In the first article I sought to illustrate Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism using the figure of trains, tracks, and engineers.
Covenant Theology was depicted as one train (i.e. God’s people) running through history on one track (i.e. one covenant of grace) picking up passengers as it goes. At the appropriate time, Christ replaces Moses as engineer (i.e. a change of covenant administrators).
Dispensationalism was depicted as two separate trains (i.e. Israel and the Church) running one at a time through history on two separate tracks (i.e. two distinct covenants), with Moses the engineer of one train and Christ the engineer of the other.
In the last article, I set forth an alternative model: A train called “Moses” runs through the Old Testament age bringing its passengers over to a station where a train called “Jesus” awaits on another set of tracks. A call goes out that all passengers are to board this new train. Most refuse to do so and remain in their seats. The “Jesus” train leaves the station and now runs through the New Testament age, while the “Moses” train shortly thereafter derails. This new model, as opposed to the other two, emphasizes what I call transition — i.e. those in Jesus’ day were not told to “sit tight” but to “enter” a Kingdom.
In addition to transition, a second principle is required of any covenantal model seeking to fit the Biblical data: transference.
By this term, I simply mean what Christ declares at the conclusion of the parable of the householder in Matt. 21:43: “Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it.”
Note that privileges were to be taken from Israel and transferred to a new nation.
What is the identity of this “new nation”?
I suggest that it’s the one spoken of in I Peter 2:9, i.e. the Church.
What I’m calling transference is termed by others the replacement motif. As the name implies, this viewpoint sees the church as a replacement for Israel in redemptive history. The benefits and blessings, promises and privileges, once the possession and future prospect of the nation of Israel, are now given to the Church (See Eph. 2:11-13).
Before dismissing this notion as incompatible with a God Who never repents or alters His purpose, stop and consider how often it is that those who wind up with blessing in the New Testament have it because it was forfeited by others (e.g. The Parable of the Householder — Matt 21:33-44; The Parable of the Marriage Feast — Matt. 22:1-10; The grafting of wild olive branches into the good olive tree — Rom. 11:16-24)
This problem—that a God Who never changes His purpose has transferred blessing from Israel to the Church — is the very difficulty Paul is answering in Rom. 9-11. There was the appearance that God’s Word had “taken no effect” (Rom. 9:6). There was the appearance that God had “cast away His people” (Rom. 11:1).
But such was emphatically not the case! For Paul demonstrates that it was always God’s purpose to bring together in one body all who believe on His Son, whether Jew or Gentile.
Many texts could be cited to support this principle of transference. I’ve decided, however, to center upon one where the principle is not readily apparent upon first reading. After digging deeper, however, I trust it will become clear that this text gives striking confirmation to the general pattern stated above.
Consider the account of Peter’s confession in Matt. 16:13-19.
In verse 19, Jesus promises to give Peter something He calls the “keys of the kingdom”. This is a “key” passage, if you’ll excuse the pun! I believe scripture will interpret scripture, if we’ll but let it. So, let’s take a little excursion through scripture to try to get a handle on this passage.
What are the Keys?
What do these “keys” represent? An examination of related passages dealing with the subject of keys turns up Rev. 1:18.
As John beholds the risen, glorified Christ, Jesus tells him that He possesses “keys” — “the keys of hell and death”. Seven letters to the churches in Asia now follow in Rev. 2-3. Each letter begins by identifying its Sender, and it does that by referencing some feature of John’s description of Christ in Rev. 1 (e.g. the One with the seven stars in His hand, or the One Whose eyes are as a flame of fire, etc.) In Rev. 3:7, at the beginning of the letter to the church in Philadelphia, the Sender is identified as having a “key”, which identifies Him with the One described in Rev. 1:18.
This time, however, it’s not “the keys of hell and death”, as we would expect, but “the key of David”, a key “that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” Why the difference? The simplest explanation is that these two texts are actually saying the same thing, using different words to express it. The reader is expected to understand that the “keys” of a kingdom are a symbolic way of representing different aspects of a king’s sovereign authority.
For instance, your key chain most likely holds a number of keys–to your car, your home, your office, etc. Each of these represents an area of life where you have the right to enter, to lock, or to open. In Christ’s case, the “keys” on His key chain represent His power over the grave, His power over death, as well as this “key of David” — i.e. His Messianic rule upon David’s throne (See Luke 1:32 and Acts 2:29-32).
