How the Continuity of the Covenant Shows Our True Family
A couple of things as we get going this morning in our catechism lesson. First of all, you’ll notice that we skipped 31 and 32. Last week when I did number 13 I failed to add them into the post along with question 30. My apologies on that. Second, part of the my job in writing these is to convince you that it is worth your time to read them. That goal is going to get a little tougher admittedly as we turn into some of the more in depth content the Larger Catechism has to offer. The hope is that not only am I successful in that, but you really do get something out of these little letters of explanation. On that front let’s get into the three amigos for this week:
Q. 33. Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administrations of it under the Old Testament were different from those under the New.
Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all fore-signify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.
Q. 35. How is the covenant of grace administered under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fulness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.
Something that makes us Reformed folk different from our Arminian/dispensational brothers is the way we understand the continuity between the Old and New Testaments. It is part of the reason why we baptize our babies, and if parents come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we place the covenant sign on any children regardless of age (as long as those kids are still in the home). That comes from what the Abrahamic covenant teaches us to do. The sign of circumcision according to passages like Colossians 2, and biblical example such as 1 Corinthians 7 or Acts 16 show that to be the case. But why? Notice what Q.33 says. The overarching covenant of grace made with Adam/Eve and their posterity in Christ is the straight line which runs through all the providential interactions between God and man from the moment of Jehovah’s promise to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah which culminates in His second coming where He will gather all His elect unto Himself. It is one of the blessings of seeing the saints of Israel as being our true brothers and sisters. We may be a part of that covenant by adoption, yet there is no difference according to the goodness of God whether we are natural branches or grafted into the vine. As the catechism makes clear the “…prophesies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover, and other types and ordinances…” may be different, but what they illustrate for us is the same: that Christ Jesus is our hope and reconciler. The Jews were saved by the shed blood of the Lamb just like we are. The children of Abraham are justified by the same alien imputed righteousness as all other sons of Adam. We are united together in Christ. That is the joy of the believer regardless of which Testament they happen to live under.
Another thing worth considering when we talk about the administrations of the covenant of grace that has already been touched on a little bit is the way the promises of the gospel are expanded to every nation under heaven. There is no longer a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, for all are one in Christ Jesus. Now, that does not mean the nations are not still nations, and should each in their own way confess the Lord as the King of Kings as political entities, but that the ethnic divisions are done away with in the finished work of the Redeemer of sinners. That’s a portion of what Paul is trying to get across in the Book of Galatians. Not only where he condemns Peter for embarrassing the Gentiles through his lack of hospitality and grace, but in the well-known statement in Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That’s not to say the gospel destroys the natural divisions that exist, no the gospel transforms them from the broken way in which the world combines/ignores/misunderstands the roles given to all of us in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. These things must be carefully and watchfully taught.
Lastly, in remembering that nothing happens in the history of redemption by accident it’s vital that we rightly understand what God is doing from before the foundation of the world. He is working all things in accordance with the glory due unto His name. The testimony of covenant is a way God reveals this to His people. His promise is everlasting, because He is everlasting. His covenant cannot change, because He does not change. That’s part of what we have been learning in our evening teaching time on the Lord’s Day at 5:30pm. In all that we see Jehovah do we are brought to comfort in the knowledge of His greatness and majesty. There is no reason why the Christian should be anxious, but rather be in assurance of their place in the eternal kingdom made without hands. If God has called you to be His, then you will hear His voice, and no created thing, nor even Satan Himself could ever remove you from the love of God in His covenant of grace, purchased by His Son on your behalf.
Here is a word:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church