Not long ago, as I was watching the movie Apollo 13, I was really impressed with the nail-biting scene where the damaged capsule approached the earth’s atmosphere and the astronauts had to recalculate their trajectory of reentry. Slide rules shifted, and they anxiously sought to determine the exact angle at which they must strike the atmosphere. The price of inaccuracy was high. One degree too steep and they would burn up in the earth’s atmosphere. One degree too shallow and they would not enter it, but skip off into space, irretrievably lost .With some things in this life, however, we do not need to be so exacting. In fact, we sometimes need to be a little loose and flexible. But when it comes to proclaiming the church’s view of the covenant of redemption, it is not the time to be loose, it is time to be exacting. As with the astronauts, the price for error is very high.
A church’s view of the covenant of redemption is usually demonstrated in its purpose statement, which presents, if you will, its “angle” on the world from its high position. Many churches state as their purpose, “We exist to fulfill the Great Commission.” They see the primary reason for their existence as bringing salvation to lost sinners, and this is borne out in the way the Sunday liturgy is designed, the way the pastor preaches, and the angles of the various evangelistic ministries. This is far off the mark, though, and a course correction is much-needed. As important as salvation is, it is not the only purpose of the church. The covenant of redemption was entered into by the persons of the Trinity for the same reason God does all that He does — to glorify Himself. Man’s chief end is the same as God’s chief end — to glorify God.
The covenant of redemption, as a pact among the members of the Godhead, features, as one of its many elements, the restoration of the elect. Sinners fall short of the glory of God, and in their redemption they are able to bring God the glory He deserves, desires, and demands. The degree of accuracy regarding the covenant of redemption determines whether the church is man-focused or God-focused. The question is whether man’s salvation is held up as the great goal of the covenant of redemption, or whether God’s glorification is the primary goal of the covenant of redemption. If the benefit of man were allowed to become the ultimate purpose of the church, it would actually be a failure. Man was created to have a higher purpose than himself. If the blessing of man becomes man’s ultimate motivation, then he is living far below and for far less than that for which God created him. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is carefully phrased: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” There is an order here. Man’s enjoyment of God is not first or foremost. It is an outcome of accomplishing that for which he was created — to bring glory to God.
God is great, and worship is our response to His greatness! The church’s primary purpose is to insure that God receives the glory He desires and deserves. That is why the saints gather publicly to corporately rehearse the greatness of God through worship. The focus of the church should be the worth-ship of God. Evangelism’s main goal is first and foremost to recruit worshippers for God. When Christ is embraced as offered in the Gospel, the believer is brought into a personal worshiping relationship with God the Father.
God’s Word clearly expresses this view. While an essential component of the covenant of redemption is the redemption of man, its purpose is the glory of God. As redemption is described in Psalm 111:9–10, do we see the focus on those who are the objects of redemption? No; rather, “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name!” While we rejoice in the happiness and safety this affords to His people, the point of the covenant of redemption is His glory, and the result is that I adore my covenant God and cry out in praise of HIS name. Thus I go out and proclaim to all that they are to bow before Him in worship.
Preachers need to be proclaiming the Gospel of God — that every creature should appear before His throne and offer themselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto Him. The apostle Paul writes, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:33–36). From Himself, through Himself, and to Himself is the perspective of God about Himself. And how important it is that we have His perspective!
The church needs to guard this view of the covenant of redemption with an exactness that will keep us on the right trajectory. God will not share His glory. The church must give God that which He seeks — true worship. Since we have been shown mercy, we must show mercy to others. Our reason? To let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Since the outgrowth of true worship is true love, we should be molded into a serving community of believers in order that all glory will be given to the only deserving One, our triune God.
Thus, the covenant of redemption establishes the proper trajectory for the church. May preachers proclaim the Gospel with this in mind and thus guide the church to fulfill its true purpose.