The Abrahamic Covenant was not the Covenant of Grace?

Discussion in 'Covenant Theology' started by Pergamum, Aug 7, 2017.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am trying to evaluate this quote:

    "Paedobaptism rests upon the belief that the Abrahamic Covenant was the Covenant of Grace. 1689 Federalism says the Abrahamic Covenant was not the Covenant of Grace."

    Up until recently I had never heard anyone (credo or paedobaptist) who said that the Abrahamic Covenant was not the Covenant of Grace. Was this ever a view represented among any of the Reformed?
  2. jomawh

    jomawh Puritan Board Freshman

    Even Owen held that the Abrahamic was the Covenant of Grace, according to Dr. McMahon.

    To be frank the whole proposition that the Abrahamic promised, but was not itself, the Covenant of Grace, is enough to make me seriously question the 1689 Federalist articulation of Covenant theology. The Abrahamic covenant bled grace. Abraham, and all OT saints for that matter, saw through the "scaffolding" to the substance.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
  3. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

  4. jomawh

    jomawh Puritan Board Freshman

    I've since updated my post, but to be sincere I'm not interested in interacting with someone willing to speak false witness against a believer by accusing them of holding to Federal Vision and then not even attempt an apology.
  5. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman


    I tried to PM you, but the system said I am not allowed to start a conversation with you. I would be happy to continue the discussion with you if possible.
  6. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    1689 Federalism doesn't say otherwise.
  7. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    This was a view held by the vast majority of particular baptists. So it depends on whether or not you consider them Reformed. I believe Owen held this as well, though he made other statements that appear to contradict it.
  8. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    To say that the Abrahamic covenant is the covenant of grace is to equate the two. It would be more accurate to say the Abrahamic covenant was an administration. To answer your question: I haven't found any reformed authors to say such. Calvin, Witsius, Ursinus, Ball, Ussher, the Westminster Assembly all call the Abrahamic Covenant an administration of the covenant of Grace.

    If you can get your hands on it, I'd recommend Andrew Woolsey's book Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought. It goes over the issues of covenant theology as held in history and the unity/continuity between the reformers, puritans, and even previous.
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Okay, just bought the book on Kindle. Thanks.
  10. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Would this be due to reformed Baptists on the whole seeing the CoG as actually being the NC itself?
  11. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    No, I haven't. I've just been kind to Owen in reading ALL of Owen, not the misuse of saying "consider his more mature thoughts", as if to delete 40 years of his work previous to a few passages that deal with the Abrahamic Covenant.
    Unless one has read ALL of Owen, then they ought not to weigh in. (Like the fellow who wrote that article missing much of Owen throughout his works.)

    Its as if one would say, once you get to Calvin's commentaries, written after the Institutes, disregard his less mature thoughts in the Institutes. The commentaries are his more "mature thoughts." Ug. Yeah, except when Calvin says, if you want to know my mind, go read the Institutes. The purpose of theologians writing things down is so they don't have to continually reproduce the same info over and over. Owen is quite voluminous. He should be thoroughly read, and everything considered.

    Owen says,
    "§36. It is added, seventhly, concerning the person here spoken of, and whose coming is foretold, 'he shall confirm,' or strengthen, ' the covenant unto many.' The covenant spoken of absolutely, can be none but that everlasting covenant which God made with his elect, in the promised seed ; the great promise whereof was the foundation of the covenant with Abraham. And hence God says, that he will ' give him for a covenant unto the people,' Isa. xlii. 6; chap. xlix. 8. And the salvation which they looked for through him, God promiseth through the blood of the covenant, Zech. ix. 11. This covenant he strengthened unto many in the week wherein he suffered, even unto all that believed in him. This everlasting covenant was ratified in his blood, Heb. ix. 15, and after he had declared it in his own ministry, he caused it to be proclaimed in and by his gospel. At the time here determined, the especial covenant with Israel and Judah was broken, Zech. xi. 10, and they were thereon cast off from being a church or people. Nor was there at that season any other ratification of the covenant, but only what was made in the death of the Messiah." -Owen, J. (n.d.). An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews by John Owen (Vol. 1).

