God’s Covenant, Part 13 – Covenant Promise(s)

B-The Eternal Covenant

Having viewed God’s Covenant in the broadest sense of the term in regard to the promise of salvation, we will now attempt to examine it further, and in greater detail. The approach we will take is to break the subject down into its several different parts. Once this is done, then each one can be examined in the light Scripture. By doing this, our view of the larger picture will develop into a clearer and fuller image.

The term covenants of promise are found in the New Testament in two of Paul’s epistles, used in two slightly different ways. In the first one Paul employs the exact phrase this way.“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:11,12). In the second one, although not using the same exact phrase, Paul says a similar thing. “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Rom. 9:3-5). In both of these texts, a distinction between before and after the cross seems to be made, in reference to Israel and the Gentile world. Since there is an obvious shift in focus between these two entities, we conclude the covenants referred to in the texts, and therefore the promises, were the prior possession of Israel before Christ came. But now, these have become the present possession of the Christian church.

And so, the question is, what covenants and promises is Paul referring to here in these texts? It is true that which belonged before to Israel proper, can be viewed as at least three different covenant promises, each one relating to each other in succession. The first one involves Abraham and his descendants, who was the father of the people called Israel. The second one involves this people who emigrated from Egypt into the land of Canaan, becoming a nation and a religion. The third one involves the establishment of this nation called Israel into an earthly kingdom, one that would exist in perpetuity. The third one can be divided into two parts. The first one is the theocratic nation itself under Moses and his successor Joshua. The second one is the king of the theocratic nation under David and his sons. These three promises cover a great deal of space in the Old Testament, but they do not take in the entirety of what is revealed there, or throughout the rest of Scripture in regard to all the promises of God. Therefore, Paul had something more in mind when he used this phrase “the covenants” and “the promises.” It would seem that Israel possessed a collection of these in the first administration of God’s Covenant, and the church took possession of what they had in the second (II Cor. 1:20). Jesus Christ then, is the unifying factor in it all. This is what Paul is telling us in this text.

Of course, this makes sense too, as Jesus Christ is the central theme of Scripture, both its history, and Gods covenant purposes. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself is the covenant promise to all believers, in every age (Ps. 89:3-5). When we say, Jesus Christ is the promise, what is meant by this is what His Person represents in terms of salvation to all God’s people, in a permanent abiding relationship with Him in His kingdom. There are those who would like to separate these so-called covenants and their promises from each other, assigning them to various peoples and their particular circumstances throughout history. More than that, they suggest there are two kingdoms in view, one that is earthly for Israel, and one that are heavenly for Christians. But the failure in doing this is not to see the unity of purpose in the promise. Therefore, to the Jews under the Old Testament economy, God spoke thus in reference to His Son through the prophet Isaiah. “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.” (Is. 42:1). To the Jews under the Old Covenant dispensation, God promised them “My Servant.” This Servant was termed as an “Elect One” who would be altogether delightful to God, One who would find total acceptance with Him. This of course, was a reference to the Messiah.

Now, two things are implied in this verse. The first is that this Servant was not a sinner such as all other men born of Adam. How is this known, by the words that make Him the exclusive agent of God, one of absolute impeccability concerning the character of God? The second is the promise of this Servant is not made exclusively to the Jews, but to the Gentile world too. This fact is what unifies the covenant and its promise.

Further down in this chapter Isaiah quotes God as saying “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles” (verse 6). Here it is specifically said of the Messiah, He is the covenant, or the promise of God to the people and to the Gentiles. In other words, the Messiah is God’s gift to His people, comprising Jews and Gentiles. This gift is the basis of the covenant relationship between Him and them.

Looking further into the entire text (verses 1-9), the nature of this promise emerges. It is a promise to establish righteousness, justice, truth and law in the earth. It is to right the wrongs done by the entrance of sin into God’s creation. This involves the salvation of people throughout the earth. So the Messiah is God’s Servant to this end. And by this, God’s glory is made known.

This theme is expanded further on in Isaiah’s prophecy (Is. 49:1-13). Here, as in the previous chapter (42), something else becomes evident. Isaiah is conveying the prophetic revelation of God under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. What the revelation entails is apparently, a conversation God is having with Himself. At the beginning of chapter forty two, God is making a declaration about His Servant to Isaiah and his hearers. But it quickly becomes a dialogue with the Servant too. It is as though this Servant is present there with God, while He explains His intention to Isaiah.

It is often said that Isaiah chapters’ forty through sixty-six is the Old Testament gospel. No dispute is made of this. But these two particular chapters (42,49), as well as one other in this section of Isaiah (59), introduce us to something extremely important to know concerning God’s Covenant and its promise. What is revealed in these three chapters is that God’s Covenant, indeed His promise and the relationship it entails to His people, have its starting point in an exchange that takes place between Himself. By this of course, we refer to the involvement of all three Persons of the Holy Trinity, or, the Pactum Salutis (Latin) as it often called, meaning the covenant pact made by the three Persons of the Trinity in redemption. Everything to do with creation and salvation is Trinitarian in nature. Each person of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, take part in everything to do with the works of God. In the New Testament, all the members of the Trinity are shown forth as active in the work of salvation. [1] In the Old Testament, the members of the Trinity are revealed to be active in the work of creation, providence and redemption.[2] Aside from instances where all three members of the Trinity are shown together, each one appears separately or in conjunction with one other member as well.[3]

Here in these three chapters of Isaiah (42,49,59), each member of the Trinity is shown to be an active participant in the work of the eternal Covenant of redemption (Is. 42:1-6, 49:1-8, 59:20,21). Because of the importance of this revelation in Scripture, we will take time to examine these texts in greater detail.

1. The Promise of Redemption

By the word redemption, what is meant is the whole scheme of God’s Covenant, from its conception in the eternal decree comprising the idea, purpose and design, to its production as worked out in creation and providence. It takes in everything that exists, that has happened since the beginning of time and creation (Gen. 1:1), to the end of it and beginning of a new creation (Rev. 21:1). In redemption, the object of God in glorifying Himself is the salvation of a portion of His creatures made in His image, as well as the heavens and earth they dwell in. Redemption is His work from the beginning to the end.

