The Covenant of Redemption - Hebrews 9:16-17 Where a Testament Is
(2) The Covenant of Redemption - Defined by Covenant Theology
(3) The Covenant of Redemption - Opinions by Others
(4) Redemption - Revealed, Accomplished, Applied
(5) The Making of the Abrahamic Covenant
(6) The Making of the Mosaic Covenant
(7) Covenant and Testament - Definition and Usage
(8) Hebrews 9:16-17 - A Problem
(9) Hebrews 9:16-17 - A Solution
(10) Dispensationalism - The New Covenant(s)
(11) Covenant Theology - The Church
(12) Dispensationalism - The Church
(13) The Church Summary
(14) Covenant Theology - The Covenant of Grace, The Gospel
(15) Dispensationalism - The Covenant Of Grace, The Gospel
(16) The Covenant of Redemption Summary
Wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_theology states under the heading General Description “The standard description of covenant theology views the history of God’s dealings with mankind in all history, from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Consummation, under the framework of three overarching theological covenants - the covenants of redemption, of works, and of grace.” Lewis Sperry Chafer states in his book Major Bible Themes on pg. 128 “A dispensation is normally marked off by a divine appointment and responsibilities with which it begins and by divine judgment with which it ends. Seven dispensations are commonly recognized in Scripture: (1) innocence, (2) conscience, (3) government, (4) promise, (5) law, (6) grace, (7) millennial kingdom.” These are foundational concepts from which Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism derive their names, and the basis of their interpretation of Scripture.
In the previous article “The Covenant of Works”, by the study of Romans 3:27 and other related scriptures, facts were presented that indicated certain aspects of the way God deals with mankind are consistent throughout all times. Although most Dispensationalist deny the existence of a Covenant of Works as defined by Covenant Theology, considerable evidence was presented for the existence of a law of works (Romans 3:27), that is interdispensational, that is similar in some ways to the Covenant of Works defined by Covenant Theology, and considerably different in other ways.
We now ask the same type of questions in regard to the Covenants of Redemption and Grace. This includes questions such as: Do the Covenants of Redemption and Grace exist? If so how are they defined? What are the similarities and differences in Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism in regard to these Covenants? How does the understanding of these Covenants effect the understanding of grace, faith, and salvation? It is possible in seeking the answer to these questions that we may find again, that Covenant Theology, and Dispensationalism, and are both partially correct and partially incorrect.
The Covenant of Redemption - Defined by Covenant Theology
The internet site wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_theology under the heading Covenant of Redemption states “The covenant of redemption is the eternal agreement within the Godhead in which the Father appointed the Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to redeem his elect people from the guilt and power of sin. God appointed Christ to live a life of perfect obedience to the law and to die a penal, substitutionary, sacrificial death (see penal substitution aspect of the atonement) as the covenantal representative for all who trust in him. Some covenant theologians have denied the intra - Trinitarian covenant of redemption, or have questioned the notion of the Son’s works leading to the reward of gaining a people for God, or have challenged the covenantal nature of this arrangement. Those who have upheld this covenant point to passages such as Philippians 2:5-11 and Revelation 5:9-10 to support the principle of works leading to reward, and to passages like Psalm 110 in support that this is depicted in Scriptures as a covenant.”
R.C Sproul states in his book What is Reformed Theology? on pgs. 107-109 “The first covenant we consider in the scope of Reformed theology does not directly include human beings, but is never the less critically important. The covenant of redemption involves the parties who work together to effect human redemption: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This covenant is rooted in eternity…This covenant defines the roles of the persons of the Trinity in redemption. The Father sends the Son and the Holy Spirit…The initiative for redemption belongs to the Father. The Son willingly subordinates himself to this sending…the son accomplishes the mediatoral work of redemption in our behalf, and the Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to us.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments in his article The Everlasting Covenant posted at the-highway.com/articleJune03 about Ephesians 1:1-14 “Do we realize that our salvation was planned before the foundation of the world…This is made clear in our chapter. In verses 4-6 we are told about the Son’s part; and in verses 12 and 14 we are told about the part of the Holy Spirit; and note that in each case the description ends with the phrase, “to the praise of the glory of his grace”, or similar words. The divine council considered everything “before the foundation of the world” and the work was divided up and planned in that manner. The Father has His purpose, the Son voluntarily says He is going to carry it out, and He came and did it, and the Holy Spirit said He was ready to apply it. But before we leave it, I must add this, that what really happened in the eternal Council was that God drew up a great covenant called the covenant of grace or the covenant of redemption.
Covenant of Redemption - Opinions by Others
Arminian Theologian Dr. Robert E. Picirilli comments in his book Grace, Faith, and Free Will on pgs 189-190 “In the first place, such a discussion of a covenant between the Father and the Son ought to proceed, if at all, with great hesitation. Nowhere is there direct indication that such a covenant was made, and even more important is the fact that the terms of such a covenant are not revealed - especially not whether those promises were not conditional…If there was such a covenant of redemption (and I do not object to the idea in principle), the only way we have of reading its terms respecting salvation is by reading in the New Testament how salvation is actually effected and applied”
The following opinions are by Dispensationalist. Lewis Sperry Chafer comments in his book Major Bible Themes on pgs. 140-141 “Another covenant is suggested and named the covenant of redemption in which the teaching is advanced that a covenant was made between God the Father and God the Son in relation to the salvation of man in eternity past. In this covenant, the Son of God undertook to provide the redemption for the salvation of those who believe, and God promised to accept His sacrifice…The covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace, accordingly, have some scriptural basis and are more acceptable to most students of the Bible than the covenant of works, which has no scriptural support.”
Charles Baker comments in his book A Dispensational Theology under the heading The Covenant of Redemption on pg. 91 “Based on the fact that God promised eternal life before the world began (Titus 1:2), and therefore before man was created, theologians have surmised that the Persons of the Godhead entered into a covenant to provide salvation for mankind before they were created or fallen into sin. It may be this was in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews when he spoke of the blood of the everlasting covenant (Hebrews 13:20). The Scriptures relate the fact that the Father sent the Son, and that the Son came to do the Father’s will, and that the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit, all of which appears to indicate an agreement or compact between the Persons of the Trinity.
George Williams comments on Titus 1:2 in his book The Complete Bible Commentary on pg. 966 “Man not existing before the world began, it must have been to Christ that God promised an election in a life that should be endless.” John MacArthur comments on Titus 1:2 in his book The MacArthur Bible Commentary on pg. 1819 “before time began. God’s plan of salvation for sinful mankind was determined and decreed before man was even created. The promise was made to God the Son (see notes on John 6:37-44; Eph.1:4,5: 2 Tim.1:9).”
Redemption - Revealed, Accomplished, Applied
Redemption is revealed by the gospel, accomplished by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and received by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This section considers some of the details of: (1) How redemption was revealed to mankind; (2) How the agreement for redemption was accomplished within the Godhead; (3) How redemption is applied to mankind.
(1) How redemption is revealed?
Dispensationalist Lewis Sperry Chafer states in his book Major Bible Themes under the heading Dispensation of Innocence on pg. 124 “Eve succumbed to temptation and ate the forbidded fruit and Adam joined her in her act of disobedience (Gen. 3:1-6). As a result divine judgment came, spiritual death, knowledge of sin, fear of God, and loss of fellowship. Even in these circumstances, God introduced the principle of grace with a promise of the Redeemer (Gen. 3:15), provided coats of skin, typical of provision of redemption (Gen.3:21).” Covenant Theologian Micheal D. Williams states in his book Far as the Curse is Found under the heading God Promises Restoration on pg. 70 “But there is a deeply running word of hope in Genesis 3:15 as well. God promises to destroy the power of the serpent, ending Satan’s ways. The promise that the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, often called the mother promise or the protoevangelium (the first good news), marks a transition in God’s response to his fallen creation, from wrath to grace. God here first declares his redemptive intention in the midst of covenant curse. It is a watershed statement in Scripture, for it speaks to a crucial moment in history.”
Although many consider Genesis 3:15 to be the first revelation of the coming redeemer, there is very little revealed in this scripture alone. The fact that Genesis 3:15 is intended to introduce the coming redeemer is revealed in its connection with later revelations of the redeemer, especially in connection with the word “seed”. “(16) Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16) “(18) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18) The promised seed of Genesis 3:15, is the promised seed of the Abrahamic covenant, which is Christ.
Another indication that Genesis 3:15 is speaking of Christ is the sacrifices. Immediately after this promise sacrifices began, and continue until the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. “(4) And Abel he also brought of the firstlings (1062 birthright, first born) of his flock and of fat (2459 choice part) thereof, And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” (Genesis 4:4) The words fat (2459) and firstling (1062), are used relating to sacrifices in Leviticus (3,4,7,8,27:26). Sacrifices continued to be offered by many before the Mosaic covenant was made with Israel, including Noah (Gen. 8:20-21), Abraham (Gen. 12:8), and Job (Job 1:5). The Passover sacrifice was made by Israel before the making of the Mosaic covenant, and Paul later associated Christ with that sacrifice, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:” (1 Corinthians 5:7). “(25) For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) “(26) all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:26) Knowledge of the coming Redeemer, and associated sacrifices, existed both before and during the time of the Mosaic covenant.
(2) How redemption was accomplished?
