What Is And Is Not New About The New Covenant

Because the Baptist tradition(s) operate from a set of assumptions that are, in certain important ways, distinct from those with which the Reformation churches operate regarding the history of redemption it can be a challenge for those of us within the Reformed tradition to communicate with our Baptist friends (and they with us). I have frequently had the question from my Baptist friends: “In Reformed theology what is really new about the New Covenant?” I have often given in to the temptation to try to answer the Baptist question on essentially Baptist grounds. I realize now that is a mistake. In the spirit of the age I am giving myself a “do over.”

One Substance, Multiple Adminstrations

When my Baptist friends ask me what, according to Reformed theology, is new about the New Covenant they are almost always assuming things that the Reformed tradition does not. E.g., when a Baptist says “New Covenant,” they usually assume (there are exceptions) that the covenant of grace was promised before the New Covenant but it has never actually existed in history. Thus, they begin with a radically different view of the continuity of the covenant of grace from that held by the Reformed. That is to say there really is no covenant of grace, in reality, in history, until the New Covenant. Thus, to the degree a Baptist begins with that assumption, the very question, “what is new about the New Covenant?” is a trick question. From the Baptist perspective, the answer is: everything. From a Reformed perspective, however, the answer is more complex.

As the Reformed understand the history of redemption, there is one covenant of grace, which ties together all of redemptive history, which was administered throughout the history of redemption. The New Covenant is not the first time the covenant of grace has entered history. The covenant of grace has actually been in, with, and under the types and shadows (i.e., the Old Testament) through which the salvation was progressively revealed and administered for thousands of years before Christ came. When God the Son came to Adam and Eve, after the fall, he articulated the  promise of the covenant of grace: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15).

According to Reformed theology, that was an administration of the covenant of grace. So were the promises made to Noah in Genesis 6:18, “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you” (ESV). The promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, and 17 were administrations of the covenant of grace. The Mosaic covenant was also an administration of the covenant of grace as was the Davidic covenant. The New Covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace.

Thus, in a very important sense, one part of the answer to question, “what is new about the covenant of grace?” is nothing. The substance of the covenant of grace is the same under the types and shadows and today, in the New Covenant. God the Son promised to be our Redeemer and he made good on this promise in his incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection, and ascension.

What’s New Is Bigger Than You Think

The Baptist understanding of the covenant of grace, for understandable reasons, tends to focus on the benefits of the covenant of grace and particularly on the application of the covenant to individual believers. Where the Reformed think of the covenant of grace as something that is objective to us, which is administered outwardly, and through which the elect receive the benefits of Christ, i.e., the benefits of the covenant of grace inwardly, our Baptist friends tend to think of the covenant of grace solely as the collection of those who have already received Christ and his benefits. They do not think of the administration of the covenant of grace as we do. The covenant is not administered in the visible church as much as the visible church, a collection of the regenerate, simply recognizes those who have already received the benefits.

It is also understandable in light of the language we see in Jeremiah 31:31–33:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people (ESV)

Where the Reformed have always understood this promise to indicate a contrast in relative terms, our Baptist friends tend to think of this passage in absolute terms. The contrast, however, in the passage (on its own terms) is between the Old, i.e., Mosaic, administration of the covenant of grace, and the New. According to Hebrews chapters 7–10, what is being replaced is the Mosaic covenant. Further, where the Reformed tend to understand Jeremiah’s language to be figurative (specifically hyperbole, where the New Covenant is characterized in Old Covenant terms), our Baptist friends tend to take it more literally as a defining characteristic of the New Covenant supporting their conviction that the New Covenant is composed entirely of regenerate persons. For more on Jeremiah 31 see this essay.

