THEOLOGICAL NOTES edited, lifted from,
and keyed to Abraham's Four Seeds, a booklet by John G. Reisinger,
The book is subtitled A Biblical Examination of the Presuppositions of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.
The purpose of the book
is to demonstrate how a correct understanding of Abraham's four seeds is a key
to harmonizing Scripture. New Covenant Theologians [such as this author] believe that both Covenant Theology (CT) [Apdx.1 below] and historic Dispensationalism
(DT) [Apdx.2] , as systems, are unbiblical even though they contain truth and are
held by many godly men; that their basic presuppositions are either assumed or
wrongly deduced from their theological systems [the
reasoning of each is fundamentally circular]. One does not have to be locked into either DT
or CT. The Reformation, great as it was,
never totally got rid of all of
Reformed Baptists are among the leaders in the present day revival of Calvinistic literature. We gladly acknowledge our debt to the Reformers and Puritans and do not hesitate to own them as our forefathers in certain aspects of our faith. However those same men, almost without exception, bitterly persecuted, and in some instances, actually killed some of our other forefathers among the early Baptists. We find ourselves in the odd position of being stepchildren of both the Reformers and the Anabaptists, but the true heirs of neither.
Our clear-cut view of the Doctrines of Grace and the unity of the Scriptures aligns us with the Reformers and the Puritans. The Anabaptists will never teach anyone the Doctrines of Grace. Our view of the unity of the Scriptures make it impossible for us to accept the DT set forth in the Scofield Reference Bible. On the other hand, our Baptistic view that the New Covenant in Jesus Christ has replaced the Old Covenant at Sinai makes it just as impossible for us to accept the CT set forth in the WCF. It was that very Covenant view of Scripture that was used by the Puritans to justify the use of the sword against our Baptist forefathers. The true heirs of the Puritan view of CT are those who today espouse what is called Theonomy.
More and more writers and preachers are demonstrating that both historic DT and classical CT are bankrupt as far as being complete systems. Both systems are being greatly modified today,1 and there is a move toward "seeing some truth in both systems." In no sense does this mean there is an attempt to "synthesize" the two systems. It means that people in both camps are starting with the Scriptures and discovering two things - (1) their own system is not totally consistent with many texts of Scripture, and (2) those same texts are forcing them to accept some things held by the other system. This is happening because honest men are admitting that they simply cannot prove some of their basic presuppositions with actual texts of Scripture. They realize that they "assume" the basic system before they ever get to the Word of God itself. Both of these systems "assume as facts" their basic presuppositions without any clear Biblical proof.
1. Some have actually changed the basic presuppositions upon which their respective systems rest and are therefore not being intellectually honest when they continue to apply either of these labels to themselves.
The Word of God itself
must once more become the final authority in the conscience of Christians which
means that the remaining vestments of
Let us not make the same mistakes that the Reformers made. They thoroughly reformed the gospel message of justification by faith but failed to reform some other doctrines…They…held on to sanctification by the law. They rejected the Church's authority over your soul, but hung on to the Church's authority over your conscience. They discarded priestcraft and substituted clericalism. They rejected the authority of Church tradition (which taught Papal infallibility) but replaced it with man-made creeds that soon became as authoritative as Scripture…They cried sola Scriptura while waving a creed in one hand and a sword in the other.
From Chapter One: The Importance of Abraham's Seed.
The whole of the history of redemption revolves around "Abraham and his seed." There is no information that will help us to see the one unifying message of redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ in both the OT and NT Scriptures as much as knowing exactly what was promised to "Abraham and his seed" and who that seed is to whom those promises were made.A This is one of the crucial points of difference that separates DT and CT at their basic starting points.
A. Our view of history, prophecy, the future of the Jews, the nature of the church, baptism, the kingdom of God, the relationship of the law and the gospel, and many other things are radically affected by our answer to these questions. The really basic differences between CT and DT are over the answers.
The real difference between a historic Baptist and a Paedobaptist (those who baptize babies) is not the mode of baptism, but rather "who is the true heir of God's promise to Abraham and his seed." The answer to that question is also what distinguishes NEW COVENANT Theology (NCT) from both CT and DT. Both the Dispensationalist and the Covenant theologian insist on making "physical children" to be the objects of God's promise to Abraham and his "seed." A Dispensationalist pleads the "unconditional covenant made with Abraham and his seed" as the foundation of his belief in a separate and future purpose for the Nation of Israel. A Paedobaptist pleads the very same thing as the foundation for his infant baptism. One or both of these theological camps is confused about who Abraham's seed is and exactly what specific blessing was promised to that seed.