“(8) And being found in fashion as man, he humbled himself, and became obedient (5255 giving ear, submissive) unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) “(9) for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (Revelation 5:9) “(39) And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but thou will.” (Mat. 26:39) In the agreement within the Godhead for the redemption of mankind, it was the will of God the Father for Christ to die. So we ask how and why did the death of Christ accomplish this agreement?
“(12) Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us…(14) How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God,…(16) For where a testament (1242 will) is there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. (17) For a testament is of force after men are dead:” (Hebrews 9:11-17). Stated in a different order “(16) For where a testament is”, there must be the “(16) death of the testator”, and so Christ “(12) by his own blood”, “(14) offered himself without the spot to God”, as proof of His death, so that the testament would be “(17) of force”, in order to “(12) obtain eternal redemption for us.” “(28) For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mat. 26:28)
(3) How redemption is applied?
“(16)…we are the children God: (17) And if children then heirs (2818); heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;” (Romans 8:16-17) Strong’s Concordance with Vine’s defines heir (2818 partitioning, i.e reflexive getting by appointment; a sharer by lot, i.e. inheritor (literally or figuratively) by implication a possessor. From 2819 using bits of wood for drawing chances; and 3551 to parcel out, law.” “(14) Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs (2816 be heirs (2), inherit (15) from 2818) of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) “(7) Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir (2818) of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:1-7, 30) Believers are commonly referred to as heirs receiving an inheritance (Gal. 3:29, Ephesians 1:11, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 6:17, 11:7, 9, James 2:5), heirs “through Christ”, and “joint-heirs with Christ”.
“(1) God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets. (2) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he appointed heir (2818) of all things,…(4) as he hath by inheritance (2816) obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:1-4) George Williams comments in his book The Complete Bible Commentary about these verses on pgs. 972-973 “Christ is the Eternal Son of God as to His Being (v.3), but as Man He earned the title by His obedience…He always had Sonship as God, but by inheritance (v.4) He obtained it as Man.
(4) Redemption Summary
Scripture revealed Christ as the coming redeemer (Gen. 3:15, 22:18, Gal. 3:16), sacrifices indicated redemption would be accomplished through His death (Heb. 9:11-14, 23-28, 10:1-10). Through Christ’s “sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26), and “by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place” (Heb. 9:12) to prove His death. He became “the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death” (Heb. 9:15), by which Christ became an “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2) as a man, and “by inheritance obtained a more excellent name” (Heb. 1:4). Believers who are “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” (Ephesians 5:30), “hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3), become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), “an heir of God through Christ’ (Gal. 4:7), through His inheritance (Hebrews 1:2,4).
The Making of the Abrahamic Covenant
(18) And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, (19) The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf, (20) I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life, and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heavens, and to the beast of the earth.” (Jeremiah 34:18-20) George Williams comments on these verses in his book The Complete Commentary on pg. 554 “The Chaldeans were at this time fighting against Jerusalem (v.7). Moved by fear and by the preaching of Jeremiah, the citizens covenanted to obey the Bible (Exodus xxi.2) and emancipate their slaves (v.10). But their allies, the Egyptians, (v.11, and xxxvii.5) having raised the siege, they brought back the slaves into bondage (v.16). This covenant was made in the Temple (v.15), and its members passed between the parts of a calf cut in twain (v.18) - thus expressing the solemnity of the covenant, and their acceptance of the sentence of death if they failed to keep it (Gen. xv. 9-17). Because they enslaved others God justly condemned them to be themselves slaves to the Babylonians (v.21), or to the equally just punishment of death.”
John MacArthur comments about Jeremiah 34:18-21 in his book the MacArthur Bible Commentary on pg. 870 “34:18, 21 cut the calf in two…In this custom, as in Genesis 15:8-17, two parties laid out parts of a sacrifice on two sides and, then, walked between the parts. By that symbolic action, each person pledged to fulfill his promise, agreeing in effect, May my life (represented by the blood) be poured out if I fail to honor my part.”
The Anchor Bible Dictionary states on pg. 1182 - I “An Iron Age Assyrian treaty however (ANET, 532-33), make perfectly clear that the time and place (N Syria), the sacrificed animal represented, and was identified with, the vassal who was being placed under oath: just as the animal was slaughtered if he violated his oath. The same concept is attested for the earliest Roman covenant traditions (Mendeahall 954a), so we may safely assume that this sacrificial identification was widespread in both time and space.” These types of covenants in which a stronger power, a suzerain, makes a covenant with a weaker power, a vassal, are referred to as a suzerain-vassal treaty.
(6) And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (7) And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldea’s, to give thee this land to inherit it. (8) And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? (9) And he said unto him, Take me on heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. (10) And he took unto him all of these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not…(12) And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him…(17) And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. (18) In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Genesis 15:6-18).
R.C. Sproul comments on Genesis 15:6-18 in his book What Is Reformed Theology? In this ritual God himself was swearing an oath. He is represented by the theophany, of burning objects that pass between the animal pieces. The symbolism is clear: If God fails to keep his promise, he will be torn asunder like the animals. If I fail to keep my promise to you, God is saying, may my immutable being suffer mutation, may my eternal glory be destroyed, and may my very deity be ruined.”
John MacArthur comments on Genesis 15:6-18 in his book the MacArthur Bible commentary on pgs. 35-36 “15:9, 10 cut them in two. The sign of ancient covenants often involved the cutting in half of animals, so that the pledging parties could walk between them, affirming that the same should happen to them if they broke the covenant (see Jer. 34:18,19). 15:12 sleep. God put him to sleep, because the covenant did not involve any promise on Abram’s part; therefore, he would not walk through the pieces as a pledge (see v.17)…15:17 smoking oven…burning torch. C.F. Exodus 13:21. These items symbolized the presence of God, who solemnly promised by divine oath to Abram by alone passing through the animal pieces (vv. 9-11).”
Although the making of the Abrahamic covenant is similar to the covenant of Jeremiah 34:18-20, and similar to the suzerain-vassal treaties of that time, it is considerably different in one way. In the case of the Abrahamic covenant God as the stronger power representing the suzerain, passed through the animal pieces taking the oath alone. God promised upon his own mutilation and death that the covenant would be fulfilled. “(14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. (15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. (16)…they pierced my hands and my feet. (17) I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.” (Psalm 22:14-17) “(14) As many were astonish at thee, his visage (4758 appearance) was so marred (4893 disfigurement) more than any man, and his from more than the sons of men:” (Isaiah 52:14, Mat. 27:26-30).
The Making of the Mosaic Covenant
“(3) And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto out of the mountain, saying, Thus shall thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell children of Israel; (4) Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto to myself. (5) Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: (6) And ye shall be unto me a Kingdom of priest, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shall speak unto the children of Israel.” (Exodus: 19:3-6) Then God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and many details of the law (Exodus 20:1-23:33), and Moses mediated the covenant of the law (John 1:17, Galatians 3:19). “(3) And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. (4) And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an alter under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. (5) And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. (6) And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the alter. (7) And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. (8) And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.” (Exodus 24:3-8)
John MacArthur comments on Exodus 24:8 in his book The MacArthur Bible Commentary on pg. 120 “24:8 sprinkled it on the people. By this act, Moses, in response to the positive acceptance and assertion of obedience by the people after hearing the Book of the Covenant read to them, officially sealed the treaty with blood, a not uncommon custom (cf. Gen. 15:9-13,17). Half of the blood used had been sprinkled on the alter as part of the consecration ceremony. The representatives of Israel were thereby qualified to ascend the mountain and participate in the covenant meal with Yahweh (24:11; cf. Heb. 9:20.” John MacArthur refers back to the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15:9-13,17) in reference to the similarity of the blood sacrifice. Many see a similarity in the making of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, considering an animal sacrifice was made at each. But was the purpose of the sacrifices in making both covenants the same? We note there is no indication of passing through the animals in making the Mosaic covenant, and no indication of sprinkling of the blood in making the Abrahamic covenant. By the sacrifices for the making of the Mosaic covenant (Psalm 50:5), were the people of Israel taking an oath of death if they violated the covenant?
“(22) And almost all things are by the law purged (2511 cleanse) with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (859 pardon, forgiveness). (23) It was therefore necessary that the pattern of things in heavens should be purified (2511) with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” (Hebrew 9:22-23) Hebrews 9:19-21 states “the book”, “all the people”, “the tabernacle”, “and all the vessels” were “sprinkled with blood”. Exodus 24:6-8 states Moses sprinkled “the alter”, and “the people” with blood. If the blood sacrifices offered at the making of the Mosaic covenant were meant to represent the oath of death to those making the covenant, then why were all the other objects sprinkled with blood? In Hebrews 9:22-23 it states the purpose was so that “almost all things” can be purged (2511) and purified (2511). The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary states under atonement on pg. 88 “God was the faithful, holy covenant partner to his people; he provided the means of atonement when the sanctuary or the land became defiled, or when the people were unfaithful. God did not need appeasement; rather atonement removed the sinful barrier to the covenant relationship.” Following the making of the Mosaic covenant, the priesthood is established, to formally continue the sacrificial process performed when the Mosaic covenant was made, and explaining its purpose.”(20) Then shalt thou kill the ram,… and sprinkle the blood upon the alter round about. (21) And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the alter, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed (6942 make clean, sanctify, be holy), and his garments, and his sons, and his sons garments with him…(36) And thou shalt offer everyday a bullock for a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse (2398 sin or sin purification) the alter, when thou hast made an atonement (3722 to cover, purge) for it, and thou shall anoint it, to sanctify (6942) it. (37) Seven days thou shalt make an atonement (3722) for the alter, and sanctify (6942) it; and it shall be an altar most holy (6944 sanctuary; from 6942); whatsoever toucheth the alter shall be holy.” (Exodus 29:20,21,36,37) The sacrifices and sprinkling of blood in making Mosaic covenant were for the sanctification (Exodus 19:10) of those making the covenant, to cleanse and make atonement for all things connected with the ministry of “a Kingdom of priest” (Exodus 19:6). The sacrifices were not for the purpose of representing an oath of death for failure to keep the covenant.
