One Important Difference Between The Reformed And Some Particular Baptists: God The Son Was In, With, And Under The Types And Shadows

In reading Particular Baptist sources from the classical period of Particular Baptist theology, piety, and practice and from modern proponents of that tradition I have become more deeply impressed with how superficial my understanding was and how great the differences are in some important respects. Until a few years ago my impression was that the differences between us were mainly a matter of eschatology (the PBs have a more highly realized eschatology of the New Testament than we do) and ecclesiology, that the PBs consequently cannot admit infants to the external administration of the covenant of grace until they have what the administration offers. These are real differences but the differences run more deeply. This is what I was trying to explore and explain in the essay, “Engaging With 1689.”

Communication Or Communion?

In writing that series, now compiled into one piece (caveat, it is 15,000 words) I realized more clearly that for some in the PB tradition the types and shadows witness to or reveal the coming redemption, which the Old Testament believers have only proleptically, i.e., by anticipation but God the Son is not actually present. By contrast, in the Reformed view (see below) the Christ and his benefits, the substance of the covenant of grace,  are in, with, and under the types and shadows. For the PBs Christ and the covenant of grace cannot be in, with, and under the types because, a priori, that could only be true in the New Covenant. For the PBs, there is one covenant of grace with one administration: the New Covenant.

In conversations with some who are working through these issues it has also become clearer to me that the Reformed and Particular Baptists can use the same language or similar language and yet mean different things by it. This is not always clearly understood. E.g., consider Westminster Confession of Faith 8.6:

6. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever.

Now consider the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 8.6:

6. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever. ( 1 Corinthians 4:10; Hebrews 4:2; 1 Peter 1:10, 11; Revelation 13:8; Hebrews 13:8 )

The formal differences seem relatively minor. We say that “the work of Christ was not actually wrought till after his incarnation…” and they say, “[a]lthough the price of redemption as not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation…”. The next clauses are virtually identical. The Baptists change “benefits” to “benefit.”

What, however, do the PBs mean by communicate as distinct from what the Reformed mean by it? The Baptist theologian Nehemiah Coxe (d. 1689) gave us an indicator when he wrote, “[t]hat notion (which is often supposed in this discourse) that the old covenant and the new differ in substance and not only in the manner of their administration, certainly requires a larger and more particular handling…”.1 He continued by claiming that he found support in Owen’s commentary on Hebrews chapter 8 (a claim which his modern heirs continue to repeat). Contemporary Particular Baptists continue to make this claim.

Coxe’s account of the institution of the covenant of grace in Genesis 3 is telling. Reformed readers need to be alert to the fact that though there are real points of agreement between the Reformed and the Particular Baptist traditions, there are genuine, if subtle differences with real consequences. In explaining what happened in Genesis 3:15 Coxe wrote that God instituted “bloody sacrifices,” which were accepted by God when offered in faith, were for the “further instruction of man” concerning his redemption. The coats of skin were a shame to Adam and Eve were for their “instruction” concerning the “imputed righteousness in which they must stand.” Amen. He continues, however,

It must also be noted that although the covenant of grace was revealed this far to Adam, yet we see in all this there was no formal and express covenant transaction with him. Even less was the covenant of grace established with him as a public person or representative of any kind. But as he obtained interest for himself alone by his own faith in the grace of God revealed in this way, so must those of his posterity that are saved.2

Coxe agreed with the Reformed that Adam is not the head of redeemed humanity. That office is reserved for Christ (Rom 5:12–21). He also agreed with the Reformed (and the ecumenical faith) that there was an Old Testament church. E.g., “the church was never without God’s oracles.”3 He wrote of “an extraordinary dispensation of God’s providence to Enoch.”4 Under Noah, the gospel was preached under “types and dark shadows” so that “instruction” was “afforded them.”5 He described the way that Noah believed in roughly the way the Reformed do but when he described the covenant that God made with Noah, he did not characterize it as a present administration of the one covenant of grace. Rather, “the covenant of eternal salvation was implied and darkly shadowed under this covenant, even as the promise of the heavenly inheritance to believers was afterwards couched in the promise of Canaan to Abraham and his seed.”6 What is notable is what is not said. In Reformed theology, the covenant of grace that God made with Noah was not merely promised. It was actually present. The Noahic covenant was another administration of the one covenant of grace inaugurated, in history, in Genesis 3:15. It was not merely another witness to it but an actual administration of it.

When Coxe thought of the Abrahamic covenant, the pre-eminent administration of the covenant of grace in the Old Testament, he thought not of the progressive revelation of salvation and the serial administration of the one covenant of grace, in, with, and under types and shadows. Rather, as Abraham believed, the “grace and blessings of the new covenant were given and ensured to Abraham for himself.”7

The fruit of this approach appears in his rejection of the Reformed view of the external administration of the covenant of grace. Just when he had the perfect opportunity to affirm the one covenant of grace, under various typological administrations, coming to fruition in the new covenant he did not. The Abrahamic covenant cannot be an administration of the covenant of grace because the “covenant of circumcision given to the carnal seed…can no more convey spiritual and eternal blessings to them as such, than it can now enright a believer (though a child of Abraham) in their temporal and typical blessings.”9  He continued, “neither can I see any reason for assigning a covenant interest in all typified spiritual blessings (as well as in the temporal blessings that were the types of them) to the carnal seed, and yet not admit the same covenant to convey temporal blessings to the spiritual seed.” What does this mean? It means “the truth is, despite the relationship this covenant has to the covenant of grace, it yet remains distinct from it. It can give no more than external and typical blessings to a typical seed.”10 Ultimately, for Coxe, the Abrahamic covenant was not a covenant of grace nor an administration of the one covenant of grace. It was merely a witness to the New Covenant. It was, as he wrote, “distinct” from the covenant of grace. Sam and Micah Renihan have argued the same thing. They argue,

