Samuel Renihan gives a general overview of the 8 biblical covenants in his sermon titled 'Redemptive History & the Covenants' which he preached on June 12, 2011. Listening to the sermon is like trying to take a small drink from a fire hydrant.
- The Covenant of Redemption - Before creation the Trinity covenanted within itself to redeem a specific number of persons (the elect portion) out of fallen humanity. The Father commissioned the Son to become incarnate as the last Adam bearing our nature in order to make atonement for us and to win our redemption. The Holy Spirit agreed & clothed Jesus with power during His earthly ministry.
- The Covenant of Works (Adamic Covenant) - Man at creation was not in need of redemption; Adam was made good, but mutable (able to sin and not to sin). Adam was required to tend the garden and prohibited from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam as the federal head would have secured eternal life for all if he had obeyed, but he disobeyed God and ate the fruit; therefore, sin and death came upon man. Everyone is born under sin and death because they are cursed in Adam in the Covenant of Works (all mankind fell with Adam).
- The Covenant of Grace (Covenant of Life) - God promised that a Seed would come that would crush the head of the serpent; the Seed is Jesus Christ. It is a covenant between God, Christ, and the elect in Him. Sinners are saved and redemption is accomplished through Jesus Christ. This covenant is made right after the Fall; therefore, no one in the history of mankind has been without a chance to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is belief in God's promises as far as He has revealed them; belief is by faith, not by works. The work of Jesus Christ is imputed to the elect. OT believers were members of the Covenant of Grace and they were justified by faith in Jesus Christ apart from any works or conditions. Adam is the federal head of the Covenant of Works (he imputes sin and death to all mankind); Jesus Christ is the federal head in the Covenant of Grace (He imputes righteousness to His elect).
- The Noahic Covenant - Covenant made with Noah after he emerged from the ark. The Flood foreshadowed the Final Judgment that awaits us. God promised that the seasons and intervals of life on earth would continue unhindered to establish stability on the earth in which redemptive history can play out so that the seed can come. It gave confidence that the world would continue until the seed arrived. The rainbow is still the sign of the Noahic Covenant and God's faithfulness.
- The Abrahamic Covenant - Covenant made with Abraham where God promised him a land, innumerable descendants, and a line of kings. The sign was circumcision and was based on Abraham's belief. Gal. 3:8 tells us that Abraham believed the gospel (along with the promises); therefore, he was a member of the Covenant of Grace. Abraham is the federal head and the members are his offspring. The seed would come through Abraham's line.
- The Mosaic Covenant - It is a covenant with the nation of Israel who were also under the Abrahamic Covenant. It is a complete list of precepts and prohibitions that form the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws of the nation of Israel. It is an explicit covenant of works. Obedience led to blessings and living in the promised land; disobedience led to cursings and expulsion from the land. The Israelites were in Canaan by grace (Abrahamic Covenant), but they had to keep it by works (Mosaic Covenant).
- The Davidic Covenant - Covenant made between God, David, and David's offspring. God promised David that his descendants would rule on the throne forever, but they had to obey. It focused the Mosaic covenant into one person, the king. Israel and Judah are blessed and/or cursed based upon the obedience of their king. The people longed for a king that will rule over them perfectly. Ultimately, because of their idolatry, they were disinherited, disbanded, and destroyed; but God graciously preserved a remnant.
- The New Covenant - The Seed promised to Eve was announced by John the Baptist. Jesus Christ, truly God and truly Man, was born a national Jew; and therefore, subject to the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants, which He kept perfectly (internally & externally). As the perfect sacrifice at the appointed time, He laid down His life for the sins of the elect. He established the New Covenant in His own blood, purchasing for Himself a kingdom and a people for that kingdom. The Covenant of Grace is between God and Christ and those in Christ; it is the accomplishing of the redemption of the elect in history. The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace in its fullness and fulfillment.
In the Old Testament, Christ had not come and the New Covenant had not yet been established; there was no New Covenant. However, the New Covenant was as good as done because it is part of God's eternal decree. God revealed the New Covenant in His progressive promises throughout the Old Testament; therefore, the Covenant of Grace is the progressive revelation of the New Covenant.
Everyone born on this world is of Adam and under the Covenant of Works, but believers in Jesus Christ are members of the New Covenant; through faith, His righteousness is imputed to us, and we will praise Him forever in unending joy.
What happens if you impose the Mosaic Covenant upon the New Covenant?
We need to distinguish between moral and positive commands. A moral command is a law of God that flows from His character; therefore, it is universal and timeless (i.e. the Ten Commandments). Positive commands are laws of God concerning something not inherently moral and related to a specific covenant (i.e. circumcision, civil & ceremonial laws). When a covenant ends, its positive commands also end. For example, a moral law is the commandment to worship God one day in seven; a positive law is Christ establishing the first day of the week as that day.
The law is not opposed to faith, but it is not of faith either. The law is not bad, but contextually, the Mosaic covenant is not the Covenant of Grace. They are different, and therefore, you cannot impose one on the other.