RPM, Volume 16, Number 11, March 9 to March 15, 2014

Covenant Theology

The Covenant of Grace
Part 3

The Outcome
Sermon Number Eleven

By Jim Bordwine, Th.D.

Westminster Presbyterian Church
411 Chkalov Dr, Vancouver WA 98683


We've seen in previous study that the covenant of grace is God's plan to counter the fall of man and restore His special creatures to fellowship and communion; it is the fulfillment of a promise that God made at the time of Adam's transgression, a promise that He would send One to rescue a godly seed and destroy the serpent. We've seen that this promise and its fulfillment took the form of a number of covenants in Scripture in which God progressively taught His people about His intentions for their redemption.

Most recently, we examined the covenant that God made with Abraham and we saw that it provides the most extensive commentary on God's overriding plan for our salvation; the Abrahamic covenant is, in fact, the covenant of grace in a foundational format.

What I've just described is an extremely abbreviated review of the first two points of this study of the covenant of grace, which were: The Definition of the Covenant of Grace and The Provisions of the Covenant of Grace. Now we will close this portion of our study of Covenant Theology with this sermon in which I will deal with a third point. This third point has to do with how the covenant of grace concluded.

03. The Outcome of the Covenant of Grace

What happened to those wonderful promises that God made to Abraham, which were, themselves, extensions of that great promise made by God in the Garden of Eden when He said that He would restore what the serpent had ruined? To answer this question, I must refer again to the conditions of the covenant of grace. The promises made to Abraham were contingent upon two things, as far as Abraham was concerned: one, Abraham's belief of what God said; and, two, Abraham's subsequent obedience to God's commands as a manifestation of his professed belief in those promises.

Abraham was bound to demonstrate an unshakable trust in God's word and that trust in God's word manifested itself in his obedience to God's commands. Abraham believed what God said to him regarding the manifold blessings that were to come to his seed and he demonstrated obedience to all the commands of God.

There is, however, one big problem in this whole matter. The one big problem that threatened the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham was Abraham himself. Abraham was a fallen creature; he bore the guilt of Adam's transgression in the Garden of Eden. Abraham, therefore, could never perfectly keep covenant with God and perfection is what God requires. Even before God approached Abraham, the patriarch was justly condemned and alienated from his Creator. Abraham's best behavior, therefore, was stained by sin because it proceeded from a corrupt heart.

No man, no normal descendant of Abraham could keep covenant with God perfectly and thus inherit the promised blessings. Therefore, the wonderful promises made by God to Abraham, summarized in the statement that He would be God to Abraham and to Abraham's descendants, would have remained unrealized had not one particular seed of Abraham come upon the scene.

I am referring, of course, to Jesus Christ. He is the seed mentioned in Gen. 3:15, the seed who would crush the head of the serpent. And, as we discovered in our previous study of the covenant of grace, Christ is the ultimate seed of Abraham in whom God intended to provide what He had promised. We saw that the parties in the Abrahamic covenant were God and the house of Abraham; and we learned that, according to Paul's teaching in Gal. 3, the house of Abraham was uniquely represented by one particular seed, which is Jesus Christ. When we talk about the outcome of the covenant of grace, therefore, we are talking about the manner in which the Savior fulfilled the obligations of the covenant of grace as our representative and the subsequent benefits that are ours as His people.

Jesus Christ was perfect God and perfect Man; He was a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh, yet, being the miraculously conceived Son of God, He did not inherit the guilt of Adam. As a son of Abraham, the perfect God-Man could and did keep covenant with God absolutely. As a result, all those who have union with Christ by faith come to possess all the Abrahamic blessings as though they, themselves, had met the terms of the covenant.

Once again, we see why we refer to God's plan for our salvation as a covenant of grace; guilty and condemned sinners have a Substitute who does what God requires and then what that Substitute earns is credited to the sinner. All of this is done because of God's great love and mercy; all of this is done in spite of the sinner's state. Faith in Christ, acceptance of His finished work as our own and belief in the promises of God associated with Christ, then, become the means whereby a sinner escapes his condemnation and is counted as a child of God.