One of the most interesting features of this covenant was that while God promised to bring about the fulfillment of his promises irrespective of merit on Abraham’s part, he likewise required Abraham and all those under his federal headship to keep the covenant through circumcision. Those who were disloyal or disobedient would be cut off (Gen. 17:14). So, while God guaranteed that the promises would be fulfilled collectively to Abraham and his offspring, the tenure of individuals or families in those blessings depended on their faithfulness to the dictates of the covenant. Considered from this perspective, can the covenant of circumcision rightly be called an administration of the covenant of grace? If the covenant of grace is the accomplishing of the covenant of redemption in history, the retroactive application of the new covenant, then the distinction between national Israelite promises via Abraham and new creation promises via Christ should be clear. We can state confidently that although all the Abrahamic promises typologically reveal the new covenant, in their substance and essence they are distinct from it (emphasis added).11

This is a deep and fundamental difference between PB and Reformed theology and thus also piety and practice. In light of this approach we can understand why Sam Renihan speaks of the Abrahamic covenant as “a covenant of works.”12 The PBs did not and do not see the Adamic (post-fall) or the Noahic covenants as administrations of the covenant of grace but as witnesses to it, since, in the PB view, the covenant of grace is entirely future. In PB theology, the new covenant is the covenant of grace. In Reformed theology, the new covenant is the fulfillment of the types and shadows but it is not the only administration of the covenant of grace. The Adamic (post-fall), the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, and the Davidic were administrations of the covenant of grace.13

In short, when we say communication we mean “communing.” When the PBs say communication they seem to mean “the transmission of information.” As I wrote in the “Engaging” essay,

So here is a difference between the PB and the Reformed. For the PBs, the OT covenants are not the covenants of grace as much as they are witnesses to the covenant of grace. For the Reformed the OT covenants are earthly, historical, real, external, administrations of the one covenant of grace through types and shadows. Through those administrations God the Spirit gave more than “external and typical” (typological) blessings. God the Spirit was sovereignly operating within his people through the sacrifices, through the ceremonies, through the prophetic Word, to bring the elect to new life and to true faith in Jesus the Messiah. This is our understanding of Hebrews 11 when it says that Moses preferred Christ—not typical and external blessings—to the riches of Egypt (Heb 11:24–26). Abraham was looking for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:10). Had he wanted “earthly and typical” blessings, he could have had them.

For the Reformed the OT covenants were more than witnesses to and revelations of the covenant of grace, they were administrations of the substance of the covenant: “I will be a God to you and to your children,” the fulfillment of which was Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yes and amen (2 Cor 1:20).

We can see the differences between the two systems by looking at 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

That Rock Was Christ: The Reformed Approach

the general hermeneutical approach

For the Reformed, the covenant of grace was in, with, and under the types and shadows. It was not merely a future (New Covenant) reality but it was a present reality, albeit in types and shadows. Thus, when we say “communicated” we mean rather more than the transmission of information. The virtue, benefit, and efficacy was shared to the Old Testament saints by the mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit through the divinely ordained means of grace. How do we know this? From God’s Word.

Which of the Trinitarian persons walked with Adam in the Garden, “in the Spirit of the day” (Gen 3:8)?  Who is the Logos, the Word of God and the Mediator? It is not the Father and it is not the Holy Spirit. What about the Angel of Yahweh? Who confronted Moses in the burning bush (Ex 3:14)? Who was at the top of Sinai mediating the Law of God to Moses? In the history of Reformed theology, Reformed theologians have not been shy about seeing theophanies, personal manifestations of the Triune God throughout the Old Testament. J. H. Heidegger (1633–98) argued

the Sinaitic covenant was the covenant of grace, not the covenant of works. For the parties contracting were the same in the covenant of grace: the same principal Mediator; the true Christ; the Messenger of the Covenant; the same sanction through the blood of the testament, which was a type of the blood of Christ; and the same evangelical promises. But yet the legal economy had a mixture of the covenant of grace and of derived legal servitude, and thus it differed from the promise before the law and fro the gospel after the law.14

When Heidegger wrote of the “legal economy” he was referring to the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace. He was explicit that Sinai was a covenant of grace and perhaps most important for our interests here, he has God the Son as the “principal Mediator” of the covenant of grace at Sinai.  Richard Muller observes that in the Reformed theologian Franz Burman (1628-97) we find a “discussion of the prophetic office of Christ in the Old Testament” he identified Christ as the Word incarnate which “allows Burman to point all of the verba Dei toward Christ and, moreover, to view all of the Old Testament verbi Dei as the work of the pre-incarnate Word. The Old Testament, therefore, reveals the office of Christ.”15  John Owen wrote of “all” the “personal appearances” of the pre-incarnate Son “under  the Old Testament, especially that most illustrious representation made of him unto the prophet Isaiah, chap. 6, and the glorious revelation of his name, chap. 9:6.”16

*These identifications were not arbitrary. According to Hebrews 12:1 God the Son incarnate is at the top of the mountain to which we have come. He explains more fully in vv. 22–29:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire (ESV).

We have come to God, the angels, and to Jesus the Mediator. From a redemptive-historical perspective, the contrast here is between Moses, the earthly mediator and Christ, the heavenly mediator but the contrast rests upon a comparison between Sinai and Zion. The Son did not take up his place de novo at the top of the mountain in the new covenant. He has always been the Mediator. His mediation was administered typologically through Moses but it already was. Phil Ryken explains the general pattern of the presence of the pre-incarnate Son in the types and shadows:

…this messenger was distinguished from God, yet at the same time had uniquely divine attributes. Therefore, many Christians have identified him as the second person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Son of God. We have encountered this phenomenon before, back at the burning bush and at the place where the water came from the rock. Long before his incarnation, long before he was born in Bethlehem, Christ was with his people on their way to salvation. Mackay concludes: “Christian interpreters have generally identified the angel mentioned here and the angel of the LORD found throughout the Pentateuch as the one phenomenon, which is a temporary pre-incarnate appearance of the second person of the Trinity to give encouragement to the people of God. He is the one who goes before his people to protect them and bring them to the place he has prepared for them.”17

We see this perhaps most clearly in Paul’s warning to the Corinthian congregation:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ (1 Cor 10:1–4).

