The Mediator of the Covenant
Back of all the covenants and before all the covenants which God made with men stands a covenant which God made in the councils of eternity. He made this covenant with His eternal Son. From everlasting the Son of the eternal God, the second Person of the Godhead, was the Surety and Mediator of the everlasting covenant.
This covenant with Jesus Christ is the foundation of all God's actions.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things [including all plans and purposes] were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made —John 1:1-3, RSV.
We believe that Reformed scholar Louis Berkhof is to be faulted when he posits a philosophical, speculative concept of election which precedes the counsel of redemption (Systematic Theology, p. 268). Nothing, including election, came into existence preceding God's covenant with Jesus Christ, for that would be an election before and outside of Jesus Christ. It would mean that back of Jesus Christ there would stand some higher cause for election. That would be impossible, for God does nothing before Him or without Him; and all that God does He does because of Him, on account of Him, and through Him. Says the apostle,". . . for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible. .. He is before all things... (Col. 1:16,17).
We must not begin our thinking with a philosophical view of election, which is always as lifeless as cold human logic. Before election or anything else there stands the eternal Mediator, Jesus Christ. Christ is the Word, the Father's thought made audible. If all of God's thinking starts with Christ, then surely the starting point of all our thinking must be Jesus Christ. He is the truth. All that we may know about God is revealed in Him, for He is perfect God and perfect man. He is the mirror of the future, because the end-time events — judgment, wrath, hell, the new creation, resurrection, Satan's defeat, the destruction of death, and the end of sin — have already taken place in Him. He is the mirror of the past, because all that God planned from eternity has been realized in Him.
The Evidence for a Covenant with Christ
The most important covenant of all is the covenant between God the Father and Jesus Christ, His only Son. This covenant precedes all and is the archetype of all other covenants between God and man (see ibid., p. 263).1 Moreover, it is the integrating theme of the Bible's covenant story. Without a knowledge of this covenant it is impossible to relate and harmonize the different covenants.
The Bible does not directly use the word covenant in describing the relation between God and Jesus Christ. Yet once we have become familiar with the features of a covenant, it becomes clear that such a covenant exists. We offer the following evidence:
1. The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants were promises made, not just to Abraham and David, but to Abraham and David's Seed. We have already seen that the Seed refers to Christ (Gal. 3:16). This means, then, that here we have a covenantal promise made to Jesus Christ. In Galatians 3:15-19 Paul not only uses the words promise and covenant as synonyms, but he clearly says that God's promise was made to Jesus Christ (see vss. 16, 19).
2. Christ was the second Adam (Rom. 5:12-19). As such, He stood in Adam's place to be the covenantal Head and Representative of the human race.
3. Christ's repeated statements that He was sent of the Father for an assigned task and that He Himself was fulfilling a predetermined obligation and trust signify a covenant between the Father and the Son (John 6:38, 39; 10:18:17:4).
4. The Father made promises to Christ in respect to Himself and His people (John 5:30, 43; 6:3840; 17:4-12). The Son claimed a reward for the task He had faithfully executed (John 17).
5. In Luke 22:29 Jesus says, ". . . I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me. The verb appointed is diatithemai, which means to appoint by will or covenant. This is covenantal language.
6. Christ addresses His Father as "My God" (Ps. 22:1, 2; 40:8; etc.), which implies covenantal relationship.
Christ was appointed to the office of Redeemer from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). The covenant of redemption was set up from eternity (Rom. 16:25). In the councils of heaven the Father and the Son covenanted together that Christ should redeem the sinner by taking his place and fulfilling his obligations. Redemptive love therefore preceded creative love. God's love carefully planned man's future and made provision for every emergency. The salvation of the human race has ever been the object of the councils of heaven. The covenant of redeeming mercy existed from all eternity. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely was there never a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity.
Although the covenant was made from eternity, it could not be ratified and sealed until Christ had fulfilled all that He covenanted to do. When he cried, "It is finished!" He addressed His Father. The compact was now fully consummated. Christ had fulfilled the pledge which He had made. He had paid the price of man's redemption.
In resurrecting Christ from the dead, exalting and glorifying Him at His own right hand, and giving Him the gift of the Spirit for the church, the Father fulfilled His covenant promises. He will consummate them when all the redeemed are with Christ in the earth made new (John 17; Rev. 21 & 22).
In God's eternal purpose He arranged that His fellowship with man would be based on a more enduring foundation than the stability of creature-righteousness. It is said, for instance, that any partnership or marriage is no stronger than the weakest partner, just as no chain is stronger than its weakest link. But God based His fellowship with man on the suretyship of Jesus Christ. On the event of man's failure to render perfect righteousness in his relationship to God, Christ would stand Guarantor for man — that is to say, He would undertake to fulfill man's responsibilities in such a way that the perfect God-man relationship would endure for eternity.
God's eternal covenant with Christ was the reason why God could keep renewing His covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David and the Christian church. Otherwise the righteous God could no longer have continued His association with the sinful race. Back of every pact which God made with the human family and undergirding every covenant was God's covenant with Jesus Christ. For this reason Old Testament history moved irresistibly forward to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Time and time again divine wrath was suspended only because it was put to the account of Jesus Christ, who in due time would pay all covenant debts at the bar of eternal justice.
1 This raises the interesting point as to whether God imitates the covenants of men or whether men imitate the covenant of God. we are inclined to think that since man was made in God's image, he retains some capacity to imitate God even in his fallen condition. K.M. Campbell says: "We must remember that the covenant was not an idea invented by ancient pagan societies. A covenant was entered into by God and Adam, and we believe that just as all ancient civilizations retain garbled versions of the true stories of the fall, the flood, and other historical truths contained in Scripture, so the conscience of the pagan world retained the notion of covenant." —God's Covenant, pp.11, 12.