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That election and the covenant of God are linked has been noted from Ephesians 1. There, in the context of teaching eternal election in Jesus Christ (v. 3), the apostle states, “having predestinated us unto the adoption of children in Jesus Christ” (v. 5). Since in this verse predestination is a synonym for election, election is unto adoption as children. And adoption is an obvious covenant reality. This connection between the covenant and adoption is affirmed in the Reformed “Form for the Administration of Baptism” which teaches that “God the Father witnesseth and sealeth unto us that He doth make an eternal covenant of grace with us, and adopts us as His children and heirs.” In His covenant of grace, God takes His people, chosen in Christ, to Himself as His own children. He instructs them to call Him “Father,” and the Spirit of His only begotten Son enters into those children testifying with their spirits that they are the children of God, with the result that they cry out, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15, 16).

In this editorial we delve into more biblical and con­fessional teaching that election is the foundation of the covenant.

The truth of election as foundation of the covenant is inseparably connected with Christ’s proper position in the covenant. Reformed believers of all backgrounds acknowledge that Christ is the Mediator of the covenant. On that, Scripture and the confessions are explic­it. The Heidelberg Catechism, already in Question 15 asks, “What sort of a mediator and deliverer then must we seek for?” The Catechism goes on to identify Christ as the Mediator in Q&A 18 and 36. The Belgic Confes­sion likewise testifies:

We believe that we have no access unto God, but alone through the only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, who therefore became man, having united in one person the divine and human natures, that we men might have access to the divine Majesty, which access would otherwise be barred against us. (Art. 26)

The Canons of Dordt speak of Christ appointed by God as the “Mediator and Head of the elect” (I, 7); as “the Mediator” (V, 7); and as the “the Surety and Mediator of a better, that is, the new covenant” (II, B, 2). These confessions faithfully express this biblical teach­ing concerning Christ’s mediatorship in the covenant.

Hebrews 8:6 teaches that Jesus is “the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” (See also Heb. 9:15; 12:24; I Tim. 2:4). That Christ is the Mediator of the covenant of grace is not disputed.

That Christ is Head of His church and Head of the elect is also recognized Reformed doctrine. The Heidelberg Catechism speaks of Christ as Head of His church in Q&A 49, 50, 51, and 57. Likewise the Belgic Con­fession affirms Christ, “the only Head of the Church” (Arts. 29, 31). As noted above, Canons I, 7. affirms Christ as “Mediator and Head of the elect.”

This is the plain testimony of the Scriptures as well. Ephesians 1: 22-23 teaches that God “hath put all things under his [Christ’s] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (See also Eph. 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19.)

Virtually all in the Reformed camp affirm that Christ is Mediator of the covenant, and Head of His church, the elect church.

Over against that, we confess that Christ is both Mediator and Head of the covenant people, and that God establishes His covenant only with those who are in Christ, that is, the elect.

The point of dispute is whether the Bible and the confessions teach that Christ is the Head of the cove­nant, which is to say, Head of all those with whom God establishes His covenant. On the one hand, there are those who maintain that God establishes a conditional covenant with every baptized child. In their theology, election does not govern the covenant of grace. There­fore, they deny that Christ is Head of the covenant, for if Christ is Head, it follows that He represents every member of the covenant, and every member must be re­deemed and saved in His blood. That would necessarily limit the covenant people to the elect. They insist, Christ is Mediator of the covenant, not Head.

Over against that, we con­fess that Christ is both Me­diator and Head of the cov­enant people, and that God establishes His covenant only with those who are in Christ, that is, the elect.

If one is looking for a verse in the Bible that states explicitly the paragraph above, he will not find it. The same is true of many established truths that the church confesses. One cannot find a text that affirms explicitly that God is one in essence and three in persons. That truth must be drawn from various passages of the Bible, comparing Scripture with Scripture. So it is with the place of Christ in God’s covenant.

Let us, then, examine the teaching of Scripture on Christ’s position in the covenant.

