The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section X. 1

“All those whom God has predestined unto life,” immediately points to what is precedent to the issue of a gospel call, namely that before the foundation of the world, God who ‘dwells’ in eternity purposed to save some, the elect, and not others, the reprobate. This was predestined before time. It is a distinction to be made on a general call to all humanity, and that which may be defined by the adjective ‘effectual’. “And those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call (Rom. 8:30, 11:7; Eph. 1:10-11). Then, in the time he created, God chose and continues to choose, that specific moment in time to make the outward call effectual to the elect. To all others who hear but don’t respond in repentance and faith, the fruit of efficacious grace, he leaves to their own inexcusable condition. “By his word (which is heard by many), “and Spirit,” some, namely the elect, receive the regenerating work of the Spirit, which brings about repentance and faith (II Th. 2:13-14; II Cor. 3:3, 6).

These elect, God has taken “out of that state of sin and death in which they were by nature.” This simply affirms that all people are born in a state of sin and death, which we have by our union with Adam in that first covenant at the dawn of creation. Out of the mass of humanity, the elect are transferred to a state of “grace and salvation by Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:2; Eph. 2:2:1-5; II Tim. 1:9-10).” Here we see the Spirit’s ultimate focus, which he makes ours, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does he do this? He does this by “enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God (Acts 26:18; I Cor. 2:10-12; Eph. 1:17-18).” Here we learn that, although the Spirit may work on any “spiritually,” he only works “savingly to understand,” for the elect. “The things of God,” do here specifically pertain to the gospel. As part of regeneration, the Spirit must take “away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).” The Spirit must get to our core as persons, the heart of the matter.

It is only as the elect are given a new heart or core, that they may have a “renewing” of “their wills.” In other words, as noted in the last chapter, the will is not some kind of person within a person that is somehow less affected by sin, and can make a decision to accept the gospel, for which a heart of stone is completely incapable of on its own. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,* and this is no less the case when thinking of the will to act in repentance and faith. This God does, “by his almighty power determining them to that which is good (Dt. 30:6; Ezek. 11:19; 36:27; Phil. 2:13).” Here we have re-emphasized that any good to come from us, especially in the matter of our salvation, is only “by his almighty power.” It is by his power that he “effectually” draws the elect “to Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19); yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” What seems by some to be a unresolvable paradox, is perhaps only viewed as such because we are dull to how it is that God in fact predestines all things.

*(Ps. 14:1; Pr. 4:23; 10:11; 21:2; 24:12; Ezek. 11:21; 16:30; Mt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 8

“To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, he does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same (Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15-16); making intercession for them (Rom. 8:34; I Jn. 2:1-2); and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation (Jn. 15:13, 15; 17:6; Eph. 1:7-9); effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit (Jn. 14:16; 17:17; Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18-19; II Cor. 4:13; Heb. 12:2); overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation (Ps. 110:1; Mal. 4:2-3; I Cor. 15:25-26; Col. 2:15).”

This chapter on the mediatorial work of Christ, and this last section in particular, serve to transition us from the redemption accomplished by Christ, to its application for the elect. As noted with previous sections, this one continues to affirm that Christ died for a particular group of individuals, those whom the Father gave to him. For these and these alone, redemption is certain and effectual. Certainly, God could have saved all people, if that were his intention, but it was not. Rather, the Spirit is given to make his work effectual for his own. Christ also continues to intercede, that is, pray for each one. “Christ, as mediatorial King, seated at the right hand of God, applies the redemption he had effected as Priest.”1

Shaw gives several other Scripture proofs, firstly, that the Christ died for ‘many’, and not for ‘all’ (Cf. Is. 53:12; Mt. 20:28). “2. Those for whom Christ died are distinguished from others by discriminating characters. They are called ‘sheep’ (Jn. 10:15); the ‘church’ (Eph. 5:25); God’s ‘elect’ (Rom. 8:33); the ‘children of God’ (John 11:52). 3. Those whom Christ redeemed by his blood are said to be ‘redeemed from among men’ (rev. 14:4 Cf. 5:9). 4. The redemption obtained by Christ is restricted to those who were ‘chosen in him’, and whom the Father gave to him to redeem by his death (Eph. 1:4, 7; Jn. 17:2). 5. Christ died in the character of a surety, and therefore he laid down his life only for those whom he represented, or for his spiritual seed (Is. 53:10).”2

His redemption is certain, and not just possible or dependant on the recipients (Eph. 5:25-26; Tit. 2:14; I Pet 3:18; I Th. 5:10). 7-10. His intercession and other continuing benefits are for those whom the Father gave to him (Rom. 5:10; 8:32; Jn. 17:9; I Jn. 2:1-2). There were some, even while engaged in his earthly ministry, “to whom he even forbade his gospel to be preached (Mt. 10:5; Rom. 10:14).”3  As to those terms which express a sort of universality, Shaw points to a couple of biblical hermeneutics (or principles of interpretation) which should always be borne in mind. “Reason and common sense demand that ‘general’ phrases be explained and defined by those that are ‘special’, and only admit of one interpretation. The meaning in each case may usually be ascertained from the context.”4

Many such instances, as the context often intimates, seek to teach that redemption is for all classes or races of people throughout the inhabited earth. It is, after all, an election that is not based upon anything in some humans over against others, but is rather of pure unmerited favour. “Christ died with the purpose of executing the decree of election. His design in making atonement was definite, having respect to definite persons.”5 To this end, “he proceeds in the effectual application of redemption in the use of each of the four following methods: (1) By making intercession for the persons concerned. (2) By the revelation of the mysteries of salvation to them in his Word. (3) By the effectual operation of his Spirit on their hearts. (4) By all necessary dispensations of his providence.”6

1. Hodge, (153)

2. (158-9)

3. Ibid., (159)

4. Ibid., (160)

5. Hodge, (155)

6. Ibid., (153)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 7

“Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself (Heb. 9:14; I Pet. 3:18).” As taught in the first three sections of this chapter, Jesus the Christ was a person made of two natures – the Divine and human. In both natures, that is, his whole person, he fulfilled, and continues to fulfill the work of the Mediator between God and the elect. Only one who was of both natures, could truly represent both parties. As noted by Paul, “Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one” (Gal. 3:20). “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). This is also one of the main reasons why the new covenant administration of the one covenant of grace is ‘better’. “Now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Heb. 8:6).

