Trinitarian Reformational

An integrated vision

The Three Covenants

A.  It is critical to distinguish between three covenants, each between the three Persons in the first instance — each with the appropriate human response.

  1. The first is the covenant of creation: the Father calls all things into existence, through the Son and the effective operation of the Holy Spirit. The proper human response to this is obedience to the creational and revealed laws and norms.
  2. The second is the covenant of redemption: the Son vicariously lays down his life as the sole basis for salvation in agreement with the Father, and the Holy Spirit ‘opens the gate of heaven to the elect’ (as Calvin puts it).  This from a human point of view is justification by faith alone through grace.
  3. The third is the covenant of glory: the Holy Spirit transforms those who have been justified according to the will of the Father to ‘the fullness of the measure of Christ’ This  culminates in the entire purging of the universe of all evil and the new heaven and earth.  Applied to elect humanity, this is sanctification.

B. In each of these covenants, a different Person takes the leading role.  In creation the Father takes the leading role, in redemption, the Son and in transformation, the Holy Spirit.  However, not exclusively.  In each of the great acts, the other two Persons are involved perichoretically, as we see above. In creation, the Son is the Word of the Father, made effective through the Holy Spirit.  In redemption, the Son is appointed as Christ by the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit.  In transformation, the Holy Spirit is send by the Father according to the measure or shape of the Son.

C. The three covenants can also be seen in the threefold character of the Son’s office as Christ, the Second Adam.  As Second Adam, he is first of all the example of what created humanity was created to be — this is his prophetic role calling fallen humanity back to God’s creatorly intention for humanity.   ‘Second Adam’ also refers to his substitionary role, as the one who died in Adam’s place, that is on behalf of the elect — this is his priestly/sacrificial role, both High Priest and Lamb,  ‘Second Adam’ finally refers to his eschatological role — the human being of the future, the first fruits of the dead and the prototype and king and  of the transformed and restored creation.  In broader terms, the Son is Word (through whom all things were created), Christ (in whom alone is redemption), and Lord (who alone has the authority from the Father and power from the Holy Spirit over all areas of the transformation of the created order).

D. Office is a function of the Person (the Son in relation to the Father and the Holy Spirit) not the nature. he Son’s role as Christ should not be assimilated to his humanity (in contrast to, say, his role as Logos which is then seen purely as a function of his divinity).  Rather, the Son’s office as Christ is as both fully divine and fully human.

E.  The three covenants should not be confused.  For example, we are saved not through works (creational) nor through our sanctification (transformational), but solely through the death of Christ (redemptive).  At the same time, these covenants build on one another — the basis for setting right the failure of humanity to respond rightly to the creation mandate, provided by the Son in his role as Logos,  is the act of redemption to provide justification fo the elect, accomplished by the Son in his role as Christ, for which the final act of consummation, prepared for by the sanctification of the elect and the inaugurated restoration, indeed transformation, of the fallen creation as a whole, is the return of the Son in his office as Lord and Judge.

F. The different biblical covenants (Adamic, Noachic, Mosaic, Davidic – are all mixtures of all three covenants.  It important to distinguish the creational, redemptive and transformational strands in all these).  These biblical covenants should not be regarded as successive dispensations, but rather as the progressive revelation of God’s purposes.

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June 23, 2010 - Posted by | Belief, Calvinism and Reformed Theology, Christian, Christian Worldview, Covenant, Doctrine/Theology, Reformational Thought, Reformed theological, Reformed Theology, Spirit, TriniTalk, Trinitarian, Trinity, Trintarian, Truth and Doctrine, Worldview, worldviews

2 Comments »

  1. Very interesting. I haven’t heard or read it broken down in just that fashion before. I usually distinguish between three cov’ts as well. 1) The Cov’t of Redemption – the eternal “agreement” between the persons of the Trinity to redeem a people and bring them into the divine fellowship (insofar as creatures are able to enter into that fellowship). 2) The Cov’t of Works – made with Adam in the Garden. 3) The Cov’t of Grace – in which God offers salvation to all mankind, but has secured it for the elect in Jesus Christ, the mediator of the covenant. Thoughts?

    Comment by Tim Prussic | November 13, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Tim,

      As I see it, there is an inner-Triune and a human-ward side to each of the covenants:-

      (1.) The covenant of creation has its inner-Triune side (‘let us make humanity in our own image’), of which the human-ward counterpart is the ‘covenant of works’ (not the most helpful term, since it is about creational obedience not salvation).
      (2.) The ‘covenant of redemption’ is indeed traditionally as you state it: the inner-Triune covenant regarding redemption. But is it is a misleading term, since it is it is only one side of what I call the ‘covenant of redemption’. There is also a human-ward side to the ‘covenant of redemption’ as I state it, namely, what has traditionally been called ‘the covenant of grace’ (the traditional ‘covenant of redemption’ and the ‘covenant of grace’ are the two sides of what I have called the ‘covenant of redemption’). This is confusing I know.
      (3.) Finally, there is the covenant of transformation which has it inner-Triune side but also involves sanctification on the human-ward side against the wider backdrop of the transformation of the universe.

      So the traditionally stated (inner-Triune) ‘covenant of redemption’ and (human-ward) covenants ‘ … of works’ and ‘ … of redemption’ fit into this wider picture.

      The Son is the mediator of all three covenants in his offices as Logos, Christ, and Lord respectively.

      Comment by jgaive | November 27, 2010 | Reply


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