The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary states under the heading Covenant on pg.208 “The Sinai Covenant:…A further social element contained in the Sinai Covenant is the familial one. The Israelites are called God’s children in Deut. 14:1 (see also Exod. 4:22 and Deut. 32:9-12, 18 with Exod. 19:4). Furthermore the stipulations and even the covenant are called Torah (Deut. 31:25-26), which originally means teaching or instruction. Within the context of the covenant it is equivalent to law, but if Proverbs (e.g., 3:1;4:2;7:2) uses torah in its original social context - as parent instructing child - then its usage in the covenant may suggest the analogy of God instructing Israel”. On pgs. 208-209 they state “Covenant with Abraham and David…Obedience to the stipulations of the Sinai Covenant was perceived by the prophets as necessary for the continued existence of Israel on its land. The covenant in its strict sense of a suzerain-vassal treaty, did not, however, totally define the relationship between God and Israel. It only served as a prevalent image of that relationship. When Israel broke the covenant; therefore, the relationship was not destroyed. According to the prophets the relationship was permanent and the breaking of the covenant once it had taken place was viewed only as a momentary set back. Thus, Jer. 31:27-37 (building upon Hos. 2) predicts the people’s return, growth, and prosperity following God’s establishing a new covenant with Israel. The uniqueness of this covenant lies not in its context, which is identical to the Sinai Covenant (the Torah, v.33), but in its form - it will be given internally.” “(5) Thou (Israel) shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth (3256 instruct, correct, discipline) thee.” (Deuteronomy 8:5) “(6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth (3811 train a child, discipline), and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:5) When Israel broke the Mosaic covenant God would chasteneth (3811) them, the sacrifices in making the covenant did not represent national annihilation of Israel for violation of the covenant.
“(16) How to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (17) And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul that it should make the promise of none effect. (18) For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (19) Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added (4369 to place additionally, i.e. lay beside) because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made, and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Galatians 3:16-19) Charles Ryrie comments on these verses in his book Dispensationalism on pg. 128 “Thus the giving of the law did not abrogate grace. Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:17-19 is simply that the law was never intended to annul any of the features of the Abrahamic covenant. It could not make void those promises; rather, it was given to mark out the particular character of transgressions until the Seed, Jesus Christ, should come. The law was to lead the Israelites to Christ. In the accomplishing of these purposes for which the law was given, grace was not excluded, and for these purposes the law was “added alongside” the promise in order to advance Israel’s relationship with God for that time.” The Abrahamic covenant was “confirmed before of God in Christ”, “(17) a smoking furnace, and burning lamp that passed between those pieces.” (Genesis 15:17), represent Christ, “(16) thy seed”. “(18) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18, 12:13) When God made the Mosaic covenant with Israel they remained under the Abrahamic covenant, “(13) an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:7,13), the Mosaic covenant was added (4369), an so they were under both covenants. It was the Abrahamic covenant that promised a coming redeemer. Sacrifices could represent an oath of death in making a covenant, or they could represent the promise of a coming redeemer, as was the case of the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7, Exodus 12). The best indication of which purpose is intended, is in how they are applied, by walking between, or sprinkling to sanctify.
Covenant and Testament - Definition and Usage
The word testament does not occur in the Authorized King James Version (KJV) Hebrew to English Bible translation of the Old Testament. In the Authorized KJV Greek to English Bible translation of the New Testament, the word testament occurs 13 times, and 1 additional time in italic as implied. The word covenant(s) occurs 20 times, and an additional 3 times in italic as implied. The Authorized KJV notes a marginal interpretation of covenant as testament in six instances (Romans 9:4, Galatians 3:15, 4:24, Hebrews 8:6, 12:24, 13:20). All KJV New Testament interpretations of covenant and testament are from the greek word diatheke, which is Strong’s number 1242, and defined by Strong’s with Vines Dictionary as “from 1303, properly a disposition i.e. (specifically) a contract (especially a divisory will):”
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Edited by Verlyn D. Verbrugg states on pg. 134 “#1347 1. Diatheke in classic Greek means will or testament. It denotes an irrevocable decision, which cannot be altered or canceled. A prerequisite of its effectiveness before the law is the death of the disposer. Hence diatheke must be clearly distinguished from syntheke, agreement, in which two partners accept reciprocal obligation. 2. In the LXX (Septuagint) diatheke occurs for Hebrew berit covenant. (a) It may denote a covenant between two friends (1 Sam. 18:3), which was regarded as having legal force (20:3); a covenant between two rulers, fixing their spheres of interest (Gen. 21:25-32;26:26-29;1 Ki. 5:12) or terms of peace (20:34=LXX 21:34); a covenant between two kings, which included their peoples. Two tribes could also make a covenant (Jos. 9:15-16). Linguistically, the LXX could have used syntheke in these examples.”
The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary states under the heading testament on pg. 1112 “(Greek diatheke), a will or an agreement. 1 The last will and testament of a person, disposing of the person’s property. 2 A covenant in the sense of the Sinai covenant and of the OT and NT. Paul presumes meanings 1 and 2 in his discussion in Gal. 3:15-18.” Under the heading covenant on pg. 208 they state “(Hebrew berith), a formal agreement or treaty between two parties with each assuming some obligation…A covenant also might be imposed by a greater power upon a lesser one. The greater power demands loyalty and obligates itself to the protection of the lesser one,”
E.W. Bullinger states in his book A Critical Lexicon and Concordance under Testament on pg. 766 “diatheke, is classical Greek it denotes a last will and testament, but in the Scriptures it is used always of the Hebrew berith, to which the word testament has no correspondence. Berith (1285) is a covenant, agreement, from karath (3772), to cut, because the victims were cut in two, or divided, in making covenants, (Gen. xv.9; Jer. xxxiv.18, 19); hense, it denotes a covenant made either conditionally between two parties, or unconditionally by one, (as God with Abraham and David.)” Bullinger comments Covenant on pg. 192 “diatheke, a dispostion, especially of property by will, a will and testament. This word is the usual rendering of Berith (1285), in the O.T. which certainly means a covenant or agreement, (from karath 3772, to cut or divide, in allusion to the practice of making a covenant, Gen.xv.9.) Berith is used of the covenant relation into which God enters with Israel or of Israel with God, and then of the two fold relation. When it refers to the O.T. diatheke must have the meaning of covenant or agreement; but when it refers to the N.T. (in which heirship takes the place of covenant, it has the meaning of will or testament.”
Matthew Henery comments in Volume 6 of his Commentary about Hebrews 9:15-22 on pg. 747” In these verses the apostle considers the gospel under the notion of a will or testament, the new or last will and efficacy of the blood of Christ to make the testament valid and effectual. (1.) The gospel is here considered as a testament, the new and last will and testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is observable that the solemn transactions that pass between God and man are sometimes called a covenant, here a testament. A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties about things that are in their own power, or may be so, and this either with or without a mediator; this agreement takes effect at such time and in such manner as there declared. A testament is a voluntary act and deed of a single person, duly executed and witnessed, bestowing legacies on such legatees as are described and characterized by the testor, and which can only take effect upon his death. Now observe, Christ is the Mediator or a New Testament (v.15); and his is so for several ends and purposes here mentioned. 1. To redeem persons from their transgressions committed against the law or first testament, which makes every transgression a forfeiture of liberty, and makes men debetors, and slaves or prisoners, who need to be redeemed. 2. To qualify all those that are effectually called to receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. These are the great legacies that Christ by his last will and testament has bequeathed to the truly characterized legatees.
Many Bible translations within approximately the last 100 years have changed most or all the occurrences of “testament” in the KJV Bible to “covenant”. This indicates they believe: (1) That the words covenant and testament are synonyms, there is no difference in the definition of these two words in the sentences where the change is made; and (2) The original 1611 KJV authorized Bible translators were incorrect in there conclusion that the context of scripture indicates that testament, and not covenant, is the intendtion of the writer in the instances where they have interpreted diatheke as testament. Many Hebrew and Greek scholars over the last 400 years have written that they believe: (1) Covenant and testament are not synonyms, that these words have clearly different definitions; and (2) That testament, and not covenant, is the proper interpretation in context in the instances as written in the KJV Bible. There is also no reason to believe that semantics would justify this change.
