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Is the Old Covenant an administration of the Covenant of Grace?
Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)
A couple years ago I would have said yes to this question without hesitation. However, investigating the view broadly known as 1689 Federalism has helpfully refined some of my thinking. I’m still studying this issue, so this answer is offered somewhat tentatively. As is always the case in theology, precise definitions are necessary. The Covenant of Grace is Christ’s fulfillment of the Covenant of Works for his elect. Therefore, if ‘administration’ means that the Covenant of Grace and the Old Covenant were coextensive, in that unregenerate (still in Adam) Old Covenant members were also in the Covenant of Grace (in Christ), then absolutely not. Only the New Covenant is coextensive with the Covenant of Grace. However, I believe we can say that the Covenant of Grace was administered ‘through’ the Old Covenant, and that the Old Covenant was also highly gracious– but that doesn’t make it the Covenant of Grace.
Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)
The mosaic legislation is commonly called the “Old Covenant.” The answer is yes!
Throughout the Bible from the pre-Mosaic coverings of skins for Adam and Eve, to the Passover Lamb, to the Day of Atonement, to the Cross, grace has been the underlying theme. There is only one way a person can be saved in both the Old and New Testaments and that is by grace through faith.
It is proper to speak of the administration of the Covenant of Grace under the Old and New Covenants. The law of God present in the Old Covenant (Ten Commandments) it is not done away with in the New. The law shows us that we ought to love God and our neighbor. Endeavoring to do so we realize it is an impossibility apart from God’s grace, new heart (regeneration), and faith.
Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)
I believe the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant, thus the Old Covenant is not an administration of the Covenant of Grace. The New Covenant was promised in Genesis 3:15, however its fulfillment is based upon the finished work of Christ. Nevertheless, the promised covenant was from God, thus guaranteeing its fulfillment as a gracious covenant. All of the other covenants throughout the Old Testament are types and shadows pointing to the finished work of Christ and/or specific to Israel’s life in the land of Canaan, but are not in and of themselves the Covenant of Grace even though they may be said to have a gracious nature. All of the covenants in the Old Testament anticipate, look forward to, and reveal the coming work of Jesus the Messiah. They graciously anticipate what is coming, but are not identical with the Covenant of Grace.
Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)
As Mel Brooks once said, “…the theory of yes and no…” Mosaic Covenant is kind of a mixture of Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace. It’s like a scale model that shrinks all the elements of Redemptive History down to an observable scale even before many of the elements had happened. So it’s covenant of grace, covenant of works, and neither all at the same time. The sacrifices, priesthood, tabernacle, furniture, etcetera are only functional as shadow conduits to the Covenant of Grace and ineffectual by themselves, a major theme of Hebrews. This question is actually simpler for Baptists, because we’re not trying to keep a circumcision/baptism connection. We can delineate how BC saints were saved through the Mosaic system, while under it, but not by it. They were saved by grace through faith, not the Mosaic/Old Covenant.
Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)
The problem with this question is that “Covenant of Grace” is a man-made theological construct rather than a biblical term. Therefore, we can’t do exegesis upon the phrase from the Bible. Thus, it probably isn’t possible to answer the question without first begging it.
If, however, we equate the new covenant and the Covenant of Grace (which I believe everyone does), we can ask whether OT covenants are the same as the new covenant. The biblical answer to this is that they are not for—as Hebrews teaches—they have inferior covenant heads, covenant sacrifices, covenant priests, covenant (ceremonial) laws, and covenant blood. OT covenants are typological of the new covenant. They anticipate the new covenant. God saves OT saints by faith alone in anticipation of the new covenant (Rom 3:25). OT covenants were cut by Jesus Christ (Israel’s God, i.e. the Angel of the LORD, see Jdg 2:1). But only the new covenant has Christ as the one obeying the terms of the covenant. It is the final great covenant that all of redemptive history anticipated.