The good news is that God made a “second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.” This covenant is rooted not in anything we can do but only in God’s “mere love.” By this covenant, God saves “his elect,” whom the Father chose, whom Christ purchased, and whom the Spirit seals for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:3–14; 4:30). The second covenant brings the elect out of the misery brought on by the broken first covenant, transferring them to “an estate of salvation.” God promised to save His people from their sins after Adam and Eve’s fall, saying to the serpent, “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” (Gen. 3:15). Eve’s sin resulted in enmity with God through friendship with the serpent. God would break her friendship with the serpent by putting enmity between them. Yet Satan and the woman have offspring. Satan’s offspring are those who remain his servants and friends through sin. Her offspring are those who are servants and friends of God in Christ. This promise thus distinguished the church from the world thereafter. However, the great Seed of the woman, Christ, would crush the serpent’s head, while His heel would be “bruised” at the cross. Satan’s ruin would be permanent, while Christ’s would not be. The seed of the woman, the church, would share in the victory of the Seed of the woman, Christ. God will crush Satan under our feet just as He crushed him under Christ’s feet (Rom. 16:20), reversing the curse of sin.
All of this means that we must be saved by grace and not by works, with no middle ground: “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:6). Only if through faith in Christ we become parties to the covenant of grace will we be redeemed.
Christ Rescues Us from Sin and Misery in Covenant
The Covenant of grace was made with Christ as the Second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed. (WLC 31)
Like the covenant of works, the covenant of grace has parties, conditions, promises, and threats. The parties of the covenant of grace are God and Christ, with the elect in Him. Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). Christ is also the surety of “a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22), guaranteeing our salvation by standing in our place before God (Heb. 7:26–28). The Seed (singular) of the woman came to save the seed (plural) of the woman. He is the Seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16). If we belong to Christ, then we, too, are Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29). Christ, the “Captain of our salvation,” brings “many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10).
While the elect are parties of the covenant of grace (Jer. 31:31–34), they always approach God in Christ as Mediator and surety. The Father Himself, who predestined them to adoption as sons in Christ, is pleased with them (Eph. 1:5). The Father so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might be saved (John 3:16). God showed that He is love in that “he sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). God abides in us and His love abides in us “because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13). The Mediator of the covenant of grace brings the Father’s plan to fruition for the elect, and the Holy Spirit brings us to God and keeps us in fellowship with Him through faith in Christ.
Christ did not come to save everyone. Faith unites us, the bride, to Christ, the Bridegroom, and Christ unites us to God. The Friend of the Bridegroom, the Holy Spirit, engages us to Christ and will consummate this engagement in the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6–9). To which covenant do we belong? The covenant of works or the covenant of grace? How do we know? Do we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20)? Or do we rest in our own works?
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