One People of God, One Covenant of Grace
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise Galatians 3:29NKJ
Question 35 of the Larger Catechism asks, “How is the covenant of grace administered under the New Testament?” It gives the answer, “Under the New Testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fulness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.” Last time we examined the administrations of the Covenant of Grace found in the Old Testament. This week we consider how the same Covenant of Grace has been administered since the coming of Christ.
Once again we notice that the (mostly Jewish) people of God in the Old Testament, and the (mostly Gentile) people of God in the New Testament were in the exact same covenant with God. After the Fall in the Garden, God never again related to His people through any sort of a covenant of works. No matter the reward hoped for, the works of a sinner can only condemn him before a holy God. The ever-present sacrificial system was a constant reminder to the Old Testament believer that he could not even come before God (let alone hope to earn something from Him), except God’s judgment fall on an animal in his place. Thus, God never covenanted with the nation of Israel (corporately or individually) to obey any of His commands; whether moral, ceremonial, or civil; for the purpose of earning anything from Him. Like us, every single blessing from God that Israel received was entirely out of the bounty of His grace.
As today’s Catechism question points out, Christ is and always was “the substance” of the Covenant of Grace. In the Old Testament period, Christ – the substance of the Covenant that Israel had with God – was hidden under certain types, shadows, and ceremonies, until the time was right for Him to be revealed, first to Israel, and then to the rest of the world. Thus:
Col. 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
Gal. 4:4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Rom. 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
When Christ came – He who was the substance of all of those shadows, ceremonies and types – they were put away. Their purpose was fulfilled. Like the wrapping and box of a present – they serve their purpose, but when the gift is opened and received we throw away the packaging – so also the Old Testament administrations of the Covenant of Grace. Christ has come. God now administers (governs and applies) the one and only Covenant of Grace through much simpler and straightforward means; as the Catechism instructs: “in the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” These new ordinances much more fully and clearly proclaim the same substance of the Covenant of Grace that all those animals, ceremonies, rituals and so forth also proclaimed, which is Christ! And knowing that Christ is the lamb of God (John 1:29), the seed of Abraham and David (Gal. 3:16; Rom. 1:3), our great high priest (Heb. 9:11), the temple (John 2:19, 21), the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), etc., helps us to understand the significance of what He did, and shows us that the Church is and always has been the true Israel and the true Israel is and always has been the Church!