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The Noahic Covenant: Is it Part of the Covenant of Grace? (Lesson 4.2)

1. AN INTRODUCTION TO KUYPER'S VIEW: Before we really get into studying this covenant with Noah, we need to spend a little time learning about and responding to a view that actually denies that God's Covenant here with Noah was one of the Old Testament manifestations of the Covenant of Grace. Indeed, the proponents of this view see God's covenant with Noah as something actually quite different.

2. A SUMMARY OF KUYPER'S VIEW: Abraham Kuyper is the best known proponent of the view that the covenant with Noah doesn't belong to the Covenant of Grace.1 Kuyper was, among many other things, a Dutch Reformed theologian. And he wrote many things, among which was a massive 3-volume discourse on the doctrine of common grace. Significantly, he actually began this treatise by writing around one hundred pages on God's covenant with Noah in Genesis 9.2 Kuyper believed that God's covenant with Noah did not belong to the Covenant of Grace, but was something entirely different.3 For Kuyper, God's covenant with Noah in Genesis 9 doesn't teach us about redeeming grace—rather, it teaches us about common grace.4 For him, the covenant with Noah doesn't consist of gospel promises to God's redeemed people—rather, it consists solely of temporal promises to all humankind.5 Kuyper described his view with statements like this: “In this Noahic covenant there is. . .nothing that intentionally or primarily pertains to saving grace.”6 And again he writes: “The promise. . .includes nothing spiritual whatsoever.”7 Rather, Kuyper asserted: “[The] content of the Noahic covenant lies entirely within the sphere of natural life, envisions temporal and not eternal goods, and applies to unbelievers just as much as it does to those who fear God.”8 So emphatic was Kuyper's position on the Noahic Covenant that he even wrote at one point: “To identify this content in a spiritual manner and to wish to explain it in a redemptive way is therefore preposterous.”9 To put it simply: Kuyper's view was that God's covenant with Noah was only natural, not spiritual; pertained solely to the temporal, not eternal; was made with all human kind, not just believers; and therefore, cannot properly belong to the Covenant of Grace.10

3. THE REASONS FOR KUYPER'S VIEW: Kuyper held to this view of God's covenant with Noah primarily for two reasons:11 First, the covenant in Genesis 9 isn't just made with Noah, but also with his three sons with him, along with their “seed” after them (verse 9). Kuyper reasons that since all humanity would come forth from the “seed” of Noah's three sons, the covenant that God is making here in Genesis chapter 9 does not only extend to believers, but indeed, to the entire human race. The Covenant of Grace is only made with a particular people called out from the world; but here in Genesis 9, it seems that God is making a covenant with all humanity without exception. Kuyper's question is in effect: If this covenant is also made with unbelievers, how can it be part of the Covenant of Grace? Secondly, noting that the covenant promises of Genesis 9 extend even to the animals, Kuyper is at a loss to understand how any covenant that involves animals can relate to the Covenant of Grace. He draws out the fact that no less than six times, God includes living creatures in the covenant. He also notes that this covenant seems even to extend to the earth itself (9:13). For these reasons, Kuyper concludes that this covenant in Genesis 9 cannot belong to the Covenant of Grace at all, but must indeed be something entirely different.

4. OUR RESPONSE: At first glance, Kuyper's arguments are quite convincing. And though we don't agree with his conclusions, still we've done our best to argue his case as strongly as possible, because we believe that it's important to wrestle through viewpoints that are different than ours. But in short, though Kuyper's explanation is important for us to wrestle through, we believe there's an explanation of Genesis 9 that's even more convincing; one that understands the Noahic Covenant as belonging to the Covenant of Grace. It's this view that we'll be unpacking at length over the course of this lesson. And it will take us the entirety of the lesson to flesh out the many reasons for why we do take the Noahic Covenant as belonging to the Covenant of Grace. In this respect, we ask for your patience, as it will require more time to respond fully to Kuyper's view. But as for Kuyper's two objections, we would respond in this way:

