As I continue my slow trek through the covenants of Covenant Theology, I was forced to delay the work on the Covenant of Grace. You're free to catch yourself up before proceeding forward.
The major problem with discussing the Covenant of Grace is determining what we are actually talking about. In plain terms is can be rather simple. The Covenant of Grace is everything required to repair the damage done under the Covenant of Works. The CoG is built off Christ's fulfillment of the CoW and His administration of His covenant through faith is the substance of our salvation.
But historically what is the Covenant of Grace? Is it solely the "New Covenant" ? Does it technically include the other covenants throughout history? Are the historical covenants made on the basis of the CoG? These questions aren't as straight forward as they might seem. And even when theologians think they have things straight, they are often accused of having confused the covenants and their purpose (just check out that FV controversy).
Because I'd like to interact with this section significantly, this will be the only section we cover today. First, let us quote the WCF (7.3-4),
Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.
This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.
This second covenant is required because salvation was now impossible for us under the first. With the head of the first covenant fallen there is no way for us to be included in salvation. Thus a second covenant was made with Jesus. All of salvation is found in inclusion in Him as our federal head. It is only marginally worth noting that the language of "commonly called" does not put a limit on the names that can be used for these covenants.
For seconds, let us quote the larger catechism,
Q. 30. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.
Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.
This is rather simply a reiteration of the WCF. The inclusion of Jesus Christ's "elect...seed" in the covenant is a better way of speaking about the covenant of grace than the WCF provides in this section (it does make mention in 8.1). This inclusive concept for the covenant is the hermeneutic key for understanding how Romans 6 is the logical and theological conclusion of Romans 5. "In Adam" all have fallen away and all "In Christ" are found saved. But who is in Christ? Enter Paul's discourse in Romans 6.
Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.
The second covenant like the first was provided freely. This cannot in fact be the reason for the "grace" designation. What the root of the grace is that a mediator for the covenant is given. We are not out own federal heads but we have been given a federal head who is faithful and justified before God. "His elect" are enabled to a full life of obedience "as the way" unto salvation.
Q. 33. Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administrations of it under the Old Testament were different from those under the New.
Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
A. 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.
This is a section of important value. The same covenant is administered in different ways throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament. There are many elements in the Old Testament canon that point to Christ but they also point to creation restored and the eternal kingdom. All of these things are found fulfilled in the New Covenant administration of the CoG.
Q. 35. How is the covenant of grace administered under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fullness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.
This same covenant of grace is meant to be administered in the sacraments. I firmly believe this clearly incorporates children in both the supper and baptism. But that is another question for another time! :-)
Now that everyone has a deep understanding of what the confession says about the covenant we will address some difficulties later.