The Promise of God, according to the Reformed Confessions of Faith

Scots Confession, Chapter 4

Of the Revelation of the Promise. For this we constantly believe: that God, after the fearful and horrible defection of man from his obedience, did seek Adam again, call upon him (Gen. 3:9), rebuke his sin, convict him of the same, and in the end made unto him a most joyful promise, to wit, that the Seed of the woman should break down the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15), that is, He should destroy the works of the devil. Which promise, as it was repeated and made more clear from time to time, so was it embraced with joy, and most constantly received of all the faithful, from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to David, and so forth to the incarnation of Christ Jesus: all (we mean the faithful fathers) under the law did see the joyful days of Christ Jesus, and did rejoice. (Gen. 12:3; 15:5-6; 2 Sam. 7:14; Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Hag. 2:6; John 8:56)

Second Helvetic Confession, XIII

The Gospel is, indeed, opposed to the law. For the law works wrath and announces a curse, whereas the Gospel preaches grace and blessing. John says: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Yet notwithstanding it is most certain that those who were before the law and under the law, were not altogether destitute of the Gospel. For they had extraordinary evangelical promises such as these are: “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head” (Gen. 3:15). “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). “The scepter shall not depart from Judah…until he comes” (Gen. 49:10). “The Lord will raise up a prophet from among his own brethren” (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22), etc.

And we acknowledge that two kinds of promises were revealed to the fathers, as also to us. For some were of present or earthly things, such as the promises of the Land of Canaan and of victories, and as the promise today still of daily bread. Others were then and are still now of heavenly and eternal things, namely, divine grace, remission of sins, and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Moreover, the ancients had not only external and earthly but also spiritual and heavenly promises in Christ. Peter says: “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation” (1 Peter 1:10). Wherefore the apostle Paul also said: “The Gospel of God was promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures” (Rom. 1:2). Thereby it is clear that the ancients were not entirely destitute of the whole Gospel.

Canons of Dort, Head II, Article 5

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel.

Heidelberg Catechism, Questions 18 and 19

Question 18: Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?

Answer: Our Lord Jesus Christ, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

Question 19: Whence knowest thou this?

Answer: From the holy gospel, which God Himself first revealed in Paradise; and afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets, and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and lastly, has fulfilled it by His only begotten Son.

Westminster Confession of Faith, VIII.6

Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof, were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed and signified to be the Seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same, and for ever.

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