In the past I have moved too quickly and easily over the second and most important part of the answer to the question: God the Son became incarnate. That was at the heart of the covenant of grace promised and administered through types and shadows. According to Hebrews 11, all the believers under the types and shadows were looking for Christ. They were not looking for land. Had they desired land they could have had it. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that God would raise his promised son from the dead. Moses walked away from all the riches of Egypt for the sake of the reproach of Christ. Some were tortured and others were martyred for Christ’s sake.

They were all looking for one thing: Christ. Peter wrote,

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Pet 1:10–12; ESV)

In the New Covenant we have him, in the flesh, for whom they hoped. Christ is the substance of the covenant. He was not merely promised to them in the future, he was actually with them under the types and shadows (e.g., 1 Cor 10:1–4; Jude 5 in NA28 and ESV). Yet, he was not with them in the incarnation. The Apostles actually touched God the Son incarnate (1 John 1:1–3). God is with us (Immanuel). He touched people. He sat at table with them. He wept. He suffered. He was crucified, dead, buried, and raised. They saw him ascend (Acts 1:9) and we shall seem him come again in glory. What is new about the New Covenant: God the Son fulfilled his promise that he made to Adam, Noah, and Abraham. The seed of Abraham and the seed of the woman crushed the head of the serpent even as the serpent struck his heel. He has come. He has conquered (John 12). He is drawing all the nations to himself.

It is a mistake of significant proportions to pass over this reality when accounting for the nature of the New Covenant. It is impossible to extol sufficiently God’s grace and mercy to us in that, in the New Covenant administration of the one covenant of grace, we are no longer under types and shadows. We are not straining, looking, hoping that he might one day come. He has come and he has done all that he promised to do. There are no more types and shadows. The ceremonial (religious) laws are defunct. We are free from the food laws, the religious obligation of circumcision, hand washing, etc. The priesthood has been replaced by the Melchizedekian priesthood because Christ has an indestructible priesthood and life (see all of Hebrews). We have a great high priest and Mediator who never dies. He is the lamb, the temple, and the priesthood. All the types and shadows have fulfilled their purpose. The dividing wall has been taken down (Eph 2:11–22). The judicial laws, except insofar as they reflect the universal natural law, are expired. There are no more national peoples of God. God the Spirit is drawing to Christ people from all the nations. The church, the New Covenant assembly, is trans-cultural, trans-national, trans-linguistic.

It Is Semi-Eschatological

There is at least one other aspect to the answer to the question that must be mentioned if only because it often goes overlooked. The people under the types and shadows were looking forward in history but they were also looking up, to heaven, to the final state. About Abraham Hebrews wrote, “By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:9–10). Abraham had an eschatological faith. He was looking for a heavenly kingdom and a heavenly King. Hebrews explains about all the believers who lived under the types and shadows:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:12-16; ESV).

They were looking upward for the Savior and salvation from the wrath to come. This means that the covenant of grace was never earthly in substance. It was always heavenly in substance. It was administered through earthly types and shadows and an earthly national people but those were accidental, i.e., non-essential features. When Christ came he brought with him the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. In him we entered into the holy of holies (Heb 9:12; Heb 10). Heaven has been opened to us and for us. We are fed at the Lord’s table, in heaven, as it were, on the “proper and natural” body and blood of Christ (Belgic Confession art. 35).

They were always anticipating the heavenly reality but now, in Christ, that heavenly reality has entered history. The “last days” were inaugurated. We live a semi-eschatological existence, with a heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20), as pilgrims, strangers, and aliens.

The New Covenant is not heaven but you can see it from here. That is why the “semi-” is so important. The visible church is still mixed. There are still “waterless clouds” at our love feasts (Jude 12). There are still heretics (2 Tim 2:17). There remain those who trample underfoot the blood of Christ and profane the blood of the covenant (Heb 6:4; 10:29). They taste of the powers of the age to come but they only eat to their condemnation.

What is new about the New Covenant? To borrow a phrase, “much in every way” and nothing. Both are true at the same time. Praise God for the substance of the one covenant of grace and for the blessing of living in this wonderful new administration.

