Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Adamic Covenant

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  Genesis 3:1-13
Last session we dealt with the Covenant of Creation.  That included not only Adam’s probationary period of not eating the forbidden fruit, but the general covenants of Labor, Sabbath, and Marriage.  This session we are picking up immediately after Adam and Eve ate the fruit and caused all of mankind to fall into darkness.  We are going to look at the way in which God communicated to each of the parties involved.  To satan, to the woman, and to the man; each in the order of their defection.  What we are going to observe is that God pronounces cursing for breaking the covenant of creation; and yet promises blessings, and ultimate victory in the covenant of redemption that he establishes.  
THE BIG IDEA is that the very words that pronounce the curse of the covenant creation also inaugurate the covenant of redemption.
I.  The Word to Satan  vv. 14-15
II.  The Word to the Woman  v. 16
III. The Word to the Man  vv. 17-19
I.  The Word to Satan  
vv.14-15 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
A.  The cursing to the serpent.
v. 14 deals with the serpent specifically. No doubt that this serpent was a instrument in the hands of Satan here.  God still punishes him nonetheless.  Some commentators such as G. von Rad, and Sigmund Mowinckel have explained this passage as mankind writing into history the cause for our dislike towards serpents.
  They said that ancient man used mythological language and fictional narratives in order to explain the war between mankind and snakes.  It is true that there is a poetic nature to the Genesis account.  More recently, Rob Bell has emphasized this in numerous places. His book Love Wins being the latest.  I would say that his attempts are specifically aimed at undercutting the authority of Scripture, because there is no attempt on his part to emphasize the truthfulness of the account.  Genesis does have poetic structure to it.  But that doesn’t mean that it fails to communicate true events.  There was a real serpent, that was used by Satan in order to secure the fall of mankind.   The snake’s instrumental participation in this deception is what was the cause of his cursing.  1) God sentences the snake to perpetual cursing above all other animals.“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field;...” Calvin says “ is not only hateful to us, as the chief enemy of the human race, but, being separated also from other animals, carries on a kind of war with nature”
   You can witness this in some of the great nature programs that we have access to now.  There seems to be a sort of symbiotic relationship with many animals on earth.  Snakes, however, see to be sort of loners when it comes to building relationships with other animals.  
2) God says “...on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” Contrary to the blessing spoken to man in v. 19 where he eats bread, the serpent only eats dust.  This curse seems to extend far into the future state according to Isaiah 65:25 “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food.”   Robertson says “As tool of Satan he bears in himself the symbolic reminder of ultimate defeat.”
B.  The curse extends to Satan himself. 
v. 15 deals with Satan specifically, yet there’s still this imagery that alludes to both parties.  I’ll try to point out when I’m alluding to one or the other.   
1) God says “I will put enmity between you and the woman”  God here is sovereignly administering a war (enmity) between Satan (and the serpent) and the woman.  Even though man (Adam and Eve) sided with Satan, in opposition to God, Providence will ensure a perpetual war between Satan and the woman.   Regarding this allusion to serpents, there seems to be an intangible and even subjective hatred that most people have of snakes. I say that “there seems to be” because the reality is that it is actually established in this objective curse.  It may be silly to point out, but you can see echoes of this curse even in Hollywood.  What animal did Indiana Jones hate the most? While I was in Africa a few years ago they had a snake there called the Black Mamba.  But they didn’t call it that.  They called it the “two step,” because if it bit you, you would only take two more steps before dropping over dead.  It’s no wonder that Calvin says in this place “...the serpent shall be vexatious towards men, and men shall be intent on the destruction of serpents.”
 Regarding this allusion to Satan, if that serpent is the symbol, then Satan is the reality.  God ensured that this enmity between man and Satan would be more real than any  material war.  Ephesians 6:12 says “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood...” The real battleground is between the spiritual kingdom of darkness and the spiritual kingdom of light.
2) God continues in the second part of v. 15 “...and between your offspring and her offspring”  So this enmity extends beyond our first parents and Satan to the woman’s offspring and his offspring.  First, let’s look at this generally first and then specifically in the last part of the verse.  Robertson asks an important question here regarding this general point of view “...who is meant by the “seed” of the woman?”
 (BTW, Other translations use the word “seed” instead of the ESV’s use of the word “offspring”)   I think that this “seed” of the woman, doesn’t ultimately apply to all of mankind, because Cain was said to be“of the evil one” in 1 John 3:12.  His seed was from Satan.  This “seed” or “offspring” that God is pronouncing must be those who God has sovereignly chosen to be his remnant.  God’s remnant is this “seed” or “offspring” of the woman.  
So what about this “seed” or “offspring” of the serpent?  Who is this “seed” of Satan?  Well if God’s remnant is seed of the woman, then that would leave everybody else to be the “seed” or “offspring” of Satan.  Those who don’t belong to God are of Satan’s “seed.” The fallen angels are referred to as “his angels” in Matt 25:41 and Rev. 12:7-9.  In Luke 3:7, the term “brood of vipers” was used to describe those opposing John the Baptist.   Jesus said that his adversaries were children of the devil-John 8:44.  So generally speaking the “seed” or “offspring” of the woman are those whom God has sovereignly elected; and the “seed” or “offspring” of Satan is everybody else. 
3) Now on to the specific.  The last part of v. 15 says “...he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  In both cases it has narrowed from “offspring” or “seed” to “he” and “you.”  This is one on one warfare, the “he seed” of the woman and Satan.  This warfare of “bruising” carries with it the idea of crushing or breaking.  Robertson says this “Each antagonist attacks with the same determination of purpose.  One strikes at the head, the other strikes at the heel, but each has the settled purpose to destroy.”
  When God pronounced this curse in Genesis 3:15, before one word was spoken to the man and woman, he inaugurates the covenant of redemption.  Remember that’s the big idea-the very words that pronounce the curse of the covenant creation also inaugurate the covenant of redemption.  This inauguration predicts one “seed” of the woman who will rise and do battle with Satan.  One hero who although his heel will be bruised, will ultimately conquer.  He will take that up that bruised foot and crush Satan’s head with it.  Christ who was bruised in the crucifixion, from the scheming of Satan, with that same device, bruised and crushed Satan’s head.  Jonathan Edward from his sermon The Excellency of Christ says
