THE CONCEPTS OF CONDITIONALITY AND APOSTASY IN RELATION TO THE COVENANT - Dennis A. Bratcher
Last Updated: February 7, 2013
The Concept of the Covenant of God
The word "covenant" is used throughout Scripture. Even when it is not explicitly used the covenant forms part of the background of each passage or book. Because it occurs so often, and in such a variety of passages, it is difficult to form a precise definition, or even description, of the essence of the covenant. There have been many attempts, and all departments of the theological encyclopaedia, Old and New Testament, Church History, Systematic Theology, and Practical Theology have contributed something to the literature concerning the covenant.
The concern of this thesis is not to seek to present a comprehensive summarization of the range of thought concerning the covenant at present. Primary attention will be given to a presentation of a certain view of the covenant. Objections or problems will be dealt with along the way.
Covenant is the sovereignly administered relationship of union and communion between the Lord God and His people in the bonds of mutual faithfulness and love. Phrased a bit more tersely the covenant is monopleurically established and dipleurically administered.
The terms "monopleuric" and "dipleuric" are crucial to understanding the Reformed doctrine of the covenant. For in these terms there is brought to expression the sides, parts, or parties that are in the covenant. The term "monopleuric" points out that the covenant relation is purely an act of God, an act of condescension or favor. Thus the covenant relation does not depend or wait upon the initiative of man. The term "dipleuric" makes us aware of the fact that man is made a partner, a covenant partner to the Lord God. Because God has freely brought man into covenant with Himself there are mutual obligations that devolve upon God and man. That is, there are conditions in or within the covenant relation freely established by the Lord.
Having stated the basic view of covenant, attention will now be given to elucidating and clarifying the view taken. By doing so certain objections will be dissolved. But also by going through this process we are given a method whereby Arminianism and decretalism can be avoided.
This view of the covenant is clearly stated in the liturgical form for baptism, as found in the Book of Praise 1984. The form (for infants) goes back to 1566. Two paragraphs in particular refer to the covenant. In the first it is stated:
When we are baptized into the Name of the Father, God the Father testifies and seals to us that He establishes an eternal covenant of grace with us. He adopts us for His children and heirs, and promises to provide us with all good and avert all evil or turn it to our benefit (Book of Praise 1984, 584).
In the second:
Third, since every covenant contains two parts, a promise and an obligation, we are, through baptism, called and obliged by the Lord to a new obedience. We are to cleave to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to trust Him, and to love Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, and with all our strength. We must not love the world but put off our old nature and lead a God-fearing life. And if we sometimes through weakness fall into sins, we must not despair of God's mercy nor continue in sin, for baptism is a seal and trustworthy testimony that we have an eternal covenant with God (Book of Praise 1984, 585.)
Thus, when these words are read at the administration of baptism, whether to infant or adult, there is confessed that the covenant is established by God. It is He that brings the relation, in its many aspects, into fruition. Then there is stressed the truth that this covenant monopleurically established has two sides. That is, it is dipleuric. There are two sides, parts or parties. As a theologian, in the continental Reformed tradition, Dr. Jelle Faber (1) brings out these same points. He states:
God's covenant was established by God alone. Its origin is unilateral, mono-pleuric: it comes from one side only. God's is the initiative. But at the same time it is a real co-venant: two parties are in it; they come together (con-venire), the Party with a capital P (God) and the party with a small p (man). God's covenant is bilateral, dipleuric. Covenant is the mutual relationship or agreement between God and His people, established by Himself, and maintained, through His work of grace, by Himself and His people as two "parties." As far as God's part is concerned, the covenant is determined by His Word (promise and demand), and by speaking His Word, God executes His decree of election and reprobation (Faber 1979, 26).
There is the truth that God monopleurically, from one side, establishes the covenant relation. And there is the truth that there is a dipleuric, from two sides, administration of the covenant. But this dipleuric dimension does not neutralize or replace the monopleuric dimension. The monopleuric is further grounded in the foreordained purposes of the Triune God. God's good pleasure in election and reprobation is sovereignly and immutably brought to pass in His passing by of some and His establishing of His covenant with others. And even in the covenant established there are those who respond in repentance, faith and obedience and other who unrepentantly respond in faithlessness and disobedience.
In choosing Faber as an example, it is not to be inferred that this conception is lacking in non-continental thought. John Murray is the best example of an English-speaking Reformed theologian whose writings on the covenant reveal a breadth and depth of understanding and perspective that serves as a rich source of thought for the serious student.
John Murray presents a strong emphasis concerning the monopleuric aspect of the covenant. He concludes that
From the beginning of God's disclosures to men in terms of covenant we find a unity of conception which is to the effect that a divine covenant is a sovereign administration of grace and of promise. It is not compact or contract or agreement that provides the constitutive or governing idea but that of dispensation in the sense of a disposition. . . covenant is not only bestowment of grace, not only oath-bound promise, but also relationship with God in that which is the crown and goal of the whole process of religion, namely, union and communion with God (Murray 1954, 30-31).
In discussing the Noahic Covenant Murray states that
. . . covenant is a sovereign, divine administration, that it is such in its conception, determination, disclosure, confirmation, and fulfilment, that it is an administration or dispensation of forebearance and goodness, that it is not conditioned by or dependent upon faith or obedience of men. It is an administration of grace which emanates from the sovereign good pleasure of God and continues without any modification or retraction of its benefits by the immutable promise and faithfulness of God.
It is quite apparent that in this covenant we must not take our point of departure from the idea of compact, or contract, or agreement in any respect whatsoever. It is not contractual in its origin, or in its constitution, or in its operation, or in its outcome. Its fulfilment or continuance is not in the least degree contingent even upon reciprocal obligation or appreciation on the part of its beneficiaries. . . Here we have covenant in the purity of its conception, as a dispensation of grace to men, wholly divine in its origin, fulfilment, and confirmation (Murray 1954, 14-15).
It would be very easy to read Murray's work only in this light and especially so in light of his pervasive emphasis on the divine monergism. He constantly hammers away at the idea that notions of a contract, an agreement, or any type of mutuality between parties cannot be ascribed to the evidence derived from a biblico-theological examination of the text of Scripture.
As was noted earlier, Murray's work has great breadth and depth. Though he is a Calvinist, his Calvinism is not simply the opposite of Arminianism. That is, since Arminianism has as its root principle indeterminism, so then the Calvinist must take determinism as his root principle. True, the note of sovereign, free, unconditional is given high priority and pre-eminence. But he also notes that
The more enhanced our conception of the sovereign grace bestowed the more we are required to posit reciprocal faithfulness on the part of the recipient (Murray 1954, 18, emphasis mine).
Further, the nuances and qualifications that Murray gives to his exposition must not be overlooked or leveled out.
Throughout his work on the covenant of grace Murray frequently contrasts the biblico-theological conclusions he arrives at with the foil of compact, contract, or pact between parties. He states:
From early times in the era of the Reformation and throughout the development of the covenant theology the formulation has been deeply affected by the idea that a covenant is a compact or agreement between parties (Murray 1954, 5).
But, in a footnote at the end of a series of citations from older covenant theologians, Murray states:
There has been, however, a recognition on the part of more recent students of covenant theology that the idea of pact or compact or contract is not adequate or proper as the definition of berith and diatheke.... (Murray 1954, 7, note 15).
Murray's presentation is governed by two poles of thought. One is, as has been always recognized, that grace and promise characterize the divine covenants. Two, in what way, if at all, the "notion of mutual compact or agreement or convention provides the proper point of departure for our construction of the covenant of grace" (1954, 8). The central question is stated as follows:
The question is simply whether biblico-theological study will disclose that, in the usage of Scripture, covenant (berith in Hebrew and diatheke in Greek) may properly be interpreted in terms of a mutual pact or agreement (Murray 1954, 8).
Murray's concern is, as such, a narrow one. He does note that just because one sees in the usage of covenant a notion of compact that one will not ineluctably distort the biblical doctrine of the covenant. He further recognizes that the notion of compact may be useful in understanding some aspects which lie behind God's work of grace. Murray then is not of the opinion that any and all characterizations of the covenant as a compact or mutuality are inherently destructive of the gospel of free grace.
The idea of compact, contract, etc., that Murray sets out to examine can be characterized in the following manner. In speaking of "Covenants between men" Murray makes the following points:
1) Even should it be true that in these covenants the idea of mutual compact is central, it does not follow that the idea of compact is central in or essential to the covenant relation which God constitutes with man.
2) The LXX translates berith by diatheke - never suntheke.
3) The thought of pact or contract is not in the foreground . . . but the notion of sworn fidelity . . . the solemn engagement of one person to another.
It is the promise of unreserved fidelity, of whole-souled commitment that appears to constitute the essence of the covenant. There is promise, there may be the sealing of that promise by oath, and there is the bond resultant upon these elements the idea of stipulations and conditions devised by mutual consultation and agreed upon as the terms of engagement need not to be present even in human covenants (Murray 1954, 8-10).
Murray writes similarly concerning "Covenants made by man with God":
We must distinguish between devising terms of agreement or striking an agreement, on the one hand, and the agreement of consent or commitment, on the other. What we find in these instances is solemn, promissory commitment to faith or truth on the part of the people concerned . . . . The covenant is solemn pledging of devotion to God, unreserved and unconditional commitment to His service. We are far away from the idea of a bond as sealed on the acceptance of certain prescribed stipulations and the promise of fulfillment of these stipulations on the condition that other parties to the contract fulfill the conditions imposed upon them (Murray 1954, 11).
This is the conclusion of Murray relative to covenants not divine in origin.
Concerning divine covenants Murray puts the question in this way:
Does the idea of mutual compact or agreement constitute the essence of a divine covenant? Or, if this points the question too sharply, is mutual contract or agreement an integral element in the biblical conception of a covenant which God dispenses to men? (Murray 1954, 12).