Resources

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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17 comments

  1. One Particular Baptist twist is by Sam Renihan. He proposes in his book “Crux, Mors, Inferi” that the souls of Abraham and all those saved by their faith in the promise of the Seed, before his coming, were captive in Upper Sheol. Thus, one of the new things about the New Covenant was Christ’s going to free the captives there and take them to Heaven where he would complete the ritual sacrifice of Atonement “as a ransom price for the prisoners of hope” and a “means of liberation,” he offers “blood, in a new covenant”.

    • Bill,

      I was aware of this most unfortunate turn in Sam’s theology. More than unfortunate, it is bizarre. This view has more in common with early Christian chiliasm than it does with the Reformed reading of Scripture and his adoption of it further highlights how far a growing number of Particular Baptists have moved from the Reformed reading of the history of redemption. It is against this increasingly radical reading of redemptive history that this essay (and several of the others linked) is aimed. I understand that not all the PBs hold his view, hence the qualifying language in the essay, but his seems to be the hot approach right now.

    • Dr. Clark, I’m asking because I don’t know, and because you have far more contact with confessional Lutherans at the academic and seminary level than most Reformed people.

      Is this view of Sam Renihan similar to what Lutherans teach about the “descent into hell” clause of the Apostles Creed? I know what individual Lutherans and Lutheran pastors have told me sounds very much like what William Duncan describes above, i.e., Christ descended into hell to release the Old Testament saints, but I don’t know whether those Lutherans have correctly (or perhaps more important) completely explained their own Lutheran tradition.

      • Hypothesis: Sam was driven to this quasi-purgatory position by his view that all the OT saints were under a covenant works and a covenant of grace simultaneously. Sam has said explicitly that the Abrahamic covenant was a “covenant of works.” For him, the covenant of grace is entirely future. It is revealed but not actually present under the types and shadows. Philip Cary argued something like this in the 17th century to which William Flavel responded thus:

        But, sir, I wonder how you hold and hug a principle that runs naturally into such gross absurdities: Do you see what follows from hence by unavoidable consequences? You must, according to this principle, hold, That Moses, and all God’s peculiar elect people in Israel, most, during their life, hang mid-way between justification and condemnation; and, after death, between heaven and hell.

        (1.) During life, they must hang mid-way between justification and condemnation; justified they could not be, for justification is the soul’s passing from death to life, 1 John 3:14. John 5:24. This they could not possibly do, for the ministration of death and condemnation hindered. He that is under condemnation by the law, cannot, during that state, pass into life. And yet to be under condemnation is as impossible on the other side; for he that is justified, cannot at the same time be under condemnation, Rom. 8:2. John 5:24. What remains then, but that during life they must stick mid-way betwixt both, neither justified nor condemned; and yet both so and so. Justification is our life, and condemnation our death, in law: Betwixt these two, which are privately opposed, there can be no medium of participation, and yet such a medium you hear fancy.

        (2.) And then after death they must necessarily hang betwixt heaven and hell; to heaven none can go that are under the very rigour and tyranny of the law, a pure covenant of works, as you say they were.

        To hell they could not go, being under the pure covenant of grace: What remains then, but some third state must be assigned them? and so at last we have found the limbus paturim, and your position leads us right to purgatory: a conclusion which, I believe, you yourself abhor as much as I.

        (2dly,) This hypothesis pinches you with another dilemma, viz. Either there was pardon or repentance in Moses’ covenant, and the Sinai dispensation of the law, or there was none; if you say none, you directly contradict Lev. 26:40, 46 if there were, then it cannot be Adam’s covenant of works.

        You answer, p. 179. ‘That God promiseth pardon for the breach of Moses’ covenant, and of Adam’s covenant too, but neither Adam’s covenant, nor the Jewish legal covenant, promised any pardon upon repentance, but rather threatens and inflicts the contrary.’

