An essay on the Continuity of the Old and New Testaments in Covenant Theology as contrasted not only with Dispensationalism, but also with "New Covenant Theology."
By Greg Welty
Originally posted on Essays on Continuity
Statement on offsite articles
Presuppositions assumed but not proven in this essay: The use of language and reason, Calvinism (which has many implications, such as the infallibility of Scriptures).
Presuppositions assumed and demonstrated (to more or less degree of success): Basic Fundamental Continuity of the Old and New Testaments, Covenant theology.
c 1998, 1999 David Wendt
This presentation was inspired firstly, by my pastor George Carey, who suggested I teach a Sunday school class on Covenant Theology, and secondly, by conversations I have had with beloved brothers in Christ who have adopted what is now called New Covenant Theology. For the most part these dear brothers are influenced by John G. Reisinger and his disciple, Geoff Volker, who follows Reisinger very closely in his (Volkers) teaching ministry called In-Depth-Studies. Doubtless there are those, such as Fred Zaspel, who while holding to something like NCT, do not hold to all the radical distinctions of the Reisinger/Volker camp, but since this is the brand I am most familiar with, most of the quotes shall come from these two teachers and Randy Seiver. Also the NCT web page links to Volker's works as an introduction to the system and this is naturally where seekers will start. All Volkers quotes are cut and pasted right from the documents I got from the web in order to ensure accuracy. Since Dispensationalism is so well known, documentation will be limited. We need to keep in mind that NCT is not yet systematized and it is likely that many of its adherents have not thought through all the implications. There are also contradictions in the system even within the writings of just one person let alone the whole system.
The debate over continuity/discontinuity is not an easy one. It is not uncommon to have the waters clouded by not properly understanding the terms as we will see more of later. "Presenting an issue sharply is indeed by no means a popular business at the present time... Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding..." (Machen, Christianity and Liberalism 1). When we speak of a basic fundamental continuity, we do not mean that everything from the Old Testament has come over into the Christian church unchanged, but we mean that everything from the Old Testament continues into the New Testament in some form or another, possible even by being completely fulfilled as with the animal sacrifices finding complete fulfillment in Christ. We may not say that the New Testament starts with a "clean slate" and only brings over those things from the Old Testament that are explicit. Since all of God's word is true in all times, we dare not say some parts no longer apply without the consent of the writers of the New Testament as in the case of cessation of animal sacrifices. To ignore the Old Testament is a sad mistake that causes us to miss out on much that God has said and wants us to know. Two examples might help to see the relationship of continuity with discontinuity before moving on.
We will look at the state of God's people as it changes from national to universal as an example of basic continuity. The state of the church in the New Testament may seem to some to be a general discontinuity or even a radical discontinuity compared with the Old Testament church (or "people of God" for those squeamish about using the word "church," which however is used in the Septuagint to describe God's people). It may seem at first glance that the people of God in the Old Testament were national Israel and that this has changed in a radical way when the Gentiles were brought in after Pentecost. We can better understand this change, however, as a minor discontinuity in the context of a basic continuity. Starting after the flood, Noah's prophecies include "May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem" (Gen 9:27). The non-shemites would learn of Shem's God by dwelling in Shem's tents. We see the promise to Abraham that "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3), "and you shall be a father of many nations" (Gen 17:4). Not long after we see that Judah had children by a Canaanite, and Joseph's children were half Egyptian, so these ethnic groups are brought into Israel in a limited sense. More important perhaps is that during Israel's exodus from Egypt, "a mixed multitude went up with them also" (Ex. 12:38). Later we see Rahab and her family becoming part of the covenant people of God (Joshua 6:22-25). Ruth the Moabite woman was incorporated into Israel and played a large role in redemption since David and Jesus claim her as ancestor. Later, Jonah was told to preach to the Ninevites, who were the enemies of Israel. "Then God saw their works, that they turned away from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster He said He would bring upon them..."(Jonah 3:10). When Jonah was angry that God was merciful ton Nineveh, God replied "And should I pity not Ninevah, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons...?" (Jonah 4:11). A New Testement example is found in the John 4 where the Samaritans believed in Jesus, calling him "the Savior of the world" and not the savior of Israel only (verse 42). The fact that the post-Pentecost church has Gentiles in it is no surprise from what the Old Testament says, especially when we consider the Protevangelium, where "the continuity of the work of deliverance is declared; the enmity extends to the seed of the woman and of the serpent. Gods promise is to the effect that he will keep up the enmity in the line of human descent and will not allow it to die out" (Vos, Biblical Theology 42). There is no general or radical discontinuity regarding the identity of the people of God from the Old Testament to the New, but only a minor discontinuity when comparing the Mosaic Covenant with the New Covenant, but even this presupposes a general continuity starting with Adam.
An example of the problematic nature and difficulty of continuity can be seen by comparing Calvin's view of instruments in the church with the Campbellite view. Calvin has a very strong view of continuity in his theology, but the Campbellites have a very strong, even radical discontinuity and yet they both reject the use of musical instruments in the church. Calvin rejects it because he associates instrumental music with the temple worship which has been abolished in Christ. The Campbellites, on the other hand, have different but related reasons. Historically, the Campbellites came out of Presbyterianism with its emphasis on regulative worship, i. e. only those things commanded by God are suitable in worship. Some Presbyterians allow musical instruments in the church, because they see it as part of the worship service in the Old Testament and therefore commanded in this dispensation, based on the continuity of worship and not tied to the cult. The Campbellites, trying to be consistent with the principle that only those things commanded in the New Testament, as contrasted with the Bible as a whole, are allowed in worship or in the church see no explicit New Testament command for using musical instruments. To them it doesn't matter what the Old Testament says on the subject, but to Calvin it does matter, and requires more thought to see whether the Old Testament principle carries over or not. It is possible to have the same or similar conclusions based on different premises. Calvin's premise is a general continuity which sees minor discontinuity. The Campbellites premise is a radical discontinuity which is here consistent.
Covenant or Federal Theology has as a basic assumption the unity of the Bible. It sees the continued story of mans salvation starting in the garden of Eden with the Protevangelium (First Gospel proclaimed) of Genesis 3:15 and consummated in the death and resurrection of Christ. Salvation has always been the work of God throughout all history. The sacrifices in the Old Testament from Genesis on have always pointed toward Christ as the true sacrifice of God, given for all his people of all time, who are His body, the Church. It has always been true that "it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul," for "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission" of sins (Lev 17:11, Heb 9:22).
We have already hinted at the major distinction between Covenant Theology and the various forms of Dispensationalism including its sister, New Covenant Theology (NCT).1 Federal or Covenant Theology, because it strongly affirms the unity of the Bible, also affirms a basic fundamental continuity between the Old and New Testaments. As Bavinck points out, the Old Testament was the Bible of the New Testament church:
The Gospel implied the Old Testament and without it, the Gospel could not be received or recognized. For the Gospel is the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament, and without which, it hangs in the air, and the Old Testament is the pedestal the Gospel rests upon, the root from which it has grown. No sooner had the Gospel found acceptance anywhere, then immediately and without any contradiction, along with it and in it, the Old Testament was accepted as the Word of God . The New Testament church did not exist for a moment without a Bible; from the beginning, the church was in possession of the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.(Magnalia Dei: Onderwijzing in de Christelijke Religie naar Gereformeerde Belijdenis 120)2
There is no doubt that there are degrees of continuity/discontinuity in all theological systems, including Seventh Day Adventism which although holding to a radical continuity, sees discontinuity regarding sacrifices. Dispensationalism and some brands of NCT affirm the contrary belief, namely, a radical discontinuity between the two Testaments. It should go without saying that this does not mean they see no continuity between the Testaments at all, but rather that their view of continuity is marred by an overemphasis on the New Testament and by not seeing that "The New is indeed in the Old, but its 'concealment' there is not a very secret one! He is there--everywhere. We learn just as easily from the NT writers that we simply cannot read the OT without seeing Jesus" (Zaspel, The Theology of Fulfillment). Someone reading only the Books of Moses would come away with a doctrine of salvation by faith in the sacrifice that God provides, not a salvation by works. But some Dispensationalists and some adherents of NCT, instead of seeing the obvious basic continuity, make statements such as these: "Truths such as justification and sanctification are not clearly found in the Old Testament era" (Volker, An Overview of New Covenant Theology). If these extremely important truths "are not clearly found in the Old Testament era," there can obviously be little or no continuity between that era and the New Testament era, and this implies that the same lack of continuity must also logically exist between the Old and New Testaments themselves, not just between various covenants. Keep in mind that the Mosaic covenant starts in the second book of the Bible and is in effect throughout the rest of the Old Testament. If this covenant (law without grace, they would have us believe) is regarded as lacking continuity with the other covenants (grace), it would seem that the Scriptures wherein this covenant is prominent (most of the Old Testament) must also be mostly discontinuous with the other parts of Scripture, namely, Genesis and certain prophetic passages, and of course most or all of the New Testament. The impression given is that the Mosaic covenant and national Israel are a parenthesis of some kind in the "unity" of scripture that NCT claims to hold just as the church age is a parenthesis in Dispensationalism. "Paul's order of salvation history is first promise to Abraham and his seed (Gal.3:16); secondly, the parenthesis of the Mosaic Law..." (Jon Zens, Is There a "Covenant of Grace?" [sic]). Zens goes on to say "we must see the books of the Old Testament as that body of literature which was associated with the Mosaic Covenant" as contrasted with the "new body of inspired literature" which "is binding on the New Covenant community" (ibid.). This is indeed a very strange kind of unity. Zaspel is perhaps an exception to this radical view. But Dispensationalism and the Reisinger/Volker brand of NCT both go so far as to claim that the new covenant and the church are totally and completely new things: "New Covenant theology sees radical distinctions between the old [Mosaic] covenant and the new covenant" (emphasis mine, Seiver, The New Covenant in Promise and Fulfillment). Seiver does notice areas of continuity between the Testaments, but emphasizes "that in most of the occurrences of the term 'covenant' in the New Testament Scriptures the emphasis is on discontinuity between the old and new covenants, rather than continuity" (THE CROSS: The Heart of New Covenant Theology). In describing Covenant Theology, he complains that "they make no radical distinctions between the church of the old covenant and the church of the new covenant" (emphasis mine, The New Covenant in Promise and Fulfillment). "The Cross...signals the inauguration of that period to which Paul refers as "the fullness of the time" (Gal 4:4) and marks a radical change in God's covenant dealings with His people"(ibid.). "The New Covenant is not merely a 'new administration' of the supposed covenant of grace, but is a completely new covenant, totally replacing the Old Covenant" and "The day of Pentecost (Acts 2) inaugurated the beginning of the Church, the New Covenant people of God..." (Volker, An Overview Of New Covenant Theology). The second sentence logically seems to mean, 1) that the Church is equal to "the New Covenant people of God," and 2) that since the Church began at Pentecost, it did not exist before that time. If it did not exist before Pentecost, Old Testament believers were obviously not in the church in their own natural lifetimes because they died before Pentecost, as also the thief on the cross did. Reisinger makes it plain that in his NCT system Old Testament believers were not even "in Christ," or "baptized into the body of Christ" (Abraham's Four Seeds 61-65,esp. 63).
