Paul Gardner on covenant theology (part 3)


These notes were taken in the context of a lecture and are not a full transcript nor are they verbatim. Some ideas may be misrepresented by me.

Paul Gardner – Session 3

Intro – reading from the confession of faith ch7 – VI. Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance, 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: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.

Thinking further on the covenant of works:

The covenant of grace is largely ignored by New Perspective writers. They insist that life is about entry into the covenant (agreed). The insist that entry is is a gift of grace (agreed) and that the inter-testamental Jews widely understood that entry was by grace (doubtful – see session 2).

In New Perspective justification is a declaration by God that a person is a member of the covenant. Federal headship is regarded as the imputation of the righteous works of Christ but rather a declared status.

How do we stay in the covenant. When we understand the covenant of works properly we end up with a proper understanding of legal justification, sanctification. Without this understanding we end up with a New perspective understanding of status alone and so imputed righteousness, as a legal requirement, is lost. We stay in the covenant by obedience to the law and that is there in the bible, Adam stayed in by obedience to the law.

How are the works kept? In covenant theology, I stay in by the work of Christ. He fulfills the requirements of the law for me and imputes his righteousness to me. I, therefore, stay in by the merits of Christ. I am called righteous on the basis of Christ’s obedience. The staying-in commands are kept for me as well as the getting-in commands.

The promised covenant blessings are in place in garden. God is there with them, they will inherit the earth, they will experience peace, they will rule with God. Adam is taken from the Adama (earth) and is given the Adama to govern. It’s the promise of God to Abraham that he will receive all the blessings of the Adama and rule over it by his offspring.

What about the covenant of works today and does it matter?

How is a covenant with God established? It is by God’s grace and our obedience to God’s laws. Paul argues in Romans 7 “the very promise that Galatians 3:12 Romans 10:5 etc

The covenant of works is still in effect in one sense, because all people everywhere stands under the curse of that covenant, we all stand outside the garden and face mortal death. Adam’s sin is imputed to everyone.

So what about salvation, how do we get back to the garden? Our way to the tree of life is barred. Jesus opens the way. He is a ruler like Adam but does the Father’s will fully and completely and righteously and he does so on our behalf. God presents him to us as our covenant representative head. He is the last Adam.

WCF Chapter XIX – The law

I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

We are justified by Christ’s imputation of his righteousness to us. Our coming in and staying in are done through Christ. Our own works are the fruits and evidences of a true and living faith. We do not maintain our position in the covenant by our works! They are the evidence of our faith. The Holy Spirit is the down-payment and guarantor of our faith, living in us.

Let’s move back to the Kingdom of God.

The covenant of works shapes all our thinking about future covenants. It explains how we can be back in right relationship with the King. Covenant theology consistently shows us that the key aspect is our relationship to the King. The fall did not affect God’s rule of all things, he is King of creation, inside and outside the garden. All the throwing out of the garden implies is a breaking of relationship between God and man. The Lord had judged….OUT! Was there any way to open the way back to the tree of life, or rather back into a right relationship with the King? Would God ever offer a way back to him, access to the tree again? God remains king inside and outside the garden. He is King of the earth, not just certain people with whom he has a relationship. All people over the Adama will be blessed through Abraham. The question is not, is the king there, but will he reveal himself there? God is the supreme King but he did not reveal himself outside the garden. There is darkness, in the sense of a lack of revelation. The kingdom of darkness is a place where God is veiled and the Kingdom of light is where he reveals himself.

Abraham, Moses – God is revealed as King, and so the people of God are not to have kings like other nations because God is their King. Plagues is a battle of the gods in Egypt and Yahweh reveals himself as triumphant King. Any foreigner who wants to join the people of Israel is free to do so. Rahab, Ruth are examples of people coming to fear and trust God, becoming members of the people of God. God rules everywhere but does not reveal his hand. God reveals himself to certain people at certain times, Egypt and then Jerusalem. The Jews are to be a light to the world, God revealing himself through his covenant people.

Monotheism means God rules everywhere and can, therefore, reveal himself anywhere. Daniel prays to the West,where God first revealed himself, but God reveals himself in Persia through Daniel, shining his light into the dark land of Babylon such that Nebuchadnezzar worships the true God of heaven, knowing that God humbling the proud. Daniel was a light to the gentiles and so God can reveal himself anywhere as his people do the right thing wherever they are. God can reveal himself in North Korea!

Where does all this take us?

Practical. It gives us a reason why common grace exists. Piety and charismaticism overlook God’s rule in the world outside the church. God is ruling.

Are we fearful of the world? Global conspiracy, fear of tough neighbourhoods, Christians build walls around themselves and shout curses over the wall, because they don’t believe that God is king out there.

We are to bring the light that God is King and he uses the secondary means and causes. We can go and shine as a light because we know God is ruling. It enables joyful evangelism, “God is King!”

Covenant people are called to be a light to the world as part of families, groups, networks and groups. The Kingdom of God is not limited to the church, not the elect, but God is Kingdom of all and his covenant community, mixed elect and unelected, are the light to the world.

Hebrews 6 – all experience of the covenant community, tasting the blessings of the Holy Spirit, without election, can fall away and not come back. Are there any benefits of being in the covenant community? Yes, they get to hear the gospel, God’s revelation of himself. The world outside the church is dark, in the sense there is no revelation.

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