Seven Essential Distinctions in the Doctrine of the Covenant of Grace

5 May 2014 by Wes Bredenhof

Good distinctions are part of the essence of sound theology.  Over the last while, I have been preaching a series of sermons on the doctrine of the covenant of grace.  This has been helpful for me in giving sharper definition to my understanding of what the Bible teaches about this crucial subject.  From my study so far, I have developed seven essential distinctions pertaining to this doctrine.  In my preaching, I have worked with these distinctions, but I have not always explicitly mentioned each one of them.  Nevertheless, they have been there in some shape or form.  I share them here in a short form with some technical/theological terminology and without any further comment or defense.  I may offer further elaboration in a future post.

  1. We distinguish between the administration of the covenant of grace in this era and administrations of the covenant of grace in previous eras.
  1. We distinguish between parties in the gracious covenant relationship:  on the one side, God; on the other all believers with all their children.  Jesus Christ mediates between these two parties.
  1. We distinguish between greater and lesser parties in the covenant of grace.  God is the infinitely greater; his people the lesser.  Therefore, God alone initiates this gracious relationship and determines its terms.
  1. We distinguish between promises and obligations in the covenant of grace.  God gives promises and imposes obligations (or conditions) in this relationship.
  1. We distinguish between God extending the gospel promises and man receiving what is promised.  God extends his gospel promises to all in the covenant of grace, but not all receive what is promised.
  1. We distinguish between antecedent and consequent conditions in the covenant of grace.  The antecedent condition is a true faith which unites one to Christ and all his saving benefits.  The consequent condition is the fruit of faith and union with Christ in a growing, holy obedience to God’s law.
  1. We distinguish between two ways of relating to God within the covenant relationship:  a strictly legal relation characterized by unbelief, which leads only to curse and death; a vital relation characterized by true faith, which leads to blessing and life.