Letters to Our Dear Children # 2


 The Wonder of “Persons” and “the Covenant”

Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,

“Persons” are like snowflakes: every one of them is unique!

That was one of the amazing things your mother and I discovered after each of you were born.  Because you were born first, Junia, you were able to fix yourself in our minds as the exact image of what a baby is supposed to be.

What a remarkable surprise awaited us when you came along, Charysse! Of course there were many things about you that were just like your sister, but you were also remarkably different from Junia.

Then you came along, DeAnn, and finally you, Greg.  Similarities in all of you, yes, indeed!  But differences that made you so unique that we were at one and the same time, challenged, bewildered, and charmed.

Only God could do such a thing!  Only God could have made you so much alike and at the same time so fabulously unique.  That God made you in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:2) was plainly demonstrated to us by this very uniqueness.  It seems that the infinitely varied glory of God must be demonstrated in this unique way in every child that is ever born: snowflakes – personalities! Magnificent!

And we haven’t said it all when we talk about the “image of God” in every person.  We also need to recognize the beautiful significance of the “Covenant.” Since our discovery of the “Covenant” under Dr. Buswell’s instruction at Covenant Theological Seminary, I have become deeply convinced that the “Covenant” is as foundational to the nature of mankind as the “image of God.” I am further convinced that by creating us in His image, God received us into a Covenant relationship with Himself.  Though the word covenant is not used in the early chapters of Genesis, our covenantal relationships with God are clearly implied from the very beginning.

This is particularly clear in Genesis 2:15-17.  The phrase “covenant of life” is used to interpret this passage both in our Westminster Shorter Catechism 12 and Larger Catechism 20.  This reflects the broad consensus of Biblical scholarship, that though the word covenant is not used in this passage, the idea of covenant is clearly present.  We may conclude with delight that God created us “in His image” and entered into a “covenant of life” with us at the same moment.

So how do these grand scriptural truths apply to the four of you?

This is an intriguing question.  It cannot be answered with any simple formula, but it is important to make an attempt.  We must begin by noting that for each of you to be “created in the image of God” and for each of you at the same time to be “in covenant relationship with God” is a sheer wonder.  What a magnificent potential this creates for each of you!  We may be confident that God is intent upon developing each of you within these awesome parameters set by His image in you and His covenant with you.  And this is wonderfully true for all those who belong to the family of God.

These were themes that frequently got into my preaching from many different texts.  Mother and I often engaged you in conversations about these fabulous Biblical ideas while you were growing up in our home.  I have to confess that I frequently felt like a stumbling babbler when I was trying to preach and I suspect that our conversations about these grand Biblical truths were not all that compelling.   Yet our gracious Lord worked in us and in you to accomplish the grand purposes of His Kingdom through our family.  God is working in the same way in your own families and in the families of many of your church friends.  We can enrich and bless each other by frequently considering such truths together in the body of Christ.  Then we simply continue living self-consciously in this “image of God” identity and “covenant relationship with God” reality.  On the basis of solid scriptural teaching, we treasure these magnificent truths about ourselves and rejoice in the privilege of living according to such great Revelations from God.

There is so much more to say, but I will leave it for our next letters.

With all our Love,

Mom and Dad Alexander


Would it be helpful for us to define the covenant at this point?

I am inspired to make the attempt by a letter I received from an old friend, who was questioning the meaning of this Biblical word.

Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, Dr. Michael D. Williams prefers to stay with what he calls a “rough description”1 of the concept rather than a more exact definition.  Williams is right to complain that it is most difficult to accurately define such a broad and grand Biblical concept.  He supports his objection by quoting Dr. O. Palmer Robertson’s remark, “Asking for a definition of ‘covenant’ is something like asking for a definition of ‘mother’”2.

I must differ with Dr. Williams.  Difficult as it is to define the covenant, I believe there is value in making the attempt.  So did O. Palmer Robertson in spite of the quotation above. After that appropriate quote, Robertson straightway proceeded to give a definition of the covenant on page 15 of the book cited by Williams.  Here is Robertson’s definition:

A Covenant Is a Bond in Blood, Sovereignly Administered

            I like Robertson’s definition and have occasionally used it in my teaching.  It goes beyond the “covenant of life” idea drawn from Genesis 2:15-17 by including the “bond of blood” feature that was only necessary after Genesis 3 and the Fall. I think it is important to include in our definition the full sweep of the Covenant based both on this Genesis 2 text and then on that multiplicity of scriptures that describe the Covenant throughout the rest of the Bible.  I hope this is not too ambitious.  Write me back if I need to work more at clarifying this point.  It is MOST important to me.   Here is my fuller definition:

The Covenant of Grace Is God’s Promise to Fallen Man to Restore Him (Us)                     To Glory Through the Redemptrive Acts of Our Lord Jesus Christ

This definition is very important to me because so much of what I will say in future “LETTERS” will reference the Covenant as well as the “image of God”.  It is a strong conviction in my heart that the Covenant is a fundamental reality of human life.  The Covenant is just as real as our flesh and blood.  It is a dynamic at work in our lives through our direct and continuous relationship with God.