A) Answering Kuyper's FIRST objection: Kuyper's first objection was that God's covenant in Genesis 9 seems to be made not just with believers, but indeed with all humanity. We'll say more about this later, but for now we would just point out that Kuyper, in fact, only deals with the covenant in Genesis 9. The problem with this is that he fails to deal in any way with the covenant God made earlier with Noah in Genesis 6. This is a problem, because it is these two covenants that make up the Noahic Covenant. You can't separate them; just like you can't separate the several covenants that were made to Abraham and make up the Abrahamic Covenant. These two covenants, the one in Genesis 6, the other in Genesis 9, are inseparable. And they're inseparable, not only because they both relate to Noah, but also because God uses the same name to describe them. When God makes the covenant with Noah before the flood, in Genesis 6:18, He calls it, “My covenant.” And when God makes the post-flood covenant with Noah, his sons, their seed, and the animals, He calls it by the same name: “My covenant” (9:9,11,15). So, since Genesis 6 and 9 are two manifestations of the same covenant, the essential meaning must be the same.12

Now, in unnaturally separating the covenant of Genesis 6 from that of Genesis 9, Kuyper fails to realize something really important: The covenant that God makes in Genesis 9 isn't with all humanity without exception—it's rather with all humanity inside the ark. Remember, all humanity was actually destroyed in the flood. It was only Noah and his family that were spared—and it's with Noah and his family that God makes this second covenant in Genesis 9. So, the covenant in Genesis 9 can't be interpreted apart from the covenant God had made earlier with Noah in Genesis 6. And the covenant in Genesis 6 was about salvation from God's judgment: God saves a certain people from judgment before the flood—and God again covenants with those same people after the flood. So, in Genesis 9, God isn't addressing ALL people—He's addressing HIS REDEEMED people; He isn't addressing the WORLD—He's addressing those He's saved OUT OF THE WORLD; He's not addressing ALL humanity without exception—but a NEW humanity, the few that He had preserved inside the ark to come forth and inherit the new world.13 This of course points us to truths contained in the Covenant of Grace. And, in this respect, this covenant in Genesis 9 is “universal” only insofar as it applies universally to the particular ones He has redeemed.14

B) Answering Kuyper's SECOND objection: Kuyper's second objection had to do with the fact that the covenant in Genesis 9 extends even to the living creatures with Noah. Again, we'll say more about this later, but for now, just think about it this way: It wasn't just humankind that was directly effected by the fall, but the earth itself and all of creation has come to feel the effects of the curse of Adam's sin. The Lord told Adam in Genesis 3:17, “Cursed is the ground because of you. . .” In a sense then, it wasn't just all humanity that was cursed with Adam when he disobeyed, but also the earth itself. Likewise, Paul tells us in Romans 8:20 that all creation has been “subjected to futility” through the fall. Now again, think of it, when God sent the flood, in Genesis 6, who was it who perished? It wasn't just mankind. It was every living thing of all flesh. The animals perished too. Now, no one says that the animals perished in the flood because they too had become wicked. No. It was mankind alone that had become wicked. But the animals perished along with man.15 And not just the animals, but even the earth itself, for Scripture tells us specifically that when God sent the flood, it didn't just come to destroy every living creature, but also the earth with them: “behold, I am about to destroy them [all flesh] with the earth (6:13). So then, it was man alone who sinned; but both in the fall, and in the flood, all creation suffered the consequences.

Well, it's the same thing in the Covenant of Grace. All creation is comprehended, in a sense, in the Covenant of Grace. This is so, because the Covenant of Grace deals primarily with redeeming man, but it also deals secondarily with all creation. To put it simply: Just as all creation suffered the consequences for man's sin in the fall and the flood, so too, the healing of redemption will one day extend, in turn, to all creation. In Christ, men are coming out from under the curse of God and entering into His blessing. But the creation itself also groans for the day when it too will be set free from its corruption, when Christ ushers in the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.16 As Paul says in Romans 8:19-23: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And. . .even we ourselves groan. . .waiting eagerly for. . .the redemption of our body.”17

5. CONCLUSION: Kuyper himself, as he wrote the things he did about the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9, seems to acknowledge that his position was not, in fact, the majority position.18 Most Reformed theologians before him and after him have affirmed that the Noahic Covenant is indeed part of the Covenant of Grace.19 Now, this doesn't mean that we have to disagree with everything that Kuyper said. And we don't have to deny that there were indeed temporal elements in God's covenant with Noah. Those elements are clearly there. God made a real promise to never again flood the earth in a physical way, and that promise extends to us all. But what we're saying is that even these temporal elements of God's covenant with Noah were there for a much greater purpose: to teach us about things eternal.

