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  • « The Gospel Truths of CHRISTMAS | Main | Book Review: The Marrow of Theology, by William Ames »

    What Is Covenant Theology?

    At first glance, it is apparent that the Bible is a very complex book: it was written in three different languages, by dozens of human authors, over the course of many centuries, and in a wide variety of styles and genres. However, beneath this dauntingly complicated surface, there must be a unified purpose and message; for behind all of the human authors and historical circumstances in which it came to man, there is one true Author, the God of creation, who set forth in this book just what he wanted mankind to know. So what is that unified message of the Bible? How does one go about relating all of its various styles and books into a mutually-interpretive volume? Bible scholars have suggested a variety of methods for structuring the unfolding story of special revelation, and have come up with numerous ideas for a central theme or themes which bind everything together. Perhaps the most compelling of these attempts, and the idea which most rigorously allows the Bible itself to indicate its own major emphases and underlying structural elements, is commonly called Covenant Theology.

    However, the sad truth is that, in contemporary Evangelicalism, many believers have only a very fuzzy understanding (at best) of this helpful and biblically-faithful way of understanding the over-arching message of the scriptures. And yet, in the author's experience, there are few teachings which will enable a Christian to make better and more fruitful use of his scripture-reading than the basic components of Covenant Theology – understand these few, scriptural themes, and you will be able to mark out and follow the general flow of the unfolding saga of redemptive history, as recorded in God's Word. And so, although it may be a naively ambitious undertaking, in light of the massive volumes written on this very topic by some of the most gifted and knowledgeable Bible-scholars God has given the Church, it has become a burden of mine to compose a very brief and simple introduction to that manner of understanding the Bible which we call Covenant Theology.

    The Purpose of the Bible Story

    From the first, it is apparent that the Bible tells the story of God's powerful work of creation; and then continues with the story of his gracious work of redemption. In other words, it basically gives a history of mankind, from God's perspective. As one reads this history, it becomes quickly apparent that God has intentionally designed history, and so works that it unfolds according to his own master plan (see Ephesians 1:11; Numbers 23:19). But what is that master plan? What was the purpose of creation, and what is the purpose for its continuing existence?

    Fortunately, God has given us some teaching on his purpose for the world: everything he created and every way in which he continues to govern his creation is done to display his glory (see Romans 11:36; Revelation 4:11; Isaiah 43:7). Another way of saying this is, everything that God has done, and that he has recorded for us in his word, is done to display who he is. Ultimately, this purpose of self-display included God's sending his Son to reveal his true nature to the world (see John 1:14,18; Hebrews 1:1-3). The advent and work of Jesus Christ is the ultimate purpose of history, for it is the ultimate display of who God is. Which leads us to an understanding for the purpose of redemptive history, over and above the purpose for creation: the nature of God is too manifoldly rich to be displayed in the wonderful work of creation alone. For the display of such attributes as God's just wrath, his essential, unearned love, his free mercy and grace, his vengeance against sin, he designed the perfect plan of redemption. And in the story of redemption, both those to whom God gives his free mercy and those from whom he withholds it are created to display who he is – they are created for his glory (see Romans 9:22-24; Ephesians 2:7).

    The Basic Structure of Covenant Theology

    What does all of this have to do with Covenant Theology? Basically, Covenant Theology attempts to unfold the biblical story with constant reference to the universal display and glorification of God. From the beginning of Genesis, God created mankind with the purpose of having him display God's own nature, ruling in justice and righteousness over the rest of creation, in analogy of God's own righteous and universal rule. When man failed in that original intent, God then promised that he would send a man, born of a woman, who would accomplish this original design, and so exercise a God-like rule, and display the Divine image to perfection (Genesis 3:15; see also Hebrews 2:6-10).

    But how does this kingdom of righteousness, which displays the divine image, grow and advance from the first creation to the final, consummate new creation? That is where the covenants come in. Covenant Theology differs from other systems in that it sees the biblical structure giving great weight and importance to a series of divine covenants. These covenants are like the framework of a house – without them, all the doctrines and stories in the Bible fall down into a hopelessly confused jumble of unrelated bits of information. The story of creation and redemption is the story of the divine establishment of a few all-important covenants, the divine response to covenant-failure, and the divine fulfillment of the covenant-promises. Without understanding the nature and purposes of these covenants, one cannot hope to understand why God reacts as he does to the sticky problem of sinful humans who were created to enjoy fellowship with a holy God and exercise dominion in the image of God.