We begin our examination of God’s Covenant of Redemption with these words of promise given to Isaiah. “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. (Is. 42:1). In these words’ God calls upon Isaiah to look at and consider its substance. It is the promise of redemption through God’s Servant, the Messiah. This is the beginning of what are numerous references in Isaiah to the concept of the Savior Redeemer, in this title of God’s Servant (Is. 42:1, 49:5-7, 50:10, 52:13, 53:11). This designation of a special Servant of God appears once in Zechariah’s prophecy too (Zech. 3:8). We know that it refers specifically to Jesus Christ as this verse in Isaiah is quoted by Matthew (Is. 42:1; Matt. 12:18). The term Servant, in reference to Jesus Christ is used as well by Luke (Acts 3:13,26, 4:27,30).

The idea of the Messiah as a Servant is the exact opposite idea of what the Jews expected when He came. This is because they fancied Him to be a Ruler and a Conqueror over their enemies, One who would restore the kingdom here on earth and sit on David’s throne. So the idea of a Servant put forth in Isaiah and elsewhere is something contrary to this notion of kingly authority. Secondly, the fact that God’s Servant would bring forth righteousness to the Gentile world was more than disturbing to the vast majority of those who lived in Isaiah’s day. Yet, God called on Isaiah to behold Him as such! Now, Jesus Christ in His glorified state, is every bit the Ruler of God’s kingdom, but He became this in a manner that the Jews did not suppose, and still don’t, even to this day. According to God’s eternal decree, in order for the Messiah to rule in the theocratic kingdom, He must first redeem His people from the clutches of another king. This is none other than the prince of darkness, who through sin and death held them in bondage (Eph. 2:1:1-3; Col. 1:13,14; Heb. 2:14,15). The servant hood status of the Messiah then is seen to be the very glory of God in redemption. This is what God would have Isaiah, and all who truly believe in Him to behold.

Next, God invited Isaiah to behold the work of redemption as it concerns His Servant as a divine transaction between the members of the Trinity. The first Person we know of as the Father, elected the second Person known as the Son, to serve Him in this grand undertaking. By serving the Father, the Son serves His people, the elect of God as well. The difference between the two however, could not be more stark in contrast. The people of God are but mere creatures, conceived in sin but elect unto salvation according to the eternal love of God in the Covenant decree. This love is determined in spite of their unloveliness as the sons of Adam (Eph. 1:4,5). The Son of God as His Servant on the other hand, is elect of God according to His own inherent righteousness, owing to His shared nature and divinity with the Father, within the Godhead.

And finally, this work which is enacted of the Father, and undertaken by the Son, is one that is performed by the divine enablement and activity of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit’s work by which God the Father upholds the Son, His Servant, in all He does in redemption. The Holy Spirit is often seen as the silent actor in the works of God. As the third Person of the Trinity, the Spirit of God exercised God’s will and work within creation first (Gen. 1:2). It was He who was active in forming what God created in the beginning, into its various forms of usefulness to God and man. The Spirit of God has also acted as the divine Communicator between God and men in the prophetic word (I Cor. 2:10; II Pet. 1:20,21). As such, the Spirit of God not only communicated the word of God to the prophets, but He has superintended its preservation in writing throughout the ages. But here in this text of Isaiah, the Holy Spirit is revealed as having a distinct role in the work of redemption. First and foremost, He is said to act as the divine enablement and preservation of God’s Servant.

Next, Isaiah is called of God to behold this transaction that took place between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” (Is. 42:6,7). The Father has called the Son, His chosen Servant, as the first Person of the Trinity, it is the Father who wills and directs in the execution of this, the eternal decree of redemption. Concerning redemption, it is the matter of righteousness that is at stake. That is, the righteousness of God is of primary importance to Him.

In a world that is lost and given over to Satan, the righteousness of God is blasphemed. When it was made and formed in the first week of creation, everything within it done by God existed in total harmony to Him and His righteousness. It was in this context that God set forth man’s duty to “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28). This, he was able to do as long as he conformed to this standard of righteousness. Therefore, God also set forth a test of faithfulness to Him in a prohibition against the use of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16,17).

A failure to maintain conformity to God’s standard, resulted in the dissolution of that harmony which first existed in creation. By Adam’s sin death entered the world, bringing chaos and suffering to the children of men with it (Rom. 5:12). The righteousness of God is consistent with life, for it is the chief characteristic of the Being of God, who is life (John 1:4). So the decree of redemption has as its main concern to reestablish righteousness in the earth. This is what the Father commissioned the Son, His Servant to do. But how, it may be asked, is it done, and what does it mean that the Father called the Son in righteousness? The debt against man for his sin is death, so therefore, the righteousness of God must be displayed in his death. God’s elect however, is redeemed from death, though they deserve it anyway. So this is the nature of the transaction for which the Servant was called of God. The Father called the Son to fulfill righteousness by incurring the death of sin.

To do this, the Son must become a man Himself, for God cannot endure death. The requirement of death involved a divine condescension on God’s part, in order for this to take place. It is seen in the Son of God becoming a Son of man, in order to die (Phil. 2:6-8). This aspect of the fulfillment of the Covenant decree was revealed to Isaiah and written by him in chapter forty nine. “Listen, O coastlands, to Me, And take heed, you peoples from afar! The LORD has called Me from the womb; From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.” (Is. 49:1). Here, in response to the Father, the Servant of God declares His calling to the world. The Son of God was commissioned to become a man, born of a virgin, born under the law, to redeem those who were unrighteous according to its demands (Is. 7:14, 9:6; Gal. 4:4,5).

But before the Servant can die for sin, He must fulfill righteousness by obeying the law’s demand Himself. For then, and only then can sin be condemned and dealt with appropriately by God in the death of His Servant (Rom. 8:3,4). By fulfilling the law in human flesh, the Son of God exalted the righteousness of God on earth. This positive righteousness then imputed, along with His death and its benefits to God’s elect, was the reason for whence He came.