This is, after all, what Scripture itself explicitly teaches us—not only as it relates to God's covenant with Noah before the flood in Genesis 6, but also as it relates to God's covenant with everything that came out of the ark after the flood in Genesis 9; for we read in Isaiah 54:9-10 God's own commentary of His covenant promise in Genesis 9: “'For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noah would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,' says the Lord who has compassion on you.” As Thomas Goodwin wrote long ago: “the story of [Noah] and his waters or flood, and God's covenant with him. . . though in the letter the semblance they bear was but of the temporal salvation and deliverance from the flood, yet in the mystery thereof they were. . .intended as figures of God's eternal covenant and mercies unto his elect church, which were to come out of Noah's and his sons loins. . .”20

In the end, Kuyper's mistake was to forget that the interweaving of the temporal and the eternal is a truth that reveals itself over and over again in each successive stage of the Covenant of Grace. We learned about this in the first lesson. In each of the Old Testament manifestations of the Covenant of Grace, the eternal is wrapped up with the outer shell of the temporal. Eternal gospel truths were wrapped, as it were, with an external husk. Gospel truths were pictured and promised in all these covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David—but they were wrapped with an earthly, temporal shell. God made promises to Abraham of a land, a seed, and blessing; at face value these were temporal and earthly things, but they were actually gospel promises. God gave instructions to the Israelites concerning the tabernacle, the shedding of the blood of animals for sin, instructions about feasts throughout the year, the priesthood, and many other things. But though, strictly speaking, these things only related to the temporal and earthly, they yet conveyed gospel truths—they point us to Jesus and the gospel. God made covenant promises to David, that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, and that his throne would endure. Looking merely at the outside husk, these were all earthly, temporal promises. But when we pull back the husk, we begin to realize that the inward kernel was always about Christ and the gospel. This is true of each of the Old Testament manifestations of the Covenant of Grace: temporal and earthly on the outside; but pure gospel on the inside. And it was no different with God's promises to Noah.21

Kuyper's main emphasis was that God's covenant with Noah served to preserve the earth for the coming of Christ and the advance of the gospel. This promise to Noah would make redemption possible, in that it would preserve the earth until God had enacted His plan of redemption. We don't disagree with this one iota. We just affirm that, while this covenant conveyed these truths—it also conveyed so much more.

So, what gospel truths in particular do we learn from the Noahic Covenant? We'll take them one by one:

1. The BACKDROP of the Covenant of Grace: We learn why we need salvation

2. The AUTHOR of the Covenant of Grace: We learn about the character of God

3. The NATURE of the Covenant of Grace: We learn how God saves sinners

4. The SUBSTANCE of the Covenant of Grace: We learn of what we have been given in Christ

5. The BASIS of the Covenant of Grace: We learn how God lavishes His grace on sinners

6. The STABILITY of Covenant of Grace: We learn about the security we have in Christ

7. The SCOPE of Covenant of Grace: We learn who salvation is for

8. The SIGN of Covenant of Grace: We learn about the picture of God's promise

9. The FRUIT of the Covenant of Grace: We learn about the heart of the Christian life

10. The REQUIREMENTS of the Covenant of Grace: We learn how grace and obedience fit together

11. The PRIVILEGE of the Covenant of Grace: We learn about the mission God has given His people

12. The OUTCOME of the Covenant of Grace: We learn of the sure hope we have in Christ


1 See Ronald Cammenga's article: Common Grace or Cosmic Grace, p2. Cammenga makes clear that Kuyper did not invent the view, but was responsible for introducing this view into the Dutch Reformed Churches (and by doing so, in large measure, also became responsible for introducing the view to the church as a whole). He notes that before Kuyper had popularized the view, Wilhemus A' Brakel, a leading theologian in the Dutch Reformed church, had held this view. Herman Bavinck, a contemporary (and co-laborer) of Kuyper's, also shared Kuyper's view of the covenant with Noah, and later Louis Berkhof expressed the same general sentiments, with the result that, as Cammenga says: “A large portion of the Dutch Reformed church, both in the Netherlands and in the United States, as well as American Presbyterianism, has been influenced by Abraham Kuyper's teaching concerning the covenant with Noah. In fact, there appears to be an almost unquestioning acceptance of Kuyper's explanation of the Noahic covenant as a covenant of common grace among the majority of conservative Reformed and Presbyterian theologians since Kuyper's day.” (Common or Cosmic Grace, p3).

2 Thus also grounding this doctrine in the covenant with Noah. This he himself makes explicitly clear: “The fixed historical starting point for the doctrine of common grace lies in God’s establishment of a covenant with Noah after the flood.” (2.1).

3 In his words: “If [people] had recognized that the Noahic covenant is not redemptive, but that it applied to the life of every human being, indeed, even to the life of the animals, they would not have made the mistake of putting it on par with the other covenants. Instead, they would have treated it separately, as a covenant of an entirely different kind.” (Chapter 5.1).

4 In his words: “we are not dealing here with a covenant of particular grace, but a covenant of common grace.” (3.2). In defining what he means by common grace, Kuyper explains it as “a grace of God that you as a human being have in common with all people” (1.2); something “apportioned to all people, including the worst apostates” (1.3); and something that “is therefore of an entirely different nature from particular grace or covenant grace.” (1.3). For Kuyper, common grace refers to the “forbearance” (1.5) that God constantly shows toward sinful man, which is especially manifested in: 1) His bridling or restraining mans sin; and 2) His “bearing temporarily” with it, by preserving the order of creation until the final judgment (1.5).

5 “The promise. . .includes nothing other than this. . .'the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (3.3).

6 Chapter 2, section 3.

7 Chapter 3, section 3.

8 Chapter 4, section 1.

9 Chapter 4, section 1.

10 In these beginning chapters, Kuyper is constantly citing Calvin for the view he takes of the covenant in Genesis 9. He says: “the view we have begun to present here. . .follows the older perspective of Calvin. . .Calvin says unambiguously, 'There is no doubt that it was the design of God to provide for all his posterity. It was not therefore a private covenant. . .but one which is common to all people, and which shall flourish in all ages to the end of the world.' His expression is Foedus omnibus populis commune, that is, 'a covenant of grace common to all people.' The choice of these words shows clearly that Calvin did not understand the Noahic covenant as 'saving,' but as pointing to God’s mercy, for the benefit of every human being, among all nations, through every age, until Christ’s return. No more words need to be devoted to arguing that we are indeed following in Calvin’s footsteps. The above quotation from his commentary should suffice and any doubts may be expelled by a close rereading of his entire exposition about the Noahic covenant.” (Chapter 3.2). I did, in fact, take Kuyper up on his challenge, and re-read Calvin's commentary of Genesis 6-9, and was surprised to find, that the one sentence Kuyper quotes (taken from 9:8) is indeed the only place where Calvin seems to assert what Kuyper is wanting to assert; namely, that the Noahic Covenant contains nothing spiritual and does not belong to the Covenant of Grace. On the other hand, I found in reading these chapters from his commentary, that Calvin does, in several places, seem to hint that the Noahic Covenant did indeed include spiritual truths about God's redeeming grace: 1) Calvin takes the denouncement of depravity in Genesis 6:5 as rightly applying “to the whole human race”, saying that, “it is not a mere complaint concerning a few men, but a description of the human mind when left to itself, destitute of the Spirit of God.” Thus, their depravity is meant to teach us about our depravity. 2) Of Noah's sacrifice in 8:20, Calvin says: “when the holy fathers, formerly, professed their piety towards God by sacrifices, the use of them was by no means superfluous. . .it was right that they should always have before their eyes symbols, by which they would be admonished, that they could have no access to God but through a mediator. Now, however, the manifestation of Christ has taken away these ancient shadows.” Thus, Noah's offering is indeed meant to point us to Jesus. 3) Though Kuyper asserts that God made this covenant with the entire human race, Calvin qualifies this in his own comment on 9:8, saying: “And the clause which follows, ‘and to his sons who were with him,’ is to be referred to this point. For how is it, that God, making his covenant with the sons of Noah, commands them to hope for the best? Truly, because they are joined with their father, who is, as it were, the stipulator of the covenant, so as to be associated with him, in a subordinate place.” Thus, the covenant only flowed to Noah's family, the animals, and the earth, in so far as they were connected with Noah, who stood as the covenant head (pointing to the headship of Christ). 4) Further, in his comments on 9:10, in the context of speaking of the fact that God's covenant in Genesis 9 extended also to the brute beasts, Calvin, immediately applies this truth by saying: “Hence the ignorance of the Anabaptists may be refuted, who deny that the covenant of God is common to infants, because they are destitute of present faith. As if, truly, when God promises salvation to a thousand generations, the fathers were not intermediate parties between God and their children, whose office it is to deliver to their children (so to speak) from hand to hand the promise received from God.” Thus, Calvin ties together this covenant in Genesis 9 quite specifically to the Covenant of Grace. 5) Lastly, in speaking of the significance of the rainbow, Calvin says of 9:12, “A sign is added to the promise, in which is exhibited the wonderful kindness of God; who, for the purpose of confirming our faith in his word, does not disdain to use such helps. . .By [signs] I mean. . .that which may strengthen faith. . .the Lord here plainly addresses holy Noah and his sons; he then annexes a seal, for the sake of assurance. Wherefore, if the sacrament be wrested from the word, it ceases to be what it is called. . . Hence we also infer, that from the beginning, it was the peculiar property of sacraments, to avail for the confirmation of faith. For certainly, in the covenant that promise is included to which faith ought to respond.” Thus, Calvin understands the sign of the rainbow as directly applying to the sacraments, which are the “signs” and “seals” of the Covenant of Grace. For all these reasons, I respectfully disagree with Kuyper's assessment of Calvin's view of the Noahic Covenant.