Hebrews 9:16-17 - A Problem
The New International Version (NIV) Bible translation changes all the occurrences of the word testament to covenant, except in Hebrews 9:16-17, where they change testament to will. Quoting the KJV “(16) For where a testament (1242; NIV will) is, there must also of necessity (318 constraint, distress) be the death of the testator (1303 appoint, make, dispose of one’s own affairs). (17) For a testament is of force (949 steadfast, sure, firm) after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testor liveth.” (Hebrews 9:16-17) J. Vernon McGee comments in his book Thru the Bible with JVM about Hebrews 9:16-17 on pg. 268 “Testament could be translated will. If you have made a will and you are still alive, your will does nothing for anyone. It doesn’t operate until you die. Now the reference here is to a will that was made by a man who died. He couldn’t save anyone as long as He lived. Don’t misunderstand me what I am saying is that the life of Christ could never save you. It is the death of Christ which saves you.” Many commentaries recognize these two verses to represent a testament or will, and the NIV Bible translation interprets diatheke (1242) as will.
The difficulty related to these two verses occurs when they are taken in context, and may ultimately reveal the true purpose and importance of the use of the word testament. We now requote these two verses in context. “(15) And for this cause he is the mediator (3316 a go between) of the new (2537 new in freshness not time) testament (1242 will; NIV covenant), that by means of death, for the redemption (629 ransom in full) of the transgressions (3847 violation of law) that were under (1909 on, in, upon) the first (4413 foremost in time, place, order of importance) testament (1242 will; NIV covenant), they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (16) For where a testament (NIV will) is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. (17) For a testament (NIV will) is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testor liveth. (18) Whereupon neither the first (4413) testament (Implied; will; NIV covenant) was dedicated (1457 renew) without blood. (19) For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the (to the; not in Greek text) law (3551 law in general without, The article), he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, (20) Saying, This is the blood of the testament (1242 will; NIV covenant) which God hath enjoined unto you. (21) Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry (3009 priestly service). (22) And almost all things are by the (3588) law (3551 with article Mosaic law) purged (2511 cleanse, purify) with blood, and with shedding of blood is no remission (859 deliverance, forgiveness).” (Hebrews 9:15-22)
The difficulty with Hebrews 9:16-17 is explained by the NIB - The New Interpreters Bible Volume XII commentary about Hebrews 9:15-17 on pgs. 109-110 “In vv. 16-17 the writer proceeds to argue the necessity of Christ’s death for the inauguration of the new covenant, and the argument is based on the principle that a covenant takes effect only at death. What is not altogether clear is the author’s meaning when using the word “covenant.” The term diatheke may be translated both “covenant” and “will”… However the difficulty with shifting the meaning of the word from “covenant” to “will” is that while making a clear and self contained argument for the necessity of Christ’s death, the change of translation interrupts rather than contributes to the flow of the discussion. The word is clearly “covenant” in v. 15, and when the writer proceeds to given an example in vv. 18-21, the word is again “covenant”. The question is this: Do vv. 16-17 make sense if the key term keeps the sense of “covenant” ?” The two assumptions made by the NIB and most other commentaries are: (1) The word “covenant” and not “testament” is the proper word to use in Hebrews 9:15, 18, 20; and (2) This discussion is about the Old Mosaic Covenant with Israel (Exodus 19,24), and the New Covenant God will make with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Based on these two assumptions applied to the question ask by the NIB: Do vv. 16-17 make sense if the key term keeps the sense of “covenant”? The answer is no. Those that make a covenant are not required to die unless they break the covenant, but a testament (will) is only “of force after men are dead”.
Hebrews 9:16-17 - A Solution
A possible solution may be offered to resolve the apparent problem that Hebrews 9:16-17 does not fit in context, if we do not use the two assumptions used by the NIB, and most other commentaries. If we assume: (1) Where the KJV has interpreted diatheke (1242) as testament, this is the correct interpretation, including Hebrews 9:15 and 9:18-21, and not covenant; (2) The discussion in these verses is not necessarily about the Mosaic Covenant, and the New Covenant promised to Israel. Using these two assumptions, and assuming that Hebrews 9:16-17 does fit in the context of Hebrews 9:15 and 9:18-21, we can interpret these scriptures based on Hebrews 9:16-17, rather than trying to force the context of Hebrews 9:16-17 to fit the other scriptures.
Applying these assumptions to Hebrew 9:15 it may be interpreted as follows: “(15) And for this cause he (Christ) is the mediator of the new testament (will), by means of death….” If Christ is the mediator of the new testament, there had to be and old testament (will; not covenant). Considering a testament is a will established by one party, and “(16) For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of a testor”, this could not be referring to the Mosaic covenant that was established by the two parties (Exodus 19:8, 24:7) of God and Israel, and the death of those agreeing to a covenant is not required for it to be “(17) of force” (Heb. 9:16-17). The Old Testament could only be the Abrahamic covenant, made by the one party of God, and promising His death if it was not fulfilled. The writer of Hebrews reveals that when “(19) God was in Christ, reconciling the world onto himself,” (2 Corinthians 5:19), He had promised the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, knowing that the only way it could be fulfilled was by the death of Christ, that covenant was actually a testament (will) made in the form of covenant. This testament included a spiritual promise, “(14) the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14), and physical promises related to establishing Israel as a nation (Genesis 12:2) including the possession of land (Gen. 12:7, 13:15, 15:7, 18-21, 17:8).
“(15)…for the redemption of transgression (3847) that were under (1909 on, in upon, unto) the first (4413 foremost in time, place or order) testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Heb. 9:15) If the “first testament” is the Mosaic covenant then: Is the New Testament only “for the redemption of transgressions that were under” the Mosaic covenant and law? The word under (1909), is not the same word used for “(15) we are not under (5259 underneath, below) the law” (Romans 6:15), or “(9) they are all under (5259) sin” (Romans 3:9). The first (4413) testament (will) for Israel is the Abrahamic covenant. Considering these facts we interpret: “(15) for the redemption of transgressions that were under (upon) the first (Abrahamic) testament, they which are called might receive the promise (promise of the Spirit Galatians 3:19) of eternal inheritance.” The New Testament is for “redemption of transgressions” resting upon righteousness through faith (Genesis 15:6, Galatians 3:9) promised by the first (Abrahamic) testament. The writer of Hebrews also relates to the New Testament back to the first (4413) testament for mankind (Genesis 3:15, possibility 3:21): “(4) By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, “(Hebrews 11:4)
We may now interpret Hebrews 9:18-22 as a result of the interpretation of Hebrews 9:15-17 and the assumptions given. “(18) Whereupon (3606 for which cause) neither the first testament (will; Added as implied) (Abrahamic) was dedicated without blood.” The Abrahamic covenant which was a testament, was dedicated with blood signifying the required death of the testator, in order for the will to be “of force”. “(19) For (1063 assigning a reason) when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the (“to the” not in Greek) law (no article “the” law in general not in Mosaic law), he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, (20) Saying, This is blood of the testament (will) (Abrahamic) which God hath enjoined (1781 command) unto you.” God commanded, a command is general law, that the blood representing the atonement (Hebrew 3722 cover, purge, forgive) promised through faith under the first (Abrahamic) testament, be applied to the people and all items for sanctification related to the priesthood. “(23) It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified” (Heb. 9:23). “(21) Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. (22) And almost all things are by the (3588) law (law with article “the” is Mosaics law) purged (2511 cleanse, purify) with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission (859 pardon).” (Hebrews 9:20-21) Of course the sacrifices did not “take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4-8), only the blood of Christ could do that (Heb. 10:9-12). Sacrifices only provide for atonement (O.T. 3722 covering) of the sins of believers (Romans 9:30-31), and all “vessels of the ministry” that come in contact with sin. Note the similarity to the Passover (Exodus 12:7, 1 Corinthians 5:7) before the Mosaic covenant.
Most commentaries break Hebrew 9 into 3 sections 9:1-10, 9:11-22, 9:23-28. In Hebrews 9:1-10 the word covenant is used 3 times in relation to the: (1) “first covenant” (Heb. 9:1); (2) “ark of covenant” (Heb. 9:4); (3) “tables of the covenant” (Heb. 9:4). Section 9:1-10 is about the Mosaic covenant and priesthood, the word testament is not used in this section. In Hebrews 9:11-22 the word testament is used 5 times, and once as implied, in relation to: (1) mediator of a new testament.” (Heb.9:15); (2) “the first testament” (Heb. 9:15); (3) and (4) “ a testament” (Heb. 9:16-17); (5) “neither the first testament (implied) was dedicated without blood” (Heb. 9:18); (6) “This is the blood of the testament” (Heb. 9:20). Section 9:11-22 is about the blood of the first testament and the new testament, the word covenant is not used in this section.
The word mediator (3316) used in Hebrews 9:15, is used 2 other times, in Hebrews 8:6 and 12:24, and in both cases the Authorized KJV list testament as a marginal reading. “(6) But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant (marginal testament), which was established upon better promises” (Heb.8:6), “promises” related to the “promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb.9:15), and the Abrahamic covenant (testament) (Galatians 3:16-22, Romans 9:4-11). “(24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant (marginal testament), and to the blood of the sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Heb.12:24), related to the blood of the new testament. The Authorized KJV list testament as a marginal reading one other time in Hebrews “(20) Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting (166) covenant (marginal testament).” (Heb.13:20) Strong’s Concordance with Vines Dictionary defines the word everlasting (166) as “past time, or past and future as well”, and it is used in Hebrews 5:9; 6:2; 9:12, 14, 15. The writer of Hebrews strongly connects the word blood with the word testament. “(18) For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mat. 26:28) Hebrews 9:18-22 explains that the sacrifices of the Mosaic priesthood represented the promise in blood of the “(18) first testament”. The writer of Hebrews discusses the first testament (Heb. 9:18), and the new testament (Heb. 9:15), and the first covenant (Heb. 9:1), and the new covenant (Heb. 8:8). If this is correct, it requires a major reconsideration of the interpretation of Hebrews, and the book of the New Testament, in comparison with those who interpret the new testament made by Christ to be the new covenant promised to Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-13).