As noted in the immediately preceding section, He also brought redemption to those saints under the administration of the first covenant. “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:13-15). As noted by Shaw, the second person of the Trinity also acted as Mediator before, under the first covenant. “It is a mediatorial act – the act of a prophet, to reveal the will of God; and it cannot be questioned that Christ was the author of revelation.”1

It was not only in his office as prophet that he also acted as Mediator under the first covenant, but also as priest. “It is a mediatorial act to intercede for the church; but this Christ did long before his incarnation.”2“Thus, also, the human nature of Christ was also necessary in order  that his person should be “made under the law;” and it is the subject of his vicarious sufferings, and the organ of his vicarious obedience and intercession as our representative Priest and Intercessor.”3“Yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature (Acts 20:28; Jn. 3:13; I Jn. 3:16).” Shaw also clarifies these points with the following. “The human nature alone could suffer and die; yet it is said, ‘The Lord of glory was crucified’; and, ‘God purchased the church with his own blood’ (I Cor. 2:8; Acts 20:28).”4

Also, as our kinsman-Redeemer (Heb. 2:5-18), he had to take on flesh and blood, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death , that is, the devil, and release those who fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, bring tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” 2:14b-18). He therefore also reigns as King, from the moment he created all things, and in the Triune God’s will, appointed humanity to bear the image of this reign on the earth. So Jesus as our Mediator, fulfilled the role as Prophet, Priest, and King, in both natures and one person.

1. Shaw, (157 Cf. Hodge, [152])

2. Ibid., (157)

3. Hodge, (152)

4. Shaw, (157)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 6

“Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof, were communicated unto the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed and signified to be the Seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same, and for ever (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 13:8; Rev. 13:8).” The LORD God did not stop the promise of redemption when he clothed Adam and Eve through the substitutionary sacrifice of another. The life taken, the blood shed, and the resulting clothing of Adam and Eve, in place of their own efforts, first spoke to how this relationship would be restored, a type and sacrifice which itself spoke of the promised Seed to come, in that first gospel promise (Gen. 3:15, 21).

Christ came at God’s appointed time (Gal. 4:4), but, as the writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8b). Concerning the fathers inclusion of Revelation 13:8, Van Dixhoorn makes the following point. “Considering the permanent efficacy of Christ’s redemptive work from the earliest times, they thought that one passage of Scripture spoke of a ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev. 13:8). The passage, however, is better rendered as a warning to ‘everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain’.”1Nevertheless, the truth still remains, that along with the saints under the first covenant, the Christ “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (II Tim. 1:9).

It is understandable that human beings, bound as we are to a world of time and history, should fail to keep in mind, that God, who is eternal, created time when he created the heavens and the earth. “Though four thousand years elapsed before he actually appeared in the flesh, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, yet he was exhibited from the beginning of the world, in promises, predictions, and types; and believers under the old Testament were saved by the merit of his sacrifice, as well as those under the New. Abraham ‘rejoiced to see his day’, and was justified in him.”2The idea that the saints under the first covenant could not be saved, and were thus held in some other suspended state, was in part put forward by a misconception of I Peter 3:18-22. “These verses are supposed to say that Jesus, during the three days (he was dead), descended to Noah and other spirits in prison and brought them to heaven.”3

Clark proceeded to give four reasons why this interpretation was erroneous. “First, verse 10 speaks of preaching the gospel, not of releasing spirits. Second, the spirits mentioned seem to be unsaved, not Noah and the Old Testament saints, because it was the gospel that was preached to them. Third, if it were all the Old Testament saints, the specific mention of Noah to the exclusion of later times is inexplicable.” There being also those before Noah. “And fourth, the passage does not say that Jesus preached to anyone during the three days of his entombment. It is rather the Spirit of Christ dwelling in Noah who preached to those who were disobedient in Noah’s day. If it seems strained to say that the Spirit of Christ preached as he dwelt in Noah, return to I Peter 1:11 where other Old Testament prophets are said to have tried to understand what the Spirit of Christ which was in them meant to teach in their prophecies.”4

There is one covenant of grace throughout all ages (WCF VII. 4-6). However, even under the first covenant the saints were given to understand that “God did not regard the Old Testament sacrifices as efficacious in themselves (Ps. 51:16). The very design of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was partly to show that these “could not make him that did the service perfect” (Heb. 9:9) in order that believers might look forward to that one offering by which Christ “hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). The law” (pertaining to the sacrifices) “was a mere shadow (Heb. 10:1) but it was a shadow “of good things to come” and therefore a means by which believers received the benefits of Christ before the work had actually been done.”5The administration of the one covenant of grace in the first covenant was good, but its fulfillment in the new is better. This is the change which the writer to the Hebrews makes his main point (8:1).

1. (124)

2. Shaw, (156)

3. Clark, (101)

4. Ibid., (101)

5. Williamson, (83)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 5

“The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of his Father (Rom. 3:25-26; 5:19; Eph. 5:2; Heb. 9:12, 15).” Here we affirm that Jesus’ “perfect obedience”, what is called his active obedience, or how he lived his sinless life according to God’s law, is the only acceptable sacrifice for sin, which is the violation of that law. Secondly, we here affirm that Jesus performed his work in the power of the Spirit. Thirdly, by the Spirit he freely gave his life as a sacrifice, it was not taken from him. Fourthly, this sacrifice of himself was unto God, and not primarily as only an example of selfless love, though it was also that. Fifth, he did this but once, unlike the Roman Catholic heresy that posits him being sacrificed anew with each mass. Finally, and most significantly, the sacrifice of himself on behalf of his own, “satisfied the justice of his Father.” It was indeed just that the Father should demand such a sacrifice, since in the beginning, man, represented in covenant with Adam, disobeyed that first command given, knowing that the punishment would justly be death (Cf. WCF. II. 1-2; VII.3-4).

