Westminster Larger Catechism Study

WLC – Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?

Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.

Today and tomorrow we will look at the two ways the covenant of Grace is administered. This one is a bit long but worth clarifying.

Give examples of other promises or prophecies of a coming Redeemer. Promises: (a) from the Books of Moses; (b) from the Psalms; (e) from the prophetical books of the Old Testament. Prophecies: (a) Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; 18:15. (h) Psalms 2, 22, 45, 110. (c) Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5; Zechariah 9:9-10; Malachi 3:1. (The student will easily be able to give a great many more such prophecies.)

How did the Passover and other sacrifices point forward to Christ? By the slaying of the lamb, and shedding its blood, they taught the people the truth that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin, and that the coming Redeemer must suffer and die as a substitute for sinners.

What was the purpose of the sacrifices, types, ordinances, etc., of the Old Testament? The purpose of all of them was to point forward to Christ, the coming Redeemer. This does not mean that every ordinance, etc., pointed directly to Christ himself. Rather, it means that all the types, ordinances, etc., pointed forward to some aspect of the way of salvation through Christ. For example, the disease of leprosy is plainly treated in the Old Testament as a symbol of sin. Thus the various rules and regulations concerning the disease of leprosy, its uncleanness, etc., were intended to emphasize the vileness and sinfulness of sin, and to show people their need of divine deliverance front it. In this way the rules about leprosy pointed forward to Christ.

What was the effectiveness of the Old Testament promises, prophecies, types, sacrifices, and other ordinances? These were sutfIcient, for that time, to build up the elect in faith in the promised Redeemer. We might compare these Old Testament ordinances to schoolbooks prepared for children. Such books are usually full of pictures, because children readily grasp the meaning of pictures when it is hard for them to understand written descriptions or abstract discussions. But when the child has grown up, the pictures are no longer needed, and ordinary books are then suitable. In the Old Testament period God’s people were treated as children, for that was their spiritual condition. God provided “pictures”-that is, the truths of redemption were portrayed before their eyes by a multitude of oft-repeated sacrifices, ordinances, and symbols. These served to prop up their faith, we may say, until the coming of the Redeemer in person. When he came, the “pictures” were no longer needed.

What benefits did Old Testament believers receive from Christ? They had full remission of sin, and eternal life, right then. It is an error to teach, as some do, that the Old ‘l’estamcnt saints did not receive full remission of sin until Christ was crucified. Hebrews 11:39-40 teaches that the Old ‘Testament saints did not receive the full completion of their redemption, that is, the resurrection of the body, in their own times, for they must wait for that until the end of the world, when Old and New ‘l’estantcnt believers will receive it together at one and the sane time. But in the matter of remission of sins they were not left waiting. They received full remission of sins when they believed. This does not mean that they necessarily received the same degree of assurance in their own minds as New Testament believers receive. Remission of sins, in God’s sight, is one thing; assurance of remission , in the believer’s own mind, is another matter.

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