Intro To Covenant Theology

Chapter two of the Westminster Confessions provides for us a wonderful description of God. He is “infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth…” There may not be a more marvelous summary of the attributes of God and as we read these attributes we get a sense of how incomprehensible, and how wholly other God is.

Scripture paints a much different picture of us however. We are creatures made from dust (Gen 2:7), disobedient, led astray, slaves to passions, full of malice, envy, and hatred (Titus 3:3) and born natural enemies of God (Romans 5:10). Not only that, but we are an unrighteous people, who have no desire to seek after God (Romans 3:10-11). The chasm between God and man is insurmountable. Only the creator God can bridge the gap, and thankfully, he has, and he has done this by way of covenant.

The concept of a covenant is seen all throughout scripture, and plays an essential role in understanding God’s plan of redemption for his people. But what is a covenant exactly? O. Palmer Robertson defines a covenant as a “bond-in-blood sovereignly administered.” It is a bond initiated by God, to his people, in which he offers blessings and conditions. Blessing is offered to us, but we are also warned: breaking the covenant is a death sentence.

This sovereignly initiated bond is the hermeneutical key to understanding the whole story of scripture. This bond is the very idea of, “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Lev 26:12). Our God is a covenant making God, and understanding this concept is vital in our understanding of the very character of God himself, and the nature of our relationship to him. This is no small matter.

Scripture shows us two types of covenants: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The covenant of works was made with Adam in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Then, the covenant of grace was initiated after the fall of Adam and Eve, but was administered differently in various periods of time throughout scripture (with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ), each with their own distinct characteristics. Covenant theology is a very nuanced topic and can become confusing for those who are new to the concept. However, the study of covenant theology is imperative if we are to understand God, redemption, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or any other biblical doctrine.  

What I hope to do in the blogs to come is to take each covenant and give an overview and explanation, so that those who are unfamiliar with the topic are able to gain a basic understanding in this wonderful doctrine and maybe answer some questions you may have along the way. In the next blog we will look at the Covenant of Works that was made with Adam. SPOILER ALERT- Adam blows it and we find out our need for a true covenant keeper.