The Covenant of Redemption (2)
We continue our discussion of the covenant of redemption. That covenant is sometimes seen as an agreement between the Persons of the Trinity, between the Father and the Son or between God and Christ. We have seen that the covenant in Scripture is not an agreement but a relationship. That is not to deny, however, that there is a covenant between the Persons of the Trinity, and between God and Christ.
The covenant in the highest and most important sense is not the relationship that God establishes with His people in Christ. It is first of all and most importantly the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, a relationship hinted at in Proverbs 8:22-31: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”
I Corinthians 2:9-11 is another passage that hints at this relationship, though that relationship must be blessed and wonderful beyond anything we can imagine: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”
That is the covenant as an eternal reality in the Trinity. There is no other covenant. For that reason God, more often than not, speaks of the covenant as one: “my covenant.” The covenant with Christ and the covenant in Christ with the elect are not different and separate covenants. Nor was the covenant with Adam in paradise.
When God establishes His covenant with us, He takes us into that blessed relationship, becoming our Father, taking us as His sons and daughters, and, having provided His own dwelling place as our home, taking us to live with Him forever. In other words, He establishes His covenant with us, so that we become part of that family in which He is Father and Christ is His only-begotten Son through the Holy Spirit. That relationship between the Persons of the Trinity is THE COVENANT and into it we are taken when God establishes His covenant with us.
In order to reveal and establish that covenant with us, God first establishes it with Christ, not by some kind of transaction or agreement but by making Christ His Son through the incarnation: “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him” (Ps. 89:26-28). Through the incarnation and human nature of Christ, He takes us to be His people, with Christ, as God and man, becoming the personal link that joins God and His people forever in the blessed relationship that we call the covenant. That relationship between God and Christ is the covenant of redemption, if we are to use such terminology.
In Christ, God sovereignly and powerfully redeems and sanctifies those whom He has chosen, that they, sinners in themselves, may be His people and may live with Him in eternal bliss to praise Him and glorify Him forever. That is what we call the covenant of grace. It too is not a different covenant, but the glorious revelation of the one everlasting covenant and of the great God of the covenant.
The eternal covenant, the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace are not different covenants, but one covenant, revealed in Christ and through Him established with all the elect, who are brought into that covenant as God’s friends and children. That covenant God established with different people throughout the Old Testament: Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and Israel. Each covenant was not a new and separate relationship, but a new revelation of the wonders of God’s covenant.
With Noah, for example, Jehovah revealed the wideness of His covenant mercy by showing that His covenant includes not only men and women but all creatures. With Abraham, He showed Himself to be the faithful God of the covenant, who is pleased to be the Friend and Father not only of believers but of their children. With Israel at Sinai, God showed that the way of the covenant is obedience to Him and love for Him. The law was never meant to be the condition of the covenant but the way in which God’s covenant people show their thankfulness for His covenant mercies (Ps. 89:1-2).
With David, Jehovah showed the unbreakableness of His covenant—how He would keep covenant with a sinful people, maintaining that relationship through the suffering of Christ with a people who would forsake His law, refuse to walk in His judgments, break His statutes and fail a thousand times over to keep His commandments (30-34). He would find someone like David but much greater, whom He would make His “firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth” (19-28).
Through the suffering of that David-like Prince, God would see to it that His covenant was not broken by the sins of His chosen people (30-34), for He would cause the rod of His judgment and all His wrath to fall on the One whom He had chosen (38-45). What response is possible but that with which Psalm 89 concludes: “Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen” (52)?
God fulfilled His covenant in Christ. That covenant, fulfilled, is the new covenant of Hebrews 8. Not a different covenant but the realization of all the covenant promises made for four thousand years previously, as the covenant formula in Hebrews 8:10 so clearly shows: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Rev. Ron Hanko