This is especially the crucial concern for the instances of covenant administration where the grace of God is given to men
The first instance of covenant in Scripture which Murray discusses is the covenant of God with Noah after the Flood. Of this covenant Murray says that it, "perhaps more than any other in Scripture, assists us in discovering what the essence of covenant is. . . ." There are five features in this covenant: 1) "it is conceived, devised, determined, established, confirmed, and dispensed by God Himself;" 2) it is universal, with all flesh; 3) it is unconditional; 4) it is "intensely and pervasively monergistic;" and 5) it is everlasting. Murray concludes that "Here we have covenant in the purity of its conception, as a dispensation of grace to men, wholly divine in its origin, fulfillment, and confirmation" (Murray 1954, 12-13).
Murray recognizes that this is a unique covenant, yet it is termed a covenant in Scripture. He then returns to the covenant made with Noah prior to the Flood.
Yet even in this case, where obedience to commandments is the means through which the grace of the covenant is to be realized and enjoyed, we must also take note of the fact that in other respects this covenant exhibits the features of divine initiation, determination, establishment, and confirmation which are so conspicuous in the post-diluvian Noahic covenant. The idea of compact or agreement is just as conspicuously absent as in the post-diluvian (Murray 1954, 15).
Concerning the commandments given to Noah they are spoken of as appended or added in such a way that they are just as sovereign and unilateral in prescription or dispensation as is the annunciation of the covenant itself" (Murray 1954, 15, 16).
What Murray is concerned to guard against is stated at the end of this section:
We may think of Noah as co-operating with God in carrying out the provisions of the covenant but the co-operation is quite foreign to that of pact or convention. It is the co-operation of response which the grace of the covenant constrains and demands.
What Murray seeks to guard against is any notion that the covenant is a quid pro quo relation. God and man do not sit down and each propose and counter-propose the various clauses of the compact or contract. This idea of mutuality is foreign to any properly biblical and Reformed notion of covenant. The covenant relation is brought into existence by God and God alone. But it is man, the one who is His image-bearer and likeness, who is brought into this gracious relation. The Creator Redeemer is infinitely different from the creature sinner and thus must be spoken of according to this distinction. But the covenant establishes a relation, and the two are brought together. The infinite qualitative difference must be correlated with the warmth and intimacy of the ethical/spiritual relation constituted between God and man. Aristotelian or purely legal/economic ideas of compact must be bracketed from the discussion of covenant. This will be seen more fully as we round out our discussion of Murray's views.
Next Murray takes up the Abrahamic Covenant. In this covenant Murray states "we find features which are entirely new in connection with covenant administration"(1954, 16). The first is found in the solemn sanction or self-maledictory oath by which the Lord confirmed to Abraham his inheritance of the land of Canaan. The second is the feature relative to keeping and breaking the covenant.
The first feature simply continues the line already developed earlier. The covenant relation is first and foremost "divine in its origin, establishment, confirmation, and fulfillment" (Murray 1954, 17). The covenant relation and all who are involved in it owe any and all fruition to the work of the Lord on their behalf (compare John 15:1-5).
The second feature, that of keeping the covenant and warning concerning breaking the covenant, Murray speaks of as complementary to the added richness, intimacy, and spirituality of the covenant itself" 1954, 17). Murray goes on to state, especially in light of the contrast that obtains between the Noahic and the Abrahamic covenants, that
The more enhanced our conception of the sovereign grace bestowed the more we are required to posit reciprocal faithfulness on the part of the recipient. The demands of appreciation and gratitude increase with the length and breadth and depth and height of the favour bestowed. And such demands take concrete practical form in the obligation to obey the commandments of God (Murray, 1954, 18, emphasis added).
Murray then posits that
The necessity of keeping the covenant on the part of men does not interfere with the divine monergism of dispensation. The necessity of keeping is but the expression of the magnitude of the grace bestowed and the spirituality of the relation constituted (Murray 1954, 18).
Thus, it is not that one must agree to keep the covenant before the covenant can be constituted. If it did then any notion that infants could be part of the covenant community would be impossible. In order to "keep" something you must first "have" something (cp. Murray 1954, 21).
This idea is worked out more fully in the remaining portion of this section. Concerning the inference that the possibility of breaking the covenant undermines the perpetuity of the covenant, Murray points out:
Without question the blessings of the covenant and the relation which the covenant entails cannot be enjoyed or maintained apart from the fulfillment of certain conditions on the part of the beneficiaries (Murray 1954, 18).
Thus, merely being born the child of a member of the covenant community is not, barring catastrophic circumstances, (2) sufficient to being considered a member of the covenant community.
What needs to be stressed in this connection is that we may never divorce the faith of God's covenant grace from the discharge of those obligations which inhere in the covenant relation. Covenant privilege always entails covenant responsibility. And this is just saying that the comfort and confidence of God's covenant mercy may never be severed from covenant keeping. It is an abuse that turns the grace of God into lasciviousness to divorce faith from piety and obedience. Faith severed from obedience is presumptuous, just as formal obedience severed from faith is self-righteousness . . . The fear of the Lord, the keeping of his covenant, and obedience to his commandments are the means through which and the conditions upon which those who have received the pledge of God's faithfulness may entertain the assurance and comfort of His faithfulness. To divorce faith and assurance of faith from fidelity to our covenant engagements is to be guilty of an abstraction which does not exist in God's arrangements. . . (Murray 1952, 90-91). (3)
For when we think of the promise which is the central element of the covenant, 'I will be your God, and ye shall be my people', there is necessarily involved, as we have seen, mutuality in the highest sense. Fellowship is always mutual and when mutuality ceases fellowship ceases. Hence the reciprocal response of faith and obedience arises from the nature of the relationship which the covenant contemplates (cf. Gen xviii. 17-19, xxii. 16-18) (Murray 1954, 18).
To paraphrase Murray's next statement: our obedience is the condition upon which the fulfillment of the promise given to us is contingent. Our failure, in the face of clear commands to obey the Lord's voice, to keep the conditions of the covenant, is culpable, eternally so. Breaking the covenant earns us the wrath of the covenant. More shall be spoken concerning conditions later.
In his discussion of the Mosaic and Davidic covenants, Murray further details the conclusions he has stated concerning the Abrahamic. He points out that conditional fulfillment is not peculiar to the Mosaic only (cf. p. 20). The reason for the liberation of the Israelites is to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. In both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants union and communion with the Lord is at the center of the relation (cf. Exod 6:7 and Deut 29:13). Also, the Mosaic covenant "was made with Israel as the sequel to their deliverance from Egypt" (Murray 1954, 20-21). That is, because of the Abrahamic covenant of which they are already a part the Mosaic covenant is brought to realization. It is a further working out of God's covenantal ways. It is making more patent, in a broader sociological setting, the features latent in the Abrahamic covenant.
Murray speaks of those who would see the Mosaic covenant as being established on a different basis from that of the Abrahamic, as bringing "an importation contrary to the texts themselves and one that has deflected the course of thought on this subject." The proper import of Exodus 19:5 is not "If ye will obey my voice and accept the terms stipulated, then 1 will make my covenant with you." No, the covenant "is actually presupposed in the keeping of it" (Murray 1954, 21).
Concerning the Davidic covenant Murray notes that "the most striking feature is the security, the determinateness, and immutability of the divine promise." The covenant has its main purpose in the promise of the Messiah. Even though David recognizes, at the end of his life, that his sons are not living according to the commands of the covenant, yet the Lord "hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for it is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he maketh it not to grow" (2 Sam 23:5; Murray 1954, 23). Concerning this Murray writes,
To whatever extent the response of inclining the ear, of hearing, and of coming (Is. lv. 3) may be requisite in order that the blessings of the covenant grace and relationship may be ours, it must be apparent that the covenant itself is a sovereign donation of the child born and the Son given (Is. ix. 6) (Murray 1954, 24).
Murray then ends his succinct exposition of the Davidic covenant with the words of Isaiah 54:9 (also cf. Isa 59:21) and concludes:
This passage shows that the post-diluvian Noahic covenant provides the pattern or type of what is involved in God's covenant of peace with His people, namely, that it is an oath-bound and oath-certified assurance of irrevocable grace and promise (Murray 1954, 25).
Thus even the revelation given in the Old Testament period comports with the exegesis of the various administrations of the covenant.
Murray finally comes to a discussion of "Covenant in the New Testament". It is first noted that the words of Zacharias not only recall God's covenantal promises to Abraham but also those given to Israel in the Mosaic covenant. Thus,
. . . the undergirding principle of the thought of pious Israelites at this time was the unity and continuity of God's covenant revelation and action, a principle which came to spontaneous expression in the thanksgiving of Zacharias and bears the imprimatur of the Holy Spirit (Murray 1954, 25).
Notice is taken of the use of the term "covenants" to refer to Israel's privilege, particularly that these covenants are characterized as "covenants of promise." Galatians 3:15, 17 are then singled out as emphasizing the "immutability, security, inviolability of covenant" (Murray 1954, 26). Paul, whether referring to the testamentary or promissory aspect of a diatheke, sets forth the irrevocability of a human covenant as being of the essence of the Abrahamic and of the promise entailed in that covenant.
Even when Murray goes on to discuss the relation of the new covenant with that of the old, he points out
. . . that the contrast between the new economy and the old is not expressed in terms of the difference between covenant and something else not a covenant. The contrast is within the ambit of covenant (Murray 1954, 26).
Concerning the inauguration of the new covenant at the Lord's Supper, Murray points out that
. . . we cannot but regard the covenant as a designation of the sum-total of grace, blessing, truth, and relationship comprised in that redemption which His blood has secured. Covenant must refer to the bestowment and the relationship secured by the sacrificial blood which He shed (Murray 1954, 27).
Murray comments on Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 3:6, 8, 9 and 17 in the following manner:
Paul conceives of the new covenant as that which ministers the highest blessing and constitutes the relationship to God which is the crown and goal of the redemptive process and the apex of the religious relationship (Murray 1954, 28).
