Who are members of the covenant of grace?

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MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
Listening to some radio show that argued that not all members of the covenant of grace are saved. They claimed that there are a mix of believers and unbelievers in the covenant of grace. This does not jive with my current understanding that members of covenant of grace are saved by faith in Christ. Am I right or wrong in this understanding?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The question is mainly a Baptist vs. Presbyterian view.

Presbyterians argue that there are two ways of relating to the covenant of grace in this world, always has been always will be--until this world is no more.

Those two ways of relating are "external" only, and "internal" which ordinarily comprehends the external, as persons are made members of the visible church. The visible church is the institution that administers the covenant of grace in the world. And in that church are false sons, as well as true. But, we argue that those who are its members are actually members--until they leave. Walking, or feet-first.

Those who have only the external relation are "in" the CoG only in its external aspect, and are not substantive members, they are not adequately entrenched, planted. Unless they are given true faith, to embrace Christ offered in the gospel, they will be uprooted, and thrown in the fire; or they will uproot themselves, and apostatize. But this departure, according to John, only proves what superficial sort of relation to the CoG they possessed. "They went out from us because they were never of us."

So, those who are "unsaved" members in church are members of the covenant in only an external (and therefore damning) fashion. Their relation to the covenant is culpable, but it is not salvific. It is not rooted. Their association is merely temporary. It is "real" as relates to the external administration; but it is "unreal" in that there is no internal connection. No non-elect person has ever been in substantive covenant with God. Esau is the primary biblical example. He was "in" the covenant as outwardly administered; but he was not in the covenant as administered by Holy Spirit.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Bruce, would you PLEASE become a Baptist? Pretty please? It's not what you say, it's how you say it. :)
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I know Presbyterians who believe that the Covenant of Grace only consists of the elect. The argument between Baptists and Paedo's is more along the lines if the New Covenant is purely one of the Covenant of Grace or not. Presbyterians also believe that the Covenants are administered by the Covenant of Grace and that a person may be a member in said Covenant without being a member of the Covenant of Grace directly.

There are differing views even among Presbyterians.

The external / internal distinctions are important to understanding the Paedo views.
 

Reformed Rush

Puritan Board Freshman
I know Presbyterians who believe that the Covenant of Grace only consists of the elect. The argument between Baptists and Paedo's is more along the lines if the New Covenant is purely one of the Covenant of Grace or not. Presbyterians also believe that the Covenants are administered by the Covenant of Grace and that a person may be a member in said Covenant without being a member of the Covenant of Grace directly.

There are differing views even among Presbyterians.

The external / internal distinctions are important to understanding the Paedo views.

Many ungodly will experience temporal sanctification under the Covenant of Grace, but all unrepentant, non-elect, unregenerate souls remain condemned and will be judged by God according to the Covenant of Works. (John 3:18)

In other words,'s, saving grace is not common; even when those family members attached to those truly regenerated, temporally live in a "sanctified" state.
 
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MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
The question is mainly a Baptist vs. Presbyterian view.

Presbyterians argue that there are two ways of relating to the covenant of grace in this world, always has been always will be--until this world is no more.

Those two ways of relating are "external" only, and "internal" which ordinarily comprehends the external, as persons are made members of the visible church. The visible church is the institution that administers the covenant of grace in the world. And in that church are false sons, as well as true. But, we argue that those who are its members are actually members--until they leave. Walking, or feet-first.

Those who have only the external relation are "in" the CoG only in its external aspect, and are not substantive members, they are not adequately entrenched, planted. Unless they are given true faith, to embrace Christ offered in the gospel, they will be uprooted, and thrown in the fire; or they will uproot themselves, and apostatize. But this departure, according to John, only proves what superficial sort of relation to the CoG they possessed. "They went out from us because they were never of us."