It should be noted that the Statement of Faith of Grace Church at the NCT web page seems to contradict these statements when it says "that the universal Church is the continuation and fulfillment of the historical people of God," and the Reformation Statement, written by Volker around 1994 but still on the web, rightly says, "All of God's elect who have ever lived, are now living, or ever will live, make up the one true universal or catholic church." Mike Paasch, the missionary to Mexico sent by Volker's church, informed me of his own position: "If you believe that I do not believe in the continuity of the church, i.e. old testament saints are part of the same church as new testament saints, then you are mistaken...Your perception that we reject that the church is continuous from the first saint till the last is not correct" (e-mail 15 December 1998). Paasch apparently does not believe that "The day of Pentecost (Acts 2) inaugurated the beginning of the Church, the New Covenant people of God...," since for him the church includes Old Testament saints. I cannot reconcile the later statements of Volker with his older ones or with those of Paasch, unless one assumes either 1) they have different definitions for "church," 2) this sentence is a misstatement on Volker's part and therefore he should retract it, or 3) they hold to the doctrine that the Old Testament saints were not in the church until the Day of Pentecost. The idea of Old Testament Saints coming into the church together at a certain time is usually associated with the Romish conception of limbus patrum or sinus Abrahae, being in "Abraham's bosom" until Christ descended into Hell (obviously before the Day of Pentecost) and brought them to Heaven, however, the NCT page has a link to an article that gives this explanation: "NCT sees the saints of the OT as being added to the church after it's built. But NCT says that the Bible doesn't call the OT saints 'the church'"(Donald Hochner and G. Richard Gaudreau, A Comparison of Three Systems: Dispensationalism - Covenant Theology - New Covenant Theology). It is also possible to define "church" in different ways, namely the universal church on the one hand which "consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all," (Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 25,1), and on the other hand, either the visible church, the particular church, or both, as also the Westminster Confession of Faith implies (Chapter 25, 2 and 4). In this way, one can consistently hold to particular atonement, which says Christ died for his church which is his body consisting of all the elect and only the elect. This idea, although more Biblical is less consistent than Reisinger in his use of radical discontinuity.
Volker is by no means clear on his view of the church. He says, "The church as the people of God includes all believers. The church as the New Covenant people of God that is made up of both Jews and Gentiles began at Pentecost." He goes on to say, "...the people of God are all those for whom Jesus died. The new covenant people of God, is made up of both Jews and Gentiles and this is a new critter that has not been previously seen." But later he clarified that, "the New Covenant form of the church is made up of Jews and Gentiles" (italics mine), which seems to imply that the church has always existed , but in the new era has a new form. When I asked him whether the New Covenant church contains Old Testament believers, he answered, "Yes" (e-mail), but would not tell me when they entered the New Covenant Church, whether the two "churches" have the same substance, whether the universal church existed in Old Testament times or what the difference is between the two. These were not the "right questions" to ask, but he insisted he was not "evading [my] questions." We know that the "New Covenant people of God" contains Old and New Covenant believers, namely all the elect, and we presume only the elect unless it just means the "visible church." It would seem that the exact same individuals are contained in both definitions of "church" ("people of God" and "New Covenant people of God"),and yet for Volker, the two are not identical since the one is a "new critter" that didnt exist before Pentecost. He cant mean that since gentiles are now being saved, the church is "a new critter." We have already seen from the Scriptures that Gentiles were saved even during the Mosaic covenant. If only the form is new, why bother calling the church "a new critter," and saying "the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) inaugurated the beginning of the Church, the New Covenant people of God..." (The Seminar Notes on New Covenant Theology). The difference between the two definitions is far too subtle for this writer to see. One would wish for more clarity in Volkers use of terms.
Seiver gives the following as the presuppositions of NCT:
1. God has only one purpose. That purpose is the revelation of His glory as He establishes His sovereign rule over His entire redeemed creation.
2. The establishment of Israel as a nation was only a means that God used pursuant to His eternal purpose. God has only one spiritual people. He grants the spiritual inheritance only to those in Christ.
3. Christ, and those united to Him by faith, are the true seed of Abraham to whom God made the promise.
4. We must interpret old covenant prophecies in the light of their new covenant fulfillment. (The New Covenant in Promise and Fulfillment)
These however are not the differences between NCT and Covenant Theology. We can agree with these statements except for the use of the word "only" in number 2. That word "only" and other statements we have seen and will see later, betray what the most basic presuppositional difference is: a radical discontinuity of the Testaments. Some may call this an over-simplification of the issues, but it is not. "To be specific is not to the same as oversimplistic" (Francisco Orozco, e-mail conversation, 29 Dec 1998). It is always wise to engage at the most basic level. In conversations with Mormons, for example we must start at our most basic difference, which is not authority, or even salvation or the deity of Christ, but rather what is real and eternal. Since they believe spirit and matter both exist and that all is eternal (Dualism), they will naturally interpret the Bible according to those basic presuppositions. It is usually not helpful to start by talking about this or that verse since they have different definitions of the words according to their prior assumptions. We need to show them that theism is true and Biblical, before we even talk about salvation by grace. The same rule applies when dealing with Christians of differing opinions. They may not admit that this is so, because we don't always see our basic presuppositions. But it is almost always fruitless to talk to Dispensationalists about rapture theories without first examining the basis for them, and perhaps the basis for that basis and so on, until the most basic difference is understood and discussed. Jon Zens, a pioneer of recent NCT, says that "dispensationalists come to Scripture with the presupposition that God has an earthly purpose for Israel, and a heavenly purpose for the church. Covenant theologians, on the other hand, come to Scripture with the presupposition that there is one covenant of grace with various administrations" (An Examination Of The Presuppositions Of Covenant And Dispensational Theology Chapter 1). He does not even see that continuity is the more basic issue that drives these other presuppositions. Seiver uses the expression "radical distinctions" more than once when discussing NCT and admits that,"we see the basic relationship between the old and new covenants as one of discontinuity" (THE CROSS: The Heart of New Covenant Theology). And this is where the real issue lies, in the radical distinctions which have their root in radical discontinuity.
Dwight Pentecost calls the the church age "an entirely new age, which...is one of our strongest arguments for the premillennial position. It is necessary for one who rejects that interpretation to prove that the church itself is the consummation of Gods program. To do so he must prove that there is no new revealed program of God in this present age" (Things to Come 136). See pages 119-128 of Things to Come for the various Dispensationalist positions on just what the New Covenant is or is not. Dispensationalists are also not in agreement as to exactly when the church started. Some say at Pentecost, others, sometime later in the Book of Acts, while still others say not until Paul told of it in Ephesians. For NCT and Dispensationalism the Mosaic covenant is strictly a legal covenant. "This new covenant, not like the covenant made with the people through Moses, would be of grace, not of works; radical, not external;..." (Seiver quoting Hughes, THE CROSS: The Heart of New Covenant Theology). There is no grace in that covenant and Israel would only receive material blessings not spiritual. Dispensationalism differs from NCT in some areas which need not concern us at this time because they have the same basic presupposition of radical discontinuity, which we will attempt to show to be not only a new idea but contrary to the very flow of Scripture.
It should be noted that Progressive Dispensationalism sees more continuity than Classical and Revised Dispensationalism or NCT will admit. Craig Blaising says that the Mosaic Covenant "was not, however, utterly different from the patriarchal dispensation which preceded it. In fact, the Mosaic dispensation was a dispensation of the blessing promised to the patriarchs" (Progressive Dispensationalism 151) and "the dispensation of the new covenant could not be an utterly different dispensation from that which preceded it. Its purpose and its continuity with preceding dispensations lie in the patriarchal covenants" (ibid. 159). He also says that Israel was "commanded to be a people of faith in the Lord" (143). With the emphasis on progression which implies continuity, they seem even to give up the parenthesis around the church age which NCT seems to simply move to the Mosaic Dispensation. "Progressive dispensationalists believe that the church is a vital part of this very same plan of redemption. The appearance of the church does not signal a secondary redemption plan..." (ibid. 47). It is interesting that NCT, which sometimes likes to call itself "Reformed," is moving closer to the very ideas of the older Dispensationalism which Progressive Dispensationalism is modifying.
The belief in continuity of the Testaments is the historical Protestant position. Calvin says, "The covenant made with all the patriarchs is so much like ours in substance and reality that the two are actually one and the same...Who, then, dares to separate the Jews from Christ, since with them, we hear, was made the covenant of the gospel, the sole foundation of which is Christ?" (Institutes Book II, X 2,4). The Reformed and Presbyterian Churches have always affirmed continuity in their confessions as read in The Scotch Confession of Faith (1560):
We maist constantly beleeve, that God preserved, instructed, multiplied, honoured, decored, and from death called to life, his Kirk in all ages fra Adam, till the cumming of Christ Jesus in the flesh...to them he gave his lawes, constitutions and ceremonies...To this same people from time to time he sent prophets, to reduce them to the right way of their God...(Art. V.)[sic]
The Belgic Confession (1561), Article 27, says:
This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will last until the end, as appears from the fact that Christ is eternal King who cannot be without subjects. And this holy church is preserved by God against the rage of the whole world, even though for a time it may appear very small in the eyes of men--as though it were snuffed out. For example, during the very dangerous time of Ahab the Lord preserved for himself seven thousand men who did not bend their knees to Baal.
The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) chapter xvii on the church says,
therefore it is necessary that there always should have been, and should be at this day, and to the end of the world, a Church-that is, a company of the faithful called and gathered out of the world; a communion (I say) of all the saints, that is of them who truly know and rightly worship and serve the true God, in Jesus Christ the Saviour, by the word of the Holy Spirit, and who by faith are partakers of all those good graces which are freely offered through Christ...This Militant Church was otherwise ordered and governed before the Law, among the patriarchs; otherwise under Moses, by the Law, and otherwise of Christ, by the Gospel...Both these sorts of people [Old and New testament believers] have had, and still have, one fellowship, one salvation, in one and the same Messiah, in whom, as members of one body, they are all joined together under one head, and by one faith are all partakers of one and the same spiritual meat and drink (Schaff, Volume III, 868-870).
See also the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) chapters vii and xix.
It is present in Lutheranism as is evident from the Augsburg Confession, Chapter viii, which calls the church "nothing else than the assembly of all believers and saints," and also the use of the Ten Commandments therein and in Luthers Small Catechism (but notice that neither Luther nor Melancthon were Sabbatarians). In The Formula of Concord (1576, 1584) we read,
We believe, teach, and confess that although they who truly believe in Christ, and are sincerely converted to God, are through Christ set free from the curse and constraint of the Law, they are not, nevertheless, on that account without Law, inasmuch as the Son of God redeemed them for the very reason that they might meditate on the Law of God day and night, and continually exercise themselves in the keeping thereof (Psa. i.2; cxix.1 sqq.). For not even our first parents, even before the fall, lived wholly without Law, which was certainly at that time graven on their hearts, because the Lord had created them after his own image (Art. VI.I.)
Also see various Lutheran authors of Old Testament commentaries including Keil, Delitzsch and Leupold.
The Confession of the Church of England very explicitly says,
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil Precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral (The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion ,Chapter vii).
The Methodists in The Articles of Religion (1784), Chapter vi, repeat word for word Chapter vii of The Thirty-nine Articles which is quoted above.
Many Baptist churches have adopted or slightly modified the Baptist Confession of Faith (AKA The Second London Confession or The Philadelphia Confession[1677,1689]) which was based on the Westminster Confession and is firmly committed not only to the doctrine of continuity of the Old and New Testaments but also to Covenant Theology. Charles Spurgeon republished this Confession in 1855 and dedicated it to his own church. The Abstract of Principles (1859) is another Baptist interpretation of the WCF which "was adopted by the Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville Kentucky in 1859 and by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1950" (Leith, 339). It is very brief, but implies continuity in Article XVII on the Lords Day. Congregationalists also had adaptions of the Westminster Confession, such as The Savoy Declaration (1658). The London Confession  says "unlesse hee [Christ] had been God, he could never have perfectly understood the will of God, neither had he been able to reveale it throughout all ages...(sic, emphasis mine, Article XVI).3
The Anabaptists, however, seem to be the exception to the rule, at least in regard to the law (The Dordrecht Confession, 1632, Article v), but even they do not explicitly affirm discontinuity, although it is implied to some extent. Moreover, they do seem to see Continuity between the sacrifice offered by Noah and Christs sacrifice, since Christ "delivered up the body prepared for Him, as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour" (Article iv; compare with Gen 8:21). But they also hold such doctrines as Foot Washing (Article xi), Pacifism (Article xiv) to the degree of saying a Christian may not be a magistrate (The Schleitheim Confession  in Leith, 288) and a "visible Church of God consisting of those...who are rightly baptized" (The Dordrecht Confession, Article viii). By being "rightly baptized," they "become incorporated into the communion of the Saints" (ibid., Article vii). The plain meaning is that one who is not "rightly baptized" is not really in the church, and one must wonder if such a person (a Paedo-Baptist, for example) is even to be regarded as saved. This elitism was not shared by Protestantism in general and may not be consistent in the minds of the framers of the confession or in the Mennonites who currently hold to this creed. To their credit, these creeds did reject many of the other extremes in older Anabaptist thought such as throwing the New Testament into the water because they had the Spirit to lead them to all knowledge (a consistent "new heart" doctrine?).
