Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Finding the Middle: Part 1 What's wrong with Covenant Theology?

Abraham's Four Seeds
by John G. Reisinger
(New Covenant Theology)

Appendix Number One
Covenant Theology
     All of the following quotations are taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is the most widely accepted and revered document to come out of the Reformation. This source represents both the historical and the present view of consistent Covenant Theology. Recently there have been great differences of opinion on what the Confession actually means and how it is to be worked out, but to my knowledge no Presbyterian group has challenged the Confession itself in the area of covenants, the law or the church. 
Basic presupposition: Covenants are the "key" to understanding and unifying all of Scripture. 

1. Man is always in covenant relationship with God. 
"The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant." 1 Chapter 7, Section 1 
1 Isa. 40:13-17; Job 9:32,33; I Sam. 2:25; Ps. 113:5,6; Ps. 100:2,3; Job 22:2,3; 35:7,8; Luke 17:10; Acts 17:24,25. 

2. The whole of Scripture is covered by two covenants. 
      (A)The first is the Covenant of Works made with Adam in the garden prior to his fall. 
     (B) The second is the Covenant of Grace made with Adam immediately after his fall.

    (A) The Covenant of Works: The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, 1 wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, 2 upon condition of perfect and personal obedience." 3 Chapter 7, Section 2 
1 Gal. 3:12. 2 Rom. 10:5; 5:12-20. 3 Gen. 2:17; Gal 3:10. 

     (B). The Covenant of Grace: "Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant [covenant of works], the Lord was pleased to make a second, 1 commonly called the covenant of grace: whereby he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; 2 and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit. to make them willing and able to believe. 3 Chapter 7, Section 3. 
1 Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3; 3:20,21; Gen. 3:15; Isa 42:6. 2 Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16; Rom 10:6,9; Gal:3:11. 3 Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45. 
This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel:4 Chapter 7, Section 5. 
4 Heb. 1:1; I Cor. 3:6-9. 

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3. The promised blessing in the covenant of works was life, and Adam was given the ability to "earn" this promised blessing of life by his obedience to the terms of covenant. 
(A) ". . . life was promised to Adam . . . upon condition of perfect and personal obedience." Chapter 7, Section 3. 

(B) "God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it." 1 Chapter 19, Section 1. 
1 Gen 1:26,27; 2:17; Rom 2:14,15; 10:5; 5:12-19; Gal 3:10,12; Eccles. 7:29; Job 28:28. 
4. The content of the covenant of works that Adam was to obey in order to earn "life" was the ten commandments, "commonly called [by NO writer of Scripture] the moral law." 

A. This law [given to Adam as a covenant of works], after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables . . .1 Chapter 19, Section 2. 
1 James 1:25; 2:8,10-12; Rom 13:8,9; Deut 5:32; 10:4; Ex 34:1. 
5. The proviso of the covenant was "perfect, entire, exact, and personal obedience" for a probationary period." Both Chapter 7, Section 2, and Chapter 19, Section 1 speak of Adam being put "under the covenant of works" and his being promised to be rewarded with life "upon fulfilling" the covenant's conditions. 
6. Adam, by his sin (his failure to obey the covenant of works and earn life), forever lost the opportunity to earn life by works.

A. Man by his fall having made himself incapable [of earning] life by that covenant [by meeting its terms and earning the blessing of life it promised], the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace . . . Chapter 7, Section 3. 
Question: Do the Scriptures ever represent the tragedy of Adam's fall as "losing an opportunity to earn life," or does they represent the fall as Adam losing the life and righteousness that he already had by virtue of the fact that he, Adam, was created righteous in the image of God. No where are we told Adam failed to get something that he did not have. It always speaks of his losing something that he already had. (Compare the Heidelburg Confession where the whole idea of a "covenant of works" is conspicuous by its absence.) 
The so-called "Covenant of Grace" is in reality the message of the gospel of grace. This "covenant," or actually the gospel of grace, enables sinners today to secure, by faith, what Adam would have earned if he had kept the covenant of works. Nowhere do the Scriptures suggest such an idea or comparison. 

Since there is only one unchanging Covenant of Grace (The basic assumption of Covenant Theology), some very logical deductions follow: 

1. There can only be one Church, therefore the Nation of Israel has to be one with the Church today. 

2. The visible signs, seals and forms of worship change under the "new administration," but the one and same covenant is unchanged and still in force. 

3. Since the "moral law" (Tablets of Stone) expresses the nature of God, those tables are the one unchanging canon of conduct that governs the one people of God in all ages. Christ (in the Sermon on the Mount) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) reaffirm the authority of the "moral law" (Tablets of Stone) and show us true meaning of the unchanging written on those covenantal tablets. Neither Christ nor His Apostles add any "higher laws" to the "one unchanging moral law written on the Tables of Stone." The Ten Commandments must be the highest standard of morality that was ever given. 

4. Since Israel is the Church and is under the same covenant as the Church is under today, then children of believing parents must still be considered a part of the Church and should be "signed and sealed" in Baptism as covenant children. Under the "new administration" of the one and same covenant only the covenant sign changes, and baptism replaces circumcision. The Sabbath has to be part of the "one unchanging moral law," but the day is changed from the seventh to the first, etc. All that changes is the "administration" of the one and same covenant. The visible signs and seals change but not the covenant. There can only be "one covenant with two administration." If this concept can be shown to clearly contradict the New Covenant Scriptures, then the whole system upon which the concept is built is destroyed. That is Covenant Theology! 
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