So, those who are "unsaved" members in church are members of the covenant in only an external (and therefore damning) fashion. Their relation to the covenant is culpable, but it is not salvific. It is not rooted. Their association is merely temporary. It is "real" as relates to the external administration; but it is "unreal" in that there is no internal connection. No non-elect person has ever been in substantive covenant with God. Esau is the primary biblical example. He was "in" the covenant as outwardly administered; but he was not in the covenant as administered by Holy Spirit.

I think you just provided my "ah-ha" moment regarding paedobaptism. For Israel, circumcision was the sign of membership into the covenant of grace, but still only the elect of Israel would receive faith from Christ to make that sign of the covenant internal, and therefore saving through that faith. After Christ's cross-work, baptism is the visible entrance into the Church, where the elect continue to receive faith from Christ to make this new sign of the covenant internal, and therefore saving through that faith. Am I close?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
So, the unsaved are not really "in" the covenant, right, but only "under" the external administration of the Covenant of Grace, since all who are "in" the covenant are also "in" Christ, right?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
So, the unsaved are not really "in" the covenant, right, but only "under" the external administration of the Covenant of Grace, since all who are "in" the covenant are also "in" Christ, right?

One thing that has been helpful in understanding this is that those who are "in" the visible church but "only 'under' the external administration of the Covenant of Grace" are privileged, even "set apart." They are set apart to a position of privilege because it in the (visible) church that the ordinary means of grace come. They have the benefits of having at least one believing parent and being in a covenant community through which the Word, sacraments, and church discipline are ordinarily given.

Someone outside the covenant community does not have those benefits and privileges.
 

MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
So, the unsaved are not really "in" the covenant, right, but only "under" the external administration of the Covenant of Grace, since all who are "in" the covenant are also "in" Christ, right?

One thing that has been helpful in understanding this is that those who are "in" the visible church but "only 'under' the external administration of the Covenant of Grace" are privileged, even "set apart." They are set apart to a position of privilege because it in the (visible) church that the ordinary means of grace come. They have the benefits of having at least one believing parent and being in a covenant community through which the Word, sacraments, and church discipline are ordinarily given.

Someone outside the covenant community does not have those benefits and privileges.

This makes sense in the light of Hebrews 6:1-8. I am in a dispensational baptist-like church now and when I studied Hebrews a while back this passage caused me some grief. The understanding I came away with is that there would be people in the visible church (membership) whom are not "saved" and therefore are under the wrath of God due to their unregenerate heart.

However, I could never really understand how the unregenerate could "taste of the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come" under the ordinances of the church. If these ordinances of the church are actually understood as sacraments of the church, which I have come to understand, I can see how the unbeliever might be "under" the covenant (Word and Sacrament ministry) but not be regenerate.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
For Israel, circumcision was the sign of membership into the covenant of grace, but still only the elect of Israel would receive faith from Christ to make that sign of the covenant internal, and therefore saving through that faith. After Christ's cross-work, baptism is the visible entrance into the Church, where the elect continue to receive faith from Christ to make this new sign of the covenant internal, and therefore saving through that faith. Am I close?
I would say yes. "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter, whose praise is not from man but from God" (Rom.2:28-29). And: "Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham simply because they are his [genetic] offspring" (Rom.9:6-7).

Paul, in these passages, simply appeals to the pre-Messianic covenant status quo to prove for his own audience a timeless verity. Mere outward connection confers no spiritual benefits. Church-membership is serious business, however by itself it guarantees nothing. The sign-of-entrance requirement has changed form (circumcision to baptism), however the essential meaning of the signs is identical, which things are correlated in Col.2:11-12.

So, the unsaved are not really "in" the covenant, right, but only "under" the external administration of the Covenant of Grace, since all who are "in" the covenant are also "in" Christ, right?
Perg,
I would say that it is pure semantic argumentation, regarding what being "in" means. If one would like to use a different preposition, such as "under" so as to avoid some perceived misunderstanding, that's fine. However, one should not MISS the fact that the person is "within" the covenant-sphere. I myself would resist the impulse to say that all who are "in" the covenant are "in" Christ, without at least an implied qualification regarding the nature of the covenant-relation. I believe in a two-fold relation to the Covenant of Grace: internal and external.