There are two matters to establish as we study the outcome of the covenant of Grace. First, I want to show how the Savior fulfilled the terms of the covenant and, thereby, made it possible for sinners to receive God's blessings. Second, I want show how a sinner comes to have a saving relationship with Christ, the seed of Abraham.

Let me say again that when I refer to the terms of the covenant of grace, I mean a perfect trust in the word of God and a perfect life that follows. The perfect trust is shown to exist by the perfect life. In Christ, we see a life of perfect obedience that is, as I've stated, indicative of His absolute trust in the words of His Father.

As we consider the outcome of the covenant of grace, we are studying how Jesus Christ provided what the Father demanded in order that the elect of God might be restored by having their sin paid for and by having imputed to them a righteousness that would allow them to stand before God. To put it in a simpler fashion, we are going to see how our Savior, Jesus Christ, accomplished our salvation; this is, after all, what we mean when we speak of the outcome of the covenant of grace.

There are numerous passages that could be used to explain how Jesus Christ fulfilled the terms of the covenant and how, as a result, sinners receive forgiveness and eternal life. We will look at three texts in which these truths are summarized. First, we will turn to Phil. 2:5-8 where Paul explains the submissive attitude displayed by our Savior that culminated in His death for us on the cross. Second, we will look at verses from Gal. 3 where the apostle explains further how the humble and obedient Savior made possible our reception of the Abrahamic inheritance. Third, we will examine Eph. 2:8-10 where Paul teaches about the essential role of faith in our salvation.

Let's begin with Phil. 2:5-8:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

In the context of this passage, the apostle Paul is urging his readers to give proper testimony to the gospel by manifesting certain characteristics, such as, unity of mind and purpose, brotherly love, and self-sacrifice for the good of others. To underscore what he is commanding, Paul cites the supreme example of their Savior. He left an example to be imitated and in this example we learn something about how the covenant of grace was fulfilled. In other words, we learn something about how our salvation was accomplished by our Redeemer.

One particular fact dominates these few verses and it is that one particular fact that Paul wanted the Philippians to grasp. The thing that stands out is the humble submission of Jesus Christ to the will of His Father so that we might be saved. Jesus Christ, who was God, Paul writes, set aside His glory, as it were, and came into this world in the likeness of men. This is the incarnation; this is the Son of God being conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. The Son of God subjected Himself to that experience and then lived among us for a period of time for our salvation.

And during that period of time, the God-Man lived a perfect life, keeping the law of God in every respect. He was absolutely obedient, Paul says, even to the point of dying on the cross, which tells us, of course, that His death on the cross was required by God if He were to fulfill His mission.

How many times have you witnessed someone voluntarily allowing themselves to be humiliated? How often do people voluntarily put themselves in a position of extreme submissiveness? It doesn't happen often. But notice what Paul says about your Savior: "He humbled Himself." This phrase (tapeinow) refers to a voluntary humiliation. Christ readily subjected Himself to the degrading experience of becoming a man because our salvation required it. This was God becoming one of His creatures!

Christ's willingness to undergo this experience emphasizes a point that I made in the very first sermon in this series and that is that God's condescension to man is the basis for covenant theology. Christ's coming into this world as a Man is an example of God's condescension to fallen man so that fallen man might be saved.

This voluntary humiliation experienced by Christ did not stop at His being found in appearance as a man, Paul adds; this act of obedience, this act of voluntary subjection to the limitations of the flesh did not end until the Savior surrendered His life on the cross. It is there on the cross that the supreme expression of submission is seen. Not only did our salvation require that a perfect life be available to be imputed to us, but our salvation also required payment for our rebellion against the Creator.

