Yes, God intended from eternity to redeem a people to himself. But this is not the same as saying there was a pre-creation covenant between the Father and the Son. God’s eternal counsels are a mystery; labeling them a “covenant” has no Scriptural warrant.
While the pre-fall covenantal relationship between God and man was certainly based on works, and the post-fall covenantal relationship was certainly based on grace, it is not precise to label them a “covenant of works” and a “covenant of grace.”
- Grace was operative in the covenant of works (though not merciful since man had not yet fallen).
- Works are absolutely related to the covenant of grace (the work of Christ; we were created for “good works”; etc.).
- This distinction makes it appear as if man’s sole work was to not eat from the tree, as if God was only concerned with that one aspect.
- A better nomenclature is “covenant of creation” and “covenant of redemption.”
The distinction between the the old and new covenants concerns the incarnation of Christ. “Old” was based on promise, whereas “new” was based on fulfillment. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul defines secondary distinctions to support (but not replace) this primary distinction:
- First, those under the Old Covenant were indeed saved by faith. There are not two modes of salvation.
- However, Paul draws a distinction between the law-covenant of Moses and the promise-covenant of Abraham. Both were committed to the same end; the law could not stand apart from the promise. This distinction does not set Moses against Abraham, but provides a unity with regard to justification.