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Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.

As a unique creature who was created in the image of God, man was also created a covenant creature. Adam was created God’s covenant friend, to reflect the blessed friendship and fellowship of God’s own covenant life.

The truth of the covenant is a truth that we count precious. To us it is an essential element of our Protestant Reformed heritage as we maintain the truth of Holy Scripture. The truth of the covenant is, in fact, as a golden thread that runs through the whole of Scripture and brings all of doctrine to a personal level of rich experience and enjoyment. Let us review that truth briefly.

The Covenant God

To understand Adam’s place as a covenant creature requires that we see God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. God is Triune. It is not my intention to develop that truth now. That has been done in this column in the past. I only summarize. God is three Persons in one divine Being. He reveals Himself, therefore, as a covenant God. What does that mean?

We speak of the covenant as a bond or relationship of fellowship and love. Intimate friendship is one way to describe the essence of the covenant. If you think of the idea of a true and close friend, that will help you to remember what the covenant means.

God is a friendship God, a God of fellowship and love. He is that in Himself.

God is a family God. He is that in Himself.

The three Persons know each other, love one another, and have perfect fellowship with one another in the sphere of eternal goodness and perfection and life. In the Trinity each Person lives the entire divine life and fullness in His own personal way, but always in fellowship and unity with the other Persons. There is perfect fellowship and communion, a blessed relationship of love. The three Persons of the one divine Being rejoice together in their mutual communion of love.

This fellowship is God’s own covenant life. This life of God is complete and perfect. He has no need of anything or anyone outside of Himself. Man cannot enrich God’s life in any way.

What, then, does that covenant life of God have to do with us? And why, then, do we speak of God establishing His covenant with man? To ask that question is to ask why God has taken us into His fellowship. The answer is so profound, we barely touch the surface. God willed to do it! God’s sovereign good pleasure and immeasurable goodness is the only explanation. It may be wholly inadequate to our human understanding, but that is the truth of Scripture and one that we joyfully receive by faith.

God is God alone. Adam was God’s Adam. Adam’s power was God’s power; Adam’s talents were given him by God alone. God is the Creator and Possessor of all things. Man cannot do anything that he does not already owe, nor bring anything to God that is not God’s from the very beginning. And not only was that true of Adam; that is also true of us. So Jesus instructs His disciples in Luke 17:10: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

This means that a very common conception of the covenant is found wanting. Most often the covenant between God and man is explained as an agreement or a contract, within which there are promises to man on God’s part and obligations which must be fulfilled by man. The trouble is, the idea of man meriting anything with God is clearly contradicted by the Scriptures. Man is always in a position of obligation to God. We do nothing for Him. There is only One who could merit anything with God, and that was Jesus Christ, who alone realizes the covenant between God and man.

But, positively, the covenant as it applies to man and as it applied to Adam in the beginning is this: It is the living relationship of fellowship between God and Adam.

Man’s Life in God’s Covenant Fellowship

Adam was created to be a partaker of God’s own covenant life! He was created God’s covenant friend, to reflect the blessed friendship and fellowship of God’s own covenant life.

Psalm 25:14 reflects upon that covenant fellowship that God established with Adam (and with all those who are in Christ Jesus): “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”

Can you possibly conceive of anything more wonderful than to live as a partaker of the perfect family life of the Triune God?! Can you? He is the living God! He is the One in whom is no darkness, the God of infinite goodness and perfection. At His right hand there is nothing but pleasures forevermore!

Consider all the wonders of this creation. All those wonders speak of the glory of God, of His Godhead, of His power, of His wisdom.

Is it not an incomprehensibly wonderful thing that God would create Adam, and you and me, to share in the divine fullness, to be partakers, as the apostle Peter says, of His divine nature?!

Is it not an astounding truth, that God created a man to love as He loves, to know as He knows, to think as He thinks, to seek the things that He seeks? Is there anything higher than that?

That is life, you understand, the highest and most perfect bond of love which is life. It was that divine life of perfect fellowship and friendship that was reflected in Adam and that he experienced in the relationship to God in which he was created. The Most High God revealed Himself to Adam, and Adam entered into fellowship with God. He was the friend-servant of the living God.

On the basis of Adam’s having been created in God’s own image, Adam’s heart was knit to the heart of God. His will was in harmony with God’s will. He heard God speak, and he understood. God hid nothing from Adam, but opened His heart to him; and Adam did likewise.

God entrusted to His covenant creature the lordship over all the works of His hands, making Adam king in all the vast creation. And Adam served and glorified His Creator in all that he thought and said and did.

That was the living bond of fellowship and love in which the first man stood to his God.

Friend-servant of the living God he was, living in covenant fellowship with God on the earthly plane.

But as highly as he was exalted, so deeply has man fallen!

God created man His covenant friend. But Adam did not regard his rich blessedness and honor. He thought he saw something better. He would himself be God! Becoming unfaithful to his Friend-Sovereign, man violated the covenant of friendship, rejected the Word of God for the lie of Satan, and became the enemy of God and the friend of the devil. And the righteous God, who is not mocked, slays him. Dying we die, the objects of divine wrath. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”

Nevertheless — and this is the wonder of the gospel — the God who is faithful to His eternal purpose maintains His covenant. For He purposed to raise its revelation to the higher level of heavenly and everlasting perfection in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is covenant life in Jesus, by the wonder of sovereign grace!

How beautiful it is when the dead sinner hears the voice of the Son of God, when he is called from darkness unto light, and lives again in the consciousness of God’s fellowship and love! How blessed is the moment when the sinner cries out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and when he hears the gospel of his salvation, “Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace.”

How wonderful it is when Christ restores that image of God in man, giving His elect and regenerated children true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness!

But how much greater shall that blessedness be when we no longer have to contend with the corruption of this flesh, and when we shall experience perfectly the covenant fellowship of our God in heavenly glory! That will be glory indeed!