We inherited guilt from our father Adam and that guilt made it impossible for any man ever to have communion with the Creator. Jesus Christ provided what was necessary so that the elect of God might come to possess the promise of a restored communion and unending blessed existence with God. Even when what was necessary included His cruel death on the cross, the God-Man submitted. And His submission, as Paul teaches, was manifested in obedience, even obedience to the point of death. This was a most powerful example that Paul chose to use when he challenged the Philippians to conduct themselves in a Christ-like manner.

How did Christ fulfill the covenant of grace? He fulfilled it by rendering complete submission to God, which was, as I've stated repeatedly, indicative of His trust in the promise of His Father. Christ accomplished our salvation and made possible our reception of the Abrahamic promises through His submission to the will of the Father. Christ provided what the Father required for our salvation; He provided a perfect life, which would be given to us, and He provided payment for our sin.

The second passage that I want to consider is Gal. 3:13, 14. Before dealing with these verses, however, there are three things must be noted about the context of these verses. First, Paul is explaining that the promises made to Abraham by God were, in fact, the gospel: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU.'" (v. 8) In those promises, such as the one quoted here, God taught Abraham that He would establish a unique relationship with Abraham and his descendants through a special seed, which is Jesus Christ. God promised to take Abraham's house as His particular people as Abraham's people accepted God's promise by faith.

Second, the apostle is explaining that the inheritance of those promises was always a matter of faith:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU." (v. 8); So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. (v. 9) Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." (v. 11)

Sinners would come to know the wonderful blessings predicted for the house of Abraham only by having faith in what God declared just like Abraham. God never intended, Paul emphasizes, that sinners be restored to fellowship with Him through their own efforts. From the time of man's fall in the Garden of Eden, God's intention was to provide for man's justification through another, namely, the ultimate seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.

And the third thing to be noted about the context of vv. 13 and 14 is that Paul's explanation of the Abrahamic covenant as the gospel is set against the background of works righteousness, a doctrine that was troubling the Galatian churches. Some were insisting that obedience to the Mosaic Law was necessary to supplement the work of Christ. Paul insists that such thinking is not only contrary to the Abrahamic covenant, which teaches that God's blessings come by faith, but such thinking also is contrary to the Mosaic covenant itself. That covenant, the apostle writes, was given to emphasize man's need of God's gracious provision of a Savior, not to instruct man on how he might earn his justification.

And so Paul says:

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM." (v. 10); Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." (v. 11); Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions... until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. (v. 19) Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. (v. 24)

Within this context, then, Paul explains what Christ did:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"-- in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (vv. 13, 14)

These verses state that the Abrahamic blessing, which consists in God being our God and the God of our descendants after us, required that we be redeemed from the curse of the Law. Paul is referring, of course, to the fact of our guilt before God. Human beings are fallen creatures with God's condemnation resting on them. His Law, which came through Moses, intensified the evidence of our depravity by showing us a perfect standard; and when we see that perfect standard in God's holy Law, we know that, indeed, we have been corrupted and the guilt of our father Adam manifests itself in us day after day in a multitude of ways. The Law of God does not let us live in ignorance regarding our spiritual condition; it exposes our sin and causes us to know that we have no hope of fellowship with a holy God in and of ourselves.

This is the "curse of the Law" from which the children of Abraham have been delivered. We were delivered when Christ, as our Substitute, suffered the penalty of sin. And because Christ, the seed of Abraham, was "hanged on a tree," and because He thereby satisfied the justice of God, the blessing promised to Abraham comes to us when we, by faith, believe to be true what God declares in His Word and accept, receive, and rest upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life. (cf. WCF 14-2)

And so Paul could make the thrilling statement found in v. 29: "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." Those who imitate Abraham's faith and believe the promises of God are his descendants and the focus of their faith is that ultimate seed, Jesus Christ, who enables them to receive God's favor.

