Covenant of Grace: in Christ
This may also be referred to as the “New Covenant” and yet salvation by grace, through faith in Christ, as regenerated by the Holy Spirit, has always been God’s plan of salvation.
Visible/Physical elements: Israel, the Church, Baptism, Lord’s Supper,
John Calvin, although years ahead of Covenantal vs. Dispensationalism schools of thought, laid out in his Institutes, great sections on the continuances and differences between the new and old covenants. As I’ve shown before both the New Covenant (NC) and Old Covenant (OC) are two ways of looking at the one Covenant of Grace (or Salvation) as under two different forms of administrations. Some would illustrate this as running the same house but as differently in summer than in winter. I like to illustrate it as going to a concert. You act one way in line as you await the opening of the venue, but once the band is there and the venue open, you don’t continue to wait in line (what was right and appropriate while awaiting their arrival), you go in and enjoy their full presence.
So In the New Covenant, although we invisibly still have salvation by grace, through faith in Christ, as regenerated/baptized by the Holy Spirit, the “types and shadows” that OC saints looked to in hope of a messiah, are all outwardly replace or fulfilled by the actual Messiah, Jesus. The book of Hebrews is the best resource for looking at the OC as realized in Jesus. This is typically admitted when we look at the OC outward animal sacrifices, and we conclude that Christ’s NC once sacrifice of himself was the only true sacrifice that atoned for sin, thereby animal sacrifices are discontinued. It is this exact principle where the invisible reality was believed in by faith in both the OC and the NC, but outward visible sign is replaced by the actual. Some OC to NC transitions are not so easy if you’re not accustomed to seeing them. One example would be that as eternal life is the invisible reality in both covenants, the visible “promise land”, in the OC is replaced by the NC teaching of a new heaven and earth. Proof that the Israelites understood this transition is that they had no issue selling off ancestral land to see the Church grow.
The most tense discussions surrounding the institution of the NC is that Israel as the outward national people of God, are now clarified in the Gospels and in places like Romans 9 to really be those who believe, and yet true Israel was never those just born to Abraham, but those who believed the promises just as we now believe the promises are fulfilled. So who were any of the promises really made to, but those of faith in all ages, and according to those true invisible qualities? The unbelievers in all ages or covenants, at best only ever enjoyed the physical and visible signs of the promises, but will never really enter God’s true rest. So can national Israel still be the “people of God”? No, because those who do not have the Son do not have the Father. In a manner of speaking (visible/invisible distinctions) it both never was fully outwardly, but the people in it or even around it that believed, were the true Israel all along. It is in this same sense that the Church now exists, as the people of God by faith, and yet have visible sacraments to outwardly identify it from the rest of the world. But as stated in other parts of this series, just following the visible signs does not automatically make on inwardly and invisibly saved.
If anything I hope the series helps those unfamiliar with Covenant theology see the distinctions we hold and how we make the transition from new to old testaments, and how we see God working in one consistent manner in all ages. In opposing circles, I’ve been a part of, there is more confusion and inconsistent mixing of the signs and things signified or rather visible types get confused, fused or disconnected from their invisible and yet true spiritual realities.