What’s the significance of Jesus giving Peter these “keys”? Well, what would it mean for a father to give his teenaged daughter the keys to his car? It doesn’t mean he gives her the car, only the right to use it. The father retains absolute control. Further, if she abuses the privilege, Daddy may well take “the T-Bird away”, as the song goes! May I suggest the same idea here?
When a sovereign “gives” someone the “keys” to his kingdom, he doesn’t surrender the kingdom, but makes the recipient a “steward” — i.e. someone with authority over a particular area of the kingdom. Further, this authority is not given unconditionally, for it may be taken away if the steward proves unfaithful.
A fascinating passage illustrating this principle, and one very important to our present discussion, is found in Isa. 22:15-25.
Isaiah is directed to a man named Shebna, described as a treasurer and the one “over the house” (of David, by implication). He is the chief steward of the king, exercising authority over the matters of the king’s household.
However, he is told that he will be cast out of his office, presumably because of his unfaithfulness, and replaced by another, Eliakim. Eliakim is to be clothed with Shebna’s vestments and authority. Note especially how Isa. 22:22 describes Eliakim: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” (Note the similarity of this verse with Rev 3:7!) To give Eliakim the “key of the house of David” meant that he would now exercise the authority previously held by Shebna.
Where’s the Keys?
Will Christ pull the keys promised to Peter out of His pocket? I think not.
Isa. 22 gives us a clue. Note that the key given to Eliakim is a key taken from Shebna. It’s not a newly manufactured key, but a key already in existence, which is being transferred from the one man to the other.
Isn’t this precisely what Jesus is describing in the Parable of the Householder? Because of their unfaithfulness, those who have custodial care of the nation of Israel are about to lose their rights and privileges. These blessings, says our Lord, will be given to others who will be faithful. If we think of “keys” as a figurative way of representing these privileges, could it not be said that the “keys of the kingdom” would be taken from them and given to others? Based on the scriptural precedent of a transference of keys from Shebna to Eliakim, I think this is exactly what Christ is saying.
The keys to be given to Peter were keys already in existence and in the hands of others.
Binding and Loosing
A further clue, showing that we are on the right track, is found in what Peter was to do with these keys. He was to “bind” and to “loose”.
This language gives us insight into who previously possessed these keys, for this is the language of the Scribes.
Originally, a Scribe was one who merely copied the Law of Moses. In Ezra’s day, however, their role was expanded to become teachers and interpreters of the Law. In Christ’s day, the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel and the continuation of those judges appointed under Moses, was comprised of Priests, mainly of the Sadducees, and Scribes, mainly of the Pharisees. These men authoritatively applied the Law to Israel.
Lest we question the legitimacy of their office, note that Jesus Himself recognizes their authority in Matt. 23:2, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” As such, they were to be obeyed, but not imitated, for they were hypocrites. The exercise of their office is described in verse 4: “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
To “bind” was to lay upon a person an obligation or duty; to “loose” was to absolve a person of a duty. Thus, the authority Peter is to exercise, “binding” and “loosing”, is no new power, but one already in existence — and scripture even associates it with a “key”!
Note Luke 11:52, where Jesus declares: “Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in, ye hindered.”
So “keys” — involving the knowledge of the manner of entering the kingdom, and the power of binding and loosing, are already in the possession of others. Yet these “keys” are to be taken from them and given to Peter — and not to Peter only, but, as the rest of scripture shows, to the other Apostles as well.
Using the Keys
Do we ever see Peter using these “keys”?
Consider Pentecost: Peter is opening the kingdom of heaven to men through the proclamation of the Gospel message. He does the same to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ home.
What about “binding” and “loosing”? This was the constant activity of the Apostles throughout the New Testament.
At the council in Jerusalem, they loose the Gentile believers from the ritual of circumcision and bind them with certain food regulations and with abstaining from fornication (see Acts 15:19-20).
In the epistles, the Apostles lay down the rules that are to regulate the faith and conduct of believers and of Christ’s church. By what right do they do this? By the Christ-given authority granted to them as His Apostles! They viewed their commandments to the Church as nothing less than the commandments of Christ (See I Cor. 14:37 for an example).
