*This is the third installment of posts from chapter 7 of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith from Sam Waldron. For the first blog, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/of-gods-covenant-1689-71-sam-waldron/. For the second blog, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/implications-of-the-covenant-of-grace-1689-72-sam-waldron/.
1689 7:3 By Farther Steps
In paragraphs 1 and 2 of chapter 7, we noticed a great deal of commonality between the Baptists and their Puritan brethren. In the rest of this chapter, the significant differences between them emerge. There are five paragraphs in the Westminster and the Savoy. They are replaced by three in the 1689. Instead of speaking merely of different administrations of one covenant of grace, the Baptists speak of a gradually emerging revelation of one the covenant of grace beginning with Adam after the fall and completed in the New Testament. Here is what they say in the first part of their paragraph 3:
“This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament …” The full revelation of the covenant of grace is found in the new covenant.
Instead of the rather artificial one covenant, two administrations, found in the Westminster, there is a much more biblical idea of an organic and progressive revelation of the gospel throughout redemptive history. Thus, the fact that there is one gospel through which men have always been saved is maintained. But at the same time, a place is found for the progression of redemptive history and the distinctiveness of the new covenant. This is very representative of scriptural teaching which speaks of all the covenants since the fall n Ephesians 2:12 as “the covenants of the promise.” The covenants—plural—of the promise—singular.
But where is this unity of covenant dealings grounded? The Confession answers this question in the next part of paragraph 3. Here it is:
“and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect …”
The covenant grace in history is grounded in the covenant of redemption in eternity. Thus, the nature of the covenant of grace in history reflects of the solemn promise of the Father to the Son in eternity. The key expressions of this in Scripture are found in two passages. Titus 1:2 reads: “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” 2 Timothy 1:9 speaks similarly of the covenant of redemption: “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” The Father promised the Son the salvation of His people on the condition that He become a man and die in their place. The Son, of course, in beautiful, filial love for His Father willingly agreed to the role given to Him in this plan. Thus, the groundwork for the covenant of grace was laid in eternity.
Chapter 3 concludes with an important application of all this.
“and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.”
It is only by and through the covenant of grace that anyone can be saved or has ever been saved. The notion that the Jews in the Old Testament or the heathen today are saved in any other way is wrong. Such notions really return to the covenant of works and forget that man cannot be saved by the covenant of works and can only now be saved under the terms of the covenant of grace.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.