We start with Romans 5:12, which teaches that Adam is the legal head of the human race: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” All men died in Adam, because Adam was the legal head of the race. In verse 14, we learn that this Adam is “the figure of him that was to come,” which is Christ. With Christ as the legal Head, there is salvation from sin and death: “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (Rom. 5:15). And that free gift is justification (vv. 16-21).

But salvation to whom? Of whom is Christ the Head? Answer: His covenant people. Why so? Because Adam was not only the head of the race, he was the covenant head of the race. As Hosea 6:7 states, “But they like men have transgressed the covenant.” There the word “men” is literally the Hebrew word “Adam,” indicting that Adam’s fall was a transgression of the covenant. Adam fell as head of the covenant. Adam is the picture of Christ, the Head of the new covenant.

In harmony with that position of Christ as covenant Head, Scripture testifies that God established His covenant with Christ. This is the clear teaching of Genesis 17:7 and Galatians 3:16.

Genesis 17:7 is probably the best known “covenant text” in Scripture. There God promises Abraham, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an

everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Here God establishes His covenant with Abraham and his seed. This covenant is eternal (ev­erlasting). God promises to be the God of Abraham and his seed in their generations. This verse establishes that God’s covenant is with be­lievers and their children.

But full understanding of Genesis 17:7 requires the Spirit’s commentary on the verse in Galatians 3:16— “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” The point that the inspired Paul makes is that the “seed” of Genesis 17:7, to whom the promise was made was Christ. He is “the seed” referred to in God’s promise to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee.” God indicated that He, the triune God, establishes His everlasting covenant with Christ.

How are the children of believers included in the covenant? Galatians 3:29 answers that: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs accord­ing to the promise.” And who are Christ’s? Those cho­sen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3). Those given to Him by the Father (John 10:29). Christ knows them (v. 14), calls them by name (v. 3), and laid down His life for them (vv. 15, 17, 18).

The covenant is made with Christ (the Seed), and with those who are His, namely, the elect. This de­mands that Christ be the legal Head of the elect people—the Head of the covenant.

The beautiful covenantal Psalm 89 teaches the same truth. The psalmist begins with praise to the Lord (God’s covenant name) for His faithfulness (vv. 1, 2). Then the Lord speaks (v. 3): “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant.” This is repeated in verse 19: “Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have ex­alted one chosen out of the people.”

The covenant is made with Christ (the Seed), and with those who are His, namely, the elect. This demands that Christ be the legal Head of the elect people—the Head of the covenant.

As the psalm progresses, it becomes obvious that David is the type, and the real “cho­sen one” is Christ. For God testifies “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” Christ is “the chosen one” of God. Of that there can be no doubt.[1]

With that understanding, notice that God promises to His chosen (v. 28), “My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.” The plain language is that God establishes His covenant with Christ. What of the covenant people? They are identified in the psalm as Christ’s children in verses 30ff. (“If his children…”). God establishes His covenant with Christ and with Christ’s children. Hebrews 2:13 speaks of those saved by Christ as His children, that is, “the children which God hath given” Christ. This is another reference to the elect, as in John 10:29—the sheep that the Father gave Jesus. (See also John 6:37, 39.) These are the covenant people.

Psalm 89 then sets forth a most significant implica­tion of the truth that God establishes His covenant with Christ, and with those chosen in Christ, namely, that

God’s covenant cannot be broken. The covenant cer­tainly is not maintained by the children’s activity. The Lord Himself points this out:

If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes (vv. 30-32).

However that may be, God testifies, “Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail” (v. 33) and therefore, “My covenant will I not break” (v. 34). The covenant of God, made with Christ (and with His children) can­not be broken. For Christ, God’s own Son, cannot fail. He will never “transgress the covenant,” as did Adam.

God’s covenant is with Christ, the Head of the cov­enant people, the King on the eternal throne of David. And in Christ, God’s covenant is with those chosen eter­nally in Christ. Election governs the covenant—both its Head (“my chosen”), and all the members of the cove­nant (“my chosen people”).

The Canons maintain the same truth, as we will see next time.


1 Isaiah 42:1 also calls the Messiah God’s elect: “Behold my ser­vant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”