Dear Church Family,
Continuing in our Sunday school lessons in the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), this past Sunday we covered questions 32-33. Here is a brief review.
Overview of WLC 30-35 – The Covenant of Grace
This section of the WLC (Q 30-35) describes the covenant of grace in general terms:
Q30 – The ground and purpose of the covenant of grace
Q31 – The parties in the covenant of grace
Q32 – The three main ways in which the covenant of grace is manifested
Q33-35 – How the covenant of grace is differently administered in the old and new testaments
If you like, you may review a graphic which provides an overview of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, along with Scripture references that speak to the various manifestations of the covenant of grace throughout the Bible: https://hillcountrypca.org/westminster-larger-catechism-q-29-30/.
WLC 32 How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.
There are three broad manifestations of the covenant of grace described in WLC 32. These are the three main ways by which the covenant of grace is revealed to us. Or, you may think of these three things as evidences of God’s covenant of grace by which He delivers His elect out of the estate of sin and misery and brings them into an estate of salvation (WLC 30). And, it’s important to remember that these manifestations (or evidences) of the covenant of grace are found in both the old testament and the new testament.
(1) A Mediator
The first manifestation of the covenant of grace is where God freely provides and offers to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by Him. This is, of course, referring to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is the seed of the promised seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). In Christ, God has given us eternal life, for he who has the Son has the life, but he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life (1 John 5:11-12).
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). A large number of forthcoming questions and answers in the WLC have to do with Christ as one true Mediator between God and man: His Person (Q36-45) and His work (Q46-56).
(2) Saving Faith
The second manifestation of the covenant of grace is saving faith. God’s Word tells us that faith in His Son is the condition of receiving eternal life (John 1:12; 3:16). Yet, this saving faith is not something which comes from within; rather, saving faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). And, it is the Holy Spirit who indwells God’s people and works this saving faith in them (2 Corinthians 4:13-14).
(3) Holy Obedience
The third, and final, manifestation of the covenant of grace is holy obedience. God promises He will cause His people, by the indwelling power of His Spirit, to walk in His statutes and be careful to observe His ordinances (Ezekiel 36:27). And, God’s promise to sanctify and enable the holy obedience of His people is fulfilled in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
WLC 33 Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administration of it under the Old Testament were different from those under the New.
A helpful way speak about the relationship between the old and new covenants is by way of continuity and discontinuity. There are things which the old and new covenants have in common (continuity) and there are things which they do not have in common (discontinuity).
Speaking of the discontinuity, this question and answer simply acknowledges that the covenant of grace is administered differently under the old and new testaments. The entire book of Hebrews speaks to how the new covenant in Christ is better than the old covenant because we now have a perfect high priest. Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant, which is enacted on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). So, now that the promised new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-33 has been fulfilled in Christ, the old covenant is made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).
Because the next two questions deal specifically with how the covenant of grace is administered differently under the old testament (Q34) and under the new testament (Q35), we took the opportunity in class to explore the similarities or continuity between the covenant of grace under the old and new testaments.
So, we considered several portions of Scripture which speak to how the old covenant and the new covenant are the same covenant of grace in which people are saved in the same way. For instance, in Romans 4:5-17; Romans 9:1-8, and Galatians 3:6-14, we learn of how those who believe in Christ are the children of promise and are Abraham’s descendants. We also looked at Hebrews 8:1-13 in order to better understand how the promises that were made to Israel and Judah in the old covenant are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The emphasis of the study of these two questions form the Larger Catechism was on continuity, the continuity between the old covenant and the new covenant as being two different administrations of the covenant of grace. Specifically, in both the old and new covenants, there is one Mediator between God and man – the Lord Jesus Christ; God’s elect receive salvation and are justified by faith in the same way, by the power of the same indwelling Holy Spirit; and, God’s people show their thankfulness and grow in holy obedience by the same Spirit of God, according to the same moral law of God.
When speaking of the continuity between the old and new covenants, some accuse those who emphasize the similarities as holding to what they derogatorily call “replacement theology.” This implies that we believe that the church of Jesus Christ has “replaced” Israel. But this is not so. In keeping with the language and line of thinking of the New Testament (e.g., Romans 11:1-2; Galatians 3:16-29), we speak of this relationship between the old and new covenants as “maturation.”
So, the church of Jesus Christ is Israel, grown up. The sacrament of baptism is circumcision, grown up. The Lord’s supper is the Passover meal, grown up. Those who once were separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, were without hope. But in Christ Jesus, we who were formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He has made for Himself one people and torn down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. By the blood of Christ, we are reconciled – as one body – to God through the cross! (Ephesians 2:11-16)
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. DietscH