Dispensationalism arose in Great Britain around 1830 among the Plymouth Brethren. Their desire to interpret Old Testament promises literally as pertaining to Israel rather than the church, seems to drive their acceptance of a radical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments (or vice versa). But in their hermeneutics, they could not be consistent in the degree of literalism they would apply to the New Testament. They would rather that Jesus were using metaphorical language when He said that Elijah had already come, than to accept that the Old Testament prediction was metaphorical or spiritual (see the Scofield Bible, in loc). They also delighted in allegorical interpretations of historical passages in order to justify their system of belief. Allis has many examples in Chapter 2 of Prophesy and the Church. Although this system of "rightly dividing the truth" (according to the correct dispensation), has no creedal authority, it has been adopted by some claiming to hold to the old creeds (Joseph Seiss, a Lutheran, is a good example) which clearly disavow this idea and the chiliasm that accompanied it. Dispensationalists in general, however, like the Campbellites (who also hold to a radical discontinuity), like to say, "No creed but the Bible." They both have, however, built up elaborate systems to justify their various opinions. We are not to be surprised at this departure from historical Protestantism in light of what else was happening at the time.
This was just after the Industrial Revolution which encouraged men to become more self-reliant spiritually as well as materially. About this time many old heresies reared their ugly heads. Pelagianism was seen in the preaching of Charles Finney and in the Campbellite movement, as well as in Mormonism which also adopted Dualism, Gnosticism, and a Millenarianism similar to that of Dispensationalism. A few years later came Russellism (Jehovahs Witnesses) with its Arianism added to Pelagianism and Adventism. Russellism and Campbellism also affirmed a radical discontinuity. The Seventh Day Adventists, on the other hand, had a radical continuity as the center of their theology with their insistence on keeping the Jewish Sabbath and dietary laws which the New Covenant abrogated as early as Jesus ministry (Mark 7:18,19); as repeated to Peter (Acts 10:9-16) and clarified by Paul (Col 2:16, 1 Tim 4:4). The time after the Industrial Revolution was the age of new things and new religions. The confessions and study of Dogmatics were almost unknown it seems, and history would repeat itself as Millenarianism, Dualism, Pelagianism, Judaistic tendencies, and Arianism were once again proclaimed, although the adherents of these various errors would no doubt reject the historical names we assign to them. The fact that the belief in discontinuity is a novum in Protestantism, should be enough to make us suspicious; but a look at the melting pot it came from leads to even more doubt as to its veracity. New beliefs, certainly, need to be scrutinized very carefully to find out if they are Biblical. And it is the height of rashness and very foolish to accept them on the basis of deference to a religious leader without meticulously examining whether these things are so, especially in light of these historical conditions which bred all sorts of filth!
New Covenant Theology has become popular in the last few years. It can be traced back to Norbert Ward of Murfreesboro, TN, who published a Reformed Baptist magazine in the tradition of the Puritans. "The Baptist Reformation Review...was a sound Puritan (though Baptistic) magazine. Norbert came under the teaching of [Jon] Zens late in his (Ward's) life" (Richard Bacon). This does not mean that Ward accepted everything that Zens taught. Zens denied the title of "Reformed Baptist" to himself and it comes to no surprise that the name of the magazine was also changed. Searching Together presented the new distinctions that Zens advocated, today known as New Covenant Theology. John Reisinger gives the impression (Abraham's Four Seeds 78 et al) that he had many discussions with Presbyterians who did not really understand Covenant Theology, but held to it because of the creed. One wonders if some Reformed Baptists simply got tired of debating with certain unread Presbyterians over baptism, because they would always refer to the continuity of the covenants as a presupposition in their arguments. "Not a few Baptists have virtually capitulated to infant baptism upon a consideration of the 'one covenant of grace variously administered.' That is why it is absolutely imperative for Calvinistic Baptists to think through this matter. Is the covenant of works/covenant of grace theological structured exegetically tenable or not?" (Zens, An Examination Of The Presuppositions Of Covenant And Dispensational Theology 9.4). Since these "Reformed" Baptists also did not have a proper understanding of Covenant Theology, it was easy for them to reject the whole system (and more) in their rejection of continuity which, as we have shown, is not peculiar to Reformed Theology. Now they could easily win arguments with the Paedo- Baptists, at least in their own minds, because the Paedo-Baptists were basing their arguments on a (to them) false assumption. A Reformed Baptist Pastor, John Giarrizzo, in an as yet unpublished paper notices that "Reformed Baptists and Sovereign Grace Baptists who are not properly grounded in Old Testament Theology are most vulnerable" to the influences of NCT. A good example of this is seen in the In-Depth-Studies Seminar Notes on New Covenant Theology where one of the headings is "Why 7th Commandment is not in force TODAY."
Continuity in the Sacrifices of the Old Testament
It is obvious that the doctrine of Continuity is the historical Protestant position and that the contradicting view which may have had its seed in Anabaptist theology (but NOT in Baptist theology) is relatively new. But what are the implications of the doctrine of Continuity contrasted with that of Discontinuity, and can it be shown to be Biblical? One of the major tenets is that "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). God saves sinners and has been doing it since the fall by the same means, namely by regeneration which brings faith to the sinner, which faith is the means of the imputation of Christs righteousness. "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1; see John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied 79 f. for the Order of Salvation). The sinners faith is in the sacrifice that God Himself has provided, the anti-type of which is later shown to be Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world! "God in no time received men to mercy without sacrifices. And that was to betoken that if we will obtain forgiveness of our sins, we must have recourse to the Sacrifice that was offered up once for all for our redemption. For so long as Jesus Christ is not the means between God and us, we must continue accursed, forlorn and hopeless" (Calvin, Sermons on Job 745).We will start by examining the continuity of the sacrifices of the Old testament.
The idea of a sacrifice permeates Scripture from Genesis to the New Testament. It is presupposed before the Mosaic Law makes it more explicit. The first sacrifice or at least the idea for sacrifice was made by God Himself after the fall of man in the garden. Some of the NCT camp have doubted that this is a real sacrifice because the word "sacrifice" is not used in the text. But although the word "hypocrisy" is not used in Isaiah chapter 1, no one doubts the idea is present there. Closer to home is the fact that the word "sin" is not used in Genesis 3 at all, but no one would say we couldnt have known Adams action was sin until Paul makes it clear in Romans 5. We neednt have a particular word used in order to have the meaning.
Before the making of clothes for Adam and Eve, we find in Genesis 3:15 the Protevangelium (First Gospel) which declares to the Serpent (Satan) that "He (Jesus) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." It is interesting that those who hold to discontinuity, also accept this passage as referring to Christ defeating Satan when the closest New Testament allusion is Romans 16:20, "And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly," which seems to say the church will in some way crush Satan. If they were more consistent in their view of rejecting interpretations not explicitly spelled out in the New Testament, they must agree with the liberal Skinner who says, "It is doubtful the passage can be regarded in any sense a Protevangel" (quoted by Leupold in Exposition of Genesis 164), rather than holding to the traditional messianic view of the Targum and the early church. Leupold rightly says:
Not every messianic passage is mentioned definitely in the New Testament...after Christs public ministry is officially inaugurated by His baptism, He encounters the devil in a temptation, even as the first parents encountered him. This, first of all, confirms the fact that the first tempter was the devil, but it more distinctly displays the first crushing defeat that the seed of the woman administered to His opponent. On the cross this victory was sealed and brought to its perfect conclusion (Exposition of Genesis 170).
Luther regarded this passage in Genesis as having in it "everything noble and glorious that is to be found anywhere in the Scriptures" (quoted by Leupold 163). W. a Brakel sees the Gospel shining through:
After Adam and Eve had transgressed the covenant, the Lord declared a new covenant, a covenant of grace with the words (of Gen 3:15)...These are brief words, but contain the great work of the redemption of a sinner, the severing of the violent might of the devil over the elect, the enmity and conflict of the children of God and the children of the devil, the Person through whom this should be carried out under the name of the seed of the woman (not of the man), which is Christ the seed of Abraham, Isaak, Jacob, David, [born] of Mary, who through his death neutralized the devil, Heb. 2:14. (Redelijke Godsdienst Derde Deel 4 [EV Vol.3, Page 4])4
Hengstenberg sums it up thus: "As the mission of the Messiah was rendered necessary by the fall, so the first obscure intimation of Him was given immediately after the event" (Christology of the Old Testament 29).
Verse 21: "Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them." Leupold prefers to take this only in the literal sense of the need for clothes to guard against the elements, but admits, "this may have suggested to man the idea of sacrifice," and "It is difficult to say whether the slaying of beasts for purpose of clothing in Adams day already involved sacrifice" (ibid. in loc.) But it seems unlikely that the idea for sacrifice came from man because Christ is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. Man-made worship or propitiation is unacceptable to a holy God. Delitzsch rightly says, "Since Adam calls his wife Eve (Chavva [life or living]), he announces his faith in the promise; and since God provides for the covering of mans nakedness, He typically prefigures His atoning grace, for kippur is a synonym of kithah and signifies covering of sin, so that in Gods sight it is as though it did not exist" (Old Testament History of Redemption 26). Compare also Galatians 3: 27, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (NIV) which uses the same Greek word (enduo) as that of the Septuagint translation of Genesis 3:21. We have here in Genesis 3 the story of mans fall and of Gods restoration of fallen man, which Vos refers to as "the divine initiative in the work of deliverance" (Biblical Theology 42). God initiated the whole thing Himself. Adam passed the blame, but God promised a Redeemer and Adam believed God. If the killing of the animal(s) to provide clothing for Adam and his wife is not a sacrifice, it is interesting that 1) it looks very much like one, 2) it acts like one in providing a covering, 3) it fits the axiom that "God will provide the sacrifice" as in the case of Abraham and Isaac, and especially in the case of Christ, 4) it explains the use of sacrifices as early as Genesis 4 and in the book of Job before the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, and 5) it fits in beautifully with the passage from Hebrews 9:22, that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." Even if one is not convinced of the sacrificial character in verse 21, it cannot be denied that God is shown in this chapter to be "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,...forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6,7). He will "by no means clear the guilty"(verse 7), but He will impute the righteousness of Christ into the elect, so that they are no longer guilty. "Salvation is of the Lord!" The Scotch Confession of Faith (1560) makes it plain that Adam was saved by Christ:
For this we contantlie beleeve, that God, after the feirfull and horrible defectioun of man fra his obedience, did seek Adam againe, call upon him, rebuke his sinne, convict him of the same, and in the end made unto him ane most joyful promise, to wit, That the seed of the woman suld break down the serpents head, that is, he suld destroy the works of the Devill. Quhilk promise, as it was repeated, and made mair cleare from time to time; so was it imbraced with joy, and maist constantlie received of al the faithfull, from Adam to Noe, from Noe to Abraham, from Abraham to David, and so furth to the incarnatioun of Christ Jesus, all (we meane the faithfull Fathers under the Law) did see the joyfull daie of Christ Jesus, and did rejoice (Art. IV.)
