Dear Gerry,

Are you having difficulty understanding the difference between the Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace? I know we come from different backgrounds and are using different hermaneutics but if we really try to understand each other I think we will benefit from the effort.

I'd like to quote Louis Berkhof's Summary of Christian Doctrine Chapter 13 which talks about Man in the Covenant of Grace

For the sake of clearness we distinguish between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. The two are so closely related that they can be and sometimes are, considered as one. The former is the eternal foundation of the latter.

1. The Covenant of Redemption. This is also called "the counsel of peace," a name derived from Zech. 6:13. It is a covenant between the Father, representing the Trinity, and the Son as the representative of the elect.

  • a. The scriptural basis for it. It is clear that the plan of redemption was included in God's eternal decree, Eph. 1:4 ff.; 3:11; II Tim. 1:9. Christ speaks of promises made to Him before He came into the world, and repeatedly refers to a commission which He received from the Father, John 5:30, 43; 6:38-40; 17:4-12. He is evidently a covenant head, Rom. 5:12-21; I Cor. 15: -- 22. In Ps. 2:7-9 the parties of the covenant are mentioned and a promise is indicated, and in Ps. 40:7, 8 the Messiah expresses His readiness to do the Father's will in becoming a sacrifice for sin.

    b. The Son in the covenant of redemption. Christ is not only the Head but also the Surety of the covenant of redemption, Heb. 7:22, A surety is one who takes upon himself the legal obligations of another. Christ took the place of the sinner, to bear the penalty of sin and to meet the demands of the law for His people. By so doing He became the last Adam, a life-giving spirit, I Cor. 15:45. For Christ this covenant was a covenant of works, in which He met the requirements of the original covenant, but for us it is the eternal foundation of the covenant of grace. Its benefits are limited to the elect. They only obtain the redemption and inherit the glory which Christ merited for sinners.

    c. Requirements and promises in the covenant of redemption.

(1) The Father required of the Son that He should assume human nature with its present infirmities, though without sin, Gal. 4:4, 5; Heb. 2:10, 11, 14, 15; 4:15; that He should place Himself under the law to pay the penalty and to merit eternal life for the elect, Ps. 40:8; John 10:11; Gal. 1:4; 4:4, 5; and that He should apply His merits to His people by the renewing operation of the Holy Spirit, thus securing the consecration of their lives to God, John 10:28; 17:19-22; Heb. 5:7-9. (2) And the Father promised the Son that He would prepare for Him a body, Heb. 10:5, would anoint Him with the Holy Spirit, Isa. 42:1; 61:1; John 3:34, would support Him in His work, Isa. 42:6, 7; Luke 22:43 would deliver Him from the power of death and place Him at His own right hand, Ps. 16:8-11; Phil. 2:9-11, would enable Him to send the Spirit for the formation of the Church, John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 14, would draw and preserve the elect, John 6:37, 39, 40, 44, 45, and would grant Him a numerous seed, Ps. 22:27; 72:17

2. The Covenant of Grace. On the basis of the covenant of redemption God established the covenant of grace. Several particulars call for consideration here.

  • a. The contracting parties. God is the first party in the covenant. He establishes the covenant and determines the relation in which the second party will stand to Him. It is not so easy to determine who the second party is. The prevailing opinion in Reformed circles is that it is the elect sinner in Christ. We should bear in mind, however, that the covenant may be viewed in two different ways:

(1) As an end in itself, a covenant of mutual friendship or communion of life, which is realized in the course of history through the operation of the Holy Spirit. It represents a condition in which privileges are improved for spiritual ends, the promises of God are embraced by a living faith, and the promised blessings are fully realized. So conceived, it may be defined as that gracious agreement between God and the elect sinner in Christ, in which God gives Himself with all the blessings of salvation to the elect sinner, and the latter embraces God and all His gracious gifts by faith. Deut. 7:9; II Cron. 6:14; Ps. 25:10, 14; 103:17, 18.

(2) As a means to an end, a purely legal arrangement for the realization of a spiritual end. It is evident that the Bible sometimes speaks of the covenant as including some in whom the promises are never realized, such as Ishmael, Esau, the wicked sons of Eli, and the rebellious Israelites who died in their sins. The covenant may be regarded as a purely legal agreement, in which God guarantees the blessings of salvation to all who believe. If we think of the covenant in this broader sense, we can say that God established it with believers and their children, Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; Rom. 9:1-4.


When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride. - Isaac Watts