This brings us to a third and final passage, which is Eph. 2:8-10. The context for these verses is Paul's declaration concerning the former spiritual state of the Ephesian believers. He tells them that, at one point, they were "dead in [their] trespasses and sins" they lived under the destructive influence of Satan and were most interested in "indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind" and "were by nature children of wrath..." (vv. 1-3)

Within this framework, Paul then explains how those in such a condition as he describes could come to be the beloved people of God, enjoying all the benefits of fellowship with God and knowing of His eternal love for them in the Savior. (cf. 1:3 ff.) The apostle describes what God did for the Ephesians even when they were "dead in their transgressions." (cf. v. 5) What Paul describes is, of course, the work of God in Christ whereby He reconciled these alienated sinners to Himself on the cross. Paul is describing how the covenant of grace was concluded in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Although the Ephesians were spiritually dead, although their depravity separated them from God and meant that friendly contact with their Creator was impossible, that same God, "because of His great love with which He loved us," Paul adds, "made us alive together with Christ" and "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places..." (cf. vv. 4-6) Notice Paul's emphasis upon what God did in Christ for sinners. Sinners had nothing to recommend them to God; they were enemies of God.

Sinners, like the Ephesians, were capable only of following their natural fallen instincts, which Paul specifies at the beginning of this chapter. But our loving Creator showed mercy and sent His own Son to pay for our transgressions so that we might be freed from our deadly slumber. The apostle draws a sharp contrast in these verses between the state of the sinner and the action of a holy God; they could not be more diverse.

Grace was manifested to the Ephesians and to all the elect God. And it is that grace that is responsible for the sinner's restoration. Therefore, Paul writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I stated earlier that there were two matters that I wanted to explain in connection with the outcome of the covenant of grace. First, I wanted to show how the Savior fulfilled the terms of the covenant. The two previous passages accomplished this. The second matter that I wanted to clarify was just how a sinner comes to have a saving relationship with Christ, the seed of Abraham, so that he inherits the promises. The verses that we are now considering, Eph. 2:8-10, explain how such a thing can happen.

According to Paul, the sinner is saved through faith; that is, he accepts as true what God declares in His Word, he receives and rests upon Christ alone for his salvation. In this scheme, the sinner abandons all thought of somehow making himself acceptable to God and relies wholly upon what God provides for the sinner in Christ. But notice that even the faith itself is a gift from God, Paul states. This teaching is in harmony with what the Bible says about man in his fallen condition¾he is spiritually dead and cannot rouse himself or make himself righteous before God. This teaching is in harmony with what the apostle just wrote about the Ephesians at the beginning of this chapter.

If a sinner is going to exercise faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that faith will have to be given to him because he is incapable of generating it himself. This, then, is how the sinner comes to have a saving relationship with Christ, the seed of Abraham, and inherit the covenant blessings of communion with God, forgiveness of sin and eternal life. God gives faith to the sinner and the sinner exercises that faith in Christ and the sinner then renders to God a life that is defined by God's standard. The sinner is, as Paul declares, God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..."

As I stated, there are many other important passages that could have been used to explain the work of Christ, the seed of Abraham. We have covered, however, the most significant elements involved when we considered how the covenant of grace was fulfilled. Christ, as the sinless seed of Abraham, rendered a life of perfect obedience to God on our behalf; He paid the price of our sin with His own life; by faith, we are united to Him and have an interest in the covenant of grace, otherwise known as our redemption.

In saying these things, I want to emphasize that there are a number of related significant doctrines to be explained within this covenant environment that we have established. In future sermons we will explore some of these subjects, such as the all-important doctrine of justification by faith, which we have just touched upon, the sacraments and their role in the covenant of grace, and covenantal worship.


As I mentioned in the Introduction, this sermon marks a conclusion for our study of the covenant of grace. I want to use this section of application to emphasize the message of the covenant of grace. If we aren't careful, we can fall into a pattern of seeing only what's wrong with our lives as we compare them to God's Word. It is, of course, necessary that we assess all that we believe and do in light of Scripture; I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with that procedure at all. But once in a while, believers need to step back and remind themselves of what a wonderful thing God has done for them in providing salvation.