Dispensationalism - The New Covenant(s)
The concept of two new covenants is nothing new within Dispensationalism, and in fact at one time this was a core belief among many Dispensationalist. Bob Nyberg states on his link 4himnet.com/bnyberg/dispensationalist/01 in his article Covenant Theology Verses Dispensationalist “Dispensational Theology and the Law: The traditional view of dispensational theology kept Israel separated from the church. It kept the law separate from grace. Yet, in recent years the distinction has become blurred. Small cracks were seen in the dispensational dike about 30 to 40 years ago. Walter C. Kaisar Jr., a non-dispensationalist theologian, observed: Somewhere in the decade of the 1960’s one of the most significant developments in dispensationalism took place. It happen so quietly, but so swiftly, that it is difficult to document, even to this day. This is what changed the whole course of dispensationalism: the view that there were two new covenants, one for Israel and one for the church, was decisively dropped. The implications of such a move are enormous, as the events that followed duly testified. The new covenant was made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, yet the church was obviously enjoying the benefits of this same covenant. They drank the blood of the covenant in the Lord’s Supper, and they had ministers of the new covenant. But when Israel and the church viewed as sharing one and the same covenant, the possibilities for major rapprochement between covenant theology and dispensationalism became immediately obvious. Moreover, that one factor ended the major roadblock in a key hermeneutical rule that dispensationalism had repeatly stressed in the past: keep Israel’s mail separate from the mail that was written for the church.” (Quote from Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. “An Evangelical Response” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church - The Search for Definition pg. 369)
Lewis Sperry Chafer in his book Major Bible Themes first published 1926 under the Biblical Covenants on pg. 146-147 states “Because the New Testament, however, also relates the church to a new covenant, some have taught that the church fulfills the covenant given to Israel. Those who do not believe in a future millennial Kingdom and a restoration of Israel, therefore find complete fulfillment now in the church, spiritualizing the provision of the covenant and making Israel and the church one and the same. Others who recognize Israel’s future restoration and the millennial kingdom consider the New Testament references to the new covenant to be an application of the general truths of the future covenant with Israel to the church, or to distinguish two new covenants (one for Israel as given to Jeremiah and the second, a new covenant given through Jesus Christ in the present age of grace providing salvation for the church). Actually the new covenant, whether for Israel or for the church, stems from the death of Christ and His shed blood.”
Charles Baker in his book A Dispensational Theology states under the heading The Covenant of Scriptures on pg. 91 “We are not here concerned with covenants between man and man, but only with those between God and man. Scofield (C.I.) lists eight such covenants: the Edenic, the Adamic, the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Palestinian, the Davidic, and the New Covenant. In addition to these Chafer lists a second New Covenant, holding that one New Covenant has been made with Israel and another with the Church.” (Baker references this to: L.S. Chafer, Systemic Theology, VII pp.98,99 published in 1947.) Baker also states under the heading The Two - Covenant Theory on pg.102 “This view is held by Chafer. He believes that the prophesied covenant of Jeremiah 31:31 applies only to the nation of Israel, and that another New Covenant, a heavenly one for the Body of Christ, was made in the blood of Christ. He (Chafer) states: To suppose that these two covenants - one for Israel and one for the Church - are the same is to assume that there is a latitude of common interest between God’s purpose for Israel and His purpose for the Church. Israel’s covenant, however, is new only because it replaces the Mosaic, but the Church’s covenant is new because it introduces that which is God’s mysterious and unrelated purpose. Israel’s new covenant rests specifically on the sovereign I will of Jehovah, while the new covenant for the Church is made in Christ’s blood. (Baker references this to: L.S. Chafer, Systemic Theology, same as above) Then Baker continues: Chafer no doubt arrived at this view in an effort to maintain the clear distinction which exists between Israel and the Church. However, we believe that there is some common interest between God’s purpose for Israel and the Church, and that is in the area of Redemption. The blood of Christ, which is the blood of the New Covenant, is the only blood that Christ has shed, and it was shed for the remission of sins of the past, present, and the future. We do not believe that the New Covenant was made with the Church of this dispensation, but we do believe, as will be explained later, that the value of the blood of that covenant accrues to the Church.” Baker continues to explain under the heading The Median Dispensational View on pg. 103 “The point here is that when Christ shed His blood it was the blood of the New Covenant. It is by that blood and that alone of the New Covenant that any sinner in any dispensation is reconciled to God. Only Israel comes under the actual terms of that covenant, which includes material, physical, and spiritual blessings.”
Bakers book was published in 1972, and expresses the opinion mentioned by Kaiser, that Matthew 26:28 represents the New Covenant Christ made with Israel, and “the blood of that covenant accures to the Church.” L.S. Chafers book Systemic Theology published in 1947 expresses the Two - Covenant Theory.
Covenant Theology - The Church
Note: (Response) is the Author’s response to others.
The link www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_theology states under the heading General description “Regarding the theological status of modern day Jewish people, covenant theology is often referred to as “supersession”, or “replacement theology” by its detractors, due to the perception that it teaches that God has abandoned the promises made to the Jews and has replaced the Jews with Christians as his chosen people in the earth. Covenant theologians deny that God has abandoned his promises to Israel, but see the fulfillment of the promises to Israel in the person and the work of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who established the church continuity with Israel, not a separate replacement entity.”
Covenant Theologian Micheal D. Williams in his book Far As The Curse Is Found under the heading The New Israel, quotes Herman Ridderbos on pgs. 250-251 “the church springs forth, is born out of Israel, on the other hand, the church takes the place of Israel as the historical people of God.” Williams states on pg. 251 “The believing remnant of the old Israel, along with believing Gentiles, constitutes a new Israel, the church”. Williams states under the heading Christ is the Key on pgs. 251-252 “Thus the church does not replace Israel, nor is it simply identical to Israel… The new people of God are the people of the new covenant, the community of faith constituted in Christ. The ethnic, national, and ceremonial realities of the old Israel are gone. What counts is to be of Christ. The old concept of Israel will no longer do. Israel must be redefined in Christ; and the church is that redefinition.” Williams states under the heading The Church Inherits Israel’s Privileges on pg. 252 “All the richly variegated designations of Israel as the people of God are applied to the Christian church, but now in the new setting of the salvation that has appeared in Christ.”
Williams quotes George Eldon Ladd under the heading The New Israel on pg. 250 “Ladd, for example, says that the fact that Jesus calls twelve disciples and that they will have the eschatological rule of judging the tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28, Luke 22:30) is a symbolic act setting forth the continuity between his disciples and Israel. Williams states under the heading New Scope, New Mission Strategy on pgs. 255-257 “The new covenant calling to take the good news of the kingdom to all nations provides the essential clue to the disappearance of the land theme in the New Testament… As Israel expands under the new covenant to include people from every tribe and nation, so the land also expands to embrace the entire earthly creation. Psalm 137:11 tells us the meek will inherit the land. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus proclaims that the meek will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).” (Response) Zechariah 8:7-8, Ezekiel 20:22-44, 36:24, Jeremiah 32:37-38, Isaiah 11:10-16; 60:1-12; 66:7-21.
Williams states under the heading The Church Fulfills Covenant Promises on pg. 253 “The promise of the new covenant - promises looked for even under the old covenant - are fulfilled in the church… As Ladd (George E.) puts it, “Israel is no longer the witness to God’s kingdom; the church has taken her place.”… Biological Israel is not forgotten of God, but the covenant never existed in the blood ties to Abraham.” (Response) “(25) blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25) If “the church takes the place as the historical people of God”, and “Israel must be redefined in Christ; and the church is that redefinition”; Then who is blinded? And what is this event that removes the blindness? “(4) he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels (4578 intestines, abdomen uterus; or of men the seat of generation) shall be thine heir.” (Genesis 15:1-4) The Abrahamic covenant included a physical national promise, “(2) I will make the great nation” (Gen. 12:2), and a spiritual promise, “(3) in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) “(16) Therefore it is faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise (the Abrahamic covenant) might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law (the circumcision), but to that (the uncircumcision) also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16) The national promises “existed in the blood ties to Abraham”, in his “bowels (4578)”, the circumcision, but only for those also “of the faith of Abraham”. The spiritual promises include “all the seed, not to that only which is of the law”, but also the uncircumcision, which are “of the faith of Abraham”. The circumcision (Israel), those from the “bowels” of Abraham, are presently blinded “in part”, “until the fullness of the Gentiles (Uncircumcision) be come in”. If the physical, national, ethnic, biological promises no longer exist, or were never intended as such, then major portions of scripture must become “symbolic”. Also see Isaiah 61:9, 66:17, Ezekiel 20:32-44, Zechariah 12:10, Romans 11:26-29, 15:8, Revelation 7:1-8.
