How Christ was Administered in the Old Testament: Seed and Land


In my Introductory Post to this series, we presumed to agree that all who have ever been saved, are saved, and ever will be saved, are so because of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through faith in Him.  But the question was posed, if this is true, how was the redeeming work of Christ administered to the saints in the Old Testament—before Christ had come to do His redeeming work?

The Westminster Confession of Faith expresses well the traditional Reformed Covenant Theological answer to this question. After introducing the “Covenant of Grace” in contrast to that of works, “wherein [God] freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ,” we read,

This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament. (Ch. 7.5)

In short, the answer given was that the redeeming work of Christ was administered in real time to the saints of old by the Old Covenant itself, through the covenant promises of (1) the Seed, (2) the Land, (3) through Circumcision, (4) the Sacrifices, (5) the Law itself, and (6) through Prophecy. Not only were these covenant promises and sacraments the means of administering Christ, they were by His Spirit “sufficient and efficacious” to that end.

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How was Christ Administered in the Old Testament? Introduction

Old Testament Sacrifice

After reading through some modern works defending alternative “covenant theologies” (Denault and the like), I am always left wondering how the saving work of Christ was administered or dispensed to the saints of the Old Testament on these alternative terms?

We all agree, I presume, that there were many saved saints in the Old Testament. We would also agree that all who ever have been or will be saved, were saved by the work of Christ through faith.  We read in the New Testament:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)


Therefore he [Christ] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)

But how was this saving work of Christ administered or dispensed to the saints of the Old Testament?

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“But He Who Sends is Greater Than He Who is Sent”: Augustine Answers Definitively

Augustine 2

But being proved wrong so far, men betake themselves to saying, that he who sends is greater than he who is sent: therefore the Father is greater than the Son, because the Son continually speaks of Himself as being sent by the Father; and the Father is also greater than the Holy Spirit, because Jesus has said of the Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name; and the Holy Spirit is less than both, because both the Father sends Him, as we have said, and the Son, when He says, But if I depart, I will send Him unto you. (St. Augustine, On the Trinity, 2.5.7)

By this point in the treatise, Augustine has demonstrated the unity of the Divine nature and will, the trinity of Persons, the full divinity of each, the order of processions, the one inseparable order of working, the double account of the savior (the “canonical rule”), and is in process of answering objections to the full co-equality of the Persons.

In our day, the above objection is not so much cast in the language of greater/lesser, but in the language of authority/submission. That the Son is sent by the Father “proves” that the Son was in subordination to the Father in eternity (“functionally” or otherwise). On the face of it, the claim looks quite reasonable and even Biblical.  Clearly Christ says He is sent of the Father, and each together send the Spirit.  And we are familiar with passages such as the following:

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