As already mentioned, we see sacrifices as early as Adams children, Cain and Abel. Although the word "sacrifice" is not used in Genesis 4, the writer of Hebrews makes it plain that "by faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (11:4). We read that "the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but did not respect Cain and his offering" (Gen 4:4,5). We dont read of Adam offering a sacrifice (perhaps because God already did it for him in Gen 3?) or even teaching his sons about the need for sacrifices, but somehow they knew about it. It seems likely that Adam told his children about the fall and the covering that God provided, since it is contained in many religions, although in a perverted form. Delitzsch thinks that "Sacrifice in its origin is not the satisfaction of a divine command, but of an inward need" (Old Testament History of Redemption 31). But God is not one to accept the inventions of men to pacify him (or is the "inward need" planted by God?). "It is inconceivable that either the propriety or probable utility of presenting material gifts to the invisible God. and especially of attempting to propitiate God by the slaughter of his irrational creatures, should ever have occurred to the human mind as a spontaneous suggestion" (A. A. Hodge, The Atonement 123). "God hath ordained sacrifices even from the beginning of the world. For had they been invented at mans pleasure, they had been but trifles and apish toys" (Calvin, Sermons on Job 11). But God "respected Abel and his offering." Why did He not respect Cain? We are not given an answer in the Genesis text. We are told that Cains offering was "of the fruit of the ground," but Abels was "of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat." Later we are told that Abels sacrifice is "more excellent." That is, the sacrifice itself, was more excellent. "The bloody offering contains the expiatory element, which is wanting in the vegetable offering, and therefore takes the precedence of it; but...Every offering is worthless without the right internal state of the one bringing it" (Delitzsch 32). This "more excellent sacrifice" was offered by faith, but the contrast to Cains offering is not the faith, but what was offered ("a more excellent sacrifice"). It is true, without faith we cannot please God, but faith must be based on the truth of God, not the inventions of men. "But if Abel had devised the said manner of sacrificing to God of his own head, he could not have faith...and faith can never be without obedience; it must needs be answerable to that which God hath ordained" (Calvin, Sermons on Job 11). The reasonable answer to our question of why God did not accept Cain's offering is that Cains offering was less excellent because there was no shedding of blood. "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb 9:22). Abels sacrifice pointed toward the vicarious sacrifice of Christ who shed His blood for His people. Vos rightly says,
All Biblical sacrifice rests on the idea that the gift of life to God, either in consecration or in expiation, is necessary to the action or the restoration of religion. What passes from man to God is not regarded as property but, even though it be property for a symbolic purpose, means always in the last analysis the gift of life. And this is, in the original conception, neither in expiation nor in consecration the gift of alien life; it is the gift of life of the offerer himself. The second principle underlying the idea is that man in the abnormal relations of sin is disqualified for offering this gift of his life in his own person. Hence the principle of vicariousness is brought into play: one life takes the place of another life (Biblical Theology 92-93).
The next sacrifice is mentioned (again not by the word "sacrifice," but "offerings") in Genesis 8:20, where, after the flood, "Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar." The result was that "the Lord smelled a soothing aroma," and promised never again to flood the earth. He also instituted capital punishment for murder (the shedding of blood for the shedding of blood) and prohibited eating flesh with the blood, which is its life (Gen 9:4-6). Perhaps the blood is reserved only for God as expiation. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11). Again, since the Lord would not be pleased by man-made worship, the idea of sacrifice must have come from God. Notice also that even before the Mosaic law there was the idea of clean and unclean animals. "When it is said that Noah after the flood took of the clean beasts to sacrifice, thereby we see he had instruction from heaven, for it lay not in him to discern between beast and beast, so as he should say, Among these I see some that be pure and and clean, and the residue be unclean. Needs must God have taught him that" (Calvin, Sermons on Job 11).
The story of the Book of Job is usually regarded as "laid in the far-off patriarchal age...a time long before the Israelitish state, with its religious, social and political organization, existed" (ISBE, 1680). Job seems to be the priest for his household as seen from verse 1:5 which says he would "sanctify [his children] and offer burnt offerings" for them and it is suggested in 42:8 where God tells his friends Job will pray for them. Since Job "was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1), he would not have a worship and offering that was not sanctioned by God. "He had the doctrine that came from God and which Noah had given unto his children" (Calvin, Sermons on Job 11). Indeed in chapter 42, Jobs friends are explicitly told by God to "take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams...and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering" because Gods wrath was aroused against them (verses 7 and 8). This is proof that animal sacrifices were ordained by God before the Mosaic Law for the purpose of propitiation "lest I deal with you according to your folly."
With regard to Abraham, there are at first only hints about sacrifices in the fact that "he built an altar to the Lord" (Gen 12:7), and in the covenantal offering of "a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon," which were cut in two by Abraham (Gen 15:9,10). But there is nothing explicit until after Isaac is born. Abraham is told to "take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering..." (Gen 22:2). Isaac seemed to be quite familiar with sacrifices, however, even knowing what animal should be used, when he says, "Look, the fire and wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering" (22:7). Abrahams well known answer is, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering" (vs 8). Years later, John the Baptist will say about Christ, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). There is only an implication that Isaac offered sacrifices in the fact that he built an altar to God (Gen: 26:25) . But, "Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain," after Laban pursued him. He also "erected an altar" before the city of Shechem (Gen 33:18), and was commanded explicitly by God to make an altar in Bethel (Gen 35:1).
The meaning of the Law is by far the most controversial topic in the discussion of Continuity and Discontinuity. Dispensationalists regard it as being only a legal covenant with no grace. They draw a sharp contrast between the promises of Abraham and the Law of Moses. The covenant with Abraham, they say was unconditional, but the law has obedience as its condition. Referring to New Covenant Theology, which shares presuppositions with Classical Dispensationalism (although usually without the premillennialism), Volker says "It understands the Mosaic Law to be a legal covenant that demands perfect obedience in order to receive the promised blessings" (Defining New Covenant Theology). "There is no grace in the law covenant made at Sinai" (Reisinger 83). "God intended from all eternity that Israel experience the condemning results of the Old Covenant" (Volker, The Mosaic Covenant is a Gracious Covenant [the covenant but not the law, for in the same article he says, "The Mosaic Law is not a gracious covenant"]) "This Law was never meant for the real people of God" (Volker, The Law of Christ). "This new covenant, not like the covenant made with the people through Moses, would be of grace, not of works; radical, not external;..." (Seiver [quoting Hughes], THE CROSS: The Heart of New Covenant Theology). In the law, remission of sins was carnal and earthly for "Israel's adoption, redemption, calling, etc., were only external, typical, blessings" (Seiver, ibid.).From this point of view, the law has nothing to do with grace, but is the direct opposite. "According to our opponents, [Moses] performed no other office than to induce carnal folk to worship God by promising them fertile fields and an abundance of all things. Yet, unless we willfully shun the proffered light, we already possess a clear affirmation of the spiritual covenant" (Calvin, Institutes II, X 15).
First let us observe that prior to the giving of the Law on Sinai, God says that Abraham had already "obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Gen 26:5). Indeed, "the work of the law [is] written in their hearts" (Romans 2:15) and "what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them...so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:19, 20). Moses was already making known "the statutes of God and His law" before he came to Mount Sinai. The "conditions" of obedience are not new in the Law. As for sacrifices, when Moses told Pharaoh the people needed to "serve the Lord," (Ex 7:16; 8:1), Pharaoh rightly understood it to mean make sacrifices:
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God in the land." And Moses said," It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us?" (Ex 8:25, 26; Ex 5:3).
Again this was before the Mosaic law and covenant were given, that the people were to go sacrifice to the Lord. Already they are pointed backward to Abrahams covenant and faith in the God who provides, and forward to Christ the true sacrifice. The exodus of the children of Israel is said to be by virtue of Gods covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: "So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them" (Ex 2:24,25). We are also told that "the law which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect" (Gal 3:17).
The law which attended the promise (to Abraham) has not made this promise powerless or neutralized it, but rather has taken it up and rendered service in its development and fulfillment. The promise is the main point, the law is subordinate; one is the end, the other the means; not in the law, but in the promise is the kernel of God's revelation and the heart of Israel's religion (Bavinck, Magnalia Dei 80).5
So the patriarchs understood the necessity of doing those things that God commanded, "My voice...My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Gen 26:5). The children of Israel were learning these things as well as the Passover Rite (which Delitzsch sees as a real sacrifice 60), from Moses before the covenant was given at Mount Sinai, not as a works salvation, but to show sin more clearly and to point to Christ! "When we read of the law entering and see its ability to point out sin, our minds should race quickly to Him who is 'the end of the law for righteousness to him that believes'"(Zaspel, The Theology of Fulfillment). Vos points out that the people were redeemed from Egypt before the law, "Particularly their taking possession of the promised land could not have been made dependent on previous observance of the law. For during their journey in the wilderness many of its prescripts could not be observed. It is plain, then, that law-keeping did not figure at that juncture as the meritorious ground of life-inheritance" (Biblical Theology 127). Even after Israel's many failures and being thrust out of the land, God "takes Israel back into favour...after due chastisement and repentance" (ibid. 128). After showing beyond doubt that the gospel was present in the Old Testament, Vos sums up: "Nor was this gospel-element contained exclusively in the revelation that preceded, accompanied, and followed the law; it is found in the law itself. That which we call 'the legal system' is shot though with strands of gospel and grace and faith. Especially the ritual law is rich in them. Every sacrifice and every lustration proclaimed the principle of grace. Had it been otherwise, then the idea of positive, vital continuity would have to be abandoned. There would be conflict and opposition instead. Such is the Gnostic position, but it is not the view either of the Old testament itself, or of Paul, or of the Church theology" (ibid. 129). In light of the gracious gift of the sacrificial system in the Mosaic covenant, which shows man's sin and points to Christ, we cannot agree with Seiver who says, "God intended the old covenant to have a condemning and killing effect. It could only grant life to those who kept it perfectly" (THE CROSS: The Heart of New Covenant Theology). We agree that the law cannot grant life at all since only God can do that, but God shows his grace even in the law by means of the propitiation of the sacrifices.
The difference between the law and the promise was not one of kind but of degree. The law did not demand obedience and righteousness of men to whom obedience and righteousness were quite unknown as the condition of blessedness. The Flood, which destroyed the whole human race except for one righteous man and his family, had made known the righteous judgments of God centuries before the time of Abraham. Paul tells us plainly that sin entered into the world "through the disobedience of one man," which carries us back to Adam and the Fall. The difference between the law and the promise does not, therefore, consist in this, that under the promise men were saved without obedience and under the law they are saved because of obedience...The difference lay in this, that the law made the will of God more plain by stating it in terms of definite commands, "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not"; and that by the very severity of its requirements it exposed more fully the sinfulness of mans heart and his alienation from God. Because of this the law made elaborate provision for atonement for sins done in ignorance and frailty, and so by doing pointed forward to the Cross. The great teaching of the Levitical law is that, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission" (Lev. xvii. 11; cf. Heb ix 22) (Allis, Prophesy and the Church 37-38).
"But what about the book of Isaiah?" some may ask. Didn't God say He didn't really want sacrifices? Some Liberals go so far as to say that this is a new development in Israel which contradicts the prior revelation of God given in the Law. Isaiah says:
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to me. I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1:10-15).
It should be obvious to anyone reading the passage that God has not changed His mind about sacrifices or his law. Isaiah says, "Give ear to the law of our God." The problem is the hypocrisy of the people. "The very rites ordained by God himself, and once acceptable to him. had, through the sin of those who used them, become irksome and disgusting" (J. A. Alexander, The Prophecies of Isaiah 87). Since the atonement of Christ also purchases sanctification for His people, this type of behaviour makes the sacrifices "futile" because they no longer point to Christ. We see in the Romish mass, something not unlike this. Unjustified men partake of the "sacrifice" and go their own way to their destruction, "since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:6).
