The Commander of Yahweh’s Army: The Son and the Covenant of Grace Present in the Types and Shadows

The Commander of Yahweh’s Army: The Son and the Covenant of Grace Present in the Types and Shadows

Written by R. Scott Clark |
Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The very same Son who was to submit to the humiliation of incarnation, of gestation, of birth, of obedient suffering and death, who was to be raised for us and and who intercedes for us now at the right hand was with his church even before the incarnation because there is one covenant of grace in multiple administrations. 

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of Yahweh. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my Lord say to his servant?” And the commander of Yahweh’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:13–15).

One of the more profound points of disagreement between some Particular Baptists and the historic Christian and Reformed understanding of the history of redemption (historia salutis) centers on the question of the nature of the covenant of grace before the New Testament. There are more moderate Baptists who see the covenant of grace as actually present in the Old Testament (i.e., Gen-Malachi). The school of thought that concerns us here, however, is the more radical strain of Particular Baptist theology who reject the idea that the covenant of grace was actually, substantially present in the types and shadows of the Old Testament. In this view, the covenant of grace is only actually present in the New Covenant. In this view, there is a witness to the covenant of grace in the types and shadows and believers under the OT might be said to have apprehended Christ and the covenant of grace by faith but the covenant of grace itself remains wholly future relative to the types and shadows. Indeed, some proponents of this view have argued that all the covenants (including the Abrahamic) before the New Covenant were, in essence, covenants of works and that only the New Covenant is the covenant of grace.

One counter argument that I have been offering to the more radical Particular Baptist view is to say that such a view cannot account for significant events in the history of redemption nor does it account for the way the New Testament itself interprets the Old Testament. In other essays I have noted how much Paul’s appeal to the history of Israel (in 1 Cor 10:1–4) relies on a substantial continuity between Israel and the New Covenant church. I have also observed that in (the most likely textual variant of) Jude 5, it is Jesus who “saved the people out of the land.”1 For these discussions see the resources below.

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