Must we meet a requirement of faithfulness in order to receive the blessings of the Covenant of Grace?
“The promises of the covenant of grace are better than those of any other covenant, as for many other reasons, so especially because the grace of them prevents any condition or qualification on our part.”
But doesn’t God require our obedience?
“I do not say the covenant of grace is absolutely without conditions, if by conditions we intend the duties of obedience which God requires of us in and by virtue of that covenant; but this I say, the principal promises of it are not in the first place remunerative of our obedience in the covenant, but efficaciously assumptive of us into covenant, and establishing or confirming in the covenant.”
What Owen is explaining here is that the main promises of the Covenant of Grace have to do with our being brought into the Covenant. We are not brought into the Covenant because of our obedience; our obedience is required because we have already been brought in by God’s free grace.
How is this different from the Covenant of Works made with Adam?
“The covenant of works had its promises, but they were all remunerative, respecting an antecedent obedience in us; (so were all those which were peculiar to the covenant of Sinai).”
So, Adam was promised reward which he would receive only if he first perfectly obeyed God’s commands.
But wasn’t there any grace involved in God’s covenant with Adam?
“They were, indeed, also of grace, in that the reward did infinitely exceed the merit of our obedience; but yet they all supposed it, and the subject of them was formally reward only.”
How is this grace different from the grace shown in the Covenant of Grace?
“In the covenant of grace it is not so; for several of the promises of it are the means of our being taken into covenant, of our entering into covenant with God. The first covenant absolutely was established on promises, in that when men were actually taken into it, they were encouraged to obedience by the promises of a future reward. But those promises, namely, of the pardon of sin and writing of the law in our hearts, on which the apostle expressly insists as the peculiar promises of this covenant, do take place and are effectual antecedently to our covenant obedience.”
In the Covenant of Works made with Adam, the promised reward would be received only if Adam had first demonstrated perfect obedience. In the Covenant of Grace, the promises are received before our obedience – indeed, we are only able to obey as a response to our prior salvation!
Does God grant us eternal life because He sees our faith? No!
“For although faith be required in order of nature antecedently to our actual receiving of the pardon of sin, yet is that faith itself produced in us by the grace of the promise, and so its precedence to pardon respects only the order that God had appointed in the communication of the benefits of the covenant, and intends not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith” (John Owen, Covenant Theology From Adam to Christ, pp. 178-179).