“We are saved, not only by Christ’s death, but also by his life. This is a perfectly Scriptural idea, if only we do not deform and contort it as the modernists did. The apostle in Romans 5:10 says, “Much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” It is the righteousness Jesus earned by his life – theologians call his active obedience – that he imputes to us, making us righteous in God’s sight. Today it is customary to call this the doctrine of the atonement; but it used to be called the Satisfaction, and Satisfaction is rather the better name. Romans 3:25, 26 explain precisely what Christ did in his death; they show the method of salvation. Jesus Christ by his death expiates sin, propitiates the Father, and satisfies divine justice.”1Van Dixhoorn adds a further important distinction concerning Christ’s obedience. “Surely it is the whole of his obedience – both Christ’s general obedience to the whole law and Christ’s obedience in his role as mediator – that is in view in Paul’s letter to the Romans. There he speaks of ‘the obedience of one man’, Jesus Christ, through which many are ‘made righteous’ (Rom. 5:19).”2

Van Dixhoorn also has an interesting commentary on a Hebrews 9:14-16. “We must conclude that when our Lord Jesus Christ offered a sacrifice, he must have been doing it for others – for those who are sinners. This is in fact what the writer to the Hebrews says: Christ’s conscience was clear, and so he made an offering to ‘purge’ our ‘consciences from dead works’ (Heb. 9:14). Yes, Christ was tempted like all other people – in fact above and beyond any allurement or provocation that we may ever face. But he did not fall to temptation, both because of who he was and because he had the Spirit above all measure. As Hebrews 9 explains, it was ‘through the eternal Spirit’ that Christ ‘offered himself without spot to God’. And surely that is the most amazing fact of all: that the offering that Jesus Christ gave was his own self. That is an offering like no other – an offering of infinite merit and infinite worth. As Hebrews 9 tells us again, this was ‘necessary’ for our salvation (Heb. 9:14, 16). Jesus was to propitiate the wrath of God – he was to appease the wrath of God by a sacrifice (Rom. 3:25).”3The writer to the Hebrews also makes the point concerning propitiation (2:17, properly so translated in the NKJV. Cf. I Jn. 2:2; 4:10).

In addition to his active obedience, he followed this up with what is called his ‘passive’ obedience, that is, his passion. This sacrifice also “purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto him (Dan. 9:24-26; Jn. 17:2; Eph. 1:11-14; Col. 1:19-20; Heb. 9:12-15; Js. 1:17).” There was enmity between God and fallen humanity, an enmity that could only be removed by a mediator, which what took place when the Son’s sacrifice was accepted by the Father on behalf of “all those whom the Father had given unto him.” Here we have affirmed that Christ died for the elect only, that he is that promised seed who would shift the enmity between the elect and God to an enmity between God, the elect, and the seed of Satan, the rest of humanity. However, salvation is not just limited to the rescue from death to live with the LORD God forever. Rather, in the Son we also receive an abundant inheritance, one which we begin to enjoy the moment we are regenerated by the spirit, and made sons and daughters of God. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10)

“He suffered by the appointment of God, who alone had a right to admit of the death of a surety in the room of transgressors; he suffered in the same nature that had sinned; his sufferings were voluntary and obediential (sic), and therefore possessed a moral fitness for making reparation to the injured honours of the divine law; he was Lord of his own life, and had a right to lay it down in the room of others; and his sufferings were, from the dignity of his person, of infinite value for the expiation of our sins. That the sacrifice of Christ was fully satisfactory to divine justice, cannot be questioned. An apostle testifies that the sacrifice which Christ offered up was for ‘a sweet smelling savour unto God’ (Eph. 5:2). Christ himself announced that the satisfaction was complete, when, on the cross, he proclaimed, ‘It is finished.’ And we have a most decisive proof of the satisfactory nature of his sacrifice, in his resurrection from the dead and his glorious exaltation in heaven.”4There is indeed the possibility of imagining that this sacrifice was and is sufficient to save all humanity, and the world, but scripture teaches that it is an atonement limited to the elect.

The doctrine of ‘limited atonement’ will be explored further later (XI.3), but it is perhaps regrettable that in English this adjective was chosen to fulfill an arbitrary acronym of the ‘TULIP’, has helpful as this may be to remembering “the doctrines of grace,” being total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. It is regrettable, because it should never be conceived as limited, but rather only particular or definite in application. Williamson made this point when he wrote that “this term has given rise to the misconception that the Reformed Churches “limit” the atonement, whereas the Arminian groups do not.”5The exact opposite is in fact the case, because Arminians limit it in its power to save, being subject, as they teach, to the autonomous will of fallen humanity. The fact is, even Arminians acknowledge that not all people are saved. It is really a question of how one accounts for this fact. “Those who are actually saved are those whom it was ever God’s design to save.”6The design was never to save all men, but only the elect according to grace. This doctrine was in fact the first move to apostacy for many.7

