How can there be conditional elements in the Covenant of Grace?

Discussion in 'Covenant Theology' started by Pergamum, Jul 12, 2017.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If the Covenant of Grace encompasses all the OT covenants and finds its fulfillment in the New Covenant which is an unconditional covenant, how can those OT covenants have conditons?

    Many baptists equate the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant. And of course the phrase "Covenant of Grace" does not appear in the Bible, but is nonetheless a helpful theological construct.

    These baptists say that the Mosaic or Davidic Covenant (or any of the OT covenants) cannot be called the Covenant of Grace because they all were conditional covenants.
     
  2. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    Some use the term "conditions" in referring to the Covenant of Grace; others say that it's much better to use the term "requirements". The reason is that everything God commands in the Covenant of Grace, He also indeed bestows. Yes, there are requirements in the Covenant of Grace (or to use Baptistic language (?), the new covenant), otherwise we would believe in universalism: everyone's saved if there are no requirements to separate those who enter into covenant fellowship with God and those who don't. The requirement in the Covenant of Grace is faith and repentance, which of course, are also described in Scripture as gifts that God gives. We believe, we repent, but our faith and repentance are gifts God himself gives. We can't be saved apart from faith and repentance, but we only actually believe and repent because God granted us faith and repentance. It's the same requirement in the new covenant as it was in the OT dispensations of the Covenant of Grace. The Gen. 3:15 promise was about a coming Redeemer; God would regenerate Eve and make her again an enemy of the snake, that implies an appropriated faith in the coming Messiah. The Covenant with Noah was about Christ and faith in Him; Hebrews 11 tells us Noah became an heir of the righteousness--not that was of the Law--but the righteousness that was of faith. I don't think Baptists would disagree that the Covenant with Abraham also had faith as the requirement, Genesis 15. Isaiah says of the Davidic Covenant: "Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David" (Is.55:3). Hence two things: the motto of the Davidic Covenant is the same addressed in the new covenant; and that motto is: "Listen and live"; IE, believe and live as opposed to "do and live". Also, the essence of the Davidic Covenant is here characterized as "the faithful mercies shown to David."

    The Mosaic Covenant, as I mentioned before, is a little more tricky, but as you pointed out, Paul himself quotes from THE LAW in Romans 10:6-8 in order to describe the righteousness that is BY FAITH. So, Paul is saying that the "command" in Deuteronomy 30 was actually a gospel command: "listen and live", not legal. This is clearly how Calvin and others understood it. At front stage under Moses was a legal dispensation ("Do and live by doing"), but behind it all, though less clearly revealed, God was likewise requiring faith in the Messiah. The legal element (the Law as STRICTLY taken) was only there to drive Israel to Christ as revealed in the Law LARGELY taken. The Mosaic Covenant was not the Law. The Law, though it is contrary as it were to the gospel, if we take it strictly, is still not opposed to the gospel, because it doesn't set up another way of salvation but rather is meant to drive us to salvation in Christ. Therefore Law is not opposed to the Covenant of Grace, but rather subordinate to it. Think of farming: In and of itself, plowing is destroying. But is plowing contrary to bringing fruit from the earth? No. Why? It's whole purpose is to prepare for the seed. Think of a heart transplant. In and of itself, cutting someone with a sharp knife leads to death, but the whole purpose is part of the healing that can't happen without that incision. So too, the Law functioned as plowing and cutting within the realm of the Mosaic Covenant; but the Mosaic Covenant itself was part of the Covenant of Grace, because of all the reasons we talked about, and the Law was a tool God used as part of the Mosaic Covenant in order bring about the intended purpose of the Covenant of Grace, namely, to bring guilty sinners to Christ.

    Plus, there are a lot of passages in the prophets that bind together all the OT manifestations of the Covenant of Grace in describing the new covenant. Think about Ezekiel 37:24-28: "My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd [DAVIDIC COVENANT]; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them [MOSAIC COVENANT]. They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons' sons, forever [ABRAHAMIC COVENANT]; and David My servant will be their prince forever [DAVIDIC]. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. . ."
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  3. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    The covenant of Grace has conditions (faith/repentance), but they should be distinguished from the condition of the covenant of works, namely that in the CoW the condition of perfect obedience merits the reward while the conditions of the CoG receives the righteousness that is rewarded.

