Covenant Theology 4

The Covenant of Redemption


Today we are concluding our mini-series on Covenant Theology. In out last article, we looked at the Covenant of Grace. We now want to examine the final covenant in Covenant Theology; namely, the Covenant of Redemption. First let's define the Covenant of Redemption? The Covenant of Redemption is a covenant made between the God the Father and God the Son in eternity past in which the Father agrees to give the Son a people to be his own and the Son, in turn, agrees to redeem this people so given to him and to serve as their prophet, priest and king.

Where the Covenant of Redemption has fallen into critique is the lack of explicit biblical evidence that gives warrant to speak about such a covenant. The bible makes no explicit mention of such a covenant. We had a similar issue when looking at the Covenant of Works. However, as we noted with that covenant, all of the elements of a covenant were present in the Garden of Eden to warrant us calling that a Covenant of Works. Similarly with the Covenant of Grace, we noted that each of the biblical covenants were manifestations of the Covenant of Grace in operation by which God promises to save those who exercise faith in his promises. Are there any biblical grounds for us to make such claims for the Covenant of Redemption? If there are no explicit texts that teach it, are there texts that imply a Covenant of Redemption? In other words, can it be inferred from Scripture? The answer to this question is "yes." Consider this verse from the Apostle Peter's Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23; emphasis added).
Notice the bolded phrase in the above quote. Jesus was delivered up to "lawless men" according to the "definite plan and foreknowledge of God." Theologians often talk about the decrees of God. By that they mean the eternal plan of God, which encompasses everything that comes to pass. The death of Christ, not just the event but the details as well, was ordained by God before he created the world. God did not have a Plan A in the Garden, and then switch to Plan B after the fall. Everything we read in the bible is God's Plan A, and it was so before the foundation of the world.

Another passage that comes to mind when trying to find biblical support for the Covenant of Redemption is Philippians 2:5-11:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The main point of this passage is on humility and how the believer should have the same type of humility that Christ had when he relinquished the prerogatives of deity to take on human form. However, note what is implied in this passage, Christ became obedient to the Father to the point of death. In all of our discussion on the covenants, one of the main features of a covenant is the obedience of one party to the other. Here we have the Son being obedient to the Father, and that obedience involved going to the cross. This theme of the Son being obedient to the Father is found throughout the gospels, particularly in John's gospel (e.g., John 4:34; 5:30, 36; 14:31; 17:4). In these verses, Jesus speaks of doing the work the Father has given him to accomplish. What else could this be referring to other than the work of redemption? The Father gave the Son the task of securing the eternal redemption of a particular group of people and the Son was obedient to that task to the point of death.

Perhaps the most poignant passage that implies the Covenant of Redemption is John 6:37-40:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
All of the elements of the Covenant of Redemption are found in this passage. First, we see the Father giving to the Son a particular group of people ("All that the Father gives to me…"). Second, we see the Son coming to this world to perform the will of the Father ("I have come…not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me"). Third, the will of the Father for the Son is redemption of this particular group of people ("That I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day").

In closing, I want to address the question of the relationship between the Covenant of Redemption and the other two covenants (Works and Grace) as well as why this covenant is important. The Covenant of Redemption provides a framework with which to view all of redemptive history. It is a covenant made between the Father and the Son in eternity past and so it helps us to see that redemption was part of the eternal decree of God from the very beginning. Sometimes we tend to think of God as ‘reacting' to the events in history sort of like a master chess player does by planning several moves into the future. That is not how the bible depicts God. God had the plan all laid out before creation. Nothing that happens in history is, rightly speaking, a reaction from God to what we do. It was always part of God's eternal decree that God would create man, that man would disobey God and fall into sin, that God would elect some from fallen humanity and predestine them to salvation and eternal life, and that Christ would secure the salvation of the elect through his obedience unto death. The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace are the means through which the Covenant of Redemption is carried out and fulfilled.

Soli Deo Gloria!


The Series:
Covenant Theology: What is a covenant and why is this concept important?
Covenant of Works: The promise of obedience any why it didn't work.
Covenant of Grace: The promise of the grace of God.
Covenant of Redemption: The promise between God and Jesus and what it means to us.

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Republished 5-20-2013