“Christ actually took upon himself the sin and punishment of his people (Is. 53; Rom. 5:19; Heb. 3:25-26; 10:14). They in turn receive the imputed righteousness of Christ (I Cor. 5:21, etc). They are pardoned because their sin is punished in Christ. And they are restored because his righteousness becomes theirs. Thus it becomes painfully clear that the only way to extend the design of the atonement so as to include everyone equally within its provision is to denature it and to eliminate its substitutionary character. But if we hold, with Scripture, that in this, as in all other redemptive works of God, he had in view a special people, then we may magnify its power and rest our faith securely therein.”8Scripture “teaches us that Jesus was so named because he would ‘save his people’ from their sin (Matt. 1:21). He gave his life a ransom for many (Matt. 28). He promised that he would actually save all that the Father had given him (John 6:37,39). In Romans 8:29 the apostle states the fact that only those predestined of God to subsequently receive salvation do actually receive the same. Each particular benefit of salvation is therefore unfolded to them (Rom. 8:30).”9

It is worth quoting further from Williamson, who did such a good job on this point of the atonement. “The basis of it all, he (Paul) says, is that God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (8:32). It is because they are elect that they are the recipients of the atonement of Christ, and it is no wonder that, God having given his Son unto death for them, he will also with him freely give them all things (8:32).”10We have Christ’s word on this (Jn. 6:38-39; 10:15ff.; 17:9-10). “These words were not spoken by one who intended that his death benefit all men in the same way. And certainly they do not indicate a mere intention of making salvation possible. They are the words of one who intended to surely save his people from their sins. It is true of course, that certain texts of Scripture seem applicable to a universal design of the atonement (such as Heb. 2:9, II Cor. 5:14,15; I John 2:2, I Tim. 4:10, etc). concerning such texts the following may be said: (1) the context is often ignored. (2) The failure to discern the proper meaning of Scripture terms by a comparison of Scripture with Scripture. (3) Finally, there are certain gracious benefits that accrue to the whole human race.”11

“God was not merely rendered reconcilable, but fully reconciled by the death of Christ (Rom. 5:10-11).”12Inheritance is also procured, based as it is on title. “Christ not only sustained the full infliction of the penalty of the law, to obtain for his people deliverance from condemnation, but also perfectly fulfilled its precept, to procure for them title to the eternal inheritance. Indeed, his endurance of the penalty, and his obedience to the precept of the law, though they may be distinguished, cannot be separated, and constitute that one righteousness which is meritorious of their complete salvation. ‘Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. 5:21) ‘By Chris’s satisfaction, says the accurate Witsius, ‘deliverance from sin, and all the happy effects of that immunity, were purchased at once for all the elect in general.’”13Hodge also makes a vital point with respect to those saints who died before Christ finished his work. “Although this perfect satisfaction was rendered in his obedience and suffering only subsequently to his incarnation, yet the full benefits thereof had been applied to each of the elect” before (Cf. VII.. 5-6).14

A further point from Hodge is worth noting, tying a number of points together. “The sufferings of Christ secure the remission of the penalty; and by his active obedience, according to the terms of the covenant made with Adam and assumed by Christ, he purchases a right to life and eternal blessedness. That he has so purchased a right to life for all those whose stead he rendered obedience, is proved from the fact that the Scriptures habitually set forth the truth that the “adoption of sons” and “eternal life” are given to the believer freely for Christ’s sake, as elements of that ‘purchased possession’ of which the Holy Spirit is the earnest. Eph. i.11-14; Rom. viii.15-17; Gal. i.4; iii.13,14; iv.4,5; Eph. v.25-27; Tit. Iii.5,6; Rev. i.5,6; v.9,10.”15Biblical salvation is covenantal through and through. It is only through headship that our sin can be imputed to Christ, since he knew no sin, and his righteousness imputed to us. There were certainly external members of the covenant of old who were not the true beneficiaries of its blessings, just as there have been to the present in the visible church. However, none of this takes away from the ideal of being a member of Christ’s body, visible and invisible.

There is one final point to be made with respect to the fulfilling of the prophecy of Daniel as we find it at 9:26-27. There we read the following. “And after the sixty-two weeks (cf. vv. 24-25) Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined (26). Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” Matthew records this as occurring in 70 AD (24-25), as also Luke (21). Sacrifices and the temple, along with the city, did indeed come to an end then. At this time, the Messianic reign of Jesus the Christ began, also in fulfillment of Daniel’s words at 7:13-14, having been exalted to the right hand of the Father. This reign will continue from heaven until, as Paul wrote, “He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:26).

1. Clark, (98-100)

2. (120)

3. Ibid., (120-1)

4. Shaw, (154-5)

5. Williamson, (79)

6. Ibid., (79)

7. Ibid., (80 – The UPCNA in 1925).

8. Ibid., (80)

9. Ibid., (80)

10. Ibid., (80)

11. Ibid., (80-81 “See Gen. 8:20-9:17 for the provisions of the covenant of grace applicable to all men. [81])

12. Shaw, (155)

13. Ibid., (155-6 Witsius, ‘Economy of the Covenants’, book ii. Ch. 7. “see also Turretin, vol. iv – De Satisfactione Christi.” [156])

14. (149)

15. (150-1)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 3-4

“The Lord Jesus, in his human nature was thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure (Ps. 45:7; Jn. 3:34); having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell (Col. 1:19); to the end, that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 7:26), he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety (Acts 10:38; Heb. 7:22; 12:24). Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father (Heb. 5:4-5); who put all power and judgment into his hand and gave commandment to execute the same (Mt. 28:18; Jn. 5:22, 27; Acts 2:36).” Here the fathers wanted to make clear that Jesus was victorious in his work not by being somehow empowered by his divine nature, but rather, that he was anointed for his threefold office by the Spirit’s power without measure.

