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A Research Paper Presented to Dr. John Hammett in fulfillment of the requirements for IND6930: Independent Reading and Research

Kevin P. McAloon Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary August 22, 2011


Section 1. INTRODUCTION ......... 1 Importance of the study Brief Comparison of biblical-theological systems 2. PROLEGOMENA: PROGRESSIVE REVELATION AND NEW COVENANT HERMENEUTICS ....... 8 Giving Priority to the New Testament 3. THE COVENANTS 11 Introductory Comments Abrahamic Covenant Mosaic Covenant New Covenant 4. THE LAW 17 The Law of Moses The Law of Christ 5. ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH . 25 Physical Israel as Type Spiritual Church as Fulfillment 6. EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION .. 28 Weaknesses Strengths Conclusion

INTRODUCTION There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ. - Jonathan Edwards1 This statement by one of the Church's greatest thinkers is one that has reigned true since the very conception of the Church. Even the very idea of the conception of the Church is not without its array of theological dilemmas and controversies: who exactly constitutes this Church; when was it conceived; what is its nature; what is its purpose in God's plan for humankind, etc. Although many believers may look at these matters as mere abstract theological theories, the conclusions to these questions and their consequences could not be more important to the very life of the Church. So agrees Lints, who believes that almost all major controversies in evangelical theology could be reduced in the end to a difference concerning the relationship of the Testaments.2 The dust of our contemporary superficiality and quest for temporal distraction and comfort must be cleared so that the gravity of these matters may be felt in our hearts. The amount of blood that has been shed, and the brotherly unity that has been destroyed between professors of Christ over their interpretations of the Testaments throughout the centuries is unfathomable; therefore we owe it to both our Lord and our forefathers to follow in their footsteps towards discovering and breaking from those old corruptions that have been infecting the Body of Christ since the days of its fall from New Testament purity. This can only be done with humility as we confess our need and wholly depend upon the Spirit to teach us through the Scriptures He has inspired, even if this must be done so in light of many of the Creeds He did not. This has been the cry of many reformers throughout Church history, and it is shared by some theologians who hold to a form of biblical theology that has been dubbed the name New Covenant Theology. 3 While this title

1. Jonathan Edwards, A Humble Inquiry, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol. 1, (Peadbody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 44. 2 Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology: A prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), p. 301 n.13; quoted in A. Blake White, The Newness of the New Covenant (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008), p. 55; also see John S. Feinberg's article The Law of Moses or the Law of Christ where he says, Few issues are of greater significance to biblical theology and, ultimately, systematic theology as the relation between the Testaments. In Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1988). 3. See Tom Wells, Our Creeds and How they Affect Our Understanding, in Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel,

may be a bit misleading in that it could suggest a theology that deals only with the New Covenant in perhaps a more systematic way, this is not the case. On the contrary, like Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, it is a robust interpretation of the relationships between the Testaments and covenants found therein, which seeks to enrich our understanding of salvation history so that we learn to properly apply the truths found in God's word. However, these theologians humbly believe that whereas the former systems do so through presuppositions that cannot be founded upon Scripture, New Covenant Theology (hereafter NCT) attempts to consistently put the biblical texts first and derive its overall approach in light of them.4 Much fine exegesis has been done and many arguments have been written for one to engage for himself and determine whether or not this is actually the case, and I would highly recommend reading these primary sources and meditating over the Scriptures they discuss. 5 To adequately do so in this brief study would go beyond the course of this paper; therefore my purpose here is to faithfully set forth the central tenants of NCT and its distinctions, with the hope of arousing the interests of those who have been thus far unsatisfied with tradition and have a heart to better handle the Scriptures in order to love Christ and appreciate the salvation He has purchased more deeply. A Brief Comparison of Biblical-theological Systems Before divulging into the details of NCT, it is important to first briefly summarize the primary systems within evangelical theology that it finds wanting in many areas. Although not entirely monolithic, and with many intricate variations within their respective schools of thought, the two general theological categories are Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. What must be kept in mind is that although these approaches differ in many important interpretations of Scripture, they have all been held by many devout and godly Christians who, although have nuanced their views in slightly different ways, have generally had fundamental agreements on the central issues of God and salvation.6

New Covenant Theology: Definition, Description, Defense ( Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002); also John G. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 1998), p. iv. 4. Wells and Zaspel, p.22; also see Reisinger's introduction in Abraham's Four Seeds, p. i-iv. 5. Some good starting points are: Wells and Zaspel, New Covenant Theology; and Steve Lehrer, New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered, (Steve Lehrer, 2006), also available for free here: http://www.ids.org/pdf/nctbook.pdf. 6. An exception may be taken with some of the earlier Dispensationalists, but generally this is the case. See John S. Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New

Covenant Theology: Continuity Covenant Theology is an interpretative framework that revolves around the continuity of God's covenants with His people. Pertinent to this discussion are the system's interpretations of the covenants God has personally made with man in time.7 The basic foundations around which the whole system revolves are as follows8: 1. Man is always in covenant relationship with God. The reason being is that God is transcendent, and the distance is so great between Him and His creatures that man could not enjoy any blessings from Him unless He first decided to condescend to them by way of covenant (See Westminster Confession of Faith [hereafter WCF], VII.I). 2. The whole of Scripture is covered by two covenants. Rather than the Old and New, these covenants are the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Works was made with Adam prior to the Fall, which promised him eternal life upon his perfect obedience (WCF VII.II). The Covenant of Grace was made with man after the Fall, whereby God freely offered sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring only faith in Him (WCF VII.III). This one Covenant of Grace was given two administrations: one under the law and Old Covenant, and another under the gospel and New Covenant [emphasis mine] (WCF VII.V). Woven within these two broad and general summary points are many presuppositions and implications that must be addressed. To begin with, there are three primary presuppositions which many theologians in differing camps take issue with: 1. There is one unchanging Covenant of Grace that has two administrations under the Old and New Covenants; 2. there is one redeemed people of God in all ages under one unchanging covenant; 3. There is one unchanging Moral Law for the one redeemed people under the one covenant, viz. The Ten Commandments.9 Some implications of their postulations are that, like Israel, both believers and unbelievers are under the physical New Covenant administration; like infants born under the Old Covenant, infants born to families under the New Covenant are to receive the sign of that Covenant which has changed from circumcision to baptism; Moses' Ten Commandments are the law and rule for New Testament believers; and a Church State is something to be sought after.

Testaments (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), p. 310. 7. I have not yet come across any NCT material that touches on Covenantalism's concept of an eternal covenant made between the Father and Son to redeem the elect before creation, nor do I think that an affirmation or denial of such a covenant would affect any of its positions. 8. Much of what follows is taken from Resieinger's summary in Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 121-124. 9. John Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008), p. 185.

Covenant Theology as a formal system really began with Ulrich Zwingli and was retained in the Reformed and Puritan churches. An honest reading of history may lead one to see that many inherited presuppositions led some of the early Protestants to develop and hold such a view. Zwingli and others were born into a culture where the establishment of infant baptism and the propriety of a Magisterial Church State was simply assumed; thus the theologians were forced to adopt a new hermeneutical approach to Scripture that would serve to justify these practices under the New Covenant, and eventually the idea of the unity of a Covenant of Grace was born.10 Sacralism is the logical conclusion and application of this theology, and it was this view that resulted in the justification of the persecution of groups like the Anabaptists and kept the Puritans from establishing churches that could truly live and worship consistently in the spirit of the New Covenant.11 Apart from many objections based solely upon exegesis, these are some of the negative aspects of this system of thought which has led many to turn away and seek for a better way for understanding Scripture and the nature of the New Covenant. Dispensationalism: Discontinuity Dispensationalism is a relatively more modern method of reading Scripture, although considering the timeline of Church History, so is Covenant Theology's. Whereas the latter believes that covenants are the keys to understanding Scripture, the former holds that dispensations are the answer. The basic tenant of most Dispensationalists is that man's relationship to God is not the same in every age. Throughout history it has been necessary to bring fallen man into divine testing. In separate and distinct dispensations, or periods of testing, God has demonstrated every possible means of dealing with man.12 Generally, traditional Dispensationalists have held to seven distinct dispensations of this type: 1. Dispensation of Innocence (Age of Liberty) from Gen. 1:26-3:6; 2. Conscience (Age of Human Determination) from Gen. 3:7-8:19; 3. Human Government (Covenant with Noah) from Gen. 8:20-11:9; 4. Promise (Covenant with Abraham) from Gen. 11:10-Ex. 19:2; 5. Law (the Nation of Israel) from Ex. 19:3-Acts 2; 6. Grace (the Church) from Acts 2 until the rapture; 7. Kingdom (The Millennium) from the Second

10. See Wells and Zaspel, p. 2-3; also Jack Crottrell, Baptism in the Reformed Tradition, in David W. Fletcher, ed., Baptism and the Remission of Sins (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1990)., p. 50. 11. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p ii. 12. Lewis Sperry Chafer, revised by John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), p. 127; referenced in Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 126.

