The Westminster Confession, bulwark of Reformed and Presbyterian churches states in chapter 7, “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”
Herman Hoeksema, theological father of the Protestant Reformed Churches states in his Reformed Dogmatics, ” Adam had life but not eternal life. Nowhere do we find any proof in Scripture for the contention that God gave Adam the promise of eternal life if he should obey the particular commandment (not to eat of the forbidden tree). A command is no covenant.”
But was it not just continued blessed earthly life that would have been Adam’s had he not fallen? He was earthy (I Cor.15:47). Only since, have Christians interpreted it as ETERNAL LIFE. There was no way he could attain immortal heavenly life. Hence Goodwin, one of the Westminster delegates, and others deny the possibility of eternal (spiritual) life for Adam if he obeys, and how long would he have to obey before the reward? Scripture is silent on this hypothesis.
But Adam had friendship with God which is the essence of every divine and unconditional covenant. But the Holy Spirit in him was not the eternal indwelling Spirit in every New Covenant believer. He could be lost! When he sinned he incurred separation from God which is death, and then ultimately would physically die in time to come. He transgressed the covenant (Hosea 8:1) but God’s unconditional covenant of grace based on election stood firm and is unbreakable from the divine viewpoint. He fell “into the arms of Christ”. “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Jer. 31:3). As soon as he fell he was given the promise of the gospel (Gen.3:15) which would make him and his wife enemies of Satan and hence renewed friends of God and this by the sacrifice of the animal (typical of Christ) who would die to clothe them.
A condition, posited by followers of WCF, implies ability and any covenant of works, as was also the Sinaitic covenant taken on it’s own (no grace behind it) is doomed to fail because man cannot keep God’s law whether it’s “Don’t eat from that tree” or “Keep my (10) commandments and live.” This is the case because firstly Adam was fallible and secondly because all men like fallen Adam are slaves to sin, hence man can never merit with God as Paul points out in Romans 4:4 .Indeed the purpose of the law is gracious because it was added to expose transgressions and to lead men to Christ.
Yes Adam was federal head and stands in federal headship to all humanity just as Christ does to saved humanity but I deny he failed in a covenant of works that Christ then obeyed perfectly. He transgressed his version of the covenant of grace but could not break it because God would rekindle the friendship through the future promised Messiah. Adam’s election governed the covenant with him. Then God put his law and Spirit in Adam’s heart that would last eternally because of Christ so that for the first time he possessed eternal life.
Thanks to Marco Barone a fellow CPRC church member for his theological help with this!