“Christians have long recognized that before his tormentors could begin their dirty work, Jesus had already discovered in a garden the agonizing pangs of the penalty reserved for sinners (Matt. 26:37,38; Luke 22:44). John Calvin called this Christ’s ‘descent into hell’, borrowing a phrase in the Apostle’s Creed to make his point. It was on the cross that Jesus finally cried out in anguish, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt. 27:46).”1It would appear that the fathers understood his being ordained and appointed as his “commandment to do the same.” “It was necessary that he be given divine orders to fulfill the task (Heb. 5:1; Lk. 4:18). The Old Testament persons anointed of God to hold messianic offices by way of anticipation were supernaturally endowed for their work by a special operation of the Holy Spirit distinct from such operations as he may have performed for (or in) them personally (see I Sam. 10:1,6, compared with I Sam. 28:18:16, Judges 14:6, 16:20).”2

“Jesus was the guarantor of the covenant, the covenant discussed in the previous chapter. And he knew what the cost of serving as a guarantor would be, for he knew that we are perpetual breakers. Christ could be the ‘mediator’ of a ‘new covenant’ that speaks ‘ as Hebrews 12 says , only if he also ‘became the guarantor [or surety] of that covenant’ as Hebrews 7 says (Heb. 12:24; 7:22). Yet in his grace and mercy Jesus accepted that office. Incredibly, he considered it an honour to do so. No man takes this honour, this glory to himself – he awaits the call of God, as Hebrews 5 explains (Heb. 5:4,5). And that call came. Our Lord was ‘called by his Father’ to be our mediator, and the Father gave him all that he needed for his task. Of course he gave him the Holy Spirit beyond all measure, for his work was appallingly arduous and his suffering would be great. Our mediator is one who was given all power (Mt. 28:18), and to him is committed all judgment (John 5:22,27).”3

“It was Christ’s loving eagerness that the author of the letter to the Hebrews noted as he reflected on the meaning of Psalm 40. He points out that just after the psalmist dismissed the sufficiency of temple sacrifices and offerings in verse 6, a person suddenly appears in verses 8-9 who says that he is coming, that he would delight to do God’s will and obey God’s law. Who else could this be but Christ himself? He would serve as the true intermediary, and he would keep God’s law (compare Psa. 40:6-9 with Heb. 10:5-12) and becomes obedient ‘to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). So it was that when God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, this Son was born ‘under the law’ (Gal. 4:4).”4It should be noted, that the author to the Hebrews sees the Son’s fulfillment of the whole of the law, including brining to fulfillment of the sacrificial system, that the latter would then be changed to the simplicity of the new covenant ceremonies, and the former kept to continue.

“This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake (Ps. 40:7-8; Jn. 10:18; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 10:5-10); which he might discharge, he was made under the law (Gal. 4:4), and did perfectly fulfill it (Mt. 3:15; 5:17); endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul (Mt. 26:37-38; 27:46; Lk. 22:44), and most painful sufferings in his body (Mt. 26-27); was crucified, and died (Phil. 2:8); was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption (Acts 2:23-24, 27; 13:37; Rom. 6:9). On the third day he arose from the dead (I Cor. 15:3-5), with the same body in which he suffered (Jn. 20:25-27); with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father (Mk. 6:19), making intercession (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24); and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world (Mt. 13:40-42; Acts 1:11; 10:42; Rom. 14:9-10; II Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).” In the single ‘office’ of a mediator and surety, the Son fulfills the three anointed offices.

“By living a righteous life, that is, by keeping the whole law, he earned a righteousness that could be imputed to us who have none.”5This we call his active obedience, only in comparison to his passion. However, it must not be forgotten that in his passion he actively gave of himself. His life was not in this sense taken from him. The shorter catechism, immediately following the treatment of Christ’s office as King, then moves on at Q & A 27 to teach of his humiliation, consisting “in his being born, and that in a low condition (Lk. 2:7), made under the law (Gal 4:4), undergoing the miseries of this life (Is. 53:3), the wrath of God (Mt. 27:46), and the cursed death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time (I Cor. 15:4).” In the same way the Confession begins first with Christ’s humiliation, and then goes on to his exaltation. It is thus half way through section 4 that we come to his exaltation.

“It can be unhesitatingly said that Christ at all times performed his preaching, worked his miracles, and yielded perfect obedience, in entire dependence upon the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). Thus he said, “I can do nothing of myself” (John 8:28). His constant praying evidences his entire dependence upon God.” This being the case with the Christ, how much more do we need prayer. “It is equally true and important that he was possessed of a divine nature. Thus he was, in and of himself, able to lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:17). Endowment by the Holy Spirit as to his human nature could not have given him this divine authority and power.”6Shaw gives quite a full and valuable ‘Exposition’ of section 4 (147-154), as does Hodge of both 3 and 4 (143-148). Suffice it to stress that unlike many other Reformed confessions, old and new, here in the latter part of the 4thsection we find the biblical stress on the ascension.

1. Van Dixhoorn (117)

2. Williamson, (76)

3. Van Dixhoorn, (115)

4. Ibid., (116-117)

5. Clark, (97)

6. Williamson, (76)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 2

“The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature (Jn 1:1, 14; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; I Jn. 5:20), with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:15); being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance (Lk. 1:27, 31, 35; Gal. 4:4).” The Roman church, who like some protestants and others, who conceived of the transmission of the sinful nature by way of procreation instead of our covenantal inclusion in Adam, put forward the idea of the immaculate conception of Mary, to try and explain how Jesus could be born of a human, without sin. This is not a problem if one understands the biblical doctrine of the covenant, that Jesus being the appointed head of the new covenant, was not included in the covenant broken in Adam.

“So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition or confusion (Lk. 1:35; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; I Tim. 3:16; I Pet. 3:18). Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (Rom. 1:3-4; I Tim. 2:5).” This conception obviously draws on the Confession of Chalcedon (AD 451), showing that the authors saw the value of its connection with the profession of the true Catholic Church which had gone before. It is important for the church to show our continuity with the faithful professions of the past. As the saying goes, there is no point in reinventing the wheel, and the Chalcedon stood firmly on the scriptural testimony from the beginning. Therefore, there is nothing novel here. Here we should note the origin of the sonship of Jesus, that it has been from all eternity, and hence the expression – by ‘eternal generation’.