    So what are these covenants? Theologians speak, first, of a Covenant of Redemption, made between the members of the Godhead; second, of a Covenant of Works, made between God and man; and third, of a Covenant of Grace; which is basically a repetition to man of the first Covenant of Works, with the added proviso that a Redeemer would be provided to fulfill the required works in the place of all covenant-members, as their federal head. Let's look at each of these three covenants in a little more detail.

    The Covenant of Redemption

    The inter-Triune Covenant of Redemption is the foundational Covenant, and serves as the unshakable basis for the Covenants of Works and Grace. This Covenant entails God's eternal plan of redemption, in which each member of the Godhead had a role that he solemnly agreed to undertake, in pursuit of a mutually-determined goal. Ephesians one, verses three through fourteen, gives a basic summary of this eternal purpose: the Father planning redemption and choosing out members from the human race; the Son accomplishing that redemption as the incarnate substitute and federal head for those chosen members; and the Holy Spirit applying that fully accomplished redemption in human time.

    This solemn agreement between the Father and the Son, in which the Father promises a chosen people to the Son, in exchange for the Son's vicarious work of earning a positive righteousness and suffering the covenant-penalty of disobedience in behalf of that chosen people, is spoken of at several points in the scriptures. Psalm 2:8 relates the Father swearing to the Son, whom he would anoint as the Messiah-King: “Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.” Later, the prophet Isaiah expressed the essence of this covenantal agreement in more precise terms: “when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:10-11). And finally, in the gospel of John this idea of a certain people covenanted to the Son in exchange for his work of redemption comes to the fore many times (see, for instance, John 6:39,65; 13:3; 17:11,24).

    This Covenant is vital, first, because it is the ultimate reason that the other two covenants were enacted at all. Before human time, the Father designed to glorify the Son, and the Son to glorify the Father, in this precise way. This inter-Triune pact of mutual glorification was the reason for creation and human history, with the first Covenant of Works, man's fall, and the subsequent Covenant of Grace. But even beyond this foundational significance, the Covenant of Redemption demonstrates to us something of God's nature. Because God, in all his glory, is invisible to the human eye, we can only come to know him through his works. And the Covenant of Redemption is the reflection, in works, of the essential nature of God. The essential nature of the Trinity concerns the relationship of the different persons of the Godhead to each other; the economical Trinity concerns the relationship of the different persons of the Godhead to their mutual plan of redemption. And we could never understand the mystery of the all-glorious Trinity in its essence, if we didn't glimpse the all-glorious Trinity in its economy. This also tells us something of man's basic nature as the divine image-bearer. Just as the Trinity is covenantal in nature, so man was created as a covenantal creature. Part of what it means to reflect God's image is to be involved with other humans, and indeed with God himself, in a solemn covenant. The Covenant with man did not come as an afterthought: it was an integral part of what man was created to be, enjoying fellowship with God in analogy to the fellowship within the Trinity; and to work out God's dominion with covenantal responsibility, in analogy to the relationship between the Father and the Son, with regard to their work. And now, with the foundation laid, let us look at the first Covenant established with mankind.

    The Covenant of Works

    When God created man, and placed him in the Garden of Eden, he immediately set him in a covenantal context. Within this covenant (as in all covenants) were the following elements: sovereignly-mandated commandments (positively, to be fruitful and exercise dominion over the earth, and negatively, not to eat of the fruit of the specified tree); promises of reward, upon the fulfillment of those commandments (eternal life and joy in fellowship with God); and threats of punishment, in the event of disobedience (death and separation from God). In addition to these elements, we see the first instance of a covenantal sacrament. Because man is so designed that he needs a visible means of signifying invisible covenant realities, God condescended to confirm the covenant through a physical sign and seal. In the garden, this was the Tree of Life. Later covenants would have signs such as the rainbow; circumcision; and baptism and the Lord's Supper. If the first man, Adam, had passed the covenant-test of obedience to God's commandments, he would have earned the reward of everlasting, joyful fellowship with God. And since he, as the first man, was functioning as the representative head of the race, he would have earned those blessings for all of his descendants (see Romans 5:12-21).