What does all this mean, and how does it impact the covenantal question?
Suppose you are a Jew living in the Old Testament age. How would you know your duty before God? Study the law? Well, the law had to be interpreted and applied, and that was the domain of men like the Scribes. Their job was to determine specifically how God’s law applied to you individually in your unique circumstances.
But now, in this New Testament age, where do we go to learn our duty to God? To Rabbis and Scribes? No, we turn to the teaching of the Apostles, i.e. the New Testament scripture.
Now please do not misunderstand! This is not to say that the Old Testament has no authority, or that God’s law has no abiding validity — and it’s certainly not saying that we are free from duty or law to God. Rather, it’s simply to acknowledge that the “keys” have been transferred to the Apostles.
The authority to interpret God’s Law and to apply it to His people has been passed.
The Apostles are foundational to the Church — see Eph. 2:20.
As a foundation determines the scope and extent of the building built upon it, so the teaching of the Apostles prescribes the scope and extent of Christ’s Church. Their teaching determines what’s “in” and “out”, so far as the Church is concerned. They bind us with our duty, both as to our faith (what we are to believe) and to our practice (what we are to do). They convey through the New Testament scriptures the “key” of knowledge whereby men may enter the kingdom. But they are not the “cornerstone” of the Church!
In no way do they rival or supplant Christ. Neither can their authority be passed down to others, as the fiction of Rome suggests. Yet, we must recognize that Christ gave them the “keys”. The faith once delivered to the saints was, in fact, delivered to the saints through the agency of Christ’s Apostles. What we know about Jesus and Gospel truth, we learn, humanly speaking, through the Apostles. Further, the covenantal privileges once belonging to Israel have now been transferred to the Church. The great promises of God are fulfilled in Him, and, therefore, to all who are “in” Him (see II Cor. 1:20). As such, it’s not surprising to see promises first enunciated to Israel now quoted and reapplied by the Apostles to the Church – (see I Peter 2:9-10 and II Cor. 6:16-18 for examples).
So we see again both continuity and discontinuity: continuity, in that our duty before God is still based on the moral principles of God’s law; but discontinuity, in that Christ’s Apostles are now interpreting and applying these principles in a new age, to a new people, in a new situation.
Now I recognize this observation alone will not settle the various issues arising out of the covenantal question in our day. However, it should give us a hint as to where we ought to start in seeking the answers. We should look to see how the Apostles handled and applied the law. Their teaching, embodied in the New Testament scriptures, should be given a primacy in discovering our duty before God, for, after all, to them were given the “keys”.
Next, the conclusion
PJ, could one not argue that Judeo-Christian dispensationalism is the beginning point for universalism–that all tracks lead to the same destination? If not two tracks, why not more? After all, doesn’t God love all?
I think we can still be dogmatic about it by saying (for the sake of this example) there is only one route to take.
It would be like saying that everyone on the train (prior to the coming of Christ Jesus) had been given a ticket. Any outsider (non-Jew) willing to conform to the Jewish beliefs would also receive a ticket, until the coming of Christ, where a transition would happen.
That’s a good point Paul. I’d not thought about that. I do know the heretic ‘dual covenant theology’ teaching is a direct off-shoot of classic dispensationalism.
hmmm….I’m not quite sure what to think of this yet. I will wait for the conclusion, but here are some thoughts. Just consider it like I were thinking aloud.
How does this reconcile with Romans 11:28-29
“28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”
I realize he’s saying that there has been a transference of of things, but …anyway.
Before I read this article morning, God had me read Galatians 3. Most cogent is verse 5.
“Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—”
I’m thinking there is more to the apostles authority than an interpretation of the law and the morality of the law. Far, far more. (I would even go so far as to say there is an inadequacy of both morality and ethics..)
I’m looking forward to read the conclusion.
I knew you were wanting to read the conclusion William, so i didn’t wait until tonight but went ahead and posted it… 🙂
Sorry, This is going to be rather long.
The Mountain Retreat link that I gave you, when I first looked at it I substantially agreed with it. But upon studying that article again and adding it to some of the other things that I have read about church history and dominionism, I now see that I cannot support covenant theology or dispensationalism.