    It is fitting that the CoG which works out in time and according to second causes would also have conditions. This is contrasted to the covenant of redemption (CoR) which occurs outside of time, is not the means God gathers the elect in time, and is not offered indiscriminately with conditions. In this way, salvation can be offered indiscriminately with real conditions in the CoG, the elect are gathered in time by these means as God grants faith/repentance, and the end result is the gathering of the same people numbered in the CoR.
     
  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Faith is a blessing of the Covenant of Grace, not a condition, right? It is given to us because of the CofG, and not produced in order to become part of it, rigth? It is purely unconditional.
     
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Hodge:

    "First, salvation is offered to all men on the condition of faith in Christ. Our Lord commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The gospel, however, is the offer of salvation upon the conditions of the covenant of grace. In this sense, the covenant of grace is formed with all mankind."
     
  6. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    Faith is given to us--NOT because of the Covenant of Grace--but because of ELECTION. Faith is the fruit of election, not the fruit of the Covenant of Grace. Faith isn't the result of the Covenant of Grace per se. Rather, it's the requirement of the Covenant of Grace and the means whereby we enter into the Covenant of Grace.
     
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  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Senior

    Faith is the gift of God towards those whom are the Elect in Christ, as per Galatians 2.
     
  8. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    See WLC 32:

    Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?

    A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.​

    The condition is real, but God freely enables the elect to meet the condition.
     
  9. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Election is unconditional. Salvation is conditional. Faith is that condition to receive the blessings promised in the CoG. The warnings of breaking the covenant would be moot if there were no conditions.
     
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The Covenant of Grace is formed with all mankind?
     
  11. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Only in the sense that the covenant relationship is to be offered to mankind and is often rejected by mankind, thus breaking or rejecting the terms of the covenant. I would recommend reading Hodge in more detail. In my opinion, it is some of his best work. Let me know if you want the reference.
     
  12. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    That must be conceived as one seriously attenuated sense, indeed. I guess, if one rejects God's offer (he is God, after all), that may be construed as "breaking" in an improper sense. Properly, the WLC:

    Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
    A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.
    Hodge says some right-squirrely things sometimes.
     
  13. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, I agree that the wording needs to be highly qualified. I believe Hodge does a good job qualifying the statement. Perhaps it would be better to say that the Covenant of Grace has reference to all men in this sense.
     
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Is there anything like this in the 1689?

    Many Reformed Baptists like John Owen and try to use him to justify 1689 Federalism. But he, too, speaks of the conditions of the new covenant in this manner:



    1. ^ John Owen. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 178-179.
     
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, I'd love to read more.
     
  16. Parakaleo

    Parakaleo Puritan Board Freshman

  17. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    As far as I can tell, the idea is only present implicitly, if at all, in the 1689. In other words, in its extensive overlap with the Westminster Confession on such topics as saving faith and justification, they present concepts that functioned within the framework of an understanding of the condition required to be interested in Christ. But they did not take over the conditional language.

    I am not an expert in John Owen, but in past discussions some who are have disputed the Baptist deployment of him as a mis-appropriation.
     
  18. Parakaleo

    Parakaleo Puritan Board Freshman

    Trevor, in light of this and some other posts of yours, I hope you don't mind me asking... are you on the fence now and considering a shift to Presbyterian covenant theology?
     
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If being a "consistent baptist" means adopting these tenets of 1689 Federalism, I might be shifting. And there IS, indeed, a general promise to the children of believers. And I do agree that nobody can apply the covenant sign 100% to the internal members of the New Covenant only (since to be "in Covenant" means to be "in Christ and there are many baptized people who are not truly in the internal covenant even though they are in the external administration of it). But I still hesitate to apply the covenant sign to children of believers who have not yet shown conscious motions towards faith. I do believe there are very good reasons to be a paedobaptist, however. I can see it and sympathize with it...but I am just not there yet.

    More than anything I am disappointed that folks want me to jump on the 1689 Federalism bandwagon as a "distinctive" baptist form of covenant theology, because I find it lacking in many ways. It has become trendy among some in Reformed Baptist circles of late. I guess I should be happy they are interested in covenant theology, but some only seem interested in proving that they are not merely "immersed Presbyterians" like I was called this week. There seems to be quite a desire to have a "Baptist doctrine" of the covenants.