The Servant of God revealed to Isaiah is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. So we see the beginning of this ministry of His on behalf of God at His baptism (Matt. 3:13-17). Here is what Isaiah spoke of in his prophecy, finally coming to light. For when Jesus presented Himself to God in the waters of baptism, He not only identified with God’s Covenant of redemption, but also, for the people He came to save. And this is why when John tried to prevent Him from baptism on the ground that He was no sinner that Jesus responded to him thus. “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Verse 15). Jesus was no servant of sin. But as a Servant of God He came as God’s Covenant, its promise and the relationship for which it stands, to His people. Jesus fulfilled the law, identifying with our humanity in doing so. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by consecrating Himself unto the Father as His Servant to that end.

When Jesus responded to John in this manner “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” He referred to this transaction which took place in eternity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to accomplish redemption. Here at the baptism of Jesus, we see all three Persons of the Trinity affirming the eternal decree. At this time, Jesus was anointed of God by the aid of the Holy Spirit in this task Although Jesus was fully human, He was also fully God. Therefore, He was not given the Spirit simply as an aid, but in absolute fullness of the power of God (John 3:34). The Holy Spirit consecrated the humanity of Jesus so that He was able to fulfill His Covenant commission of Redeemer unto His people. As the chosen Servant of God, Jesus filled three distinct offices necessary to this end, that of Prophet, Priest, and King. In each one of these offices, the power and enablement of the Holy Spirit were at work. As a Prophet, the word’s Jesus spoke, are inspired of God (I Cor. 12:3). As a Priest, Jesus Christ mediates His life and death unto God on behalf of Him and His people (Heb. 9:14). As King, Jesus rules His kingdom here on earth through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (Rom. 1:1-5).

This combined work of the Trinity in salvation is what the Covenant promise entails. It is a commitment God has made within Himself, in eternity past, to bring a portion of mankind into special relationship with Himself. This accords with what God Himself is as a Trinitarian Being. God as three Persons exist in perfect harmony together. It is here at this point in our study that an important distinction must be made about the Being of God. The Scriptures clearly assert that God is one (Deut. 6:4). The oneness of God is in His essence. But God is also shown in Scripture as a Trinity of Persons (I John 5:7). The distinction to be made here is between the essence of God and the Persons of the Trinity, for they are not the same. Of course, there is mystery involved in this distinction. But nevertheless, it is a distinction Scripture makes. So the Being of God is one in essence, but the fellowship which exists within the Godhead, does so between the individual Persons. To go much beyond that would involve speculation. But here in the Covenant of redemption, we know this pact to have taken place, and therefore, to be true. And it makes sense of the blessing found in Scripture to this end regarding the fellowship that exists between God and His people (Num. 6:22-27; II Cor. 13:14).

The fellowship intended by God between Himself and His people determined in the Covenant pact had an appointed time in history for its fulfillment. This God showed to Isaiah as He spoke of it to the Son. “Thus says the LORD: ” In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages” (Is. 49:8). The time of redemption mentioned here in Isaiah pertained to the entrance of the Redeemer on earth, in the context of its historical significance. “The day of salvation” was what the believing Jew in his time looked forward to. It was to come in the latter days of kingdom restoration here on earth. But far from being a return to theocratic rule in Palestine, this was a covenant promise to redeem people throughout the world. It was to involve the entire earth.

The Covenant promise God eternally decreed of necessity took into account the creation, and therefore, the restoration of the earth. This is God’s earth and His glory was set above it (Ps.8). But this Psalm also declares the ultimate reason for it and man’s redemption. It is the place of man’s dwelling who was made in His image. That image of God is not in the physical characteristics of humanity. It is in the moral and intellectual attributes of human spirituality that were designed to reflect his Creator. Yet, the fact that the Son of God was to become a man tells us something further. It tells us that the wonderful construction of humanity was prefigured in the incarnation. It was no afterthought as some seem to think. The Son of God did not become man simply because He was required to do it under the Covenant pact, owing to the fact that it was man He would come to redeem. And why was this so? Because it, meaning His human incarnation, accorded with the eternal purpose at hand in the Covenant. The humanity of Jesus Christ is the original, yet unexpressed beforehand reflection of the unseen Deity or, Godhead (John 1:14).

So God made the earth and everything in it, including man. He planted a garden sanctuary where man lived and met with his Creator in fellowship. From there, God’s glory was to shine forth throughout the earth, as man exercised dominion over it. This could only be done as man was in subjection to his Creator. This was what man lost in the fall. But it was all part of the Covenant decree. The Covenant decree involved the ultimate restoration of the earth as the place that will once again manifest His glory. That glory will be fully manifest in redeemed men who dwell in Covenant relationship with their Creator upon it.

Therefore, when God spoke to Isaiah about this in another place saying “The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” Says the LORD,” it was said in the context of this enlarged Covenant purpose (Is. 59:20). The fact that it was primarily spiritual, involving the individual salvation of chosen people is further stated in the following verse. “As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.” (Verse 21). It shows the Covenant promise of salvation to be a promise made and witnessed among the members of the Triune Godhead first, then proclaimed throughout the earth to men in the gospel. As this is done, God’s people are drawn into that organic relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity by way of communion. It is a relationship that includes them in His fellowship as God’s redeemed (Ps. 89:3,4).

The pact made between the members of the Trinity, referred to here as the Covenant of redemption, has been understood by some to mean there was a promise made by the Father to the Son in its accomplishment. In other words, it was a contract like that made between men. In this scheme, the Father has a purpose to fulfill. So He calls on the Son to accomplish it. It depends upon the Sons’ willingness to fulfill the obligation of the contract. However, upon completion of it, He is rewarded by the Father. In this way, the covenant of redemption is an entirely conditional agreement.