The problem with being identified with God as one of his people, when one has no hope of ultimate, inward connection (person is a reprobate) is that one enters or attempts to stay as though the relation was a covenant of works. Insofar as such a connection depends on human effort, it is certain to fail. Without question, it is a hopeless endeavor, and yet it is a culpable condition. One will be held to the standard which he has professed, or even simply possessed as a kind of birthright.

However, saying "I do," does not afterward leave a person "out" of a covenant, simply because he had his fingers crossed, or even simply misread his own intentions. When Israel said, "all that the Lord has said, we will do" (Ex.19:8), they were not able to perform this word. Their (general) lack of faith did not leave any of them "outside" covenant.

So then, Heb.10:29-31, "How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." This writer, Paul, John, Peter--these men all warn a New Covenant generation not to apostatize themselves. For if the previous generations under Moses were judged, sometimes publicly (1Cor.10:6-11) for the benefit of all, then in the present consummative age there is even less excuse; there is an even greater condemnation.
 

Osage Bluestem

Puritan Board Junior
It seems that a baptized member is in the visible covenant of Grace regardless if he is a paedo or a credo.

Is following the Lord in obedience in baptism the responsibility of the parents to baptize their children or is it the responsibility of the person who has just placed his faith in Christ. It seems that baptism is an outward sign that you have died with Christ and shead your old self and rose with him again to walk in a new life. How can an infant really fulfill the outward sign of baptism when he has not had a life and has not placed his faith in Christ and has not risen to walk in obedience to his Lord?

This question has been haunting me for awhile now. It's driving me nuts.
 
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MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
However, saying "I do," does not afterward leave a person "out" of a covenant, simply because he had his fingers crossed, or even simply misread his own intentions. When Israel said, "all that the Lord has said, we will do" (Ex.19:8), they were not able to perform this word. Their (general) lack of faith did not leave any of them "outside" covenant.

Bruce, respectfully, is this description of works as a function of external-only membership in the covenant of grace not blending the covenant of grace and covenant of works (Gal 3:15-29)? My understanding is that the works that Israel did for blessing of land, etc. were a function of the covenant of works that was formalized at Sinai where Israel enters into covenant with God. Parallel to this covenant of works is the covenant of grace that was formalized with Abraham with God passing through the animal halves, hence God is the covenant maker bringing judgment on Himself if He were to break His covenant with Israel (which of course He cannot ontologically do).

How does this distinction between a works and grace covenant, which are parallel and in place even today, fit into your external/internal membership of the covenant of grace? Could we say that the reprobate that are external members of the covenant of grace are , by 'default', appealing to the covenant of works for their salvation (but of course the Law cannot save men, Gal 3:10-12) as they are not true (internal) members of the covenant of grace?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
So, the unsaved are not really "in" the covenant, right, but only "under" the external administration of the Covenant of Grace, since all who are "in" the covenant are also "in" Christ, right?

One thing that has been helpful in understanding this is that those who are "in" the visible church but "only 'under' the external administration of the Covenant of Grace" are privileged, even "set apart." They are set apart to a position of privilege because it in the (visible) church that the ordinary means of grace come. They have the benefits of having at least one believing parent and being in a covenant community through which the Word, sacraments, and church discipline are ordinarily given.

Someone outside the covenant community does not have those benefits and privileges.

This makes sense in the light of Hebrews 6:1-8. I am in a dispensational baptist-like church now and when I studied Hebrews a while back this passage caused me some grief. The understanding I came away with is that there would be people in the visible church (membership) whom are not "saved" and therefore are under the wrath of God due to their unregenerate heart.