Williams states under the heading Pentecost Marks the Transition to the New Covenant on pg. 259 “The coming of the Spirit brings the power of the age to come into the present (Heb. 6:4). No wonder that Paul can speak of the Spirit as the deposit of God’s promise future guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 5:5)… Paul also describes the Spirit poured out at Pentecost as a first fruit.” (Response) Williams fails to distinguish any difference between the filling and sealing of the Holy Spirit. Williams indicates Pentecost marks not only the transitition to the new covenant but also the obsolescence of the old covenant. (Response) “(13) In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away (1451 near, nigh; 854 disappearance)” (Hebrews 8:13). But not yet obsolete at the time Hebrews was written.
Williams comments under the heading Old Testament Imagery Describes the Church on pgs. 249-250 “New Testament writers even apply the name Israel to the church (Gal. 6:15-16, Eph. 2:12, Heb. 8:8-10). The apostle Peter addresses the church utilizing the same depiction of the covenant community that Moses laid upon Israel as its charge: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,… (1 Peter 2:9-10).” (Responce) Note: Peters introduction with definitions provided by Strong’s Concordance with Vines Dictionary. “(1) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers (3927 alien alongside, i.e a resident foreigner) scattered throughout (1290 dispersion i.e. (specifically and concretely) the (converted) Israel resident in Gentile countries) throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Peter 1:1) This word is only used in James 1:1 “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (1290) greating.”, and John 7:35 “will he (Jesus) go unto the dispersed (1290) among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?”. “the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter” (Galatians 2:8), and so Peter wrote to the circumcision, Christian Jews still under the national covenants and “all zealous of the law” (Acts 21:20), and Exodus 19:6 is still a literal promise for them specifically. “(16) Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16) refers to these same Jewish Christians. The Gentiles (Uncircumcision) are still “(12) strangers from the covenants of promise”, but they are “(13) made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13), the “blood of the new testament” (Mat. 26:28), not the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34) for Israel. Gentiles saved under the covenants of the circumcision, will be under the law (Isaiah 56:6-8) Hebrews 8:6-10 simply states the fact that the new covenant is “(8) with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:”
Failure to recognize the difference in the personal redemption of the New Testament for all believers, and the national redemption of the New Covenant for nation of Israel (Luke 1:67-80, Acts 1:6-7), results in Covenant Theologians removing the new literal, ethnic, national, biological Israel from their prophetic destinity, and interpreting a major portion of scriptures “symbolic”, or unfulfilled completely. “(9) I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first born. (10) He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. (17) And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border. (31) Behold the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: (35) Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of host is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. (37) Thus saith the LORD; if heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31)
Dispensationalism - The Church
Charles Ryrie comments in his book Dispensationalism under the heading The Number of Dispensations on pg. 51 “The essence of dispensationalist is (1) the recognition of a consistent distinction between Israel and the church, (2) a consistent and regular use of a literal principle of interpretation, and (3) a basis and primary conception of the purpose of God as His own glory rather than the salvation of mankind.” (Response) By definition Dispensationalism requires a doctrine of the separation of Israel and the New Covenant Church, and a literal fulfillment of the scriptures and prophecies for national Israel.
Dispensationalist Renald E. Showers states in his book There Really is a Difference under the heading The Parties of the Covenant According to the Old Testament on pgs, 99-100 “Three things in the Old Testament indicated that God would establish the New Covenant with the people of Israel. First, the Old Testament made clear statement to that effect. For example, Jeremiah 31:31...Isaiah 59:20-21, Jer. 50:4-5, Ezekiel 34:25-30, and 37:21-28. Second, God declared that He would establish the New Covenant with the descendants of the people with whom He established the Mosaic Covenant (the Law)…Third, the Old Testament associated the establishment of the endless existence of the nation of Israel (the physical descendants of Jacob) and with the rebuilding and permanent standing of the city of Jerusalem (Jer. 31:31-40).
Showers states under the heading The Relationship of The Church to the New Covenant on pgs. 103-104 “In spite of the Old Testament’s silence concerning the relationship of the Church to the New Covenant, the New Testament seems to indicate that the Church is related somehow to it. There are at least three lines of evidence for this conclusion. First, the Church partakes of the communion service which Jesus instituted on the night before He went to the cross (1 Cor. 10:21, 11:23-30). When Jesus instituted the communion service, He stated the following concerning the cup of that service: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25; Lk. 22:20) [literal translation]…The second lines of evidence for concluding that the Church is related to the New Covenant is that believers who make up the Church partake of the spiritual blessings which God promised as part of the New Covenant in the Old Testament…The third line of evidence for the Church’s relationship to the New Covenant is the Apostle Paul’s indication that the apostles of the Church functioned as ministers of a New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6).” (Response) In summary Showers states why “the Old Testament indicated that God would establish the New Covenant with the people of Israel”, and “the New Testament seems to indicate that the Church is related somehow to it (The New Covenant).”
As discussed previously Chafer realized the problem caused by the doctrine that the New Covenant Church was “related” to the New Covenant for the nation of Israel when he stated “Israel’s new covenant rest specifically on the sovereign I will of Jehovah, while the new covenant for the Church is made in Christ’s blood.”, indicating there are two new covenants. Baker realized the problem caused in concluding that the New Covenant in Christ’s blood was shed for the Church of the dispensation of grace alone, when he stated “The blood of Christ, which is the blood of the New Covenant, is the only blood that Christ shed, and it was shed for the remission of sins of the past, present, and future.” Showers changes the word testament in Luke 22:20 to covenant, and then comments “the Church is related somehow to it (the New Covenant).” The 1611 King James translators used the word testament in several scriptures instead of covenant, a point critical to interpretation if they were correct. A testament and a covenant are not equivalent.
Baker was correct in realizing the “blood that Christ shed” had to apply to Israel under the New Covenant, the circumcision, and the Church today, the uncircumcision, who are not under the New Covenant. Showers also recognized this fact when he stated “believers who make up the Church partake of the spiritual blessings which God promised as part of the New Covenant”, while recognizing the Church today, the uncircumcision, are not under the New Covenant but “related somehow to it.” Therefore Chafer’s explanation failed to be convincing, that the New Covenant in Christ’s blood was only for the Church today, the uncircumcision, not under the New Covenant which is for Israel alone. But once Baker, Showers, and most modern day Dispensationalist concluded that the Church today, the uncircumcision, is related to the New Covenant for Israel, as Kaiser states “the possibilities for major rapprochement between covenant theology and dispensationalism became immediately obvious”. The clear distinction between Israel, the circumcision, and the Church today, the uncircumcision revealed by the apostle Paul’s gospel, becomes difficult to prove. The resolution to this problem lies simply in the acceptance of the fact that the KJV translators were correct in their use of testament in specific locations.
“(28) For this is my blood of the new testament (will), which is shed for many for the remissions of sins.” (Mat. 26:28) The New Testament (will) Christ made in his blood is specifically for “the remission of sins”, that is spiritual blessings through faith that apply to both the Church today (the uncircumcision) not under the New Covenant, and Israel (the circumcision) under the New Covenant. This explains why most Dispensationalist today see this testament including spiritual blessings for the Church today, and at the same time explains why this New Testament is not the New Covenant for Israel, as stated by Chafer and other Dispensationalist in the past. The New Covenant which will be made with Israel at Christ second coming (Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 66:8), will be a result of the New Testament, but the New Testament in Christ blood (Mat. 26:28), is not the New Covenant for Israel (Jer. 31:31-34). The spiritual blessings of salvation through faith, will be part of the New Covenant for the elect of Israel (Jeremiah 24:7, Deuteronomy 30:6) as a result of the New Testament, along with the physical blessings (Ezekiel 34:26-31, Isaiah 60, 62). “(20) This cup is the new testament (will) in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:20) Apostle Paul indicates that the Church today (the circumcision), are to be “(21) partakers of the Lord’s table” (1 Corinthians 10:16-22), “(25) This cup is the new testament (will) in my blood…in remembrance of me. (26)… ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:17-34) The “Lord’s table” is in remembrance of the New Testament that Christ made “for the remission of sins” (Mat. 26:28), of everyone that believes (Acts 15:9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11), not in remembrance of the New Covenant for Israel. When the New Covenant is made with Israel the Passover will be observed again in place of the Lord’s table (Ezekiel 45:21), the Lord’s table is only to be observed “till he come”. The Church today (the uncircumcision) are to be “(6) able ministers of the new testament (will)” (1 Corinthians 3:6), for the remission of sins of everyone that believes, we are not ministers of the New Covenant for Israel.
Renald E. Showers states in his book There Really Is A Difference under the heading The Problem Stated on pg. 169 “Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology disagree concerning two major matters related to the Church. Those two matters are the time the Church began and the nature of Church.” (Response) We have examined the differences between these Theologies related to the nature of the Church, and the Covenant Theology position on the beginning of the Church. Now we consider the Dispensational doctrine related to the beginning of the Church, including the difference of opinion within Dispensationalism about whether the Church started in Acts 2 or Acts 9. Note the other positions such as Acts 28 will not be considered in this article.