    However, Adam failed in his covenant obligation, and earned the promised curse for himself and his descendants. As promised, this curse came; but in an unforeseen act of free mercy, God established a second, gracious covenant with fallen man. Before we talk about this Covenant of Grace, however, we need to mention another Covenant, which, unlike the Covenant of Grace, and like the first Covenant with Adam, was conditioned on works.

    After God tested Adam in a conditional Covenant of works, he promised that a human Seed would be confronted with the same test, but would be victorious. Later, when God called out Abraham into a new, covenantal relationship with himself, he promised that this covenant victory and blessing would come through his seed. A few generations later, Abraham's seed had become a great nation; and God brought them (as Abraham's seed) through precisely the same test as he had set before Adam. Unlike Adam, the very fact that God had brought them out of Egypt, to establish his covenant with them, was gracious and undeserved. But like Adam, the final secural of their corporate, national blessings, and their right to reside forevermore in the promised land of God's presence and fellowship (analogous to the Garden of Eden), was conditioned on their obedience to God's commandments. Over and over, God reminded them, if you obey, you shall live long lives in the promised land; but if you disobey, you will be driven out. And finally, like Adam, national Israel failed, and was driven out.

    However, God's purpose was not yet accomplished: and so, just as he promised to Abraham, he finally produced one from his seed (the promised Christ) who would undergo the same probationary test, but be victorious. Thus Christ's forty days of testing in the wilderness correspond to Israel's forty years of testing in the wilderness, which itself corresponds to Adam's time of testing in the Garden. But, unlike Adam and national Israel, this one promised Seed was ultimately triumphant (see Galatians 3:10-16; II Corinthians 1:20).

    It may be asked, Why was a new Covenant of Works inaugurated after the failure of the first, and the establishment of a better and eternal covenant? First, we must be certain that it was not added as another way to righteousness and life. In fact, confusion upon that very point brought condemnation, and the stern rebuke of the Apostle Paul (see Galatians 3:10-12). We must also emphasize that it did not negate the Covenant of Promise, made with Abraham (Galatians 3:17-18). On the contrary, it was a Covenant made with national Israel, not as a condition of eternal life, which, as the Abrahamic promise made clear, was possible only through faith; but as a condition for continuing in a land which symbolized fellowship with God. And it was made to teach of Christ, the Guarantor and Fulfiller of the Covenant of Grace. It did this, first, by revealing and stirring up sin in man, and so rendering him guilty and needy of a Redeemer (Romans 7:7-12). Second, it formed a nation and worship-cult that would exemplify in many types and patterns just who this Christ would be, and what he would accomplish (especially in the tabernacle and sacrificial system). And third, it gave more explicit testimony to the eternal, moral law and righteousness of God, that it might be more fully known exactly what sort of marvelous righteousness the Christ would actually accomplish (cf. Matthew 3:15; Hebrews 2:10).

    The Covenant of Grace

    We have left only to mention the final covenant – the Covenant of Grace. This is the unexpected covenant that God so mercifully inaugurated after man had failed to obey the first covenant. In this covenant, God unilaterally promised to have mercy upon sinful man, apart from any good works. But how could he do this, without reneging on the first Covenant of Works? He did this, not by abrogating the works which he had initially said must be fulfilled – but by promising to send a representative who would fulfill them in man's behalf. He first inaugurated this covenant with Adam, immediately after the Fall; but he would cut this same basic covenant with Abraham, some time later, with a ceremony and a promise that would become definitive for the rest of redemptive history.

