Sunday, April 1, 2018

COVENANT SIMPLIFIED (Introduction)


INTRODUCTION (From my wee eBook Covenant Simplified)

The Covenant of Grace is the Gospel by another name. Immediately after Adam had broken the Covenant of Works (by instead covenanting with Satan and eating the forbidden fruit) God began to reveal the Covenant of Grace. This He did by giving the Gospel promise, cursing the serpent Satan, and also saying to him, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” Genesis 3:15. God then clothed Adam and Eve in animal skin, presumably from a sacrificed lamb, symbolizing what Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) would do. 

As per the Gospel promise, in time the Seed of the Woman figuratively inflicted a fatal head-wound when He bruised or crushed the serpent’s head at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. In this He had His own heel (as opposed to His head) bruised, thus receiving at the cross a fatal (but temporary) physical wound.

Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8b), meaning that this was decreed by God in eternity past. Therefore it was actually God who sacrificed His own Son (as pre-figured by Abraham’s almost sacrifice of his (only) son Isaac, when he, under direction from God, substituted a ram caught in a thicket (Genesis 22). The promised Seed, i.e., Christ, was to come from the loins of the aged Abraham and his (barren) wife, Sarah (Genesis 18).

The Gospel promise was made earlier to Abraham where God says, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” Genesis 12:3b. This blessing flows through Christ, the Word, who is the promised Seed, Galatians 3:16. It is also worth noting at this point that “The Word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” Genesis 15:1. And, as the pre-incarnate Christ, i.e., “the Word of the LORD” that came to Abram, his “shield and exceedingly great reward” says after He had become flesh, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” John 8:56. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all peoples is toward the fulfilment of all the families or nations on earth being blessed.

Abraham behaved very much like a man who had heard Good News, i.e., the Gospel. Indeed Scripture testifies that Abraham heard the Gospel, e.g., “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand saying, ‘In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’” Galatians 3:8.

Before the time of Moses, i.e., from Adam onward, God’s people saw the Gospel when they made animal sacrifices to God (Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4). By the time of Moses the people of God were seeing the Gospel depicted in the Ceremonial Law, i.e., the sacrificial system, the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and then the Temple etc. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of everything depicted by, in, and through all of these. These all were types. He is the great antitype. Thus the Old Testament is full of the Gospel! Says Edmund P Clowney,

Christ revealed Himself in the types of Old Testament symbolism. Through the Old Testament story we hear not only about the presence of the Lord but also about the coming of the Servant of the Lord, foreshadowed in those who served in His covenant. The elaborate symbolism of the ceremonial law no longer offers a handbook for ritual since Christ has come. Rather, we are drawn from the shadows into His light, the light of His presence.[1]

If we are going to carry Bibles and not simply pocket Testaments, we should surely be using the Old Testament more than we do. The missionary Bible of the apostolic church was the Old Testament Scripture. Our Lord in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4), Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2), Paul in the synagogues of Asia Minor and Greece – these all preached the gospel from the Old Testament. During the time which the apostolic witness to Christ was still being recorded, the Old Testament was the Scripture from which the church preached Christ.[2]

The Covenant of Grace was differently administered in the Old Testament. Thus Circumcision and Passover were pictures of the Gospel, the Good News. These blood sacraments became the unbloody New Testament sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper respectively. Circumcision and Baptism have the same Covenantal meaning, (i.e., regeneration, the removal of sin, cleansing  by the shed blood, etc.) And Passover and the Lord’s Supper both speak of “the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.”

The saints (i.e., true believers) in both the Old and the New Testaments looked to the Messiah, the Christ, the One who would be covenantally anointed in His baptism with water and with the Holy Spirit (John 1 etc.), the One who, at His last Covenant Meal transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19-20). Thus God’s eternal Covenant was differently administered at different periods throughout the Old Testament, but all of it spoke of Christ, the Seed of the Woman.

This is what we call the Covenant of Grace. It is the promise of God in which He says that He shall be our God and that we shall be His people. In our own day the shorthand way of speaking of the Covenant of Grace is to use the word “Gospel” or “Good News.” The Seed of the Woman was as it were conceived in Genesis 3:15 and was born in the New Testament. However, this was no unplanned pregnancy, but had been planned from eternity as per God’s eternal Covenant. He is our God and we are His people!

Ravi Zacharias speaks of the centrality of Christ in all things,

From the Christian perspective we see the finger of God in all of history, and Christ as its central figure. The Christian explains history through the eternal eyes of Christ.[3]

In the following we shall develop, reiterate, and reinforce the covenant themes (and more) précised above.

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