Athorough understanding of the nature of God’s design for man’s salvation is impossible apart from a grasp of the teaching of Rom. 5:12 f.: the comparison of and contrast between the First Adam, the created man, and the Second Adam, the Creator Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Paul teaches us that the First Adam and the Second Adam are federal representatives: “The Old testament type not only corresponds to the new age reality but also stands in antithesis to it. Like Adam Jesus is the representative headman of the race; but unlike Adam, who brought death, Jesus brings forgiveness and life.”1 The offspring of the First Adam, that is, all human posterity, is plunged into sin, both implied and actual, by the imputed actions of their federal head; the offspring of the Second Adam, that is, all united to Christ by faith, receive divine righteousness, both implied and actual, by the imputed actions of their federal head. The union of both the unconverted and the regenerate to federal heads and the depiction of each head as father of the respective offspring highlight the fact that the ultimate racial issue of mankind is the issue of covenant headship one is united to the race of the depraved (Adam’s seed), or the race of the redeemed (Christ’s seed).
God’s Covenant Seed
The chief theme of the Old Testament is God’s election of and dealings with a particular ethnic race: the Jews, the seed of Abraham. The divine promises graciously given to Abraham applied no less to his seed than to him (Gen. 17:7-14). God would be a God to him and his seed, and would bestow on his seed the land of Canaan (Gen. 13:14-17; 17:8), and all the domestic amenities that land inheritance implied (Ex. 3:6-8; Dt. 31:1-8). From almost the beginning, however, God made it clear that the posterity of Abraham to whom the promises were given was not defined exclusively in terms of his physical seed—the covenant promises are not merely a physical birthright (Gen. 17:18-21).2 God was not interested in making and maintaining his covenant with a physical seed per se, but with a physical seed faithful to his covenant (Gen. 26:4, 5; Lev. 26). For this reason, God made provision for Gentile believers to join the covenant community (Ex. 12:48). In the New Testament, the covenant, and, therefore, soteric, promises are extended to include the elect among the entire human race. The New Testament writers, mainly Jesus Christ and St. Paul, assert the suspension of God’s dealings with ethnic Israel (Mt. 21:33- 22:14; Rom. 9:22-29), and the initiation of his dealings with the multiracial body of Christ (Rom. 2:28, 29; Eph. 2:11-22), the true seed of Abraham (Gal 3:27-29), the New Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). The emphasis thus shifts and expands from ethnic Israel to all the nations of the earth.
Two Principal Interpretive Errors
Two main misinterpretations of God’s multiracial covenant plan plague the current Christian scene. The first repeats certain aspects of the error of the Pharisees and other Jews during Jesus’s earthly ministry. It recognizes that the Jews as a nation and race have been demoted in God’s covenant plan, but then incorrectly concludes that with the transfer of covenant privilege to the new covenant church, 3 God has selected the White- Anglo-Saxon race as the racial replacement of covenant ethnic Israel: a new physical race supersedes an old physical race. Groups espousing this grave and dangerous error often posit the inherent superiority of the Aryan and Anglo-Saxon race and inherent inferiority of the Black, Jewish, Southern and Eastern European, Indian, and Asian races. This notion turns on its head the Biblical teaching of the expansion of God’s covenant and soteric purposes to all races (Ac. 15:19-29).
Equally erroneous is the radical reformers’ conclusion (shared by many modern evangelicals) that God’s new covenant plan cancels the Old Testament’s special consideration given to the offspring of God’s elect (of any race and ethnic group). This error focuses attention chiefly or exclusively on enticing proselytes into the Faith. This conclusion overlooks the promises of Ac. 2:38, 39; 1 Cor. 7:14; Eph. 6:1-3 and other Scriptures, thus depriving Christian parents of the encouragement and solace of God’s covenant pledges and rupturing the covenantal continuity of the Scriptures.4 According to the most consistent expression of this misguided view. Christian parents are instructed to treat their offspring no differently than they would treat pagans—for in effect that is what the children are considered to be.
The New Racial Community
By contrast, the authentically Christian, and more specifically Reformed, conception of God’s racial and familial dealings posits both the expansion of God’s redemptive and covenant purposes to include a large number from all races, on an equal footing with the elect from ethnic Israel (Is. 19:24, 25), as well as the promises that the physical seed of the elect constitute a prime object of God’s salvific designs.
The Bible stresses covenantal inclusion as based not on birth (Jn. 1:12, 13), but on re-birth (Jn. 3:5), without in any way negating the glorious promises to the elect, that their physical seed stands in a special relation to God, and that they may presume their seed to be elect (Gen. 17:7), and therefore should train that seed in the gospel and the Faith ( I Tim. 3:15).
God has graciously called to himself not only a covenant seed, but a new race, a race not of “ethnicity,” but of covenantal redemption and obedience. This race shares in the divine royalty, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).
As the new Israel, it is a race of princes with God (Gen. 32:28). It is a race intimately, even physically (Jn. 6:53-58), united to the humanity of its Elder Brother (Heh. 2:9-14), a race engendered not thy blood, but by the supernatural efficacy of the redemptive work of Christ, the second Adam (Jn. 1;12, 13; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
The Task of the New Race in the Earth
This race shares in the reign of its royal representative, Christ (Eph. 1:20-23; Rev. 2:26, 27), and is itself his representative in the earth, calling all sinful men to repent and submit to the King, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Naturally, the race of the second Adam intently trains its own physical seed in the Faith, eschewing all forms of education (public or private) which threaten to undermine the claims of the King of the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, and historic Christianity (Pr. 22:6).
This royal race of the redeemed comprehends the church, the visible covenant community (Eph. 4:4-16), purchased with Christ’s blood (Ac. 20:28), congregating formally (Heh. 10:25) on the first day of the week (Ac. 20:7), to worship the sovereign. Triune God (Ac. 2:46, 47); hear the clear exposition of the Scriptures (Ac. 2:42; 2 Tim. 4:2): partake of communion, the new covenant meal (Lk. 22:19, 20); and prepare to advance Christ’s kingdom in the earth (Ac. 4:23-31). Thereby the church is energized to press the claims of Christ in every aspect of life, to subdue the earth for the glory of God (Gen. 1:27, 28; Mt. 28:19, 20).
The royal race of the redeemed, elected from all nations, of all colors and languages and dialects (Rev. 5:9), operates redemptively, pressing the claims of the Christian Faith in all spheres of life and existence. The royal race sees the world as the jurisdiction of the sovereign King (Ps. 47; 1 Cor. 10:26, 28), and therefore their jurisdiction (Ps. 8:4-6; Heb. 2:6-8), as Christ’s vicegerents, to steward the earth by God’s law-word as his righteous domain.
This is indeed a racial aristocracy, constituting even racial superiority, but it has nothing to do with earthly nation, color, or language. It is the aristocracy of the righteous, God’s mighty dominion army in the earth (Ps. 44:1-8; Eph. 6:10-20), pressing forward in love for God and his cause, with the infallible word as its guide.
The royal race of the redeemed is Christ’s posterity, and it cannot fail (Dan. 7:18).
- E. Earle Ellis, “How the New Testament Uses the Old,” in ed., I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods (Grand Rapids, 1977), 211.
- Daniel Fuller, Gospel and Law (Grand Rapids, 1980), 123-130.
- Charles Provan, The Church Is Israel Now: The Transfer of Covenant Privilege (Vallecito, CA, 1987).
- Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, 1939, 1941), 262-301.