Coming until the final destruction of the present world.13 Again, this system is not monolithic and there are many derivations within its camp such as Progressive Dispensationalism, however many of the same principals hold true for each. Dispensationalists are devout defenders of Scripture who dedicate themselves to strict and literal interpretations of biblical texts, and are known to be adamantly against spiritualizing Scripture.14 In a sense all conservatives make such a claim; however Dispensationalists are said to isolate texts and take them on the surface in their most basic forms, which many theologians see a problem with. For instance, Reisinger points out the fact that the Scofield Reference Bible never cross-references Peter's statements recorded in Acts 3:24-26 which refer to the promise made to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3, and believes that this is because Dispensationalists cannot fit Peter's spiritualized interpretation of the simple and literal promises made to Abraham consistently into their system. 15 He also points out that the NT Scriptures go against their hermeneutic by spiritualizing the OT land promise in passages where one would expect to see it reiterated: i.e. in the sermons recorded in the book of Acts, the book of Hebrews, and in passages like Luke 1:68-79.16 In addition to their literalistic hermeneutic, some distinctions within their system are that they believe that there is a sharp and definite distinction between the Church and Israel, and God has always had a different plan for both; the Church did not begin until Pentecost, thus spiritual realities within the Body of Christ such as baptism of the Spirit and indwelling of Christ were different than the experience of any OT saint; believers under the Law of Christ are under a different code than the Mosaic Law (including the Ten Commandments); there will be a literal fulfillment of a Millennium with a special emphasis on Israel; and many see the Church as a sort of parenthesis in God's overall plan of redemption. 17 Many of these points have much in common with NCT, while others do not. New Covenant Theologians and many other critics do not feel comfortable

13. Ibid., p. 129-136; in Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 127-128. 14. John Feinberg, Systems of Discontinuity, in Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), p. 73. 15. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 41. 16. Ibid. p. 92-93. 17. See John Feinberg, Systems of Discontinuity p. 71-85; O. Palmer Robertson, Hermeneutics of Continuity, p. 107; and Robert L. Saucy, Israel and the Church: A Case for Discontinuity, p. 249-250; in Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity.

with Dispensationalism's strict literalism and pronounced separation of Israel and the Church, and believe that their system overlooks many biblical texts that seem go to against its rigorous emphasis on discontinuity.18 New Covenant Theology NCT is not an intentional middle-ground or blending of these two systems, however through many conclusions derived from biblical texts, it does hold various aspects in common with both. Some disagreements they have with the above systems are that, like most traditions, they allow their presuppositions to drive their exegesis of some texts at the expense of others; neither system understands the biblical doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ in the redemptive purposes of God; neither really has a true New Covenant replacing an Old Covenant where both covenants relate to the same redemptive purposes of God for His one true people, thus both are unable to fit Hebrews 8 in either system; and neither sees the true relationship of Israel and the Church, in that both insist on bringing the physical aspect of Israel as a nation into the New Testament either directly or indirectly. 19 Through their study and weighing of Scriptures, they have come to many conclusions in these matters that line up with those of the early Anabaptists and a chorus of many Christians throughout Church History.20 To define their position in the spectrum of Christian Theology, Reisinger says the following: We find ourselves in the odd position of being stepchildren of both the Reformers and the Anabaptists, but the true heirs of neither. Our clear-cut view of the Doctrines of Grace and the unity of the Scriptures aligns us with the Reformers and the Puritans.... Our view of the unity of the Scriptures makes it impossible for us to accept the Dispensationalism set forth in the Scofield Reference Bible. On the other hand, our Baptistic view that the New Covenant in Jesus Christ has replaced the Old Covenant at Sinai makes it just as impossible for us to accept the Covenant Theology set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith.21 Now that we have a background for the topic at hand, it is necessary to provide a brief summary of the central tenants of NCT before discussing some of its intricacies. Although not entirely comprehensive, below is a helpful list that helps sum up the positions that will be discussed throughout the course of this study:

18. For further analysis, see the opposing authors' comments at the end of John Feinberg, Systems of Discontinuity; Paul D. Feinberg, Hermeneutics of Discontinuity; and Saucy, Israel and the Church: A Case for Discontinuity; in Ibid. 19. See Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. i-iv, 117-119; and Wells and Zaspel, p. 259-270. 20. See Wells and Zaspel, p. 22-32; and John Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 41. 21. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. iii.

Abrahamic Covenant The Abrahamic covenant reveals God's plan to save a people and take them into His land. The Old Covenant with the nation of Israel and the Promised Land is a temporary picture of what is accomplished by the New Covenant, by which Jesus actually purchased a people and will take them to be with Him forever in the new heavens and new earth. Old Covenant The Old or Mosaic Covenant is a legal or works covenant that God made with Israel on Mount Sinai. This covenant is brought to an end and is fulfilled at the cross. It was never intended to save people, but instead its purpose was to increase sin and guilt until the coming of the Savior. Israel, under the Mosaic Covenant, was the physical fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. New Covenant The New Covenant is a gracious covenant. Those included in the covenant are reconciled to God by grace alone apart from anything they do. Jesus purchased a people by His death on the cross so that all those for whom He died receive full forgiveness of sins and become incurable God-lovers by the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant is the spiritual fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Law The version of law in the Old Covenant era was the Mosaic Law, which included the Ten Commandments. The Mosaic Law has passed away with the coming of Christ and the New Covenant. God no longer requires people to follow the Mosaic Law. The version of law in the New Covenant era is the Law of Christ, which includes the commands of Christ that pertain to the New Covenant era and the commands of his Apostles. Israel and the Church Israel in the Old Covenant era was a temporary, unbelieving picture of the true people of God: the Church. There always existed a small remnant of believers within unbelieving Israel. When Jesus Christ came, the picture of the people of God gave way to the true people of God consisting of both Jews and Gentiles. The Cross By his death on the cross Jesus purchased both complete forgiveness of sins past, present, and future as well as a changed life or new heart for all those for whom He died. Believers love Christ more than sin and are characterized by repentance when they sin. Christs work on the cross is the New Covenant.22

22. Taken from Leher, p. 19.


The first aspect of NCT that is important for understanding their approach to all of these matters is their source of authority. Although all believers within the true Protestant tradition profess to sola scriptura, New Covenant theologians stress the fact that the specific texts of Scripture are the one source of absolute truth upon which to build all presuppositions.23 It is also important to keep in mind that this special revelation of God has been revealed progressively.24 The Bible was progressively revealed over a period of time culminating in the ultimate revelation of Jesus Christ, who then sent His representatives to preach His gospel and write His final word to man.25 This is the emphasis throughout the inspired letter to the Hebrews, whose author introduces his letter by saying, God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets [Old Testament], has in these last days spoken to us by His Son [New Testament], whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Heb. 1:1-2 NKJV). This is the heart of NCT, whose theologians argue that if Jesus Christ and His New Testament are the apex of Gods revelation, then we ought to read the earlier parts of Scripture in their light.26 Although not generally encouraged by many Old Testament academics, this is just one of many principals these theologians hold in common with Carson, who could not agree more with this position when he says: those who come to the OT with a hermeneutical key that fails to look for Christ everywhere are to that extent unbelievers. Whether it is in the name of quite literal interpretation or in the interest of having a complete ethical system beforehand, it is an act of blindness not to allow the Lord Jesus to have the final word. He fulfills it all. 27 This being the case, NCT begins with the New Testament texts and looks back to prior revelation underneath their light. They believe that approaching Scripture vice versa will lead to unnecessary errors such as