“...Christ never so effectually bruised Satan's head, as when Satan bruised his heel. The weapon with which Christ warred against the devil, and obtained a most complete victory and glorious triumph over him, was the cross, the instrument and weapon with which he thought he had overthrown Christ, and brought on him shameful destruction. Col. 2:14-15 ".. canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." In his last sufferings, Christ sapped the very foundations of Satan's kingdom, he conquered his enemies in their own territories, and beat them with their own weapons as David cut off Goliath's head with his own sword. The devil had, as it were, swallowed up Christ, as the whale did Jonah-- but it was deadly poison to him, he gave him a mortal wound in his own bowels. He was soon sick of his morsel, and was forced to do by him as the whale did by Jonah. To this day he is heart-sick of what he then swallowed as his prey. In those sufferings of Christ was laid the foundation of all that glorious victory he has already obtained over Satan, in the overthrow of his heathenish kingdom in the Roman empire, and all the success the gospel has had since; and also of all his future and still more glorious victory that is to be obtained in the earth.”
In summary Christ defeated Satan with the very thing that Satan thought he gained the victory with.  This was the first promise that God gave after the fall.  This is the covenant of redemption.  Notice here how we can call this a covenant.  God is sovereignly administering this future event, and he is guaranteeing the terms to be fulfilled apart from man’s cooperation.  It is a bond-in-blood because it is guaranteed at the bruising of the woman’s “seed.”  It’s guaranteed through the crushing of Christ.  
As a footnote to this section there is a sense that we, as Christians will trample on the head of Satan as well. Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”  But notice it is God that will put Him under our feet Himself, and this is only accomplished for those who are in that seed, Christ.  
II.  The Word to the Woman  
v. 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
In God’s word to the woman, we see both blessings and cursing.  Blessing provided under the covenant of redemption, and cursing for breaking the covenant of creation.  First to the blessing we see that God ordains that she bring forth children.  This seems to be more specific than just for the sake of children alone.  Connecting with the previous verses, she’s given a “seed” so that he can war against the “seed” of Satan. In Gal 4:4-5 we find the ultimate fulfillment of this promise “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
But the woman was also cursed because of the fall.  First in the way she brings children into the world.  Apparently God’s original design didn’t include  a lot of pain in the childbearing process.  God told her that “...I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”  Every birth on this planet is painful as a result of the fall of our first parents.  This event several thousand years ago still reaches it’s treacherous tentacles into our present time.  
Secondly God cursed her in relationship to her husband.  He said “...Your desire shall be for your husband,”  This desire is not that she will desire him sexually; or that she would desire his authority over her; in fact just the opposite. This desire that fallen woman has, is that she would rule over her husband.  When God said “...Your desire shall be for your husband,”  we can pull from the phrase the Hebrew word tesh·ü·kä'  That’s the key word for understanding this verse.  Fortunately for us, it’s found in the very next chapter when God deals with Cain.  After Cain kills Abel, the Lord says to him in Genesis 4:7  “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire [tesh·ü·kä' ] is for you, but you must rule over it."  Your Bible will often have a footnote right after that phrase “Its desire is for you” and that footnote will say “or against you.”  In other words,  sin’s desire was against Cain.  Likewise in Genesis 3:16 to the woman God basically said ‘Your desire will be against your husband. Against the original order of being his helpmate, instead you will desire to rule over him.’  Fallen woman’s desire, as part of the curse, is to take over and subvert the roles.  She wants to command, to master and to rule her husband.  
God continues in the curse to the woman by saying “...and he shall rule over you.”  In spite of this cursed desire, woman will be ruled by her husband. Now it was part of God’s original design that man was the head of woman. Even in Christian marriage where God restores relationships, He tells Christians how they should act, he says that “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...”  Ephesians 5:22-25  So even in a restored and sanctified relationship the husband is still the head of the wife.  So I want to differentiate between this curse and the restored relationship in Ephesians 5.  The curse given here is more representative of man’s sinful dealings with his wife.  Woman’s natural proclivity will be to want to rule her husband; and man’s natural proclivity will be to deal harshly and tyrannically with his wife.  Robertson ends this section by saying “The curse of marital imbalance settles into the woman’s life-style.  As she perpetually attempts to possess her husband, he responds by dominating excessively.”
III.  The Word to the Man  
vv. 17-19 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
First to the blessing, God will continue to feed and take care of man.  God provides here both plants and bread for him to eat.  This should not be taken for granted since the only thing that God owed Adam was instant death.  However this came with a curse.   These plants that will provide sustenance for the human race come with cursed soil, “...thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;”  And this bread that man would eat comes from the currency of “the sweat of your face.”  In fact not only do we see man suffering from the effects of the fall, but also all of creation.  Romans 8:20-22 says  “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”  This curse given to Adam corrupts the entire the planet.   
The worse part of the curse resides in the last verse “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”   God’s original intent was that man would not die.  The conditions set forth in the covenant of creation threatened death only if Adam did not obey.  If he would have obeyed, Adam would have lived forever and dominated the earth for God’s glory.  As a result of his sin, now the earth would dominate him for he would return to dust.  This is the antithesis of God’s image.  God is.  To die is to not be.  The full extent of Adam’s sin is felt when he ceased to be, because he could no longer image forth God.  Adam did indeed die on the day that he ate the fruit just like God promised in Genesis 2:17.  He died spiritually which is the supreme death.  
In this Covenant of Commencement we see both the horrible news that all men and all women will return to the dust in death because we are sinners by both nature (from our first parents) and by nurture (because we love and practice sin).  But thank God that we also see the gospel when God spoke to Satan by saying “...he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  The singular “seed” of the woman would be bruised, for it pleased the Lord to crush him; and yet that very bruising will result in the crushing of Satan’s head.  Romans 5:19 says “For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”