Let us consider a few places in Reformed theology and note the differences between the way the Reformed read redemptive history and the way the PBs understand it.

calvin

How do the Reformed understand this passage? Calvin’s comments here are a good beginning. He noted at the beginning that this passage, properly understood, is a refutation of the medieval view, represented by Peter Lombard’s Sentences (3:5), which held, as Calvin accurately summarizes,

that the Sacraments of the ancient law were emblems of grace, but ours confer it. This passage is admirably suited for refuting that error, for it shows that the reality of the Sacrament was presented to the ancient people of God no less than to us.18

This is, as my friend Chris Smith noted in a seminar a few years ago, effectively the PB view of the Old Testament. The covenants and sacraments of the Old Testament are witnesses (emblems) of future, New Covenant grace, but do not actually convey it. Calvin rejected this view. For Calvin, “the reality of the Sacrament was presented” to the Old Testament church just as it is to us. The note is one of the substantial continuity of the covenant of grace. In case his view was not clear, he explained:

I grant, indeed, that the efficacy of the signs is furnished to us at once more clearly and more abundantly from the time of Christ’s manifestation in the flesh than it was possessed by the fathers. Thus there is a difference between us and them only in degree, or, (as they commonly say,) of “more and less,” for we receive more fully what they received in a smaller measure. It is not as if they had had bare emblems, while we enjoy the reality.19

According to Calvin, “the ancient people of God were honoured with the same benefits with us, and were partakers of the same sacraments…”.19 For Calvin, in Paul’s argument to the Corinthians the rock in v. 4 is a sacrament and the union between Christ and the rock is sacramental: “the reality of the things signified was exhibited in connection with the ancient sacraments. As, therefore, they were emblems of Christ, it follows, that Christ was connected with them, not locally, nor by a natural or substantial union, but sacramentally.”21

How then did they eat Christ, since “his flesh did not as yet exist”? For Calvin, it was not enough for the rock to be a witness to a future reality. Their salvation “required” them to “receive the flesh and blood of Christ.” They received it by “the secret work of the Holy Spirit, who wrought in them in such a manner, that Christ’s flesh, though not yet created, was made efficacious in them.” It is true that, in the progress of revelation and redemption, “Christ is now presented to us more fully” because “in the present day, the eating is substantial, which it could not have been then—that is, Christ feeds us with his flesh, which has been sacrificed for us, and appointed as our food, and from this we derive life.”22

ursinus

Zacharias Ursinus (1534–83), who was a student of Philipp Melanchton (d. 1560) and Calvin, articulated the Reformed view concisely in his explanation of Heidelberg Catechism 66:

V. IN WHAT DO THE SACRAMENTS OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS AGREE, AND DIFFER?

They agree in having God for their author, and in the things which are signified; for the sacraments, both of the Old and New Testaments, signify, promise and offer the same blessings, viz: the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost through Christ alone, as the following passages of Scripture prove: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” “Our fathers were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” “In whom ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,” by which it is declared that we receive the same blessings in baptism which the saints of old did in circumcision. “Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.” (Heb. 13:8. 1 Cor. 10:2, 3, 4. Col. 2:11. 1 Cor. 5:7.) Augustin says, “The sacraments of the Old and New Testaments differ in their signs, but agree in the thing signified. The fathers all ate the same spiritual meat. The earthly meat, however, which they ate was different from that which we eat; they ate manna, we do not; but the spiritual meat which they did eat, is the same as that which we eat.” Without Christ, who is the thing signified in the sacraments, of both testaments, no one ever has been saved, or can be saved. It follows, therefore, that the fathers, who lived under the Old Testament, had the same communion with Christ which we also have, and that this was signified no less to them, by the word and sacraments, than it is now to us p 347 under the New Covenant.23

What is perhaps the key sentence in this passage bears repeating and emphasis: “It follows, therefore, that the fathers, who lived under the Old Testament, had the same communion with Christ which we also have…” (emphasis added). When the Reformed say “communication” they mean communion. God the Son, in his pre-incarnate state, was with his Old Testament church. He fed them with himself. He was fulfilling the promise of the covenant of grace: I will be a God to you and to your children. He was with them. He was in the types and shadows and under them. He was not merely foreshadowed and anticipated.

olevianus

Caspar Olevianus (1536-87), in what can be taken as his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (1567), Firm Foundation, did not see Christ and the covenant of grace merely anticipated in the types and shadows but present in them:

Third, the deity of Christ can be proven from the fact that He spoke with the patriarchs before He had yet come in the flesh. Everything that is said in the Old Testament about the true God Jehovah and His works in and toward all creatures is said as much about Christ as about the Father and the Holy Spirit and thus proves the deity of Christ. When it says that Jehovah, the eternal God, led the people out of Egypt and that the people tempted the true God, the Holy Spirit through Paul (1 Cor. 10[:9]) says that it was Christ: “Let us not tempt Christ, as some of them tempted him and were destroyed by serpents.” And John 8[:58]: “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”24

It was Christ, i.e., speaking anachronistically of God the Son, who led the Israelites out of Egypt. The covenant of grace was present. The Son was present. The Son was saving his people under the types and shadows. For Olevianus the substance of the covenant is one.