23. Reisinger, Abrahams Four Seeds, p. i-iv, 110; and Wells and Zaspel, p. 22. 24. Interestingly, this includes Gods moral law as well. See section III: The Law. 25. Among the plethora of arguments from both NC and non-NC theologians, see Fred Zaspel, A Brief History of Divine Revelation, in Wells and Zaspel; and chapters 2, 3, and 5 in Tom Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media). 26. Wells and Zaspel, p. 1. 27. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 263; in Wells, Priority of Jesus Christ, p. 70.

those aforementioned in the introduction. For instance, Reisinger points out that neither the Covenantal nor Dispensational systems can faithfully take Paul seriously in his discussion regarding Abrahams true spiritual heirs in Romans 9:6-8. They both take Genesis 17:7-8 at face value and apply the promise to a tangible physical seed; resulting in either making unregenerate children of Christian parents part of the Abrahamic Covenant, or a sharp separation between the plans of God with Israel and the Church. In reality, both systems end up with a hermeneutic that makes the OT interpret the NT.28 This is just one example of how such a method is both un-apostolic and dangerous. Wells agrees, reiterating that, we must not create problem texts in the New Testament by giving the Old Testament logical priority over the New. On the contrary, we must read the Old in light of the New, so that the Lord Jesus has the first and the last word.29 Although I have not seen them use the term, they seem to hold to a form of sensus plenior, in that with newer revelation we are now able to look back and find deeper and fuller meanings of various texts. Reisinger says that we can only know what Abraham understood by what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us in the NT. We could read about the life of Abraham in the OT a million times and never find what is revealed in Hebrews 11:8-10.30 This lines up with what seems to be the intuitive hermeneutic of many godly men throughout history such as the Patristic Fathers, Augustine, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards, etc. It also resembles the interpretative methods of the early Antiochian school, which held to both a definite historical reality and proper spiritual intent of a text set within the clear picture of the development of revelation. Peterson believes that this method has the advantage of offering a more integral understanding of the unity of the Bible.31 New Covenant theologians would agree, and a thorough reading and weighing of their arguments is necessary in order to determine whether or not such a method is faithful to the apostolic practice.32 This is not to say that New Covenant Theologians are Marcionites, nor do they neglect or deemphasize the

28. Reisinger, Ibid., p. 99. 29. Wells, Ibid. p. 71. 30. Reisinger, Ibid., p. 93. 31. Rodney Peterson, Continuity and Discontinuity: The Debate Throughout Church History; in Feinberg, ed. Continuity and Discontinuity. 32. See the first four chapters in Wells, Priority of Jesus Christ; and Wells and Zaspel, p. 1-43.

importance of the revelation God has given His Church within the Old Testament. On the contrary, Lehrer writes: I believe it is invaluable not only to the maturity of believers, but also to the growth of our appreciation of Gods work in orchestrating all of history, and particularly the history of Israel, for His elect people living in the New Covenant era: These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).33 The difference is that these men insist this is only the case when done in light of the believers revelation of and salvation in Jesus Christ. One possible objection critics may raise to such a position is Pauls statement in his letter to Timothy, where he says that all of the Old Testament is inspired and sufficient for making one wise unto salvation through Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15-17). New Covenant theologians would not disagree, but believe that here Paul is assuming the influence of the doctrine of Christ on Timothy so that all of his experience with the OT text is now colored by the light of Christs coming. 34 Again, Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of God to man and all prior revelation must be submitted to and read in light of Him. Thus within their hermeneutic we find the ultimate goal of NCT, which is the the joining together of three things: the logical priority of the NT over the Old; the logical priority of Jesus Christ over His godly predecessors; and the logical priority of the theology of the text over our own theologies and those of others. 35

33. Lehrer, p. 201. 34. Wells, Priority of Jesus Christ, p. 69; and Wells and Zaspel, p. 202. 35. Wells and Zaspel, p. 22.

THE COVENANTS Before summarizing NCT's views regarding the biblical covenants, especially the contrast between the Old and New, it is vital to iterate the distinction between the Old Testament and the Old Covenant. Although assumed to be a basic accepted truth, it is surprising how many conversations of this sort go awry because of a failure to recognize it. NC theologians emphasize a harmony and continuity between the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and that the OT Hebrew Scriptures are just as much an authoritative part of the word of God as they were before Christ; however, they also stress that there is an antithesis and discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants, where the Old Mosaic Covenant has passed away and has been replaced by the New (1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:6-13).36 Time and time again this fact seems to escape notice thus hindering discussions such as the one to follow, therefore it is pertinent to firmly establish it as the backdrop upon which the rest of this discussion is laid. NC theologians generally recognize six covenants found in Scripture: 1. Covenant with Creation (Gen. 1-3); 2. Noahic Covenant (Gen 6-9); 3. Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12, 15, 17); 4. Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19:3-8, 20-24); 5. Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89); 6. New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 33:29-39:29).37 They also are united in their rejection of a single and unified Covenant of Grace made with Adam after the Fall which runs throughout history. Instead, they prefer to use the phrase purpose of grace which they derive from texts such as Ephesians 1; therefore instead of one covenant of God with two administrations, they hold to one purpose or plan of God which includes a contrast between the covenants.38 Also, although the other covenants are in no way belittled by these theologians, their main focus and distinguishing emphases revolve around the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New

36. Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 33; A. Blake White, Galatians: A Theological Interpretation (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2011), p. 184. 37. Peter Gentry, Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 12, no. 1 (Spring 2008):16; from White, The Newness of the New Covenant, p. 4. On p. 9 White uses Hos. 6:7 and Jer. 33:19-26 to analyze Genesis 3 and establish a Covenant with Creation, although I am not sure that he is being entirely consistent with NCT's hermeneutic and thus making the same mistakes of Covenantalism that he is trying to correct. 38. See White, Galatian, p. 37, 84; Wells and Zaspel, p. 22, where they acknowledge, In opposition to the idea of a single covenant that runs through history, most Christians have seen the history of redemption centering around two major covenants: the Old and the New.; and Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds p. 39, where in regards to God's promise to Adam, he says that proclaiming the gospel of grace to a person is not the same thing as putting that person under a covenant of grace. This is a very important distinction of their position.

Covenants.39 Because these are the three covenants around which NCT revolves, they will be the subject of the rest of this section of the study. The Abrahamic Covenant Other than Jesus Christ, around whom the entire corpus of Scripture revolves and testifies to (Luke 24:27), for NCT no single character is as important for understanding redemptive history as Abraham. To quote Reisinger: Next to Christ himself, Abraham is one of the most significant men in all the Scriptures. No two people are related to each other as it concerns their 'seed' as are Abraham and Christ. The whole history of redemption revolves around Abraham and his seed. There is no information that will help us to see the one unifying message of redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ in both the OT and the NT Scriptures as much as knowing exactly what was promised to Abraham and his seed and who that seed is to whom the promises were made. This is a significant difference that separates Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology at their basic starting point.40 What is most distinguishing to their position is their belief that contained within the Abrahamic Covenant is a spiritual promise which is accompanied by a physical pledge and testimony. 41 That is, in a sense the Abrahamic Covenant contained within it both the Old and New Covenants, where together they serve as the physical and spiritual fulfillments of the one covenant with Abraham. Under the Old Covenant, God saves the physical descendants from the Egyptians and brings them to the Promised Land, which is Palestine. Under the New Covenant, God spiritually saves the spiritual descendants of Abraham from the world, sin, and condemnation, and brings them into the spiritual Promised Land, which is salvation rest in the new heavens and new earth. 42 In light of Paul's statements in Galatians 3:16, they hold that the true and ultimate seed promised to Abraham is Christ, and that the true promise and its inheritance are given to Abraham as the father of Christ, not to Abraham as the direct father of Jews or the Church. Thus Reisinger goes on to say, Union with Christ that is produced by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit by electing grace is the only ground for any person being the

