Johnson: The Covenantal Structure Is Baked In

The covenantal structure is built into God’s relationship with his human creatures from creation and finds various expressions in subsequent redemptive history. In view of this pervasive structure, readers and preachers of Scripture do well to approach every text with special attention to the information it yields concerning the parties, obligations, and consequences of the covenant. The first post-fall covenant, brief as it is, brings into view the participation of both parties to the covenant, Lord and servant, in undoing the damage done through Adam’s failure. Genesis 3:15, the proto-evangelium, is the earliest announcement in history of God’s plan to reverse sin and its consequences and to restore humankind and creation to our original purpose. Because God has determined that the plan would be revealed and clarified in progressive stages corresponding to its implementation in progressive stages down through history, this first announcement of the gospel is understandably general: “I will put enmity between you [Satan/the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Entailed in this terse curse on the Evil One is the truth that the bringing of redemption to mankind is God’s work—and it is man’s. We see God’s initiative: “I will put enmity between [the serpent] and the woman.” But we also see a crucial role for the woman’s seed, who will through his own suffering crush the Evil One. In subsequent covenants with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Levi, David, and finally the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 and secured by Jesus, the spotlight falls sometimes on the role of the Lord, sometimes on the role of the servant, and sometimes on their mutual commitments.

Dennis Johnson | Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, ed. John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 256–257.


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  • Tony Phelps
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    Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children.

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