The Adamic Covenant

By Shawn Tomlin

Last week we covered the Covenant of Redemption. This week we will go over the Adamic Covenant, or as it’s also known, the Covenant of Works. Before we continue, it’s important to understand that the Adamic Covenant is based on how Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” What this means, in a sense, is that we can reflect some of God’s attributes. In the case of the Adamic Covenant it is to rule over creation, acting as a steward of God’s creation.

Essentially, there were two commands in the Adamic Covenant. Genesis 1:28 lays out these commands, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” So Adam was to act as God’s steward over creation. He was creation’s overseer. This was the “work” in the Covenant of Works. Genesis 2:15 explains how the LORD placed Adam in the Garden to “work it and watch over it.” There was one stipulation though, Genesis 2:16 says, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

We all know how that turned out. Eve was tempted, ate of the fruit, and told Adam to eat it as well, and he did. They fell from God. They turned their back on the Word of God. They sinned. They certainly did die that day, not physically, but spiritually. Here’s the kicker though, God remained faithful to Adam and Eve, even when they didn’t deserve it. 

God didn’t just make animal skins out of thin air, but standing before His fallen creation, He sacrificed an animal to cover their shame, and in doing so Adam and Eve saw the consequences of their sin, death

Once God confronted their sin, He cursed the serpent, Eve, then Adam. In the midst of that curse we see grace abound in the words of Genesis 3:15. “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” This was the first declaration to humanity of the agreement made before creation in the Covenant of Redemption. It signals Christ’s future work which would eventually fulfill the broken Adamic Covenant. At the same time it also signaled the eventual ushering in of the New Covenant, which this series will end with. 

God did something else in His abounding grace. He clothed them in animal skins, which is found in Genesis 3:21. Now, typically, covenants were “cut”, or made, or entered into, with the spilling of blood. God didn’t just make animal skins out of thin air, but standing before His fallen creation, He sacrificed an animal to cover their shame, and in doing so Adam and Eve saw the consequences of their sin, death. Where sin abounded, grace abounded even more. Now keep in mind that the blood of this covenant was not the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. It was just an animal. It didn’t have the power to remove sin, but only cover it. Adam, Eve, and all humanity would have to wait in faithful hope for that perfect sacrifice to come. But in all that, Adam and Eve just stood there and received the skins. The only work they contributed was their sin. 

This didn’t let Adam and Eve off the hook though. Adam still had to work the ground, except now it would be by the “sweat of his brow” outside the garden, and ultimately outside the presence of God. In the end, they would die, which wasn’t in the original job description, but a consequence of their sin. The Covenant of Works, or the Adamic Covenant, and its brokenness continues to this day because all humanity, believers or not, will die. In the midst of this curse, this broken covenant, God promised One who would strike the head of the serpent, and we have Him, Jesus. Adam’s hope was in the Promised Seed, just as our hope is in that same Promised Seed, Jesus Christ.

The LORD bless you, and keep you;

The LORD make His face shine on you,

And be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His countenance on you,

And give you peace.

Lee Jones