    Maybe it will be revised and develop better. It seems like Dispensationalism-Lite to me right now (too much discontinuity). We must guard the unity of the OT and NT. Moses and Jesus were not enemies. And the primary purpose of even the OT covenants were not physical things, but it was all to chiefly point to Christ.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  20. Parakaleo

    Parakaleo Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for your honesty, brother. Much appreciated.
     
  21. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Senior

    Would agree with you that much of baptist Coevbant theology seems to have a bit of Dispy theology scattered through it, as I come out from those circles, and do see that there are some distinct differences between how Baptists and Presbyterians view the Covenant theology of the scriptures.
     
  22. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    Think about this: If the COVENANT is about salvation (and there's only one covenant), then the SIGN of the covenant has to be about salvation. My wedding ring is a sign that points to my marriage vows. The two go together, you can't separate them. I think you're further along than you may even realize. If you already believe that there is a covenant promise for the children of believers, what stops you from administering the sign to them? The promise and the sign of the promise go hand in hand. So, Abraham believed, then he received circumcision as a sign of his belief; but then he was commanded by God himself to administer the exact same sign, which he only received after he had believed, to his infant sons well before belief in the Lord could ever be possible. That included both Isaac and Ishmael. Both were to receive the sign. One would believe; one wouldn't; but God commanded the sign to be given to both of them, because they were included in the covenant. Now, here's what could be helpful to understand (and forgive me if you already know this etc): there's a difference between being IN the covenant and OF the covenant. That's where we differentiate as Presbyterians. Ishmael was IN the covenant but never OF the covenant. Isaac proved himself to be a "covenant keeper", Ishmael proved himself to be a "covenant breaker." Getting the sign doesn't mean your saved; it means your judgment is all the more severe if you never embrace Christ from the heart by faith. But all professing believers and their children (as we believe) are to be marked with the sign. Why? Because of what you said: believers and their seed get the sign BECAUSE it is believers and their seed that are given the promises. For some it will prove to be a mark of salvation; for others a mark of judgment. It makes so many passages, mysterious before, make so much sense. John 15, how can you be "IN Jesus" and yet be cast away in the end? In a corporate, covenantal sense; being *IN Him* in an outward, corporate sense but never truly in an inward and experiential sense. The parables in Matthew: the net doesn't get ALL the fish in the ocean, just a very, very small percentage of them: IE, the church. Yet even the net is thrown on the beach at the end of the day and the good fish are separated from the bad fish. There's always going to be discontinuity on earth between the visible and invisible church. Just a few thoughts; hope it helps some.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, I believe all that.

    But since the promise of the NC is that "All will know the Lord", and since the explicit examples of baptism were those who professed faith, I believe we ought to guard the sign tighter to make sure none but the saved get the sign. This ultimately will fail, I know (and we have example of Simon the Magus and Annanias and Saphira, who I presume were baptized, but lost). So yes, I believe the external church is always a mixed company. But the NT example seems to be a tighter critieria than merely being a child of a believer. Those general promises to belivers are there, yes, but the NT seems to teach a baptism of disciples only.

    But let's not turn this into a baptism thread. Let's stay focused on the covenants for now.
     
  24. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Perg, the promises of Jer 31, for instance, that all will know the Lord, is tied to a time when there will no longer be any teachers (see verse 34). Presbyterians understand that promise to be an eschatological promise that gradually increases the closer we get to the eschaton. There is a not yet of the Jer 31 covenantal promises. This is therefore seen (as connected with the Great Commission in Matthew) as feeding right into seeing children as belonging to the administration of the covenant, and therefore in need of discipleship, and therefore of baptism.
     
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    ...hence the common charge of Presbyterians towards baptists that we believe in an "over-realized eschatology" rigth?
     
  26. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Perg, yes, that is right.
     
  27. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

  28. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    ok thanks. Let me step back and chew on all this for awhile. Your answers are much appreciated.
     
  29. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Senior

    Many Baptists would tend to see that Promise pf Jeremiah as being fulfilled ion the New Covenant, as in the coming of the Holy Spirit and making of the Church at Pentecost.
     
  30. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Rev Keister,

    Is this taught in the standards? Is it a universally held interpretation of Jer 31 among the Puritans? I have never heard it expressed that way before.
     
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