39. One desperately wishes that an in-depth New Covenant treatise on the Davidic Covenant would be written. I have not come across any sufficient material on the subject, although White briefly gives a sound rundown in Newness of the New Covenant, p. 17-22. 40. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 2; so agrees Blaising and Bock, see Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), p. 135. 41. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 8. 42. Most of this is taken from Lehrer, p. 29.

object of the spiritual promise given to Abraham and his seed (Rom. 9:11, 23, 24). 43 In other words Christ is the only heir, and the elect only partake of these Abrahamic promises by virtue of their being a part of His Body. I believe that this language which advocates an intimate union of Christ with His elect Church can also be seen throughout numerous passages in the OT, such as 2 Sam. 7:14 where the Son of David is said to be punished by sufferings brought on by human hands when He does wrong. His physical body suffered at the hands of men for His people's sins at Calvary, and His spiritual Body has been disciplined for its sins by means of the hands of men throughout its history. NC theologians believe both Covenantalism and Dispensationalism err by not taking this sort of language into account. They contradict Paul's statement in Galatians 3:16 by holding that the promise to Abraham and his seed (singular) involves either Jews and their physical children (plural), or Christian parents and their children (plural). Any seemingly small error we make when it comes to these foundational matters has far reaching consequences on Church life and unity. As Reisinger points out, the real difference between a historic Baptist and a Paedobaptist is not the mode of baptism, but rather who they believe to be the true heir of God's promise to Abraham's seed.44 NCT also interprets the land promises in light of New Testament revelation. In Joshua 21:43-45 we read that YHWH gave Israel all of the land along with rest on every side, and that every one of YHWH's promises to Israel was fulfilled; however, the author of Hebrews explicitly says that Joshua had not given them rest, and there still remains a Sabbath-rest for the children of God (Heb. 4:8-11). The physical fulfillment of the land promise was merely typological. The wilderness generation was not allowed to enter God's rest, viz. the real Promised Land. This is understood in Hebrews 3 to mean that they did not obtain salvation; however, Joshua did indeed take the Israelites into the Promised Land and they were given rest. NC theologians reconcile this by seeing the author of Hebrews as pointing past a physical fulfillment concerning a physical land and rest from war to spiritual rest. The promise of Canaan as an everlasting possession is finally and ultimately fulfilled with the everlasting possession of the elect's eternal salvation.45 Therefore, just as the Abrahamic Covenant included within it a spiritual seed with a physical type and testimony; even so did it contain a spiritual Promised Land with a physical type and testimony

43. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 7-8 44. Reisinger, Ibid. p. 5. 45. Most of this paragraph is from Lehrer p. 35-36, which includes a great discussion.

which foreshadows and finds its fulfillment in the New Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant In regards to the Mosaic Covenant, NCT takes a position that depends heavily on the writings of Paul and has much in common with Reformed Theology. The Old Covenant came in as a picture and means to bring about the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and the redemption of those who belonged to it. Its direct purpose was not for the salvation of the ethnic Israelites of that time.46 On the contrary, the Old Covenant and God's dealings with Israel pictured the need of forgiveness of sins through sacrifice, examples of disobedience and apostasy, and even the redemption of the Israelites out of physical bondage; all which were intended ultimately not for their spiritual salvation, but for ours. This is supported by Paul's statement that these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, upon whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11). God orchestrated the birth and multiplication of the physical nation of Israel; delivered them from the Egyptians; had them rebel and die in their sins in the wilderness; and placed them under the Old Covenant until the coming of the Messiah. Lehrer says that this was all to teach the elect, and that one of God's primary purposes in orchestrating the history of Israel as He did was for us to learn from it and have a richer understanding of the seriousness of our sin and the glory of our redemption, similar to Paul's statements regarding the reprobate in Romans 9:21-24.47 This is very similar to the Anabaptists' interpretation of the relationships between the Covenants and their laws, in that the difference was between shadows and figures and light and fulfillment. These figures consisted of physical signs and manifestations, whereas their fulfillment consisted of spiritual realities they pointed to.48 Furthermore, NCT affirms that the Mosaic Covenant was a Covenant of Works made with a nation that was mostly unregenerate. The majority of Israelites throughout history were in some way recipients of grace and blessing in that they were physically redeemed, but not spiritually.49 The Mosaic Covenant came in as a works-based

46. Wells and Zaspel, p. 278; and Lehrer, p. 62. 47. Lehrer, p. 62-63; Andrew Murray also deals with this topic very well in chapters II-III in his book, The Two Covenants (Old Tappan, NJ: Spite Books, n.d.). 48. See David. M. Moffit, Anabaptists and the New Covenant, Kindred Minds Ministries http://www.kindredminds.org/Articles/anabaptists_nc.html. (Accessed July 29,2011) 49. Lehrer, p. 50.

arrangement to make guilty people even guiltier (Rom. 5:20), and it is a blessing to us and the elect believers under the old dispensation because it teaches both of us of our need for a Savior.50 That is not to say that there were not any justified believers during the Mosaic dispensation; however, they did not receive forgiveness based upon any Mosaic promises or provisionsindeed the only ones one seem to find are do this and live (Deut. 4:1)rather they were justified on the basis of their faith, and their sins were passed over because they would eventually be paid for by the Savior who would come and die for them (Rom. 3:25). 51 Again, this is only in reference to the Old Covenant which Moses revealed in the Pentateuch; not the Old Testament which includes the promises to the Patriarchs, the Writings, and Prophets. This Covenant was a blessing to Israel in that within it God revealed Himself to themalthough because of their own depravity they were unable to fulfill itand it was and is a blessing to God's elect because it teaches us the futility of trying to earn salvation by obedience to the law, and exposes our need for a Savior.52 The New Covenant For NCT, all of redemptive history is designed for and points towards the fulfillment of God's purpose of grace and His promises made to Abraham and his Seed. This fulfillment is found in the death and resurrection of His Son and His establishment of a New Covenant. To begin with, the New Covenant actually is a better covenant made with better promises (Heb. 8:6-7). It is better because it is not like the Mosaic Covenant which God made Israel, in that under the New Covenant God has promised to put His Law into all of His covenant peoples' hearts and forgive them of their sins (Jer. 31:31-34). This contrast proves that the Old Covenant was indeed a covenant of works and ministration of death (2 Cor. 3:7). The Old Covenant said If you obey, then you will be blessed (Ex. 19:5, 6, Deut. 4:1), but the New Covenant says, I have obeyed for you, believe and live (Heb. 10:14-22).53 Not only does this New Covenant provide the forgiveness and grace that the Old lacked (John 1:17); but also unlike Mosaic dispensation, it provides the desire and power to carry out its laws. To quote Reisinger, The Old Covenant carried a

50. Ibid. p. 53-55; this is also the main emphasis in Murray's, The Two Covenants, where he says that the Mosaic Covenant served to convey our need both in the objective (justification) and subjective (sanctification) sense. 51. Ibid. p. 50. 52. See Ibid. p. 55. 53. Reisinger, Abraham's Four Seeds, p. 74; also see A. Blake White, Indicative/Imperative Gospel Logic, in The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2010).

footnote that said, 'Batteries not included'. The New Covenant remedies this deficiency by the gift of the Holy Spirit.54 Furthermore, it must be noted that Jeremiah could not be more explicit that all those under the New Covenant will know God and have their sins forgiven (v. 34). This is why all NC theologians hold to Baptistic ecclesiologies and ordinances. Paul could say in reference to the Old Covenant people not all Israel is Israel, but the same situation cannot be true under the New Covenant. Under the Mosaic Covenant, circumcision was a physical picture of regeneration signifying that a person was physically born into the physical covenant people of God: Israel. Under the New Covenant, baptism is the outward sign that regeneration has occurred, signifying that a person has been spiritually born into the spiritual people of God: the Church which is comprised of both Jew and Gentile.55 In the words of beloved pastor Charles Leiter when responding to Paedobaptist theology, We do baptize infants, except they are spiritual infants.56 More will be said regarding these distinctions and the contrast between life under the Old and New Covenants. What is most important to take away from this section is the vital importance of the relationship between the covenants in NCT, and how they are different and distinct means which serve towards the end of one continuous and unified goal. We will conclude and summarize this section from a quote from Wells: [The relationship is a teleological] unity in which each covenant contributed something to the fulfillment of redemption history, but what each contributed could be quite different from the contributions of the other covenants. For example, the Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9:8-17) provided a continuing earthly scene on which redemption could take place. The Abrahamic Covenant with its promises outlines the course of redemptive history, while setting forth two kinds of redemptions and two peoples to experience them. Then the Mosaic Covenant regulated the course of redemptive history by producing the people who would write the Scriptures and bring forth the Messiah. Each of these covenants, if they did no more than I have suggested here, would serve the same ultimate purpose, to bring glory to God in the salvation of a people that no man can number.57

54. John G. Reisinger, But I Say Unto You (Frederick MD: New Covenant Media, 2006), 14; quoted in White, Law of Christ, p. 70.; this is the primary emphasis in Murray, The Two Covenants. 55. Taken from Lehrer, p. 108. 56. Charles Leiter Law of Christ (Part 2), Granted Ministries http://www.grantedministries.org/products/Law-of-Christ-%7C-Charles-Leiter.html (accessed August 18, 2011).

