Here is the second section of Chapter 3, A MANY SPLENDORED THING. I am trying to define the Covenant here. Please Help me if you think I have left gaps.
God’s Covenant: A Powerful Force at Work
As I conclude my initial remarks about the definition/description of GOD’S COVENANT, I must insist on one other point, an important point which we should regard as an absolutely incontrovertible fact. That fact is that GOD’S COVENANT is the most powerful force at work in our world today! I emphasize it this way because the humanistic worldly mind wants to reduce God’s love, His Covenant love to a pale religious sentiment. The fact that the COVENANT is driven by the love of God, makes it not only the most beautiful but also the most powerful force at work in our entire universe. This is most encouraging to us. It is also true that our Lord Jesus Christ is the living personification of the almighty power of God. He, our Lord Jesus, excels all things in the sheer power of His love, drawing us to Himself irresistibly.
Please understand that I am sadly aware of the dreadful power of Satan and all the contrary forces he is using to oppose God and His Covenant. We should, therefore, recognize Satan as the second greatest power in our world today! – but decidedly second.
We are acutely aware that this secondary power is wreaking moral and spiritual havoc among his victims in this world. I have used my dear sister, Georgianna, and my brother Jim as examples. Gorgianna’s lifelong suffering and my brother’s brief life were dreadful pictures of the Devil at work in their lives.
Satan continues to cause such intense and unceasing misery among us, in a great variety of ways, which I described briefly in chapter 2. BUT, his time is coming. The judgment of eternal Hell will overtake him and his minions! And this will be because GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE will be finally and conclusively victorious. Jesus Christ will triumph through his infinite and all-powerful love for us.
I will have much more to say about our Savior’s coming victory, but right now I am encouraging you to anticipate this great victory of the living God. Be encouraged! He will triumph! — a key focus of our study.
We need to notice one other thing that God did for man even before our fall into sin. God carefully and lovingly established a preliminary covenant even before He gave mankind the Covenant of Grace.
A COVENANT PRELIMINARY TO THE COVENANT OF GRACE
I am in agreement with many who believe that before the Fall of man into sin there was a preliminary Covenant. The Westminster Confession of Faith (hereafter referred to as the WCF) was a document adopted in the mid-1640’s by a highly respected group of Godly students of the Bible in England. The WCF favors the idea that this preliminary covenant should be called the Covenant of Works. The reason for this preliminary Covenant was that before the Fall, man did not yet need the COVENANT OF GRACE with the blood of
Christ, his resurrection and ascension to save him from sin because man had not yet sinned. Here is the way the Westminster leaders defined that preliminary Covenant in Chapter 7, paragraph 2:
“The first Covenant made with man was a COVENANT OF WORKS, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”
This concept of a preliminary COVENANT OF WORKS is based on Genesis 2:5-17. In this passage Adam was told that he could eat of any other tree in the garden, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good andevil, you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” Dr. O. Palmer Robertson comments appropriately on this text, giving it a “covenant” style definition without using that word:
“A bond of life and death clearly is present between God and man newly created. If Adam would refrain from eating the forbidden fruit, he would live. But if he would eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. 6*”
This is the way God demonstrated his love for man before the Fall. The perfect obedience required would not have been a “legalistic obligation” but normal behavior for a sinless man. Mankind’s delight in serving the Lord would have been boundless and the Covenant of Works a great joy. The loving relationship between man and God would, therefore, have been perfect under this first Covenant.
In his book titled, Genesis 1-4, Dr. C. John Collins, recognizes the necessity of this preliminary covenant based on this text, but is not pleased to call it a COVENANT OF WORKS because that sounds to him too much like the “legalistic obligation” which I am excepting above (hope this is not too complicated). Collins is okay, however, with the idea of Adam representing man in his disobedience to God. Collins says:
“It seems better to think of Adam’s action as the work of covenant representation, without introducing the idea of merit. That is, as a representative he [Adam] acts on behalf of those he represents, in this case, his posterity”. 7* G. K. Beale agrees that there is evidence for a Covenant here, but does not go into detail. 8*
The Covenant of Works has been a much debated issue and we need to recognize this. No matter what we name this preliminary covenant, however, it is valuable to see that mankind has always been vitally involved in a loving Covenant relationship with God from the moment of his creation. It is, therefore, appropriate to recognize mankind as a Covenantal being. Man was, in effect, created into a Covenantal relationship with God. Sadly, the failure of Adam and Eve, under this preliminary covenant leaves us subject to death.
BUT, God graciously rescues us! He shows us His love in the COVENANT OF GRACE: First, he promises to give us salvation through Jesus, then he even gives us the faith required to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. So, we may continue as Covenantal beings because he embraces us now in this awesome covenant of Grace.