If CT can exegetically establish its view of "Abraham and his seed" from the Scriptures, then not only is DT nonsense (and visa versa), but the Baptist viewB of baptism is proven to be a denial of the major covenant promise given to Christian parents (heresy). If neither DT nor CT can prove from Scripture alone that they really understand "Abraham and his seed," then both of these systems may be wrong at their starting points.
B. Baptists believe in baptizing every covenant child included in the promise made to Abraham and his seed. However they insist that saving faith is the prerequisite and only proof that any given person is the seed of Abraham and an heir to the promise.
The starting points of both CT and DT, considered as complete "Systems of Theology," are not established with the Word of God but with logic applied to previously accepted theological concepts that may or may not be true. Both systems do exactly the same thing that evolution does. They assume the system is true without proving the basic assumptions and then establish specific doctrines by applying logic to the assumed "facts" or system. Everything seems to fit as long as one does not try to prove the basic presuppositions where the whole system can be seen to rest on arbitrary assumptions.
Because of electing grace, the Holy Spirit is the only ground for any person being the object of any spiritual promise given to "Abraham and his seed" (Rom.9:11, 23-24). Both DT and CT either deny or ignore this fundamental fact.
From Chapter Two: Who is Abraham’s Seed?
Ishmael was the true natural seed of Abraham, but God did not "establish his covenant" with Ishmael. Likewise, God did not include Esau in the covenant. Esau, like Ishmael, was "signed and sealed" with the same covenant sign of circumcision as was his twin brother Jacob. [In the same way evolutionists make sweeping generalities], both Dispensationalist and Covenant Theologians ignore these Biblical facts when they speak loosely and in generalities about the "promise of God to Abraham and his seed" and make it mean the physical children of either Jews or Christian parents.
CT ignores the obvious fact that God "hated" one "covenant child," Ishmael. God loved one "covenant child" (Jacob) in a way that He did not love the twin brother (Esau) even though both "covenant children" had the same believing parents and were both "signed and sealed" with the same covenant sign (Rom.9:13).
When a covenant theologian says, "The covenant at Sinai cannot possibly be a legal covenant since it was made with a redeemed people," he is mixing apples and oranges, and when a Dispensationalist treats Israel in the wilderness as "saved but not victorious," they are mixing oranges with lemons. Both systems are treating a physical redemption as being equal to spiritual salvation.
A covenant theologian cannot make the clear Biblical distinction concerning the difference between a gracious purpose and a gracious covenant and stay within the framework of his system of theology. In his theology, the Law-covenant at Sinai must be a "covenant of grace." This insistence is purely on the grounds that covenant theology's system cannot have a legal covenant after Gen.3:15 without destroying the "one covenant with two administrations" theory.
The following statement,
if understood, will help to clear up a lot of confusion: The Nation of
DT cannot get
DT drives a wedge between the OT and the NT and never the "twain shall meet" as specific promise (OT) and identical fulfillment (NT); and CT flattens the whole Bible out into one covenant where there is no real and vital distinction between either the Old and New Covenants or Israel and the Church.
We will never understand either the Biblical history of redemption or the relationship between the two major covenants in Scripture (Heb.8:6-13; Gal.4:21-31; 2 Cor.3:6-18) until we grasp the truth and implications of the last paragraph. Neither the supposed "Covenant of Works" with Adam nor the supposed "Covenant of Grace" with Adam after the fall are mentioned in any text of Scripture. They are not covenants that grow out of the Bible itself, but they are constructs that must be logically deduced from a theological system. Those who insist on using these two theological covenants must, to be consistent with their system, either ignore or deny the existence and theological implications of the two Biblical covenants (the Old Covenant at Sinai and the New Covenant that replaces it) constantly contrasted in both the Old and the NT Scriptures. Once we understand the Biblical relationship between the Nation of Israel and the Body of Christ, we will have trouble accepting either DT or CT as a theological system.
