Monday, February 14, 2011

What Is Reformed Theology?: Covenant Theology

     The 6th lesson in our video series of Reformed Theology with R. C. Sproul in Covenant Theology is based on 3 main biblical covenants.  The basis of a covenant is an agreement among parties binding them to perform undertakings for one another.  Although God's covenants are central to the biblical record, and are written about in early church history, the Reformers developed from the Scriptures a more elaborate, systematic approach that is known as Covenant Theology.  There are 3 main covenants in Covenant Theology that we will consider:
  1. The Covenant of Redemption: Adam would bring the whole of the human race into the helpless condition of sin.  In eternity past, God the Father and God the Son covenanted together for the redemption of God's elect.  The Father appointed and sent the willing Son to be the 2nd Adam and mediator by fulfilling all righteousness in perfect obedience to the law of God in both its demands and punishments.  In time, Christ purchased His church with His precious blood and lives as her High Priest following His resurrection!  The 1689 London Baptist Confession states the eternal pact of redemption wonderfully:  "It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest, and king; head and savior of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; unto whom He did from all eternity give a people to be His seed and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified" (Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Acts 3:22; Heb. 5:5-6; Ps. 2:6; Lk. 1:33; Eph. 1:22-23; Heb. 1:2; Acts 17:31; Isa. 53:10; Jn. 17:6; Rom. 8:30 . . . great devotional verses!).  Note: We can also glean from Scripture that God the Holy Spirit covenanted to be sent by the Father and Christ to apply the redemption of Christ to believers.  
  2. The Covenant of Works: This is the covenant between God and man made in the garden of Eden.  This covenant consisted of a promise of eternal life and confirmation in righteousness to Adam upon the condition of perfect obedience during a probationary period.  Adam's served as the head of humanity in this agreement either bringing further blessing or the penalty of death (physical and spiritual) to his posterity.  Article 19:1 of the London Baptist Confession (LBC) says, "God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with the power and ability to keep it" (Gen. 1:27; Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10,12).  But as we know, Adam broke his agreement bringing the whole human race into sin and guilt.  The LBC Article 6:3 elaborates, "They (Adam and Eve) being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free" (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45, 49; Psa. 51:5; Job 14:4; Eph. 2:3; Rom. 6:20; Rom. 5:12; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 Thess. 1:10).  
  3. The Covenant of Grace: God in His infinite mercy and grace, condescended to redeem man after he became irreversibly without hope.  In this covenant, the 2nd Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ must be trusted as Redeemer/Savior.  Christ acted as the new head of humanity in His perfect obedience to the moral demands and sin-bearer as he endured the penalty of the law of God.  Through faith in the promised Seed of Genesis 3:15 (the one who would "bruise the head of Satan" by Himself taking the punishment for sin) God's elect is justified in Christ and given the gift of eternal life!  The 1689 LBC article 8:5 states, "The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him" (Heb. 9:14, 10:14; Rom. 3:25-26, Jn. 17:2; Heb. 9:15).  As it pertains to those with faith in Christ, the 1689 LBC article 14:1 says, "The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened" (2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 2:8; Rom. 10:14, 17; Lk. 17:5; 1 Pet. 2:2; Acts 20:32).  
     We failed, Christ succeeded, we benefit eternally solely from Christ's merit.  And . . . God planned and ordained it before He created the world.  The Father planned redemption, the Son accomplished it, the Spirit applies it!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Song of worship by Sarah Sadler celebrating God's great love for us in Christ:

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