It is true that in Scripture there is the use of anthropomorphic and anthropopathic language to describe God and His ways. But it is a profound mistake to apply human imagery to God in an overly literal way. This language is used according to our human weakness, in order to aid us in understanding spiritual things concerning God and His will (Rom. 6:19). Therefore, we must not understand this to mean the Covenant of redemption was conditioned upon the willingness of the Son to carry it out, in the same manner as a man might do. Certainly, Jesus as the Son of man was in the position of a servant unto God in the role He played as the only Savior of men. But the Son of God does nothing of His own, but what the Father does (John 5:19,20). Jesus lived for this purpose with every fiber of His being (John 4:34). Nor was the Covenant conditional, in the sense that it depended upon a successful fulfillment of it by Him for it to be effectual, so that there was a possibility of its failure (Is. 42:4). As the decree of God, its fulfillment is a necessity. Indeed, this is true of all things that come to pass. We are often given over to the thought that there are hypothetical possibilities involved in the things of God, such as this idea of a conditional agreement between the members of the Godhead. To entertain such hypothetical ways of thinking concerning God and His ways is to open the door to a multitude of theological errors. So there is some language in Scripture that is similar in nature to human contractual agreements that are familiar to us. But that’s as far as it goes.

The pact made between the members of the Trinity in terms of a promise is not some conditional agreement as some people assume, but rather the revealing of an oath.[4] This oath is a determination to perform what has been decreed. Because its performance is shown to be between the members of the Triune Godhead, it is declared to be immutable (Heb. 6:16-18). The argument the writer of Hebrews makes here is that the promise of God is not like that of men. Why is this so, he states it in the following proposition? “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.” (Verse 16). Men must look to higher, and more surer objects than themselves in any relationship, otherwise, it is fallible. We see this in the marriage covenant, which is made in the Lord (Eph. 5:22-33). Man is changeable and therefore, cannot be trusted to perform what he promises. One of the reasons for this is that everything with men is based on certain physical conditions. If they don’t get out of a relationship what is desired, they consider it null and void, and therefore, they neglect or disavow their duty. We see this in divorce all the time. So men (and women) sin by swearing false oaths with each other.

Now a binding contract between men is a legal relationship that involves a document of some sort. And what is at issue in that relationship is of a material nature. So there are stipulations to it. There are certain things which must be performed by both parties to the arrangement. Therefore, there are also penalties involved in the non performance of the agreement. Civil law then comes into the picture. Even then, human contracts are broken all the time because men are changeable, lying, sinful creatures.

This is not so with God. God needs nothing from anyone for He has made all things and therefore, owns it all (Ps. 24:1, 50:10; Is. 45:12; Rom. 11:36). So the promise of God is shown in Hebrews by the following proposition. “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” (Verses 17,18). The eternal decree of God is an oath by which God swears by Himself, His own immutable nature, to perform it. The writer of Hebrews does something else in making his point. He joins God’s word and His nature together as one, by referring to it as two immutable things. Usually, the word of God is thought of as a number of concepts put on paper by ink or by printing press. But the writer of Hebrews says way more than that here. The Word of God is God Himself, in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1; Heb. 4:12). By that, what is meant is that every concept of the eternal decree is embodied in the incarnated Son of God.

The promise of redemption in the decree is the commitment of the Persons of the Godhead to perform it within space and time. Since to do a work within the confines of space and time require an orderly systematic approach, it is therefore, not surprising that redemption is revealed in Scripture as a promise to fulfill through a progression of circumstances. But here is where an important distinction must be made. Earlier on in this study we made the assertion, that the idea that there is some sort of succession of decrees by God that explains covenant redemption, was improper. This idea is something that has been a matter of speculative interest by many since the days of the reformation.[5] The idea, whether consciously or unconsciously imbibed, assumes that God thinks like man does, in a series of successive thoughts. But nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s mind is but one complete thought, with every part or contingency contained within it as one complete package, even though it is brought to fruition progressively. This is what the quality of omniscience entails. If there was any succession to God’s thought like limited creatures have, He would not be omniscient. So to think of the Covenant of redemption, in terms of its promise, as falling into a pattern of successive thoughts on God’s part, is completely wrong.

The redemptive pact that was made by the Persons of the Godhead is the outworking of the relationship that exists between them. It is brought to fruition by God’s omnipotence. The Covenant then, as it concerns the Godhead, has two essential aspects to it that characterize it as one that is entirely unconditional in nature, as to its ends and objects. The Son being commissioned by the Father to do His will, would also be honored by the same. So it is shown in Scripture as having first, a mission to fulfill, by the submission of the Son to the Father, thereby giving Him the glory. And second, by the completion of that work in which the Son is exalted, there is His receiving the end of the work, in the salvation of His people.

First, we start with the work of the Son, and His willing performance of it. This is especially made clear in the fortieth Psalm. Here, as in many of the Psalms, David the King speaks not only for himself, but as an inspired conduit for the Messiah. David was a type of Christ in this role. As David contemplated the works of God revealed to him, he broke out in a declaration of this Covenant pact (Ps. 40:5-10). David knew the insufficiency of the sacrificial system to save (verse 6). But he also knew something else as the Spirit of God lifted his mind up and into the midst of this covenant relationship within the Godhead (verse 6). Christ speaks through him declaring to the Father “My ears You have opened.” It was as though to put it in familiar language, the Son had said, when You (the Father), speak to Me (the Son), I am all ears. And then what follows is His response to the decree. “Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” (Verse 7).

In order to understand the full meaning of this Messianic revelation, attention must be drawn to the New Testament, where it is quoted and expanded in reference to Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:5-9). The words “But a body You have prepared for Me” in verse 5 have been added by the writer of Hebrews, giving the sense of the meaning of the verse he quoted from the Psalms.[6] The acquiescence of the Son of God to do the will of the Father is understood to result in His entrance into our humanity. For only then could He partake of human nature on our behalf, and fulfill every requirement of the law. Then, having done this, He became a surety for the objects of the promise at the cross.

It should be understood that there was nothing of an intention to receive some material reward implied in these words “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8). Jesus’ delight in serving the Father was to return to God having done His will (John 6:38). The writer of Hebrews states that Jesus as the “author and finisher” of accomplished redemption, did it all for the glory of God (Heb. 12:1). It was His joy to fulfill the covenant decree at the appointed time, and in the appointed way, propitiating God’s wrath against sin at the cross.

