Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Was Adam placed in a covenantal relationship with God?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on November 5, 2012 at 8:32 am

Unfortunately, some deny a covenant at creation between God and Adam. I think they are wrong. Here is a brief attempt to show that Adam was in a covenantal relationship with God from the beginning.

At Genesis 2:4, Moses goes from using the word Elohim, translated “God,” to using “LORD God.” The word “LORD” is Yahweh, the covenant name of God. This could well indicate the covenantal status of man at creation. Surely, ancient Hebrew readers or hearers would have noticed this change. This at least suggests that covenant and the creation of man go together.

The prophet Isaiah may help us here.

5 The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. (Isa. 24:5-6)

The curse which extends to the earth came about due to a violated covenant. Since the earth was cursed due to Adam’s sin as our representative, Adam broke covenant with God in the garden of Eden.

The prophet Hosea may help us further. In Hosea 6:7 Israel is likened unto Adam. “But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me” (Hos. 6:7). Both Adam and Israel broke a covenant imposed upon them by God. Both disobeyed and violated a covenant. Both covenants were conditional, requiring the obedience of those in the covenant to enjoy the benefits of the covenant. “…in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17; cf. Exod. 19:5-6 for the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant).

These factors taken together argue that God brought Adam into a covenantal relationship with Him at his creation. Adam’s covenantal relationship with God, or his communion with God as a sinless image-bearer, depended upon his obedience to God’s law. This is what theologians call the covenant of works or obedience. It is called this due to the fact that the covenant was conditioned on Adam’s obedience. The term “works” in the phrase “covenant of works” is a synonym for obedience. It is a term that reflects subsequent biblical reflection upon Adam’s creational vocation (Rom. 5:12-21). Romans 5:19 justifies this term, when it says, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (emphases mine). The opposite of “disobedience” is “obedience.” A legitimate synonym for “obedience” is “works.” The term “works” is also a good choice of words because it contrasts with “grace” and gift” in Romans 5:17. Paul says there:

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17; emphases mine).

A sinless image-bearer was called by God to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth with others like him. He was to subdue the earth and rule over other creatures, starting in the garden of Eden and going out from there. He was made of body and soul outside the garden. He was put in the garden to begin the task assigned to him as a priest. He was given a law to obey and a helper to compliment him so he could fulfill his task. He was a son of God. He was a spokesman for God (i.e., a prophet) and a ruler (i.e., king). He was in covenant with God. But he violated God’s covenant. He sinned. He transgressed God’s law. He was subsequently cursed, clothed with animal skins, then exiled from the garden at its eastern edge (Gen. 3:8-24). In essence, Adam got kicked out of God’s house. Now he’s sinful, is a terrible image of God, a covenant breaker, and no longer the keeper of God’s garden-temple. What will God do now?

4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal. 4:4-7 NASB)

Richard Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA

  1. Amen Richard! And I believe a clear grasp of the covenant of works is very important in theology and practice.

  2. […] Was Adam placed in a covenantal relationship with God? « Reformed Baptist Fellowship […]

  3. I agree. This is an excellent, short treatment of this vital and often neglected truth. Bless God for the Last Adam who was born under the law as a covenant to fulfill its righteous demands!

    “The law, as a covenant of works and a rule of life, demands nothing of sinners but what is offered and promised in the gospel; and in the gospel everything is freely promised and offered to them which the law, in any of its forms, requires of them. The gospel presents to them for their acceptance the consummate righteousness of Jesus Christ, and Surety of such sinners who believe, which fully answers every demand of the law in its covenant form, and so magnifies it in that form and makes it honorable” (John Colquhoun).

  4. […] Baptist Church in Palmdale, CA.  This article first appeared on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship website and is used with […]

  5. […] Was Adam placed in a covenantal relationship with God? […]

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