Quotes taken from O. Palmer Robertson pg. 91 The Christ of the Covenants  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1980

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Covenant of Creation

The fact that God created man in his own image means something. To be an image-bearer means that we have, by definition, certain responsibilities to fulfill to our creator. God designed us with a plan in mind, and our responsibility is to carry out that design. Theologians have called this relationship that God has ordained with man the covenant of creation. There are two aspects to this covenant of creation which need to be taken together otherwise a barrage of unintended consequences can result. 1) We need to look at the general requirements that man was given by God in the covenant of creation. 2) We need to look at the specific requirements that Adam was given during his probationary period. For the purpose of this session we are going to be using Robertson’s terms of the general aspect and the focal aspect. The Shorter and Longer Catechisms derived from the Westminster Confession makes the clearest distinction between this general and focal approach. 1) Let’s look at the Shorter Catechism Q. 12 for the focal aspect. The question asks What special act of providence did God exercise towards man, in the estate wherein he was created? When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death. Here we see the Puritans focusing on only the probationary period that Adam was under. Adam, don’t eat the fruit or you will die. 2) The Larger Catechism Q.20 asks nearly the same question yet gives the more complete response: What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created? The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created was, the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him the liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth, putting the creatures under his dominion, ordaining marriage for his help, affording him communion with himself, and instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death. Here we see the Puritans including not only the specific probationary time that was required of Adam but also the specific spheres of labor, marriage, and Sabbath. During this session, we are going to look at how both the specific and general requirements that God laid on man in the beginning synthesize into one covenant of creation.
THE BIG IDEA  is that God instituted the covenant of creation to involve a total-life relationship.
I. The General Aspect of the Covenant of Creation
II. The Focal Aspect of the Covenant of Creation
I. The General Aspect of the Covenant of Creation
Something maybe very obvious to say, but it needs to be said anyway. God purposely ordained certain institutions from the beginning. He doesn’t do things arbitrarily but on purpose, in order to say something about Himself. Since we are His little image reflectors, His little mirrors if you will, He has ordained institutions for us to live our lives by, in order that we could better reflect Him. What we do in the created visible order says something about the eternal invisible order. This general aspect of the covenant of creation is so important to retain and not be treated separately, or divorced from Adam’s specific probationary period. If we divorce it, and focus merely on this other aspect, which is equally important, we can turn into fundamentalists(Robertson) or we can turn into pietists. Either extreme would be bad. So lets look at each one of these creational ordinances to see what they say about God, and how God has designed them from the beginning to run their course throughout human history.
A. Labor
The first creational ordinance that we are going to look at is that of labor.  The one thing that many of us forget is that work or labor was designed before the fall.  Work was not part of the curse.  Work was part of the created order that God said was very good.  There are two places in the opening two chapters of Genesis that speak specifically to our work.  Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Here we see God commanding a subduing and a dominion over the earth.  God is commanding labor.   It’s been said that Adam acted as God’s vice-regent, that is to say that Adam was God’s representative with power to act over the created order.  This dominion that Adam was given was part of the imaging forth of God.  In other words, man’s dominion over the earth speaks about God’s dominion over all things.   This wasn’t just a description of Adam’s ability, but his responsibility.  God commanded this subduing and dominion to issue forth from man’s hands.  Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Working and keeping the creation in order was our assigned duty from the beginning and continues to this day.  
The New Testament bears this out under the New Covenant.  2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 says “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”  In other words, when Christ came and established the covenant in his blood, this creational ordinance of labor was not overturned. 
In fact I believe this labor ordinance will continue on into the infinite future.  In Matthew 25, when Jesus gives the parable of the talents, he describes their rewards by telling them that He will put them in “charge of many things.”  I don’t want to press the parable to far, but Jesus was painting a picture of responsibilities that were given to glorified men in eternity.  Work.  This makes sense since work was created before the fall and was described as very good.  It seems to line up with the Biblical evidence that the covenantal ordinance of labor will always be in effect, because ultimately this labor speaks about how God works all things perfectly for his glory. 
B.  Sabbath
This creational ordinance might be the easiest one for American Christians especially to overlook and marginalize.  But it’s found right in the beginning in Genesis 2:2-3  “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”  What we see here is a work and rest pattern that God ordained in creation, and later implemented as part of the law for the nation of Israel to follow.  Six days of subduing the earth and one day of holy rest.  Historically, when the nation of Israel broke the Mosaic covenant, they were driven from the land.  The time in which they were absent from the land was determined by the number of Sabbaths that they violated. 2 Chronicles 36:21 says “ fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”   This punishment fit with the crime.  Which should tell us something about what holy rest actually is.  In fact under the ceremonial law given to Israel, if an individual broke the Sabbath, he was worthy of death.  So was this sabbath just an arbitrary thing that God set up separate from His personhood?  No!  To observe the Sabbath, to observe holy rest, is to worship God.  God made the sabbath first and foremost in reference to Himself.
  God covenanted with mankind, to rest for His glory.  
What does this mean for us under the new covenant?  How does the covenant of sabbath apply to us?  First and foremost its important to declare that Jesus fulfilled this covenant of Sabbath perfectly for us!   Calvin is helpful here “...on the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ceremonial part of the commandment was abolished.  He is the truth, at whose presence all the emblems vanish; the body, as the sight of which which the shadows disappear.  He, I say, is the completion of the sabbath...Christians...should have nothing to do with a superstitious observance of days.”
  This is why Paul says in Colossians 2:16-17 “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”  That last part is the key “the substance belongs to Christ.”  I would contend that the spiritual aspect of the Sabbath ordinance is still in affect.  It found it’s completion in Christ’s work and will find it’s perfect consummation in the new heavens in the new earth when we will find perfect holy rest in God
Robertson says this “ is fitting that the new covenant radically alters the Sabbath perspective.  The current believer in Christ does not follow the Sabbath pattern of the people of the old covenant. He does not first labor six days, looking hopefully to rest.  Instead, he begins the week by rejoicing in the rest already accomplished by the cosmic even of Christ’s resurrection.  Then he enters joyfully into his six days of labor, confident of success through the victory which Christ has already won.”
  For more on this idea and specifically the first day of the week being the Christian’s day of worship, I would commend to you the Institutes, specifically II.IIX.IIXXX thru XXXIV.
C.  Marriage 
This covenant of marriage is also found inside the bigger circle of the covenant of creation.   Even this most fundamental of human relationships was determined at the beginning of God’s making all things.  This is perhaps the clearest out of the three, because all over Scripture this is referred to as a covenant.  Genesis 2:20-24  “The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  
That is a crystal clear example of “bond-in-blood sovereignly administered.”   
There are three things in particular that Robertson references here in regard to this marriage covenant founded in the covenant of creation. 1)  This idea of oneness.  After the covenant of marriage was sovereignly administered by God, Adam and Eve became one flesh.  Then, as the head of the human race, Adam prophetically called all marriages to be patterned after this.  “Because Eve is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh therefore shall all future marriages reflect this same oneness, this one “fleshness.”
   2) As we have already said, man, under the covenant of labor, is to have dominion over the earth. However after Adam named the animals, there was not found a helper suitable to him.  So, God created Eve for Adam, woman for man in order that he would have a suitable helpmate.  1 Cor. 11:9 “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”  This does not mean that woman was an after thought or a footnote.  Woman, like man, was created in the image of God and she says something different about God that man cannot say.   3) Both God-glorifying sex and populating the earth, as part of the marriage covenant, were based in creation.  Child raising was part of the command given all the way back in Genesis 1:28, and then given structure to in Genesis 2.  And God-glorifying sex can only be done in the context of this marriage covenant.   When perversions are described in Romans 1, Paul speaks of them as going against their “natural relations.”  In other words, sex outside of the marriage relationship goes against the created order or the covenant of creation.  
In summary, we see these labor, sabbath, and marriage all as divine covenants sovereignly administered within the covenant of creation. 
II. The Focal Aspect of the Covenant of Creation
Now moving on to the more specific requirements laid upon Adam.  Genesis 2:16-17 records this “...the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  I think Robertson says something unhelpful in this section.  On pages 84 he says that “...the point of testing reduces itself to man’s willingness to choose obedience for the sake of obedience alone.”
  This maybe just careless speech, although he does repeat this same thought on the next page.  Let me just say that God does require obedience.  Perfect obedience.  But not for the sake of obedience alone.  For the sake of His great glory.  Adam was supposed to obey for the sake of acknowledging that God was God and he was not.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a representation of something.  Adam was given dominion over all the earth.  This dominion said something about God.  Mankind has dominion over the earth because we are imaging forth God having dominion over all things.  The tree represented that.  It represented the one thing that Adam did not have dominion over, which was God.  His testing was to see if he would submit to God’s Godness, to His rule and reign.  This is seen clearly in how Satan tempted Eve. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?...For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan lied about man’s role in the universe and about God’s role in the universe.  His lie focused it’s poison on man’s ability to have dominion over all things.  Not just dominion over the earth, but over God.  “You will be like God.  No longer do you have to submit to him, eat of this tree, and you have dominion like he has dominion.”  The tree was a real tree, but symbolic of God’s authority.  The focal aspect of the covenant of creation focused around that idea.  Will man submit to God or not?  
If we think about this probationary testing in those terms, it seems less separated and arbitrary.  God didn’t require obedience for the sake of obedience alone.  He required an acknowledgement of his Godness.  Nor did he have something against a certain type of fruit.  He was symbolizing his authority in the form of a test.  A test, by the way, in which we fail all the time.  Not because we are constantly eating of the tree of the knowledge of good an evil, but because when we sin in any way it reflects Adam and Eve’s sin.  They rebelled against God’s authority, and so do we.  When ever we sin, we are seeking to have dominion over all things because by default we are rejecting God’s right to be God over our lives.  That’s what happened in the garden and that is what is still happening today.  
Which is why consequently we are so desperately in need of a substitute.  Christ perfectly showed his submission to God.  He perfectly obeyed for the joy that was set before Him.  He had clear sight of God’s dominion over all things,  and he being the God-man, made himself obedient to death, even death on a cross.  He did this in order that all would one day, make that same acknowledgment.  
Phil 2:9-11  “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Quotes from O. Palmer Robertson  The Christ of the Covenants  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1980