Concerning the Epistle to the Hebrews more of the same is brought out. Murray recognizes that there are problems with our precisely delineating how the Mosaic covenant is "inferior" to the New according to the author of Hebrews. Yet the concept of covenant contained in the epistle is easily discerned. The emphasis is to be found on the fact that the new covenant is the ripest fruition of the spiritual relationship which was at the heart of both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. In the New Covenant the demands of the law, the obligations devolving upon all in the covenant, are "brought into more intimate relation to us and more effective fulfillment in us" (Murray 1954, 28).
From the beginning of God's disclosures to men in terms of covenant we find a unity of conception which is to the effect that a divine covenant is a sovereign administration of grace and of promise. It is not compact or contract or agreement that provides the constitutive or governing idea but that of dispensation in the sense of disposition (Murray 1954, 30).
The covenant is unilaterally and monergistically established by the Lord God Himself. It is not the product of the work of God and man. The promise "I will be your God and you will be my people" is given to all who are graciously brought into this community. While Murray does not have a discussion of the warnings contained in the revelation of the New Testament or Covenant, yet, what he has said in relation to the Abrahamic and the Mosaic would, by virtue of the unity and continuity of the covenant idea, carry forward into the New Covenant. There is therefore, in Murray's discussion, clear reference to the idea that the covenant is monopleurically bestowed and established, and dipleurically administered, though dependent on the grace and power of God for perseverance into eternal life.
This emphasis on the dipleuric dimension of the covenant relation is further confirmed by Dr. Faber. He comments concerning the phrase "two parts" in the Form for Baptism:
One can think of two parties (God on the one side, and the believers and their seed on the other side) or of two elements or aspects (Promise and demand). Whether the two parts are meant as the two parties within the covenant, or the two parts of the covenant, Reformed people have thought of the covenant as a mutua obligatio, a mutual obligation (Faber 1979b, 166).
He refers first though to the original old German text of 1563. (4) Faber writes concerning the relevant phrase:
I cannot translate this otherwise than that whereas in all covenants both parties oblige themselves, therefore also we promise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that by His grace we acknowledge and profess Him alone to be our only true and living God (Faber 1979b, 167).
Concerning the Dutch text of 1566 (5) he writes:
. . . our Dutch forefathers spoke about two "deelen" (parts) that enter into a bond with each other. A real covenant has at least two parties and in the covenant of grace the LORD promises to us that He will be our God and we promise to Him that we will keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments (Psalm 103:18; Faber 1979b, 167).
In conceiving of the covenant as being administered dipleurically stress is laid on the personal and ethical nature of God's dealings with us. The Lord God, not an Unmoved Mover, in love and condescension enters into a binding relation with man, His image and likeness. Promises full of trust and love are pledged the one to the other. The Lord God speaks first, not only in terms of creation, but also in personal, existential terms. And even with the fall into sin, the rejection of the words of the Lord, the Lord is the first to speak the words of recreation and life. Throughout Scripture it is the Lord God who brings into existence the covenant.
But within this covenant there is a mutuality. This mutuality exists because the Lord God, who is three persons in one being, a wholly personal being, has created a person, man, who is the image and likeness of the Lord. It is with Adam and Eve that the Lord God walks in the Garden (cf. Gen 3:8). The Lord sets the moral/ethical limits within which man must live. And with this too, the man can know what the Lord has obligated Himself to perform.
Yet objections have been brought against conceiving the covenant of God as being dipleuric, having parties or having mutual obligations. Due to adamant opposition to any attempt to demonstrate that there are conditions in the covenant relation Homer Hoeksema, son of Herman Hoeksema, best represents this point of view. This is prominently seen in his editorial response to Faber's comments on "two parts". He entitles the editorial "More Fiction About the Covenant" (Hoeksema 1979b, 221).
Hoeksema takes up the issue of how the word "parts" (Dutch deelen) is to be understood. He states:
It simply is not correct that "one can think of two parties. . . or of two elements or aspects . . ." in connection with the Form for Baptism. The Baptism Form very definitely uses the term "parts." Not only so but the very language of the Form makes it plain that it means "parts," not parties. For in the third paragraph of the Form it goes on to describe not a party, but our "part" in distinction from God's "part" which is described in the second paragraph (Hoeksema 1979b, 221,222).
That is, it is our part to "cleave to this one God. . . trust in Him, and love him forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life." This is what we are called upon by God to do. But it is not because we are a party.
Hoeksema goes on to point out that, "Man is never a party in relation to the Most High" even if you stress "the infinite difference between the capital P and the small p, God and man". (Hoeksema 1979b, 222). Hoeksema queries:
The creature a party in relation to the Creator? The dust in the balance and the drop of the bucket a party in relation to the living God? All nations before Him are as nothing, and vanity!
No, God is His own party. And there are no parties (plural) in His covenant. But it is the privilege and high calling of His people, by His grace, to become members of His covenant of friendship, and thus to be of the party of the living God in the midst of the world (Hoeksema 1979b, 222).
In response to Hoeksema it must be noted that he does not take adequate account of the fact that it is God who has condescended and established the relation. Hoeksema confuses metaphysics with ethics. He reasons from the infinite qualitative difference that exists between the being of the Creator and that of His created creatures, who owe their very existence to Him. The covenant is the ethical field upon which man, a person bearing the divine image, goes about all he thinks, says and does. The covenant establishes a personal/ethical relation. This is why the law or some set of principles that define obedience and disobedience as keeping and breaking of the covenant relation are found with the establishment of the covenant. As Dr. Faber remarks at the end of his rebuttal to Prof. Hoeksema's objections:
It may sound Reformed to refer in this context to the dust in the balance and the drop of the bucket, but such reasoning forgets that God established His covenant after His act of creation or rather that the act of the establishing of the covenant is distinct from the act of creation. In His favour God made man to become a party in relation to His Creator. Father is now His Name (Faber 1979b, 167).
Hoeksema places his emphasis on the decree, the foreordained purpose of God. Faber places the emphasis on the manner in which God brings His purpose to pass. Hoeksema wants to distinguish between how the elect and the reprobate are related to God's covenant. Faber does not see that a distinction is necessary. Hoeksema holds that the terms "believers," "descendants" or "seed," etc., refer to the elect and them only. Faber, on the other hand, refers them to those who have made profession of faith in Christ and been admitted to the sealing ordinances of the church, and their children. A delay must be given to rounding out this discussion. The question of "to whom" is the promise contained in the gospel directed and intended is one that must be taken up in the discussion of the relation of election and reprobation to the covenant.
The subject of conditions can now be further developed. Along with this attention will be given to a fuller understanding of "breaking" the covenant. Concerning the subject of conditions, appeal will be made to the writings of John Murray and Klaas Schilder.
Murray writes concerning condition that:
It is not quite congruous, however, to speak of these conditions as conditions of the covenant. For when we speak thus we are distinctly liable to be understood as implying that the covenant is not to be regarded as dispensed until the conditions are fulfilled and that the conditions are integral to the establishment of the covenant relation. And this would not provide a true or accurate account of the covenant (Murray 1954, 19).
But Murray then goes on to ask: "How then are we to construe the condition of which we have spoken?" To which he replies:
The continued enjoyment of this grace and the relation established is contingent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. For apart from the fulfillment of these conditions the grace bestowed and the relation established are meaningless. Grace bestowed implies a subject and a reception on the part of that subject. The relation established implies mutuality (Murray 1954, 19).
Note that the emphasis is on the "continued enjoyment." Because there is a relation established, there is also a mutuality. Or, there is a relation established monopleurically and through the mutuality that arises there is dipleuric administration. And as Murray goes on to warn:
But the conditions in view are not really conditions of bestowal. They are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and the covenant relation is inconceivable (Murray 1954, 19).
Respecting the Mosaic Covenant and the emphasis there placed on "keeping", Murray points out that the same situation obtains here as with the Abrahamic. He asks: "How does the condition of obedience comport with the concept of a monergistic administration of grace?" He then goes on to reply:
The answer must follow the lines which have been delineated above . . . . What needs to be emphasized now is that the Mosaic covenant in respect of the condition of obedience is not in a different category from the Abrahamic. It is too frequently assumed that the conditions prescribed in connection with the Mosaic covenant place the Mosaic dispensation in a totally different category as respects grace, on the one hand, and demand or obligation, on the other. In reality there is nothing that is principally different in the necessity of keeping the covenant and of obedience to God's voice, which proceeds from the Mosaic covenant, from that which is involved in the keeping required in the Abrahamic. In both cases the keynotes are obeying God's voice and keeping the covenant (cf. Gen xviii.17-19; Exod xix. 5, 6) Murray 1954, 22).
Monopleuric establishment and dipleuric administration adequately summarize Prof. Murray's views as regards his biblico-theological examination of the covenant idea in Scripture. The dipleuric aspect is brought out in his careful attention to the presence of conditions in the covenant relation established.
The second theologian to be discussed is Klaas Schilder. Little of his work is available in English (and even when it is there are still difficulties of comprehension). When the Declaration of Principles (6) was being discussed in the Protestant Reformed Churches in 1950, Schilder wrote a number of articles concerning it in the Dutch periodical De Reformatie. These were later collected together in Woord en Wereld een brochuureeks No. 10-12 (Word and World, a brochure series, number 10-12). The title is Bovenschriftuurliike binding--een nieuw gevaar (A Requirement Beyond Scripture--A New Danger.) A large number of topics was taken up in this publication.
Portions of this work have been translated, particularly some of Schilder's comments on conditions. Rev. J. Geertsema translates, summarizing Schilder's concern in this way:
Prof . K. Schilder says that it is not the use of the word "conditional" in connection with the covenant that is as such the real issue, but that the point is: what do you mean by that word? For it can be used in a wrong way, but also in a correct way (Geertsema 1979d, 291).
The point is that you can not infallibly assign heretical denotations to mere words. Just as the Arminian idea of foreknowledge does not prevent Reformed people from translating "proginosko" by "foreknow," so too the Arminian use of condition (compare the sections in the Rejection of Errors of the Canons of Dordt) does not absolutely militate against Reformed people using "condition."