    In this Abrahamic covenant (see Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-16), God gave the same promise to Abraham that he had offered as a mere condition to Adam in the Garden – that is, the prospect of eternal fellowship and joy with God. But whereas he had commanded of Adam some conditions prior to the enjoyment of this reward, in his covenant with Abraham, he solemnly undertook to fulfill these obligations himself. And even beyond this, the curse of death and separation that Adam had already merited he laid upon himself, in the event of covenant unfaithfulness – and hence, he solemnly passed through the divided animals, and took upon himself the curse of a bloody death if the covenant should not remain firm.

    Of course, this is exactly what God did some two thousand years later, when he sent the long-awaited Messiah. This Messiah, who was God in the flesh, took upon himself the punishment of death for the covenant-disobedience of his people, just as God had signified he would do in that ceremony with Abraham. And so were fulfilled both the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace in the earthly ministry of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth entered into the Covenant of Works, and merited the covenant blessings from the Father. Then, he suffered the penalties of covenant-disobedience in the place of God's chosen people; and in so doing, he also fulfilled the promise to Abraham and made firm the Covenant of Grace.

    Before we conclude, we must mention two more covenants, given in expression of the post-Fall Covenant of Grace. The first of these, the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9), was given in response to the uncertain state of the earth, after God had cursed it for man's sake. Even though man, through disobedience, had lost his ability to rule over creation according to God's design, yet God's purpose remained inviolable: he would have a perfect earth over which a perfect man would rule. And so, as a first taste of this ultimate design, he promised that he would not utterly destroy the earth, as he had in the flood. Instead, he would ultimately renew it and restore it to perfection (see Isaiah 25). This is a unilateral Covenant of Grace, as may be seen from the sign of the rainbow: just as God had symbolically taken the pains of death upon himself in his Covenant with Abraham, so he symbolically drew back a bow against himself, in a gesture that, upon the pains of a bloody death, he would not completely destroy the earth, as it ought to have been destroyed in accordance with the first Covenant made with Adam.

    The final covenant that serves a pivotal role in biblical history is the Covenant made with King David (II Samuel 7). Just as God had initially designed for man to rule over creation in righteousness; and just as he had promised that the fulfillment of this design would come from a seed of the woman, and, more specifically, of the seed of Abraham; so he promised to David, Abraham's son, that the promised Seed would come from his line, and would rule forever as man had been created to do from the beginning. And so Christ, when he had accomplished our redemption, ascended to sit upon the throne of David, where he would rule for all eternity (see Acts 2:29-36).

    Conclusion

    So in the end, although the Bible is a richly diverse book, its basic message is surprisingly simple: God decided to display his glorious nature by creating mankind, who would reign over the world in display of the divine image, and enjoy covenantal fellowship with God, in the manner of the inter-Triune fellowship of love. When man failed in this first covenant relationship, God graciously promised to send a Redeemer, who would undertake the covenant obligations in man's behalf, and win for mankind (all whom the Father had chosen to give him) the blessings that the first covenant held forth on a condition. The rest of the Bible is all about how God enters human history to choose out a people and accomplish this intention – all to his glory alone. The blessed end and eternal triumph of this design finally reaches its ultimate fruition when the great effects of Christ's great redemption change the earth to a place of eternal fruitfulness, inhabited by an eternally-saved people, fellowshipping in joy with God in their midst. The bible begins with man losing the joy of fellowship with God. It ends, most appropriately, like this:

    And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son (Revelation 21:1-7).

    How does all this come about? Well, my friend, the story rides upon the establishment and ultimate fulfillment of several divine covenants. Upon these covenants, all redemptive history hangs.

    Posted by Nathan on December 22, 2006 08:18 PM

    Comments

    Nathan,

    As I read your understanding of Covenant Theology, a good, sound bit of Doctrine mind you, this one gnawing thing keeps at me and it is this.

    To start with your Word quote and just a portion from it, Rev.21:1-7, I want to lay out something you might want to post hereon to "add" to your understanding for consideration? I do believe God might give some understanding to us?

    The Word quote:

    'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.'

    Recently, say over the last several years that portion of the verse has been interpreted to me by this portion of Ephesians 3:10-12,

    'so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.'

    And the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, or "sheds" Light on it's meaning, I then look to those two portions of "LIGHT" and gain an understanding when I come to Genesis 1:1-2,

    'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.'

