Audio: With Chris Gordon And AGR On Replacement Theology

Covenant theology is unknown to most American evangelical Christians. Others, however, are regularly warned (usually by Dispensational pastors and teachers) about the dangers of “replacement theology.” They allege that the Reformed churches teach that the church has “replaced” Israel in God’s plan. Since they are certain that God has a special plan and place for national Israel (including the future rebuilding of the temple and the future re-institution of animal sacrifices) the look at historic Reformed covenant theology through that lens and accuse it of teaching “replacement theology.” Is it true? Do the Reformed teach “replacement theology” and is Reformed, covenant theology dangerous as they allege? Chris Gordon and I sat down to discuss this question on Abounding Grace Radio.

Here is the episode.


  1. (Audio) Chris Gordon: Has The Church Replaced Israel?
  2. Covenant Theology Is Not Replacement Theology
  3. The Israel of God
  4. Resources For Those Just Beginning To Study Covenant Theology
  5. Three Things Dispensational Apologists Should Stop Saying (Part 2)
  6. “To The Jew First:” Office Hours Talks To David Zadok About Jewish Evangelism
  7. Reading the Scriptures As The Apostles Did?

AGR is online and on the air:

Daily Broadcast Schedule
7:00 AM and 7 PM on GraceRadio 107.9 FM (Modesto,CA),
4:00 PM on KPRZ 1210 AM (San Diego, CA),
4:00 PM on KPDQ 800 AM (Portland/Salem, OR)
4:00 PM on KRDU 1130 AM (Fresno, CA),
4:30 PM on KARI 550 AM (Northwest WA and Lower Mainland of B.C.)
KVOH out of Zambia into the larger African continent.

7:30 PM (Sundays) on CJFW 103.1 FM Terrace B.C.
8:30 AM and 9:30 PM (Sundays) on CFIS 93.1 FM (Prince George, B.C.)

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  1. Could it be that Covenant theology is in fact “additionist” theology–Gentiles are added to the Jews in God’s plan of salvation?

  2. Dr. Clark,

    Has Replacement Theology ever been a view in Covenant Theology? Or is Replacement Theology just a misconception of Covenant Theology?

    • LC,

      No “replacement theology” is a view constructed by Dispensationalist critics of Reformed theology and imputed to us based on their misunderstanding of covenant theology. It mostly means, in effect, “You’re not Dispensational.” Well, that’s true but we don’t teach “replacement theology” and we never have.

  3. Dr. Clark,

    I just read your article “A Brief History of Covenant Theology.” I enjoyed it and have a few questions.

    1. The covenants of works and grace correspond to Law and the Gospel. In the article you outlined dangers with disregarding this distinction, such as “[Barth] rejected the covenant of redemption and the classic distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace as “legalistic.” In Barth’s theology, grace overwhelmed Law.” This sounds just like John Piper’s rejection of the distinction between the law and gospel-covenants of works and grace. Does this run of the risking of asserting a gospel of salvation through keeping the law? If so, to what degree?

    2. What is the theory of the progressive abrogation of covenant of works proposed by Cocceius? Do you agree with this theory?

    • L. C.,

      I don’t know if there is a direct connection between Barth and Piper but many evangelicals and too many Reformed have reached similar conclusions as Barth because they have too often operated on similar assumptions.

      Yes, rejecting the law/gospel distinction most certainly runs the risk turning the gospel of salvation sola back into the medieval mess of salvation through faith and works.

      On the progressive abrogation of the covenant of works, see the English translation of Cocceius:

      It was controversial at the time, in some circles, but I don’t think it is so regarded today. I was not scandalized by it.

      • Angela,

        You said “God abrogated the covenant of works for that purpose” and later said unbelievers “are still under a covenant of works.” Do you mean God no longer saves people through the covenant of works (as we are incapable of keeping it) but that it is still in effect? The covenant of works clearly seems to be in effect for these reasons:

        1. Verses speaking about the covenant of works being broken after the fall (Hosea 6:7, Isa. 24:5). Also the fact that Jesus fulfilled it (Rom. 8:3-4).

        2. Death, the covenant sanction, still occurs.

        3. Unbelievers are still under a covenant of works, as you said.

        • LC,

          Yes, the covenant of works as a way of eternal life has been abrogated after the fall but the demand to fulfill it remains for all who have not trusted Christ as their obedient, law-keeping substitute. They cannot do it but the demand and the rhetorical promise remains. “Rhetorical” I say, because, after the fall we are incapable. We are born dead in sins. We owe for our own sins and yet the law continues to demand of us perfect obedience. Hence the importance of the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s active righteousness.

    • What I meant was that the covenant of works has been abrogated as a means of justification for those who trust in Christ, who obeys it perfectly for us and fulfills all of its requirements as our representative. Anyone who does not trust in Christ for their righteousness is still under the covenant of works. It is abrogated as the way of justification, under the covenant of grace, for those who trust in Christ, but the law continues to show us how we are to love God and neighbor. I suppose you could say it comes down to the fact that the covenant of works must be fulfilled for our righteous standing before God. Since that is impossible for us since the fall, God has sent His Son to fulfill it as our Representative, so that we, who trust in the Son, are made righteous through the covenant of grace, through faith in Christ. It is grace for us, because Christ fulfilled all the demands of the covenant of works for us, and suffered the death curse for our covenant breaking. For that reason, when we trust in Christ, the law, as covenant of works for justification, can be described as abrogated for those who trust in Christ alone for justification, even though the moral law continues to inform us how we ought to live, and to drive us to Christ for forgiveness as we live a life of repentance, trusting in Him alone.

  4. Dr. Clark,

    We cannot be saved through keeping the covenant of works because of our sin-nature, but is the covenant of works still in effect? I’ve heard it isn’t, but some Scripture verses (Hosea 6:7, Isa. 24:5) as well as the fact that Jesus fulfilled the covenant of works (cf. Rom. 8:3-4) seem to clearly indicate that it is still in effect. The argument pro-abrogation seems to be that we broke the covenant in Adam, our federal head, thus abrogating the covenant for Adam’s descendants, with the exception of Christ, the last Adam and Son of God (cf. Lk. 3:38). Do you think this view is correct?

    • Good question! It occurs to me that before the fall the covenant of works was the way for Adam to achieve eschatological glory and eternal life with God because he was created good and able to do so. After the fall, Adam and all mankind became incapable of obeying the covenant of works for their eternal life in glory, and God abrogated the covenant of works for that purpose, introducing the covenant of grace which promises eternal life in a glorified state, with God, on the basis of trust in the promised One who alone could fulfill the demands of the law as covenant of works, as the representative of all who trust in Him alone. The law still has three uses: as a curb against immoral behavior, as a school master to drive us to Christ, when we see our inability to obey the law as a covenant of works for eternal life with God, and as the norm for how the Christian is to behave. Those who do not trust in the righteousness of Christ alone for their right standing with God for glorified eternal life with God, are still under the covenant of works, which they are unable to fulfill for the righteousness they require to achieve eschatological life in glory with God. I think the idea that the covenant of works has been abrogated, except for Christ, is limited, as the promise !to those who trust in Christ for their righteousness. I too would like to know if I understand this correctly.

    • L. C., after a bit more digging, I discovered that Dr. Clark has already answered our question. See: in answer to Ginger’s question, “how did Christ fulfill or abolish the covenant of works?” August 9, 2013 I think we were on the right track. It is called, How Did Christ Fulfill the Covenant of Works as the Last Adam.

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