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Diversity of the Divine Covenants

Last session we saw how “God’s multiple bonds with His people ultimately unite into a single relationship.”
That was the big idea last week.  In that statement we see the seeds of diversity.  God did have multiple bonds, and in Christ they are unified, however from covenant to covenant we find rich diversity and color.  Each one of these covenants is like a facet on a diamond.  The diamond is one, and yet each face on it reflects its beauty and light slightly differently.  To use another analogy would be to look at the animal kingdom.  Scientifically speaking we have divided up animals to fall into the categories of genus and species.  The genus is the general classification and the species is the specific.  A lion is of the genus Panthera.  This category contains the four big cats: the leopard, tiger, jaguar, and the lion.  Each one of these cats have a different specific classification, that being species. The lion belongs to the species leo. So a lion is called Panthera leo.  What we see is that there’s diversity with in the general classification, but the specific classification all point to this king among the beasts.  So this session we are going to look at these general classifications regarding the covenants in one hand, yet in the other hand knowing that it all points to this one King of the universe.  
THE BIG IDEA is that the diversity of the divine covenants reveals the intricacy of God’s redemptive plan through history.  
In the coming weeks we are see more of the diversity than this session.  Today we’re only really looking at how the covenants are arranged structurally.  There are 3 basic categories in which the church has sought to understand the distinctions of the covenants. 
 Pre-Creation/Post-Creation Covenants
 Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace
 Old Covenant/New Covenant
All three of these positions represent different points of view on how to structure the covenants.  Even in the diverse viewpoints that follow, notice the unifying thread that runs through these different structural distinctions, that being Sovereign Free Grace.

Pre-Creation/Post-Creation Covenants 
In this structural distinction of the covenants we see a division between pre-creation and post-creation.  The basic idea of this distinction is that before creation there was an intertrinitarian covenant made in order for God save a people to Himself.  God the Father and God the Son covenant with each other to save a people.
They were the two parties of this covenant, commonly called the covenant of redemption.
  “The Father gave the Son a work to do; He sent Him into the world to perform it, and promised Him a great reward when the work was accomplished.  Such is the constant representation of the Scriptures.  We have, therefore, the contracting parties, the promise, and the condition.  These are the essential elements of a covenant.”
   Robertson spends the least amount of time on this section, one can tell he is not in favor of it.   According to his research, this particular distinction is not found in any of the classic creeds but has gained a foothold by theologians like Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, and Ken Campbell.  Hodge would have disagreed with his research.  In his Systematic Theology he points out the the Westminster Confession 7.3 and the Shorter Catechism Q.20 both speak of a covenant of grace where God and his people are the parties of the covenant.  However in the Larger Catechism Q.31 the covenant of redemption is put forth because God and Christ are the parties.  I don’t believe that the Puritans saw this a contradiction.  Hodge says this “The latter, the covenant of grace, is founded on the former, the covenant of redemption.  Of the one Christ is the mediator and surety; of the other He is one of the contracting parties.”
    It’s important to note here that Robertson does not criticize the view that God had a desire before creation to save a people.  He just doesn’t think that makes it a covenant.  He says that the essence of this structural distinction is that of a mutual contract as opposed to the Biblical category of a covenant being one that is a bond that is sovereignly administered.  I don’t necessarily see a contradiction.  There still is a bond that is sovereignly administered between the members of the Godhead.  Certainly there was an inviolable agreement between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to save a people, and it was a bond in blood, Christ’s blood (He was the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Rev. 17:8)

Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace
In this structural distinction, Genesis 2 and 3 is the dividing line.  This division could be characterized as God’s relational dealings with man pre-fall, and post-fall.  However more qualifications are necessary, because even post-fall, the covenant of works is still in effect. The unsaved will be judged for their lack of perfect works; and the saved will be granted mercy for Christ’s perfect work on their behalf.  Robertson points out the the strength of this structure is that “...delivers the church from the temptation to draw too strongly a dichotomy between old and new testaments.”
  In other words the people in the O.T were under the covenant of works, and so are people in the N.T; and  people in the O.T. were saved by the covenant of grace and so were people in the N.T. 
This distinction has been largely popularized by the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Specifically in chapter 7, sections 1-6.   
The covenant of works which applies to all men could be summed up by saying that at creation God required Adam to “work” perfectly.  To not eat of the tree-of-the-knowledge-of-good-and-evil. If he “worked” perfectly, life and blessing would follow for him and his posterity.  If he “worked” imperfectly, i.e. disobeyed, he would gain death for himself and his posterity.  The fact that his testing period was in the form of not-eating-the-forbidden-fruit, should not be a stumbling block for us.  God’s conditions have always been perfect obedience for eternal life.  Ultimately this test of not-eating-the-fruit was a demonstration of God’s perfect requirement.  Nothing less and nothing more.  This covenant describes all of mankind’s relationship to their Creator.
The covenant of grace which applies to God’s people could be summed up by 7.3 of the Confession: 
Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.  So remember A=A, law of identity.  Grace = God doing it all.  This covenant describes Gods relationship to his elect based purely on His Sovereign Free Grace.
Although Robertson likes this covenantal structure better than the last, he still has some minor criticisms. 1) Being that the covenant of works might suggest to some that grace is excluded from it.  A simple clarification fixes this by saying that creation and continued existence are both acts of grace. 2) He says that the covenant of grace might suggest that no works are involved.  This is of course is false because Christ still had to work perfectly in order for us to be saved; and the Christian is saved unto good works-Eph. 2:10.  There are still works in the covenant of grace.   Although I think these are legitimate concerns, I do not believe the next structural distinction saves us from those type of necessary clarifications.