CT insists on equating
The NT Scriptures clearly establish that the Davidic covenant was fulfilled in the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Acts 2:22-36, see Apdx 5). That the Davidic throne is not waiting "to be set up" in the future, but it is already established denies one of the basic tenants of DT. The following quotation shows this clearly:
"The Davidic covenant is most important as assuring the millennial kingdom in which Christ will reign on earth. Resurrected David will reign under Christ as a prince over the house of Israel…the Davidic covenant is NOT fulfilled by Christ reigning on His throne in heaven…It is rather an earthly kingdom and an earthly throne (Mt 25:31). The Davidic covenant is, accordingly, the KEY to God's prophetic program YET TO BE FULFILLED."2
2. Walvoord's "key" locks up far more Scripture than it unlocks. Lewis Sperry Chafer, revised by John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Themes, p.145.
Covenant Theologians are just as convinced as Walvoord that their understanding of covenants is vital. Walter Chantry says:
It would be nearly
impossible to overstate the central importance of the Biblical teaching on
covenants…CT is at the heart of Biblical truth.
Those who are its enemies will do great harm to the
CT would have labeled Ishmael a “covenant child” despite the fact that his circumcision did not put him under any covenant of grace.
From Chapter Four: Abraham's SPIRITUAL Seed.
The Scofield Reference Bible gives the following as one of the fulfillments of the Abrahamic Covenant:
(b) (fulfilled) in a spiritual posterity. `Look now toward heaven...so shall thy seed be' (Jn.8:39; Rom.4:16-17, 9:7-8; Gal.3:6-7, 29) viz. All men of faith, whether Jew or Gentile...
I do not accept Scofield's typology of making "heavenly = spiritual
seed" (Church) and "sand = earthly seed" (
CT sees the importance of this phrase as it is used in the OT Scriptures. There is no question that the promise stated in Rev.21:3 is the heart of the gospel promise as prophesied in the OT. However, both DT and CT misunderstand the implications of this phrase. The Dispensationalist does not see that the Church is the true Tabernacle, or "dwelling place," of God that was predicted and prophesied in the OT Scriptures. That system of theology cannot see the Church as the true Israel of God that fulfills the covenant promises to Abraham. They adamantly "naturalize" specific things that NT Apostles spiritualize.
The Covenant Theologian
also misses the boat in the opposite direction.
He fails to emphasize that the goal of God was never realized in any
true spiritual sense by the Nation of Israel. That nation never truly
became God's people in any spiritual and eternal sense - they were never a true
"holy nation" nor were they ever the true "people of
God." If God was indeed
God was conditionally
Can God say and do to the
Body of Christ what He said and did to the Nation of Israel? Could that nation
have been purchased by the death of Christ and put under the covenant that was
ratified by His blood (1 Cor.11:24-26), and then be cast off by God? If
Theologians ignore the big word "IF" in Exodus 19:5 and then build their whole position on the "gracious" statement in Ex.19:4 and 20:2.
Every word like "elect," "chosen," "loved," "redeemed," "son," etc. that describe Israel's relationship to God as a nation have a totally different meaning when used of the Church's relationship to God. You cannot mix spiritual and natural or treat the type as if it were the reality. The failure to see this clear truth is one of the glaring self contradictions in both DT and CT. The words "God will be their God" can never be applied in a redemptive sense to any nation or individual that is cast off by God:
Both CT and DT are
constantly forgetting the above truth by mixing apples and oranges. They
use typology as if it were the reality of the thing typified. DT will
build a doctrine of "carnal believers" on the notion that
Kadesh-barnea is, by the unbelief of
CT does the same
thing. Teachers of this system
vehemently reject the clear truth that Sinai was a legal covenant simply
because it is impossible for God "to put a redeemed people" under a
legal covenant, and
The following quotation is from a widely used commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 43, dealing with the preface to the Ten Commandments.
When God delivered His
people out of slavery in
No Covenant Theologian
would say, "I believe that every single Israelite that left
Presently, I am only trying to show that CT and DT both treat the Nation of Israel and her position before God as if it were a nation of justified believers instead of merely a type. The result of using typology in this manner is confusion and contradictions.