The reason is that they have the same basic error (although for different reasons) in that both reject the true implications of both the book of Deuteronomy and the words of the prophets who said that the Deuteronomy curses were coming. Moreover, both groups ignore this key verse: Galatians 3:24 – 25 “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (This verse is not even mentioned in the Mountain Retreat article, nor does it influence any of the thoughts in that article. Indeed, the Mountain Retreat article repeatedly contradicts it.)
The hyperdispenationalists ignore that Jews must be brought to Christ along with everyone else, and the covenant theologians ignore that we are no longer under the schoolmaster. Quite the contrary, the covenant theology link I gave you explicitly stated that the law is still in effect. They try the change the meaning of “Jesus Christ fulfilled the law” to making it mean “Jesus Christ explained or illuminated the law or put it into the modern context”, which by the way is the same argument as some Messianic Jews who basically deny Christianity.
But we have to acknowledge the truth: covenant theology was not created for spiritual reasons but for political ones. It is centered around the church governing the state – or at least influencing the state and governing or controlling the population – using Old Testament law. As a result, covenant theologians have to claim that the Old Testament law is still in effect. Admit that the law has been fulfilled and also that the Sinai covenant was broken, and they have to limit their sphere of influence to the church of believers baptized on the basis of their confession of faith that they are born again. But keep the law in place, and you can use it to govern a political entity (i.e. John Calvin’s Geneva), make it a form of social and cultural control (family values or Christian values), and a basis for civil government. And this is where infant baptism comes in. Infant baptism serves the same purpose for the covenant theologian as Jewish circumcision did. To be perfectly honest, there is no difference between the two practices. Covenant theology completely casts off the idea that baptism is being placed inside Christ’s body and being buried and resurrected with Him. That is new covenant doctrine, and their position is that there is no new covenant, just the old covenant reconfirmed and reapplied from a near eastern Jewish context to a western context. Instead, rather than something done by a believer upon repentance of sins, confession of faith and identification with Christ, covenant theologians use baptism as initiation into the covenant community. The only change is that the way of initiation changed. Before the cross it was circumcision, after the cross it was baptism. That is one of the reasons why covenant theologians are so quick to call believers baptism and most forms of evangelism “salvation by works” and the more extreme forms are very critical of missions work. It gets wrongly attributed to Calvinism (predestination and election and limited atonement) when the truth is that the real culprit is covenant theology. Just as Israel believed that God’s grace and benefits were reserved for them (especially in New Testament times), hyper covenant theologians believe the same … that God’s grace is reserved for the current covenant community, and there is no reason for expanding it. People are baptized into the covenant community, because God by His predestination determines which children are born to which parents, and people who are born outside of the covenant community are predestined to wrath. Going out and trying to obtain confessions of faith born outside the covenant community is seen as salvation by works both on the part of the evangelist and the convert. Further, it would also require the convert to be baptized AS AN ADULT, which challenges their baptism doctrine. This is where the idea that “the great commission was only given to the apostles and fulfilled in their time” came from. Instead of fulfilling the great commission and other things that the Bible gave the church, covenant theologians were more concerned with maintaining their church-states and cultures. As to how outsiders were to be brought into the “covenant community”, to the extent that the covenant theologians even considered it possible – and the hypercovenant folks (again, wrongly called hyperCalvinists, as Calvin himself wrote of his burden for evangelizing the heathen, but tragically decided that running Geneva was more important and left that task to others, who predictably never took it up, especially after the Beza school altered Calvin’s single predestination doctrine to double predestination) have a difficult time conceding that expanding the covenant community IS possible and are quick to scream “false convert!” at any opportunity – they would attribute such an expansion to a stunning mighty miracle of God.
They claimed that by doing so it was honoring God’s providence and sovereignty, but in reality it was just an excuse to liberate themselves of their responsibility and to maintain their baby sprinkling church states. Now even though he was technically Baptist, it was this doctrinal line and mindset that caused J. R. Ryland to try to dissuade William Carey from his missionary ambitions by stating “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your help or mine.” But to people with the hypercovenant theology mindset, the only practical way to “bring people into the covenant community” (because again the real doctrinal and practical barriers this system erects to evangelism) is SUBJUGATION. One way is to take over a nation and install a “Protestant Christian” ruler. (Or failing that, they would try to get the king or queen of a nation to convert to Protestant Christianity). Do it that way, then you get a new church-state that will control the culture and compel everyone to go to church whether they believe or not (a key component of the ORIGINAL covenant theologians that was defended tooth and nail by Calvin and many others, the ecclesia was vital for maintaining the state and moral culture and had to be regulated by the Old Testament law, and the ecclesiola was the actual born again people within the ecclesia, AND ONLY GOD KNEW THOSE WITHIN THE ECCLESIA WHO COMPRISED THE ECCLESIOLA ACCORDING TO HIS PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION, AND CLAIMING OTHERWISE IS WORKS SALVATION DOCTRINE AND PRACTICE) and yes so that church-state could immediately begin covenant infant baptisms.