Second, we consider the work of the Son and what He did obtain by it according to divine right. Three things were envisioned in the eternal decree. First, those who are redeemed by Jesus Christ for the purpose of fellowship and enjoyment of God. They are brought into the midst of the covenant relationship that exists among the members of the Trinity. Second, a kingdom designed exclusively for the purpose of manifesting the glory of God among His redeemed people. This is one in which He, Jesus Christ, is both the Ruler and Mediator of the covenant relationship between God and His people. Third, there will be a restored heaven and earth in which to provide a place for this kingdom of redeemed covenant people. This will be a place in which God’s people live together with Him in the presence of the visible glorified Son of God in Jesus Christ.

a. The People of the Promise

As in everything to do with God’s decree, the Covenant of redemption had a specific number of individuals in view to save. The covenant oath provided for this, in appointing Jesus Christ to die for their sins, and theirs alone. The death of Jesus Christ is said in the New Testament to be “the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14). The word “redemption” means a buyback of something, which makes it a “purchased possession.” So in the eternal council of God, there were a specific number of individuals who were determined to be saved. Because the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23), the Son of God was preordained in the Covenant decree to pay that debt owed to God, in His own death at the cross for them. Of course, as already said, it was not God who died, but the God Man Jesus Christ. And it was no universal redemption that was secured at the cross. Because the death of Jesus on the cross is the ground of salvation to all who are saved by it, this makes it what is commonly called limited redemption.

The limitation of Christ’s atoning work on Calvary, is not in the sufficiency or the ability of it to save its intended objects, but in the number of predetermined individuals it was appointed to redeem. Any idea of universality in regard to the work of Christ is a denial of everything the word of God has to say about God’s Covenant. For if it was intended to save all people on earth, or even all people who heard the gospel preached, it would indeed save them all. Christ’s atonement being the ground of salvation, to all who are saved by it, leaves nothing in them at all to do with its accomplishment for them.

So those who are saved by Christ were elected unto this by the eternal oath. Jesus was sent to redeem them from the curse of death they incurred through their guilt of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12). And lest anyone should balk at this assertion, hear what just a sampling of Scripture has to say on this point.

Matthew 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

John 6:39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

John 10:29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.

John 17:2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

John 17:6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

John 17:9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.

John 17:11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

Hebrews 2:13 And again: ” I will put My trust in Him.” And again: ” Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”

The key word in most of these texts is that of “given.” The Father has given them who are saved to His Son in the eternal decree. It is for their sins that Jesus died (Matt. 1:21).

The texts above that bear this out the most are those taken from John, and specifically chapter seventeen. This chapter runs parallel to those portions of Scripture quoted from Isaiah (42:1-9, 49:1-13, 59:20,21). In those passages of Scripture the Persons of the Trinity are revealed to be engaged in a pact to redeem people from throughout the world. This pact or oath is the Covenant commission to send the Son of God to redeem those same people within space and time, that is, in a historical manner. In one passage of Scripture the Father is speaking to Isaiah in the presence of the Son (Is. 42:1-4). Then, in the same chapter the Father speaks to the Son in his presence (verses 5-9). In yet another place the Son speaks to Isaiah about the Father, calling Him Lord (Is. 49:1-6). In the same chapter the Father speaks to the Son in Isaiah’s presence (verses 7,8). In the last place, the Father speaks to Isaiah about the Son and the Spirit, commissioning him to preach the Covenant promise of redemption (Is. 59:20,21).

Here, in the seventeenth chapter of John, the reader is once again, like Isaiah, brought into an exchange between the members of the Trinity. It is the Son Jesus Christ speaking to the Father in the form of a prayer. And here, the people present are the disciples. This event is at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, just before He was to be arrested and put to death. In this prayer Jesus is reflecting upon the reason for why He was sent by the Father, and why He was about to suffer in this way. It was to fulfill the eternal Covenant. Specifically, it was to fulfill the Covenant oath, to redeem a definite set of people. In this prayer, we are brought with the disciples into the intimate, eternal council of God.

In the opening verses of chapter seventeen, Jesus reveals He was dispatched of the Father to give eternal life to them because they were given to Him. “As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. (verse 2). And the promise of redemption is not only to the disciples, but to many others as well. It is completely a one-sided affair. It is God sending and giving in exchange for nothing from the recipient. This is the nature of the Covenant of redemption.

Jesus tells the Father “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” (Verse 6). The disciples were known and owned of God from eternity. Here, Jesus says they had always belonged to the Father as His possession, and He has given them to Him. How are the disciples the possession of God beforehand, by election, of course? Now they will belong to Jesus by virtue of His redemption in space and time. So Jesus declares He has now revealed this to them as the eternal plan. They are about to become His by the purchase price of His blood, which would be shed for them, according to the Covenant promise.

The fact that the Covenant promise is concerned with specific individuals is made further evident in Jesus’ prayer. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” (Verse 9). Jesus intercedes only for those given to Him by the Father. And why is this? Because it is only for them He is sent, and therefore, it is only for them that He dies.

As Jesus prepares to depart this world and return to the Father triumphantly, the end purpose of the Covenant is made known to the disciples. It is to bring them to God, to join with Him in the eternal fellowship of covenant relationship. “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.” (Verse 11). This fellowship consists of the incredible blessing to be in the presence of the eternal God, and to behold the love that all three Persons of the Trinity share for one another. That love is poured out eternally upon the elect (Eph. 2:4-7). The unknowable God is and will be known forever in Christ (John 1:18). And all this is on account of the incarnation of God’s Son, revealed in Jesus. Along with His vicarious satisfaction to the Father on behalf of the elect. The invisible, unknown Deity is seen and known in Jesus Christ.