    I quickly do the math and realize that there were five full evenings and mornings, days, before God created man, Adam and Eve, the first male and female.

    My understanding points me to three things, two of which have beginnings and one, has no beginning.

    1: the heavens and earth have a beginning; [the earth was formless and void].

    2: darkness had a beginning.

    3: the Spirit of God, no beginining or end, Eternal in Nature.

    Now, another element to this "reasoning" comes from these two phrases, ADAM and the LAST ADAM.

    I was talking to a Brother the other day about this phrase Scripture places on Jesus Christ, One of the Three who make up the Covenant of Redemption for the Salvation of Adam's race, "the LAST ADAM" and realized that in order for you to be a part of the "LAST ADAM" you must have come into this "created heavens and earth" THROUGH THE FIRST ADAM.

    Also it seems this other "created" element, "DARKNESS", has some bearing in understanding the "eternal purpose" as both you and the Apostle Paul refer, he in Ephesians 3 and you hereon in laying forth the understanding of Covenant Theology.

    Now studying that word: DARKNESS, I come to the conclusion that it is "A FRUIT" of someone or something done.

    HMMMMMMM

    So pulling it all together into full view I would make this assertion,

    Before the creation as referred to in Genesis one one, someone or something done, caused this FRUIT, DARKNESS, "TO COME INTO EXISTENCE" in the Presence of these THREE COVENANT KEEPERS OF REDEMPTION, "LIGHT" in Whom there is no DARKNESS at all John writes. This DARKNESS, that God, the Holy Ghost, [the Spirit of God referred too in verse two perhaps?], points to in verse two and has had written for us to read who, EXISTED before Adam, who comes after day five of the creation, these present heavens and earth.
    Wherein this "DARKNESS" seems to cause such pain and agony and tears so great and deep and terrible, there is no redemption for it or for this present HEAVENS AND EARTH affected by it.

    As we read in Genesis 1:31

    'And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.'

    we realize that whoever or whatever did this, created DARKNESS, it was not God who beheld EVERYTHING THAT HE HAD MADE, AND BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD.

    I believe and therefore I point to this understanding to understand the meaning of the Word quotes from Rev. 21 and Eph. 3 quoted again here:

    'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.'

    'so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.'

    There is much more to develop about this Manifold Wisdom of God granted to the CHURCH that I want to address. As time goes on maybe I will be allowed to insert some more of what I do believe God has granted and revealed to the CHURCH of the manifold Wisdom of God? This is that that the CHURCH is to rise up with Jesus, as the Head of this Body, and do in our generations today to bring to the frontlines of the battle with DARKNESS and these principalities and powers of DARKNESS, that Scripture indicates will soon be cast out of the heavenly places, and cast down from, so that God's promise as iterated by Paul in Romans can soon come about:

    Rom 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

    By the fulfillment of this that verse quoted by Peter is, also faithfully promised, fulfilled:

    Act 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
    Act 2:33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
    Act 2:34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand,
    Act 2:35 until I make your enemies your footstool.'
    Act 2:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

    michael

    Michael,

    You have some good thoughts and scripture references. However, I'd be careful with phrases like "we realize that whoever or whatever did this, created DARKNESS, it was not God who beheld EVERYTHING THAT HE HAD MADE, AND BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD." It almost comes across as a dualistic idea of a good deity and an evil deity who were both responsible for part of creation, and who both continue to struggle over the destiny of the universe. I'm sure you didn't intend it like that, but I know some people see existence in that unbiblical way.

    Yes, God is all Light, and completely separate from evil -- but evil is under his control and a part of his plan. He works everything after the counsel of his will (Eph. 1), which includes working through evil to produce good (Genesis 50).

    Your thoughts on spiritual warfare, and the scripture passages you brought up concerning God's crushing the Serpent under the feet of the Church, destroying every evil effect of the Fall, etc., were very helpful.

    So thanks for the feedback, and blessings in the Name of our Savior,
    Nathan

    Nathan

    thank you; as we understand, iron sharpens iron and that was indeed helpful "word" smithing for me too!

