Covenant of Creation

Brian J. Lee
Thursday, July 5th 2007
Jul/Aug 2000

The kingdom of God as it existed in Eden prior to the fall has often been identified as being governed by a covenant, established between the Creator God and Adam, usually known as the covenant of works, or the covenant of creation. (1) Though "covenant" isn't mentioned in the text of Genesis 1 to 3, the Scriptures later use this very language to describe that arrangement. (2) More importantly, the substance of a covenantal arrangement is present in the account. The relationship between God and man was established through divine words and acts of commitment. These include both the creative word itself (1:3ff.), as well as the clear commands to rule the earth, cultivate the Garden, and abstain from eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (1:28, 2:15ff.). The sanction of death on the basis of disobedience (2:17) is an explicitly stated curse, with an implied promise of continued life based on obedience. What's more, there is even a strong implication of a greater reward of confirmation unto eternal life. (3)

It is essential to grasp that the covenant of creation was fundamentally informed by the principle of works: "Do this and you shall live!" (Lev. 18:5). Whether it resulted in blessing or curse depended entirely upon Adam's obedience, God promising only to mete out the just reward. This conditionality is the primary hallmark of works covenants.

1 [ Back ] Kline prefers "covenant of creation" because it doesn't obscure the fact that the works principle is not found only here. As we shall see below, the covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son is similarly works oriented.
2 [ Back ] Most notably in Isa. 24:5 and Hos. 6:7: "But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against me." Both of these texts are contested. Also, Jer. 31:35-37 taken in conjunction with 33:20-21 seems to suggest that God's creative fiat was inherently covenantal, implying a pledge to sustain the creation order. It is important to note that the Scriptures give us a precedent for describing such a similarly unnamed arrangement as a covenant in the case of God's promise to David in 2 Sam. 2:7 (referred to as a covenant in 2 Sam. 23:5 and Ps. 89:3).
3 [ Back ] The fact that man is created in the image of God implies that he like his Creator will consummate his works and enter the promised blessing of Sabbath rest (1:26, 2:3). The presence of the Tree of Life further suggests a blessed goal of confirmation in righteousness (2:9, 3:22).
Thursday, July 5th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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