He was explicit about this in his exposition of the ninth article of the Apostles’ Creed:

135 Q. Third, why do you call it “one catholic” church?

A. Because just as there is only one Head of the Church, Christ, so also all believers from Adam to the end of the world are His members and one body through the Holy Spirit. All are redeemed through one Head, incorporated into one Head, and preserved in one Head through faith in Him (1 Cor. 12[:12ff.]). From the beginning the Church has always had but one way to eternal life, her single Head, Christ, the only mediator, who crushed the head of the serpent (Rom. 4; 1 Cor. 10). Acts 15:11 reads, “We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they [our fathers].” As a member of the Church, each believer should apply personally the promises given to the entire Church or people of God, such as the promise found in Matthew 16:18.25

The Old Testament saints were not merely anticipating Christ. They were members of Christ through faith. In his Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (1576), in his explanation of the eighth article of the Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” he appealed to 1  Corinthians 10:4, among other places, to support and substantiate the Reformed doctrine of union with Christ:

The union with Christ and His benefits that the Holy Spirit brings about in us is powerfully expressed in Scripture when it says that the Holy Spirit sprinkles us with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1[:2]), makes us “members of Christ” (1 Cor. 6[:15]), feeds us with Christ (John 6[:50–58]), gives us Christ to drink (1 Cor. 10[:4, 16]; 12), and builds us on Christ (Eph. 2[:20]). Here the office and purpose of the Holy Spirit given to us is shown, namely, that through faith the Spirit might unite us to Christ as closely as possible and might achieve similar results in both members and Head, seeing as it is the same Spirit, the same life and glory (Rom. 8[:1–26]).26

The Old Testament saints were united to Christ by the Spirit, who was operating through the types and shadows, through the external administration of the one covenant of grace. Because both they and we are united to the same Christ, we speak of the church catholic.27

in his largest work explaining covenant theology, On the Substance of the Covenant of Grace Between God and the Elect (1585), under the ninth article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in a holy catholic church, the communion of the saints,” appealed to 1 Corinthians 10:1–4 as one of the proofs for the Reformed understanding of the unity of the substance of the covenant of grace. The great thrust of the work is indicated by the title of the work: there is one substance of the covenant of grace. The various administrations are, by implication, accidents.

He argued that all the elect, under both the Old and New Testaments, and only the elect, through the whole world have had from the beginning and still have “communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as promised in the Creed.” That communion was administered through “diverse external testimonies” and “clarity of revelation” but just as members of the human body are diverse so it is in redemptive history.28

cocceius

We see the same in Johannes Cocceius (1603–69), in his discussion of the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea:

§322. The Israelites, brought across through the Red Sea, led under the cloud, having drunk from the rock, having eaten manna from heaven, had a symbolical institution about the descent of the Son of God from heaven into flesh, for our communion with Him through faith, about the spiritual consolation and happiness to flow from Christ, as our Rock, and about the communion of the death of Christ for the communion of His life. See 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, where the apostle says, “food, rock, spiritual drink,” because they had πνευματικην δήλωσιν, spiritual significance. Indeed, although it was not said to the Israelites, which the apostle said, i.e., “the rock was Christ,” nevertheless, when it was necessary that they had their eyes intent on the promise and noticed the commemoration of the promise in the works of God, which was happening through a similar thing, it was just as much as if to say to them, “the rock is Christ.” From this it is clear that they tempted Christ and murmured against Christ, because they tempted their rock and provoked it with their murmuring (1 Cor. 10:9–10; Ps. 78:35; Deut. 32:4, 15, 18; Ps. 95:1). The prophecy proclaims Him as “the angel of presence” (Isa. 63:9). See Exodus 23:20–21, “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for My name is in him.”29

Notice that Cocceius used the noun communion. The Rock was not merely a witness to Christ. It was a means of communion with the glorious Son, who, in time, would become incarnate of the Virgin. According to Cocceius, the Israelites had to do with Christ, as it were—speaking anachronistically—when they tested and murmured against him. God the Son was in, with, and under the types and shadows.

hodge

Charles Hodge (1797–1878) fairly stands for the Reformed consensus, in his comments on 1 Corinthians 10:4:

The rock that followed them was Christ. The Logos, the manifested Jehovah, who accompanied the Israelites in their journey, was the Son of God who took our nature and was the Christ. It was he who met their needs. He was to them the fountain of living waters. He was the spiritual rock from which they drank.30

The rock was the pre-incarnate Son, the Logos, “the manifested Jehovah.”  He continued,

This passage distinctly asserts not only the preexistence of our Lord, but also that he was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He who appeared to Moses and announced himself as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, who commissioned him to go to Pharaoh, who delivered the people out of Egypt, who appeared on Horeb, who led the people through the wilderness, who dwelt in the temple, who manifested himself to Isaiah, who was to appear personally in the fullness of time, is the person who was born of a virgin and manifested himself in the flesh. Therefore, in the Old Testament he is called an angel, the angel of Jehovah, Jehovah, the Supreme Lord, the Mighty God, the Son of God, one whom God sent and one with him, therefore, as far as substance is concerned, though a distinct person. Our Lord said that Abraham saw his day, for he was before Abraham (John 8:58). John says in John 12:41 that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory in the temple. Paul says that the Israelites tested him in the desert (1 Corinthians 10:9) and that Moses suffered his disgrace (Hebrews 11:26). Jude 5 says that the Lord (Jesus) delivered his people out of Egypt. This truth impressed itself early on in the mind of the Christian church, as is clear from the prayers of the early liturgies.31

The Old Testament church, sola gratia, sola fide had the substance of the covenant of grace. They had Christ not merely by prolepsis or by anticipation. He, the substance of the covenant was present with them. According to Reformed theology, the post-lapsarian covenants, the Adamic, the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Mosaic (even with republication), the Davidic, and the new covenant are all administrations of the same covenant of grace. Pace our Baptist friends, the Abrahamic was not of a different substance than the covenant of grace.

