VII. The Shorter Catechism-Salvation: Q & A 20-22
Q & A 20 Election And The Covenant Of Grace.
Q. 20 Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. 20 God having, out of His mere good pleasure,-from all eternity,-elected some to everlasting life,-did enter into a covenant of grace,-to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
This question introduces us to two important truths-election and the covenant of grace. It is important to bear some key points in mind. Firstly, election and the covenant of grace are not synonymous terms. Secondly, and directly related to the first point, there is an external as well as an internal element to the covenant, that which is visible and that which is invisible. Thirdly, all the elect are in both the invisible and visible aspects of the covenant, but those who are only in the outward administration of the covenant are not necessarily elect. All the covenants after the fall were administrations of the one covenant of grace, but not all those who were members in its outward administration were elect. Paul made this point quite succinctly when he wrote that, “there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). “Out of His mere good pleasure,-from all eternity,” God “elected some to everlasting life.”
Election is an expression of grace. Election springs forth from nothing in man, for it took place before any human being ever came into existence-“from all eternity.” As the catechism states it, election flows from God’s “mere good pleasure.” “Just as He hath chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). However, because of the fall, it is an election which is effected through our covenant with Christ. This purpose and grace “was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9). As our fall happened via our covenant representation in Adam, even so our election finds fulfillment through our covenantal union with Christ. It was a condescension on God’s part to create man and then to enter into that first covenant with humanity, but this covenant of redemption is even more a covenant of grace in that it is entered into on behalf of those who were His enemies, whom He, out of His mercy alone, makes His friends.
However, having noted the above distinction, it is nevertheless the case that this election finds expression in this covenant of grace. The fact that some persons partake in the outward benefits of the administrations of the covenant of grace, does not nullify that for the elect these outward elements express a true inward reality. The heart of the covenant of grace is that the LORD would be our God and we His people. This ‘Immanuel principle’, as Robertson calls it, finds its ultimate expression in the new covenant in Christ, but it was always there as the core of the covenant relationship-God with us. “By his being clothed in human flesh, the Immanuel principle of the covenant achieved its fullest realization” (‘The Christ Of The Covenants’ p. 30 Cf. pp. 45-52). The saints under the old covenant administrations of this one covenant, looked ahead to what we look back to. Christ is the centre of the covenants-both old and new.
The covenant of grace is all about redemption and deliverance. Through this covenant we are delivered from the condemnation deserved under the covenant of works, and transferred to “an estate of salvation” through our Redeemer. It is also true that God did not elect all, only some. There have always been some persons who participate in the outward aspects of the various administrations of the one covenant of grace, but like the rest of humanity they stand under the condemnation of the covenant of works if they do not know the Redeemer. God’s grace finds expression through the Redeemer. By stating that this election finds fulfillment in the covenant of grace to everlasting life, is to say that for the elect this is an everlasting covenant (Jer. 32:40). It is a covenant of peace (Is. 54), “an everlasting covenant” (Is. 55:3; 61:8). “‘With everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer” (Is. 54:8b).