        Reply. Either this is a direct answer to my argument, to prove the law at Sinai cannot be a pure Adam’s covenant, because it had a promise of pardon annexed to it, Lev. 26:40 but Adam’s covenant had none. If your answer be direct, then it is a plain contradiction in saying it had, and it had not a promise of pardon belonging to it. Or else it is a mere evasion, and an eluding of the argument; and your only meaning is, that the relief I speak of is not to be found in any promise belonging to the Sinai dispensation, but in some other gospel covenant or promise. But, sir, this will not serve your turn; you see I cite the very promise of grace made to the Israelites on mount Sinai by the hand of Moses, wherein God promiseth upon their humiliation to remember his covenant for their good. Now, sir, you had as good have stood to your first answer, which is less contradictory, as to this which is no less so; as will evidently appear, by a nearer and more particular view of the place, and gathering up your own concessions about it. That this text, Lev. 26:40 hath the nature of a gracious promise in it, no man will deny, except he that will deny that God’s remembering of his covenant, for the relief of poor broken-hearted sinners, is no gospel promise pertaining to the covenant of grace: That it was made to the penitent Israelites upon mount Sinai, and there delivered them by the hand of Moses for their relief, is as visible and plain as the words and syllables of the 46th verse are to him that reads them. Let the promise then be considered both ways. (1.) In your sense, as a plain direction to the covenant of grace made with Abraham for their relief; for you say it was, p. 180. or let it be considered absolutely, as that which contained relief in itself for the penitent Israelites that should live towards the end of the world, after they should be gathered from all their dispersions and captivities, as you there speak, and more fully explicate in your accommodation of a parallel promise, p. 111, 112, 113. First, let us view it in your sense, as a relative promise to the covenant of grace made with Abraham, Gen. 12 to which, say you, it plainly directs them; and then this legal dispensation can never be the same with Adam’s covenant, for to that covenant no such promise was ever annexed, which should guide and plainly direct them to Christ and pardon, as that star which appeared to the wise men directed their, way to Christ. If there be any such relative promise belonging to Adam’s covenant in paradise, as this which I plainly shew you was made on mount Sinai, be pleased to produce it, and you end the controversy; but if you cannot, (as you know you cannot) then never say the legal dispensation at Sinai, and the covenant of works with Adam in paradise, are the very same covenant. Secondly, Let us consider this promise absolutely in itself, and then I demand, was there mercy, relief and pardon contained in it for any penitent sinner present or to come? Yes, say you, it extends relief to penitents, after God shall gather them from all their captivities at the end of the world; very good. Then it is a very vigorous promise of grace, which not only reaches 430 years backward, as far as the first promise to Abraham, but also extends its reliefs and comforts many thousand years forwards, even to the purest times of the gospel, just before Christ’s coming to judgment: And can such a promise as this be denied to be in itself a gospel-promise? Sure it can neither be denied to be such, nor yet to be made upon mount Sinai by the hand of Moses. This dilemma is as pinching as the former.

        Perhaps you will say, This promise did not belong to the moral law given at Sinai, but to the ceremonial law: If so, then I should reasonably conclude, that you take the ceremonial law (of which you seem to make this a branch, p. 181.) to be a covenant of grace, seeing one of its branches bears such a gracious promise upon it. No, that must not be so neither; for say you, p. 151. the ceremonial covenant is of the same nature with the covenant of works, or law written in tables of stone: Whither then shall we send this promise? To the covenant of grace we must not send it, unless only as an index or finger to point to it, because it was made upon mount Sinai, and delivered to Israel by the hand of Moses: To the gospel-covenant we must not therefore annex it; and to the legal dispensation at Sinai you are as loth to annex it, because it contains so much relief and grace in it for poor penitents; and that will prove, that neither the moral nor ceremonial law (place it in which you please) can be a pure covenant of works as Adam’s was.

