The Covenant of Preservation
The Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease’” (vv. 21–22).- Genesis 8:20-22
God’s saving grace was first revealed in history after Adam and Eve broke the covenant of works. He gave a promise, recorded in Genesis 3:15, that the offspring or seed of the woman would defeat the devil. Throughout Christian history, theologians and pastors have seen in this promise a prediction of Christ, who would vanquish Satan and pay the price to reconcile sinners to our Creator. Reformation leaders agreed with this assessment. Martin Luther, for example, commented that Genesis 3:15 tells us the Son of God “will bruise Satan, utterly.”
Genesis 3:15 is the first revelation of the covenant of grace, and from that moment in history until the consummation, the covenant of grace and the covenant of works have continued side by side. God still demands that people keep the covenant of works, as seen in that He repeats many of the same commands given to Adam before the fall, giving them to successive generations who live after the fall (compare, for example, Gen. 1:28 and 9:7). But now, after the fall, we cannot keep God’s law. We are born guilty and morally unable to obey the Lord perfectly as He demands. What the covenant of grace actually does is provide a way for someone else—Christ our Lord—to keep the covenant of works in our place and give us a right standing before God that leads to eternal life (Rom. 5:12–21; 2 Cor. 5:21).
It is a covenant of grace because we do not do what is necessary to merit redemption and because Christ’s righteousness is given freely to all who believe only in Him for salvation (Eph. 2:8–10). But the fullness of the covenant of grace was not revealed in total when God cursed Satan (Gen. 3:15). Instead, over time, God elaborated on the promise to defeat the devil. He entered into several successive covenants, all of which are part of the covenant of grace, each of which unfolds redemption more clearly. The first of these is His covenant with Noah after the flood.
God’s covenant with Noah helps us understand that our salvation happens in and through human history. After all, God promised Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by a flood. He would preserve a stable order wherein He would eventually send Christ for our salvation (8:20–22). The covenant with Noah also underscores that redemption does not come through the efforts of even the most righteous sinner. Righteous Noah manifested his sin right after the flood, indicating that someone else must save us (9:20–21)
How often do we think about the good gift of a stable and predictable natural order? The consistent rhythm of the seasons, the sun and moon, and even the weather enables us to make plans, grow crops, and do a host of other things. Let us thank God for the natural order He has established, and may we use the stability it offers for the sake of His glory.
Passages for Further Study