Jesus human nature was fully human – that being both body and soul. “That Christ had a human soul is equally unquestionable. He ‘increased in wisdom and stature’ (Luke 2:52); the one in respect of his body, the other in respect of his soul. In his agony, he said, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ (Mark 14:34); and on the cross, he committed it to his Father, saying ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46).”1 Jesus had a human mind. It is for this reason we are said to have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16). The Son was in the likeness of sinful flesh, but being the destined head of a new covenant, he was sinless from before and through his human conception. “The purity of our Lord’s human nature was necessary to qualify him for his mediatory work; for if he had been himself a sinner, he could not have satisfied for the sins of others. ‘Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners’ (Heb. 7:26).”2

“That the Godhead and the manhood are united in the one person of Christ is confirmed by all those passages of Scripture which speak of two natures as belonging to our Saviour (e.g., Is. 4:6; Mt. 1:18; Rom. 4:5). In consequence of this union, the attributes and acts which are proper to one nature are ascribed to the person of Christ. He could only obey and suffer in the human nature, but his obedience and sufferings are predicated of him as the Son of God – as the Lord of Glory (I Cor. 2:8; Heb. 5:8).” There is no other mediator between God and humanity (I Tim. 2:5). “This is not a case of man becoming God (which will never happen). This is God becoming man.”3“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9 Cf. Rom. 9:5). “There was no ‘conversion’ – the divinity was not lost in humanity, or humanity in divinity. There was no ‘composition’ – the incarnation did not result in some new creature that was neither God nor man. In fact, there was no ‘confusion’ between the human nature and divine nature at all.”4

The apostle John, who gave such a clear statement of the eternal sonship of the Word, also issued grave warnings upon those who would espouse heretical views with respect to the Son’s person in his first and second letters respectively (4:2-4; vv. 9-10). Williamson notes a number of these heresies that arouse to be refuted at Chalcedon. “(1) Apollinaris taught that Christ had a body and soul, but that in place of a human spirit Christ had a divine Logos, or Word; (2) Nestorianism taught that there are two separate persons, the one divine and the other human, rather than one person having two natures, in Christ; (3) Eutychianism taught that in the person of Christ incarnate there was but a single, and that a divine, nature.”5There were others, such as Docetism, the doctrine, important in Gnosticism, that Christ’s body was not human but either a phantasm or of real but celestial substance, and that therefore his sufferings were only apparent.

Williamson also rightly makes reference to the Larger Catechism at this point, with regard to the impossibility, and indeed the prohibition, of any human representation of the Son. “The modern practice of making pictures of Christ as if his human nature could properly be portrayed by itself is not only a fearful error; it is impossible. For this reason the Westminster Larger Catechism consistently declares “the making of any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever” as a violation of the second commandment (Q 109).”6 One final point must be noted, in that the Son was partaker only of the human substance of Eve, Paul stated that he was “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), and in so doing we must understand that he is the only one who could fulfill the first gospel promise of Gen. 3:15, namely that he is of the seed of the woman, although also the seed of Abraham (Heb. 2:16), and David (Rom. 1:3).7

1. Shaw, (144)

2. Ibid., (144)

3. Van Dixhoorn, (111)

4. Ibid., (112)

5. (74)

6. (75)

7. Again, for a thorough treatment of a systematic theology on this section, as others, see Hodge (137-142).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 1

“It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man (Is. 42:1; Jn. 3:16; I Tim. 2:5; I Pet. 1:19-20).” Even as the Father has elected a certain number out of the human race to receive salvation, it was necessary also that he, with the willingness of the son, and the witness of the Spirit, to set apart the Son to be a mediator between the triune God and elect sinners (Cf. WCF. 3:3-6). Furthermore, it is within the context of the covenant of grace that this mediator would come and act on behalf of the elect (WCF. 7:3-4). As this covenant is seen in the history of progressive revelation, variously administered, even so the work of the promised mediator is also seen to progress to an ever increasing revelation. Jesus was born with a purpose, and to this purpose he was ordained. See also the WLC 32, 36, 38-42.

Such a mediator had to be able to represent both parties, so that this is but one reason for the incarnation of the Son of God. When he was born under law, of the virgin Mary, and when he was of age, in his case 30, he was tested in the wilderness for 40 days of the devil, after his anointing of the Spirit. In this trial, the devil tested the Messiah on all three offices for which he was anointed, in his one person. He was first of all tested with respect to his office as a prophet, whether the word would be his first and only axiom of all thought and practice (Mt. 4:1-4). Next the devil tested him on how he would serve as the temple Priest of God’s presence (Mt. 4:5-7). Finally, the devil tempted him with the promise of all the kingdoms of the world, but he chose the path to his Messianic reign over all the kingdoms of the world in the worship and service of the LORD of the covenant.

The same progressive revelation coming to fruition in the Son, is given proof in the covenantal prologue of Hebrews 1:1-4, he who would follow in covenantal succession to the last of the old covenant administrations of grace in David. The son was in fact he by whom the prophets spoke, and who created the ages in which they spoke in this progressive revelation of himself (vv.1-2). The last days of the old covenant came to completion when the son ascended to his rightful place at the right hand of the Father, when, as our Great High Priest, “He had by Himself purged our sins.” He then, having fulfilled these two prerequisites, sat to reign as the Prophet-Priest-King (v. 3). The fact is, in the old testament, it was taught that only the Messiah could occupy all three offices in his one person as God and man (). His was the Son’s inheritance, all contained in his name – Jesus the Christ.