11 See especially Kuyper's Chapter 3: The Noahic Covenant Was Not Particular.

12 This connection in itself creates another problem for Kuyper's view. This phrase, “My covenant”, as we learned in Lesson One, is one of the most common names for the Covenant of Grace (cf. Genesis 17:2-21; Exodus 19:5; Psalm 89:28,34). Incidentally, God also calls the covenant of Genesis 9 “the everlasting covenant” (9:16), which is also another phrase Scripture uses to refer to the Covenant of Grace (cf. Genesis 17:7-19; Psalm 105:10; Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 32:40; Ezekiel 16:60; 37:26).

13 A corollary Scripture here might be the last two verses of Isaiah: “ 'And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind [Lit. all flesh] will come to bow down before Me,' says the Lord. Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind [Lit. all flesh].” The language of “all flesh” is the same language as Genesis 9, and when Isaiah talks about “all flesh” here, he's talking about people universally but in particular terms. It's clear from the passage that in the new heavens and the new earth, unbelievers don't belong to this group. This “all flesh” is quite particular. Not all humanity without distinction—but all true humanity; all redeemed humanity; the entire new humanity.

14 As Herman Hoeksema puts it: “However, this truth, that God establishes His covenant in the line of continued generations, is more clearly expressed after the deluge. We have already made it plain that in the covenant with Noah we confront essentially no other covenant than the one covenant of grace which was already announced in general terms in Paradise, which is presently established with Abraham and his seed, and which is maintained in Christ. Noah does not enter into the ark as the representative of the whole world as it is outside of Christ, but as head of the visible church. The church is saved in the ark; the world perishes in the flood. Presently that church comes forth again from the ark; and with that church the Lord God establishes His covenant. The fact that in this connection the covenant of God is revealed as embracing the whole creation does not change matters and is easily understandable in the light of the history of the flood. A covenant of friendship with the wicked world outside of Christ God, the Holy and Righteous One, certainly could not establish. The covenant is essentially always the same. For this reason, also here Scripture does not speak of 'a covenant,' but of 'my covenant.' That is: My one covenant, which is always the same, and which I establish with My people in Christ Jesus. And when, therefore, the Lord establishes that covenant with Noah, He says: 'And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you' (Gen.9:9). Also here, therefore, you have the same idea. When God establishes His covenant in the world, then He does that with believers and their seed.” (From Believers and Their Seed). Thus, far from being incongruent with the Covenant of Grace, the fact that the covenant of Genesis 9 is also made with Noah's seed after him is further evidence that it indeed belongs to the Covenant of Grace, wherein God's promises extend not just to believers, but also to their seed.

