Saturday, August 20, 2016

What is a Reformed Church: Covenant - Our Story (Part 3)

The Covenant at Creation: The Covenant of Works

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). All things in space and time came into being by God speaking the universe into being. God created all things including mankind, with the first couple Adam and Eve being created by God and placed into the Garden of Eden.

At the beginning after creation, the first human couple were pure and sinless. God then made a covenant with them, which is commonly called the Covenant of Works, Covenant of Nature or Covenant of Creation. It is called a Covenant of Creation because it was made at creation and a Covenant of Nature because it was made with mankind in nature and natural harmony. But it is most commonly known as the Covenant of Works because in it there is a works principle, which is to say the principle that works of obedience to God would merit eternal life.

In Genesis 2:16, God gave Adam the command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he disobeyed and ate of the tree, he would certainly die. Conversely, if he obeyed the command, he would not die but will live, as the parallel with Christ shows (Rom. 5:12-19).

This works principle can be seen in passages such as Romans 2:1-11. God is a just God and here He reveals that doing good in obedience will most certainly be rewarded, and evil will be punished. The works principle is the basic principle of the Law, "Do this and Live" (Lev. 18:5, Rom. 10:5, Gal. 3:12). In the Covenant of Works, the works principle was at its peak. God has given His command, but will Adam obey the command and live? The subsequent narrative of the Fall (Gen. 3) showed us Adam's breaking of God's command and the subsequent judgments of God. Adam failed the test, and therefore all mankind now inherit Adam's guilt, and are sinful from birth. Death came to all men (Rom. 5:12), and thus all men die, spiritually now, and physically later.

The Covenant of Grace

God's plan however was to save His people, even from the foundation of the world. Therefore, the Gospel was proclaimed even in the midst of the pronouncement of judgment (Gen. 3:15). There will come a Savior, the Seed of the Women, who will crush the head of Satan and defeat him. This Covenant of Grace pushes forward through the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic Covenant, each one building up towards the coming of the Servant-King, the Messiah. In the fullness of time, Jesus Christ came into the world, ministered in Israel, and died on the Cross for our sins. His death on the Cross satisfies the wrath of God (Rom. 3:25), and inaugurates the New Covenant (Heb. 8:13, 9:11-28). In this New Covenant, we now have a way back to God, not by works but by faith in Christ.

From the time of Christ's death on the Cross therefore, the promised Savior has arrived. Adam failed to be obedient and thus earned death. But for those in Christ, salvation is not about working to earn salvation but simply to truth in Christ, who earned our salvation for us by His life and death on the Cross. History began at the Garden of Eden, but it finds its zenith at Calgary. After millennia of waiting, the promised Messiah has finally arrived, and now we can turn to Him so that we can come back to God.

The end of the world

We are now situated in the time between Jesus' first coming and His second coming. Nearly 2000 years have passed by since our Savior first came to die for us. God has not told us when He will come back to bring an end to this world, when Christ comes again. But in that last day in the future, this world will come to its end. Nations and peoples will stand before God to give an account of their lives, and only those who have trusted in Christ will be saved on that day. In that great and terrible Day of the Lord, the earth will be burned by fire (2 Peter 3:12) and terrible judgments will consume the earth (the judgments in Revelations). There will come a new heavens and a new earth after that, where God and mankind can finally be together, in full fellowship, forever.

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