        Moreover, in making this the promise which must relieve and comfort the distressed Israelites in the purest gospel-times, towards the end of the world, you as palpably contradict yourself in another respect; for we shall find you by and by stoutly denying, that the gospel promises have any conditions or qualifications annexed to them; but so hath this, which you say relates to them that shall live at the end of the world, “If their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and if they accept the punishment of their iniquities, then will I remember my covenant,” &c. But be this promise conditional or absolute, two things are undeniably clear: (1.) That it is a promise full of grace, for the relief of law-transgressors, ver. 40. (2.) That it was a mount Sinai promise ver. 46. And such a promise as you can never shew in Adam’s covenant.

        Besides, it is to me an unaccountable thing, that a promise which hath a double comfortable aspect 430 years back, and some thousands of years forward, should not cast one comfortable glance upon the penitents of the present age, when it was made, nor upon any till near the end of the world. What think you, sir, of the 3000 Jews pricked at the heart, Acts 2 had they no relief from it, because their lot fell not late enough in time? Were the penitent Jews in Moses and Peter’s days all born out of due time for this promise to relieve? O what shifting and shuffling is here? Who can think a man that twists and winds every way, to avoid the dint of an argument, can possibly have a moral assurance of the truth of his own opinion?

        John Flavel, The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, vol. 6 (London; Edinburgh; Dublin: W. Baynes and Son; Waugh and Innes; M. Keene, 1820), 331–34 (HT: Chad Vegas).

    • Todd-

      Not intending to jump ahead of RSC’s reply, but as a life long Lutheran until about 15-17 years ago, I can testify that they officially teach this, as found in Luther’s Small Catechism:

      “150. What do the Scriptures teach of Christ’s descent into hell?

      The Scriptures teach that Christ, having been made alive in His grave, descended into hell, not to suffer, but to proclaim His victory over His enemies (KJV).
      (For reference and support of this view, Luther uses 1 Peter 3:18-19)

      Now, I have heard some Lutheran pastors further elaborate on this passage in several ways – 1) Christ descended into Hell where he stomped on satan’s head in fulfillment of Genesis 3:14-15 and 2) I have also heard some of them say something similar to what you are saying, that Christ released the OT saints, but I’m not sure how and where they find that in the Scriptures.

    • Renihan cites Bishop Thomas Bilson’s translation of the “Torgau Sermon” on Psalm 16, particularly v. 16, as the proof of Luther’s position. Yet Renihan could not locate the source of Bilson’s translation.

  2. What about the more physical aspects of the covenants prior to Christ vs the more spiritual after? The OT had physical land, physical tablets of stone for the law, a physical kingdom, a physical temple, etc. The NT has Christ’s kingdom that’s not of this earth (yes i know that Christs kingdom has always existed and was even modeled by the throne in jerusalem. I mean the Kingdom is now mostly spiritual with the physical Israel not existing) , people are adopted by faith not genealogy, the temple is Christs people, and the law is written on our hearts.

    I’ve grown up dispensational, the macarthur style. Over the past several months of have inched away from it. Starting with the fact that the jews don’t have a separate plan from the gentiles and that prophets quoted in the NT don’t have a double fulfillment (one for the church and one for the “real” NC in the future). I have gone towards more of a classic reformed view. How the physical and spiritual elements between the testaments plays out is still confusing to me.

    • Hi Dalton,

      It is a journey from Dispensationalism to historic Christianity but it is a journey worth taking. It will require patience between Dispensationalism has its own paradigm, it’s own set of assumptions within which it reads Scripture, its own questions that it seeks to answer, and its own way of reading Scripture by which it seeks to answer those questions. The Dispensational paradigm, assumptions, and questions are not those of the historic Christian church, however. They certainly aren’t those of the Reformed wing of the Reformation.

