Trinity and the Covenant?

One of the criticisms of some Kuyperians is that they read Covenantal relations into the Trinity, and if that’s true, then there is historical development in the Trinity. Obviously, that’s wrong.

But of course there are covenantal relations in the Trinity. What’s the Covenant of Redemption all about, anyway?  I don’t think that’s the problem.  The problem seems to be the claim that the Trinity is the pattern for Covenantal thinking.  Well, why wouldn’t it be?  The Trinity is the source of all good theology.  Think about it: if the Trinity isn’t the source of all good theology, then where did covenantal relations come from?  We are now on the edge of ontological dualism.

Trial and Triumph of Faith

Rutherford, Samuel.  The Trial and Triumph of Faith.  Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth.

In this volume you are able to see a side of Samuel Rutherford that isn’t quite as flowery as his *Letters,* nor as analytical as *Lex, Rex.* The layout is relatively simple: 27 sermons on Christ’s words to the Syro-Phoneician. But in these sermons Rutherford examines the nature of faith, justification, and the Covenant of Redemption.

The book represents both the best of and limitations of Scottish Presbyterianism. When Rutherford waxes eloquent, he has no equal. But, likewise, when he analyzes a topic it goes on…and on…and on.

The Topics covered:

God’s love: it is infinite in its act but not in its object; the way of carrying on his love is infinite (41). “Mercy floweth not from God essentially but of mere grace” (42), otherwise universalism would entail. “For what God doth by necessity of his nature and essence, that he cannot but do.”

Covenants

Rutherford ties the promises of the covenant of grace as exemplified in the Davidic covenant (53). Son of David: Christ had a special relation to Abraham, being his seed; but more special to David, because the covenant was in a special manner established with David, as a king, and the first king in whose hand the…Church…was laid down” (74-75). Df. of covenant = “A joint and mutual bargain between two, according to which, they promise freely such and such things to each other” (75).

The promises of Galatians 3.16 apply not to the hypostatic Christ nor the mystical Christ, but to the mediatorial Christ (very important discussion, 81-83).
(1) Christ is the heir of all things and we are co-heirs with him.
(2) The covenant (Of Redemption) was manifested in time but transacted in eternity.
(3) Not every promise made is a promise made to us (84). Christ is promised a “name above every name,” and this promise cannot be made to us. Christ is promised a willing seed; we are not.
(4) This covenant structures salvation (86).

Guilt and Justification
“Justification is a removal of sin by law-way” (195). Obligation to external punishment is removed.
Formal Justification: this goes along with the order of cause, time, and a required condition of apprehending Christ’s righteousness (209).
Guilt: the guilt of sin is not the same as sin itself (222). Macula, or the blot of sin, is defilement. “Guilt” is that which issueth from the macula because you aren’t perfectly spotless. Rutherford notes that this “blot” has different relations:
(1) Blot in relation to the law. This is formally sin and not guilt.
(2) Blot in relation to God, as offended and injured. This is formally removed in justification (224).

The reality of virtual actions = no legal fiction: “The proposition is sure: for if Christ was so made sin, and punished for sin, and liable to suffer for sin, and yet had not any sinful or blameworthy guilt on him” (226), then we can also say that God declares me just on Christ.

Rutherford ends by tying the current situation of Britain with eschatological reflections. Very beautiful and moving.

Rutherford and Covenant, some notes

From the following passages in Rutherford, we can note:

  1. The eternal covenant is the Covenant of Redemption (CoR) made between Father and Son.
  2. It is different from the Covenant of Grace (CoG) because the promises in the two covenants are different.  When Christ met the conditions of the CoR, he was given the seat at the Father’s right hand, an elect seed, etc.
  3. That is not what is promised believers in the Covenant of Grace.  That promise includes remission of sins et al.
  4. Therefore, as some critics of Reformed theology charge, if Christ is in the same CoG as believers, then it appears that some kind of adoptionist Christology follows.
  5. Yet, (2) shows that can’t be the case.  Further, (1) militates against adoptionism.
  6. The Person who authored the CoR is the same person who suffered on the cross.
  7. Hence, he cannot be a product of the union.
  8. Hence, we are not Nestorians.

“Whosoever receives in his body the Seals of the Covenant of Grace, Circumcision, and Baptism, and yet needs no putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by Circumcision, and needs no forgiveness of sin, no regeneration, no burying with Christ in Baptism, as Colossians 2:11 , 12; Romans 6:3-5, and eats the Passover, and needs not that the Lamb of God take away his sins, as John 1:29 since he is holy, and without sin, he must be under the Covenant, and God must be his God, in some other Covenant than sinners areChrist must have received Seals for other uses and ends, then sinners received them” (Covenant of Life Opened, pg. 418)

If one affirms that Christ is in the same COG as sinners, he cannot escape from Robinson’s argument that this is an ipso facto admission that Christ is a Son of God by adoption as believers are, and not by nature…

Rutherford says of the Covenant of Redemption,

“it is an eternal transaction and compact between Jehovah and the second Person the Son of God, who gave personal consent that he should be the Undertaker, and no otherChrist is predestinate the head, the firstborn of the house, and of the many brethren, and say Amen to the choice, and we are chosen in him, as our head, and he was foreordained the Mediator, and the Lamb before the foundation of the world was laid, to be slain for our sin.” (pg. 429-430)

The Sum of Saving Knowledge states,

“2b The sum of the Covenant of Redemption is this: God having freely chosen to life a certain number of lost mankind, for the glory of his rich grace, did give them, before the world began, to God the Son, appointed Redeemer, that, upon condition he would humble himself so far as to assume the human nature, of a soul and a body, to personal union with his divine nature, and submit himself to the law, as surety for them, and satisfy justice for them, by giving obedience in their name, even to the suffering of the cursed death of the cross, he should ransom and redeem them all from sin and death, and purchase to them righteousness and eternal life, with all saving graces leading there to, to be effectually, by means of his own appointment, applied in due time to every one of them. This condition the Son of God (who is Jesus Christ our Lord) did accept before the world began, and in the fulness of time came into the world, was born of the Virgin Mary, subjected himself to the law, and completely paid the ransom on the cross: But by virtue of the foresaid bargain, made before the world began, he is in all ages, since the fall of Adam, still upon the work of applying actually the purchased benefits of the elect; and that he does by way of entertaining a covenant of free grace and reconciliation with them, through faith in himself; by which covenant, he makes over to every believer a right and interest to himself, and to all his blessings”