    Owen, "God is present or with any in respect of the covenant of grace. He is with them to be their God in covenant." Owen, J. (n.d.). The Works of John Owen (Vol. 8). That sure does sound familiar. Where did God ever say that....? :)

    Owen, "It is not in my purpose to handle the nature of the covenant of grace, but only briefly to look into it, so far as it hath influence into the truth in hand. The covenant of grace, then, as it inwraps the unchangeable love and favour of God towards those who are taken into the bond thereof, is that which lieth under our present consideration. The other great branch of it (upon the account of the same faithfulness of God), communicating permanency or perseverance in itself unto the saints, securing their continuance with God, shall, the Lord assisting, more peculiarly be explained when we arrive to the head of our discourse, unless enough to that purpose may fall in occasionally in the progress of this business. For our present purpose, the producing and vindicating of one or two texts of Scripture, being unavoidably expressive towards the end aimed at, shall suffice. The first of these is Gen. xvii. 7, " I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." This is that which God engageth himself unto in this covenant of grace, that he will for everlasting be a God to him. Owen, J. (n.d.). The Works of John Owen (Vol. 11).

    Owen, "This argument may be thus further cleared and improved: Christ is " the messenger of the covenant," Mai. iii. 1, — that is, the covenant of God with Abraham, Gen. xvii. 7 ; for, — 1. That covenant was with and unto Christ mystical, Gal. iii. 16; and he was the messenger of no covenant but that which was made with himself and his members. 2. He was sent, or was God's messenger, to perform and accomplish the covenant and oath made with Abraham, Luke i. 72, 73. 3. The end of his message and of his coming was, that those to whom he was sent might be "blessed with faithful Abraham," or that
    "the blessing of Abraham" promised in the covenant, " might come upon them," Gal. iii. 9, 14. Owen, J. (n.d.). The Works of John Owen (Vol. 16).

    Owen must not have read Owen, or misunderstood himself. (??)

    And so LISTEN all my dispensational friends....

    Owen, "To deny this [i.e. what is posted above], overthrows the whole relation between the old testament and the new, the veracity of God in his promises, and all the properties of the covenant of grace, mentioned 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Owen, J. (n.d.). The Works of John Owen (Vol. 16).

    At the same time, I want to be gracious to my dispensational friends. We are often captive to our circumstances. If we are not widely and thoroughly well read, (like really well read) on the topic of CT, it is going to be a bear to try and figure out what everyone said and what everyone means. There are far too many armchair theologians out there who irresponsibly "post" things on the internet without considering everything to be considered. There is simply not enough time in the day to deal with it all. The internet is a monster in that regard.

    With that said, I have too much on my plate to systematically untwist so much current dispensational thought on the board. I've taken on too many other responsibilities. Just read ALL of Owen. Or Witsius. Or Turretin. Or Ball. Or Calvin. Or Bridges. Or Sibbes. Or Perkins. Or Blake. Or Strong. Or....well, you get the point. Blessings.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  12. Joseph Noah Gagliardi