“The Prophet (Acts 3:22), Priest (Heb. 5:5-6), and King (Ps. 2:6; Lk. 1:33); the Head and Saviour of his Church (Eph. 5:23); Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2); and Judge of the world (Acts 17:31).”      These truths find even fuller expression in the Shorter (23-26), and Larger Catechisms (42-45). As regards the role of “Judge of the world (Acts 17:31),” it is important to note that Jesus as the righteous One, was also ordained to this task, it being committed to him by the Father (Jn. 5:22). “Head and Saviour” of course refers to his role as mediator being within the context of the covenant of grace (Ch. VII.), and to whom the Father “did from all eternity give a people to be his seed (Ps. 22:30; Is. 53:10; Jn. 17:6), and to be by him redeemed, called, justified, sanctified and glorified (Is. 55:4-5; I Cor. 1:30; I Tim. 2:6).” Section V refers back to the rest of this chapter as dealing with reconciliation (Cf. Hodge, 133-137).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VII. 4-6

“The covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a Testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed (Heb. 7:22; 9:15-17; Lk. 22:20; I Cor. 11:25).” The authors of the Confession had before them and the church, the Authorized or King James version only. To this end they sought to clarify, in the context here of dealing with the covenant, the appearance of the word ‘testament’. Indeed, the bible itself continues to be referred to as the Old and New Testament. Shaw summarizes the issue well in the following. “In Authorised Version of the New Testament, the covenant of grace is frequently designated a testament; and it is generally admitted, that the original word signifies both a covenant and a testament. There is, at least, one passage in which it is most properly rendered ‘testament, namely, Hebrews 9:16,17. Some learned critics, indeed, have strenuously contended against the use of that term even in this passage; but the great majority allow that the common translation is unexceptionable.”1

This has proven to be the case with subsequent English translations of the word ‘diatheke’. The NASB translators chose not to use the word ‘testament’ even at Hebrews 9:16-17. The NKJV uses the word ‘testament’ here, but in the other places where the KJV uses testament, the NKJV uses covenant. Other translations, such as the ESV, use the word ‘will’, no doubt to convey the same thought as testament in a more colloquial use. However, the NKJV by parting ways with the KJV on the other passages, but in keeping the word testament here, helps the reader to perhaps understand the name which continues to be applied to the first and second of the two major epochs of revelation. At Hebrews 9:16-17 the author appears to want to convey both ideas as being found in the word ‘diatheke’ for specific reasons. The author sought to demonstrate that the Son came as the successor of the last administration of the one redemptive covenant of grace in David, and having demonstrated this (Chs 1-2), he wants to convey that he passes the blessings of the covenant to his people as an inheritance offered in him.

“Where death is the effective basis of a covenant, as, pre-eminently, with the death of Christ and the implementation of the new covenant, it is the death of one offered in sacrifice; but death of any kind, violent or peaceful, suffices for the provisions made by a testator in his will to take effect. The sacrificial death of Christ, therefore, answers the demands both of a covenant and of a testament.”2That is, it is not an either/or use of diatheke, but a both/and, such is the expansive comprehensive nature of the relationship which exists between Christ and his people. The context of Hebrews 9:16-17 clearly points to the testamentary aspect more than the covenantal. To this end the Confession points out “the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.” “This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel (II Cor. 3:6-9): under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come (Rom. 4:11; I Cor. 5:7; Col. 2:11-12; Heb. 8-10).”

The terms used in the so-called “time of the law and gospel” were often used in the past to signify the old and new testaments by reference to that which most characterized each administration, but such terminology has largely been dropped, since many use the terms to deny what the authors actually wanted to affirm, that law is continued in the new testament, and gospel is also to be found in the old. The inseparable connection between these two aspects is reinforced by way of the new fulfilling the promises, prophecies, and sacrificial system of the old, as the saints in the old administration looked ahead to the Messiah, whom we look back to. It should be noted that the fathers did not include the moral law, or the civil case code as something that is changed or somehow abrogated in the new, and therefore, as has been seen by their overall axiom of the scriptures as a whole, that these are to be understood as continuing. This is in fact clearly stated by the Lord, with the warning of judgment against any who would contradict him (Mt. 5:17-20). There are also various ‘types and ordinances’ which Christ fulfills.

All these elements in the older administration “were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah (Jn. 8:56; I Cor. 10:1-4; Heb. 11:13), by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament (Gal. 3:7-9, 14).” The Confession clearly affirms the very same gospel as is found in the new administration is also in the old. Any differences therefore, are to be understood by way of administration. “Under the gospel, when Christ the substance (Col. 2:17), was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are, the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Mt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 11:23-25); which though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy (Jer. 31:33-34; Heb. 12:22-27), to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles (Mt. 28:19; Eph. 2:15-19; and is called the New Testament (Lk. 22:20).”

The two key elements in the Christian church are the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments, and although more ‘full’ and ‘efficacious’ than the old, are still of the same gospel substance. Furthermore, it was the responsibility of the older testament people of God to extend the gospel to the nations, this also finds greater emphasis in the new. The signs and sacraments of the covenant go from circumcision to baptism, and the Passover is now the Lord’s supper. “There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations (Ps. 32:1; Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:21-23, 30; 4:3, 6, 16-17, 23-24; Gal. 3:14, 16; Heb. 13:8).” Just as clarification was required in the authors’ use of the word ‘testament’, even so the word ‘dispensation’ calls for clarification. Given the heresy of dispensationalism, which in fact advocates at least two different ways by which the people of God were and are saved, a better word would be the one that is at times also employed in the Confession, that being ‘administration’.