Any view of the "blessings promised to Abraham and his seed" that does not begin in Rev.13:8 with Christ as the Lamb slain eternally in God's purpose, and wind up in Rev.21:3 uniting the redeemed of all ages before the Lamb's throne fully beholding His glory, has not really grasped the Biblical history and goal of God's redemptive purpose and work. Likewise, any view that tries to push the realization of this goal back into the Old Testament as a means of preserving the so called "unity of the one Covenant of Grace" destroys the true unity of Scripture as that unity is built around Jesus Christ, the true Seed of Abraham.
From Chapter Five: Abraham's UNIQUE Seed - Christ
Understanding Christ’s place in Scripture is the key to the true unity of the Scriptures. He is the Keystone of our salvation as well as being the Key and Keystone of all Scripture as opposed to either dispensations or covenants, even though an understanding of both is necessary to a correct interpretation of God's Word. These concepts may give unity to our "system," but they will soon force us to twist or ignore some very clear texts of Scripture that "don't fit" the system.
God's dealing with
The primary purpose of this book is an examination of the basic presuppositions of both DT and CT. Both use "the unconditional promise that God made to Abraham and his seed" as a basic building block in their respective systems. If they do not understand either the promise itself or to whom the promise was actually given, then everything built on that misunderstanding is automatically in error to some degree. Neither can be helpful to a correct interpretation of Scripture if their own understanding of such a fundamental concept as the "promises made to Abraham and his seed" is wrong.
Using Gen.3:15 as a proof text for a "covenant of grace with Adam" is demonstrative of a theological invention rather than a truth established by Biblical exegesis. Can God revealing a specific purpose in a threat to Satan be turned into God making a formal covenant with a man?3 God speaking to Satan and informing him of his certain doom is a far cry from God entering into a "covenant of grace" with Adam. Wouldn’t using Gen.3:15 to prove the establishment of a covenant necessarily require it to be made with Satan according to the text? If there is such a thing as an eternal "covenant of grace" between the members of the Trinity, then God's action in Gen.3:15 is a definite step taken in time and history to bring His purpose in that covenant of grace to pass. However, even if such a covenant could be proven to exist, it is still a far cry from God "putting either Adam of Abraham under a covenant of grace." Why not just let the verse mean what it says? God told Satan his days were numbered and it would be the "seed of the women" that would do him in.
3. For a clear example of Covenant Theologians confusing the Covenant of Redemption with the Covenant of Grace, see Johnathan Edwards: Towards a Biblical Hermeneutic . In his battle with the "half-way covenant," Edwards insisted that a child could be not considered in the Covenant of Grace in any sense until they demonstrated a living repentance and faith.
The phrase "in thee shall all nations be blessed" as given to Abraham is equivalent to "believe on the coming Christ" according to the Apostle Paul because it is the gospel promise of Christ Himself that gives the Scripture its true unity. Compare Paul's words used to describe God's dealing with Abraham with the terminology used by CT to describe the same event. Paul said that God "preached the gospel to Abraham" and in essence told him to believe in a coming Messiah. Do these words mean "made a covenant" as CT teaches? God indeed made a "covenant" with Abraham in Gen.15, however, the terms of it involve Abraham's physical seed inheriting "the land."
Here is a clear textual example of CT's constant practice of using non-Biblical terms to replace clear Biblical language. Where in all of the Word of God does the Holy Spirit call the "gospel" the "Covenant of Grace" or does any verse remotely imply that when God graciously makes known the gospel promise to an individual or a whole nation that He is thereby putting that individual "under a covenant of grace?"
Gen.3:15 & 12:3 emphatically prove that the one gospel of grace has always been, and will always be, God's only way of saving sinners. Likewise the one gospel of grace was preached from the dawn of sin. Is proclaiming the gospel of grace to a person the same thing as putting that person "under a covenant of grace"? CT makes these two things synonymous and then draws all kinds of deductions from the non-Biblical phrase "covenant of grace" that could not be drawn from the Biblical phrase "preached the gospel." One might "deduce" sprinkling children as a "sign of the covenant" from the one phrase, but it would be impossible to do so from the other.
According to Peter and Paul, the Old Testament prophets were talking about the "gospel age" in which we now live. The words in these verses cannot be made to mean anything else. It is probably significant that the Scofield Reference Bible does not cross reference Acts 3:24-26 back to Genesis 12:1-3 or to anywhere else. It ignores the fact that Peter is quoting, interpreting, and applying the true meaning of God's covenant with Abraham. If ever there was an Old Testament text quoted by a New Testament Apostle that should be cross-referenced and explained, it is this one. This is doubly true if we are trying to understand what God meant in his covenant with "Abraham and his seed" concerning the promise to "bless" him and his seed by "turning away everyone of you from his iniquities." Obviously DT cannot fit Peter's spiritualized interpretation of the promises made to "Abraham and his seed" into their system.