Old Covenant/New Covenant  
In this covenantal structural distinction, the line of division rests upon the person of Jesus Christ.    Before the incarnation, God relates to the human race through the old covenant; after the incarnation, God relates to man through the new covenant.  A brief tour through the book of Hebrews shows this basic distinction being made everywhere.  In the old covenant there was a promise made, and in the new covenant that promise is achieved.  
Perhaps the sharpest place to see this however is in the book of Galatians.   Paul’s chief goal in this letter is to proclaim the true gospel against those legalistic Judaizers were adding to his gospel.  I think this book is more complex than first glance offers.  On the surface the Judaizers do not disagree that you need Christ.  The affirm Paul’s message that Christ is needed.  They said that you need Christ plus the law that Moses gave, and the circumcision that Abraham required  Here’s where the rub is.  If it’s Christ plus anything you lose not only the gospel, but the entire Christian world view.   Galatians 2:21 says “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
The covert thing that these Judaizers were doing though, was that they were disguising their argument under the law of Moses, and the circumcision of Abraham.   In other words, they were saying that “we are following Moses and Abraham.  We are sticking to God’s intention for His people.  This is what God told us to do.”  
What’s the problem with that statement? They didn’t just misunderstand Christ and the gospel, they misunderstood Abraham and Moses.  And this is where we can misunderstand Abraham and Moses.  That line in your Bibles between Old and New Testament isn’t a line separating two realities.  It’s a line that separates the promise from it’s fulfillment in Christ.  This is key to understanding all of the Bible!  Spurgeon said that “...the doctrine of the covenants is the key of theology.”
     To demonstrate this clearly, we go back to Galatians.  Paul has one major contrast in his letter:  Between the true Gospel and the legalism of the Judaizers.  He then supports this main contrast with secondary contrasts.  However, after his initial rebuttal with each of the secondary contrasts, he quickly footnotes them in order to soften their distinction so that two realities aren’t created.  So let’s look at each of these secondary contrasts and how they are softened. 
Antithesis #1 “Before faith came” vs. “faith has come” 
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law...” Gal. 3:23
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  Gal. 3:25-26
These are two different time periods.  Jesus Christ defines history.  Prior to His coming is the age “before faith came”; after Christ’s coming is the age “faith has come.”  This contrast is important in Paul’s mind because he uses it to show that the Judaizers were dead wrong.  They have not taken seriously what Christ accomplished when he entered history.  There’s no going back to the shadowed promises, they have been fulfilled. 
The softening.  However.  The same gospel that Paul was preaching, Gal. 3:8 says that God  “...preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” Galatians 3:8.  In other words Paul preached the same gospel that was preached to Abraham.  The believer shares the same blessing given to Abraham before Christ came.  
Summary:  The secondary contrast that supports the main contrast is that “The old covenant and the new covenant are radically distinct from one another.”
But this antithesis is softened because there has only been one way of salvation in both the old and the new covenant. 
Antithesis #2:  Abrahamic Covenant vs. Mosaic Covenant 
In this comparison, Paul pits the promise to Abraham against the law given by Moses, showing that the inheritance comes by a promise.   “This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”  Gal. 3:17-18  In other words, life and blessing does not come through law but through promise.  
The softening.  It is not in Paul’s mind that Moses had a different way of salvation then Abraham did. This is where hyper-dispensationalists, and NPP, and the Federal Vision people need to listen carefully.  Paul is taking the argument of the Judaizers seriously here and he is showing the ridiculousness of their idea.  He’s doing that by examining the law of Moses apart from promise to Abraham and to his seed, that is Christ.   This was not the design of the law.  It is not a separate reality from the promise.  Gal. 3:17 says that “the law...does not annul [the] covenant, [and] make the promise void.” The design of the Mosaic law was not to save anybody, it served a different purpose.  The Judaizers got Moses wrong.  To believe that under Moses people were saved by works is to agree with the Judaizers. They were operating under the premise that the law could justify the sinner.  Only the promise to Abraham’s seed could justify the sinner.  
In addition to getting Moses wrong, they also got Abraham wrong.  This is where baptismal regenerationists need to pay attention.  By the time we reach Galatians 5, Paul starts arguing against circumcision for justification.  But Moses didn’t require that(John 7:22), Abraham did!(Gen.17:10)  Galatians 5:2-3 says “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.”  Apparently the Judaizers were telling the Galatians that in order to be saved, in addition to believing in Christ, one had to get circumcised; just like churches today that preach baptism necessary for salvation.  They are falling into the same anti-gospel that the Judaizers were preaching.  They got Abraham wrong because they interpreted circumcision as meaning it saved you, instead of being a sign for you.   When Paul argued like this in Galatians 5, he was demonstrating that “the ultimate not between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants, but between the way of justification advocated by the Judaizers and the way of justification provided by Christ.”
Summary: When Paul is taking the argument of the Judaizers seriously, he makes sharp distinctions between Abraham and Moses.  But this antithesis is softened because these two covenants as presented by Scripture, actually work in unity together.  
By the way on page 60 Robertson calls Meredith Kline out in the footnote.  Kline wrote the book By Oath Consigned and said that the Mosaic Covenant “...made inheritance to be by law, not by promise-not by faith but by works.”
  This is the same mistake that the Judaizers made.  Kline may not have misunderstood Christ like the Judaizers did, but he certainly misunderstood Moses.  That mistake will lead to two different realities.  Somebody could be suffering from cognitive dissonance, and hold that I suppose, but that is leaven to the Christian worldview and to the gospel.  The design of the Mosaic law served at least two functions.  1) It was set for conditions for the Israelites to stay in the promised land and 2) It was designed to uncover the sinfulness of man’s heart.  Given after the Abrahamic covenant, it was to show that we must be saved through promise, because we would fail through the law.  The Mosaic was working in concert with the Abrahamic.   It was meant to demonstrate to the universe of how far we far short of the glory of God, and is meant to drive us to the cross.  It is our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. Gal. 3:24.  
There is diversity between all these covenants which we will continue to see in the weeks ahead, but they ultimately unite into one covenant that binds together the redemptive plan of God.  
Having said that I want to end this session with looking at these 3 structural distinctions one more time.  1) Pre-Creation/Post-Creation Covenants, 
2) Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace, 3) Old Covenant/New Covenant
I think all three of these should be used to look at the covenants and not simply one of them.  Robertson seems to prefer the last.  Truly the Bible is divided up by the incarnation of Christ.  The Old and New Testament, the old and new covenant as Hebrews and other books use the language.  I’m all for that.  I want to be Biblical.  Having said that, these other two are not less true.  They are just looking at other facets on the same diamond.  
Here’s how Robertson rightly speaks of this 3rd distinction: “The ‘old covenant’ may be characterized as ‘promise,’ as ‘shadow,’ as ‘prophecy’;[that’s exactly how the Puritans defined the covenant of grace in the O.T it in the Westminster Confession in 7.5 ] the ‘new covenant’ may be characterized as ‘fulfillment,’ as ‘reality.’ as ‘realization.[that’s exactly how the Puritans defined the covenant of grace in the N.T. in the Westminster Confession in 7.6]’”
In fact the last statement in 7.6 in the confession says this:  “There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.”
Using Paul’s idea in Galatians, of this antithesis, and then the immediate softening that follows, regarding these 3 distinctions, I would chart it like this.
Antithesis:  3) Old Covenant/New Covenant (God’s relating to man pre/post Christ) On one hand Paul is saying that the New Covenant is superior to the Old because we have the promise consummated in Christ.  When the new has come the old has passed away--2 Cor. 5:17
The Softening:  1) Pre-Creation/Post-Creation Covenants--The softening here affirms that this “new covenant” was an eternal plan in the mind of God . Infinitely before the Old and New Testament time period.   His election was an intertrinitarian covenant from before time began.   
2) Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace--The softening here affirms that the “old covenant” or the covenant of works was never designed to save anybody apart from the promise. The wicked from the O.T. and the N.T. will be judged for not being perfect.  Those that are saved from the O.T. and those that are being saved in the N.T. are under the covenant of grace or the  “new covenant” because Christ fulfilled the covenant of works perfectly.  
I believe that all three of these structural distinctions are just facets on the same diamond.  All three are true showing the divine covenants from a different perspective.  Just like as the covenants through time unfold: the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, are not three separate realities but rather an unpacking of the same truth; so are these three structural distinctions, all three true unpacking the divine covenants in different ways. 
Quotes from:   O. Palmer Robertson  The Christ of the Covenants  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1980

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Unity of the Divine Covenants

The unity of Scripture is one of the hardest things for us modern evangelicals to see.  We see this division of Old and New Testament in our Bibles and assume that God had two different peoples and two different plans.  We see multiple covenants given at different times to different people.  We see national Israel in the O.T governed by a theocracy (government centered around God.)  We see that they had three different types of laws-moral, civil, and ceremonial all which signify different things.  Suffice it so say, we have a bunch of diversity, and seeing how it is supposed to be unified proves to be a difficult task.  The key to this quandary is to examine the covenants.   In spite of their diversity, which we will examine next week, we find a thread that ties them altogether.  