15 The wording of Genesis 6:5-7 is noteworthy: it was indeed man alone who did evil, but the animals would perish with him.

16 So, does the fact that animals were included in the covenant in Genesis 9 prove that this covenant cannot contain gospel truths? I love how Goodwin answers: “1) No more than that because the beasts and cattle came forth of Egypt with the Israelites, that therefore their redemption typified not forth redemption by Christ. And again: 2) Nor no more, than that because the cattle drank of the rock, as well as the Israelites; that, therefore, that rock was not Christ figuratively and sacramentally; which yet the apostle expressly tells us it was [in] 1 Corinthians 10.” (Goodwin, Works, V9, p66).

17 As Thomas Goodwin puts it: “Nor was that covenant made primarily, or in a direct and principal respect, with the beasts, but with Noah and his sons; and with the beasts but secondarily for his sake, and as appurtenances to man, and belonging to him; otherwise they are not capable of a covenant, because no way to be made sensible of it; and, therefore, but as an accidental appendix of man's charter, or lease granted, it is that they are put in. And, again, look as for man's sake the earth, and all things in it, were accursed, Genesis 3, and then they were destroyed for man's sake by this flood, as God professes, Genesis 6:6-7; so, on the contrary, God declares, that when he saw those creatures in the ark, that it was for his sake; and therefore this clause is twice added, Genesis 6:19-20, to keep them alive with thee; that is, for thy sake. And in like manner it is said, Genesis 9:1-3, 'And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moves upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea: into your hands are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you: even as the green herb have I given you all things.”' So as it was to preserve mankind that these creatures were preserved, and that they might have subjects to have dominion over.. . .Yet further; all the creatures may well be said to come under this our covenant by Christ; for we profess and believe, not only that Christ, by his death, made a purchase of all, and by his sacrifice procured the standing of the world, in order to the elect for their good, and so their preservation comes to be included in the elects' covenant and promises; but there is by Christ a liberty one day to be conferred upon the whole creation, in their being 'delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God: so as in their capacity they have a share in the privileges of the new world, that world to come, typified forth by Noah's new world, and promised upon his having offered his sacrifice, wherein he was Christ's type. So that this is so far from being an objection, that it serves, on the contrary, to render the analogy more complete.” (Goodwin, Works, V9, Section II). Francis Roberts says: “God covenanted here with these brute creatures, not properly and directly for themselves, but improperly, indirectly and relatively, with reference and relation to mankind, that they should not any more be generally destroyed with a flood. For as at first these creatures were all made for mans use and service, and were afterwards drowned in the flood, not for their own sakes, but for man's sin; so now while man should continue in this world, God covenants that these creatures should continue also for his service and benefit.” (p259). Roberts also draws out a slightly different aspect when he later says: “That they who are spiritually and eternally saved by Christ, shall have all necessary temporal blessings superadded to them in Christ. 'Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' Thus in the type, Noah's family was not only saved in the Ark with Noah; but also for their sakes, a seed of the living creatures were saved in the Ark with them for their after use and service. The free use of the creatures is granted to them, the earth and creatures being put under their power in subjection; and the continued course and revolution of times and seasons, without danger of being destroyed any more, by a universal flood of waters, is assured to them. So in Christ 'all are ours, the world, and life, and death, and things present, and things to come, all are ours; and we are Christ's; and Christ is God's.'” (p280).