In the place of sound theology it is not uncommon to have slogans that on the surface sound holy and wonderful. A good example is "Christ is the only acceptable sacrifice" to God or for sin. Certainly there is much truth in this statement, "for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). But without clarification, it misrepresents the truth and even lends itself to the idea of contradictions in the Scriptures. We have seen over and over again the many sacrifices that were indeed acceptable to God. He commanded them and was well pleased with them. We are told to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1). The truth contained in the above slogan is that all well-pleasing sacrifices are only so because they point to Christ, the one true sacrifice. "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13,14)
Behold, God being the wellspring of all righteousness, sheweth himself an enemy of all sin. But sin dwelleth in us: therefore must God needs be at open war with us, and his vengeance must light upon us, yea and tarry upon us forever; and there is no shift to escape from it, but by resorting to the Sacrifice whereby we have been once reconciled unto him. And therefore let us mark, that we be so much the less to be excused nowadays, after that Christ hath suffered his death and passion, if we think to be acquitted before God by any other means, than by the cleansing which Christ hath made,[or for any other cause] than for that he hath made satisfaction for us, to discharge us of the condemnation of death wherein we were. Then if we seek to obtain mercy...we must always bear in mind the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the sacrifice of our redemption and atonement (Calvin, Sermons on Job 745).
Continuity of the Church and Salvation
There is a "family squabble" between Dispensationalism and NCT regarding the church or the people of God. Dispensationalists regard physical Israel as the true people of God, with whom God must finish his dealings, that is, fulfill the promises literally. The New Testament church is a parenthesis in Gods plan, and as such the church has nothing to do with Israel, and is a totally and completely new thing. "The existence of this present age, which was to interrupt Gods established program with Israel was a mystery" (Pentecost, Things to Come 135). Old Testament saints are not included in the church. Israel is "the wife of God," but the church is "the bride of Christ." Older Dispensationalism, being very consistent, went so far as to teach that people were saved in different ways in the various Dispensations. In the Dispensation of Conscience, they were saved by obeying their conscience; in the age of Law and in the future kingdom age, people are saved by obeying the Law; in the age of grace (the church age) salvation is by grace. Most modern Dispensationalists have dropped this distinction and maintain that the Old Testament Saints looked forward to the cross, but they are still not part of the church. This is also true of progressive dispensationalism.
Like earlier dispensationalists, progressive dispensationalists view the church as a new manifestation of grace, a new dispensation in the history of redemption. Earlier dispensationalists viewed the church as a completely different kind of redemption from that which had been revealed before or would be revealed in the future. The church then had its own future separate from the redemption promised to Jews and Gentile in the past and future dispensations. Progressive dispensationalists, however, while seeing the church as a new manifestation of grace, believe that this grace is precisely in keeping with the promises of the Old Testament, particularly the promises of the new covenant in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The fact that these blessings have been inaugurated in the church distinguishes the church from Jews and Gentiles of the past dispensation (Progressive Dispensationalism 49).
A recent booklet, however, called Millions Disappear: fact or fiction? gives the old school advice of "what to do in case you miss the rapture" (22). Part two says "Start working your way to heaven" (23). We are also told to "Die as a martyr" (26) and "Support the Jewish people" (28). The main point is: "It will take faith in Christs shed blood, plus works—exactly as in the Old Testament" (26). Again, this is the old view and is not held by most Dispensationalists, but even the new view of salvation held by Dispensationalists cannot consistently say all the elect are saved in the same way. Since the Old Testament Saints are not in the church, they are also not "in Christ" as we shall shortly see. "Indeed, that wonderful rascal Servetus and certain madmen of the Anabaptist sect...regard the Israelites as nothing but a herd of swine...For they babble of the Israelites as fattened by the Lord on this earth without any hope of heavenly immortality" (Calvin, Institutes II, X 1). Some revised dispensationalism does give Israel a heavenly hope by putting them in heaven with the church in the final state or by putting the church in the "new earth" with the Old Testament saints. "Progressive dispensationalism offers a more unified view of the biblical covenants than earlier dispensationalism" (Progressive Dispensationalism 53) and also more unified than New Covenant Theology. For progressive dispensationalism, "the Mosaic dispensation is a progression in dispensational history...and it provided the means for blessing an entire nation and, through them, all the peoples of the earth" (ibid 151).
New Covenant Theology "views the nation of Israel as a picture of the people of God but not the real thing" (Volker, Defining New Covenant Theology). "The Church is the true Israel of God" (Volker, An Overview Of New Covenant Theology) and as such the (unfulfilled) Old Testament prophecies apply only to the church and not to Israel. "Israel had the promises; we enjoy the fulfillment" (Seiver, The New Covenant in Promise and Fulfillment)."The real thing" is the New Covenant Church that would appear at Pentecost. "The day of Pentecost (Acts 2) inaugurated the beginning of the Church, the New Covenant people of God..." (ibid).6 "Since you already had the people of God (Israel) in picture form there was no need to bring in the true people of God until the appointed time (the New Covenant era - inaugurated at Pentecost)" (Volker, An Overview Of New Covenant Theology). "Though He [God] granted blessings to Israel under that covenant, those blessings were only typical of the true, spiritual blessings that result from the mediatorial work of Christ. God could not grant the antitypical blessings until one came who could meet the terms of the covenant" (Seiver, THE CROSS: The Heart of New Covenant Theology). These statements seem to imply that "In the law, remission of sins was carnal and earthly" (Servetus, Christianismi restitutio, quoted in the footnotes of Calvins Institutes 429). Notice that also for NCT the church is a totally and completely new thing. The church as "the New Covenant people of God" does not include Old Testament saints unless they were added in after the church supposedly began at Pentecost. NCT would like to maintain as true that all the elect are saved in the same way, but they have the same problem as Dispensationalism. Reisinger is very clear that Old Testament saints were not "in Christ," or "baptized into the body of Christ", (61-65,esp. 62). We (the New Covenant believers) are saved by becoming "part of the body of Christ," which Reisinger says is the same as being "in Christ" (ibid.), but the Old Testament believers are not saved by becoming part of the body of Christ.
Are all believers today, without exception, "in Christ?" Yes, beyond question...Is being "in Christ" and being part of "the body of Christ" the same thing? Yes, they are interchangeable statements...How does one get into the body of Christ? We are "baptized into the body of Christ" by the Holy Spirit...Were believers living prior to Pentecost also, at that time, "baptized into the body of Christ" and given the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of Adoption? No, because such an experience was impossible prior to the personal advent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. (Reisinger, Abrahams Four Seeds 62).
"Who, then, dares to separate the Jews from Christ, since with them, we hear, was made the covenant of the gospel, the sole foundation of which is Christ?" (Calvin, Institutes II, X, 4). A little logic would show that for Reisinger, Old and New Testament saints must be saved in different ways. It is easy to see why Reisinger disparages logic as a "good mistress but a very bad master"(ibid. page i)!
Let us look at some passages in Scripture to find out if these things are so. We learn in Hebrews 11:23-25 that Moses "refused to be called the son of Pharaohs daughter...esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt," but according to NCT he was not "in Christ." All the faithful mentioned in Hebrews 11, we are told, "did not receive the promise...that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (vss. 39,40). And yet according to Reisinger, they are apart from us in not being in the church and in Christ with us. In Cor 10:1-5 we read that all those with Moses "drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased."7 Those with whom God was not well pleased, no doubt did not have faith. The others who both had faith and drank from Christ, we are told by Reisinger, are not part of his body and are not "in Christ." "If any one does not have the Spirit of Christ he is not his" (Rom 8:9). Can someone who is not "in Christ" (which must mean he is outside of Christ) have the Spirit of Christ? If not, then according to NCT and Dispensationalism, Moses, Abraham and David are not Christs! And what about Simeon in Luke 2:25-35? "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Ghost that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (vs.26). And were Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist not "in Christ"? And what about the thief on the cross who according to NCT died before the church existed? We affirm with historical Christianity that they were "in Christ" as all the elect must be.
Lets now look at Romans 5, the locus classicus for the doctrine of original sin. For a fuller treatment see Hodge's Commentary on Romans, in loc. For our purpose we will look at verse 18: "Therefore, as through one mans offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Mans righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life." As Steele and Thomas point out, this verse taken literally teaches universalism which contradicts the rest of Scripture (Romans: An Interpretive Outline in loc.), for we know that at the very least Judas is in hell. "It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matt 26:24). Therefore, the verse needs some qualification in order to make sense. The simplest way is to understand that Paul is talking about all men who are "in Adam" in the one case (namely all humans except Christ), and all people who are "in Christ" in the other case (namely all the elect). C. K. Barrett puts it this way:
There are two ways of looking at men. They may be considered "in Adam" (cf. I Cor. xv.22); that is, viewed as independent, self-explanatory persons, members of a race which has cut itself off from its Creator and wages war against him. This is the natural way of looking at the race, and the way in which it is natural for the race to consider itself. Viewed and understood in these terms it can have one end only. But is is also possible (by faith, for this is no human possibility) to see mankind "in Christ" (cf. I Cor. xv. 2), the new Man. Men are then clothed in a righteousness which is not their own, and in virtue of it they can and will be justified. (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 166,117)
Also of interest is II Corinthians 5:14-21. Starting at the end of verse 14 we read, "if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." Compare Romans 6:7, "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him." We again have the idea of being "in Christ." One died for all who are in Him, (his elect), all who are in Him died with Him. No one died with Him except those for whom he was the Federal (covenantal) Head. This has been the Reformed way of looking at these passages, but for NCT, it must be abandoned if they continue to hold that Old Testament saints are not "in Christ." There must be another class of people who are not "in Christ," for whom Christ did not die, but are, nevertheless saved. This thought is consistent in older Dispensationalism and this pitfall cannot be avoided in any reasonable way if a radical discontinuity of the church is maintained. Perhaps the NCT explanation should be to qualify what it means for "the free gift [to come] to all men, resulting in justification of life" rather than to qualify who is meant by using the terms "all in Adam" contrasted with "all in Christ." They could agree with the Lutherans or Arminians and say what determines salvation is whether man rejects (according to the Lutherans who say faith is a gift of God, but man can veto it), or accepts (according to the Arminians, who say faith is mans gift to God), the free gift which has really come to every man (or for the Lutherans, every man in the church). This way the idea of being "in Christ" need not be present, at least in this passage, since the free gift is fully universal. Perhaps they would also not need to hold on to the idea of immediate imputation and that could clear away some of the inconsistencies from their theology, but would also greatly impoverish soteriology for the sake of holding on to their radical discontinuity. We prefer to say, however, that all the elect were bought by Christs blood. They died with Him who died for them, and they, and no one else, were all "in Christ," that is, they are part of His body, which is the church.
Another problem with Reisinger's doctrine is how it must logically view election. Paul tells us that God
has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Him (eis auton, not 'eauton), according to the good pleasure of His Will...(Ephesians 1:3-5).
Notice that election is "in Christ." If Reisinger is consistent, he must limit this election to "us" the New Covenant believers because, according to him, Old Testament believers are not "in Christ." I'll let the reader ponder what this does to our Reformed doctrine of Predestination. The Gentiles whom Paul describes as "now in Christ" (Ephesians 2:13) were once "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). Now being in Christ, the opposite is true. They are no longer "without Christ." They are no longer "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel." How strange it would be that the Old Testament believers who were not "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" should not be "in Christ" and "chosen in Christ" just as the Gentiles were! They are also no longer "strangers from the covenants of promise." Notice he doesn't say covenant but covenants in the plural. Which covenants does he mean? They are no longer "hopeless and atheists in the world." This being "in Christ" looks the same as being a believer in the Old Testament. Zaspel points out in regard to Romans 11, "In keeping with the tree analogy, we must say that there is a very real unity between Israel and the church. This would be in contradiction to the traditional dispensational teaching, but the fact remains that there is but one tree. And in this tree the two are brought together into one, and that with a common root" (Jews, Gentiles, & the Goal of Redemptive History). "Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ" (John Murray, Redemption -Accomplished and Applied 161).