Conclusion

When the Particular Baptists speak of the benefit of Christ being communicated, it seems as if they mean that a future reality was revealed to the Old Testament saints, which they anticipated but which was not actually present for them. When the Westminster Divines confessed that the benefits of Christ were communicated, however, they meant something rather different. They meant that the substance of the covenant was actually present in, with, and under the types and shadows, and that we share with our Old Testament brothers and sisters, the same covenant of grace and the same substance of that covenant Christ.

Resources

NOTES

1. Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen, Covenant Theology From Adam to Christ, ed. Ronald D. Miller et al., (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005), 30. On Coxe’s covenant theology and the edition published by RBAP used in this essay see Sam Renihan, “Genesis 12 In Nehemiah Coxe’s Covenant Theology.” Whatever the problems in the modern edition, the material point stands, that for Coxe as for Renihan, the Old Testament covenants are one thing (witnesses to the New Covenant) and the covenant of grace another, i.e., the New Covenant. As Renihan writes, “…for Coxe, Abraham isn’t the head of a phase of the administration (outward ordinances) but a separate covenant with its own ordinances, subvervient and typological of the covenant of grace.” In short, for these Particular Baptists: Abraham is Moses. This is a fundamental and irreconcilable difference between Particular Baptist and Reformed theology with necessary consequences for piety and practice.

2. Coxe, A Discourse of the Covenants, in Covenant Theology From Adam to Christ, 57.

3. Coxe, Ibid., 59.

4. Coxe, Ibid., 60.

5. Coxe, Ibid., 61.

6. Coxe, Ibid., 65.

7. Coxe, Ibid., 75.

8. Coxe, Ibid., 75–92.

9. Coxe, Ibid., 93.

10. Coxe, Ibid., 93.

11. Sam and Micah Renihan, “Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology” in Richard C. Barcellos, ed. Recovering A Covenantal Heritage: Essays In Baptist Covenant Theology (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2014), 479–80.

12. On March 10, 2020, Sam wrote, “There’s a considerable difference between “a” covenant of works and “the” covenant of works. God tells Abraham and his offspring in Gen 17 that they must “keep” the covenant or be “cut off.” It is corporately guaranteed, but not individually.”

13. Obviously there are some qualifications to be made regarding Moses and David, since they have a temporary legal-national aspect which the Adamic, Noahic, and Abrahamic did not. This dual aspect to the Mosaic, expressed in the Reformed doctrine of republication—a doctrine we do find in Abraham (on which see “Engaging”) and in Owen’s view that the Mosaic (insofar as it was a legal-national covenant was subordinate to the covenant of grace. Baptists reading Owen should remember that, for Owen, Abraham and Moses were distinct and thus they ought not read their conflation of Moses and Abraham back into Owen. For most of the Reformed, the essential function of the republication of the covenant of works was to teach the Israelites (and us as we read the Old, i.e., the Mosaic, Covenant) the greatness of their sin and misery. This was nothing but the 1st or pedagogical use of the law. This pattern is evident in the history of Reformed covenant theology. I have documented this in “Christ and Covenant: Federal Theology in Orthodoxy,” in Herman Selderhuis, ed., Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

14. J. H. Heidegger, The Concise Marrow of Christian Theology, trans. Casey Carmichael. Classic Reformed Theology, ed. R. Scott Clark and Casey Carmichael (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 93.

15. Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 219.

16. John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 102. Andrew S. Malone argues that Owen had a relatively limited role for Old Testament manifestations of the pre-incarnate Son. See “John Owen and Old Testament Christophanies,” Reformed Theological Review 63/3 (2004), pp.138–54.

17. Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 767. This approach grows out of the Reformed doctrine, which the Lutherans labeled the extra Calvinisticum, i.e., the view that God the Son operated in redemptive history before his incarnation, and beyond his humanity (hence extra) in the incarnation. This was in contrast to the Lutheran doctrine of the ubiquity (everywhere-ness; Latin, ubique, everywhere) of the humanity of Christ by virtue of their doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum (communication of the properties). On this see David Willis, Calvin’s Catholic Christology: The Function of the So-Called Extra Calvinisticum in Calvin’s Theology (Leiden: Brill, 1966).

18. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, trans. John Pringle (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 1.317.

19. Calvin, Ibid., 317. Chris Smith, “‘Revealed But Not Concluded:’ A Look at the Relation of the Covenant of Grace to the Historical Covenants in the Thought of Nehemiah Coxe,” unpublished. March 27, 2019. I am indebted to Chris’ research on Coxe, which influenced me and also for pointing me to Sentences 3:5.

20. Calvin, Ibid., 317.

21. Calvin, Ibid., 319.

22. Calvin,  Ibid.,  319–20.

23. Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G. W. Williard (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 346–47.

24. Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation: An Aid to Interpreting the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. Lyle D. Bierma, Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought (Carlisle, United Kingdom; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster Press; Baker Books, 1995), 18.

25. Ibid., 97–98.

26. Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, trans. Lyle D. Bierma, Classic Reformed Theology, ed. R. Scott Clark (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 124.

27. Ibid., 130.

28. Ideoque omnes & soli electi per universum orbem inde ab initio habuerunt, & etiámnum habent eandem communionem cum Patre, Filio & Spiritu Sancto, qualis in symbolo est promissa, & per partes declarata, cum plenis eius effectis quae sequentur: licet in externis testimoniis fuerit diversitas, & in claritate revelationis, atque copia Spiritus: prout 
in functionibus membrorum humani corporis diversitas est, quae consensum communionis non modò non impedit, sed etiam adiuvat 1. Cor. 12. Rom. 4. v. 23. 24. 25. 1. Cor. 10. v. 1. 2. 3. 4. 9. Ioann. 11. ut non tantùm pro ea gente moreretur, sed Filios Dei cogeret in unum. Sic Ephes. 2. vers. 19. Quoniam utrique per ipsum habemus aditum per unum Spiritum ad Patrem: nempe igitur non ampliùs estis hospites & inquilini, sed concives sanctorum & domestici Dei superstructi super fundamentum Apostolorum ac Prophetarum, cuius imus angularis lapis est Christus Iesus, in quo totum aedificium congruenter coagmentatum crescit, ut sit templum sanctum Domino in quo & vos unà aedificamini, ut sitis habitaculum Dei per Spiritum. Caspar Olevianus, De substantia foederis inter deum et electos (Geneva, 1585), 1.9.6 (pp. 217–18).