Next Geertsema gives a translation of Schilder's four-fold differentiation of what condition might mean. They are:
A. Do you mean by "condition": something which would bind God? Then we say unconditionally: "UNconditional be the device!"
B. Do you mean by "condition": something for which God has to wait, before He can go on? Then we say unconditionally: "UNconditional be the device!"
C. Do you mean by "condition": something that we have to fulfill, in order to earn by it? Then we say unconditionally: "UNconditional be the device."
D. Do you mean by "condition": something which God has connected with something else, in order to make clear to us that the one thing cannot come without the other, and that we cannot be sure of the one thing unless at the same time, we have been assured of the other? Then we say unconditionally: conditional be the device!" (Geertsema 1979d, 291).
“A” and "B" are rejected easily by all Reformed people. We all repudiate such notions. "C" is very interesting.
It is interesting in that Herman Hoeksema picked up on this particular meaning to show his view. He writes:
I want to say that, of course, I agree with the negative propositions A, B, and C.
But I want to add one more proposition. It is similar to C with this difference that I want to stop at "fulfill" and omit "to merit something". The proposition then reads: "We do not believe in conditions which we must fulfill." Period (Hoeksema H 1950, 222).
For Hoeksema the call to faith is not a call for the person to fulfill or do anything. This would imply that man has some ability. The call for faith is, instead, fulfilled by the Spirit's creating or giving the gift of faith. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit. But remember, this is only for the elect.
This last statement does not imply a covert undermining of the truth of election. But it is put in this way to draw attention to the direction which Schilder develops in his fourth proposition. The stress is placed, not on God's connecting things, but on His condescension or accommodating His ways to us, especially because of the weakness of our faith, that we might be assured of His grace and salvation for us. Hoeksema stresses what God does--but only in relation to the elect. Election cannot be made basic to our understanding of who are to be regarded as members of the body of Christ in time. God has connected faith in Christ, repentance from dead works and new obedience to the way of demarcating those who are the elect of God in time. It is not an infallible judgment, but it is to be taken as true because it conforms to the biblical pattern.
Herman Hoeksema does try briefly to rebut case D. But he fails in that he does not go on to address Schilder's elaboration of the fourth case. Schilder writes:
D. But now the fine point: God did give us PROMISES, but not PREDICTIONS. Thus, he does not say to N.N.: you shall get into heaven, and to another N.N.: you will remain eternally outside of it.
Therefore He gives a promise with a command, like the Canons of Dort say: the promise comes, with the command of faith and conversion (Geertsema 1979d, 291).
Note the emphasis on the individual--"N.N." This is something that Hoeksema can never do because of his consistent substitution of "the elect" as the one to whom the Three Forms of Unity have reference.
It is also interesting that Hoeksema does not think that Schilder can mean by the fourth case that God has firmly linked means and ends (cf. Hoeksema, H 1950, 222). But at the end of his series, where he gives his "Provisional Conclusions" (Voorloopig Slotwoord, pages 82-90), he does make this same point. Schilder writes:
Als U zegt: geloof is niet een CONDITIE, Maar een MIDDEL, dan zeg ik: ik houd maar op. Ik beweer: middelen zijn ook condities, en ik heb dat aangetoond ook. Middel is conditie voor boelbereiking (87).
A rough translation would be as follows:
As you [Hoeksema] say: faith is not a condition, but a means. Then I say: I give up in exasperation. I maintain: means are also conditions, and I have shown that also. Means are conditions for securing one's object.
Even better, they are the means that God in His Word reveals to us. We are to lay hold of that for which we have been laid hold upon.
Hoeksema cannot see that a condition can also refer to things other than the bestowal of a relation. His concept of covenant and the promise being given only to the elect prevents him from doing justice to much of Scripture. While he regularly denies that his supralapsarianism is part of the problem, yet it does have a major impact. The supralapsarian takes his starting point in the pretemporal separation of all people into elect and reprobate. This separation is then used as a hermeneutic tool whereby to determine the meaning of any passage and to determine to whom it does refer. The promise of eternal life and any references to the need that one believe are always referred to the elect because they are the only ones who will have true faith. The warnings or threats of condemnation are always referred to the reprobate, those upon whom God never has any favor. In Hoeksema's theological method the law of non-contradiction is used consistently, but speculatively, or, at best, abstractly.
Hoeksema maintains that it is God alone who fulfills any and all conditions. Thus there are no conditions for us to fulfill. And, in a sense, this is true. There is nothing that sinners can do to meet the obligations devolving upon them. Even with eternity, this debt is more than they could make even a little progress towards paying. But here is the confusion: the idea of merit is covertly brought back into the issue. For him a condition is ipso facto a contractual term. But as Murray has noted this is not true. The same thing has been pointed to by the "Aristotle of Theology," Francis Turretin. He argues (cogently in our view) in his Theological Institutes under the Third, Fourth and Twelfth Topics that there is a proper, in contrast to, and improper denotation for the word "condition." (7)
Directly related to the issue of conditions is the question of the significance of references in Scripture to breaking the covenant (cp. Lev 26:15; Deut 17:2;29:25; Josh 7:11, 15; Psa 78:10, 37; etc.). What does it mean to "break" something that is called "eternal?" In order to develop the positions taken and issues raised I will use a series of editorials by Homer C. Hoeksema in The Standard Bearer (Protestant Reformed Church) and Jan Geertsema in the Clarion (Canadian Reformed Church), written responsively to each other in 1978 and 1979. Though perhaps unknown to many readers, each of these protagonists (and their publications) stands staunchly and unashamedly in the line of confessional Reformed orthodoxy. Both are unalterably opposed to all attempts to allow Arminian or Pelagianizing tendencies to intrude into the preaching of the Gospel. Both have the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism and Canons of Dordt) as their confessional standard. And yet, on the issue of conditions and covenant-breaking, Geertsema replies "Ja" and Hoeksema "Nee! (8)
Hoeksema, when questioned concerning whether the existence of covenant-breakers in the Old Testament necessarily continues in the new dispensation, states that:
. . . in this entire discussion about covenant breaking there are two crucial questions. The first is: what do you understand by the covenant of grace? The second crucial question is: whom do you understand as being included in God's covenant? (Hoeksema 1978, 463).
He then answered these questions as follows:
If you define the covenant, as we do, as the eternal relation of friendship between God and His elect people in Christ Jesus, then it certainly follows, too, that the covenant cannot be broken. It is eternal, and it is an everlasting covenant
Does God's covenant embrace only the elect, that is, believers and their seed? Then again you cannot very well speak about that covenant being broken in the sense that the relation of friendship is severed (Hoeksema 1978, 489-490).
Hoeksema thus defined the covenant exclusively in terms of the doctrine of election. He also spoke of the historical sphere of the covenant. But it seems that the "historical" is not vitally or dynamically related to "eternal" covenant. He remarked that
Reformed people have sometimes spoken rather loosely and inaccurately, in connection with the sins of those who are born and brought up and live in the historical sphere of God's covenant, as covenant breakers. This language is not accurate and precise. We must certainly not forget that in the sphere of the covenant all sin -– whether of elect or reprobate --is more emphatically sinful. . . But it is neither necessary nor helpful to speak in this connection of covenant breaking; it is only confusing (Hoeksema 1978, 464).
The phrase "historical sphere of God's covenant" is very significant. But it will have to be bypassed for the moment.
There is a sense in which Hoeksema will speak of "breaking" the covenant. It is as follows:
. . . the term that is translated by "break" is the same term that is used more than once in Scripture with respect to breaking a commandment or breaking a law. Now, obviously, this cannot mean that the law as such is broken in the sense that it no more stands whole and complete and valid. The opposite is true. That law remains in force. The same is true with respect to the covenant. The term "break" refers to a violation, a transgression of the covenant (Hoeksema 1978, 464).
The eternal bond of friendship remains between God and the elect. Those who are chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, kept by the omnipotent power of the sovereign Lord, and no doubt regenerated from infancy, (9) and thus have that imperishable seed of God within them, cannot fail to be acquitted or vindicated at the last judgment.
As many Reformed people will affirm, this is usually the case with those who are of the elect. But this is only one side, albeit a truth most precious to all Reformed people, but only one aspect of the teaching of Holy Scripture. You cannot begin with a truth, even a preeminent truth, of Scripture and then determine what all of Scripture means (compare what has already been written concerning Van Til above).
Hoeksema refers to the covenant with Abraham as teaching that the covenant is everlasting. Genesis 17:7 states, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a god unto thee, and thy seed after thee." But as Geertsema points out, in reply, verse 14 explicitly warns of breaking the covenant, and thus of being "cut off" from the covenant community. To affirm that the covenant is unbreakable and yet have Scripture affirm, in the same context, that it is breakable is, at minimum, confusing. Theological formulations must be constructed so as to reflect the teachings of the texts which they purport to summarize.
Geertsema goes on to show briefly that the New Testament also warns of covenant breaking and apostasy. He prefaces this demonstration by noting that neither the phrase "breaking the covenant" is present, nor does the term "covenant" itself occur very often. "But that does not mean that the matter is not here either" (Geertsema 1978, 490). He writes:
And at the end [of the Sermon on the Mount] our Lord confronts His disciples with the covenant blessing and the covenant curse: if one hears and does His words he is like a man who builds his house on the rock. But if one hears and does not do Christ's words, he is like one building his house on sand. Hearing and not doing is the same as breaking the covenant, as far as I can see (Geertsema 1978, 490).
His next reference is made to 1 Corinthians 10. Stress is placed on the fact that Paul speaks of them all being under the cloud, passing through the sea, baptized into Moses in the cloud, all drinking of the same rock, Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them. Even if they were reprobate does this mean that they were not in the covenant? The only way to get around this is by some type of sleight of hand or equivocation. And especially note that Paul uses this as a warning to the church itself. Finally, the epistle to the Hebrews is drawn upon. In particular, Geertsema uses 3:7-4:11 and 10:25-39. Of this epistle he remarks:
This epistle especially speaks about the new and eternal covenant of grace, in which also the Hebrews share, being once for all perfected by the sacrifice of Christ. But at the same time this epistle is one strong exhortation to endure and persevere in the faith. And pointing to Israel which did not receive the promised good because of their unbelief, the author warns the Hebrews, people of the new covenant, not to follow in the line of that unbelief. For then there is also for you a fierce judgment (Geertsema 1978, 490-491).
