WCF 7.1 — Of God’s Covenant With Man

Posted on Apr 28, 2019 by admin

7.1 The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.1

1 Isa 40:13–17; Job 9:32–33; 1 Sam 2:25; Ps 113:5–6; 100:2–3; Job 22:2–3; 35:7–8; Lk 17:10; Acts 17:24–25.

It is indisputable to anyone who reads the Bible that God relates to man by way of covenant. For example, God says to Noah in Genesis 6: “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee” (Gen 6:18). Likewise, in Genesis 15 it is recorded, “the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land” (Gen 15:18). Again in Exodus 19, the LORD says to the children of Israel: “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people” (Ex 19:5). Actually, there are more than two hundred verses which refer to God’s covenant with man in the Old Testament.

Although the word does not occur so frequently in the New Testament, it is clear that God continues to relate to His people covenantally. For example, the Lord Jesus, while instituting the Lord’s Supper says: “This cup is the new [covenant] in my blood, which is shed for you.” Also, the apostle to the Hebrews is clearly referring to Christ as “the mediator of the New Covenant” (Heb 12:24), and His blood shed on the Cross as the “blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb 13:20).

Thus, if we are to understand God’s dealings with His people, we must grasp the concept of covenant. What is a covenant? Without going into details, we can say that “a covenant is a bond of relationship governed by a sworn statement.” Think of marriage as an example of covenant relationship. Marriage is not just a contract. It is a bond of friendship. It is not just friendship because the husband and wife make a sworn agreement with each other. They are more than friends. They made a vow to love each other exclusively and for the rest of their life. If they keep their vow, then they would enjoy the blessings of each other’s company including having children together. But if they fail to keep their vows, then the consequence would be severe. They cannot just part company. They will suffer the penalty in various ways such as lost of peace, of face, of property, or of custody of the children, etc.

But why does God choose to relate to man by way of covenant? Theologians give different answers; but the best answer is perhaps what we are given to confess, namely that the distance between God and men is so infinitely great that men “could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward” except that God condescends to relate to them by way of covenant.

You see, man owes obedience to God since God is his Creator. But man is a creature of dust who owes everything he is and has to God. Therefore he cannot expect God to reward him for obedience at all. Our Lord highlights this principle when He points out to His disciples that a master does not thank his slave for doing his duty (Lk 17:10).

But God would have His people enjoy Him as their blessedness and reward, and therefore He deigned to enter into covenant relationship with them so that by fulfilling the conditions of the covenant, they may look to enjoying His rewards.

Extracted and translated from:
Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
© 2019 by Pilgrim Covenant Church
Translation and posted with permission
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