Showers sates on pg. 169 “In contrast with the Covenant Theology view, Dispensational Theology declares that the Church did not began until the Day of Pentecost of Acts 2. Thus, the church did not exist in Old Testament times.” Showers states on pg. 171 “The New Testament presents several lines of evidence to the effect that the Church did not begin until the Day of Pentecost. The first line of evidence is that the Church was not formed apart from the baptism with the Spirit, and Spirit baptism did not begin until the Day of Pentecost. In Colossians 1:18 and 24 Paul declared that the body of Christ is the Church. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 he indicated that all believers in Christ (Jew and Gentile alike) are placed into the body of Christ through Spirit baptism. Thus, Paul was teaching the necessity of Spirit baptism for the formation of the Church…Second, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit began to be related to believers in Jesus Christ in ways in which he was not related to Old Testament believers…there is something distinctive about the relationship of the Holy Spirit to saints in the period of history since Pentecost…John indicated that the Spirit would come in a new, distinctive sense after Jesus was glorified through His death, resurrection, and ascension (Jn. 12:16, 23-27;17:1,5; Phil. 2:8-9).”
Charles Baker comments on his book A Dispensational Theology under the heading The Ekklesia Of The Present Dispensation on pgs. 473-474 “Believers become members of this Body (The Body of Christ Eph. 3:6) by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit…(1 Cor. 12:13). This work is simultaneous with the work salvation. This baptizing work of the Spirit does not take place in any visible, physical, or emotional experience. This is in sharp contrast to the so-called Spirit baptism at Pentecost when there were visible tongues as of fire, the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and other physical and emotional phenomena. If for no other reason this great contrast should serve to show that these two baptisms are different. One had to do with the filling of the prophets: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16); the other had to do with the formation of the unprophesied Mystery Body of Christ.” Baker states under the heading 68 The Genesis of the Body of Christ on pgs. 496-500 “The position taken here,…is that the Body of Christ had its historic beginning with the ministry of the Apostle Paul before he wrote his first epistle…It is logical that the Body began with Paul, since the revelation of this truth was committed to Paul, and since no other New Testament writer makes specific mention of the Body of Christ…But not everybody that has been joined to the Lord by the Holy Spirit has been joined to the Body. The millennial saints will surely be indwelt by the Spirit and will be joined to the Lord, but they will not be members of the Body of Christ.”
(Response) Under the heading The Gospel of the Circumcision on pgs. 329-330 referring to Galatians 2:7-9, Baker explains why Paul’s gospel of the uncircumsion is different than the gospel of circumcision committed to Peter and the circumcision believers . But is the mystery of the body of Christ really the reason Paul’s gospel message is different, as Baker and other Acts 9 Dispensationalist state? Or is Paul’s “(7) gospel of the uncircumsion” (Gal. 2:7) different for another reason? And; How does this difference effect the beginning of the Church which is his body (Colossians 1:24)?
The Church Summary
Previous articles on this site have explained why Baker and other Acts 9 Dispensationalist are correct in their belief that the Baptism by the Spirit at Pentecost, was the anointing with the power of the Holy Spirit, and not the sealing of the Holy Spirit that takes place at the time faith occurs (Ephesians 1:13-14). Michael D. Williams and Covenant Theology in general do not recognize this difference. However these articles have also shown why Paul’s ministry of the gospel of uncircumcision, is distinctly different from Peter’s ministry, and the other apostles of the circumcision (Galatians 2:7-9), for reasons other than those presented by Acts 9 Dispensationalist. Apostle Paul’s gospel of the uncircumcision, proclaims the nation of Israel is temporary blinded (Romans 11:25, Hosea 3:4), and God is presently offering salvation to all believers of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), who are “made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13), separately from any of the covenant promises to Israel, including the New Covenant. In the past from the time God established the nation of Israel, He proclaimed that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), and that will be the case again when God will “restore again the Kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6, Isaiah 66:19)
Most present day Dispensationalist teach the believers included in the body of Christ, “which is the church” (Colossians 1:24), are only those beginning with the first Spiritual baptism at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), or beginning with Apostle Paul’s ministry (Acts 9:15, 13:2), and ending with the rapture, when the Holy Spirit will be “taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). Covenant Theologians teach that all believers, past, present, and future, are included in the Church. But did the body of Christ which is the Church exist is the past? There is no indication that any Old Testament believer was sealed with the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11), even though the Holy Spirit did come upon believers (1 Samuel 16:13), and unbelievers (1 Samuel 10:6-11, 16:14), and was “in (1722 within)” (1 Peter 1:11) some believers. But why were believers before the cross not “sealed with that holy spirit of promise.” (Eph. 1:13)?
“(13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise.” (Eph. 1:13-14) In order to be “seal with that holy Spirit”, you have to believe “the gospel of salvation.” The gospel of salvation is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which no living person fully understood before the cross (Luke 24:44-46, 1 Peter 1:9-11, Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7-8). “upon this rock I will build my church:” (Mat. 16:18). Under the heading “Receive Ye the Holy Ghost”, in “The Last Days” article on this site, it has been shown why in John 20:22 the 12 apostles were the first living persons to understand and believe the gospel of salvation (1 Cor. 15:1-4), and therefore the first living believers to receive “that holy Spirit of promise”, “(22) And when he (Christ) had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:” (John 20:22)
Acts 2 Dispensationalist must explain why circumcision believers saved under the covenants for Israel during the Millennium are inner dwelled by the Holy Spirit, but not included in the Church which is the body of Christ, “(14) And shall put my spirit in you” (Ezekiel 37:14). Acts 9 Dispensationalist must also explain this, along with why those “who also were in Christ before me (Paul)” (Romans 16:7), were also not included in the Church which is the body of Christ. Covenant Theologians have to explain how Old Testament believers were included in the Church which is the body of Christ before the cross, although there is no indication those believers were “sealed with the holy spirit of promise.” “(13) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The answer is the possibility to be “baptize into one body” which is the Church, and “sealed with the holy Spirit of promise”, did not exist until the New Testament was complete. Believers could not be “(14) heirs (2816 obtain by inheritance, receive by lot) of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14), that is inherit salvation from a testament (will) until the will was complete. “(17) For a testament (will) is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Hebrew 9:16-17). Now that the testament is complete everyone that believes the gospel of that testament (will), are “heirs of salvation”, “baptized into one body”, and “sealed with the holy spirit of promise”. This includes the Jews of national Israel still under the covenants during the Millennium, including the New Covenant for national Israel, and the gentiles saved through the ministry of Israel (the circumcision), who will also be under the New Covenant (Isaiah 56:6-8).
But if believers before the cross could not be sealed with the holy Spirit, then are they included in the body of Christ which is the Church? “(25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (Romans 3:3) “(3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God and it was counted unto for him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Before the cross faith was counted for righteousness, and believers “obtained witness that he was righteous” (Hebrews 11:4) by the sacrifices, but righteousness was obtained by faith alone, “the just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4), and still is (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11). But believers could not be included in the body of Christ which is the Church until they were sealed with the holy Spirit. They could not be “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), until the New Testament (will) was complete, and “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (Christ).” (John 14:6)
One possible explanation has been offered as to how the Old Testament believers were included in Christ, His body and the Church. “(8) When he ascended upon high, he led captivity (161) captive (162)” (Ephesians 4:7-10) Strong’s Concordance with Vines Dictionary states about this verse under captivity (161) “The quotation is form Pg. 68:19, and probably is a forceful expression for Christ’s victory, through His death, and that at His ascension Christ transferred the redeemed Old Testament saints from sheol to His own presence in glory.” The concept is that Christ descended into Sheol, “(9) the lower parts of the earth” (Eph. 4:9) that consisted of two parts as described in Luke 16:23-26, and preach the gospel to believers on the paradise side where Abraham resided. After they understood the gospel of salvation (1 Cor. 15:1-4), they were sealed with the holy Spirit, included in the body of Christ which is the Church, and then ascended with Him into heaven, and into the presence of God the Father. “(40) God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (5048 to complete, finish)” (Hebrews 11:40). “(18) Thou hast ascended on high, thou has led captivity captive:…(20) He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues (8444 deliverance) from death.” (Psalm 68:18-20) “(27) Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither will thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Acts 2:27-31, Psalm 16:8,11) After the New Testament was complete all believers, past, present, and future, are sealed with the holy Spirit, and included in the body of Christ which is the Church. But the body of Christ which is the Church did not begin until the New Testament was “of force”. All believers after the gospel was revealed go directly to heaven when they die (2 Corinthians 5:8)
Covenant Theologians are correct in recognizing that all believers are included in the body of Christ which is the Church, but incorrect in not recognizing that the body of Christ which is the Church, did not exist until the New Testament was “of force” (Hebrews 9:16-17, 24-28). Dispensationalist are correct in recognizing that the body of Christ which is the Church, and the sealing with the holy Spirit, did not exist until after the cross, but incorrect in not recognizing the Church includes all believers. Neither generally recognizes the first living members of the Church to occur in John 20:22.
Covenant Theology - The Covenant of Grace, The Gospel
The Westminister Confession of Faith 7:3 states: Man by his Fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant (of works), the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.” Covenant Theologian Louis Berkhof states in Systematic Theology about the Gospel of Salvation on pg. 279 “It is essentially the same in all dispensations, though its form of administration changes. This is contradicted by all those who claim that Old Testament saints were saved in another manner than New Testament believers,… The Bible teaches that there is but a single gospel by which men can be saved. And because the gospel is nothing but the revelation of the covenant of grace, it follows that there is also but one covenant. This gospel was already heard in material promises, Gen. 3:15, was preached unto Abraham, Gal. 3:8, and may not be supplanted by any Judaistic gospel, Gal. 1:8,9” R.C. Sproul comments in his book What is Reformed Theology? Under the heading Covenant of Grace on pg. 113 “The covenant of grace is manifest in specific covenants God made, such as those with Abraham, Moses, and David. Those covenants are but expansions of the covenant of grace.”