57. In Wells and Zaspel, p. 276.

THE LAW We now come to the most controversial aspect of NCT. Their views on the law have resulted in numerous attacks, with their opponents calling them everything from antinomian to the greatest danger to historic, Reformed Christianity today.58 Here they seem to find a kinship with the Apostle Paul, whose understanding of the Law was the most intricate part of his theology, resulting in similar attacks and slanders.59 Their position and arguments are too complex to deal with here in an exhaustive manner that would do these men justice, therefore my hopes are that this summary might give the reader a sufficient taste that might incite him to look into these matters more closely. 60 That being said, next to their position regarding the Covenants, their views on the Law are the most important aspects of their theology; aspects which they believe must be properly understood in order to bring Christ to the exalted position in the believers' heart He was always meant to have. The Law of Moses To begin with, it is important to clarify just what constitutes the Law of Moses. NC theologians are unanimous in recognizing that the threefold distinction of the Law into civil, ceremonial, and moral categories finds no support from a single writer of Scripture. This is one of the many positions Schreiner holds in common with these theologians, proving not only from Galatians that Paul considered the law to be a unity, but also that Second Temple literature shows that the works of the law referred to all the commands of Moses' Common Law. 61 Therefore, when speaking of the Law of Moses, NC theologians are referring to all of the laws set out under the Mosaic Covenant, including the Decalogue. The Ten Commandments are the words of the covenant (Ex. 34-38), and this is the precise reason why the Israelites called the sacred box the Ark of the Covenant and not the Ark of

58. Sam Waldron, quoted in Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 283; also see his defense against the antinomian claim in Appendix B: An Open Letter to R.C. Sproul, in Ibid. 59. Thomas R. Schreiner, The Law and its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), p .13. 60. Some suggested sources are A. Blake White, The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2010); Tom Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2005); and John Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008). See Schreiner, p. 39, and p. 52-54 where he references the Qumran literature, Damascus document, and the Testament of Judah.

the Moral Law.62 Whatever a Christians relationship is to the Law of Moses, it must follow that it is the same as his relationship to the Ten Commandments. Second, similar to the discussion regarding the covenants, it is important to differentiate between the expressed purpose of the Law at the time it was given and the decreed and redemptive purposes of the Law in God's plan of redemption for His elect. The Law in itself is good with holy and just commands, it only becomes a ministration of death when it comes into contact with those whose hearts hate the One to whom the Law testifies (Rom. 7:12-14). Most of the aspects that are most pertinent to NCT deal with the decreed and redemptive purposes of the Law; therefore it is important to keep in mind that when using negative Pauline language in reference to the Law they are not referring to the Law in itself, but rather its overall intended purposes in dealing with sinful man within redemptive history. Purpose and Message Wells neatly lays out what he sees to be seven biblical reasons for the Mosaic Law code, they are: 1. to give Israel a [standard of] holiness analogues to Gods holiness (Lev. 11:45, 19:1); 2. to distinguish and separate Israel from the surrounding nations (Lev. 18:1-5, 24-30, 20:23-26; Eph. 2:11-16); 3. to maintain earthly life and to grant Israel continued possession of the promised land (Deut. 4:14, 5:32-33, 6:2-3, 20-25); 4. to demonstrate Israels greatness through Gods grace in wisdom and understanding to the nations (Deut. 4:6-7); 5. to identify sin and transgression, leading to despair of ones own righteousness (Rom. 3:20, 5:20, 7:7-13; Gal 3:23-25); 6. to be a disciplinarian for the nation of Israel until Christ came (Gal. 3:23-25); 7. to provide a framework with which to understand the priestly work of Christ (Heb. 3:16, 5:1-6, 8:1-6).63 The primary emphases and distinguishing marks of NCT are found in their handling of reasons 5-7. First, they hold that even though the giving of the Law was a redemptive historical act of grace, there was not one ounce of grace in the Law itself. The message of the Old Covenant religion was stay away because God is holy and you are a sinner. The Law served as a foundation and backdrop for the gospel of salvation from the sins

See Lehrer, p. 38; and Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 130. So agrees John Owen, in An Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 5 (Marshallton DE: National Foundation for Christian Education, 1991) p. 428; from Wells, p. 78. Wells, p. 100-101. I have interjected the words standards of in reason #1 because of the repeated emphasis of Wells and other NC theologians that the Law could not impart or give holiness to sinners, nor was that its intention. It must be acknowledged that this correction may or may not be what Wells had in mind in this specific statement, although it is necessary in order represent the position of all NC theologians and to maintain consistency.


that the Law magnified and condemned; the means had no grace, but the end is a gracious work.64 Their views are those of John Bunyan, who they consider to be a forefather and champion of their theology. It is best illustrated in the scene from A Pilgrims Progress where the man with the broom (representing Moses and the law) with all his striving could only stir up the dirt in the human heart and display his inability to clean it; whereas the damsel (Holy Spirit) comes and sprinkles the water (gospel) and cleans the room with ease.65 Again, the problem is not with the Law, but with the inability of the sinner to keep it and earn its promised righteousness. Only Christ could both perfectly obey the Law and die under its curse for His people.66 Like Paul, and contrary to many Old Testament academics, their language and opinions regarding the Law in relationship to man is emphatically negative. 67 Interestingly, Dempster notices that Sinai does something profoundly negative to Israel: Murmuring before the giving of the law was not judged (Exod. 17:2-7), but it is judged severely after the law (Num. 11:1-3). Also, pre-law Sabbath violations bring a reprimand (Exod. 16:27-30), while post-law Sabbath violations bring death (Num. 15:32-36). Before the law, Israel succeeds against the Amalekites (Exod. 17:8-16) but they fail miserably after the law (Num. 14:41-44).68 Most NC theologians say that at its most basic level, the Mosaic Law was an external code for a national society. It dealt primarily with material actions within a physical society instead of the internal spirituality within an individual. One very interesting argument they use in support of this is the tenth commandment. The command against coveting would have been redundant and unnecessary if the commandments against stealing and adultery included internal desires.69 This external Law functioned as a pedagogue and schoolmaster over all Israelites, whether they were saved or lost; the essential difference was that believers were no longer under the curse of the Law


Taken from John G. Reisinger, Study in Galatians (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2010), p. 73,

191. Referenced in Reisinger, Abrahams Four Seeds, p. 73, where he goes on to say that once the room is cleaned out, the Covenant theologians put the broom back into the hand of Moses and put him in charge of keeping the room clean.
66 65

Lehrer, p. 157.