However, I could never really understand how the unregenerate could "taste of the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come" under the ordinances of the church. If these ordinances of the church are actually understood as sacraments of the church, which I have come to understand, I can see how the unbeliever might be "under" the covenant (Word and Sacrament ministry) but not be regenerate.

Good question, and certainly one of the, maybe the most difficult verses in understanding the "P" of tulip (perseverance of the saints).

Hebrews 6

1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

3And this will we do, if God permit.

4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

9But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

You may find helpful the exceeding well-written book, What is Reformed Theology by Dr RC Sproul, particularly p. 213-216 on this point and this passage.

We have to be careful taking one Scripture and pitting it against another. Rather, we let Scripture interpret Scripture. The unclear is interpreted in light of the clear, based on an "analogy of faith" that the message of all of Scripture is clear, coherent. God does not contradict Himself.

So, there are many verses that support perseverance of the saints and are clear in doing so.

E.g.
Philippians 1:6

6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

John 18:9

9That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.

But verse 9 helps understand the immediate context, referring more likely to a "in a manner of speaking" whereas in verse 9 the qualifier "but" indicates Peter does not think believers will do such things (e.g. fall away from their salvation).

More study of the context is required than can be quickly printed here, but that is a start.
 
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MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
It seems that a baptized member is in the visible covenant of Grace regardless if he is a paedo or a credo.

Is following the Lord in obedience in baptism the responsibility of the parents to baptize their children or is it the responsibility of the person who has just placed his faith in Christ. It seems that baptism is at outward sign that you have died with Christ and shead your old self and rose with him again to walk in a new life. How can an infant rally fulfill the outward sign of baptism when he has nt had a life and has not placed his faith in Christ and has not risen to walk in obedience to his Lord?

This question has been haunting me for awhile now. It's driving me nuts.

David,

This has been the question bugging me since starting to "become reformed". If you follow some of the posts in this thread and the links to other threads on baptism I suggest it would be helpul. I think I am coming to realize that the reason we think:

"How can an infant rally fulfill the outward sign of baptism when he has nt had a life and has not placed his faith in Christ and has not risen to walk in obedience to his Lord?"

is because we are using a loaded hermeneutic towards our understanding of God's purpose for baptism. We are thinking of it in terms of that old baptist "outward expression of an inward commitment" when it is more of a sign and seal of a promise we should expect the Lord to include our children in, just like the Israelites expected their children to be included.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
However, saying "I do," does not afterward leave a person "out" of a covenant, simply because he had his fingers crossed, or even simply misread his own intentions. When Israel said, "all that the Lord has said, we will do" (Ex.19:8), they were not able to perform this word. Their (general) lack of faith did not leave any of them "outside" covenant.

Bruce, respectfully, is this description of works as a function of external-only membership in the covenant of grace not blending the covenant of grace and covenant of works (Gal 3:15-29)? My understanding is that the works that Israel did for blessing of land, etc. were a function of the covenant of works that was formalized at Sinai where Israel enters into covenant with God. Parallel to this covenant of works is the covenant of grace that was formalized with Abraham with God passing through the animal halves, hence God is the covenant maker bringing judgment on Himself if He were to break His covenant with Israel (which of course He cannot ontologically do).

How does this distinction between a works and grace covenant, which are parallel and in place even today, fit into your external/internal membership of the covenant of grace? Could we say that the reprobate that are external members of the covenant of grace are , by 'default', appealing to the covenant of works for their salvation (but of course the Law cannot save men, Gal 3:10-12) as they are not true (internal) members of the covenant of grace?
MRC,
In short, No, there is no "blending" of the two "sorts" of covenant.

Let me start my answer by quoting the WCF, ch.7:
5. This covenant [which is speaking of the covenant of grace, per para.4] was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.
Our Confession explains that the CoG was administered, in the days of Moses and afterward ("called the old testament") through the machinery of the law.