So the Father had made this promise of certain people to the Son, who in turn came and secured them to Himself and returned to the Father. Jesus Christ was commissioned in the oath to save specific people. Each one of these is eternally known of God (Ps. 139:15-17; Jer. 1:4,5; Rom. 8:29, 9:8-13). So the redemption that Jesus accomplished according to the covenant decree is referred to in Scripture as “the children of the promise” (Rom. 9:9). Having redeemed them, Christ then ascended to the Father, presenting them to Him as His possession, secured through His work on their behalf. “Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! (Is. 8:18; Heb. 2:13).

b. The Kingdom of the Promise

The context of which the covenant relationship decreed by God exists, is by design that of a theocratic kingdom. The salvation of God’s people at the same time, constitutes the overthrow of that wicked rule on earth by Satan. Satan exercises fear and tyranny over the sons of men by the bondage of sin and death. He turns men against themselves as well as their Creator. By doing this, Satan then receives the worship due to God. So Christ in Covenant redemption comes to rescue God’s people from his evil clutches, then brings them into His own kingdom (Col. 1:13,14).

That this Covenant is primarily concerned with the glory of God is revealed in the beginning section of John seventeen (verses 1-5). The nature of this glory is seen in what Jesus says about the oath, its purpose and accomplishment. Jesus was given authority over all men (verse 1a). This immediately dispels any notion of free will concerning what men do in respect to the gospel, concerning salvation. Jesus reiterated this word “authority” to His disciples after His resurrection, when proclaiming the great commission. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18-20). The outcome of this announcement to the disciples is closely connected to what Jesus said earlier here in this text in John. It is related in this way. Those, who would become His disciples, would do so because they, and they alone, are chosen of God to this end.

Christ’s Headship over the Kingdom

The kingdom of God is the inheritance of Jesus Christ in the Covenant oath. It becomes His by right, by virtue of His righteous submission to the Father in the promise. As the Son, He is the heir to all the Father has. In fulfilling the promise, Jesus is an heir to the kingdom. In redeeming God’s people Jesus receives the exaltation of the Father in this kingdom. This is seen first of all in His Headship over it and the church. “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph. 1:22). It is true, Jesus was properly considered a King before His death and resurrection (John 18:33,37). But it was not an earthly kingdom He came to rule over such as the Jews had hoped for, and the kings of the earth would have expected. No, it is a spiritually renewed, reconstituted heaven and earth that His kingdom pertains to. A place suitably prepared for Jesus and the people He has redeemed.

As the rightful heir and King of God’s creation, Jesus ascended on high, and recaptured those who had been previously held captive by the Devil (Eph. 4:8,9). So Jesus’ former humiliation on earth, and at the cross, was but preparation for this triumphant entrance into the throne room of heaven (verse 10). This was an utterly necessary thing to happen, as heaven itself had been affected by the entrance of sin into creation. This had happened, even before the fall of man. Since that time, Satan has been the leader of rebellion in heaven and on earth. So Jesus’ entrance into heaven, having accomplished God’s sacred oath here on earth, was in all ways a restoration of God’s authority in the truest sense of the word. Now it is utterly false, as we have previously asserted, that there has ever been a contest of sorts between God and the Devil. The Devil is nothing but a mere creature, though a powerful one at that. Nevertheless, he has always been subject to the decreed will of God.

When Jesus entered into heaven as the victor over Satan, he asserted and established God’s sovereign rule over the kingdom, through His own Divine Headship. The Devil, who sought to usurp the authority of God in his rebellion, has been supplanted by the Son of God. And this is done in the Man, Christ Jesus. Jesus revealed this to the disciples when He was with them here on earth. “And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18). His presence and power on earth before His resurrection, had commenced to confound the works of Satan even then. But after His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Satan’s kingdom was irrevocably disrupted. And make no mistake about it, Satan has had a kingdom here on earth for many a long year (Matt. 12:26). That kingdom consisted of the kings of the earth that took their stand together against God (Ps. 2:1-3). But God laughed at them to scorn and proclaimed His judgement over the situation, one that will come to pass providentially (verse 4,5). Then, in this Psalm, God showed His eternal purpose and promise to David concerning His kingdom (verse 6).

Here, in Psalm two, David is brought into the presence of God, to hear His Son speak of the Father and His decree in remarkably revealing words, so mysterious, no one has ever been able to explain them fully other than this. The Son, the second Person of the triune Godhead, is by decree, eternally begotten of the Father (verse 7). The eternal begotteness of the Son by decree, is inseparably connected to the Covenant promise of God’s kingdom. An eternal determination has been made, that He will overcome the rebellion of the Devil and his minions in the world. So the exchange is put before David this way, in anthropomorphic language that we as finite creatures might wrap our puny minds around. “Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.” (Verse 8). The Father gives His kingdom to His Son in the Covenant oath. And it is He, Jesus that is, who will in His exalted glorified position as Head of this kingdom, render judgement and justice over it (verse 9). So the message of God goes forth into the world making this declaration. Turn from sin and rebellion unto this King and serve Him (verses 10-12). And why is this? To do otherwise is utterly futile and foolish.

All that was revealed to David, in this Psalm, awaited the coming of the King, who would be a son of his too. That day came when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, just as the angel announced He would, and conceived in her womb the Child who would be given the throne of David’s kingdom. That Child was not just the son of David, but the incarnated Son of God, whose kingdom would be that spoken of in the second Psalm, the Son of God (Luke 1:30-35).

When Pilate asked Jesus if He was King of the Jews, and Jesus responded in the affirmative, it was as the son of David He did so. But concerning the Son of God, He would exercise that kingly authority revealed in the Psalm after His death and resurrection. For it was at the cross, the truest and greatest enemy of God was vanquished. It was sin and its consequence of death. Jesus overcame the dishonor brought upon the name of God, when the serpent challenged His word and character in the garden, claiming that by rebelling we would be like Him.

Once Jesus ascended into heaven, taking His rightful place on the throne, he began to exercise that Kingly dominion here on earth, through the church. He did this by sending the promise of the Spirit on His people (Acts 2:33). So now, that Kingly authority Jesus enjoys and exercises here on earth, is done so through the power of His Spirit, in the propagation and prosperity of the gospel. It is done in the effectual calling and converting of His elect out of this world.