But if you can’t get a heathen ruler to convert and if you can’t take over his country, there are other ways. Examples: SLAVERY and OUR TREATMENT OF THE INDIANS. Never forget that colonial America was dominated by covenant theology Puritans, who explicitly made it clear that they could treat Native Americans and slaves however they chose because they were not only heathens in the theological sense, but primarily because they weren’t loyal to the crown, which for them was not merely a political entity but a church-state, a part of God’s kingdom on earth, which meant that they were not loyal to Jesus Christ. Why were they heathens and subversives? By right of birth, being born outside the covenant community. Why were they born outside the covenant community? Because God predestined it so. And believing in double predestination, this meant that they were basically destined children of wrath. As such, they had no rights that any Christian member of the covenant community needed to respect, and weren’t even considered people, but houses and shells for devils to do their evil work and given over to their own totally depraved nature.
And being “New Israel”, it was God’s providence that their land be transferred to the people of God, that God would give them victory over the heathen in battle, and that the heathen would either be exterminated or forced to serve the Christians as slaves or heavily indentured servants. That way, the heathen people – as well as their land and wealth – would be forcibly brought into the covenant community. (Again, the covenant theologian makes no real hard distinctions between dispensations, so there is no reason whatsoever why a Christian government couldn’t have the same policies of militarism and subjugation as Joshua, Gideon, Saul, David etc. And let’s face it … the covenant theology governments did.) However, their being brought into the covenant community was in a larger “ecclesia” sense in terms of government and culture, to give them the benefits of common grace before they died and received the wrath that they had been double – predestined to. The idea of going around baptizing Native American and African babies and bringing them into the full covenant community, including the hidden ecclesiola, alongside them was offensive and impractical for a number of reasons, and was the work of liberals, fanatics and Arminians.
In the modern context, we cannot ignore the tie-in between dispensational Arminian fundamentalism (i.e. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell) and covenant theologians (D. James Kennedy, Frank Schaeffer). BOTH dispensationalism and covenant theology teaches that the law is in effect and as a result should be used to control governments, cultures, morals and society. And both believe in using state power in warfare and other means against enemies of God’s people (which the covenant theologians call the church and dispensationalists call the church and Israel, although neo-covenant theologians like Israel too because it is western and many covenant theologians have always regarded western culture to be a product of God’s common grace) Old Testament style. So, naturally they work together so they want the same things. Even their endtimes beliefs, while not identical, are complementary. The Robertson-Falwell school believes that we will be governed by the law and Israel during the millennial dispensation after the rapture. The heavily amillennial covenant theologians believe that we are already in the millennium now, which means that we are already governed by the law, and that the church is Israel meant to govern the world.
So, the only real differences between the dispensationalist and the amillennial covenant theologian – despite their back and forth – is A) futurism versus realized/historicism in eschatology and B) the identity of who gets to rule. Dispensationalists believe that Israel gets to rule in the future (but that we would be good to follow the law and Israel now, since those things are still in effect, the law and helping Israel are our “schoolmasters” to train and point us to the millennium) albeit with the help of Christians. Amillennial covenant theologians believe that they are Israel and should be ruling NOW. (That explains why so many old school amillennial covenant theologians are virulently opposed to Israel, extremely anti-Semitic, and are quick to claim that the rebirth of Israel was never God’s plan but is part of some Satanic plot. Why? The reason is that if you believe that you are meant to be new Israel, the existence of old Israel reborn is a real threat, and not only theologically, but also politically and militarily. Remember my original statement: covenant theology was created for political reasons, not religious ones, and is an extension of the official theology that Eusebius created for Constantine using the idea that it was God’s will and part and parcel of His plan of redemption to rule the world through the Roman Empire state.)