In the June 2, 1979 Clarion Rev. Geertsema entitles his "Press Review": "In What Manner Can the Covenant Be Broken?" (1979b, 240-242). Here he takes up the matter of the proper understanding of the Hebrew word translated "to break" (parrar). He notes that this word occurs some forty-two times. He then takes these occurrences and arranges them in groups. In the first group are those verses that are used in relation to a vow, cf., Num 30:8, 12-16. When you "break" a vow it is not merely a violation or transgression of the vow. It is "making it void, annulling it, destroying it, so that it is no longer in force." In the second group there are verses such as 2 Sam 15:34; 17:14; Isa 24:27; 44:25; Job 5:12; Ezra 4:5; Neh 4:15 (10) and Prov 15:22. Here there is reference made 'to plans, advice being "broken." The point is that the plans or counsel have no effect and have to be abandoned." A third group contains those texts that would seem to support Hoeksema's view. They are Num 15:31; Ps 119:126; and Ezra 9:14. These are taken up near the end of the article. Another group consists of those that occur only once. The first is Ps 85:4. Here the psalmist calls upon the Lord to "break" His wrath. The idea of merely violating is thoroughly inadequate. The sense is pleading with God to do away with His wrath. Next is Job 15:4. The point is that Job is accused of nullifying, by his refusal to repent of his sin, the fear of God, on the part of any who observe him in his trial. Job 40:8 is the third text. Here God responds to Job's call for justice, and Job questions God's moral integrity. God responds by asking Job if it is really his intention to impugn the Lord's right to do with him what He pleases. Last, there is Eccl 12:5 which speaks of the "breaking down" or failure of the human body as it grows older. Particularly the text has reference to the failure of sexual desire (Geertsema 1979b, 240-241).
The article next takes up those occurrences of the verb parrar. The first group contains texts which deal with men breaking covenant with other men. They are 1 Kings 15:19 and its parallel, 2 Chr 16:3; Isa 33:8 and Ezek 17:15, 16, 18. The point of these texts is that not only is there violation and transgression of the covenant, but there is also the destruction of an existing relation. As Geertsema comments: "from his side the king of Judah severed it, did away with it for him it did not exist any longer" (Geertsema 1979b, 241).
The second group concerns God breaking the covenant. The texts found here are Jer 33:20, 21; Lev 26:44; Jer 14:21; Zech 11:10, 14; Judg 2:1. The first text is the most interesting. Here God says, "If you can break My covenant of the day and the night, then also will My covenant with David be broken." Since the former is absolutely impossible so is the possibility of the latter occurring But the point that must be gained is what is the force of the verb "to break"? "To break" means to annul, to no longer exist. It is not simply a matter of violation or transgression. Lev 26:44 makes a similar point. God promises not to end the relation that He has established with Israel. The third group of texts is as follows: Gen 17:14; Lev 26:15; Deut 31:16, 20; Isa 24:5; Jer 11:10; 31:32; and Ezek 16:59; 44:8. These verses speak of the people of God, on their part, breaking the covenant. It would be very strange for there to be a sudden shift in meaning for these verses in the light of the large number of references that have already been taken up. And further, we see that
. . . there is no need for a change at all, when we see and maintain that the covenant of the LORD with His people is a mutual relationship between two parties, like a marriage, where both parties promise and demand. . . When Israel served other gods and was not keeping God's commandments, Israel from its side broke, that is, severed, the covenant relationship with God. Israel was annulling it. The relationship with the LORD was severed and no longer functioned from the side of the people (Geertsema, 1979b, 242).
Geertsema now returns to the three passages that spoke of breaking God's law or commandments. He writes:
. . . also here we have to maintain the element of annulling or destroying, so that it no longer has any power or effect. Of course, everyone knows that the law of God as such can not be annulled, just as His plans and counsel never can. But that law of God is more than a thing as such. It also comes into the lives of the people of the covenant; they are confronted with it. And what do they do with it, when they do not do it? As far as they are concerned they make it powerless in their lives; they destroy such a commandment for themselves. . . In transgressing it, they break it into pieces, so to speak, with respect to their lives. . . (Geertsema 1979b, 242).
Geertsema closes his article by rebutting Hoeksema 's contention that the covenant is an unconditional eternal promise only to the elect. He writes:
However, God made His covenant with His people. He spoke to the whole people at Sinai: I am the LORD your God. I have redeemed you. And He promises to all of them entry into the promised land. And why did they not enter? Because of their unbelief. And must we now not say that the covenant with the people included all the individual members? and, although God maintains His covenant with His people, that individual members in (!), and not outside, that covenant can break that covenant, that relation with God, from their side. They can sever it . . . . When an individual member, or a number of members break the covenant, that covenant as such is not destroyed. Certainly not. Nevertheless, the transgressors break the covenant relation that existed between God and them! (Geertsema 1979b, 242).
In this conclusion Geertsema also states that "we do not have to assume a historic sphere of the covenant beside the covenant proper." This statement shall now be enlarged upon.
In his initial article Geertsema had written, "No, I cannot find this [the idea of a historic or historical sphere of the covenant] in Scripture." Geertsema had written:
I do not believe that the one child, being baptized, is "in the covenant," and that the other child being baptized is only "in the sphere of the covenant," but not "in the covenant" itself (Geertsema 1978, 490).
In reply Hoeksema wrote:
. . . this historical sphere of the covenant is not limited to the reprobate in the church. Also the elect children, the children of the promise, the seed, are born and grow up in that same historical sphere of the covenant. But there is this difference: the elect children, the seed, are in the covenant, while the reprobate are not. The reprobate children are born and grow up in the sphere of the covenant; but the promise,"I will be your God," is not for them (Hoeksema, H. C. 1979a, 199).
Hoeksema then points to the fact that "the historical sphere of the covenant coincides with the historical line of the covenant, which is always the line of generations." This means the line from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Israel to David to Christ and beyond. Combined with this idea of the historical line of the covenant is that of "a clear distinction between the 'seed' and the generations in which that seed is brought forth and grows up." He points to Genesis 17:7 "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant.” The generations referred to are the fleshly children, all the physical descendants. And the "seed" referred to must not be identified with the physical descendants. Hoeksema refers to Galatians 3:7-9 and 3:16 and 29 to make this point. Thus the elect are found within the generations of believers which constitutes essentially the historical sphere of the covenant. . . In that sphere they [elect and reprobate] share all things--except grace" (Hoeksema, H. C. 1979a, 199-200).
This is why there must be a "historical sphere of the covenant." A place must be found where one can affirm that God's electing purpose in Christ Jesus is accomplished and that when you baptize children, concerning whose election or reprobation you have no knowledge, you can affirm the truth of the promise of God. This is why Hoeksema can deny
. . . that we teach that in the case of the reprobate children baptism is a fake baptism and an empty form. Baptism is never fake, and it is never an empty form. Neither, however, does baptism say anything individualistic . . . to and concerning a given infant when it is baptized (Hoeksema, HC 1979a, 198).
Hoeksema says if the language of the baptism form is applied to all infants being baptized, "you not only run completely stuck and run into insoluble problems, but you also will end by making God a liar" (Hoeksema, HC 1979a, 198).
In response, it must be immediately noted that the problem does not happen when you try to apply the language of the form for baptism to all children being baptized. On Hoeksema's view it is impossible to affirm the truths contained in the form for baptism of any child being baptized. And this is not meant in the way a Baptist would intend. Hoeksema, because he maintains with absolute tenacity that the promises of God are only and always to the elect, can never place the name of the child being baptized into any of the several places in the form where one finds the phrase "this child." Hoeksema accuses the Kuyperians of inserting the presupposing of regeneration into their baptizing, and the Liberated and the Heynsians of inserting "conditionally" into the baptism. Hoeksema inserts "if you are elect." Hoeksema speaks of "facts, realities" being the message of the form for baptism. But they are facts and realities that can only be applied to the child being baptized in an agnostic, but hopeful, way. (11)
As Geertsema states in his reply to Hoeksema:
If we want to maintain that personal character of baptism, and of the place of the individual members it the covenant of God with His people together with the (Protestant Reformed) view that the promise goes only to, and is only for the elect, and that baptism is God's "seal upon this truth that He reckons faith for righteousness," then only those who are elected and of whom you may assume they are elected because they show themselves believers received the gift of faith as we assume.
So: baptize only grown-ups who confess their faith (Geertsema 1979c, 276).
To say that baptism seals only the general truth of justification by faith is seriously to truncate the meaning and significance attached to the baptism, of both infants and adults, by Reformed people. But, as Geertsema goes on to say,
However, we have difficulties with maintaining that personal character, when we see the covenant of God made with the believers and all their children, and that God seals the promises of the Gospel to them all, and that with the promise comes the obligation of faith, and that the promises are realized in the way of faith. And Prof. Hoeksema knows quite well that we wholeheartedly believe that this faith is not our own doing, but is God's free sovereign gift to those whom He has elected (Geertsema 1979c, 276).
Geertsema also replies to Hoeksema's attempt to found the historical sphere of the covenant on the phrase "in their generations." That is, the physical line of believers have, as their physical children, the fruit of the womb, elect children and/or reprobate children. Thus, within the line of physical generations there come into existence the elect children of God. But Geertsema points out that the Hebrew will not bear this meaning. The term used is ledorotham. He then appeals to Gen 17:9, 12; Exod 12:14, 17, 42; 16:32, 33 and Lev 3:17; 7:36; 10:9 to establish that it means "in/throughout their generations" (Geertsema 1979c, 277). If Hoeksema's exegesis were to be properly founded then the term bedorotham as found in Genesis 6:9 and 7:1, would have been used.