Volker also maintains that "Truths such as justification and sanctification are not clearly found in the Old Testament era" (An Overview of New Covenant Theology). This seems to be a very rash statement. We find as early as Genesis 15:6 that Abraham "believed in the Lord and He accounted (or imputed) it to Him for righteousness." What else is justification than the imputation of righteousness? And whose righteousness was it, but Christs, who also died for Abraham who was "in Him"? And David says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity" (Psalm 32:1,2) and, likewise, "Blot out my transgressions" (Psalm 51:1). Since Volker elsewhere admits that the "Abrahamic Covenant introduces justification by faith alone" (ibid), one is led to think he doubts the perspicuity of these passages. I dont see how anyone can say that the doctrine of justification is not clear in these passages. "The New is indeed in the Old, but its 'concealment' there is not a very secret one! He is there--everywhere. We learn just as easily from the NT writers that we simply cannot read the OT without seeing Jesus" (Zaspel, The Theology of Fulfillment). Even those who neglect reading the Old Testament should know this since Paul uses two of these examples in Romans 4. See also Delitzsch, page 26 (quoted earlier in this essay) regarding Adams faith. As for sanctification, if it is not taught in Psalm 51:2, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin" (that is, if some insist it refers to justification rather than sanctification), it is most surely and clearly proclaimed in verse 10, which I shall quote for those unfamiliar with the Psalms. "Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
Some OT scholars have argued that we should read and study the OT on its own terms. That is, we should seek to understand it by itself without "reading back" into it from the NT. There is a sense, of course, where that is right. But what Jesus seems to be emphasizing in these passages is that we in this age should be able to read the OT better than that. There is the matter of "historical-grammatical" interpretation, to be sure. But if "historical-grammatical" leaves out the Christological focus, it is deficient. In fact, Jesus seems to be implying that this is how the OT could always have been read! "Moses wrote of me . . . Abraham saw my day" seem to insist that the NT "revelation" is precisely the message of the OT (Zaspel, The Theology of Fulfillment).
One must also wonder at these statements, "Justification is pictured in the sacrificial system of the nation of Israel. Sanctification is pictured in the holiness laws of the nation of Israel" and the statement that "Israel [is] only a picture of the real people of God that is revealed in the New Covenant era" (Seminar Notes on New Covenant Theology). This "picture system" seems to be dangerously close to the symbolic theory of atonement which sees the sacrifices as merely pictures of sanctification and favour, rather than as vicarious. Vos describes it thus:
According to it [the purely symbolic theory] the sacrificial process exhibits in a picture certain things that must be done to the offerer, and that can and will be done to him with the proper effect. The picture as a mere picture, must needs remain within the sphere of subjectivity; it exhibits in no way what must take place outside of man for him, but only what takes place within him; we, therefore, call this the purely symbolic theory. Speaking in dogmatic language we might say, that on this view of the matter sacrifice is a pictorial representation of such things as sanctification and return to favour of God. The utmost that this theory could possibly concede would be, that the ritual perhaps depicts some objective obligation, that might have been imposed upon man, of which by way of a lesson he is reminded in the sacrifice, but which is not further carried out or enacted from man, not even symbolically, in the further process. This interpretation of the sacrificial procedure lies on the line of the moral and governmental theories of the atonement [rather than the symbolico-vicarious] (Biblical Theology 159-160).
There are of course differences; namely that the "purely symbolic theory" has a sacrifice that is to the offerer certainly not objective but at least subjective. But the NCT theory doesnt seem to have anything to do with the contemporary offerer (objective or subjective), since the sacrifice is seen as only a picture, not primarily for the benefit of the offerer, but for the benefit of New Covenant believers.
Continuity of the Covenants
NCT must also reject the Reformed idea of the Federal Headship of Adam, which is based on Romans 5. They can only logically and consistently accept him as our natural head, although some still want to hold on to the doctrine of immediate imputation of Adams sin (at least for now), because the imputation of Christs righteousness is also rightly said to be immediate. There is no doubt that Adam was the natural head. The idea of Adam as only a natural head, however, seems to be excluded since "children shall not be put to death for their fathers" (Deut: 24:16), and if he is the natural head only, this seems to imply that original sin was imputed in a natural way through the body, unless the theory of Traducianism is adopted, which says souls were propagated by souls. Traducianism has found favor among the Lutherans, and also some Reformed writers, who still, nevertheless, hold to the immediate imputation of Adams sin. Gordon Clark is a recent example, but he is also a Federalist (The Biblical View of Man 45 f.). Calvin holds to a "mystic Realism" (Berkhof quoting Thornwell, 211) in his view of original sin, but Calvin does NOT commit himself to Traducianism. "No anxious discussion is needed to understand this question...whether the sons soul proceeds by derivation [tradux] from the fathers soul" (Institutes II,1,vii, page 249), "for the contagion does not take its origin from the substance of the flesh or soul, but because it had been so ordained by God that the first man should at one and the same time have and lose, both for himself and for his descendants, the gifts that God had bestowed upon him" (250). About Romans 5:12, Calvin says, "But to sin in this case ["for that all have sinned"], is to become corrupt and vicious" (Commentary on Romans, in loc.), which shows he did not hold consistently to the Realist view (which says "all have sinned," not "become corrupt and vicious," but actually sinned, in the person of Adam [cf. Hebrews 7:9]) but more to a "sovereign imputation" view, which very naturally leads to Federal Headship. See Shedds discussion for a more consistent view of Realism (Commentary on Romans 120-135) which, contradicts Calvin in saying, "but the doctrine that the posterity of Adam are gratuitously condemned would be both absurd and impious" (ibid.127). Realism, when coupled with Traducianism, which although not explaining the absolute need for immediate imputation of Adams sin in itself, would not imply the Dualist idea of matter being evil which must be the case if Adams sin is physically transmitted. Without committing oneself to Traducianism and/or Realism (at least to Realism, which I think is the only way out for NCT. But would consistency necessitate Traducianism? See the Searching Together article Imputation, by E. W. Johnson, who favors Realism), the question still exists, as to how Adam represented his people in a way other than as the Natural Head. The (Post-Reformation) Reformed way of putting the picture together has been to see that, since Christ is the Federal (covenantal) Head of all who are "in Christ," it makes sense in light of the parallelism in Romans 5, that Adam must be the Federal (covenantal) Head of all who are in Adam. John Bunyan, no doubt agrees, although he starts with Adam. "For as the first covenant was made with the first Adam, so was the second covenant made with the second; for these are and were the two great public persons, or representatives of the whole world, as to the first and second covenants" (The Doctrine of Law and Grace Unfolded 93). To accept this would mean to embrace the idea of a prelapsarian covenant with Adam, because if Adam is the Covenantal Head, there must have been a covenant in which he was involved. Van Leeuwen, in his commentary on Romans 5:12 says,
... then here is pointed not only to the organic relation of the entire human race with Adam as the head of the race, as ancestor, but then in these words of Paul is also incorporated the relation of the whole of humanity with Adam as the covenant head: his obligation applies to all, in his disobedience all are affected, compare verse 19. (De Brief aan de Romeinen 90)8
One cannot consistently embrace Federalism without holding to Covenant Theology,9 despite what Volker says: "I very much agree with federalism in regard to original sin and our salvation, but I do not agree that holding to federalism necessarily forces you to embrace Covenant Theology" (e-mail communication, 19 December 98). One of the problems is very simply that of defining terms. When I asked Volker how he defined "federalism," he gave me this answer:
I define Federalism as representation. That is the method that God used to save (Romans 5:12-19). I agree that federalism is generally a basic building block of Covenant Theology, but we know of covenant theologians ex. Shedd) who embrace realism for original sin. (sic.; e-mail, 19 December 98)
It is obvious to anyone who has studied Reformed Theology or historical doctrine that this definition is very incomplete. First, Federalism is not merely "representation," but rather, covenantal representation, which is based on Federal (Covenant) Theology (Berkhof 238-239). "To the natural relationship in which Adam stood to his descendants God graciously added a covenant relationship..." (ibid 242). A. A. Hodge rightly says
The essence of redemption lies in the fact that Christ was justly punished for our sins as federally responsible for them, and that we are justly justified on the ground of his obedience, because by the terms of his covenant with the Father the rewardableness that the guilt or obligation to punishment, accruing from Adam's sin to us, is by the terms of the covenant justly ours, and hence that native depravity and all other natural evils are justly inflicted upon us as the punishment of that sin (The Atonement 93-94).
There is no "federal" representation without a covenant. The term itself came from the "Federal Theology" of the Post-Reformation Dogmaticians, who insisted that the reason Adams descendants have his sin imputed to them is "because Adam was the head of the whole human race and the first party to the covenant;" and, in like manner, "because all men were in the same covenant along with Adam, therefore they broke the covenant along with him" (Braun in Heppe 332). John Owen says the act of imputation "may be done upon a double relation unto those whose they are, 1. Federal. 2. Natural. Things done by one may be imputed unto others, propter relationem foederalem, because of a covenant relation between them. So the sin of Adam was imputed unto all his posterity. And the ground hereof is, that we stood in the same covenant with him who was our head and representative" (quoted by Hodge in A Commentary on Romans 179). Secondly, that Shedd held to Realism has nothing to do with this issue. It doesn't matter if Shedd is a Covenant Theologian who embraces Realism. That does not change the definition of Federalism (or Federal Headship), which comes from the Latin foeder, foedus meaning covenant. Volker may well keep his undeveloped doctrine of "representation," but it is misleading to call it Federalism. The kind of blunder that Volker made could only happen in America! Even educated people might think the word means "representation" when they think about the Federal Government of the United States of America. Since the people are represented, "federal" must mean "representation," they falsely conclude. The word "federal," like the word "confederation," has nothing to do with representation, but rather both words have to do with a compact or agreement, a binding. The Dutch word verbond has these meanings in English: alliance, coalition, federation, league, union, pact, covenant. The only representation federalism allows must be based on the idea of a compact or covenant. It is very irresponsible for a pastor to use a word so carelessly, especially when it is a technical term in theology. This is like the Arminian pastor who believes "once saved/always saved" calling himself a Calvinist! It would be good if those in positions of authority would be more careful about the language they use, since teachers "receive a stricter judgment" (James 3:1).10
The idea of a Covenant of Works in contrast to a Covenant of Grace seems to be unique to Reformed Theology, but not to the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Baptist creeds based on it. It is also explicit in the Formula Consensus Helvetica and is seen in the Dutch Reformed Systematic Theology of Louis Berkhof. The Irish Articles of Religion (1615) say,
Man being at the beginning created according to the image of God (which consisted especially in the wisdom of his mind and the true holiness of his free will), had the covenant of the law ingrafted in his heart, whereby God did promise unto him everlasting life upon condition that he performed entire and perfect obedience unto his Commandments, according to that measure of strength wherewith he was endued in his creation, and threatened death unto him if he did not perform the same (Article 21).
Even the London Confession  which was not based on the WCF hints at the idea where it says, "Jesus Christ onely is made the Mediator of the new Covenant, even the everlasting Covenant of grace between God and Man..." (Article X). The word "everlasting" here must mean eternal because Jesus "was fore-ordained from everlasting..." (Article XI). The Confession is explicit about a pre-temporal covenant being made between the Father and Son: "none takes this honour but he that is called of God, as was Aaron, so also Christ, it being an action especially of God the Father, whereby a special covenant being made, hee ordains his Sonne to this office: which covenant is that Christ should be made a Sacrifice for sinne..." (Article XII). The ordaining of "his Sonne to this office" is done by means of "a special covenant." This is not the same as the "everlasting Covenant of grace between God and Man" which is based on this special covenant between the Father and Son. This is no doubt the same distinction made between the Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace in classical Covenant Theology. This should show that even this confession has its roots in Covenant Theology, rather than in Anabaptist thought. John Bunyan also held to a "covenant which was made between the Father and the Son before the world began" (The Doctrine of Law and Grace Unfolded 92).