      One great difference between Dispensationalism and Reformed theology is that Dispensationalism sees national Israel as the center of God’s plan in redemptive history. Everything revolves around national Israel so much so that, in future, they say, God intends to restore a national Israelite kingdom and even the Israelite temple cult and sacrifices. According to the Reformed confession, God’s plan was always that God the Son would become incarnate, obey for the elect, save them by his obedience, death, and resurrection. To put it simply, for us, the Bible is about Christ. For us, the Bible is unified by that one thread, which we also call the unity of the covenant of grace. It may be that God will save a great number of Jews in future (that is a debated issue) but national Israel was always, as Hebrews says about Moses, a worker in God’s house but Jesus is the Son.

      Dispensationalism has a hermeneutic that it establishes outside of Scripture and brings to Scripture. The Reformed seek to read the Old Testament the way the New Testament writers read it. We do not see 1 Peter 1 or 1 Peter 3 or Acts 24 as exceptional but rather as clear indicators not only of how they read Scripture but as indicators of how we ought to read Scripture now.

      The national Israelite covenant, i.e., the Mosaic covenant, was indeed earthy and a type and shadow of things to come. There were national promises, a physical temple, a priesthood etc. We understand that all those things were intentionally temporary. Like a 1982 Ford, they were designed to work for a while and then to be replaced. This is ho we understand Paul’s response to the Judaizers in Galatians 3. They appealed to Moses but Paul appealed to the Abrahamic covenant as the prior and permanent arrangement. That is why he called Moses a “pedagogue.” The whole function of the temporary, national Israelite covenant (the Mosaic covenant) was to teach the Israelites the greatness of their sin and misery and to point them to Christ. He is “the seed.” That is why Paul contrasts the New Covenant with the Mosaic, Old Covenant, which he calls “fading,” in 2 Cor 3 and why Hebrews characterizes the Mosaic covenant as temporary and inferior. The New Covenant, i.e., the new administration of the covenant of grace, is superior.

      You are right to say that there is not separate plans for Israel and the church. Under the types and shadows (particularly Moses), the church was (mostly) Israelite but there has always been one people of God, one church, one covenant of grace, through which God’s plan of salvation has been administered in the history of redemption. That is why Paul calls the church “the Israel of God” because Christ is Israel (see Matt 2) and, in him, all who believe are Israel, as it were, or seeds. Paul says both things. In Christ, the dividing wall (Eph 2) has been broken down. That is why Paul wrote to the Ephesians (ch 3) and to the Colossians (ch 3) that there is no more Jew, Gentile etc in the church. I’m pointing you to whole chapters intentionally so that you will see the context.

      Here’s an essay on what is arguably the central issue: The Israel of God

      Here are some resources to help you work through these issues:

      Resources On Dispensationalism

      See also the resources listed under the post above.

    • I was raised Dispensational, weaned on Chafer, Walvoord, and Ryrie, and did my initial seminary training at Dallas Theological Seminary. What tipped the scales for me was a deep dive into the “Abomination of Desolation” prophecy.

      It was taught to me that in the last days Israel would rebuild the full temple and restart the sacrificial system as outlined in the Mosaic Law. Halfway through the Great Tribulation, about three-and-a-half years after the Rapture, the Antichrist would show up and sacrifice a pig or some such thing on the altar, a la Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C., then set himself up to be worshipped as God.

      Yet as I studied the concept of temple worship under the Old Covenant and compared it to what is taught under the New Covenant, I became convinced that any form of new temple worship/sacrifice would be an abomination, no matter what the time period. I wondered: if Christ offered the once-for-all sacrifice necessary and took it into the heavenly holy places, then how on earth would God not only be OK with ethnic Jews rebuilding the temple to offer sacrifice, but actually desire it? The entire idea seemed (and seems) to me an affront to Christ and a repudiation of his perfect work on the cross.

      It was when I began to argue with my seminary friends and professors that the true abomination of desolation would be ANY form of temple sacrifice, even if it adhered strictly to Mosaic Law, that it became clear to myself and others I should, perhaps, find a different venue to further my theological studies.

