34. What is the difference between the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and the Covenant of Redemption?
Covenant Theology sees three basic, comprehensive covenants which structure all of redemptive history from eternity past to eternity future. All of these covenants, though each one is distinct, are very closely interconnected. The most fundamental of these three covenants is what theologians call the “Covenant of Redemption”. This refers to the inter-trinitarian pact made in eternity past, in which the Father designed, the Son agreed to undertake, and the Spirit agreed to apply the results of redemption. In this first divine covenant, every person whom Christ would redeem, and whom he would be given as the reward for his sufferings, was chosen by the Father before the worlds were ever created.
The Covenant of Works is related to the Covenant of Redemption in that it sets the stage for the work that the Son undertook to accomplish, and gives the terms of what he would have to do in the pursuance of the redemption that he had covenanted with the Father to provide for his people. In this covenant, the Father lays certain stipulations upon man, his climactic creature formed in his image, with the promise of eternal life in his most blessed presence as the outcome of successfully fulfilling his terms. If Christ would accomplish what the Covenant of Redemption requires of him, then, he must fulfill the terms of the Covenant of Works perfectly; he must do so as a man; and he must do so as the federal head or representative of the people he had covenanted to save.
Finally, the Covenant of Grace, is closely related to the Covenant of Works, in that, it is basically a republication of that Covenant, and promises the same end of eternal life in God's presence, on the condition of the perfect fulfillment of God's commands. However, it has an added proviso: because Adam, the first federal head of the human race, failed to keep the terms of the covenant, God freely promised to send a new federal head, the Christ, to do what Adam had failed to do, and to win the rewards of the covenant that Adam had broken. Of course, as this broken Covenant already demanded punishment, the Christ was also required to satisfy the curse that Adam had called down upon himself and his descendants. In the Covenant of Grace, God unilaterally promises the reward of his eternal, favorable presence, and he pledges by his own person and at his own expense to do so. This may be seen in the animal he provided and killed to clothe Adam's shame, in the bow drawn back against himself after Noah's flood, in his walking alone through the severed animal halves before Abraham, etc. And ultimately, it was fulfilled when Christ underwent the covenant curses for us who had merited them in Adam; and won for us as our new federal head, by a life of perfect obedience, all the covenant blessings. All of the historical covenants mentioned in the scriptures are organically-connected expressions or administrations of the Covenant of Grace.
Monergism Copyright © 2008