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
Through Galatians 3, and 4, and into chapter 5, Paul discusses the change inaugurated by the coming of Christ.
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
do you feel compelled to be led by old covenant law, and the understandings of that law rather than by the spirit(romans). paul never taught thru the law even about the man who had taken his father’s wife.
romans says that all new covenant law is summed up in the 2nd commandment. ……that the law was NOWto make us conscious, of not loving our neighbor as ourseLves.
think of the number of issues that do not come against the 2nd commandment, that believers still indite other believers for because of THESE old covenant understandings and their intent to be led by the law……………………..such as homosexuality.
bottom line………….. if one fully embraces the new covenant they will be forced to conclude that homosexuality is not a sin…………….because of:
the leading of the spirit in:
the jesus teachings “you will know them by their fruit(fruit of the spirit)gal”
“a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”
testing of the spirit in gay believer’s lives…….”that which we have heard ,which we have looked at, which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have touched in the fellowship of walking in the light.1john1
if you disagree PLEASE ANNOTATE.
What is Paul actually saying here then?
And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. Jude verses 6-7
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor.6: 9-10
John, the new covenant doesn’t give us a license sin. amen?
(Pssst. Speaking of covenants and such: Nathan Pritchford (DP-ism and the Eclipse of Christ) has his own website now — Psalm 45 Publications. Like I don’t have enough to read…)
Lee, like you its not like i don’t have enough to read, but who can pass that website up!!?! ahah.. not me!
Thanks, i bookmarked it right away…
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
I’m sorry I missed this the first time around. It must have been at a busy point in my life. I’m sure you understand. But now that I’ve read it with great interest, I think there are a couple of flaws in this approach.
I myself struggle to find some position between Covenant Theology and Progressive Dispensationalism. I find that I still cannot ascribe to either completely, although I agree with truths in each one. So I have given some amount of study to this issue and I think I track fairly well with the suppositions set forth. So here goes.
Firstly, to speak of Moses as the conductor of the train throughout the entire OT era is flawed. Moses did not appear on the scene until after a great many events had occurred. Among these are creation, the fall, the Noahic Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant. Even during the time of Moses, I would say that at any point in time, that Jesus Christ, preeminent and preincarnate was the conductor of the train. After the time of Moses a great many significant events occur. At the close of Moses’ life, there is the Palestinian Covenant (Deut. 29-30) which will govern God’s modus operandi for the nation of Israel. In this order, there will be conquering the land, apostasy from the covenant, scattering from the land, repentance, regathering into the land, true circumcision. There would also be the Davidic Covenant at which time the nature of the kingdom of God was revealed.
Secondly, to say that certain Pharisees are on the train in the first place is to ignore that salvation has always been by grace through faith. There was only a remnant in the OT. Not all Israel participated in the blessings. These Pharisees are exposed by John the Baptist to have been on the outide of God’s covenant plan all along. They are equated to those who put the prophets to death. So it is not a question of them not getting off one train and on to the other, they aren’t on any track at all. They never sought the LORD by faith, Romans 9:31-33.
Thirdly, there has been more than one junction than just a transference from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. When the Noahic Covenant was instituted, this meant that mankind now must punish sin, especially for murder. God’s plan also involved the development of individual nations, so much so that when a group decides they are not going to spread across the earth, God forces them at the tower of Babel. The next step of the Abrahamic Covenant of calling a nation out from the nations would have no place of God had not established nations. The Mosaic Covenant would have no place without the Abrahamic Covenant. When God called the nation of Israel out of Egypt, He was acting on His covenant plan with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At each point, there would be those who stood in the way of God’s plan, and those who (by faith) were in submission to God’s plan. Gentiles had the option of being in submission to God’s plan at every step of the way. Illustrations of this are, Jethro, Rahab, Ruth, Hiram, Uriah, Ittai, the queen of Sheba, Ninevah, the widow of Zeraphath, Namaan, Cyrus, etc.
Fourthly, there is another junction to take place in the future. This junction must have the previously mentioned principles governing it. They are again, transition, transference, transcendence. At the coming of Christ, these principles shall play out once again. Jesus is not coming to do something radically different than He originally intentioned from the beginning. The markers have been in place all along. The continuity between God’s plan now and God’s plan for the future should be recognized.
If I were to use the metaphor of a traintrack, and I’m not saying I would, it would be something a bit more like this. At creation, Jesus Christ set the train in motion, but mankind derailed it. Now we must pass through a dark and dreary world which God wanted mankind to avoid. Through God’s power, Christ will direct the train back into the original destination: a place of fellowship with God Himself. At each junction, God progresses His plan forward, always showing the seriousness of the consequences of sin. At each point, any man can get on the train. With each junction, the likelihood that any given person can board with ease increases. At some points, it has been very difficult to board the train, but always possible. The giving of the law at Sinai was one junction point of many. The law was not designed to make anyone righteous, but to point out the woeful state of the track upon which the train had been derailed. If it were not for the conductor of the train, the entire human race would have perished.
These are just some random thoughts for what they are worth. And as always,
Have fun and keep the viruses away – I Thess. 4:7
-The Orange Mailman
Orange, forgive me…i just saw your comment. I’m having a few computer problems so wasn’t online much lately.
So you don’t see a change (for the train, lol) after Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb, and the new covenant was brought into being?
Thanks for the response. There certainly was a change, if change is even the right word. There was a reason that Jesus didn’t choose 12 Levites to be His 12 disciples. There had to be new wineskins in order to contain the new wine. But certain things did not change. Salvation always has been and always will be by God’s grace through faith. There has never been a single person that has been saved by their deeds, or by observing the law.
When we use metaphors that aren’t in the Bible, we can sometimes run too far with an application. The idea of the train (as set forth in the articles you posted), needs to be handled with care. I’ve heard that same idea from the dispensational point of view. I believe the way it was worded was something like this. **As the book of Acts progressed, it was obvious that the train was leaving the station. The new dispensation had arrived and all who were not on board believing that Jesus is Messiah were going to be left behind in their Judaism.**
Anytime we come up with an illustration, others can show how it doesn’t measure up. The idea of the train can be useful to illustrate certain points. But if we take it too far (as I believe this article has), we can have flaws in our thinking. So my object in writing a response was to shows that certain points have been carried too far. My idea of a train being derailed is probably fraught with inconsistencies as well.
I’ll probably never be satisfied with a position like Covenant Theology or Dispensationalism, even if both make serious strides toward each other. I’m too cynical of the entire system as a whole. Too many on each side have these huge paradigms that you must see everything through before you even start examining the scriptures. Why must people come to extra-scriptural conclusions before even examining the scriptures? Can’t we just read the Bible? Know what I mean? I know that’s over-simplifying the whole thing, but sometimes I get frustrated.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
Me either.. 🙂
Though God did use this [the train example] to give me a clearer understanding…or rather, a more simple grasp on the two covenants.
Simple explanations for ‘simple’ minds. LOL
Hey I think it is a good example, but only to a certain extent. There is continuity between the two, which the example brings out. But there is a difference as well, or a new step with the New Covenant.
nice post , thank you for your efforts.