      While there are many arguments to be made against Dispensationalism, this was the one that brought me over to fully embrace covenant theology. I am forever grateful for the doctrines of grace and the assurance I have found in the Reformed faith.

  3. Thank you it’s so helpful! The most important thing is how one views the Abrahamic covenant. St Paul obviously looked back to it as a covenant of grace. I was wondering, as a Reformed presby, I see a lot of Reformed people who are influenced by John Frame (Like the guy of Reformed forum), interpreting old covenant types of the covenant of works (do this and live etc.) or if I may call it law (law gospel distinction), as grace and gospel (since there’s one covenant of grace), and I think that’s confusing and not orthodox. I believe there’s one covenant of grace to be sure, but as you clearly perceived in the article, that in the Mosaic covenant (yes, a covenant of grace), God intended to reveal the church’s sins by using types of the covenant of works (law, do this and live). Just thought I’d ask and see your view of this issue. I’m unavailable to see “do this and live” as somehow infused righteousness (or sanctification), since St. Paul interpreted it in light of law gospel distinction.

    • ” I see a lot of Reformed people who are influenced by John Frame (Like the guy of Reformed forum), interpreting old covenant types of the covenant of works (do this and live etc.) or if I may call it law (law gospel distinction), as grace and gospel (since there’s one covenant of grace),…”

      It would be helpful if you referred to some specific writings or programs from where your description are drawn from.

    • I remember an episode (Reformed Forum) of some guys replying to 1689 guys, and they were explaining, in response to the the baptists’ view of the old covenant as a covenant of works, law passages from Deuteronomy as sanctification for the church back then, since the covenant of grace is always preexisting (to which I agree). But where I think the problem is, that even though the covenant of grace was established in the old covenant, there are a lot of passages in the Mosaic covenant particularly, that must be regarded as law passages or a type of the covenant of works (like Deuteronomy 18), since St. Paul interpreted them as law passages (First use of the law) in Galatians. And, I think the problem is that they don’t use a law gospel distinction hermeneutic. What’s your thoughts?

      • Joseph,

        I haven’t heard the episode so I can’t comment specifically. I have heard that they did respond to Sam Renihan by emphasizing the unity of the covenant of grace contra Sam’s theory (addressed in earlier comments and repeatedly in a variety of articles on the HB linked in the resources above) that all the covenants before the New Covenant were covenants of works. This is a significant mistake and a significant departure from Reformed theology. The New Testament authors repeatedly affirm Abraham and the Abrahamic covenant as the paradigm of the covenant of grace. Indeed, when Paul wants to refute the Judaizers in Galatians 3, he contrasts Moses as a temporarily and legal covenant, with Abraham as the prior and permanent covenant of grace.

        It will help if we will distinguish between the Old Testament broadly or the types and shadows broadly, including all the OT administrations of the covenant of grace, and the Old Covenant narrowly or the Mosaic Covenant. The Mosaic covenant is distinct from the Noahic and Abrahamic. The NT treats it that way in 2 Cor 3 and Hebrews chapters 7-10. Moses is inferior and fading. That’s not true of the Abrahamic or even the Noahic.

        Moses also has a dual character that the Noahic and Abrahamic do not. Moses was, outwardly, an administration or a pedagogical republication of the covenant of works to teach them the greatness of our sin and misery.

      • Resources On The Unity Of The Covenant Of Grace
      • Resources On The Republication Of The Covenant Of Works
      • Not that Moses was ever or ever could have been an actual covenant of works but the language of works is quite prominent in the Torah (e.g., Ex 24: “We will do all the works of this law” and Lev 18:5, “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Yahweh.”) Think too about the imposition of the temporary judicial and religious laws, which, in distinction from the moral law (the Ten Commandments) were intentionally temporary.

        That legal aspect or character distinguishes it clearly from the Abrahamic and Noahic.

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