    Joseph Noah Gagliardi Puritan Board Freshman

    The problem with covenant theology is that we are idiots, in general, and we have to have our heads knocked a bit to put some sense into them. Also, labels tend to get in the way of our natural way of thinking. I hope to clear up a little confusion.
    1. Genesis 12:1-3. "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Moreover, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Romans 4:3 Sounds like grace to me, considering, "there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Psalm 14:3.
    2. "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." Deuteronomy 7:6-8. "the Lord loved you", sounds like grace to me.
    3. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." The elect Israelites in the wilderness believed in Christ, they had faith, and it was counted to them as righteousness, or are they inferior to their father Abraham? They partook of Christ. Sounds like grace to me.
    4. Now why do we call the New Covenant a "better" covenant? Because we have liberty in Christ, freed from the burden of keeping the ceremonial laws, which were a picture of our duty of perfect obedience, as well as, the Church being but in its infancy, they had more rules, if you will, just as a younger child has greater restrictions placed upon them than do their older siblings, that they may learn how to carry themselves through life, while they are yet young and tender.
    Also, we do not look forward, awaiting the coming of our Messiah, for He has come, and fulfilled the law and the promises. We trust in Christ as the elect Jews did, for so says Paul. We now look back upon the work completed, we no longer await a suitor, wondering when He shall make an offer of engagement, for He has, and He sealed it by His death, and we look to His return, the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we will be untied with our Heavenly husband for all eternity. The Old Covenant believers did indeed believe, but they had not the thing, they had not Christ yet come, so they waited for Him to declare His love, but would we say they did not await their love, and look to His coming? Certainly not! But the bride was young and tempestuous, she must mature and grow, until she was of age. Then at the proper time, Christ entered the world, to make true His promise to be wed. No all we await is the marriage supper and the consummation of our union with Him. While there are undeniable differences in the dispensations of the Covenant, we may rightly call it the Covenant of Grace, for what else should we call it when the LORD Almighty chooses out a people to be wed to His Son, but grace? There are distinctions to be drawn, but it is also a matter of how it is looked at, and I think in context of our marriage to Christ, we really see more fully the true nature of the covenant. "for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Ephesian 5:30-32.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  13. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    As would be all Covenants until the coming of the NC, which is the CoG, correct?
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    These two excerpts are helpful:

    And Muller:

    This is helpful to understand when Puritans are talking about the CoG absolutely they are talking about the CoG in one manner even if, from another manner, you could say that the fullness has yet to be enacted historically.
  15. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Does the definite article before "Covenant of Grace" help qualify the 1689 position on its relationship to the Abrahamic Covenant?
  16. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I am sorry to be so empty headed here Bill but what do you mean by definite article?
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    the Covenant of Grace where the word "the" is the definite article.

    The point is that the Covenant of Grace is made with Christ and, in Him, all the elect (this is straight from our Confession). the Promise made to Abraham is a dispensation of it but not its full historical reality.
  18. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not sure "until" is the proper word. The NC is the consummation of the CoG. It is the finality of the CoG until the consummatio saeculi.
  19. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I think their speaking of "a covenant of works" after THE Covenant of Works was broken is unhelpful. There was only 1 Covenant of Works and only 1 Covenant of Grace and these two encompass all of mankind and all of history. So I get confused when I hear them say that Moses (or now Abraham) was a covenant of works. The Covenant of Works is unrepeated.

    But of course, Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly and many say our Covenant of Grace was based on what was a Covenant of Works for Jesus, so I don't know how to fit that in there.
  21. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member


    I may be wrong on my understanding of 1689 Federalism on this point, but I believe its proponents will say they are not far off from this definition. They believe the CoG was promised in Genesis 3:15, and further revealed in successive covenants (types and shadows?) until consummated/inaugurated at Christ's resurrection. Denault writes, "The Abrahamic Covenant, the Sinaitic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant were not the Covenant of Grace, nor administrations of it; however, the Covenant of Grace was revealed under these various covenants"*. Denault uses Hebrews 9:15 as support for this view.

    *The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology, page 71.
  22. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member


    the Covenant of Grace. "the" is the definite article. It differentiates from other mentions of the Covenant of Grace, and focuses on this manifestation of it above all others. 1689 Federalists believe the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. They are one in the same. Maybe Brandon will correct me here, but any mention to the CoG in the OT is its promise, not its substance.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Then I have to go back and ask again, "What covenant are OT believers participating in?" If they are participating in the Cov of Grace even in the OT, why is the 1689 Federalist view so "distinctive" as Denault claims it is? Practically there is no difference that I see. All of mankind is still encompassed under 1 of 2 covenants, either the Cov of Works or the Cov of Grace.
  24. Rev. Todd Ruddell

    Rev. Todd Ruddell Puritan Board Junior

    ...or especially Francis Roberts
  25. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member


    Perhaps their reasoning is that it is consistent with the Baptist view of the discontinuity of the Abrahamic Covenant. I do not want to exhaust Denault on this point, but he makes a cautionary distinction between the 17th century Particular Baptist view of the discontinuity of the Covenants, while not falling into the Socinian error. Denault writes, "In agreement with the Presbyterians against the Socinians, the Baptists affirmed the unity of substance of the Covenant of Grace from Genesis to Revelation. However, just like the Socinians, against the Presbyterians, he affirmed the discontinuity of substance between the Old and New Covenants."* Another way of putting it is that 17th century Particular Baptists recognized a discontinuity in the covenants, but not a discontinuity in God's redemptive plan.