18 He himself cites earlier Reformed theologians such as Pareus, Perkins, Mastricht, and Rivet. He could have cited several more, including Francis Roberts, who quotes some of these men at length and adds to their list Henry Ainsworth as well. Roberts quotes Rivet saying: “and though that Covenant seem only to respect this present life; yet we must ascend higher, to the thing signified. For it is the Covenant of Grace. . .” Roberts also quotes Pareus at length, who used very familiar language to describe his understanding of the Noahic Covenant; namely, in the same way as all the other Old Testament manifestations of the Covenant of Grace before the inauguration of the new covenant in Christ: these all being the same in substance as the new covenant, but different in administration. In the words of Pareus: ““A question here arises, whether this Covenant be the same with that which we have now with God, or another different from it? I answer, it is the same, and diverse. It is the same in respect of eternal grace by Christ, and in respect of the obligation of moral obedience. For, this substance of the Covenant, that is, of the mutual stipulation of God and the elect, is the same, and perpetual in both Testaments. . .The same both now and of old is the way of salvation by Christ. But this Covenant differs in circumstances and manner of administration. God propounded this gratuitous Covenant in one sort to the Fathers, in another to us: 1) To the Fathers he added certain external promises: As, of preservation in the flood, to Noah; of giving the land of Canaan to Abraham; not so to us. 2) To them He gave other signs and burdens; before the flood, sacrifices; after the flood, the rainbow to Noah; circumcision to Abraham; the Passover to Moses and the Israelites; yea, sacrifices, ceremonies, festivals, and innumerable other Laws, wherein as in a cloud or dark garment the promise of grace was involved. For all the legal shadows did show Christ; but more obscurely, as when the sun is seen through the clouds. . .By reason of this diversity, the Covenant, which is but one in substance, is said to be twofold, Old and New. And the Old is abolished; because the promise of grace has put off its legal robe, wherewith it was covered of old as with a cloud. But the New is everlasting, both in substance and administration, because another change of rites and sacraments is not to be expected before the last day. . .” (from Roberts, pp274-275). Another extremely important writer before Kuyper's time who took Noah's covenant as part of the Covenant of Grace was Thomas Goodwin (Works V9).

19 Though some after him have adopted Kuyper's position, most have not. For just a few more modern (but important) examples, we could note O Palmer Robertson (cf. his opening pages on Noah, pp109-113) and Ligon Duncan, who writes in his Covenant Theology course the very truth we will soon conclude with: “You may know that there is somewhat of a debate over the place of the covenant with Noah in redemptive history. Some people have approached the Covenant of Noah as if it were an entirely Common Grace Covenant, as if it were, in some senses, not part of the flow of the Covenant of Grace. That is, [it] would not necessarily have a saving focus, but more of a focus on the preservation of the normal order of the world. A common grace covenant. Others have disagreed with that. And I want you to see that there are both common and special aspects of grace displayed in the Covenant of Noah. It is indeed part of the Covenant of Grace, though it does have common grace significance as well as special redeeming or saving grace significance.” IE: the temporal is there but points to the eternal.

