For the sake of those who might be joining this discussion in midstream, let me briefly review the points covered so far.
Covenant Theology tends to stress the continuity of the Old and New Testament eras. It sees but one covenant, administered at first by Moses and then by Christ. My model of this system uses a single train running on a single track. The train journeys through both the Old and New Testament ages, picking up passengers as it goes. At the juncture of these ages, a slight change does take place — Christ replaces Moses as the engineer. Other than this, it’s the same train, track, and people that ran through the earlier age.
Dispensationalism, on the other hand, stresses the discontinuity of God’s dealings with man, breaking history up into distinct epochs. In each age, God deals with man by placing him under a self-contained covenantal system, having no necessary connection to the covenant of another age. I’ve illustrated this as two trains running on two separate, but parallel tracks. One is engineered by Moses and collects Israel. The other is engineered by Christ and collects the Church. The two systems are completely distinct.
As an alternative, I’ve set forth a third model representing my view of an approach more in line with the Biblical data.
This illustration utilizes two trains and two tracks, one engineered by Moses and the other by Christ. Although similar at this point to Dispensationalism, in this case, the two tracks run at right angles to one another, rather than parallel. They intersect at a station house, representing the point of Christ’s coming in history. As the train of Moses pulls into the station, an announcement is made that the passengers are now to switch to the train of Christ. Some do, but most don’t, and the train of Moses soon derails.
The train of Christ now runs through history, picking up riders who made the switch.
Note that this model keeps the covenantal systems distinct.
It emphasizes the temporality of the Mosaic system on the one hand, while it maintains the one way of salvation and the unity of God’s people on the other.
In the first article of this series, it was stated that any covenantal system, to be Biblical, must reflect three characteristics, all beginning with the letter ‘T’. So far we’ve looked at two of these, transition and transference.
Now we’ll proceed to the final ‘T’–the idea of transcendence.
In defining “transcend”, Webster uses phrases such as “to rise above”, “to go beyond the limits of”, or “to surpass”. This term quite accurately summarizes what the Bible teaches when it describes the New Testament and compares it to the Old. The New Covenant is neither an extension of the Old, nor the Old slightly modified — it transcends it in every way. Let us examine three passages that clearly express this idea.
First, there’s the epistle to the Hebrews.
For the first ten chapters or so, this book declares the superiority of Christ, the Covenant He ratifies, and the age He ushers in, compared to all that has come before. The words “more” and “better” are sprinkled liberally throughout the discussion. Christ has a “more excellent name” than the angels. He’s a greater captain than Moses and a greater priest than Aaron. He has a “more excellent” ministry than earthly priests in that He’s the mediator of a better covenant established upon better promises. His sacrifice surpasses those offered under the law. His blood avails where that of animals could not. As we say in the south, Christ is “mo’ better”!
Is this new arrangement merely the continuation of the previous covenant?
Note, especially, the discussion related to the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ in Hebrews 7.
The point is made that Christ was not qualified to be a priest under the Mosaic system, since He “sprang out of Judah” and not Levi. The Melchizedek order (i.e. “type” or “kind”) of priest, namely the “King-Priest” type (see Heb. 7:1), was absolutely unknown in the Mosaic covenant. In that economy, the offices of king and priest were strictly segregated. This kind of change requires more than just minor alterations on the existing system. It requires a change of the law itself (Heb. 7:12), along with the abrogation of the commandments contained therein (Heb. 7:18).
The carnality, temporality, and partiality that characterized Moses’ system is now superceded by that which is spiritual, eternal, and complete.
May I anticipate two objections here.
First, some will hear an antinomian ring in this talk of the “law” being set aside. Let me point out that the moral principles of God’s law did not begin at Sinai, neither do they end if the system of law inaugurated there is set aside! The New Testament, if anything, magnifies the moral duties of Christ’s people in comparison to those living in the former age.
Secondly, some will reply that it was not “Moses’ Law”, but “God’s Law” established at Sinai — and how dare we set aside that which God has established. Well, may I point out it was also not “Aaron’s priesthood”, but “God’s priesthood” established at Sinai. If the fact that God authored the Mosaic law argues for its perpetuation, why doesn’t the same principle hold true for the priesthood He likewise authored?
Another passage setting the covenants side by side is II Corinthians 3.
The old covenant is characterized as that which is written on stones, whose ministry condemns and kills; the new covenant is that written in hearts, whose ministry is spiritual, makes alive, and produces righteousness. Not that the old covenant wasn’t glorious. Indeed, it was. But, as the light of a candle pales in comparison to the light of the Sun, so the glory of the old was negligible and transitory compared to the glory of the new. Note again the idea of transcendence.
The Liberty of Sonship
In this discussion, the Mosaic covenant is actually viewed as the new one, being preceded by a covenantal “promise” of blessing made to Abraham. The law actually seemed to work at cross-purposes to this promise, bringing cursing rather than blessing, death rather than life. It was “added” (lit: “came alongside”), for disciplinary reasons, until the ordained recipient of the promise actually came into the world — Christ.
The contrast of the saints’ situation prior to Christ and after Christ is viewed as the change from that of a child set under a pedagogue to that of an adult. The child placed under tutors and governors is disciplined rigidly by such things as homework, rules, deadlines, a structured schedule, corporeal punishment, etc. Every moment of every day he is under the stern eye of the schoolmaster.
Upon becoming an adult, he is released from such a system. He now does from within the duties that were previously imposed from without. The rules have become “internalized”. Likewise, Paul views New Testament saints as adult sons, freed from bondage to the “letteristic”, external, and disciplinary principles of the Mosaic law. They now enjoy the full realization of their sonship, desiring to please their Father from the heart.
Back to the Trains
Let us now return to our model.
To simply describe the change occurring at the coming of Christ as a change from one train to another doesn’t do justice to it! It’s more like moving from a train pulled by an old steam locomotive into a sleek, modern passenger train.
Further, the gauge of the tracks is completely different. The train of Moses couldn’t run on this track even if it tried! The train of Christ, on the one hand, does bear a similarity to the train of Moses, and it incorporates many of its features.
But, on the other hand, it is a new system, completely surpassing the old in every way.
source: Imperishable Inheritance
“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” Hebrews 8: 6-7
“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:11-19