This is the substance of what Jesus prayed for in His High Priestly prayer in John chapter seventeen. He had come to do the work of God on earth. This work was about to be fulfilled by Him at the cross in redeeming the people elect from all eternity. They were God’s beforehand, even though beginning in the world first as “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). They become the peculiar possession of Jesus as the reward of His work on the cross. The blessing of that reward is that God and they might live eternally as one in covenant unity. This implies a relationship of friendship and love, such as that which exists within the Godhead itself, though accommodated to the circumstance of the Creator creature distinction.

Christ’s Mediatorial Rule in the Kingdom

Which brings us to the next aspect of Jesus’ rule in His kingdom, it is that of Mediator between God and the people (I Tim. 2:5). The gap that exists between the two, being that of the Creator and creature is, first of all, bridged by the hypostatic union of the two natures in Jesus Christ. The transcendence of the Divine Being of God means He is utterly unknowable to man. However, God in His infinite wisdom, purposed from eternity that this union between the two natures in Jesus, would bring the two together. The incarnation of the Son of God in this hypostatic union of the two natures, is inseparably connected to the Covenant union between God and His people.

Jesus came into the world to reveal God to it in His Person. But it is only to the elect He is revealed as their Redeemer in the gospel. We say this because the terms of the gospel are faith in Jesus and repentance toward God, something the reprobate will not submit to. To the reprobate world then He is a Judge, for not only do they reject God in original apostasy, but they reject Jesus in the gospel call to turn and be saved. It is therefore, for God’s people alone He mediates the Covenant and it’s blessing in salvation. Jesus does this in His high and exalted position as Prophet, Priest and King unto the church, which we are told is His body (Eph. 1:23).

The Spirit of God manifests the Son of God here on earth to His people. He regenerates them in the new birth (John 3:3-8). He applies the benefits of Jesus’ death to His people (I Pet. 1:2; Rev. 1:5). He assures them of their salvation (Rom. 5:5-10). He mortifies sin in them (Rom. 8:10,11). He empowers them unto service as His servants (Acts 1:8; I Cor. 12:3-13). But above all else, He intercedes for them (Rom. 8:26,27). For this reason, the Holy Spirit is called not only the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of Jesus (Rom. 8:9). He manifests the Father and the Son here on earth to the people of God.

So, while Jesus is the Savior of His people, He is also their Priest and Mediator of the eternal Covenant. This mediatorial role He performs on behalf of God and His people while in His glorified, stately, exalted position on the throne of God. Jesus intercedes the power and blessings of the Covenant from God to His people here on earth. This includes every spiritual blessing He purchased for them by way of His death. Every circumstance, which every believer in the church of God encounters, is part of that mediatorial service that Jesus performs. The object of that promised blessing is their perfection here on earth, which is progressive in character, preparing them for eternal glory (II Cor. 7:1). Every providential event they encounter while here on earth is part of this mediatorial reign Jesus exercises over creation, the kingdom, and the church. Every trial each and every child of God encounters, every deliverance they experience, and every needed provision, Jesus has both purchased and procured for them.

The greatest blessing a child of God has here on earth beside salvation itself, is fellowship with God through His abiding Spirit (John 16:17). For this reason, the Holy Spirit is called the Helper. The people of God know and have assurance from Him that they are His, and that their interest is in His hand. Jesus’ intercession in heaven is for them through the agency of the Holy Spirit. God’s people know their help is in heaven, and that it flows from the Father to them through Jesus Christ who sits upon His Kingly throne. This is the manner in which Jesus exercises dominion over His kingdom in the earth. It is a mediatorial rule that Jesus manifests to the Christian church, as we’ve already seen in John chapter seventeen, in His high Priestly prayer (verses 6-8).

This is first and foremost done through the word of God as written in the Bible (John 17:8,14,17). We refer to the conceptual aspect of it as opposed to its literary form as found in what is seen on ink and paper. The apostle Paul made a distinction between the two in what he referred to as “the letter” and “the Spirit” (Rom. 2:29, 7:6; II Cor. 3:6). By making reference to “the Spirit” as distinct from “the letter” of the word, Paul means to say the spiritual nature of the letter as it is in essence, an eternal Divine concept. Paul explains this meaning further by contrasting “the word” and “the power” of God (I Cor. 4:20; II Cor. 6:7; I Thess. 1:5). The word of God is set forth in a book, for the practical purpose of human intellectual requirements, but it is made a living principle by the power of Holy Spirit, who lives and abides with the people of God.

But even more than that, Jesus Himself is called “the Word” of God by the apostle John, proving that there is an inseparable connection between God and His revelation (John 1:1,14). The life of Jesus is that principle of truth the Covenant promise entails. By using the Greek word “Logos” to describe Jesus, John shows us that truth is an essential property of the Divine Being of God. So God sent forth His Son into the world, to reveal Him and His eternal Covenant to His people (John 17:3,6,26). The concept of the Covenant and its promise is brought home to the innermost being of the Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the word so energized, Jesus informs His people within of their part in and the benefit of the promise. He then intercedes on their behalf in heaven, as we can see from John chapter seventeen, bringing forth their case.

Secondly, the mediatorial intercessions of Jesus are manifested in the world, in a most peculiar manner related to His kingdom dominion. What is meant by this, it is simply this? The Covenant relationship between God and His people, decreed from eternity, begins here and now on this wayward planet. The Devil has had his kingdom and its subjects. Six thousand years have passed and man is still estranged from God more than ever. But God has a congregation of faithful followers throughout the world in the Christian church. The church is not only the body of Christ. It is the Lord’s holy assembly. His presence is among His people wherever they are. He is their God, and they are His people.

This truth is made absolutely clear throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, this congregation was an earthly nation of people known as Israel. They are set forth as a typical community of God’s people before an otherwise ungodly pagan world of Devil worshipers. And though it was but typical in nature, awaiting the manifestation of the spiritual kingdom in Jesus Christ, there were many faithful, born again believers among them (Num. 14:24, 27:18; Deut. 34:9; Ps. 51:11,12; Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:41,44). As a typical, theocratic kingdom, they were a display of God’s eternal Covenant set forth for the world to see. Why else were there so many mighty miracles done among them? It was for this reason, that the world, might know that God will have some people for Himself. And that the world is not an entity to itself apart from God, as so many think today who put Him out of their minds.