For instance, see Brevard S. Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), p. 57, Stephen Dempster, Dominions and Dynasty (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), p. 112-113; referenced in Lehrer, p. 78.
69 68


Wells and Zaspel, p. 205; Wells, Priority of Jesus Christ, p. 93.

even though their consciences were still bound to it. They derive much of this from Pauls treatise in Gal. 3:23-4:7 where, similar to the Anabaptists, they see that prior to the Holy Spirits distinctive ministry under the New Covenant the believing Israelite was still an underage heir likened to a slave. Once the Redeemer came and freed those under the Law by giving them a new living Master in the Person of His Spirit, they received the full adoption as mature sons.70 The true believing Israelitewhich they believe was a part of a rare remnantloved God and could use His Law as a guide because through faith he believed that God would not impute the curses to him (Rom. 4:5-8).71 This explains many statements found in the Davidic Psalms such as Ps. 119; however these believing Israelites had not yet received union with Christ and His Spirit of sonship. Thus, the Mosaic Law was temporary, and would eventually be done away with the coming of a New Covenant with a New Law. Its Temporary Nature NC theologians use texts such as 2 Cor. 3; Gal. 3; Heb. 7 to reiterate that the Mosaic Law had a specific and temporary nature that has been fulfilled and replaced by a new Law. They are in total agreement with Luther on these points, who saw that in light of Ex. 20:1, the Decalogue was meant only for the Israelites whom God brought out of Egypt.72 When Christ accomplished His work He abolished the Law written on tablets of stone, and with His new priesthood has replaced Moses en toto (2 Cor. 3:7; Heb. 7:12).73 NCT is emphatic that when Scripture repeatedly uses the term fulfill in regards to the Law, it does so unequivocally in regards to all parts and in the same way. Thus Zaspel comments, The understanding of Moses as fulfilled in Christ as offered here has the distinct advantage of showing that all of the law is fulfilled in exactly the same way. Moral, civil, ceremonialall the law has the same prophetic function, looking forward to Christ; in his person, work, and teaching he fulfills it all as its eschatological realization.74

See Reisinger, Galatians, p. 15, 115, 177, 188, 233; along with Moffitts discussion on the Anabaptists, http://www.kindredminds.org/Articles/anabaptists_nc.html.


Lehrer, p. 124.

Martin Luther, How Christians Should Regard Moses, Luthers Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis Concordia Publishing House, 1963), 35:165-166; in Wells and Zaspel, p. 152.


Wells and Zaspel, p. 150-151, 154; Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 65. Wells and Zaspel, p. 156; also see Wells, Priority of Jesus Christ, p. 61.


They liken this fulfillment and the transition from the Law to Christ to the transition of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Moses is not left intact, but rather continues through his fulfillment and full maturity in Jesus, who establishes His new Law.75 Although this new Law is distinct, it retains many of the same principles and commands as Moses, except they now come from a new Lawgiver. Reisinger likens it to the ratification of the Constitution. The colonies joined together to become a new nation that was no longer under the law of England, although they incorporated many laws that had already been enforced under that previous law; but in a U.S. court, no American would or could appeal to anything in the English Constitution.76 This is what NC theologians mean when they say Christians are no longer under Moses. We are now under a new Lawgiver, and even if much of what He says sounds similar to the old Law, we are to maintain our allegiance and remain bound only to the Law of Christ. The Law of Christ Like Dispensationalists, NC theologians see that Christian believers are under the Law of Christ set forth in the NT as a separate code. They derive the concept primarily from Gal. 6:2 and 1 Cor. 9:2 where Paul clearly distinguishes it from the old Law of Moses. Matthew also describes Jesus as the Prophet and new Moses, as is seen in Matt. 17:1-9 where the Apostles are told by God to listen to Him over and above Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets), thus fulfilling the prophecy in Deut. 18:15.77 They also take serious the emphatic But I say unto you and the various antitheses throughout Matthew 5-8, seeing that Jesus not only advances but also forbids some aspects of OT Law.78 This seems to agree with some scholars who find evidence that early Rabbinic Judaism believed that the old Torah would cease upon the arrival of the Messianic Age.79 According to NCT this new Law is a higher morality with higher standards, and they reject the idea of one ultimate and final codified Moral Law that was revealed under Moses; but rather hold that progressive revelation


Wells and Zaspel, p. 143. Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 211-212. Wells, p. 31.



White, Newness of the New Covenant, p. 32; also see D.A. Carson, Matthew. Vol. 1. In The Expositors Bible Commentary. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995)., p.154. I.e. Albert Schweitzer, Mysticism of Paul; Hans Joachim Schoeps, Paul and the Law in A Companion to Paul; cited in Schreiner, p. 157, where he also comments that Dodd, Davies, and Longnecker argue that this was Pauls belief.


in Scripture includes the area of morality as well as anything else.80 For instance, it was not a sin for an Old Covenant Israelite to hate Gods enemies and kill their Pagan neighbors because of their false religion; but under the New Covenant loving your neighbor includes all men (Lk. 10:25-37), not just your fellow Israelite (Lev. 19:1718).

As Jesus Christ is the apex of Gods revelation of Himself to man, so is His Law and morality the ultimate

expression of His character and standards. Its Constitution Just what is this Law of Christ, and where is it to be found? White answers this question by putting forth five points regarding this law: 1. it is the law of love; 2. it is Christs example; 3. it is the teaching of Christ; 4. it is the teaching of the Apostles; 5. it is the whole canon interpreted in light of Christ.82 Moo takes a similar position, where he clarifies, This 'law' does not consist of legal prescriptions and ordinances, but of the teaching and example of Jesus and the Apostles, the central demand of love, and the guiding influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 83 NC theologians notice that when instructing and commanding churches, the NT writers rarely appeal to the Mosaic Law, but often to Christ and his gospel; and even when Old Covenant commandments are brought up, they are either used typologically or brought over underneath the light of Christ and the gospel.84 It is the royal law to love God and man, in light of Christs coming and work, which is the new commandment and royal law of liberty that John and James write about (Jn. 13:34; 1 Jn. 2:7; Js. 2:8, 12). For NCT, this is the Law whose fruit is internally produced in Christians through the indwelling Holy Spirit. In Gal. 5:16-26 the contrast between works and fruit is deliberate, in that while the flesh works hard to produce its


Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 135, 195; Wells and Zaspel, p. 162-163.

See Lehrer, p. 164, 241; White, The Law of Christ, p. 86. The same principles apply to remarriage, polygamy, etc. White, Law of Christ, p. 85; for a clear discussion of the law of love, listen to Charles Leiter, Law of Christ (Part 3), Granted Ministries, http://www.grantedministries.org/products/Law-of-Christ-%7C-CharlesLeiter.html (accessed August 18, 2011). Douglas Moo, The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View. In Five Views on the Law and Gospel, ed. Stanley N. Gundry (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), p. 342; quoted in Ibid. p. 83
84 83 82


Ibid., p. 97; Wells and Zaspel, p.180-185; Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 205-206.

failed efforts, the Spirit works His fruit in us so that we both will and do according to His good pleasure. 85 As was stated before, New Covenant believers under the Law of Christ are released from both the flesh and pedagogue of the Mosaic Law, and become full sons and heirs: In summary, the believing Jew was an heir-in-waiting until he was son-placed by the gift of the Spirit, and the Gentile believer was son-placed at conversion and then, because he was a son, he was given an inheritance. In the first case, an heir becomes a son, and in the other case, a son becomes an heir. In both cases, the received inheritance is the same.86 Contrary to many theologians, they hold that this Spiritimplanted law is not the Decalogue code, but that Jeremiah was prophesying about the fulfilled Law in Christ; and they again use the analogy of a caterpillar (external code of the Law) changing into a butterfly (internal heart of the Law).87 This Law is not merely a sentimental feeling, nor some amorphous and unprincipled idea of unlicensed good will, but rather it contains clear precepts and boundaries which provide a foundation and clear description of what a real expression of this love looks like (i.e. the Sermon on the Mount). Christians and the Law of Moses NC theologians take the position of both Luther and Bunyan who believed that although the Mosaic Law may function as a teacher and helper of our faith, and be listened to as a prophet and witness of Christ, we can in no way let it reign over our conscience; otherwise we fall from grace, and Christ profits us nothing.88 Its threats and negative commands such as Thou shalt not! are more suited for rebels than believers. This was Pauls point when writing to Timothy, where he explicitly says that the Law is not made for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious sinners, and that this is the only way to lawfully apply it (1 Tim. 1:7-11).89 They are not all agreed, however, as to whether the Law of Moses or Law of Christ should now be used when confronting unbelievers with their sin; but given Pauls statement and their views regarding the purpose and function of the old Law, it seems as if


Reisinger, Galatians, p. 366. Ibid. p. 233.


