Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chapter Seven: Of God's Covenant with Man

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Plain Language

1. God and his creation are completely different, as if there were a vast gulf between them. Generally speaking, people know they should obey God. But because the distance between them is so great, they do not have the ability to enjoy him on a personal level. So the only way for them to really know God is for him to voluntarily cross the gap between them. He crosses that gap by means of a Covenant.[1]

2. God made the first covenant with Adam, often called the “covenant of works.” He told Adam that he would let him and all his descendents live if he obeyed God perfectly.

3. When Adam sinned, he messed up the first covenant for all his descendents. So the Lord made a second covenant, often called the “covenant of grace.” This covenant was different because it did not depend upon obeying God perfectly. Instead, God offered to give sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ. He only requires that they believe in Jesus to be saved. Since he chose the ones who would be saved before he created the world, he promises to make them willing and able to believe Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. The Scriptures treat this covenant of grace like the final will and testament of Jesus Christ, because upon his death he left a rich, never-ending inheritance to all those who believe in him.

5. The covenant of grace was presented differently in the time of the law (the Old Testament) and in the time of the Gospel (the New Testament). In the Old Testament, it was presented to the Jews through promises, prophecies, animal sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover lamb, and other symbols and commanded practices.[2] All these things pointed ahead to the coming of Jesus Christ. They were all that was necessary for the Spirit to teach God’s chosen people about faith in the promised Messiah. When they believed in him, God’s people received forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.

6. In the New Testament, Christ fulfilled all these Old Testament signs and symbols and reduced the commanded practices to the preaching of the Word and two holy ceremonies:[3] Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Although there are now fewer commanded practices that are simpler and less showy, their meaning, witness, and spiritual power are greater.  They are also intended for all people-groups, not just the Jews.

Even though the covenant of grace was presented differently in the Old and New Testaments, there is still only one covenant of grace, exactly the same in both periods of time.

[1] Theological Term: Covenant

[2] Theological Term: Ordinance

[3] Theological term: Sacrament

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