In the previous post from this series, we introduced what is typically called the Covenant of Redemption. This covenant, though that specific language is not used in Scripture, refers to the pretemporal agreement within the Trinity for the salvation of the elect. We noted several verses that highlight this agreement or covenant, specifically that between God the Father and God the Son and then noted several other verses that speak to how this plan is to be accomplished and applied to God’s elect. In this post, we want to ask the question:
How does the Covenant of Redemption intrude into time and space in order to make salvation effectual for the elect?
In answering this, we might expect to see the creation of people in order for God to have someone to save and then we might initially expect a gospel statement of some sort to be expressed to these people, Believe on the Lord and be saved, or something to that effect. However, this introduces some difficulty because the question arises, “Saved from what?” God in His infinite wisdom introduces His plan of salvation but perhaps not in the way we might expect.
In Genesis chapters 1-2, we find a very detailed and familiar account of creation arranged in 2 groups of 3 days. In the first grouping, we find three days, designated by the phrase evening and morning, in which God essentially creates the canvas upon which He would later populate in the second grouping of three days. In the beginning, we find God creating the heavens and the earth, with the note that the earth was without form and void and there was darkness, but also the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters. In other words there was nothing, but the Spirit hovering indicates anticipation. As the days of creation unfold, we find the crown jewel of God’s creation on Day 6 with man being made in the image of God.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27Here we want to begin by observing God’s divine intention for His image bearers was for them to have dominion over creation, as we read in this intra-Trinitarian statement. It should be pointed out that as image bearers, Adam and Eve were to be the representatives and representation of God. In the very next verse, we find that God grants this dominion by way of a command to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” With the implication in verse 30 that animals were not yet for food and that there neither was nor would be death, we find the definitive statement from God that all which He had created was very good. This creation of man in the image of God culminates in the seventh Day rest (Genesis 2:1-3)
As chapter 2 begins, we need to remind ourselves that this account is not that of a separate creation, rather it is a different angle, a closer look, which focuses on Day 6 and the creation of man and woman (yes there is a difficult hinge in 2:5, however verse 8-9 seem to provide further clarity). With the creation of a garden in Eden, we read that God put the man in the garden, which we are later told was for the purpose to work it and keep it (Gen. 2:15). As we have seen elsewhere, verse 8, put is the word that could also mean to set, ordain, or establish; however in verse 15, put is a different word that means to rest. God literally rested Adam in the garden. As to his expected duty, in other passages of Scripture (Numbers 3:7-8) when work and keep are used in conjunction it refers to priestly activities of ministering and guarding. All of this up to this point in the creation narrative provides for us the background for what happens in Genesis 2:16-17
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17Given that we have already seen the command to take dominion and to be fruitful and multiply, as well as the implication of service and guardianship in the garden, it should come as no surprise that God gives Adam an additional command. However, this time the command is different as it includes not only a prohibition, but a consequence for disobedience. We may observed that the Lord God, YAHWEH His covenant name, gives Adam a positive command or law – You may eat of every tree of the garden, but not of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We ought to note an additional observation concerning the trees as we are told in Genesis 2:8 that the, “Tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” This command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is followed with a promise of death for breaking the command and eating of the tree. Seemingly Adam begins to take the authority that God had granted him by naming the animals. With that we find that God creates help for Adam from Adam, that the two are to become one flesh thus instituting marriage.
The command described above, prohibiting Adam from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil has frequently been called the Covenant of Works. Though the explicit words or phrase is not present, a point of doubt for many, the concept of covenant is certainly present. Other passages, such as Hosea 6:7
But like Adam they transgressed the covenant;imply that there was indeed a covenant instituted from God to Adam. God unilaterally enters into covenant with Adam, giving him a command – do not eat of the knowledge of good and evil tree, assigns the curse – in the day you eat of it you shall surely die. Called by some the covenant of nature, the covenant of life, the Edenic covenant, or even the Adamic Administration, the a propos name Covenant of Works is fitting because of the [implied] promise of life for Adam’s obedience in contrast to the promise of death for disobedience. Therefore, as many have stated, Adam, although created holy and sinless, was mutable – meaning he could change. In other words, Adam had the ability to sin and the ability to not sin. Adam as a truly free moral creature could choose not to sin, and if he had would’ve obtained life. Turning again to Louis Berkhof we read,
there they dealt faithlessly with me. Hosea 6:7
Adam was indeed created in a state of positive holiness, and was also immortal in the sense that he was not subject to the law of death. But he was only at the beginning of his course and did not yet possess the highest privileges that were in store for man. He was not yet raised above the possibility of erring, sinning, and dying. He was not yet in possession of the highest degree of holiness, nor did he enjoy life in all its fullness. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 216God introduces His plan of salvation, established before the foundation of the world, by creating Adam in His image and giving him a command to obey, i.e. law. However, God created him with the ability to obey that law. The promise of death (and implied promise of life, i.e. Do This And Live) was conditioned upon Adam’s obedience. Adam was in, as many have stated, a probationary period whereby his obedience to God would be tested. Though made in the image of God and indwelt with the moral law of God, this negative command (positively added), akin to ‘Thou shalt not,’ promised death – that of physical, spiritual, and eternal – a comprehensive death. As we know, in Genesis 3, Adam did eat of the fruit of the tree and subsequently received punishment for his actions by being exiled from the garden and the immediate presence and protection of God.
In the next post, we’ll look at how “in Adam”, as the federal representative of mankind, all mankind fell and what this means for the covenant of works today.