We first note Covenant Theology includes the Mosaic Covenant in the Covenant of Grace. This is a key point in understanding and evaluating Covenant Theology doctrine related to grace and salvation. Berkof comments in his book Systematic Theology about the Mosaic Covenant on pgs. 296-297 “The covenant of Sinai was essentially the same as that established with Abraham, though the form differed somewhat. The Sinaitic covenant is an interlude, covering a period in which the real character of the covenant of grace, that is, its free and gracious character, is somewhat eclipsed by all kinds of external ceremonies and forms which, in connection with the theocratic life of Israel, placed the demands of the law prominently in the foreground (cf. Gal. 3). In the covenant with Abraham, on the other hand, the promise and the faith that responds to the promise are made emphatic.”
The internet link www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_Theology states under the heading Mosaic covenant “Although it is a gracious covenant beginning with God’s redemptive action (c.f. Exodus 20:1-2), a layer of law is prominent. Concerning this aspect of the Mosaic Covenant, (Covenant Theologian) Charles Hodge makes three points in his Commentary on Second Corinthians: (1) The Law of Moses was in the first place a reenactment of the covenant of works; viewed this way, it is a ministration of condemnation and death. (2) It was also a national covenant, giving national blessings based on national obedience; in this way it was purely legal. (3) In the sacrificial system, it points to the Gospel of salvation through a mediator.” This site also states under the heading Covenant structure “(Covenant Theologian) Meredith G. Kline did pioneering work in the field of Biblical studies, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, building on prior work by George E. Mendenhall, by identifying the form of the covenant with the common Suzerain - Vassal treaties of the Ancient Near East in the 2nd millennium BC. One of the highlights of his work has been the comparison of the Mosaic Covenant with the Hittite Suzerainty Treaty formula. A suggested comparison of the treaty structure with the book of Deuteronomy is as follows: Preamble (cf. Deut. 1:1-4); Historical prologue (cf. Deut. 1:5-3:29); Stipulations (cf. Deut. 4-26); Document clause (cf. Deut. 27); Lists of gods as witnesses (notably lacking in Deut.); Sanctions: curses and blessings (cf. Deut. 28; 31-34). Kline has argued that comparisons between the suzerainty - vassal treaties and royal grants of the Ancient Near East provide insight in highlighting certain distinctive features of the Mosaic covenant as a law covenant, in contrast with the other historic post - Fall covenants. Many who have embraced Kline’s insights have still insisted, however, in accordance with the West Minister Confession of Faith, that the Mosaic covenant was fundamentally an administration of the Covenant of Grace.”
Dispensationalism - The Covenant of Grace, The Gospel
Dispensationalist Charles C. Ryrie comments in his book Dispensationalism under the heading Biblical Basis For Covenant Theology on pg. 220 “The ideas and concepts in the covenants of works and grace are not unscriptural. But they are ideas that are not systematized, formalized, and stated by Scripture as covenants. Ryrie comments under the heading The Nondispensational Position on pg. 100 “The bottom line questions are these: (1) Is the covenant of grace stated in Scripture? (2) Even if it is, should it be the controlling presupposition of hermeneutics and theology? (3) Even if there is a unity of redeemed peoples, does that remove disunities in God’s program for His creations?
Ryrie comments in his book Dispensationalism under the heading The Dispensational Position on pg. 134 “This dispensationalist’s answer to the question of the relation of grace and law is This: The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations. It is this last point, of course, that distinguishes dispensationalist from covenant theology, but it is not a point to which the charge of teaching two ways salvation can be attached. Ryrie comments on pg. 125 “William Pettingill, another older dispensationalist, also declared: Salvation has always been as it is now, purely a gift of God in response to faith. The dispensational tests served to show man’s utter helplessness, in order to bring him to faith, that he might be saved by grace through faith plus nothing.”
Charles F. Baker comments in his book A Dispensational Theology under the heading The Gospel of God on pgs. 326-327 “This is a very general designation and might be applied to any message of good news which originates with God… It is used by Paul six times… Only one of these passages is definitive (Romans 1:1)… There can be no doubt but that Paul means by the gospel of God the message concerning God’s Son which was promised throughout the Old Testament scriptures. This is practically equivalent to his statement in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4... This is what we may call the gospel of salvation (Ephesians 1:13) and which is interdispensational in character.” Baker comments under the heading Paul’s My Gospel on pg. 327 “This is mentioned because it stands in contrast in the Roman epistle to the gospel of God which God promised before by His prophets… (Romans 16:25,26)… Paul’s preaching was an advance on the gospel of God, for he preached not only that but the truth of the mystery… His (Paul’s) expression in Ephesians 6:19, the mystery of the gospel, is apparently equivalent to his my gospel as it includes not only salvation but salvation into the heavenly blessings of the Body of Christ.
” George Williams comments on 1 Corinthians 15:3,4,11 in his book The Complete Bible Commentary on pg, 891 “What is the Gospel? The answer is found in verses 3 and 4, i.e., the Atonement and the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ… I or they (v.11), i.e., the Apostle Paul and the Twelve Apostles. They all preached the one Gospel of Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Williams comments on Colossians 1:23, 25 on pg. 937 “Paul had a double ministry - the ministry of the Gospel (v. 23) and the ministry of mystery (v. 25). The Acts of the Apostles concerns the one, the Epistles to the Seven Churches concerns the other.”
Renald E. Showers comments in his book There Really Is a Difference under the heading Some Important Considerations on pg. 31 “In order to understand the approach of Dispensational Theology to the Bible’s philosophy of history, several important points of clarification must be taken into consideration. First, the different ways of God’s administering His rule over the world. They are not different ways of salvation. Throughout history God has employed several dispensations but only one way of salvation. Salvation has always been by the grace of God through faith in the Word of God, God has based salvation on the work of Jesus Christ.
The Covenant of Redemption Summary
This article has explained why The Covenant of Redemption, is actually not a covenant at all, but a Testament which is a will. We have also seen how many agree that there is one interdispensational gospel of grace, which some refer to as a covenant of grace, but which is simply varying degrees of the revelation of the New Testament of Redemption to mankind throughout time, which also may be referred to as “the law of faith” (Romans 3:27).
“In hope of eternal life, which God (the Father), that cannot lie, promised (to God the Son) before the world began.” (Titus 1:2) The agreement was made in the form of a Testament which is a will. Christ “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8), and offered proof of His death to God the Father, “offered himself (Christ) without spot to God (God the Father)” (Hebrews 9:14), “by his own blood” (Heb. 9:12). Upon the proof of “the death of the testator (Christ)” (Heb. 9:16), the testament which is a will became “of force” (Heb. 9:17). The promise of God the Father, was that Christ would become the “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2) as a man, receiving this inheritance by the conditions of His own will as the resurrected Son of God (John 17:6-19). This allowed Christ to act as a Kindsman Redeemer (Leviticus 25:48-49) of all believing mankind, and all creation (Romans 8:19-22). Although by Adams fall it was “delivered unto me (Satan)” (Luke 4:6), ultimately all land, “the land is mine” (Lev. 25:23), and people, “For they are my servants” (Lev. 25:41-42, 55), belonged to God, and all or part could be given to Christ by God the Father, according to the conditions of the New Testament which is a will. All elect believers, “them which thou (God the Father) hast given me (Christ); for they are thine (God the Father ).” (John 17:9, Hebrews 2:13), become “heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14), “an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:7), “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), through faith by becoming “members of his body” (Ephesians 5:30). “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
The New Testament that Christ made for the redemption of all believers, was both for the circumcision, those saved under the covenants for Israel, and the uncircumcision, those saved not under the covenants for Israel, both through the same Gospel of Salvation (1 Cor. 15:1-4, 11). The New Testament was made when “he (Christ) entered in once into the holy place” (Heb. 9:12), to prove His death “by his own blood” (Heb. 9:12). The New Covenant for the redemption of the nation of Israel, will be made at Christ’ second coming (Zechariah 12:10).
This concept has major implications for both Covenant Theology, and present day Dispensationalism, both who have concluded the New Testament (will) made by Christ through His death (Mat. 26:28), was the New Covenant for Israel. This conclusion leaves Covenant Theology defining the uncircumcision believers today as spiritual Israel, denying the existence of the future biological literal national Israel, declaring major portions of scriptures and prophecy as “symbolic”, and partially applying the Mosaic national law, nine of the ten commandments, to uncircumcision believers today. This also leaves most present day Dispensationalist, struggling to explain how uncircumcision believers today receive spiritual blessings through a New Covenant made with Israel, celebrate the Lord’s Supper commerating that covenant made with Israel, and are ministers of that covenant, while at the same time remaining entirely separate from literal national Israel. These conflicts in interpretation can be resolved by the realization that the New Testament (will) that Christ made in His blood (Mat. 26:28), was not the not the New Covenant for Israel, it was a Testament which is a will, for the redemption of all believers. A fact that the 1611 Authorized KJV interpreters seemed to convey by their use of the word Testament.