1. (136)

2. P. Hughes, ‘A Commentary On The Epistle To The Hebrews’ (369)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VII. 1-3

“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he has been please to express by way of covenant (I Sam. 2:25; Job 9:32-33; 22:2-3; 35:7-8; Pss. 113:5-6; 100:2-3; Is. 40:13-17; Hos. 6:5; Lk. 17:10; Acts 17:24-25).” The Fathers recognized that there is ample scriptural proof that God established the human race in a covenant relationship with himself through its head – Adam. However, it includes more than the human creatures, it includes all creatures. When they indicated that a reasonable creature owes obedience, they focused on that central core of being human – being of a rational mind to in fact see the reasonableness of obeying the Creator. For this reason many choose to describe this first covenant as ‘the covenant of creation’.1

This is certainly what is implied in the first section of this chapter. However, it has also come to be called, as here in the second section, a covenant of works, given the probationary law test which was imposed upon the head of creation – humanity in Adam.2“The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works (Gal. 3:12), wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity (Rom. 5:12-20; 10:5), upon condition of perfection and personal obedience (Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10).” “As Christ was a federal head, representing all his spiritual seed in the covenant of grace, so Adam was a federal head representing all his natural seed in the covenant of works (I Cor. 15:45-47).”3 Although it is called a covenant of works, that is as to the requirement of perfect obedience. However, there is a sense in which any move on God’s part to establish a relationship with his creatures is itself a condescension of grace. Life eternal would also been a gift, if we had obeyed.4

Obedience to our Creator is but our duty, whether in the covenant of works or that of grace. Clark also brings out the point that, should one complain that they were thus regarded as acting through Adam as the covenantal head of humanity, “God could have tested each descendent personally in exactly the same way he decided to test Adam. God did not have to grant eternal life to succeeding generations merely because Adam obeyed.”5 Clark also points out the biblical conception on how sin is thus transmitted to Adam’s posterity. Some teach that our sinful nature is passed on by the simple act of pro-creation, that is physically. This is but one example where the church still retains a kind of pagan dualism, where the body is evil in and of itself. However, as Reformed, we know that the whole of our constitution is affected. Rather, we sinned in Adam by way of he representing us as our covenantal head, so that at that moment we became sinners in him.

“This idea brings to our attention the interesting relation that God established between Adam and his posterity. It was not merely that Adam was their father. He was, in addition, their representative. His act was to be counted as their act. He acted for and instead of them. This relation was mentioned in the reference to imputed guilt in Chapter VI, and further explanations will be given when we arrive at the relation between Christ and those who believe on him. Chapter VI also made it quite clear that Adam did not fulfill the covenant of works. He disobeyed, and thereby made necessary a second covenant, if anyone was to be saved.”6 Hodge makes the same point. “This covenant was also in its essence a covenant of grace, in that it graciously promised life in the society of God as the freely-granted reward of an obedience already unconditionally due.”7

Shaw makes the following point, should anyone be so proud as to think that they may have acted differently. “Adam, being made after the image of God, was as capable of keeping the covenant as any of his posterity could ever be supposed to be; that he should fulfill it was as much his personal interest as that of any of his descendants.”8It should also be noted that the tree that our head was commanded not to eat from was described as “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”(Gen. 2:9). This is crucial to understand. The chief point of contact, and here of the one command of our probation, was a clearly epistemological one, with its concomitant of ethics. We decided to reject the revelation of the Creator, and in its place we accepted the lies of the Serpent, and reasoning apart from revelation we thus sinned by transgressing God’s law. This continues to be the key issue today.

“Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second (Gen. 3:15; Is. 42:6; Gal. 3:21; Rom. 3:20-21; 8:3), commonly called the Covenant of Grace: whereby he freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 10:6, 9; Gal. 3:11); and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe (Ezek. 36:26-27; Jn. 6:44-45; Acts 13:48).” In a similar manner, even though the covenant of grace is called such, it is not to imply that works are not involved in the covenant relationship. However, the requirement of repentance and faith is provided by God as a gift, and so also our works are as a result of God working in and through us by his grace. Here we see that the promise is still life, but it is life which must now be inseparable from salvation.

Van Dixhoorn makes a valuable point here. “From the words ‘requiring them’ and ‘promising…those’ it appears that WCF 7.3 presents the covenant as made with sinners; it does not specify whether the covenant is made with sinners in Christ. In WCF 7.6 it is clear that the substance of the covenant of grace is Christ himself. Where the first covenant is a deep expression of God’s willingness to have fellowship with mere creatures, this second covenant is a staggering display of God’s willingness to forgive and to have fellowship with those who are unworthy.”9 Some would argue that the word covenant does not occur with either of these, but we believe in the trinity, though the word also does not occur in the bible. The point is that all the elements of a covenant are there. Furthermore, salvation is also a trinitarian reality, in that we are given the Holy Spirit that we might be willing.

“When Ezekiel recorded God’s promise of a ‘new heart’ for heartless sinners, he was also told to tell of ‘a new Spirit’ who would be ‘within’ us (Ezek. 36:26). It is by this Spirit that the Father would ‘draw us’ to the waters of salvation, and teach us to come to Christ (John 6:44,45). And remember too that this gift is for those who are ‘ordained unto eternal life’ and nothing less. For in this second covenant, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have offered a relationship to us that will never end.”10 “In this covenant the Mediator assumes in behalf of his elect seed the broken conditions of the old covenant of works precisely as Adam left them. Christ therefore suffered the penalty, and extinguished in behalf of all whom he represented the claims of the old covenant. Subsequently, in the administration and gracious application of this covenant, Christ the Mediator offers the blessings secured by it to all men on the condition of faith.”11

1. ‘The Christ Of The Covenants’ O. Palmer Robertson.

2. The Shorter catechism in fact calls it the covenant of life, since that was the promise held out as a reward for obedience (#12).

3. Shaw, (129)

4. John Murray, ‘The Covenant Of Grace’.

5. (86)

6. (86)

7. (122)

8. (130 Cf. Shaw also makes the point that the fathers rejected the notion of a so-called ‘covenant of redemption’ between the persons of the trinity 131-2. The trinity certainly determined in eternity to establish these covenants, and with respect to the covenant of grace, the roles played by each person 133-)

9. (100)

10. Ibid., (101)

11. Hodge, (125 Cf. WLC Ch. 7)