The Covenant Purpose of God and Gospel Preaching

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AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Whilst this is not quite finished I thought I would give it a preview for feedback.

The Covenant Purpose of God and the Preaching of the Gospel


Introduction​
I will show that the covenant purpose of God is to manifest his own Trinitarian covenant life through the taking of a people for his own possession and establishing a covenant with them in Christ Jesus. This covenant, whilst established in eternity is realised or is made manifest in history and the means by which the covenant is realised is faith which is itself a fruit of electing grace and a covenant blessing in Christ. “So that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills. By their ministry men are called to repentance and to faith in Christ crucified.” Hence the gospel is a means through which God fulfills his covenant purpose. Through it he calls the elect to faith and effectually draws them into communion with himself and it is precisely this communion which is the very essence of covenant. The preaching acts as the means by which the communion is manifested, developed and enabled to flourish.

The Covenant of God
What is God’s covenant purpose. To answer this we must start with God and the key point to consider in highlighted in 1 John 5:7 which reads thus: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” God is both three and one. One in essence and yet three in person. The Father is distinct from the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Son is distinct from the Father and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is distinct from the Father and the Son. Whist they are three they exist as one and such is the glorious mystery of the Trinity. There is one divine life but three who live it. God is three living as one in a perfect unity of being yet as three distinct persons. From this we can say that the triune God lives a perfect and complete life within himself and this life is one of covenant – the fellowship and communion he enjoys with himself in the unity of essence and the trinity of person. This Trinitarian life is the life of the covenant for all three persons live in communion with one another and so the divine life of the trinity is a life of intimate communion and friendship. God dwells with God.

However God has revealed this covenant by taking his people into his own triune life and this he does through Christ. God dwells with his people in Christ and so we read “they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). In Christ the covenant is manifested and yet it is fully fulfilled in eternity as we read in Revelation 21:2-4 saying “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” I define the covenant thus: The Covenant of God is the most blessed communion and intimate friendship between the triune God, as Sovereign-Friend, and his chosen people in Christ Jesus, as servant-friends.

This covenant, whilst established in eternity is realised or is made manifest in history and the means by which the covenant is realised is faith which is itself a fruit of electing grace and a covenant blessing in Christ. This covenant is realised in two ways: (1) firstly, it is realised in the lines of continued generations. (2) secondly, it is realised out of all nations. [MORE DETAIL REQUIRED]

The Covenant and Gospel Preaching
So the question to which I must now turn is: what precisely is the role of gospel preaching in the realization of the covenant? We are taught by Scripture and the Reformed Catechisms and Confessions that “faith cometh by hearing”. Preaching then is the means by which the elect come to faith and so the Canons teach us “So that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills. By their ministry men are called to repentance and to faith in Christ crucified. For how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” The Canons reiterate this by saying that God “decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into His communion through His Word and Spirit”. Again we are taught that “He has chosen His own in Christ from eternity and calls them effectually in time. He gives them faith and repentance; He delivers them from the power of darkness and transfers them to the kingdom of His Son.” God’s good pleasure in the elect is to save them and “God carries out His good pleasure in the elect and works in them true conversion in the following manner. He takes care that the gospel is preached to them, and powerfully enlightens their minds by the Holy Spirit, so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God. By the efficacious working of the same regenerating Spirit He also penetrates into the innermost recesses of man. He opens the closed and softens the hard heart, circumcises that which was uncircumcised, and instils new qualities into the will. He makes the will, which was dead, alive; which was bad, good; which was unwilling, willing; and which was stubborn, obedient. He moves and strengthens it so that, like a good tree, it may be able to produce the fruit of good works.” [MORE DETAIL REQUIRED]

Recall that I stated earlier that the covenant is realized through faith and so we can say that God sends heralds of the gospel in order that the elect hear of him whom they are to call upon and at the same time God regenerates them wherein the Holy Ghost works in them faith so realizing his covenant with them. This the Canons clearly teach saying God “decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into His communion through His Word and Spirit” (emphasis added).