If we do not understand this, we become hopelessly lost in the vast sea of human speculation about what we are and where we are going.  If we understand the Covenant and follow God’s leading through the Covenant, life unfolds before us like a blooming flower, revealing all the beauty and glory of God’s great love for us and His magnificent provision for all our needs all the way into Heaven.


  1. Williams, Michael D., Far as the Curse Is Found (Zondervan, 2005), 45
  2. Robertson, O. Palmer, The Christ of the Covenants (Grand Rapids: Baker), 1980, 3

Letters to Our*1 Dear Children #1 God’s Gift of Persons

Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,

Your Mother and I see the four of you as wonderful gifts of God to us.  We have loved each of you from the moment we knew that you were on the way to our house.  What an amazing thing it is for a baby to be born!  For a new person to come into a family!  Only God can do this wonderful thing.  And of all the remarkable things that God does in this world, this has to rank up there right near the top.

Greg, when your first baby was born, Mom and I had the high privilege of being there at the hospital with you and Rachel in Carollton, Georgia. I will never forget the expression on your face when you saw baby Gabrielle for the first time.  I forget the exact words you used, but you said something like, “Daddy, this is a real person!” It wasn’t so much the words you said as it was the unforgettable way you spoke them, all aglow with the pure delight of this grandest of grand occasions.

I believe we should recognize two wonderful things that happen at the same time whenever a baby is born.

First, is simply the arrival of the baby, that “real person”.  The natural process which God uses to bring this new little “personal” being into our world is absolutely phenomenal.  Eve got it right when she remarked at the birth of her first son, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man”, Genesis 4:1. 2.

We make a bad mistake if we read these simple words as if they were rather boring and common-place.  Simple words they are, indeed, but there is every reason to hear in them the sheer wonder that Eve must have felt.  She was the first person in history to experience the natural but awesome process of conception, gestation and birth.  She had to be amazed, astounded, and delighted all at once.

Like other women after her who would bear children, Eve may have experienced excruciating pain and may have wondered whether she would live through the ordeal.  Then, when she saw that amazing little creature outside her body, heard him cry and felt him move, a great torrent of joy and thanksgiving to God must have filled her whole being.  Yes, those words she speaks are simple, but they were surely filled with a towering reverence and thanksgiving for the God who had helped her bring forth a man.

This was the first wonderful thing that happened to Adam and Eve, the birth of their baby. Another “real person” entered their home, forever changing their lives by bringing them into the world of parenthood with all of its delights and challenges. There is so much more to say here, but for the moment I will hurry on to that second wonderful gift of God.

Second, God gave us the gift of love for all four of you. We did not generate that love in our own hearts. Because we are sinners, God had to work a miracle in our sinful hearts so that we could love you. That love which God gave us for you is magnificent beyond words. This gift of God is the key to our raising you.  Through this amazing gift, God enabled us to nurture and bless you in all the joys of living before God as His dear children.

Not that we did this perfectly!  The sin that remains in our nature made us stumble and err seriously many times.  We had to apologize often.  But God’s love for us, His great grace at work in our hearts, overcame our sin sufficiently to enable us to guide you to Godly maturity.  A wonderful result of His work both in us and in you is that we have become good friends. I believe that we are “best friends”, and that is one of the greatest blessings that parents could ever hope for.

How sad that so few parents today recognize the wonderful blessing this gift of God can be in their homes. Because of our fall into sin, parents can refuse to receive this great gift of God, His gift of love for their own children.  We see the unhappy results everywhere.  Parents do not live in a reverent and loving relationship with God, so it is impossible for them to live in a loving relationship with their own children. Fierce quarreling and hatred seems to characterize the lives of so many married couples and their whole families.  Parents abuse each other and their children, so that even murdering their own children has become increasingly common. The murderous act of inexcusable abortion has resulted in approximately 55,000,000 infant deaths in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision in 1974. This kind of abortion is now legal in most of the world.

In a future letter I will try to speak helpfully to these great sorrows so common in families today. I will mention the problem here, just to underline for all of us the great importance of receiving from God His wonderful gift of love for our children.

Now I want to tell you how our gracious Lord led your Mother and me to receive this wonderful gift from God. We see this as a “special providence” of God which He worked in our hearts.  This is the era of history when God works such miracles in the hearts of those who believe in Christ as Savior.

It happened this way:

We fell in love with each other during my second year in Faith seminary near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The next summer in August, 1956, we were married in Sandstone, Minnesota, Mom’s hometown. We then moved to Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, arriving in that city with $8 in our pockets, a car payment coming due and no place to live.

We both got jobs, found an apartment, eked out a bare living (like many of our fellow students), and I began to study at the seminary.   That is where it happened!!

I discovered the love of God in a special way in what the Bible calls: THE COVENANT!

Dr. J. Oliver Buswell was the teacher who led me, along with other students, into this discovery.  “The Covenant” was just one of many subjects we learned under his able instruction from scripture. His teaching had the special value, moreover, of demonstrating that The Covenant is a central theme that binds the entire Bible and all of life together. The Covenant certainly included that gift of loving our children, but it was presented as far more than that.