THE BIG IDEA is that “God’s multiple bonds with His people ultimately unite into a single relationship.”
I.  Structural Unity of the Divine Covenants
II. Thematic Unity of the Divine Covenants
I.  Structural Unity of the Divine Covenants

Unity of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants
“The Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants do not present themselves as self-contained entities.  Instead, each successive covenant builds on the previous relationship, continuing the basic emphasis which had been established earlier.”
1.)  A unity in historical experience.
a.  Unity was demonstrated at the inauguration of each covenant. 
Setting aside for the moment the covenants with creation, Adam, and Noah, we see God establishing a covenant with Abraham (week 8) in order to set aside a people for Himself.  Abraham is rightly called the father of Israel or the father of the promise.  Imagine if you will for a moment a dark room.  When this first covenant is established, God as it, were lights a candle and illuminates part of the room.  As time marches on, Moses comes onto the scene, God lights another candle making the room brighter. When He does this, he doesn’t blow out the other candle, he simply brings more light to the room.  Same room, same light, same God, same people.  The same thing could be said about the moment when God initiated the covenant with David. He wasn’t doing something “brand new,”  he was, to continue the analogy, lighting another candle in the room and shedding more light on his redemptive plan.   We see this principle at play in the Scriptures when God inaugurates these successive covenants.  
When God’s people were crying out under the bondage of Egypt, we see God act in accordance with His covenant previously established.   He speaks to Moses in Exodus 6:5-8 “Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant[v.3 “to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”
.] Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’” Keep in mind this is 430 years later-Gal. 3:17  On the eve of God establishing a new covenant with Moses (inauguration), he points back to the Abrahamic covenant as the basis for this “new thing” happening.
 Robertson says here “...the promises of the Abrahamic covenant provide the historical impetus [driving force or catalyst] for the institution of the Mosaic covenant.  God remembers his covenant with Abraham, and God acts for Israel.”
To use some of the language from our Philosophical Apologetics class, the Abrahamic covenant was the antecedent, and the Mosaic was the consequent.  
When God inaugurates his covenant with David, some five hundred years later, we same this same reflection on the previous covenants as the basis for God doing this with David.  (cf. 2 Samuel 7:6, 23-24) 
 Israel’s history demonstrates unity
The process of inaugurating the Mosaic covenant started previous to the writing of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.  When Moses comes down off the mountain in Exodus 32, God wants to destroy the Israelites because they were worshipping the golden calf.  Moses prays, and what he points to is the continuous effects that the Abrahamic covenant provided for, and that God promised.  Abraham says in Exodus 32:13-14 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.”  Even though the Mosaic covenant was established, Moses appealed to God from the Abrahamic covenant in order to stay his hand.  Moses saw the continuity and unity of these two covenants.  Joshua, Moses’ successor, saw the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant when he took possession of the land.  Then, when we reach Joshua 24, we see him reinforcing the conditions in the Mosaic covenant as the basis of staying in the land that was promised to Abraham.  So in each successive generation, we see the unity and continuity of the covenants established.  
The covenant with David was no different.  When David brought the ark to Jerusalem, he attributed it to God’s covenant with Abraham-cf. 1 Chron. 16:15-18.  In other words the successes of the people were attributed to God’s covenant with Abraham.  Conversely, national Israel and Judah’s defeats were attributed to the people’s breaking the Mosaic covenant.  Remember, Israel and Judah were eventually kicked out of the land that was promised to Abraham because the broke the conditions set by Moses.  (cf. 2 King 17:13ff)   To sum of this section, we would affirm that when a new covenant was made, the old was not forgotten or dismissed.  The new covenant simply brought more light to the same room.
2.) A unity in genealogical administration 
a.  Robertson introduces this “genealogical principle.”  The unity of the covenants is seen in this principle because what we see is God establishing a covenant with a group of people, then generations later, it is applied to their children.  In other words there is a genealogical dimension to God’s covenants.  (Remember we saw this in the first week with the covenant made with the Gibeonites.)  Robertson says here “David’s son is not simply heir of the covenant promise made to David.  He is heir also of the covenant promises made to Moses and Abraham.”
 A scripture to illustrate this point.  “It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, but with whoever is standing here with us today before the LORD our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.” Deut. 29:14-15 The Psalmist finds this principle one that generates praise  Psalm 105:8-10 says “He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant,”  This principle is seen in the N.T. when Peter speaks to the Israelites in Acts 3:25, and when Paul relates the promise of the Spirit from Isaiah 59:21 to the Galatians in 3:13ff. 

