God’s Gracious Covenant

Does God owe us anything? Is He obligated to give us a happy, comfortable, peaceful life? If He fails to do this, has He committed some sin against His nature? There are indeed some who might want to believe these questions to be true, and some corners of the church where this false idea is presented as a standard piece of bait. But I don’t remember reading anywhere that the call to Christianity was a call to ease, luxury, or wealth. In fact, we see the opposite (cf. Mark 8:34-38; Rev. 12:11) God did make a promise to the world, and it was the greatest of all promises. Most ironically, it was delivered when mankind least expected it. Today, I want to consider that promise in the Covenant of Grace.

The Covenant of Grace is the covenant God established immediately after Adam and Eve sinned and broke the first covenant, the Covenant of Works. In the Covenant of Grace, God promised to send a Redeemer to the world. This is the first telling of the Gospel, called the protoevangelium. This covenant was ordained by God to save some sinners who were chosen or predestined by God (Eph. 1:4-6).

The very first inkling of this covenant promise if found, unexpectedly, in God’s curse upon the serpent. The serpent drew Adam and Eve away from God and led them to doubt God and sin against Him. God spoke in this way to the snake when He came in judgment against the serpent, the woman, and the man, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15 ESV) This passage is often called the protoevangelium. This word is made from two words: 1) “proto” meaning “first”; and 2) “evangelium” meaning gospel. This passage is referred to as the protoevangelium because in it we find the first promise that one of Eve’s descendants would come to climactically crush the head of the serpent. But the promise of God was not simply a simple declaration: God made another covenant.

We learn so much about God’s character through His works. The Westminster Confession of Faith helps us understand better this Covenant of Grace: “Since man, by his fall, made himself incapable of life by that covenant [of works], the Lord was then pleased to make a second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace. In it God freely offers life and salvation by Jesus Christ to sinners, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give his Holy Spirit to all those who are ordained to eternal life, to make them willing and able to believe.” (WCF 7.3, modern version)
God should have destroyed humanity because of their sin. Instead, He promised that He would send His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be destroyed for humanity. This was symbolized in the following promises: the promise to the serpent, the promise of children to Eve, in Adam’s naming Eve “the mother of all living,” and lastly in God shedding the blood of a creature to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness (cf. Gen. 3:21) This final act was a foreshadow to show that their sin could only ever be covered by the broken body and shed blood of another. It was the beginning of a future hope that would find its destination in Christ.

The great reminder to us in the Covenant of Grace is that God’s plan of salvation is not a last-minute afterthought. Instead, it is the flowering of God’s eternal promise to send His Son as the Last Adam to accomplish everything the first Adam failed to do (Romans 5:12-21). We are comforted that our weaknesses and failures are not barriers too great for our God to overcome. By the Covenant of Grace, we are reminded that every set back and sin committed by mankind was in some mysterious way part of God’s plan for our salvation. The Covenant of Grace is a testimony that God’s plan of redemption began as a seed in the Garden of Eden with the protoevangelium but slowly grew with the covenant with Abraham, and the covenant with Moses, the covenant with David, and climactically with the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.