The Covenant of Grace
Chapter 16 - Covenant of Grace
Beginning in Genesis 3:15, we have a new kind of covenant with God, since the basis of our salvation is faith in Christ's work rather than our own work. As Owen says, "our own works are not the means of justification before God" (261).
Rather, faith in the seed of the woman is. This seed is Christ primarily and the whole Church by extension. Though it's obscure, this promise to crush the snakes head contain all Gods promises to us.
Though some ignore Noah in outlining the progress of covenantal revelation, it is an extension of this covenant. We have the first mention of the very words "covenant" and "grace." We have a sacrifice pointing to Christ, and the inclusion of children.
Gods promises to Abraham build on Genesis 3:15. He is promised a seed! This is Christ (Gal. 3:16), mainly, and all thos with him. Outward and inward aspects of the covenant come to the fore, here. Abraham is father of the ethnic nation of Israel, and they are in the covenant, though not all are spiritual seed of Abraham and co heirs with Christ. Abrahams faith was credited as righteousness. As our father in the faith, Abraham saw the prequel to Christ in Isaacs birth and sacrifice, and believed (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Lutherans argue that the covenant at Sinai was of works, and some reformed agree. But most see it as another administration of the covenant of grace. It was "based on God's redemptive activity" (269) in the Exodus. The promise of blessing and condition of faith (shown through keep the ritual law) was similar to Abraham's covenant. This view emphasizes the third use of the law (rule for believers to follow)more than the second use (conviction of sin, driving us to Christ). Sinai republished the moral law written on Adam's heart, but it was not "as a means of justification before God" (270).
God revealed a lot to David about Christ: His work, incarnation, offices, judgement, death and resurrection. Anything good said about Daivd can be taken as a type of Christ. God promised David a kingdom, a blessed son to reign after him, an eternal throne, gracious correction of his posterity. Some of these were absolute promises and others were conditional: the temporal glory of Davi'ds line was broken due to his and Israel's future sin. But promises pertaining to the spiritual blessing of believers through Christ stand firm.
This covenant was revealed mainly through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and furhter reveals Christ to us, especially the servant songs of Isaiah (ch 49-53). Promises of hope to captives abound, key to which is return to the land. All the covenants from Genesis 3:15 to this one are the one covenant of grace, developing over time.
This is the covenant of grace, ratified in the death of Christ. It differs from the old covenant in that Christ's blood avails, where animal sacrifices did not. We have "a more sure ground of confidence" now. God's grace and justice are more clearly revealed than before, as is the Trinity. The Incarnation is new. Faith and obedience are conditions of the covenant, but they don't cause the blessing, they follow from the cause of God's election. It is conditional in that Christ must die and man must rely on that death. Viewed from man's ability, the new covenant required nothing of man and is unconditional - God grants all He requires. The main promises are forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38) and "heart-conformity to God's moral law" (Hebrews 8:10).
Christ is central at each stage of this covenant of grace. We look back to Him as Old Testament saints looked forward.