1st corollary principle to be kept in mind. “Grafting.”  
While holding this genealogical principle in one hand, we must hold the grafting principle in the other.  God made provision, intentionally-not as an after thought, to include non-Israelites in the covenant.  We see this in Genesis 17:12-13.  Abraham circumcises people in his household, not born of him, thereby including them in the covenant.  This idea is seasoned throughout the O.T.  In Esther 8:17 it records that “...many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them.”  There has always existed this provision from God to include non-Jews in the covenant promises of God.  We see this both in the genealogies of Jesus-non-Jews, and in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11.  Perhaps, the best place in the N.T. which bears this in Romans 11:17 “...some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,” Paul here is speaking about non-Jews partaking in the covenants promised to Israel.  When a Gentile is ingrafted in they become a true heir of Abraham, they become part of spiritual Israel.  Galatians 3:29 says  “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”
2nd corollary principle to be kept in mind.  “Pruning.” 
The simplest verses to illustrate this are found in Romans 9.  Just because you were born an Israelite ethnically, doesn’t mean you are one spiritually.  Jacob and Esau were both Jews ethnically, yet God said “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:13. This is a reflection of God’s divine election.  Remember, a divine covenant is a bond-in-blood sovereignly administered.  God’s sovereign choosing and governing defines what the terms of the covenant are and nothing else.  People are not included into the covenant on the basis of pedigree.  “...For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel...”  Romans 9:6  In fact, that statement, is the basis of showing the unity of the covenants and the faithfulness of God.  Because it looked as if God’s covenant had failed.  Most of Israel was falling away, and it looked like God was not be faithful to the Abrahamic covenant, one that extended to a thousand generations.  In response to this on-the-surface unfaithfulness, God responds with ‘non all Israel is Israel.’ His faithfulness remains intact, and he demonstrated that the covenants are unified.  
B.  Unity incorporating the New Covenant 
Throughout the O.T., we find Israel continually failing to live up to their obligations and conditions of the covenants.  They broke them continually.  Judges is good example of this as well as comments made by the prophets Samuel and Jeremiah that said ‘from the day I delivered you out of Egypt until now, you have continually rejected me.’  In spite of that, God did not “wake up” one morning and decide to scrap these covenants and start an entirely different thing.  The Biblical language is indeed “new” covenant.  That is true in one sense, in that it was “new” to Israel.  I don’t mean “new” in the sense that they believed they were saved by works then, but God was really trying to show them that it was by grace.  Salvation has always been by grace.  There has always been a remnant according to grace.  It’s “new” because, these covenants were all going to be fulfilled by one person.  It’s true that Israel knew about the Messiah, but He was going to fulfill the covenant with his own blood which was something that nobody expected.  
1)  Jeremiah 31:33 says that the new covenant will insure that the Mosaic law will be written on the heart.  2)  Jeremiah 32 says that the new covenant will insure the Abrahamic covenant, in that God will  “...plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”  Jer. 32:41.  3)  In Ezekiel 34:23, the prophet says that under the new covenant God will remember the Davidic covenant by setting David his servant up as shepherd over his people.  This is hundreds of years after David was dead.  The text.  One text in particular unifies all of these.  Ezekiel 37:24-26 records  “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd.[Davidic] They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. [Mosaic] They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever,[Abrahamic] and David my servant shall be their prince forever.[Davidic] I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them...[New Covenant] 
“By the new covenant, all the promises of God find their consummation.”
 This one covenant that unified all the previous covenants was eternally in the mind of God.  He revealed it progressively in the covenants preceding Christ.  We see this new covenant being formally inaugurated at the last supper when Jesus said “...this is my blood of the covenant...” Matt. 26:26
C.  Unity extending to the Covenants made with Noah and Adam
What about the covenants with Noah and Adam? Do they find unity in the New Covenant?  Yes.  To Noah, God promised to preserve the earth for a “time.”  It’s in this “time” that God redeems people through the new covenant.  Conversely, it’s the very work of Christ, that this promise found in Genesis 8:22 is secured.  2 Cor. 1:20 “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 
To sum up: The time promised in the Noahic covenant provided time for redemption; and that redemption, by Christ, secured the promise made.  
To Adam, God set certain conditions on his image bearer in Genesis 1 and 2.   There is a creature to Creator relationship.  He was commanded to obey God perfectly.  This in part was in the form of a test of not to eat the forbidden fruit.  Although we don’t have that same exact condition set on us, we are still required as creatures, as image bearers, to obey God perfectly, otherwise we will die.  “The wages of sin is death...”  Just like Adam, one transgression of the law is a complete breaking of the law for us.  James 2:10 says  “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”  When the Messiah comes, we see Him fulfilling the covenant made with Adam perfectly. 
So from Adam to Christ, we see a structural unity of the divine covenants.
II. Thematic Unity of the Divine Covenants
Robertson here speaks of something he calls the “Immanuel Principle.”  Were going to see this principle played out in three ways.
 The “Immanuel Principle” appears explicitly in connection with the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Davidic, and the New Covenant.
This “Immanuel Principle” is a summary of the divine covenant relationship.  In a phrase it’s “I shall be you God, and you shall be my people”  That’s the consummation of the covenant.  God being our God, and we being His people.  1) We see this theme in the Abrahamic covenant.  In Genesis 17:7, God says  “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”  2) We see this theme in the Mosaic covenant.  It also appears more frequently.  Exodus 6:6-7 “...I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God...”  You can find this “immanuel principle” mentioned in other places regarding the Mosaic covenant, specifically in Exodus 19:4-5, Leviticus 11:45, Deut. 4:20, and Deut. 29:13.  3)  We see this theme with regards to the Davidic covenant.  In the later years of the kingdom of Judah, where David’s heir was promised to always reign, we find an evil queen, Queen Athaliah, who killed all of the royal offspring, except one.  Joash.  Six years later, the priest Jehoiada conspired, to kill the queen and put the rightful heir to David’s throne in her place.  The priest then made a covenant recorded in 2 Kings 11:17:  “...Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD's people, and also between the king and the people.” 4) Lastly, we see this essence of the divine covenant, this “immanuel principle” at play in the new covenant.     Zechariah 2:11 says “...many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day,[this is prophetic, pointing to “that day” where the Jews and Gentiles will be joined together in Christ under the New Covenant]  and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.”   This “immanuel principle” is seen in the N.T. as well.  Followers of Christ are called to separate themselves from the world because “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Cor. 6:16  So we see this binding theme as a thread that strings itself through each of these covenants.  
 The “Immanuel Principle” is developed particularly in association with God’s actually dwelling in the midst of his people. 
Although very similar to the last section, this idea is actually more intimate.  Not only will God be our God, and we His people, but He will dwell among us.  We see a progression in Scripture of God getting increasingly “closer” to His people. We see this first in Exodus 25:8 where God commanded construction of the tabernacle.  “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.  When national Israel was established, it was universally recognized by the Jews that this was where God’s name dwelt.
  In other words, it was the Jew’s home because God’s name dwelt there.  
This was also the hope of the new covenant.  Ezekiel 36:26-27 records God speaking “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them.  It’s on this point where Piper has been most helpful to current evangelicalism, in calling the church to love heaven because God’s own presence is there.  That is the prize of eternal life and what the covenants point to. Rev. 21:3 says “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
 The “Immanuel Principle” reaches its climax through its embodiment in a single person.  
The climax of “God with us,” is when Jesus Christ became man, and dwelt among us.  Robertson says “In this single person all God’s purposes find climatic fulfillment.  He is the head of God’s kingdom and the embodiment of God’s covenant.  In his person “I shall be you God and you shall be my people” achieves incarnated reality.”
  In the O.T Moses uses the blood of bulls and goats to seal the covenant, in the N.T., Jesus pours out his own blood to seal the covenant.  Moses regulated the kingdom by the use of laws, Jesus regulates the kingdom by the use of his own person.  This is why we say that everything in the Scriptures point to Jesus Christ. The covenants were designed to point to him, and he is the fulfillment of all of them perfectly.  In him all of the covenants find their unity.  They are one.  Robertson concludes “In the person of Jesus Christ, the covenants of God achieve incarnational unity.  Because Jesus, as the Son of God and mediator of the covenant, cannot be divided, the covenants cannot be divided.  He himself guarantees the unity of the covenants, because he himself is the heart of each of the various covenantal administrations.”

(All quotes taken from O. Palmer Robertson The Christ of the Covenants  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1980