Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 6


When Adam fell, God declared that one would come to conquer Satan in the protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15). That Adam renamed his wife Eve and that they were covered with garments when they left Eden imply that they immediately understood, assented to, and looked forward to the promise that her seed would fulfill the conditions of the covenant as well as the day they could reenter Paradise. Throughout the Old Testament, shadows of this person were meant to progressively enlighten God’s people about the person and work of both Adams and evidence – through implicit references to the covenant of works and typification of the new covenant of grace – that only the God-man could tear the cherubim-decorated veil and bring those whom He saves [back] to the holy of holies, new Eden. From the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Question 34: How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?

Answer: The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.

In other words, while the goal of the covenant (the dominion mandate) has remained, the means of attaining it has changed. What was once possible by works is now only possible by grace. While each Old Testament covenant was administered in a different context and, hence, with different analogical referents, each alludes in some way to the covenant of works and each possesses the same archetypal focus: Jesus and His work. Because a proper understanding of Christ’s work is reinforced by a proper understanding of these typical Old Testament covenants, Fesko’s fourth chapter expresses the important Christological, protological, and eschatological elements in the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants:

Noahic Covenant

Genesis 9 contains the Noahic covenant as well as most of the parallels to Genesis 1-3. In the preceding chapters, the postdiluvian emergence of order from disorder (7:18-19, 8:1, 11, 17, 20-21; cf. John 1:32) inclines the reader to be reminded of the cosmological creation account provided in Genesis 1-2 (1:2, 9, 28, 2:2-3); Noah exited the ark, built an altar, and blessed God for his mercy to him and his family (8:20). In response, God smelled the aroma of rest (a Sabbatical insinuation), said to Himself that He would not to curse the earth because of man, and, interestingly, implicitly reestablished His covenant with night and day. The analogies are many: chaos, avian imagery of the Holy Spirit, land emerging from water (order from chaos), image of God, dominion mandate, temple imagery, Sabbatical principle, &c. are evidences of God’s sovereignty in His ability to control the outworking of His coherent plan as well as the intended conveyances of said plan.

The [re]creation is not the only reason to believe that the Adamic and Noahic covenants are linked. Genesis 9:1-7 is a fairly obvious parallel to the dominion mandate to mankind, who are in the image of God; obviously, the command doesn’t indicate Noah was actually capable of fulfilling it in light of the Fall, and the Noahic covenant was not predicated on this command in any case. Still, the command and the way in which Noah sinned (9:20-23) seem to demonstrate that the author’s overt desire to parallel Noah to Adam: Noah – even though he was a righteous man – got drunk from fruit in a garden-setting, was ashamed of his nakedness and was covered by another, and prompted blessing and curse to the seed (Shemites vs. Canaanites; cf. Cainites vs. Sethites). It is most sensible to understand this mandate and failure to fulfill the mandate as evidence that a new, indefectible Adam was needed.

Given that God was “establishing” a covenant with Noah and not “making” one per se (see part 4), it is not surprising that the Noahic covenant was with all creation or that the author made repeated contextual allusions to Genesis 1-2. The author’s observations, designed to prove that the root of the postdiluvian creation is in the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2, functions as a simple example that the Noahic covenant was not anachronistically constituted in a vacuum. As the Noahic covenant was unilateral (i.e. the promises were unconditional), there are certainly facets of it which are meant to look forward to the New Adam – by whose death and resurrection common grace is made possible – rather than backward to the covenant of works. But this merely proves the point made earlier: the goal of the Noahic covenant in the context of Genesis 9 is the same, but the means of accomplishing it are different. Noah could not himself hope to fulfill the means, let alone the goal, of the Adamic covenant. But if one compares the sign of the covenant, a rainbow, to Ezekiel 1:28 and Revelation 10:1, the Noahic covenant seems to anticipate that a new Adam will restore creation in purity, purchase common grace for all, and fulfill of the covenant of works on behalf of those who bear His image. Also, in the same way the promise has protological significance to creation, so too it has eschatalogical significance, viz. that the elect - new creations - will no more have to occasionally endure God's wrath and judgment upon unbelievers, having been saved in the ark (Christ) through baptismal waters (1 Peter 3:20-21).

Further thoughts: given that the Noahic covenant was established subsequent to the baptismal deluge on which occasion Noah and his family were saved, God’s covenant with His new creation may signify an eschatological promise; that is, it could, in addition to what elements of Christology it foreshadowed, be intended to convey the idea that God’s judgment of men after death will indeed be final. The unilaterality of the covenant, those with whom God covenanted (those who were saved and the renewed creation), the fact that it was the product of the first type of God’s wrath on reprobates, and the correlation which exists between the sign of the covenant – a rainbow – and apocalyptic literature (e.g. Ezekiel 1:28, Revelation 10:1) would support this argument.

[Note: this, like chapter 3, will also be a two-part post on one chapter; I didn't want to try to lump in all 4 major OT covenants into one post.]

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