29. Johannes Cocceius, The Doctrine of the Covenant and Testament of God, trans. Casey Carmichael, Classic Reformed Theology, ed. R. Scott Clark (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), 189–90.

30. Charles Hodge, 1 Corinthians, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995), 165.

31. Hodge, Ibid., 165–66.

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30 comments

  1. For me, the PB view of the covenant of grace is very confused. It comes down to how anyone could be saved in the Old Covenant? How, according to the PB, did the elect remnant anticipate the covenant of grace/New Covenant if the types and shadows of the Old Covenant were not an administration of the covenant of grace? There seems to be a missing link in the PB understanding of how OC saints could have been saved. PB keep saying the covenant of grace was only revealed under the OC, which itself was only a covenant of works. How, exactly, was it revealed, if the types and shadows were not an administration of the covenant of grace?

  2. Helpful post, Dr. Clark.

    I guess when it all boils down, the Particular (present-day “Reformed”) Baptists simply see the covenant of grace as only promised in the OT covenants.

    Whereas, the Presbyterian and Reformed see the covenant of grace—and its benefits—as being present from its pronouncement in Gen 3:15 all the way through the rest of the Bible’s (post-lapsarian) covenants, which includes the New Covenant.

    Since this difference or distinction can clearly be demonstrated (as Dr. Clark’s post shows), hopefully, the P&R and PB/RB folks can just agree that these are two different strands of covenant theology and that it might lead to less debate over who is truly Reformed and adheres to covenant theology.

    The PB/RB don’t adhere to the CT of the P&R. The PB/RB believe in a promissory nature of the covenant of grace in the OT that is only established in the New Covenant. The P&R believe the covenant of grace and its benefits have been a present reality enjoyed by God’s people from the time it was pronounced in the garden to the final administration of it, mediated by Christ, in the New Covenant.

    Hope my admittedly overly simplistic summary proves to be helpful.

    Blessings in Christ,

    • Hi Brandon,

      This distinction should help settle the debate about whether Baptists can be Reformed. If one covenant of grace, multiple administrations is essential to the Reformed confession (it is) and Baptists deny this (most do) then those who do cannot be Reformed.

  3. When I read about this PB distinction–and they aren’t going to like this–I can’t help but be reminded of the Classical Dispensational position re. the New Covenant:

    Namely, how the benefits of the New Covenant are available to the Church, but the Church is not in itself a party of the New Covenant, because the New Covenant is made with Israel.

  4. Thanks for your diligent work in this issue. I have been trying to figure out where the crux of the matter lies in distinguishing Baptist and Reformed covenant theologies and this settles it for me. My understanding of Reformed covenant theology since reading Murray’s “The Covenant of Grace” has been as you said, “one covenant of grace, multiple administrations,”
    Consequences for piety and practice are very real. Most baptists I know of to their credit have a passion for discipleship. I hope that those insisting to be in the historical mainstream of Reformed covenant theology will accept that they have a different covenant theology from the P&R. By doing so, they might be able to gird up the areas of their theology that may inadvertently result in discipleship weaknesses due to simply assuming that they will arrive at the same conclusions as the P&R.
    These gaps need to be remedied even if in doing so, they do not end up on the same page as the P&R as far as infant baptism is concerned which honestly speaking seems to me to be the one thing that they seek to avoid a-priori.

    • Excellent analysis. You are spot on in identifying infant baptism as the one thing the PB seek to avoid. Insisting that the OC is a works covenant while the NC, only is the CG is their substantial reason for discontinuity in the administration of the covenant sign. They insist that the works covenant, Israel was under, could include believers and unbelievers so all males were circumcised, but the NC church must be for believers only, because it is a covenant of grace. Therefore the sign is to be given only to those who profess faith (which only God can know for certain). This has the unfortunate consequences of a dualist theology, in some ways similar to dispensationalism, by dividing God’s people into one group under a covenant of works in the OC and another group under a covenant of grace in the NC, with different practices. This is a fundamental difference in their understanding of the CG. As Dr. Clark puts it, those who deny one covenant of grace under multiple administrations, the distinctive underpinning of Reformed theology, are not Reformed, and it is confusing that, in spite of these differences, they want to be called Reformed. They have a distinctive covenant theology, that is different from the Reformed, that leads to differences in their piety and practice

  5. What a difference this would make in apologetics to Muslims, the Hebrew Roots Movement ( which is growing), and evangelism to the Jews.

  6. Glad that the two camps are able to agree that there are significant differences. The “who’s Reformed?” question, while important is not as important as “which model best accords with Scripture?”
    I don’t think Christophanies are denied by PBs, so I’m not sure how that can be deployed as an argument. Here are the main lingering questions in my mind.
    1. How was Christ graciously present in, with, and under a covenant designed to condemn those under it through the law, especially given that the entire generation perished and God was not pleased with most of them? How do we see the efficacy of the covenant of grace expressed actually?
    2. How can the one covenant be administered via two antithetical priesthoods at the same time? Christ’s priesthood is not Levitical and could never have been. Rather it is Melchizedekian – necessarily so – as Hebrews takes pains to prove.

    Thanks for the interaction!