Three subjects remain to be considered. They concern the relation of the covenant to the two Adams, to election and reprobation, and to the sacraments. The first two shall be discussed briefly. The third shall be expanded on to a larger degree because it is where the covenant doctrine takes on its greatest significance for the life of the Church.
Central to the discussion of the relation of covenant to either Adam or Christ is the concept of "merit." But all of them, in their capacity as individuals and as representatives of their posterities, would earn something: either death or life, eternal life or eternal death. Both of them entered into a relation of covenant with the Father as sons. There is little disagreement as to these facts. (12) What is of concern is how the term "merit" is to be understood and construed.
If "merit" is construed in terms of an abstractly or neutrally defined principle of justice, which stands above God and man, then this is out of bounds confessionally and biblically. The idea of "merit" must be conceived within the bounds of the Creator-creature distinction and the words of Scripture. Also adequate consideration must be taken of the different situations that Adam and Christ were in when they stood their period of probation. Not only do they stand in the covenant relation to the Father eodem modo (in the same way), but, and this must become more greatly appreciated, they stand in that relation non eodem modo (not in the same way). The first Adam stood before his Father clothed in original righteousness, holiness and knowledge, with his ethical orientation to the good. The fact of sin was not a part of his situation. Being already in communion with the Father he had no demerit to contend with. The second/last Adam did have the debt and demerit of His people to fulfill. (13) In order to appreciate both the similarities and the dissimilarities between the two Adams one must not simply stop with, the reading of Paul's epistles to the Romans and the Corinthians. The epistle to the Hebrews must also be noted. While the first Adam is not mentioned yet the emphasis of the superiority of Christ over the Mosaic covenant can and must be brought into the discussion. And this is especially so because of the close relation often posited between the Mosaic covenant and the Covenant of Works.
The obedience of Adam, who was wholly a creature, could never be meritorious, except that the Father in condescension deems the works done out of faithfulness to the Word of God given, to be so in His sight. The obedience of the second/ last Adam must be appreciated in its own light. There must be no mystery or uncertainty attached to the outcome of the probation. There must be the entire payment of the debt due the Father. And to this must also be the acquiring of a positive righteousness, holiness and knowledge of the Lord which shall never be undone.
The very idea of a Covenant of Works has come under probing discussion in this century and particularly with its attendant concept of merit. It is interesting to note that it is in the Reformed continental tradition that the concept has received extensive criticism. (14) We do have some in the Presbyterian tradition who are critical, (15) but most are quite concerned to defend it. (16)
Dr. Faber devotes two editorials in the Clarion to a review and critique of the Covenant of Works. He agrees that "If Adam had been obedient he would have been justified on the ground of his own inherent righteousness" (Faber 1982a, 90). But he goes on to state:
Yet Adam's own inherent righteousness would not have been meritorious; Adam was a son, not a laborer, the covenant in the garden was not a labor contract. Eternal life could never have been earned. It was a gift of God, and man would obtain it in the way of covenantal obedience.
Dr. Faber goes on to note that one looks in vain in the Three Forms of Unity for anything even approaching a covenant of works. But he does acknowledge that there are some, such as A. Kuyper, Sr., and V. Hepp, who have "constructed a contrast between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace" (Faber 1982a, 91).
Faber next gives a quotation from S. G. DeGraaf. In his work Promise and Deliverance (better called "History of the Covenant"--Verbondsgeschiedenis), he writes concerning Genesis 2 that:
We are accustomed to speaking of this covenant as the covenant of works. However, we should not take this name to mean that man was expected to earn eternal life as a reward for doing good works, as though eternal life was man's payment for services rendered. Because man owes everything he is and has to God, we may never speak of man earning wages paid out by God. Therefore it might be wiser to speak of the covenant of God's favor. Grace in general means favor, but in the Scriptures grace always had the special meaning of favor that forgives guilt (from vol I, p. 37 as cited in Faber 1982a, 91).
Dr. Faber summarizes it in this way:
The only demand made of Adam was that he choose consciously for the favor given him by God if he and his posterity were to abide forever in that favor. If one would speak of a contrast between the covenant in Paradise and the covenant of grace it is this: that the last Adam as our Mediator had to continue to choose for God's favour even when that favour had completely forsaken him (Faber 1982a, 91).
In his second editorial Faber brings up what is alleged to be a strong argument in favor of merit as part of the original covenant. It is said that this calling the covenant a "covenant of favor" will obscure the doctrine of Christ's merits. It is argued: "If you do not speak of merit in Adam, how can you then speak of merit in Christ, the last Adam" (Faber 1982b, 115)? Faber answers this objection by citing the work of Dr. K. Schilder on the Heidelberg Catechism. In particular his exposition of Lord's Day 5, (17) on the satisfaction of God's justice. Faber summarizes Schilder's reply:
Schilder argues that to pay does not mean to merit. Strictly speaking, to merit is impossible for man. If in the state of integrity Adam satisfied God's justice, did he then merit anything? No, if he had even desired to merit anything, he would have violated the honour of God and forgotten his own origin as creature. He would not have given to God what is God's. To satisfy God's justice means for us that we consciously deny the possibility of merit and that in faith we acknowledge the favour of God before the fall and the grace of God thereafter. To pay does not mean to merit: if one pays his taxes, does he merit anything? God is our Father, also in Paradise (Faber 1982b, 115).
In this last sentence is contained much of the key to answering the dilemma. God was Father to Adam His son, not Adam's boss or supervisor. Adam was called upon to live in obedience to the words of His Father. His Father, in condescending love and favor, would reward him abundantly for the obedience of faith manifested. True the situation that Adam was in was one of probation, a legal context is an aspect of the situation. But to reduce the situation strictly to the legal and not accent the aspects of love, faith and hope is to warp the situation.
The second topic to be taken up is the relation of covenant to election and reprobation. Are the persons contemplated in the decree of election identical, without addition or subtraction, with those brought into the covenant? In what manner does election and reprobation cut across even the covenant? Even here we are brought to the question of the sacraments, particularly that of baptism. Are all the baptized, head for head, in the covenant? And, if so what does this say relative to the decrees of election and reprobation? Many and varied are the answers and methods devised for answering this question and others attendant to it. (18)
. . . relationship between membership in the covenant of grace and divine election.
. . In one sense, membership in the covenant of grace is restricted to the elect, since only the elect enjoy the fellowship with God which is the heart or essence of the covenant. In another sense, however, membership in the covenant of grace includes more than the elect, since many members of the covenant (through birth from believing parents) never arrive at true covenant fellowship (Hoekema 1983, 188). (19)
How are we to speak concerning those who are on the rolls of the Church? How are we to speak of those who have confessed the Lord Jesus Christ as their all-sufficient Savior, been instructed and baptized, partaken of the Lord's Supper, listened and heeded the preaching of the Word of God, and yet who, over time, begin to wander away? They are dealt with extensively by the consistory or session of the Church. Yet they reject all admonition and are excommunicated. And they continue, without repentance, as excommunicate and die. What was their real situation? (20)
One particularly fruitful way of answering the question has been put forward by Geerhardus Vos. He suggests the idea that the covenant of grace can be thought of as a "legal relationship" and as a "living fellowship" (Hoekema 1983, 188). The first emphasizes the given situation, in God's providence, in which an infant finds him/herself. The sign and seal, baptism, has been administered and the child is a member of the Church, the covenant community. God's promise to be the God of us and our children is rested upon. The idea of a "living fellowship" emphasizes the personal or existential realization of the work of the triune God in the life of the covenant child. The covenant child, the same as all who claim the name of Christian, must live a life of faith, repentance, and obedience. That is, he must turn away from the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil and manifest the obedience of faith to God's Word. As Vos states:
The covenant is neither a hypothetical relationship, nor a conditional position; rather it is the fresh, living fellowship in which the power of grace is operative. Only by the exercise of faith does it become a reality. It is always believers who act as true covenant partners with God (Vos 1980, 256).
In speaking of the relation of election and covenant Vos makes some highly pertinent remarks. He points out that:
The origin of the grace of God, the full benefits of which the Reformed believer enjoys by the covenant, always lies for him in election. If consciousness of the covenant is the right expression for the consciousness of faith in its Reformed form, then there must not only be a place in it for the idea of election, but it must be permeated by the idea (Vos 1980, 257).
Here Vos distinguishes covenant and election (and reprobation) but also shows how they are related. Election is the fountain, the bloodstream. The covenant is the way of administering the grace of election. He goes on to point out also, that "the consciousness of the covenant and the consciousness of election are not divorced, and that the former is the basis of the latter (Vos 1980, 257). Here again the distinction is set forth that a proper order must be taken in viewing the relation of covenant and election. Our knowledge of, our understanding and appreciation of election comes through on the basis of our knowledge and appreciation of the covenant with which we have been sealed.
Further on Vos says:
As far as adults are concerned. . . the covenant presupposes acceptance and personal appropriation of its contents by faith on the basis of the electing grace of God, and the administration of the covenant starts from this presumption. This is the third and new aspect, which is added to the offer of the covenant and the requirement to enter into the covenant. Here its [the covenant's] realization takes place (Vos 1980, 258).
Here the emphasis is seen on the covenant as rooted in election and being the realization or historical manifestation of election. But as Vos notes, after citing a number of Reformed theologians to confirm his point, "the theologians did not place election and covenant side by side in a dualistic fashion, but related them organically" (Vos 1980, 259). He does recognize though "that for many election circumscribes the extent of the covenant even in their definition of the covenant." But even so,
One hardly needs to be reminded how all this in no sense means that covenant administration proceeds from election, nor that all non-elect stand outside any relation to the administration of the covenant. Rather it means: 1) that any certainty about one's election must develop out of a strong covenant awareness; 2) that through the entire administration of the covenant the all-embracing promises of God, as they result from election, must be kept in mind, both in word and sacrament; 3) that finally the essence of the covenant, its full realization, is found only in the true children of God, and therefore is no more extensive than election (Vos 1980, 260).