I began to see The Covenant as a grand and glorious exercise of God’s love for the whole world. It was God’s means of saving lost people and then building them up in His own image.  It was God’s love at work in believers to hold them in His redemptive embrace, enabling us to love God “with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds,”…“and our neighbor as ourselves”.  The Covenant is beautifully summarized in the so-called “golden text” of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

It was a great pleasure for me to bring Dr. Buswell’s teaching home with me. Your Mother and I had many valuable discussions on the Covenant and began to regard it as one of the keys to our life in the Lord. We also found these truths to be pervasive in the seminary. Because Mom had frequent contacts with the family of Professor Bill Sanderson, she became quite impressed by the way he and his wife were using Covenant teachings to train their children in the love of God.  We began to observe this beautiful kind of family life in other seminary leaders and other Christians in our church world.

I will conclude this initial letter by reminding you that our lives were profoundly and wonderfully changed, first, by your births into our family and second by our discovery of God’s Covenant love for us.

We pray daily that God will continue to work His wonders of grace in your hearts and lives.  And we rejoice daily in the evidence we see in you and your families that God is answering our prayers.

With all our love,

Mom and Dad Alexander

*1. Take note: I am changing the pronoun “My” to “Our” in this title.  My introductory letter proposed: “Letters to My Dear Children”.  I prefer that to be: “Letters to Our Dear Children”.

*2. Commentators on this first verse of Genesis 4 have frequently speculated on a variety of meanings that might be given to Cain’s birth here.  I stand with those who give the simplest explanation, that Eve is remarking with delight that a baby boy has been born.


      While the four of you were still living at our house, I started using a diagram in my Sunday evening preaching that you may remember.  I am still using that diagram in an effort to graphically portray the Covenant at work in Jesus.  Before I explain it, however, I want to mention a side trip I took during my own high school and college years.

During those high school years I became quite interested in Edgar Allen Poe, a writer whose message stood out in sharp contrast to “the Covenant” truth that I learned under Dr. Buswell.  I believe it will be helpful for us to see the Covenant from that contrasting perspective, Poe’s perspective.

To be perfectly honest I became genuinely fascinated with both the poetry and the short stories of Poe. His mastery of the English language was amazing to me, but it was his preoccupation with the morose aspects of death and dying that truly captivated me.  I got so interested in his “The Raven” that I memorized part of it. Then I found his “The Fall of the House of Usher” to be an unforgettable adventure into the macabre.  In college I memorized my own abbreviated version of his “The Black Cat” and occasionally recited it at Halloween parties.

Why all this interest in this sadly unchristian author?

My interest in Poe took a somewhat psychological/spiritual turn.  Throughout his life the poor man suffered one disappointment and sorrow after another. Through all this pain he never seemed to have meaningful contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ or the church.  The joy of living under the care of a loving God, therefore, never touched his brief life (1809-1849). To the contrary his fascination with the morose, the terrifying, and the downright horrible got such a grip on the man that the brighter side of life never occurred to him as a subject worthy of his literary efforts.

Here I want to make my own private and abrupt observation.

Edgar Allen Poe desperately needed to discover the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave!

Poe’s life and writing might have been so different if this grand reality of the gospel had come into his life.  If he had heard good preaching of this gospel truth or had been befriended by a Christian brother or sister who had given him clear witness of it, things could have been different.

Permit me an observation about our own present historical situation.

A sad reality of our present culture is that Poe’s dark, unhappy writing seems to be prophetic of much that is happening in the artistic, the literary and the film-making world today.  The highly gifted artists who are leading in these important ventures today reflect a kind of “Poeism”.  Like Poe, they desperately need a clear view of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Through that grand miracle they could witness the whole gospel of our Lord Jesus, transforming both their lives and their art.

This is the point that I hope we will see in our consideration of the Covenant.  The Covenant is God’s means of leading us into the gospel, into the forgiveness of our sins, into a grand view of Jesus rising triumphantly from the grave in order to create a new world.  That is the climax of the Covenant. I want to give a fuller definition of the Covenant in the next letter, but for the moment it is sufficient to see the Covenant as a promise of God’s love for us. It is a promise of His love which comes to glorious climax in the Savior’s redeeming work on our behalf.

On the next page, I am giving you that diagram I mentioned above. It is based on II Corinthians 4:6. Here I am using the “face of Christ” as a figure of speech for five redeeming acts of Jesus.  The first four are His (1) Crucifixion, (2) Resurrection, (3) Ascension, and (4) Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church.  Number (5) is His promised Second Coming.   I call these five things “the face of Christ” because we recognize Christ in them.  These five redeeming acts are His face “shining” the glory of God into our lives.  By faith we receive God’s Covenant love for us through these loving acts of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do I need to clarify that?  Drop me a note if you think I need to say more.  Meanwhile, I will doubtless say more myself, because the truth I am trying to demonstrate in this picture is so central to my thinking and teaching even today.