    • You bring up an issue that I find extremely troubling. That is the idea that Jeff Johnson, in particular, has brought foreword, that Israel was under a covenant of works, which they broke when they made the golden calf, and that God curses them but only delayes destroying them so that the line would be preserved from which the Savior would come, so that the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD was the realization that curse. What disturbs me is that this presents God as as a vengeful, angry God who does not forgive, in the OC, and a kind, loving God in the NC. This is a God who is bent on the destruction of the people he called in the OC, and only preserves them to birth the Savior that would save the people of the NC! What a horrific dualism that portrays!

      What is also disturbing is the question of how anyone, under such a covenant of works, where there is no administration of the covenant of grace, how anyone could have come to saving faith under the covenant of grace. How could they have come to faith under a covenant of grace that doesn’t exist? The PB insist that it existed as a promise. If that promise was preached, and the types and shadows pointed to that promise, was that not an administration of the covenant of grace? That would require one covenant of grace under multiple administrations, and continuity in the administration of the covenant sign, which PB are not willing to concede because of their commitment to believers baptism only.

    • Dennis,

      The essay is working on the question, “Who is Reformed?” or “Are the Baptists Reformed?” because some Baptists have repeated made the claim that they are Reformed, which then entails a serious revision of the Reformed confession, one to which we have not consented.

      On the theological question of which view is correct, I’ve addressed this at great length here:
      A Curriculum For Those Wrestling Through Covenant Theology And Infant Baptism

      I think I’ve addressed your objections there.

      Briefly, your objections assume what must be proved, that the Mosaic covenant was not also an administration of the covenant of grace. We confess that it was an administration of the covenant of grace. Our theologians and arguable the WCF also recognize that there was a legal aspect to the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace. This is why so many (and arguably the WCF) taught/confessed the pedagogical republication of the covenant of works.

      Here are resources on this:

      Resources On The Republication Of The Covenant Of Works

      This dual aspect of the Mosaic covenant makes it difficult but it we understand that there have always been two principles in God’s Word, law (do this and live) and gospel (Christ shall do/has done) then the problem is less difficult.

      As to the priesthoods, Hebrews explains this. The Melchizedekian priesthood was prior to the Levitical. This relates closely to the point above. The Mosaic covenant was a temporary, national covenant of grace with a legal aspect but the Mosaic was not the Abrahamic.

      My Baptist friends universally (as far as I can tell) confuse Abraham with Moses. On this see:

      Abraham Was Not Moses

      And

      Resources On The Role Of Abraham In Redemptive History

      Abraham had a different, prior, more fundamental role in the history of redemption than Moses. It is not a mistake when Paul calls Abraham (not Moses) the father of all who believe. It was not an accident when he appealed to Abraham as prior to Moses against the Judaizers in Gal 3-4.

      This is why Hebrews points to the Melchizedekian priesthood as superior to the Levitical. The Levitical is done but the Melchizedekian priesthood continues. Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, the King of Salem, because Abraham recognized him as superior, acc to Hebrews.

      For Hebrews, however, the Mosaic was still an administration of the covenant of grace. That’s why Hebrews says (ch 3) that Moses served in Christ’s house. He was looking forward to Christ. He turned his back on the riches of Egypt for Christ. Moses preached the law and the gospel. That’s why Paul says “that rock was Christ.” Any view that excludes the covenant of grace from the Mosaic covenant has contradicted Paul and Hebrews.

  7. Dr Clark, I can confirm (with regrets) that these differences between 1689 and the Westminster Confession to which you draw attention are indeed the work of baptists and not that of the congregationalists who framed the Savoy Confession, on which 1689 was in fact modelled, rather than on Westminster. I would question whether Gifford and Bunyan had similar theology to the baptists you quote. I think people can hold baptist views without subscribing to such changes.

    • Gifford and Bunyan died before the 1689 and Westminster. As a big fan of Bunyan I never got the idea that he would have supported the so called distinctive baptist covenant theology. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Bunyan was alive during the time of the WCF, and during the years when the 1689 was written (it was actually first published in 1677). Bunyan was not part of the Particular Baptists group of that day, and had some disagreements with them (though I’ve not read all the details). One difference, though, was that Bunyan held to ‘open communion’ with respect to baptism. Bunyan in his church allowed for members who had been infant baptized, along with those baptized as believing adults. The PBs held a much stricter line and would only accept those baptized as believing adults.

    • Angela and Lynda, thank you so much for your contributions. Bunyan’s theological background would have been Savoy, rather than Westminster, but this point is purely academic – after all John Owen played an integral part in framing Savoy.
      The best baptistic preachers in the UK have tended and tend to be Open and Particular, rather than Strict and Particular (though some of them might be pastoring Strict Baptist churches, so everyone, including visiting paedobaptist preachers, just tolerate the strange rules imposed on the churches re the Communion Service by their trust deeds). One of them is, in fact, a graduate of WTS Philadelphia.

  8. Hi, have you written before about how the Noahic Covenant is an administration of the eternal Covenant of Grace when the fact is considered that land animals are part of one party of the Noahic Covenant but not the Covenant of Grace?

  9. “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” – Jude 1:5

    • Throughout Scripture, we are told that God will destroy the unbelieving, those who reject the Savior that God sends to save His people from their sins. That is the unifying principle of the covenant of grace that has been in operation since Genesis 3: 16. Rejection of the Savior from the curse of sin, as their only means of acceptance by God, is what brings down the curse from God. Unbelief is unforgivable. God has provided the remedy against the curse of sin through His Son’s perfect obedience and sacrifice as He promised in the garden, cut as a formal covenant with Abraham, and fulfilled in Christ. That is the covenant of grace, administered through types and shadows in the OC and more clearly in the NC. The unbelieving majority who was destroyed, was destroyed because they rejected the Savior, not because God condemned them under an administration of the covenant of works which they failed to perform.

  10. Is being Reformed some kind of status symbol? Why would someone who doesn’t believe what the Reformed do want to be referred to as Reformed? I don’t get it.