We must affirm that the covenant does not proceed from election nor is it made only with the elect. But the covenant is the organic, dynamic context in which election and reprobation are brought to full realization.
A word or two must also be spoken concerning the relation of reprobation to the covenant. Some of this has been dealt with above. Norman Shepherd in a two-part article "The Biblical Doctrine of Reprobation" (21) sets forth:
. . . the Biblical basis for the doctrine and, the way in which this doctrine functions as integral to the whole counsel of God and to the message of redemption through Jesus Christ alone (Shepherd 1980a, 16).
It is the second article where the relation of covenant to election and reprobation is taken up. He points out that:
By means of the doctrine of reprobation the Reformed pastor is enabled more effectively to inculcate a covenant consciousness among the people of God. Scripture repeatedly stresses the basic division that runs through the whole human race between covenant keepers and covenant breakers. . .
This distinction between believers and unbelievers, between the just and the wicked, between covenant keepers and covenant breakers, is rooted in the distinction in the will of and purpose of God between the elect and the reprobate (Shepherd 1980b, 18).
Thus we see essentially the same point made as was earlier made by Vos.
But Shepherd goes on to show how it is we can use the terms "elect" and "reprobate" of those with whom we come into contact every day. He notes that no one has insight into God's mind. This is agreed upon by all. And therefore no one can say, infallibly, who are the elect and who are the reprobate. But Scripture, the writers of the various books, use the words "reprobate" and "elect" of various people or groups of people. How can they do this? As Shepherd goes on to reply:
When Paul addresses the Ephesian Christians as elect (Eph 1:3-14) he does so, not on the basis of a supposed knowledge of the decree, but on the basis of the relation which the Ephesians sustain to the covenant of grace. There are "saints" in Ephesus who believe and who are walking in the Spirit. Such is possible, ultimately, only because of God's gracious election, and therefore Paul calls the covenantally faithful believers the elect of God. By their fruits are they known. Similarly unbelievers can be called reprobate because they show the marks of their reprobation in disobedience. Those who walk in the ways of wickedness are under the wrath and curse of God. They show the signs of reprobation and must therefore be viewed as reprobate (Shepherd 1980b, 18).
Therefore, a person who refuses to believe and come under the sacrament of initiation, baptism, must be acknowledged as reprobate, according to our human perception.
But we must also go on to note that these:
. . . reprobate are to be called to faith in Christ not because God's reprobation from eternity can be undone, but because it cannot be undone. The Reformed pastor. . . knows God's revealed will, namely, His will to punish sinners, and he preaches accordingly. When the reprobate turn in repentance and faith, they are no longer looked upon as reprobate but as elect. God's decree of reprobation from eternity has not changed, but our human perception of it changes when, in the purpose and grace of God, the signs of reprobation give way to the signs of election. Jesus dies for the ungodly (Rom 5:6) and Jesus justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5). Jesus saves and calls those who from the point of view of the covenant show every sign of being reprobate and who are therefore properly addressed as reprobate (Shepherd 1980b, 19).
Thus the covenant functions to set forth visibly what is, as far as our perception is concerned, to be regarded as God's word concerning election and reprobation, this side of the final judgment. To use a statement of Herman Bavinck, "though election and reprobation culminate in a final and total separation, here on earth they repeatedly crisscross" (Bavinck 1951, 400). Because we are creatures, living in the “early” of history, we must approach election and reprobation from the covenant, that is, from the covenant documents -The Bible.
The relation between the doctrine of the covenant and the sacraments will be discussed. Pierre Ch. Marcel remarks:
In Scripture the covenant is regarded as the supreme "secret" of God, the mystery which He reveals to those only who fear Him: "The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He causes them to know His covenant" (Ps. xxv.14). The doctrine of the covenant is the germ, the root, the pith of all revelation, and consequently of all theology; it is the clue to the whole history of redemption. Every other doctrine, no matter what it may be is in some manner connected, with it, and . . . . especially and primarily the doctrine of the sacraments (Marcel 1953, 72).
It is in one's doctrine of the sacraments that there is revealed, according to Herman Bavinck, "the shibboleth, the touchstone, of every dogmatic system" (as cited in Marcel 1953, 17 from Gereformeerde Dogmatiek IV, 221). In the doctrine of the sacraments theory becomes practice. One's views concerning the relation of God to the world, creation and recreation, the person and work of Christ and the Spirit, sin and grace "are all more or less present and implicit in the doctrine of the sacraments" (cited in Marcel 1953, 17). In the following discussion, particular attention will be given to Baptism although the Lord's Supper is not irrelevant.
The Westminster Standards draw explicit attention to the relation between covenant and sacrament. In the Westminster Confession of Faith XXVII:1 it is stated:
Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him; as also to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his word (Free Church of Scotland 1973, 40-41; also cf. XXVIII:1; XXX:3; Westminster Larger Catechism Questions 162, 166, 176; Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 92 and 94). (22)
Thus when the sacraments are properly administered within the true church of Jesus Christ then before our eyes we see God signifying and sealing the covenant with His people.
The Lord's Supper is a sacrament of the covenant because the blood shed by Christ is that of the covenant. Baptism, which has reference to the death of Christ, accomplished according to the promises of the covenant, and to His resurrection in virtue of the same promises of the same covenant, is equally a sacrament of the covenant of grace (Marcel 1953, 151-152).
Marcel then goes on to present a comparison of the relation between covenant and baptism:
The covenant contains the promise of justification and forgiveness of sins; the Gospel proclaims this; the preaching of the Word effects belief in this; baptism is the sign and seal of this. By baptism God reveals that He wishes through His justification to re-establish the sinner in blessed fellowship with Himself.
The covenant contains the promise of the adoption of sons, fellowship in the death and resurrection of Christ, and our incorporation into Christ. It makes us children of God. Baptism is the sign and seal of this adoption, this sonship, this fellowship, and this incorporation.
The covenant has reference to vocation and election, and so also has baptism. It contains the promise of life eternal and of glorification: "Whosoever believes and is baptized has everlasting life." The covenant is all of grace; it is grace in Jesus Christ; baptism is the sign and seal of this grace.
The covenant conveys the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit with a view to the full and free application of the work of redemption and of all the benefits of salvation; baptism, which unites us to Christ and makes us partakers of all His blessings and mercies, is the sacrament of this. Together with the Word, it is the Spirit's means of action whereby all the riches of salvation are communicated to us by faith. The Spirit is at work in forming all the fruits which result from baptism, just as in those which are conveyed to us by the preaching of the Word.
The covenant is trinitarian: so also is baptism, in conformity to the command of Christ and the economy of salvation. It is the sign and seal of the mercy of the Father who wishes to receive us into His grace, who provides us with a Mediator through whose death and life we are regenerated, in order that by the sanctification of the Spirit a new spiritual nature may be built up in us. The cause of our cleansing and regeneration is in God, the matter is in Christ, and its efficacy is the fruit of the Spirit.
The covenant and baptism are both entirely to the glory of God and intended for His glorification in us.
The object of the covenant is to remove sinful man from the corruptions of this age, to separate him from the wicked, and to incorporate him in God's people and Church: baptism signifies and seals the reality of this act of God which is fulfilled in whoever receives the promise with faith. Baptism is the sacrament of this setting apart, of this incorporation into the visible Church. The covenant builds up the Church, and so does baptism.
It is important to observe that, whatever are the New Testament texts which relate to baptism, or which make mention of it or speak of its nature and effects, all without exception are set down within the framework of the covenant of grace which has reached complete fulfilment. This fact is objective. With the scientific consciousness which characterizes them exegetes enumerate and analyse these spiritual realities signified and sealed by baptism, but they too often seem to add them to each other without any close organic bond. The covenant is precisely the spiritual cement which arranges them in relationship to each other and co-ordinates and unites them in a harmonious and majestic whole (Marcel 1953, 152-153).
What must be especially appreciated concerning the sacraments is that they are signs and seals of the benefits that Christ as the Mediator and Guarantor of the New Covenant bestows to His people. The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper serve the purpose of enabling us to see the grace of God manifested to us. According to the Great Commission (cf. Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47) in order to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, one must believe, repent, be baptized and taught all that Jesus taught His disciples. Baptism is twice made an integral element in what is involved in becoming part of the covenant community. Further evidence for this is to be found in Acts 2:41; 16:33; 9:18, cp. 22:16; and Rom 6:1-11. Shepherd summarizes this material in the following way:
The covenantal focus on baptism does not mean that regeneration is discounted. It is rather put in proper perspective. The interrelatedness of baptism and regeneration comes to vivid expression when Paul says that we are saved "through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). He also says that we are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God (I Cor 6:11). A comparison of the Matthean and Lukan forms of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19 and Luke 24:47) shows the correlation of baptism, repentance, and remission of sins. Baptism is therefore to be understood as of a piece with the total transformation which is salvation. It is the sacramental side of a total renewal (regeneration in the broad sense) of both the inner and outer man (Shepherd 1976, 72-73).
This is not to say that baptism causes the remission of sins, or is a substitute for faith in Christ. But, because of the weakness of our faith, and the manner in which God accommodates His ways to us, "baptism marks the point of transition from death to life" (Shepherd 1977, 25). Faith, repentance and new obedience are correlated with baptism. Those who have repented of dead works, trusted in Christ alone for redemption, manifest their new obedience by being baptized. This is what is done when people are converted to Christ in Scripture.
Thus the sacraments as signs and seals of the grace of God in Christ are also signs and seals of membership in the covenant. A person, whether infant or adult, when baptized is in covenant relation with the Lord God. It is of no help to say they are in the "historical sphere" of the covenant. For this is at best to say they are tangentially related to the covenant and the Lord of the covenant. Assurance must then be found by seeking the marks of election or some type of "private" revelation. (23)
The last sentence will no doubt trouble many. For no doubt it can be perverted. But the statement should be taken in the light of a statement of Marcel: "It is extremely distressing to see that in the Reformed Church the great majority of Christians never refer back to their baptism" (Marcel 1953, 169). Further support for the need to look back to our baptism is pointed out in the Belgic Confession, Article 34: "Moreover, baptism benefits us not only when the water is on us and when we receive it, but throughout our whole life" (Book of Praise 1984, 467). Also the Westminster Larger Catechism in Question 167 asks, "How is our baptism to be improved by us?" It then answers:
The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long. . .