So the preaching of the gospel is a means through which God fulfills his covenant purpose. Through it he draws the elect into communion with himself and it is precisely this communion which is the very essence of covenant. The preaching acts as a means by which the communion is manifested, developed and enabled to flourish. God through the preached word coupled with the Holy Ghost draws his people into communion with him therein fulfilling his covenant purpose. We can thereby conclude that gospel preaching is a means of grace towards the elect, a savour of life unto life .

What then of the reprobate? The solution must be approached thus: Who is their head? Is it Christ? Not at all, and therefore they have no part in the covenant of grace and so what we have said above applies in no way to them. Rather their head is Adam and the only covenant they are under is the covenant of works and are condemned thereby. Furthermore God has in his own good pleasure decreed not to save the reprobate. So why does God have the gospel preached to them? The answer is that he uses gospel preaching to harden the reprobate and so bring about a greater condemnation. I quote John Calvin:

“The expression of our Savior, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mat_22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear, viz., that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation.” (Emphasis added)

“As the Lord by the efficacy of his calling accomplishes towards his elect the salvation to which he had by his eternal counsel destined them, so he has judgments against the reprobate, by which he executes his counsel concerning them. Those, therefore, whom he has created for dishonor during life and destruction at death, that they may be vessels of wrath and examples of severity, in bringing to their doom, he at one time deprives of the means of hearing his word, at another by the preaching of it blinds and stupefies them the more.” (Emphasis added)

“Nor can it be questioned, that God sends his word to many whose blindness he is pleased to aggravate. For why does he order so many messages to be taken to Pharaoh? Was it because he hoped that he might be softened by the repetition? Nay, before he began he both knew and had foretold the result: “The Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he will not let the people go” (Exo_4:21). So when he raises up Ezekiel, he forewarns him, “I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me.” “Be not afraid of their words.” “Thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not” (Eze_2:3, Eze_2:6; Eze_12:2). Thus he foretells to Jeremiah that the effect of his doctrine would be, “to root out, and pull down, and to destroy” (Jer_1:10). But the prophecy of Isaiah presses still more closely; for he is thus commissioned by the Lord, “Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed” (Isa_6:9,Isa_6:10). Here he directs his voice to them, but it is that they may turn a deafer ear; he kindles a light, but it is that they may become more blind; he produces a doctrine, but it is that they may be more stupid; he employs a remedy, but it is that they may not be cured. And John, referring to this prophecy, declares that the Jews could not believe the doctrine of Christ, because this curse from God lay upon them. It is also incontrovertible, that to those whom God is not pleased to illumine, he delivers his doctrine wrapt up in enigmas, so that they may not profit by it, but be given over to greater blindness. Hence our Savior declares that the parables in which he had spoken to the multitude he expounded to the Apostles only, “because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Mat_13:11). What, you will ask, does our Lord mean, by teaching those by whom he is careful not to be understood? Consider where the fault lies, and then cease to ask.” (Emphasis added)


We are forced, by the Scriptural data, to conclude that whilst the preaching of the gospel to the elect in a savour of life unto life, to the reprobate it is a savour of death unto death:“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).[MORE DETAIL REQUIRED]

Summary
The covenant purpose of God is to manifest his own Trinitarian covenant life through the taking of a people for his own possession and establishing a covenant with them in Christ Jesus. This covenant, whilst established in eternity is realised or is made manifest in history and the means by which the covenant is realised is faith which is itself a fruit of electing grace and a covenant blessing in Christ. “So that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills. By their ministry men are called to repentance and to faith in Christ crucified.” Hence the gospel is a means through which God fulfills his covenant purpose. Through it he calls the elect to faith and effectually draws them into communion with himself and it is precisely this communion which is the very essence of covenant. The preaching acts as the means by which the communion is manifested, developed and enabled to flourish. Let us grasp the glorious truth contained here! “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
 
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