For people like this, the existence of Israel – and the continuing existence of actual living breathing Jewish people – is infuriating because of the identity crisis that it causes. This whole “the Jews are under God’s curse because they rejected Jesus Christ” is just an excuse. (And please note … the reasoning is NEVER related to the Jews’ breaking the Sinai covenant, because they want the Sinai covenant to still be in effect for their own purposes, and that the Sinai covenant was never meant only for Jews, but Jews and Christians. It is ONLY because they rejected Christ.) The real reason for their feelings and behavior towards Jews is their wanting to be what the Jews were (and based on the writings of Paul of the tribe of Benjamin, still are even though they are blinded at this time) and have what the Jews had. Yet no matter how they try to build and maintain their Genevas, Scotlands (John Knox), Switzerlands (Zwingli), Britains (Church of England), or AMERICAS (not to mention all the Catholic states, and Catholics only abandoned their form of covenant theology in Vatican II) they will never attain what Israel had under Joshua, David and Solomon (because it is not God’s Will). They know it, and it burns them up inside, yet they still try. And because of the frustration of their failures, they beat up on Jews and other folks.
The modern neo-covenentals and their dispensationalist cotravelers, obviously beating up on Jews is not an option, so now conservative Jews are as much a part of their coalition as everyone else. But that still leaves them with a lot of people to vent their frustrations and failures on. Right now it is Democrats and Muslims. But rest assured it has been different groups in the past (i.e. blacks, communists, Catholics, Native Americans, homosexuals) and will be different groups in the future. My guess is that one of those groups will in fact be Christians who do not buy into their theological and political program. And do not be offended or shocked when I say that because it has happened in the past. After all, remember the persecution of the Anabaptists, with their chief persecutors being the Protestant Reformed states (although the Catholics persecuted them too). By the way, if you were alive back then, despite of your Reformed beliefs you would still be considered Anabaptist. Which, of course means that you likely would not have been alive very long. I have heard it asserted that the average life expectancy for an Anabaptist between his public confession of faith (including his legitimate baptism) and his (or her) martyr’s death was 18 months. I am convinced that similar to how notorious persecutors of the Jews Antiochus Epiphanes and Hitler were foreshadows of the anti-Christ, that the notorious persecutors of the church Nero, Decius, and those like Zwingli who persecuted the Anabaptists are foreshadows of the persecution that the church will endure during the great tribulation.
And on that final note, allow me to close by stating that a primary thing that both the premillennial dispensationals and the amillennial covenant theologians that in these last days have united to form the religious right both agree on IS THAT THE CHURCH WILL NOT ENDURE THE GREAT TRIBULATION. Amillennial covenant theologians either spiritualize the tribulation or claim that it refers to events that took place in the past, and dispensationalists claim that the church will avoid it with the rapture. Though they have (seemingly) radically different methods and paths of approach, it is curious that they both arrive at the same doctrinal destination, isn’t it?
Job, i can’t toss my hat into the classic covenant theology camp either. I do agree with much of it but there are points which i believe are not correct. The author of this series, two trains’ appears to have the same problems…
As far as the dispensational camp–no way. I disagree with so much of their doctrine, i can’t ever return to that camp.
Guess im a theological odd-ball 🙂
I must say, if the difference between Cov theology and Disp thelogy is
like two train tracks, then Dispensation Eph 3:2-
(If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power)……………then the Dispensation
track is going straight and narrow down the track of progress of the Gospel of grace of God……AND………….
Covenant theology is on a circular track going no where with all its
passengers drinking milk and no solid meat spiritually.
Question: “What is Covenant Theology and is it Biblical?”
Answer: Covenant theology is based on the theory that God has only one covenant with men (the covenant of grace) and only one people, represented by the Old and New Testament saints—one people, one church and one plan for all. These beliefs require the adherents of covenant theology to interpret prophecy in a non-literal way. Dispensationalism, on the other hand, is a system of theology with two primary distinctives: (1) a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy, and (2) a distinction between Israel and the Church in God’s program.