    There is one God, and there is nothing They are not aware of. They know everything.

    Me, on the other hand, am coming into this Eternal Life through the portal of the Kingdom of God on the earth, as a child, full of wonder and amazement continually. It produces such JOY on earth for me, I hardly know how to speak at times! I only have an imagination to wonder what A New Heavens and a New Earth will be like! I am waiting to pass from this abode to it, expectantly!! I do not want to "wait" in vain though! You?

    May the Lord use your feet for many more things! Although, to be selected to wear the Gospel of Peace and CRUSHING, seems to me to be plenty of shoe wearing for now, or not?

    Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
    Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

    When you read the Words of the Lord like those, you just have to stop and wonder, hmmmmm, what all the difficulty is all about?


    michael

    Enjoyed your article.ALthough not new to theology I am beginning to explore in more depth these issues.Could you help me further.

    How would you translate the useage of OT "circumcision"into the NT? Is it baptism? the heart?
    To what extent does the Covenantal promises apply - children? household?

    We had a discussion in church and were challenged as regards to what is a Covenant family- esp where there is mixed families.....

    Well I guess these can be a starter. By the way this is a genuine request..and not some miserable saint who just wants to wind folk up...

    Hi Jonathan,

    One of the clearest passages dealing with the correlation between circumcision/baptism is Colossians 2:11-12. I would start there, and then go on to look at Romans 4, where Paul deals to some extent with the question of Abraham's circumcision and the Gentile believers.

    For covenant families, although I would emphasize the importance of getting a complete biblical picture (i.e., throughout the entire history of the Cov. of Grace, how has God dealt with families), a couple of NT passages to consider are Acts 2:39, 1 Cor. 7:14. Luke 18:15-17 may also have some bearing.

    Basically, I would emphasize the unity of the Covenant, and of God's dealings with his people throughout history. If God has always dealt with his people in a certain manner, we had better be able to give a compelling scriptural reason for any change we suggest.

    You can probably find some helpful stuff in here somewhere.

    Nathan

    Covenant Theology teaches that the Church today is Israel. However...

    “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Gen. 48:16.)

    “Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.” (Num. 36:9.)

    The name Israel is Ephraim and Manasseh's inheritance. It's non-transferable.

    How can the Church be called Israel when biblical law forbids transferring birthrights/inheritances?

    VERY interesting comments indeed...I would like to add my input to this discussion as well.
    First of all, I will state here and now that I strictly adhear to scripture and scripture alone, if scripture does not clearly state or clearly imply with no uncertainty what soever, then we are not to build doctrine on it. "sound" Doctrine MUST be built precept upon precept, line upon line.
    With that said, How can one come to the conclusion that we, those members of the body of Christ whether they be Jew or Gentile, are not partakers of the blessings promised to Abraham and to his decendents...BY FAITH! If one is to STUDY Romans and Galatians....we clearly see that BY FAITH in Christ Jesus, we are children of Abraham, we are made heirs according to the promise.Regardless of the fact that Dispensationalism is the dominate doctrinal belief of both fundamental and evangelicals today, I believe that if one STUDYS scripture and lets the Spirit lead them into all understanding of the word of Truth, they will come to the same conclusion. Be A Berean Believer.
    Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.

    I read this with interest and was dissapointed. Reformed theology is another child of Babylon. No mention of Israel, the promises only apply to them and to no other. God has already done the 'choosing', and calls / draweth men to His Son. We choose not, neither can a mantra like 'confession of faith' save you, or the wholw world. The commision was already fulfilled in the time of the apostles. And guess who they went to? The House of Israel wasnt that 'lost' that they couldnt be found. Neither are they today. The horticultural metaphor of the Bible you totally miss. Tares cannot become wheat through conversion. Eating a piece of fruit doesnt make one feel naked. What is it going to take, to wake you blind guides from your intellectual slumber. Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

    I realize Michael posted several years ago but thought an answer to his comment "we realize that whoever or whatever did this, created DARKNESS, it was not God who beheld EVERYTHING THAT HE HAD MADE, AND BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD." might be useful.

    Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].

    Isaiah 45:7
    I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

    I like Turtles.

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