Wells and Zaspel, p. 170-173; Reisinger contra Barcello, in New Covenant Theology and the Promise of the New Covenant, In Defense of Jesus. John Bunyan, Of the Law and a Christian, The Works of John Bunyan, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1999), 2:388; quoted in Reisinger, Galatians, p. 173; and Martin Luther, Galatians, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, ed. J.I. Packer and Alistair McGrath (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 247; quoted in White, Galatians, p. 137.
89 88


Wells, p. 94

the former is to be preferred (although there does not seem to be any reason in their arguments why the two should be mutually exclusive in regards to unbelievers). A Christian, however, may allow the law to instruct their minds and teach them about God and redemption, as long as everything is filtered through the New Covenant and their consciences remain bound only to their new Law-giver and His Spirit. That being said, there are still insights and principals that Christians may derive from the Law and apply to their lives. First of all, we may clearly learn about the attributes of God and what He values. Second, with care and wisdom we may derive various principles to apply under the New Covenant, such as Pauls use of Deut. 24:4 when he takes a passage about feeding oxen and applies it to the financial support of elders. NC theologians believe that this is a hermeneutic that should be encouraged, although conservatively. For instance, White says, It takes care, humility, discernment, and wisdom to apply the law to new covenant believers. An easy example is the command to build a parapet around one's roof (Deut. 22:8). An application for us is putting a Beware of Dog sign on our fence or building a fence around a swimming pool to protect life. That's the heart of the command, is it not?90 Again, this seems to agree with the natural hermeneutic of men such as the early Fathers, Henry, Spurgeon, Edwards, etc., and also promotes a consistency when applying moral, civil, and ceremonial language to New Covenant life. In conclusion, NCT teaches that the Law of Moses was an external code written on tablets of stone under an Old Covenant ministration of death that was primarily designed to display Gods holiness and mans depravity; thus revealing his need for an atoning sacrifice and freedom from sin (2 Cor. 3:3-7; 1 Tim. 1:7-11). The Law of Christ, on the other hand, is the expression of an internal love written on tablets of the human heart under a New Covenant freedom in the Spirit, which is entirely based upon the work, example, and teachings of Christ. (Jer. 31:33; Rom. 15:2-3; 2 Cor. 3:3). These teachings are to be found both in the Gospel records, and also the writings of His apostolic representatives set forth in the New Testament. Those who are a part of Christs New Covenant Church are entirely under His rule and authority, and rather than living by the principle that Moses points you to Christ to be justified, and Christ points you back to Moses to be sanctified, Christians are to abide in Christ, for apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5).


White, Law of Christ, p. 185.

ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH As may have been previously observed, all of NCTs views regarding major historical-redemptive themes are dependent upon one another and interrelated at their most basic foundations; and the same may be said about their views regarding Israel and the Church. Just as the physical pictures and types of the Abrahamic Covenant were set forth under the Old Covenant to be fulfilled and fully experienced in the New, even so was the nation of Israel a physical picture and type of what would later be fulfilled and realized within the Church Christ came to establish. Ancient Israel was the shadow, the Church is the substance. Each institution was established for differing purposes in the grand scheme of redemptive history, carrying with them different laws along with different blessings, but both testifying to and serving Gods grand purpose of grace in which He decreed to eternally redeem a people for Himself. Ancient Israel NCT holds that ancient Israel was an elect physical nation which was for the most part unregenerate, with the exception of a perpetual remnant of genuine justified believers that God had preserved within the nation (see p. 20). Reisinger argues that we must make a clear distinction between the physical nation of Israel as a special seed chosen from among all of the other natural seeds of Abraham (i.e. Ishmael, Esau, etc.), and the elect seed of true believers within that nation: In reality, they were a group of proud, individualistic, self-seeking rebels. They were established and sustained as a nation only because of their physical lineage to Abraham and Jacob. God did this as a fulfillment of his promise to Abraham and also to accomplish his purpose of bringing forth the Messiah through the appointed nation.91 Lehrer believes that although Christians may fall into sin, and God may warn and chastise them as a loving Father, these were both of a different nature than what we generally read of in the Old Testament. He argues that the difference between what was happening in the book of Judges and the experience of the Christians struggle with sin is like the difference between night and day. In 2 Kings 21:10-15, the reason God is going to cursenot disciplineIsrael is because they had been doing evil in His eyes ever since the day He brought their forefathers out of Egypt. This is why Lehrer believes that the nation had always been apostate, and argues against the opinion that Israel had largely been Gods believing people until the judgments in 711 and 586 B.C.92 This establishment and preservation of an unbelieving nation who could not help but continually disgrace the gracious


Reisinger, Abrahamss Four Seeds, p. 69, 75. Lehrer, p. 80-83.


God who had physically redeemed them was all to display mans utter depravity and inability in himself, and thus his need for a Savior who could atone for his sins and give him a new heart. Furthermore, as was mentioned in the previous discussion regarding the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants, NCT holds that all of the blessings, ordinances, and promises to the nation of Israel were types and foreshadows of their true fulfillments found in the New Covenant Church. Lehrer sums up their position by saying: [I]n the Old Covenant era we see spiritual truths being related in picture form. When God revealed mans need for atonement, He used the types and shadows of an elaborate sacrificial system including thousands of priests and barnyard animals. When God revealed the promise of His people to dwell with Him, He did so in the types and shadows of the land in the Middle East and in a building made of bricks and mortar. This is the way in which God revealed His plan in the Old Covenant era. So when God used the prophets to explain the spiritual fulfillment of Gods plan in the New Covenant era, God decided to use the language of types and shadows. He was describing the New Covenant in the language of the Old Covenant. He pointed toward the spiritual goal of Gods plan in the brightest and clearest way that the physical types and shadows would allow.93 For NCT everything from the Law, Prophets, and the Writings find their fulfillment in Christ and His Church. These were always the end and the goal; thus, when Jeremiah prophesies about the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem, an eternal dynasty sitting on the throne of David, and an eternal and plentiful Levitical priesthood continuously making sacrifices, he is using Old Covenant language to describe Gods New Covenant fulfillment which is far better than the old pictures.94 The Church NC theologians hold that this New Covenant era began with the establishment of Christs Church on the day of Pentecost (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2; 1 Cor. 12:12-13).95 This is where they differ from the Covenantal concept of one Church existing throughout redemptive history. Christs statements recorded in Matthew 16:18 seem to indicate that something new is about to be built, and it is not upon any prior foundations. The promises to Abraham were not fulfilled until the death and resurrection of Jesus, and this is the reason why the writers of the NT constantly point Jews back to the Cross and Pentecost as the fulfillment of these promises (Acts 3:24-26).96 Reisinger argues that the giving of the Spirit was the heart of the promise of the gospel in the OT Scriptures, and the crowning experience of


Lehrer, p. 85 Ibid. p. 91; also see 2 Cor. 3:7-13. See Wells, p. 109-120; and Reisingers chart in Abrahams Four Seeds, p. 114-115. White, Galatians, p. 93; Schreiner, p. 62.




the gospel in the New Covenant. This is seen in the Apostles emphasis on the fulfillment of the promises made to the prophets, such as Joels prophecy and the covenant made with David. In Reisinger words: The 'in Christ' experience of being 'baptized into his body' cannot take place until the middle wall of separation erected by the Law Covenant has been removed. The true inheritance cannot be realized until the true seed to whom the promises are made has come and fulfilled the Old Covenant, earned the blessing it promised, died under its curse, and then established the New Covenant, the new man, the new access, the new status, yea, the whole new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This is exactly what we celebrate when we sit at the Lord's Table and remember the New Covenant sealed in his blood (1 Cor. 11:25).97