Those who hold to covenant theology believe that there is, and has always been, only one people of God. They believe that Israel was the Church in the Old Testament, and the Church is Israel in the New Testament. The promises of land, many descendants, and blessing to Israel in the Old Testament have been “spiritualized” and applied to the Church in the New Testament because of Israel’s unbelief and rejection of their Messiah. Those who hold to covenant theology also do not interpret prophecy in a normal sense. As an example, in Revelation 20, the thousand-year reign of Christ is spoken of. Covenant theology would say that the number 1,000 is symbolic and really does not mean a literal 1,000 years. They would say that we are in the millennium right now, that the reign of Christ with His saints is going on in heaven right now, and that the 1,000-year period is symbolic, beginning with the first coming of Christ and ending when He returns.
Scripturally, covenant theology is wrong in both how Israel is viewed and how prophecy is interpreted. The proper method for interpreting Scripture is to read it in a normal sense. Unless the text indicates that it is using some kind of figurative language, it should be taken literally. When Scripture speaks of Israel, it is not referring to the Church, and when the Church is spoken of, it is not referring to Israel. God has one plan for Israel and another for the Church. Also, with reference to prophecy, all prophecies that have been fulfilled were fulfilled literally, not figuratively. Christ literally fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah when He came 2,000 years ago. There is no reason to think that unfulfilled prophecies are to be understood in a figurative sense. As with those in the past, future prophecy will be fulfilled literally in the future.
Your Brother Mark
I can’t place my theological cap totally in the covenant theology camp, as its commonly known, but i do agree 100% that there has always been, through our the old and new testaments, only one people of God, and since the enacting of the new covenant through Christ, that people is the Church made up of people[s] from all nations and ethnic groups.
If we try to say God has multiple peoples with multiple plans for those peoples, we are in fact saying Christ is a polygamist, with more then one bride, and that he has two covenant people! The bible does not say this…in fact it says the opposite.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Eph. 4
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 1 Cor. 12
do I read well that You re trying to come out, come clean, of a kind of dualism ? It looks like You re not sure about the meanings of “Israel “, “His people “, etc,
– and therefore You try to work out a false opposite; when the truth is abóve both.
IMHO it would make more sense, if we are not the supposed ‘gentiles’, but the other half of His people ( His people = Israel )
( and I mean by that the correct ‘ten tribes version ‘, not the Edomite one)
This is way beyond dualism; because there are several groups involved: the ‘false tribe’, gentiles, house of Efraim ( = 10 tribes = half of Israel ) , and Jacob ( = 2 tribes = other half of Israel )
..but the Efraim-half of Israel has been connected with a lot of ‘gentiles’ . But both have sinned, so that the Lord d have mercy on both; but the transfer of mercy happened during the first age of christianity.
Now, that transfer is long time over, because christianity HAS sinned as grevious as the ‘jews’ . The Lord asks now from bóth ( expanded ) groups those who want to love Him,
and will make them “one People again “( = ‘Israel’ ; see Ezek. )
don t let the ‘false tribe ‘ , who created this dualism, this false opposite, take You from His desire to have one people, with His Heart, under One King – Christ
…correct me where I’m wrong 🙂
I have only just perused these briefly but I will go back and do a more thorough read.Coming from a Reformed background , Covenant theology is not entirely new to myself , but having said that , It is not something that I am in total agreement with either[ infant baptism is a glaring example], however , what I have come to understand is this , that no one under the old covenant was ever saved by the law ,because the requirements of the law were humanly impossible to keep, therefore , it must have been, as it is now, by grace that they were saved.
Secondly, I believe that God has always had a covenant with His people , those He foreknew and predestined, and in reality the Adamic, Abrahamic , Mosaic and Davidic covenants that were made to the elect at particular times , all had their fulfilment in Christ.
I’m not sure if this fits in with the single train analogy, which is where I am most likely inclined, but where I would differ is to say that Christ has been the engineer all along, but further to this , I would also add that the old/ new covenant differences were not along the lines of law vs grace , but rather the way in which sin was dealt with, the imperfect shadow of atonement by way of sacrifices that were perfected once and for all by Christ.
Ray i look forward to hearing more from you after you read through it all! 🙂 Start with part one….
This teaching answered many questions i had at the time. And i loved the fact it was written in a manner which is so easy to understand. (Simple words for simple people, like me lol)
I still consider it one of the very best explanations concerning the old and new covenants.