No doubt we must beware of letting neo-orthodox or sacerdotalist conceptions creep in and pervert Scripture. But neither must we let those who pervert determine the definition of the terms. Scripture speaks plainly and in an unaffected manner: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16; cp. Acts 18:8); "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven (Acts 2:38); "Get up, ,"be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16).
Concerning the Pauline passages that speak of baptism (see Rom 6:1-11; Gal 3:27; Col 2:11-12) Marcel concludes:
One can only be profoundly impressed by the manner in which Paul constantly links the present and future of the believer to his baptism which took place in the past and stresses the unceasing dynamic character of baptism in the Christian life for every moment lived, in the "now" of our subjective consciousness, on condition that what it signifies is not ignored, but remembered and kept in mind (Marcel 1953, 174).
Because Scripture maintains intimate relation between Word and Sacrament one must stress the perceptual necessity, of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. As Marcel comments:
It is not the privation but the contempt of the sacraments which renders us culpable before God . . . . The believer has no right to rely upon the operation of grace apart from the condition upon which the promise of help has been made, and these conditions are: the hearing of the Word and the participation of the sacraments. It is for this reason that the faithful Christian, even at the cost of the greatest sacrifices, will go to hear the Word preached and will partake of the Lord's Supper. In dispensing with these, excuses valid before God will alone be admissible (Marcel 1953, 56-57).
But lest it be thought that the relation of covenant and sacrament is being ignored; note Marcel's later comments:
Baptism is primarily an act of God's grace . . . . The offer and gift of God ought to be followed by acceptance on the part of man. Baptism thus also signifies that man accepts the covenant and its obligations. It is not the seal of a covenant which is simply offered, but of a covenant which is both offered and accepted, that is to say, of a covenant concluded (Marcel 1953, 180).
Baptism, sacrament of the covenant of grace, is entirely, both objectively and subjectively, to the glory of God, who reveals Himself in the covenant, gives grace and the means of receiving it, and also the ability to remain in it and persevere in it. In the covenant God glorified Himself, and we glorify Him: He is our Glory and we become His glory. The covenant and the sacraments are the highest glorification of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the work of salvation which the Triune God has decreed, accomplished, and applied in time and for eternity (Marcel 1953, 182).
Thus in the administration of the sacraments we see also the administration of the covenant. Baptism is administered as the badge of membership in the covenant. (24) The administration of the Lord's Supper is specifically spoken of in connection with the inauguration of the new covenant (see Matthew 26:26-29). Neither of the two is to be considered an infallible guide to the elect and regenerate. Neither was circumcision or the Passover. And yet being circumcised and participating in the Passover was not optional. Faith and repentance is not only correlated with baptism, but obedience is manifested in that baptism (compare Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:16 and Luke 24:45-49).
1.) Dr. Jelle Faber is Professor of Dogmatology at the Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches in Hamilton, Ontario.
2.) Cf. Canons of Dordt First Head of Doctrine, Articles 17: "We must judge concerning the will of God from his Word, which declares that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they are included with their parents. Therefore, God-fearing parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in their infancy" Book of Praise 1984, 539.
3.) Further, note Murray's concluding remarks concerning justification and faith: "Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone . . . . Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin . . . (Murray 1955, 131).
4.) "Nach dem aber in einem jeden Bund beyde theil sich verpflichten/so verheissen auch wir Gott dem Vatter/Son/vnnd heiligen Geist/dasz wir durch seine gnad ine allein fur vnsern einigen waren vnd lebendigen Gott erkennen vnd bekennen wollen . . ." as cited by Faber from W. Niesel Bekenntnisschriften und Kirchenordnungen der nach Gottes Wort reformierten Kirche (Munchen), page 145.
5.) "Maar naedien dat in alle verbonden, beyde deelen sich net malkanderen verbinden, so beloven sy ooc Gode den Vader, Sone, ende heyligen Geest, dat wy, doer syne ghenaede, hem alleene voor onsen eenigen, waerachtigen ende levendigen Godt houden ende bekennen willen . . ." as cited by Faber from C. Vonk De Voorzeide Leer, page 36.
6.)This document was originally written at the request of Protestant Reformed missionaries in Canada. They were seeking guidance concerning how they should work with emigrants from the "Liberated" Churches who desired to unite with the Protestant Reformed Churches. Because it was made the binding understanding of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity it became impossible for the Protestant Reformed and the Liberated to become sister churches.
7.) Turretin 1980, 19-23, 37-40, 303-307.
8.) This is a slight twist on E. Brunner and Karl Barth and their debate over the possibility of natural theology.
9.) Cf. Hoeksema 1974, 201 where he gives a quotation from The Triple Knowledge, II:435. Herman Hoeksema writes: We believe that in the line of the covenant, in the Church, the seed of regeneration is implanted in the hearts of the children of the covenant in very infancy. There are, of course exceptions. God remains free to work His grace in the hearts of His people either in infancy or in later years: but as a rule their rebirth takes place in earliest childhood we regard it as a common rule that in the line of the covenant children are reborn from infancy. Also cp. Hoeksema 1974, 203.
10.) Geertsema refers also to Neh 4:9 in connection with the point under discussion. I do not regard this verse as speaking to the issue. It may be there by a long chain of inference, but not linguistically.
11.) Though, in the light of note nine above, no doubt Hoeksema would want to affirm more. At this point though he seems almost to fall back into the Kuyperian error. He stops by affirming God's freedom and the fact that all baptized are not elect.
12.) One who does not see Adam as initially in relation to God as a son is. J. H. Thornwell. In his dissertation on Southern Presbyterian theology, Morton H. Smith writes: "Under moral government [which is prior to the establishment of the Covenant of Works], Thornwell sees man as essentially a servant, and not a son. His relation to God is to be expressed primarily in obedience, whereas the relationship of being a son finds the higher expression in imitation--be ye imitators of God as dear children" (Smith 1962, 146). But Smith goes on to question the biblical propriety of such a notion: "We may well ask the question at this point of whether man really existed under this state of pure moral government unmodified by the covenant of works. Does Thornwell not really fall into an abstraction here, that cannot be fully vindicated by the teaching of the Bible? True, these various principles of what is involved in moral government and in servanthood can be abstracted for analysis, yet it is a highly questionable matter when it comes to defining by such abstractions one of the major divisions of theology" (Smith 1962, 146).
13.) Note Murray in this regard: "The obedience of Christ rendered fulfilled the obedience in which Adam failed. It would not be correct to say, however, that Christ's obedience was the same in content or demand. Christ was called on to obey in radically different conditions, and required to fulfill radically different demands. Christ was sin-bearer and the climactic demand was to die. This was not true of Adam. Christ came to redeem, not so Adam. So Christ rendered the whole-souled totality obedience in which Adam failed, but under totally different conditions and with incomparably greater demands" (Murray 1977, II:58).
14.) See Berkouwer 1971, 207-208; De Graaf 1977, I:36-38 and Heys 1976, 902-904.
15.) See Torrance 1970 and 1973 and Murray 1977, II:47-59.
16.) See Kline 1968 and Karlberg 1980.
17.) The questions and answers from Lord's Day 5 are:
12. Q. Since, according to God's righteous judgment we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how can we escape this punishment and be again received into favour? A. God demands that His justice be satisfied. Therefore full payment must be made either by ourselves or by another.
13. Q. Can we ourselves make this payment? A. Certainly not. On the contrary, we daily increase our debt.
14. Q. Can any mere creature pay for us? A. No. In the. first place, God will not punish another creature for the sin which man has committed. Furthermore, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God's eternal wrath against sin-and deliver others from it.
15. Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer must we seek? A. One who is a true and righteous man, and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is at the same time true God. (Book of Praise 1984, 478-479).
18.) One work that quite thoroughly covers this matter is Watson 1976. Though perhaps little known and hard to find, it demonstrates the lack of consensus concerning the relationship between baptism, covenant and the decrees among paedobaptist authors. In fact the whole work consists of little more than the way in which paedobaptists undermine one another in defending paedobaptism.
19.) Hoekema unnecessarily restricts the problem to the circle of paedobaptism. The problem is just as acute, if not more so, for anti-paedobaptism. Both must explain how someone can manifest the marks of the Christian, the fruit of the Spirit, and yet, over a period of time, simply walk away, apostatize, from the faith. Baptists have just as much of a problem explaining the declension in their ranks.
20.) A further question could be asked concerning doctrinal deviation. The person remains in the church and yet continues to teach that which is contrary to Scripture.
21.) Articles are found in Shepherd 1980a, 16-17 and Shepherd 1980b, 18-19. Also there are two taped lectures by Rev. Shepherd given at the Minister's Conference of the Christian Reformed Church, on "Reprobation in Covenant Perspective - the Reformed Doctrine," and "Reprobation in Covenant Perspective - the Biblical Doctrine." Along with these lectures is a tape of the discussions following the lectures.
22.) Not that this is lacking in previous confessional literature. In the Belgic Confession, article 34, it is written:
". . . children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant (Book of Praise 1984, 467). In the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 74 reads: "Should infants, too, be baptized? A. Yes. Infants as well as adults belong to God's covenant and congregation. Through Christ's blood the redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to adults. Therefore, by baptism, as sign of the covenant, they must be grafted into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the old covenant by circumcision, in place of which baptism was instituted in the new covenant" (Book of Praise 1984, 503). See also, Question 82.
23.) Consider this particularly in light of the stress made on the necessity of speaking in tongues in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. Also the strong claims of God directly working miracles in people's lives today should be considered.
24.) Note that in the Book of Acts, baptism occurs whenever a person or head of household is converted, Acts 2:38-41; 8:12-17, 36-39; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 16:14-15, 31-34; 18:7-8; 19:1-7.