There is plenty of time and plenty of reason for us to see that we fall short of God's holy standard. We see our shortcomings every day; we pray about them, we weep over them and we seek forgiveness for them. But the Christian life does not consist solely of self-examination and grieving over our sin, as important as these elements are.

It is good for us to think about what God has done for us in Christ; once in a while, we need to be encouraged and comforted and strengthened by the contemplation of God's astounding love for us in the Savior. Sometimes, we must have our souls refreshed by turning our attention anew to the consideration of God's grace and reacquaint ourselves with His manifold blessings. There is no better time for us to do this as a congregation than now; since we have just concluded our study of the covenant of grace, this is an ideal time to revel in the faith.

And what a glorious faith it is! The love of God shown to us defies understanding. We were guilty of rebellion, we were engaged in evil deeds, we wanted nothing to do with God, we spurned His Word, we were happy to pursue the pleasures of the flesh and spend an eternity under His condemnation. Nevertheless, He chose to love us and free us from sin's deadly grasp; God chose to deliver us from wrath and make us His children. God loved us so much that He became one of us, suffered, and died for us.

John declared: "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are..." (1 John 3:1) One little word that John uses in this verse, which is translated "how great," sums up what I'm trying to say. This Greek term (potapas) refers to something's quality or origin. It originally was used when inquiring of someone's country of origin. It's as though John is saying, "From what place comes this love of the Father?... Where does love like this come from?... It is a foreign love... It seems out of place in this world."

This is how we should feel when we contemplate what God has done for us in Christ. This love that has come to us is so strange, so unlike what we witness in this world where self-interest motivates what is falsely labeled as "love." God's love is a love motivated only by His own good will; it is a love that does not ask for compensation, a love that does not take into account a sinner's merit or worth, it is a love from heaven, a perfect love manifested only by the Creator.

When you think of your salvation in these terms, it does, indeed, refresh the soul and generate an affectionate response to God within the redeemed heart. When you think of your salvation in these terms, everything in life is seen from a different, confident, hopeful, and thankful perspective. It is imperative that Christians maintain a balance between recognizing their faults and recognizing the overwhelming, all-encompassing love of God in Christ.

Make sure that you take the time to balance your worries about sin, your concerns about doing the right thing before God with the wonderful and comforting knowledge that God has loved you with an everlasting love. Balance your worries about your family and those painful periods of self-examination with the knowledge that there is nothing in this life or in the next, there is nothing that you might face or imagine, there is nothing that can be done to you or said about you that can undo what God has done in Christ.

Eternal security is no small comfort; forgiveness of sin is no small comfort; having God as our heavenly Father both now in the life to come is no small comfort. Contemplate the love of God in the Savior, contemplate what He has done to accomplish your salvation, mediate on the covenant of grace and then you'll come to live, not just read, these words of Paul:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38, 39)


Hymn for Communion


The thought of what has been done for us in the covenant of grace makes the contemplation of the Lord's Table a thrilling idea. I don't want to stay away from it. I want to take the bread and the wine and consume them and commune with the One who died for me. I want to renew my fellowship with God at this Table. I want to confess my sins and know the reviving touch of Christ's Spirit as He ministers to my soul in this sacrament.

What about you? As these elements are distributed, we are renewing our relationship with God in Christ; we are declaring again the gospel in which we stand and by which we are saved; we are renewing our promise to live as becomes the followers of Jesus Christ. This sacrament is a distinct privilege; it is yet another aspect of what God has provided for us by grace and grace alone. Not only does He saved us in Christ, but Christ then appointed this observance so that we would have a constant reminder of what it means to be saved by grace and what it means to live by grace.

Matthew provides a record of the institution of this sacrament:

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." (Matt. 26:26-29)
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