    • Bob,

      The earliest use of the expression, “Reformed Baptist” dates, as far as I know, to 1823 (in a North Carolina newspaper). The context and intent is not clear. It may mean “reorganized.” I don’t know. It might mean “not a General [Arminian] Baptist Association.”

      In the post WWII era it came to be a way of signaling a degree of doctrinal agreement between P&R folk and Baptists, in a time when the confessional P&R felt isolated and beset by the liberals. I don’t think there was a lot of thought given to it.

      My perception is that Particular Baptists are attracted to it because it allows them to connect themselves with the Reformation (which they are, to some degree) and not to the Anabaptists, even though they certainly are influenced by the ABs to some degree as well.

    • I think it is because the Reformation is widely credited with restoring the true faith. So they want to give credibility to their views by calling them Reformed, even if they are not the genuine article. So Caveat Emptor, buyer beware, test such claims by reading the Reformers and studying the Reformed Confessions.

    • Actually one leading Reformed Baptist in the UK is a graduate of WTS Philadelphia, and it’s from members of his church that I first heard “Reformed” used in preference to “Calvinistic”.

  11. It’s worth pursuing more clarity on the issue. In reading what the PBs have to say about their own position, there is more nuance to appreciate. True, they deny the multiple administrations scheme of the Reformed, but they do believe that OT saints were in fact saved and regeneration based on faith. The terminology of “retroactive” application of the covenant can be confusing. If I were to use another metaphor, I’d say OT saints are saved “on credit” while NT saints are saved “in cash.” That is, same benefit, different modes of delivery with respect to time.

    This leads to another consideration of the “in, with, and under” analogy, which is ingenious to be sure, but on closer inspection seems to accord better with the PB scheme than the Reformed. Every covenant theologian agrees the that the CoG is present in types, shadows, and promises. But the PBs deny that prior covenants are of the same substance the blood-bought benefits of Christ; rather they are veiled and given to those with saving faith. The entire point of “in, with, and under” is to distinguish things of different substances while allowing for spiritual realities.

    Because in the baptistic view there is no saving efficacy in the old covenant per se, it would seem “in, with and under” is better suited to the position that seeks to make the separation of the substances as clear as possible, while allowing for genuine presence. It’s still unclear to me how the new covenant can be one *in substance* with its antithesis (old covenant). To make the point of a single substance and different accidents/administrations, I would think the proper sacramental analogy would be the transubstantive one, which is problematic on other grounds.

    • Dennis,

      1. You don’t appear to have read my essay very closely.

      2. Your response doesn’t seem very coherent. You cannot argue that the Baptist deny one covenant of grace, multiple administrations AND that “in, with, and under” is more true of the Baptist view than the Reformed. “In, with, and under” is intended to try to communicate to Baptists the Reformed view. How can a covenant which, in the Baptist view, does not yet exist be “in, with, and under” the types and shadows?

      3. The Baptists confess in 1689 that the New Covenant IS the covenant of grace, that it’s revealed under the types and shadows but it’s not actually present. The OT saints were saved by faith, which apprehends the future reality only. It’s only present, as Baptist writers themselves say, proleptically, i.e., by anticipation not in reality. This is why I’ve been highlighting the Reformed view that God the Son was actually present in redemptive history. See the essay on Jude 5. See the more recent posts from Turretin & Ursinus, who taught that Christ was the Mediator of the Old (Mosaic) covenant, which the Baptists I’ve read deny.

      Do you grasp what proleptic means in the Baptist system? I’m not saying that it’s not also present in the Reformed view but in the Baptist view that is the only way Christ and the covenant of grace is present.

  12. There may be more appropriate posts on the Heidelbog to bring this up, but Ezekiel 14:14 has come to mind: Of the three mentioned,
    Noah preceded Abraham and, therefore, cannot have received the OT sign of the Abrahamic Covenant,
    Job lived in the land of Uz and, if descended from Uz, would not have received that sign either, and
    Daniel may have been a eunuch and thus barred from the Mosaic Covenant, but not, as Isaiah 56:4 makes clear, from the Covenant of Grace (administration not specified).

    This seems to raise the question: Was there an administration of the Covenant of Grace, including its signs, that preceded the Abrahamic administration’s specification of circumcision and continued parallel to it? Does 1 Peter 3:20-21 indicate such a sign notionally received in Noah by those in his loins? Were the bread and wine brought forth for Abraham by Melchizedek before the institution of the Abrahamic Covenant actually a sort of administration of the Lord’s Supper?

    But then there were also those righteous that preceded Noah: We know for certain about Abel and Enoch. It is generally assumed that Seth and all subsequent ancestors of Noah were righteous (And Methuselah MAY have had very little say in determining his son’s name). And the only man of Seth’s line that could have been calling upon the name of the Lord when Enosh was born and MEN started calling upon the name of the Lord was Seth himself, so the godly, the sons of God cannot just have comprised the line of Seth. Indeed, once we recognize that the sin that brought the violence and the ensuing judgement may well have been each professing son of God left in the world (other than Noah & sons) taking unto himself wivES of all that he chose (i.e., not marrying the wrong one woman, but marrying more than one woman, whether “right line” or “wrong line”), it becomes possible that there had been true believers even descended from Cain. Admitting this possibility DOESN’T render preaching on 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 dead in the water before you start!

    Those righteous people that preceded Noah – I haven’t been able to think of a sign for them, maybe offering sacrifices that God accepted, à la Abel, was sufficient?

    • Anthony,

      There is both a substantial unity of the covenant of grace and an administrative diversity of the covenant of grace. There is progress in the revelation of God’s saving work and plan and in the outworking of it in redemptive history.

      Noah had, as it were, the sacrament of the ark. Abraham had the sacrament of circumcision. God was working in, with, and under these signs, these shadowy sacraments and types.

      As to the others, there are sacrifices and in still others we just aren’t told.

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