Paul, in exhorting the Christians of his day in Corinth toward obedience, applies the very words spoken to Israel of this Covenant principle to them (II Cor. 6:14-18). How can he do this except that the Covenant oath has secured some particular people unto God in the world that are His? Because He is among them, they are set apart as His, for the special purpose of worship and service. In short, this is the family of God, He is their heavenly Father, and they are His children. This is why the Christian church is still here after two thousand years. Even in this post modern day of spiritual decline, there is a faithful church of Jesus Christ. This is because God is among them as His people. Jesus intercedes for them from heaven. He has promised them “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” (II Cor. 6:16). And, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5).

And finally, the mediatorial dominion of Jesus Christ, and Covenant relationship between Him and the church will be fully realized some day in the new heaven and earth. It is a day in which heaven and earth will be merged together as a new creation. It awaits His second coming, in which it is said, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (II Pet. 3:13). All the promises of God comprehended in the Covenant oath will come together in this impending event. This is the day the saints of God look forward to and perpetually pray “O Lord, come!” (I Cor. 1:7, 16:22).

Notes

[1] Rom. 1:4, 8:9-11; I Cor. 2:10-16, 12:3; II Cor. 3:3, 13:14; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:13,17, 2:18; Heb. 9:14; I Pet. 1:2, 3:18, 4:14; I John 4:2.

[2] God created all things by His Word and Spirit (Gen. 1:1-3; Ps. 33:6 ). God, His Servant and Elect One, and His Spirit, will bring justice or righteousness to the world (Is. 42:1). The eternal God is sent by the LORD God and His Spirit (Is. 48:12-16). The Lord has anointed the Person sent with the Gospel with His Holy Spirit (Is. 61:1). The Lord, the Angel of His Presence, and the Holy Spirit bring about salvation (Is. 63).

[3] God the Father (Deut. 32:6; Is. 63:16, 64:8, Mal. 2:10). The Messenger of the Lord, Word, or Son of God (Gen. 16:7-14, 21:17-18, 22:9-18, 28:10-22, 31:11-13, 32:22-32; Ex. 3, 13:21, 14:19, 23:20-22; Num. 22:21-41; Jud. 2:1-5, 6:7-24, 13:3-22; II Sam. 24:16; Ps. 2, 110:1; Prov. 30:4; Is. 7:14, 9:6, 63:9; Jer. 23:5-6; Hos. 12:3-4, Zech. 1:10-11, 12:8; Mal. 3:1). The Holy Spirit or Spirit of God (II Sam. 23:1-3; Neh. 9:20; Job 26:13, 33:4; Ps. 104:30, 106:32-33, 139:1-24, 143:10; Is. 11:2, 40:13; Ez. 11:5; Mic. 2:7).

[4] Historically, there have been two main positions within the Reformed church with respect to understanding the covenant. One says it involves a series of contractual agreements between the members of the Godhead first, then between God and men. It is a legal contract with promises, performances, rewards and penalties. This makes it a conditional arrangement that is entered into and can be broken. This idea is best reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VII, Of God’s Covenant with Man. The other views the covenant as an unconditional determination on God’s part to redeem people unto Himself. Men participate in it as the objects of covenant relationship, but contribute nothing to it by way of agreement or contractual arrangement. Covenant relationship to God is redemption. This idea is reflected in the Belgic Confession of Faith. Absent is any reference to the covenant, save for one, made in reference to the sacrament of Baptism as the covenant sign (Article 34, The Sacrament of Baptism). The confession focuses primarily on the salvation of God’s elect, the church, in her relationship to Him.

[5] There are three positions on the order of decrees regarding creation, man’s fall, and salvation. These three views are Infralapsarian, Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian. They are defined as follows in order of their listing. Infralapsarian means God first decreed the creation of mankind. Second, God decreed mankind would fall into sin through self-determination. Third, God decreed to save some of the fallen mankind. And fourth, God decreed to provide Jesus Christ to them as the Redeemer. Sublapsarian means God first decreed the creation of mankind. Second, God decreed the fall. Third, God decreed to provide salvation sufficient to all of mankind through Jesus Christ. And fourth, God decreed to save some. Supralapsarian means God first decreed the election of some to eternal life, and others to eternal condemnation. Second, God decreed to create those eternally elected and condemned. Third, God decreed the fall. And fourth, God decreed to provide salvation for the elect through Jesus Christ. These three views arise from a speculative interest in the order of decrees, one that is not revealed in the Bible. It is therefore, dangerous to speculate about things God has not revealed. God sets the matter to His people through Moses. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29). For one thing, Scripture suggests that God has only one decree, rather than many (Ps. 2:7; Jer. 5:22; Dan. 4:24; Mic. 7:11; Zeph. 2:2). Every time multiple decrees are mentioned, it is always in reference to the acts of men. This is because God has only one eternal plan or purpose (Is. 25:1, Hebrew word etsah translated “counsels,” implies a singular cause). There are many works envisioned by God’s decree (Ps. 40:5; Acts 15:18). There are two ways in which to view the unfolding of the decree. The first is, in the order of its execution historically, or, the second, in the order of its ultimate end eternally. The second view would make the historical execution of the decree a reverse unfolding.

[6] The verse is quoted this way from the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew text. It does not appear in the original Hebrew. Here, as in many other places in the New Testament, Old Testament verses are quoted this way. This leads many to say the Septuagint version is more accurate than the extant Hebrew texts we have now. However, this is probably not true, owing to Hebrew being the covenant language of God in the Old Testament (Gen. 10:21,24,25; Is. 28:11, 33:19, 36:11,13; Acts 26:14). It is more likely that the writers of the New Testament quoted Scripture under inspiration, adding words and phrases that expand the meaning of the original. The Septuagint version was probably corrected by later copyists, in order to reflect the New Testament.

 

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