The law, in its "legal" aspect, is a glory-overlay (see 2Cor.3:7ff) atop the CoG, which remains fundamental (in Abraham, Gal.3:17). There is no mixture; rather there are those who enter into covenant with God exclusively in that glory-overlay, in a works-covenant, which is given (according to Paul) so that the people should have a veil that blinded them from seeing the actual glory of God, even though it faded on Moses countenance (2Cor.3:13). What takes the glory-veil away is faith in Christ, v16.

If you've been listening to WHI episodes, I also listen, and I know their way of speaking of these things. To give them the benefit of the doubt, I believe it is to their purpose to emphasize the dichotomy between the glory-covenant (the Law, Moses) and the hidden faith-covenant (grace, Abraham). However, if one fails to reckon with the very heart of the Law, namely Leviticus and sacrificial atonement, in regard to the internal and essential significance of those things, one is in danger of missing the fact that Moses still administered the CoG.

The fact that even the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) itself was set forth in terms of "glory" only shows how careful and thorough God was to veil absolutely everything. To be dazzled by the show--and that's it--was to miss the substance. The contrast to our worship today couldn't be more stark. Our accouterments are (supposed to be) absolutely minimal, boiled down to water, bread, wine, and Word, so that we are not blinded with earthly-glories, and see only heavenly realities. All that glitz in Roman churches is taking them straight back to OT bondage to forms, right along with their priest-craft.

As to the formal relation between the Israelite's promises, and their remaining in the land:
I grant the works-principle is used as the formal, external basis for the charges against Israel; their failure to keep their word makes covenant-breakers of them. But this is manifestly inadequate to fully explain the whole covenant-history of the OT.

Furthermore, one has to reckon with the sacrificial system. Under the principle that the whole set-up had a formal and external "substance" to it, the sacrificial system ought also to have provided adequately for "outward" atonement. That is to say, if the Mosaic covenant was in any substance outward, then the people of Jeremiah's day were actually justified in their hopes.

Those people knew they were legal failures, however in their minds they argued: "God knows we're only human; that's why he's given us this Temple." In other words, if the whole law-sacrifice system is externally oriented, then God never expected perfection. Hence the sacrifices and festivals (properly executed) must be adequate to resolve the guilt of the people. It is a "do your best" system, and God is appeased by the rites.

Under Josiah (and continued until the fall of Jerusalem) there was a massive religious-ritual Reformation. The worship of God was beautifully restored to purity. But Jeremiah explicitly condemns those whose confidence is expressed thus: "The Temple, the Temple, the Temple of the Lord." Because their hearts are vile, because they expect their Jehovah in Jerusalem is exactly like the pagan "gods," and the haze of burn-offerings is sufficient to cover their law-breaking, they are going to be destroyed.

Considered from the perspective of the CoG, the "glory-covenant" must be understood as insubstantial. Considered by itself, the glory-covenant has all the "substance" of the gold, silver, and all the tangible things that made it up.

But you see, if there is "spiritual-substance" in the externals, the people had some foundation for their hope. Make no mistake: there was REALITY to that works-program to which Israel made oath. IF they could have kept God's law perfectly, THEN they would most definitely reap the reward, the blessing. But what does the existence of the sacrificial arrangement argue, under the principle of "substance"? Does it not argue that God didn't expect Israel to manage quite well enough? And that they would need a system designed to periodically restore them to favor, a program of "maintenance"?

This is why I argue that if one allows that the people could stay in the land, provided the law was "kept," then the people had more than small justification for expecting that Jerusalem was impregnable. Because the law was being kept at the Temple. It was being kept with all the exactitude and rigor of a recent Reformation. We have every reason to suppose that in every outward glory-particular, the rites and festivals of the Levitical observance were fastidiously kept, until Jerusalem fell.


So then. If we only consider that "Moses" and "Abraham" are strictly parallel, we not only have evaded the import of the Confessional statement, we have granted an element of credit to the vain hopes of the Israelites of Jeremiah's day. There is parallelism, however it is "above and below", not "side by side." Moses' covenant is placed like a veil OVER Abraham's covenant of promise.

