better covenant
- Heb-09#v15 - mediator of the new testament
- Heb 12:22-24 - mediator of the new covenant/ blood of sprinkling
- this is framed with covenant language.
- Our salvation is framed with Christ, as our mediator, of the covenant
He is a surety:
- Christ is our surety; as part of the stipulations set forth in the covenant
- We are not able to perfectly fulfill those stipulations and, on our own, we are covenant breakers Rom-01:31
- Christ, as surety, ensures that those stipulations are met by His works.
- Christ, as our mediator and surety, is legally liable for us meeting the stipulations of the covenant.
He is a Testator: Heb 9:16-28
- A testator is someone who makes a will and leaves something behind for others at the testator’s death.
- Notice the shedding of the blood of Christ, the inheritance is given.
The Church (institution of salvation upon earth) is a Covenant institution.
- Formal and public covenanting is seen as a necessary implication of Covenant administration.
- This is what we call church membership today.
- As the people of God join in Covenant with their ancestors
- As the people of God swear out that they are the Lord’s people
- As the people of God swear that they will follow Him
- And God promising to be their God.
- The preaching of the Gospel is a Churchly act
- This act is given within the community of those in Covenant with God.
- The signs and seals of the Covenant
- They are the visible representations of the Gospel itself.
**The Goal of the Gospel is Fellowship in Covenant**
- A people eternally in fellowship and communion with God.
- This is pictured in covenantal language: “The Tabernacle of God is with men” Rev-21:3.
The promise of the Covenant is a gospel promise.
- It is a gospel promise.
- “I will be a God to them and to their seed”.
- The Lord made this plain through the ministry of the Apostle Paul:
- Gal 3:6-9 -> compare this to the covenant in Genesis 17
- without a right understanding of covenant theology, the understanding of the gospel will be truncated.
It is (in a sense) identified with the Gospel in the writing of the Law upon the heart, that is, in that gospel sense.
- Heb 8:8-13 is quoting from Jer-31.
- the gospel promise of writing the law upon the heart;
The large group of the people of God, as identified in the OT, were largely unbelievers.
- throughout the NT age, there is waxing and waning of unbelievers as a proportion of the visible church.
- but there is an expansion in the gospel promise in the NT called the "writing of the law upon the heart."
- the comparison here is not that the law was not written on the hearts of the OT believers but in the expansion of it in the NT.
The Bible itself cannot be understood properly apart from its Covenantal framework.
Covenant Theology is more than just “a way” of reading the Bible
- It is the hermeneutic the Scriptures present of themselves.
A Unified Hermeneutic
Covenant theology presents a unified hermeneutic that does justice to the way the Bible presents itself
as the Word of God, written by many human authors, but one divine author.
The Covenant and the Bible
A Consistent Progressive Nature of Scripture
- The progressive nature of the Scriptures are unfolded by successive Covenants.
- The progressive nature of the Scriptures present:
- not discontinuity, but continuity, a progressive unfolding of truth
- the same truths
- opened over time
- wider and wider,
- with greater and greater light.
This progressive nature is first seen in the Covenant of works,
- It is followed immediately in the Covenant of grace, announced in seed form.
Each Covenant thereafter
- expands upon that Covenant-goal of the Lord having a people for His own possession.
- expanding the march forward of the Divine intention and will
- in ever-unfolding, ever unifying fashion.
One Messenger and Mediator of the Covenant
He is revealed at first by
- by promises,
- the passover
- and other types and ordinances, which did all fore-signify Christ then to come,
preparing the way for Christ to come in the flesh, in the fullness of time.
Standing behind every covenant administration after the fall is this divine-human champion.
Christ and Adam Are the Backdrop of the Whole of Scripture - in Covenant Form
The way that Christ and Adam are presented is another way the Scriptures present Covenant Theology as the backdrop of the whole.
- The federal relationship
- which governs all men
- either as considered in Adam
- or as considered in Christ
- colors all the race.
- The Scriptures present two humanities from the very start.
- the seed of the woman
- the seed of the serpent
Early in Genesis, the two humanities are described.
- God's city -> Seth and his race calling upon the name of the Lord. Gen-4:26
- Man's city -> Cain and his race start pleasing themselves right away
The Scriptures unfold this covenant concept.
- discriminating with those who are in Adam.
- discriminating with those who are in Christ.
It is further defined until the consummate statements in Rom-05 and 1 Cor-15.
- state formally what God’s people have known since the earliest days
- that in Adam all die
- that there is a federal relationship that is not to be trifled with,
- and in Christ, shall all be made alive.
The Covenant of Redemption as the Eternal Purpose of God
The covenant is set as the eternal purpose of God revealed to men.
This is brought to its fullest expression in the New Testament.
- The eternal faithfulness of Christ to His Father.
- His obedience and participation in the Covenant concept.
- The Fathers electing and granting to Christ a people.
- The Spirit’s calling, blowing, regenerating those who are thus elected.
All this is presented by John as the goal, the consummation of the Covenant.
- The promises of God spoken by the prophets since the world began.
Eph 1:3-12 -> This covenant of redemption is according to God's purpose which He purposes in Christ.
The Covenant and God as Redeemer
The nature of God as Redeemer cannot be understood properly apart from Covenant theology.
The idea of Covenant is necessary.
- In understanding the economic relationships
- forged in eternity past between
- the Father.
- and Holy Ghost.
- In regarding the salvation of an elect people
- forged in eternity past between
This is Theology Proper
- The Triune God is revealed in Scripture as one in Covenant.
- And not only with the race of elect people by a Mediator.
The Covenant and God as Redeemer
There are hints and indications of a Covenant relationship between the divine Persons as well
- for the effecting of the salvation
- for eternal blessedness of that elect race.
The eternal Covenant-relationship between the Persons of the Trinity.
- Is a way that the Persons love, interact, and glorify one another, in bringing to glory an elect race.
- The Love of the Father, Son, and Spirit for an elect race of men is a shared unanimous love.
- The mutual glorification of the persons of the Trinity is seen in Scripture as the primary goal of the redemptive plan.
Our Lord Jesus is set forth as the focal point of that redemptive economy.
- It is His work.
- It is His sovereignty.
- It is His obedience to His Father, His sending the Spirit.
It captures our attention and focuses our understanding as we come to know and understand our blessed salvation as poured forth by the gracious Triune God in Covenant with one another, and in Christ, with us.
These promises have been seen in Scripture.
Titus 1:1-2 -> "To whom was the promise of life made if it was made before the world began?"
- Without the interactive relationships of the Triune God covenanting before time, this verse could not be properly understood.
In this introduction, we have been exposed to:
- The wide-ranging impact that covenant theology has upon all the major theological disciplines.
- The characteristics of biblical covenants
- Sovereign administration
- Discriminating nature
- Commitment bonds
- Requirements/ stipulations
- Proximity elements
- Federal Headship of administration
- And today, we’ve looked at the many ways our understanding (or lack of understanding) covenants can have an impact on a full understanding of:
- The gospel
- The bible
- And the nature of God as redeemer.
An incomplete or refusal to understand covenants can lead us into a complete misunderstanding (or at least a limited understanding) of the entire meaning of being a “Christian.”
It isn’t about bringing people to Christ or getting them saved or getting us saved so we can go to heaven. That is not the goal.
The goal is to enter into covenant, into fellowship with Christ. Everything that follows after that concerns fidelity to that covenant.
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