Historically, the use of the word "covenant" in reference to Genesis 3 goes back a long way. In the Apocryphal book called Ecclesiasticus it is written, "All flesh waxeth old as a garment: for the covenant from the beginning is, thou shalt die the death" (14:17, 1611 KJV) which was possibly influenced by the literal meaning of Hosea 6:7: "But like Adam they transgressed the covenant." Augustine uses the word "covenant" to refer to the relation God had with Adam. "But even the infants, not personally in their own life, but according to the common origin of the human race, have all broken Gods covenant in that one in whom all have sinned" and "For the first covenant, which was made with the first man, is just this: In the day you eat thereof, ye shall die the death" (City of God, Book XVI, chapter 27). The doctrine is not developed in the scholastic literature or even in Calvin, but "all the elements which later on went into the construction of the doctrine of the covenant of works were already present" (Berkhof 211). Even The New Scofield Reference Bible uses the word "covenant" to describe both Adam's relation with God in Eden and the promise of the protevangelium: "The first or Edenic Covenant required the following responsibilities of Adam..."(5), and "The Adamic covenant conditions the life of fallen man..." (7).
The need for development of doctrinal truth is evident from all history. The doctrines of the Trinity, the Person and Nature of Christ, Mans Depravity, and the Atonement (especially particular atonement) were developed in much greater detail throughout the centuries after Christ, but they are not novums. They strive to give greater clarity to what has been said before. The doctrine of a covenant of works is in no sense a novum. It seeks not to repudiate or abandon the old paths, as does Dispensationalism, but rather, to advance the age old doctrines of the church in a more consistent way. It is the systematizing of the history of redemption, in particular the need for a Savior.
We can look at the relation of God to Adam as an "arrangement" or a "disposition" that was sovereignly imposed on Adam. Adam being the creature was duty bound to obey God without any hope of reward or even friendship with God. "When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). But God the transcendent one chose to condescend to Adam. There is little doubt that Adam had by nature in his conscience a sense of the law (Rom 1:19,20; 2:14, 15).
Without a doubt Adam had the most perfect law. Now the most perfect law is the law of love, and this is the law of the ten Commandments. Matt. 22:37-39. So then, Adam had the law of the ten Commandments. 2. The law that the heathen had and which is a remainder of the law that Adam had in his nature, is the same as the law of the ten Commandments, with all consent; so then the law of Adam is the law of the Ten Commandments. 3. This is seen in Rom. 8:3, mentioned above. There Paul speaks of a law, calling it without further description "the law." Without hesitation that is the law of the ten Commandments; now the law had Adam in its power, the same law which after the fall was powerless as was shown. So Adam had the law of the Ten Commandments. 4. There is only one holiness, because holiness is the image of God, which is one. So also is the law one, because the perfect agreement of man with the law of the ten Commandments is holiness; thus Adam in his perfection had the ten Commandments as his law as far as the content is concerned. (W. a Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst Eerste Deel 295 [EV vol 1, 359]).11
John Bunyan agrees: "Therefore the law given before by the Lord to Adam and his posterity, is the same with that afterwards given on Mount Sinai" (The Doctrine of Law and Grace 21).
In the prohibition about the fruit, Adam was given "an outward and positive commandment; something wrong simply because it is forbidden, and not evil in its own nature" (Hodge, Volume II 119). The breaking of the command, however, was a violation of more than one of the Ten Commandments. Tertullian tries to show that they all were violated in this one action (Heppe 303). Certainly the first was violated, since Adam put himself in the place of God as the one who determines right from wrong. He disobeyed his Father, coveted and stole that which was not his, believed a lie and in so doing murdered himself and his descendants. The price for rebellion was death, which means in Scripture, first, separation from God, later, a separation of the soul from the body, and finally eternal separation from God unless a remedy is found. This implies that had he not rebelled he would have life. That life was either the same natural life he was created with, or more likely, in parallel with death, eventually eternal life with God (Romans 5:6).
"The elements of a covenant are present in the early narrative," namely, "two parties are mentioned, a condition is laid down, a promise of reward for obedience is clearly implied, and a penalty for transgression is threatened" (Berkhof 213). "(God's) covenant work is (a) To give a law. (b) To promise bliss and threaten damnation. (c) To set up a 'sealing tree' and a probation tree. " 12 (W. a Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst Eerste Deel 293 [EV vol. 1, 356]). The main objection is that the word "covenant" is not used in the narrative. But neither is the word "sin." Knapp points out that "In the Mosaic account of the fall, and in the Old Testament generally, the imputation of Adams sin is not mentioned under the term imputation, although the doctrine is contained therein" (quoted by Hodge, Commentary on Romans 154). Also the word "redemption... does not occur until the Mosaic period" (Vos, Biblical Theology 41) but none would be mad enough to say that Abraham was not redeemed. These objectors, however, are in no way consistent with this idea. The Greek word ekklesia (church) is used in Acts 7:38 to describe Israel, but, the objectors assure us, its the idea not the word that counts. And we have already noticed that Hosea 6:7 uses the exact word "covenant" with the exact word "Adam," albeit translators take the singular adam as a collective noun for "mankind." The "arrangement" God had with Adam certainly resembles a covenant, and his sin is parallel with Christs righteousness in what it does and how it does it.
So then, the likeness of Adams transgression is in us, because we must die, as if we had sinned in the same way as he. And the likeness of Christs justification is in us, because we have life, as if we had done justice in the same way as he. Because of this likeness, therefore, Adam "is a figure of him who was to come," namely, of Christ who came after him. (Luther, Lectures on Romans 173)
Notice even in Luther, a non-Realist imputation ("as if we..."), the seed which has led to Federalism. Indeed Luther translates Hosea 6:7, "Aber sie uebertreten den Bund, wie Adam; darin verachten sie mich" and there is a cross-reference to "1 Mos. 3,6 " (Gen 3:6). "There may still be some doubt as to the propriety of the name Covenant of Works, but there can be no valid objection to the covenant idea" (Berkhof 214). Even NCT adherents and Dispensationalists use theological terms not found in scripture: trinity, limited atonement, irresistible grace, total depravity, unconditional election, perseverance of the saints, federalism, transcendence, immanence, hypostatical union, millennium, traducianism, vicarious atonement, etc. Most of these are based on ideas in scripture,and some have the exact words, although not used together. Covenant of Grace and Covenant of Works are no exceptions. The individual words are scriptural words, but more importantly, the ideas are contained in scripture.
Lets take a look at how man merits anything from God and why salvation must be by grace alone. We start out with what looks like a contradiction to the last statement: Salvation is by works, that is doing perfectly everything that the law says. "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48).
"God...will render to each one according to his deeds"[Psalm 62:12, which is very "evangelical"]: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality; but to those who do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified) (Romans 2:5b-13).
This is true even now. But where was this instituted if not in the creation of man and the "arrangement" God imposed upon Adam? Remember, already Abraham needed to be justified by faith, and even Abel needed to propitiate God with a "more excellent sacrifice" (Heb 11:4). However, if you could convince God that you have done perfectly all the things of His law, you would, no doubt be accepted. The heretic Pelagius saw clearly that "the doers of the law will be justified," but he did not see that since the fall of Adam no one can keep the law. Indeed he did not see that our natures were corrupt and that we had already broken the law in Adam (Romans 5) when he sinned in the Garden of Eden (Seeberg, Vol I 332 f). The original "arrangement" with Adam was left unfulfilled and incomplete, but the "second Adam" came to complete what Adams sinful race could not do. This shows a continuity between the "arrangement" God had with Adam, and the Covenant of Christ! "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good of bad" (2 Cor 5:10). Praise be to God that we have the imputation of Christs righteousness when we stand for judgment, so God sees us as being righteous, for "by one Mans obedience many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19). A misunderstanding of this leads to other errors as W. a Brakel observes:
Much relies on knowing this, because those who err in this regard, or deny this Covenant of Works, won't understand the Covenant of Grace, and somewhat err in the surety of the Lord Jesus, and especially somewhat deny that Christ has rightly earned eternal life for the elect through his immediate obedience, as we see in different parties who because of their errors in the latter, also deny the former. Therefore, he who denies the Covenant of Works is rightly suspected of holding that there is also something amiss in the Covenant of Grace.13 (Redelijke Godsdienst 293 [EV vol 1, 355]).
God made a covenant with Abraham. The main promise, clearly, is not the giving of the land, "for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:10), but rather, the main promise was "to be God to you and your descendants after you" (Gen 17:7). Who are the descendants of Abraham according to Paul? "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham" (Gal 3:7). "So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham" (vs 9). "If you are Christs, then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise" (vs 29). This shows the continuity of Abrahams covenant with Christs. As for the law, we know that Abrahams covenant was still in force during the Mosaic dispensation, for "the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect" (Gal 3:17). "The law and promise aspect of Gods covenant relationship with his people do not violate each other. Deuteronomy 29:13-14 shows the Sinactic Covenant was an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant, both of which are called here a sworn covenant. The Sinai renewal merely stressed mans responsibility where the Abrahamic Covenant emphasized Gods promise" (Elmer Smick in Harris, et. al., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. I 129). The law is not "against the promises of God" (Gal 3:21), but the perversion of the law as a means of righteousness most definitely is. And this applies also to the "Law of Christ" (defined by NCT as only those rules set forth in the New Testament) that NCT says the Christian is under. "The issue is not whether or not believers in the New Covenant era are under law.14 The issue is which law are the believers under in this present era" (Volker, An Overview of New Covenant Theology). This is the same position taken by Blaising, but stated better.
The progressive dispensationalism of New Testament theology is not antinomian. For while it teaches that Mosaic covenant law has ended dispensationally, it also teaches that it has been replaced by new covenant law, and it presents this dispensational change as integral to Gods plan of redemption which affirms and fulfills the divine demand for righteousness and holiness even as it saves and eternally blesses the redeemed (Progressive Dispensationalism 199).
The "Law of Christ" is not against the promises, as they will admit, but there are people among the Campbellites, and even some Baptists, for example, who strive to be justified by the New Testament laws as a whole or by what they regard as the "New Law," namely, faith seen as their gift to God. Neonomianism is as dangerous to salvation as any other form of legalism, perhaps more so because it is so subtle. What Delitzsch says about the Mosaic Law is also applicable to the "Law of Christ":
The law curses all those who do not absolutely fulfil all its commands, and therefore leaves man only the threefold possibility, either carnally to ignore it, or to despair, or to take refuge in mercy (Old Testament History of Redemption 62).
And mercy is in Christ alone who died to secure salvation for his people. "And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt 1:21).
As for the new covenant, Bunyan is very clear that it is the same covenant of grace in Old Testament times.
So then when he saith, "The days are come, in which I will make a new covenant," it is rather to be meant a changing of the administration, a taking away of the type, the shadow, the ceremonies form the house of Israel and Judah, and relieving by the birth of Christ, and the death of Christ, and the offering of the body of him, whom God the Father had given for a ransom by covenant for the souls of the saints; and also to manifest the truth of the covenant, which was made between the Father and the Son before the world began. (The Doctrine of Law and Grace Unfolded 92).