20 Quote from Goodwin (Works, V9, p43). This was how Goodwin himself responded to the same objections, that, it seems, some also held in his own day: “And the objection is this: that that covenant with Noah, [in] Genesis 9, was but a covenant of common providence, and the concerns thereof, as that summer and winter, day and night, should not cease; yea, and was made with every living thing, as well as with Noah; and answerably had but an outward natural sign to confirm it, the waters should no more destroy the earth; and hath nothing to do with the covenant of grace, nor can be supposed to be a figure of that covenant under gospel times. For answer: As to that, that it is but a providential promise of continuance of the world from the judgment of waters any more; outwardly it was no more; but this hinders not from its being in the mystery a typical promise to Noah, and those of his seed elect that were to succeed, to signify the perpetuity of the covenant of grace to them, and that God would never suffer his lovingkindness to depart. . .” (Goodwin, Works, V9, p66). As Francis Roberts says: “For under the temporal and corporal salvation of Noah's family from the flood of waters, we are to understand the spiritual and eternal salvation of Christ and his family from the flood of God's wrath.” (p277). And again: “God's Covenants with Noah before and after the flood, revealed not only a corporal and temporal, but also a spiritual and an eternal salvation. That corporal and temporal salvation in the ark from the flood of waters, with security to the world forever after from such a general flood, typically resembling and representing the spiritual and eternal salvation of lapsed sinners in the church by Christ from the flood of God's wrath and vengeance. . .These Covenants with Noah revealed a double salvation, an Outward Corporal and Temporal Salvation, and an Inward Spiritual and Eternal Salvation principally intended and typified thereby. This latter belongs only to the elect family of the true Noah, Jesus Christ, and to the new world planted and replenished by him spiritually. The former salvation which is but outward and corporal, from all such future floods, is (in and for the benefit of Christ's elect, and saved family) extended even to all the wicked in the world, and to brute creatures themselves.” (Roberts, pp283-284). We are simply affirming the same truths about God's covenant with Noah that Vos said of Abraham: “The covenant with Abraham already had a double side, one that had in view temporal benefits—like the promise of the land of Canaan, numerous descendants, protection against earthly enemies—and one that had in view spiritual benefits. Nevertheless, this is to be so understood that the earthly and temporal were not for their own sake, but rather so that they would provide a type of the spiritual and heavenly. Thus the Apostle Paul can say that the spiritual promises did not apply to all the seed, but to the spiritual seed, to those included in Christ. By that he meant that the physical children of Abraham with their temporal blessings were an exemplar of the people of God who through faith receive the spiritual benefits.” (Vos, V2, p128). Goodwin again appeals to God's Covenant with David as an example of the same truth, saying: “If it be said, that this covenant respected only the temporal salvation of Noah in the ark, besides, that it may be answered, that so did the covenant declared to David (in the first delivery of it, in 2 Samuel 7 from verse 12, and so on) speak but of his house, and establishing of his kingdom to his seed; while yet his own salvation (2 Samuel 23:5, 'God made with me a covenant, and this is all my salvation') and the salvation of the elect through Christ, was intended therein; so here, it may also be replied, that the word grace, as it is spoken of God, and to express his grace, is too deep a word to be bestowed only upon a mere temporal salvation.” (Works, V9, p48).

21 A.W. Pink has a lot to say here, so we'll end by quoting him at length: “There was connected with each covenant that which was literal or material, and also that which was mystical or spiritual; and unless this be duly noted, confusion is bound to ensue. Yea, it is at this very point that many have erred—particularly so with the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants. Literalists and futurists have been so occupied with the shell or letter, that they have quite missed the kernel or spirit. Allegorizers have been so much engaged with the figurative allusions, they have often failed to discern the historical fulfillment. Still others have so arbitrarily juggled the two, that they have carried out and applied neither consistently. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we use the best possible care in seeking to distinguish between the carnal and the spiritual, the transient and the eternal, what pertains to the earthly and what adumbrated the heavenly in the several covenants. . .Each covenant that God made with men shadowed forth some element of the everlasting covenant which He entered into with Christ before the foundation of the world on behalf of His elect. The covenants which God made with Noah, Abraham, and David as truly exhibited different aspects of the compact of grace as did the several vessels in the tabernacle typify certain characteristics of the person and work of Christ. Yet, just as those vessels also had an immediate and local use, so the covenants respected what was earthly and carnal, as well as what was spiritual and heavenly. This dual fact receives illustration and exemplification in the covenant which is now before us [IE, Noah]. That which was literal and external in it is so obvious and well known that it needs no enlarging upon by us here. The sign and seal of the covenant—the rainbow—and the promise connected therewith were tangible and visible things, which the senses of men have verified for themselves from then till now. But is that all there was to the Noahic covenant?. . .Was there no deeper meaning in the promises than that the earth should never again be destroyed by a flood, that so long as it existed its seasons and harvests were guaranteed, that the fear of man should be upon all the lower creatures? Had those things no spiritual import? Assuredly they have, and in them may be clearly discerned—by those favored with anointed eyes—that which adumbrated the contents of the everlasting covenant. . .It was ever God’s way in Old Testament times to employ the event of some temporal deliverance of His people, to renew His intimation of the great spiritual deliverance and restoration by Christ’s redemption. . .From all that has been said it should now be abundantly clear that, while the literal aspect of the promises made to Noah concerned the temporal welfare of the earth and its inhabitants yet their mystical import had respect unto the spiritual well-being of the church and its members. . .” (Pink, Divine Covenants).


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