This is from my covenant theology class at RTS. Sure, I was confused, but that’s also because no one on either side really knew what was going on.
Professor Ligon Duncan
2 March 2006
Covenant of Works Precis
I. It is important, before exploring the covenant of works, to have a definition of what a covenant is.
A. God’s covenant with man is a bond in blood, sovereignly administered by God (this is Palmer Robertson’s definition, which I now reject. A number of covenants are not dealt with in blood.)
1. There is a difference in creation between God and man, known as the C reator-creature distinction.
2. Therefore, it is God and not man who sets the terms of the covenant.
B. It calls for faith in his promises and obedience to his commands (I got in trouble for this line because the pre-fall covenant was seen to be strictly law, no faith).
II. God entered into a covenant with Adam in Eden, before the Fall.
A. Although the word is not there, it has a covenantal format and the doctrine can be deduced from other scriptural passages.
1. Hos. 6:7 speaks of a covenant broken with respect to Adam.
B. Adam’s position in the covenant was federal.
1. Adam represented the whole of humanity.
2. This is key to maintaining the Adam-Christ parallel.
a. Rom. 5:12ff. and 2 Cor.5:14ff. speak of Christ paralleling
Adam’s work and triumphing where Adam failed.
b. Christ is the new humanity, the greater and greatest Adam.
C. The covenant was eschatological in design.
1. Adam’s state was probationary.
2. While created very good, he was not created “ultimately perfect” and
his state by definition pointed to another Adam.
a. This does not prove conclusively that Christ would have come
into the world regardless of Adam’s obedience in the garden.
b. It does suggest that Adam’s condition was temporary.
c. Beyond that, however, one cannot reasonably speculate.
III. The covenant in the garden, while one of works, was gracious as well.
A. The terminology of works, while not the most accurate, does clearly guard the
work of Christ and his relation to Adam and the believer’s relation to Christ.
1. With Herman Bavinck one will state that the covenant was one of
works, but it was also non-meritorious in nature: it is a gracious
covenant as well (Reformed Dogmatics vol. 2, 572).
2. Adam’s condition was gracious in a sense in that he was blessed by
God, set forth in a proto-paradise, and given a companion for love and
3. Yet this gracious existence was conditional upon Adam’s obedience.
B. The Covenant of Works, if gracious in one sense, therefore implies continuity between the
testaments, given the obvious fact that the New Covenant was gracious as well.
1. Scripture speaks repeatedly of an eternal covenant.
2. God has always had one plan of redemption for his people.
3. However, there are differing degrees of administration in these plans.
a. In this case, the CoW is still in effect. It has been executed by Christ.
b. Believers, however, do not relate to God by works, but by faith.
C. Christ, however, given the CoW schema, operates and executes the eternal
covenant on the basis of works: His active obedience undoes the Curse of
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics volume 2: God and Creation
Peter Lillback, The Binding of God.
Rowland Ward, God and Adam.