The newness of the new covenant is not a temporal matter for Bunyan since the covenant of grace is age old. Indeed "...the new covenant was made before the world began, and also every one in all the ages was saved by virtue of that covenant; yet that covenant was never clearly manifest as at the coming, death, and resurrection of Christ" (ibid. 92-93). Bunyan, who is praised by some adherents of NCT, does not clearly see the newness of the New Covenant because he confuses the new covenant with the covenant of grace. He maintains that "these words here [Jer 31:31] are spoken, first to show rather the end of the ceremonies, than the beginning or rise of the new covenant" (ibid 92). Bunyan makes the error of confusing the Adamic and Mosaic covenants. "That [covenant] which was delivered in two tables of stone on Mount Sinai, is the very same that was given before to Adam in paradise, they running both alike. That in the garden says, Do this and live..." (ibid. 22).15 Murray rightly says, "The view that in the Mosaic covenant there was a repetition of the so-called covenant of works, current among covenant theologians, is a grave misconception and involves an erroneous construction of the Mosaic covenant, as well as fails to assess the uniqueness of the Adamic administration" (Collected Writings Volume 2 page 50). Murray states the newness of the new covenant much better than Bunyan: "(T)he spiritual relationship which lay at the centre of the covenant grace disclosed in both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenant reaches its ripest fruition in the new covenant. So great is the enhancement that a comparative contrast can be stated as if it were an absolute" (The Covenant of Grace 28).
Greg Bahnsen, after a chapter on the Continuity Between the Covenants on the Law, gives some good detail on the discontinuity, or newness of the New Covenant. "The New Covenant surpasses the Old in glory, power, realization, and finality" (By This Standard 154). He elaborates further to show the glory of the New Covenant is shown to be greater in righteousness and life as compared with condemnation and death. "The law is good—indeed ordained unto life" (ibid. 155) as Paul says, but it does not have the power to bring life to the dead. "The Old Covenant law commanded good things, but only the gospel could fully confer them; the righteousness demanded by the law was only supplied with the redemptive work of Christ" (ibid. 156). There is also a greater confidence to approach God and the glory of the New Covenant is permanent not temporary like that of the Old. As for power, the new provides "further and stronger motivation to obey the law" (ibid. 159), and that obedience is empowered by God. The New Covenant surpasses the Old in realization. The promised redemption is actually secured by Christs death. There is no longer any need for the shadows of the Old Covenant. And because this realization is universal, the people of God are redefined. No longer are Gods people confined to a certain land, "but under the New Covenant the people of God is an international body comprised of those who have faith in Christ" (ibid. 165). The finality of the New Covenant is manifested by the clarity of the new revelation and Christs life. This new revelation is efficient for every good work. There is no need that anything else be revealed. This leads to a greater responsibility on the part of New Covenant believers (ibid 167). There is a "newness" in the New Covenant, but it is based on a general continuity with the Old.
Most NCT adherents claim to be reformed because they believe in the five points of Calvinism. "Dont ever equate Covenant Theology with Reformed Theology" (Reisinger 46). This would make the early Dispensationalists such as the Plymouth Brethren and H. A. Ironside reformed because they also believed the five points of Calvinism. But no one will buy that argument. Randy Seiver is a little more thoughtful when he asks, "Should we call ourselves 'Reformed Baptists'-- a seeming contradiction in terms--even though we differ in many of our emphasis from those who use that title?" (THE CROSS: The Heart of New Covenant Theology). As we have seen, much Reformed Theology including Federal Headship and a consistent view of both election and particular atonement must be abandoned by the various schools of NCT because of their radical discontinuity. We have also noticed that not only the Reformed view, but the historical Protestant view of the Church and Israel, the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, and the meaning of the Law have all been modified in the direction of Classical Dispensationalism. In these subjects Progressive Dispensationalism is closer to the historical protestant view than is NCT. New Covenant Theology is no "reformed" theology, since even their supposed Calvinistic doctrines of anthropology and soteriology have been altered, particularly the Federal Headship of both Adam and Christ with all the "old" implications. My hope is that the proponents of NCT will see how much they have to give up of the good old theology in order to hang on to their new beliefs with any consistency.
1.Those who object to NCT being associated with Dispensationalism have no qualms about calling Arminianism "semi-Pelagianism" because, even though the Arminians may not acknowledge it, the relationship is obvious to anyone who has read even a small amount of Church history or Theology. Arminianism is no doubt a modified form of Pelagianism, although it is not derived from Pelagius himself and probably not even from his followers. But it is the name we give to the doctrine. Some Arminians may not even like being called "Arminians" either, since, they tell us, they get their doctrine from the Scriptures not from Arminius! If one were to start with Classical Dispensationalism with the "earthly promises for earthly people,"and a parenthesis around the church age, but then realizing that the spiritual is more important than the earthly, and therefore concluding that the "earthly people" were not the real people after all, they would perhaps put a parenthesis around the time of the Mosaic (earthly) covenant instead of around the church, and even apply all the OT promises to the church instead of to Israel. The result would look very much like NCT. It is more difficult to imagine modifying Covenant Theology to such an extent that the covenants are no longer dispensations of grace (some being radically different from others such as the Mosaic covenant being law with no grace) and that the church did not even exist at some time. Not only would the presupposition of basic continuity have to be rejected, but also the traditional definitions of both "church" and "covenant."
2. Het Evangelie bracht het Oude Testament mede en kon zonder dit niet aangenomen en erkend worden. Het Evangelie is immers de vervulling van de beloften des Ouden Testaments en hangt zonder deze in de lucht, en het Oude Testament is het voetstuk, waar het Evangelie op rust, de wortel, waaruit het gegroeid is. Zoodra het Evangelie ergens ingang vond, werden daarmede en daarin ook tegelijk en zonder eenige tegenspreking de Schriften des Ouden Testaments als het Woord Gods aanvaard. De Nieuw-testamentische gemeente bestond dus geen oogenblik zonder Bijbel; van den beginne af was zij in 't bezit van de wet, de psalmen en de profeten.
3. The Covenant of Redemption is very clear in Articles X and XII. Three of the signers of this confession later also signed the Second London Confession which teaches covenant theology. 4. Nadat Adam en Eva het verbond der werken overtreden hadden, zoo kondigte de Heere een nieuw verbond, een verbond der genade af onder de woorden: "En ik zal vijandschap zetten tusschen u en tusschen deze vrouw en tusschen uw zaad, en tusschen haar zaad, datzelve zal u den kop vermorzelen, en gij zult het verzenen vermorzelen."... 't Zijn korte woorden, maar behelzen het groote werk der verlossing van een zondaar, de verbreking van het geweld des duivels over de uitverkorenen, de vijandschap en strijd van de kinderen Gods en des duivels, den Persoon, door wien dit uitgevoerd zou worden, onder de benaming van 't zaad der vrouw, niet des mans, welke is Christus, het zaad Abrahams, Izaks, Jakobs, Davids, van Maria, dewelke door zijnen dood den duivel heeft te niet gedaan, Hebr. 2:14. 5. De wet, die bij de belofte is bijgekomen, heeft die belofte niet krachteloos gemaakt of te niet gedaan, maar haar opgenomen en aan hare ontwikkeling en vervulling dienst bewezen. De belofte is de hoofdzaak, de wet is ondergeschikt; gene is doel,deze is middel; niet in de wet, maar in de belofte ligt de kern van Gods openbaring en het hart van Israels godsdienst. 6. It has been mentioned in the Introduction that Volkers Reformation Statement seems to deny this, but the sentence just quoted must logically mean that the Church did not exist before Pentecost and that the Church is equal to "the New Covenant people of God" as compared with the Old Covenant people; and this sentence being more recent, seems to show a movement in his theology towards a more consistent view of discontinuity which, however, might allow the OT saints to enter the church at Pentecost. 7. But even Moses was not allowed to enter the land of Canaan because of his sin of unbelief. "Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them'" (Num 20:12). "The LORD spoke to Moses...saying: Go...and die on the mountain...because you transgressed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me in the midst of the children of Israel" (Deut 32:48-51). 8. ...dan wordt hier gewezen niet alleen op den organischen samenhang van het gansche menschelijk geslacht met Adam als het geslachts-hoofd, als stamvader, maar dan ligt in deze woorden van Paulus ook opgesloten het verband der gansche menschheid met Adam als verbonds-hoofd: zijn verplichting gold allen, in zijn ongehoorzaamheid zijn allen getroffen, vgl. vs. 19 9.The expression "federal headship of Adam" may only require belief in a prelasparian covenant rather than covenant theology since it just means "covenantal headship." Thus, even the editors of the New Scofield Bible seem more justified in using this phrase than those Calvinist who, while defending representation, deny a covenant with Adam. "Federeralism," however, means covenant theology. 10. They insist on the one hand that they should be allowed to use the words "federalism" and "Reformed" to describe their theology, even though they reject the basic presuppositions of Federalism and Reformed Theology. On the other hand, while sharing common presuppositions with Classical Dispensationalism, they detest being associated with them. They seem unhappy that Reformed Christians dont wish to change the definitions. "Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding..." (Machen, Christianity and Liberalism 1). But even John Murray who holds to Covenant Theology seems hesitant to use the expression "federal headship" in The Imputation of Adams Sin, and other writings, since he has a definition for "covenant" that precludes a covenant of works (TheCovenant of Grace passim). Calvin and his French Confession do not develope the doctrine of original sin beyond the sovereignty of God. "And we consider that it is not necessary to inquire how sin was conveyed from one man to another, for what God had given Adam was not for him alone, but for all his posterity; and thus in his person we have been deprived of all good things, and have fallen with him into a state of sin and misery" (Article X). 11. 1. Zonder twijfel had Adam de volmaakste wet. Nu, de volmaakste wet is de wet der liefde, en deze is de wet der tien Geboden. Matth. 22:37-39... De wet, die de Heidenen in hunne natuur haden, en een overblijfsel is van die wet, die Adam in zijne natuur had, is dezelfde met de wet der tien Geboden, met aller toestemming... Dit blijkt uit Rom 8:3, boven herhaald. Daar spreekt Paulus van eene wet, noemende die, zonder verdere beschrijving, de wet. De wet is de wet der tien Geboden, dat is buiten bedenking; nu, die wet had Adam in hare kracht, die na den val was krachteloos geworden, gelijk getoond is...Er is maar eene heiligheid, want heiligheid is het beeld Gods, dat een is. Zoo is dan de wet ook een; want de volmaakte overeenkomst des menschen met de wet der tien Geboden is heiligheid; dus had de volmaakte Adam de tien Geboden, zooveel den inhoud aangaat, to zijne wet. 12. Zijn verbodswerk is: (a) Eene wet te geven. (b) Zaligheid te beloven en verdoemenis te dreigen. (c) Te stellen een verzegelende boom en een proefboom. 13. Aan de kennis daarvan is veel gelegen, want die hierin dwaalt, of dit Verbond der Werken ontkennt, zal niet wel het Verbond der Genade verstaan, en lichtelijk dwalen in de borgtocht van den Heere Jezus, en bizonder lichtelijk ontkennen, dat Christus door zijne dadelijke gehoorzaamheid voor de uitverkorenen recht tot het eeuwige leven verworven heeft; gelijk wij zien in verscheidene partijen, die om hunne dwalingen in het laatste, het eerste ontkennen, daarom is hij, die het Verbond der Werken ontkent, met recht verdacht te houden, dat er ook wat hapert omtrent het Verbond der Genade. 14. It is interesting that Volker uses the phrase "under the law" to describe the believers relationship with the law. Biblical language says "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are NOT under the law" (Gal. 5:18). 15. It is not surprising that Bunyan sees the new covenant throughout the Old Testament and the old covenant even in our age since for him they are principles rather than temporal covenants. "Souls being ignorant of the nature of the old covenant, do even, by their subjecting to several gospel-ordinances, run themselves under the old covenant, and fly off from Christ, even when they think they are coming closer to him." ( The Doctrine of Law and Grace 190). A failure to understand Bunyans definitions of the old and new covenants will no doubt lead to misunderstanding many of his statements. .
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[unknown] Millions Disappear: Fact or fiction? Fact or Fiction, P.O. Box 7135, Pensacola, FL 32534. n. d.