For NC theologians, this work of Christ is the fulfillment of all of the Law and the Prophets, and both for Jews and Gentiles alike. Gentiles are now brought into the people of God by the blood of Christ, in that if a Gentile was in Christ when He died, then that Gentile was also in Him when He fulfilled the Law; therefore all Gentiles in Christ have fulfilled the conditions of the Covenant. (Eph. 2:11-22).98 Also, whereas the Old Covenant Sabbath stood as the sign of Gods specific covenant with Israel, now both Jews and Gentiles are able to partake of the spiritual Sabbath. They take Robert Garners position, in that Jesus is the only Sabbath of rest for believers under the gospel, and to keep this Sabbath from polluting it is believe in Him alone for righteousness apart from any work. Like circumcision (Col. 2:11); the feast of tabernacles (Jn. 7:37); the Jubilee Sabbath (Lk. 4:16-21); the cities of refuge (Heb. 6:180); the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7); the Day of Atonement (Heb. 10:1-14); and all Mosaic institutions, the Sabbath has reached its fulfillment in Christ (Col. 2:17; Heb. 4). 99 To conclude with Reisinger: The Church is the 'nation born in a day.' She is the true 'House of David.' She is the Temple of the Living God and each of her members are living stones in that growing temple. God himself not only dwells in her midst, but also he literally indwells every stone. Her children, without exception, shall dwell safely in the mountain of God forever. She is Abraham's seed because she is in Christ, and every one of her children, without exception, are true believers because they are born spiritually. They are all baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit of Promise and are all given the Spirit of Adoption in order that they might realize that new position. The New Covenant community that was promised in the prophets has been now established forever, and that New Covenant community is the true and final fulfillment of God's promise to make Abraham a great nation.100

Reisinger, Abrahams Four Seeds, p. 61, 108; one obvious implication of this is that, contrary to Covenantalism, all of those under the New Covenant are regenerate believers. See prior discussion on p. 16. White, Galatians, p. 140; also see p. 96 where he references Poythress statement that since New Covenant is made with Israel and Judah, it is made with Christians by virtue of their union with Christ the Israelite, from Vern Polythress, Understanding Dispensationalism (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1987), 106. Robert Garner, A Treatise on Baptism (1645; reprint, Paris, AR: The Old Faith Baptist Church, n.d.), 30; in Wells and Zaspel, p. 235. See Wells entire chapter entitled The Sabbath: A Test Case.
100 99 98


Reisinger, Abrahams Four Seeds, p. 112.

EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION Much has been attempted to be covered in this brief study, and much more could be written to further expound NCT and their exegetical arguments. There are many more nuances and positions that warrant discussion; however, what has been covered here are those themes where all NC theologians have reached a consensus. Again, this movement is not monolithic, and White believes that the basis for a person holding to NCT could be as minimal as: viewing the new covenant community as all having the Spirit; Christ as the true Israel and the Church as inheriting the promises by virtue of its union with Him; the Mosaic Covenant as an interim covenant; rejection of the Israel/church distinction; rejection of the tripartite distinction of the law; and a rejection of the theological category of the Covenant of Grace.101 I have thus far attempted to remain as objective as necessary, albeit here I must admit that I joyfully agree with most of what NC theologians argue for, and am beginning to increasingly appreciate some of these truths and believe that they are of the utmost importance in the life of the Church. That being said, I still have some reservationsor rather perhaps simply desire deeper clarityin regards to some of their points, and now will go on discuss some of what I see to be potential weaknesses and, more importantly, strengths to this theology. Weaknesses 1. Lack of Consensus This first weakness is probably the one most felt and frustrating to those within the NC camp, however it does not necessarily affect the validity of their overarching approach and positions. This mostly has to do with certain nuances such as specific aspects of prophecy, New Covenant Law, Israels future, eschatology, etc. For instance, there is actually no consensus as to whom the phrases house of Israel and house of Judah in Jer. 31:31 actually refer. Some believe that they refer exclusively to the Church, others to the literal houses, and some say both.102 This may relate to the fact that there is no set position in regards to a future for ethnic/political Israel; and although many of them sound overtly Amillennial in their interpretations of OT prophecies, I have yet to come across a NC theologian who has openly confessed to holding to this eschatology. Admittedly these are some minor issues that may apply to all theological systems, however they still warrant more discussion.


White, Newness of the New Covenant, p. 57. Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 87.


2. Old Testament Saints and Unclear Pneumatology These are the largest problems for me when it comes to much of what they say, particularly Reisinger. I have joined these themes together into one category because I believe that each problem intimately affects the other. First of all, I do not think they adequately deal with the OT saints relationship to the Law. In one place they seem to say that justified believers looked into the Law and took pleasure in it because they knew that the curses would not be imputed to them; whereas in another they talk about how their consciences were bound to the pedagogue until the coming of the faith, which they see as the Christian faith. Is this the way Paul describes it? What does it mean to have a conscience bound to the Law knowing that you are free from its curses? Also, in his discussion on Gal. 3:2429, Reisinger makes Paul sound like he was a genuine believer under the pedagogue when he persecuted the Church, but that he had not yet received the new Spirit of adoption and sonship. This opens up a can of numerous theological worms that he and others simply do not clearly address. These points are also related to an unclear pneumatology. They do not seem to deal with in any in-depth systematic detail the relationships and distinctions between regeneration, indwelling, baptism, filling, empowering, or sanctification by the Holy Spirit; nor the differences or similarities of these ministries between the Old and New Covenants. These are vitally important topics that affect many of their positionssuch as OT salvation, what actually occurred at Pentecost, walking by the Spirit vs. the Law and flesh, etc.and warrant deeper acknowledgement and discussion if there is to be a richer consistency to their overall theology. Although he was not an official New Covenant theologian, I believe that Andrew Murray is extremely helpful in these areas, and that his book The Two Covenants deals with some of the deeper implications of NCT which they have not yet tackled.103 Strengths 1. Hermeneutics This aspect of NCT could also be included under its potential weaknesses. If not guarded, it could lead to an exegesis similar that of Origen which later lead to a loss of the reality of OT history and openness to fanciful typology and Gnosticism. That being said, I believe that their argument for interpreting the OT in light of the New could not be more agreeable to true Christian spirituality and instincts. As has been previously mentioned, their

Andrew Murray, The Two Covenants (Old Tappan, NJ: Spite Books, n.d.); also available in PDF for free at http://savior-of-all.com/The%20Two%20Covenants.pdf.


typologically focused approach to the OT strongly resembles that of the Apostles and early Christian writings such as 1 Clement, Shepard of Hermas, Epistle of Barnabas; and was utilized by sound men of God throughout history. More importantly, their NT hermeneutic gives the correct priority to Jesus Christ and His Apostles, and ensures that our theological foundations are built upon their teachings and inspired view of the Old Testament. 2. Views on Covenants and Law This is where I believe NCT shines the most, and have been most blessed by it in my reading of Scripture. I could not emphasize more just how much God has blessed me by opening my eyes to see the dim realities of some of what these men believe about the covenants, and I cannot remember a time when I ever had such desire to read the OT as if it directly applied to me just as much as the NT. Christ and Gods eternal plan for His elect seem to jump out on every page, and it is astounding how things that now shine so bright were so hidden before. I believe that it has forever changed and enriched my view of Scripture, in that it all seems more interconnected in ways that I had never imagined; and more importantly, has magnified Gods epic work of redemption in Christ and has given me a new awe and hunger for the final consummation. Furthermore, although perhaps needing some more clarification, I believe that their definitions of the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ are spot on and consistently line up with both the Apostles and continuing patterns within Gods restoration of His Church since the 16th century. It seems as if throughout each proceeding generation God without fail takes a reforming part of His Church farther and farther away from an Old Covenant government that was epitomized by Rome, progressively purifying Her from its pollutions towards a pure New Covenant government of Christ. At first dissenters are usually ostracized for giving priority to Christ over the OT or tradition, and on a much smaller scale this appears to be what is going on with NC theologians within the Reformed community.104 After reading their arguments, meditating over Scripture, and reflecting upon Church History, I have come to agree with them that God will only bring about a theological and practical reformation in the Church when She, theologically and practically, returns Christ to the elevated status that Scripture gives him. At the end, this is the goal of New Covenant Theology.105

I.e. see Richard Barcellos, The Death of the Decalogue, Tabletalk, September , 2002;and In Defense of the Decalogue (Enumclaw, WA: Winepress Publishing, 2001); and the opposing authors responses to Douglas J. Moo, Law of Moses or Law of Christ, in Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity.


Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, p. 53


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