It was never meant for the elect to fail to recognize there was more to the covenant than formalism. And they did not fail to understand; they did not fail to penetrate beyond the veil.

There is no difference today, really, other than the fact that the "externals" of the covenant have been stripped. What remains of externals can still be entered into superficially. They can still be entered into with lying lips and faithless hearts. How often today do we encounter entire churches who haven't the faintest hint of a gospel ministry? But they claim Christ, they read the Bible, they serve trinitarian baptism, and they eat a simple meal. And whether it is one person or many, if any of that exists without faith, it is nothing but an outward oath, a covenant of works. There are churches galore who (whatever they claim) are nothing but factories of law.

What covenant are people falling away from in Hebrews? If they had been internally connected to Christ in the CoG, they had never fallen. He will lose none whom the Father has given him. We publicly proclaim a gospel-without-works. But people voluntarily take to themselves law-oaths to which they will be held accountable (Rom.2:14-15).

I hope I have addressed your interest.
 

MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
I hope I have addressed your interest.

You certainly did, thank you very much for taking the time to respond. You are right, I have been listening to WHI and what I hear I have never heard before, I am learning. The idea that the CoW in overlaid to the CoG and transparent for the elect to see and make real the CoG in their hearts in very helpful. I think that is what the WHI guys were basically getting at but I was unable to clearly understand without some further dialoge.

Can you recommend some good books that I can sink my teeth into to help me flesh these ideas out a bit better?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Mike,
There are probably some good things, more recent with modern language, etc. But I don't keep up well enough to recommend them. You could try emailing WHI.

I will tell you up front that I might well disagree with them, if they advise you get into much of MGKline's material. Mike Horton has a book called "God of Promise," which I think is overindebted to Kline in parts. I do admire Horton, generally, and in no small regard Kline was his mentor; but I think Kline's overall trajectory was pushing him over the edges (at times) of our tradition.

But for a classic exposition of covenant theology from a Reformed perspective, from a pastor whose printed material is often his sermons reworked, I would commend Thomas Boston. Look for his material in Google Books, or elsewhere online. I think some of his most helpful stuff is in either vol.12 or 11.
 

MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
Bruce,

I have seen M. Kline's work criticized at times on this board. Can you explain what it is about Kline's work that some feel, as you wrote, "push[es] him over the edges (at times) of our tradition"?

I will setup another post to see what people recommend for texts on the covenants, thanks for the recommends!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I don't personally like Kline's concessions to interpreting Genesis 1-2 along lines that are amenable to evolution, or a supposed common ANE cosmology (even if Moses is being polemic).

To say something positive, I think that he did help show that the Torah, and other OT portions, have a "covenant-structure" that fits in well with common ANE expectations.

I also think, negatively, that he drove this wedge into confessional covenant theology that has led some men to disparage the law, and others to etherialize the OT in certain ways, thus validating certain strains of baptist theology.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Marriage is an instructive illustration re the Covenant of Grace. It also is a Bond of Love, having an outward legal bond aspect and an inward '' spiritual'' love aspect.

Sometimes one aspect of the covenant of marriage is there without the other, as with the Covenant of Grace.

E.g. Abraham had the love/faith relationship of the Covenant with God before he had the legal bond in the sign, seal and ceremony of circumcision.

E.g. Esau was in the legal bond of the Covenant but did he ever have a relationship of love/faith in God?

It's only necessary to have the love/faith aspect of the Covenant to go to Heaven, but if people who are ''saved'' refuse to enter the bond of the Covenant by baptism and the Lord's Supper they will miss out; just as those who are very much in love with each other will ''miss out'' on the priviledges of marriage if the don't enter that bond. Just as Abraham would have missed out if he'd refused to circumcise himself and his sons.
 
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