    *The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology, page 39.
  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    But discontinuity in one seems to lead to a discontinuity in the other. History is, after all, God's plan in action.
  27. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Ah yes, most assuredly, Mr. Roberts is most excellent.

    "Hence finally, the same Gospel was preached, the same blessed Messiah was in that Gospel Revealed, and the same justification and salvation of sinners by faith in that Messiah was tendered, in those former, as well as in these latter ages of the world. For in this Covenant, the Gospel was preached to Abraham, the Messiah was Promised to him as his Seed according to the flesh, and faith was imputed to him unto righteousness. The self-same Evangelical blessings for substance, that we have, he had; yea and Noah, and Adam had the same before him: but all of them beheld, and had these things far more imperfectly, darkly and obscurely, then we now. So that, though now we have a New Testament; yet we have not a New Gospel, or a New Christ, or a New way of Justification, but the same that was from the beginning, ever since the fall of Adam. Hence, the Gospel is described, the EVERLASTING Gospel; Jesus Christ the Messiah is said to be yesterday, and to day, and for ever, the same: And the fathers of old are said to obtain a good report through faith, and to die in faith. They then, that fancy to themselves, that the Fathers of old, or elders towards the beginning of the world, were fed only with the husks of temporal promises: or, that they entered not into heaven till Christ's ascension thither; or, that there is no Gospel in the Bible, but only in the Books of the New Testament; or, that the saints of old had another kind of justification and salvation, then the Saints since Christ: do sufficiently discover themselves to be mere infants in apprehending Gods saving dispensations, and through ignorance great strangers to the Holy Scriptures. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is our God: Their Messiah, is our Christ: Their Gospel, is our Gospel: Their Covenant, is our Covenant, (only our Covenant-Charter is more cleared, enlarged, and explained:) Their way of justification and salvation, is our way of justification and salvation: And at last both they, and we, and all the faithful in all ages, shall together make up one complete body of Christ, and be ever with the Lord in full immediate vision and fruition of him with ineffable ravishments TO ALL ETERNITY. (Francis Roberts, Mystery and Marrow of the Bible, 648).
  28. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Not quite sure I agree with you on that. I do hold to a discontinuity of the Abrahamic Covenant, although I am not where the 1689 Federalists are at the present time.
  29. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Why would it not though be seen as actually being the CoG itself though?
  30. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Puritan Board Sophomore

    Someone somewhere in these threads recommended John Colquhoun; I've been reading him at and found this a helpful quote, (though it concerns the Mosaic covenant) from his "A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel," page 54-55 etc.,

    The covenant of grace, both in itself, and in the intention of God, was the principal part of the Sinai transaction. It was therefore published first; as it appears from these words, "I am the Lord thy God." These gracious words, in which Jehovah exhibited himself to the Israelites as their God, were spoken to them, as his peculiar people, the natural seed of Abraham and as typical of all his spiritual seed. To this gracious offer or grant, which Jehovah made of himself to them, as their God and Redeemer, the ten commandments were annexed, as a rule of duty to them as his professed people, and especially, to true believers among them as his spiritual seed. In virtue of his having engaged to answer for them all the demands of the law as a covenant of works, he repeats and promulgates it to them as a rule of life in the covenant of grace. Instead of saying to them, "Keep my commandments, that I may become your God"; he, on the contrary, said to each of them, "I am the Lord thy God," therefore keep my commandments. This is not the form of the law as it is in the covenant of works, but the form of it only as the law of Christ, and as standing in the covenant of grace."

    Colquhoun goes on to expound on how in the Sinai transaction the covenant of grace, with the law annexed to it as a rule of life, was repeated and delivered to the Israelites:

    "The ten commandments are founded on these words of the preface, 'I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the house of bondage.' The inestimable privilege here exhibited is made the foundation of the duty required." ​
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