Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sinclair Ferguson on Covenant Theology

Scottish Presbyterian Minister, Sinclair Ferguson was asked to introduce covenant theology is just a few words. The following is a transcript of what he said:
“The great thing about reformed theology and covenant theology is that it understands that whenever God engages with the world He does so as the covenant making and covenant keeping God and that throughout the whole of Scripture He has one single plan that He has planned from all eternity and that He works out in time and He does that by entering into covenant arrangements (covenant commitments) with His people. Right from the very beginning our Westminster Confession emphasises that the relationship between God and man right at the beginning was a covenant relationship in which God made promises and called on men and woman to respond to those promises in trust and obedience; right from the beginning trust and obedience because there is no other way to be happy, period. When men fall God enters into a new covenant with them, He preserves the world by a covenant made with Noah. He focuses on the purposes He has to redeem His people, not only a people from one nation, but a people from all nations in the promise He gives to Abraham (Genesis 12): in you all the nations will be blessed and your seed. That seed principle is then pursued through the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures until it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Whether you are a believer living in the days of the Old Testament or in the Days of the Mosaic Covenant you are looking forward to the coming of the Saviour. When you live as we do in the light of Christ coming you are looking back to the promise of the coming of the Saviour. That promise has been fulfilled. For example, if you were an Old Testament believer living in Jerusalem, up to the temple, watch the sacrifices, you know that God has made a promise to bring Salvation to you and to your family by faith and eventually to the nations through the fulfilment of His promise. As you watch your priest making the sacrifice and the blood being offered, you understand this cannot be the sacrifice God has promised finally to take away sins because you have got to be back the next day and there is going to be another sacrifice. All the way through the Old Testament, the pictures of the gospel focusing on the once and for all sacrifice of Christ are set before your eyes. God has surrounded you with the promise of salvation but you recognise that hasn't been finally fulfilled until the figure appears who in the second half of Isaiah is promised as the covenant of God to the nations begins to appear, the suffering servant, the Lamb of God, sacrifice for sinners. From the very beginning to the very end there is one God, one basic structure of salvation that God ministers to His people progressively through the series of covenants until Jesus is able to say in the upper room "This is the new covenant in my blood, drink from it all of you”. It is one simple but a multi-faceted story of salvation from beginning to end”
To briefly draw out the key points that Ferguson makes:
1.       God always engages with people as the covenant making and covenant keeping God.
2.       God has one single plan of Salvation that was planned from all eternity through covenants with His people.
3.       God focuses on His purpose to redeem all His people who are scattered throughout all nations, in the promise He gives to Abraham, to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Covenant of Grace).
4.       Believers in the New Testament and Old Testament have the same faith in the same Saviour, Jesus Christ.
5.       OC believers looked forward to the coming of Christ alone, while NC believers look back upon His coming alone for Salvation; the sacrifice which has been fulfilled once for all sins in Jesus Christ.
6.       Throughout history, beginning to end, God ministers one structure of salvation to His people: “My Covenant” which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
7.       The administrations of the covenant are not identical, (i.e. sacraments).
In a future post I will give a more detailed overview of the specifics of the covenants.
(C) J. Williams, 2011.

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