DT is forced to put into the future what Peter in this text specifically says has already been fulfilled. They must also naturalize the blessing promised to Abraham that Peter clearly spiritualizes. Regardless the reason the verse was not cross referenced by Scofield, it is impossible to take Peter's words literally and then fit the "postponed kingdom" view into this passage of Scripture. People that insist on a "literal" interpretation of the words of Scripture will not do it when a New Testament Apostle literally spiritualizes an Old Testament prophecy. Peter's natural language of "This is that which was spoken by the prophet" cannot be taken "literally" by a Dispensationalist.
The most important single question concerning Abraham and the promises made to him in Gen.12:1-3 is, "In choosing, calling, and entering into covenant with Abraham,"
(A) is God making an
"unconditional covenant" that begins a whole new program involving an
earthly people (the Nation of Israel) with a permanent and separate identity in
a specific and clearly defined physical land (Palestine), in distinction to a
heavenly people (the church) with its spiritual blessings in the heavenly
(B) is God taking the first step to fulfill the prediction made in Gen.3:15 concerning the Unique Seed coming to die on the cross in fulfillment of the one eternal unchanging purpose of grace (Rev.13:8) for His one true elect people?
would agree with the first choice, but some of them want to delete the word
"permanent," and then say, "I agree with both
choices." The foundation of consistent DT rests on
God beginning, with Abraham, a new program with an "earthly" people
that must culminate in their inheriting and keeping the
In taking such a view of the Abrahamic covenant, DT fails to see the totality of the continuity of the single goal of redemption in Genesis 3:15 and 12:1-3 as that goal is developed in the rest of Scripture, especially by the NT Apostles in their inspired interpretation of God's dealings with Abraham. That system also fails to appreciate how clearly Abraham himself saw that the physical land of Palestine was not the real and final fulfillment of God's promise to him and his seed (Gen.22:18; Jn.8:56; Heb.11:9-10).
He is merely choosing and designating the seed line that will bring to pass the promise of Genesis 3:15 and the goal of Revelation 13:8. DT, at this point, introduces a disunity into the purposes of God that makes it impossible to see the events happening in the NT Scriptures to be the very things that were promised to the fathers all the way through the OT. The whole concept of the "postponed kingdom" begins in misunderstanding "the promise of God to Abraham" in Genesis 12. Once this has occurred, it is impossible to use the NT Scriptures to understand and interpret the kingdom prophecies in the OT. One has to force OT concepts into the NT Scriptures.
How far will men go in order to defend a position dear to
their hearts? In
1972 the General Association of Regular Baptists had a heated discussion over
the doctrine of God's sovereign election. An attempt was made to strengthen the
article in the doctrinal statement that dealt with salvation and election. A
group of strong Arminians not only managed to kill
the amendment concerning the election of believers, but they also strengthened
the article dealing with God's choice of the Nation of Israel. I’m sure they
did not intentionally borrow the language of the Covenant theologian, but all
they managed to do was move the "Covenant of Grace" concept from the
Church to the Nation of Israel. Notice that the following Dispensational
statement applies CT terminology to
We believe in the sovereign selection of Israel as God's eternal covenant people, that she is now dispersed because of her disobedience and rejection of Christ, and that she will be re-gathered in the Holy Land and, after the completion of the church, will be saved as a nation at the second advent of Christ. Gen.3:14-17; Rom.11:1-32; Ez.37 (From "The Constitution of the General Association of Regular Baptists Churches" as amended June 1972).
The DT of the General
Association of Regular Baptists is adamant that there is an "everlasting
Covenant (of grace)" with
Dispensationalists are usually, strongly Arminian in their view of
freewill. Suppose we ask the following question: "How can we be sure that
DT clearly acknowledges that the Gospel is one of the things being promised in Genesis 12:3. In a footnote explaining the Abrahamic Covenant, Scofield says:
. . . (7) "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." This is the great evangelic promise fulfilled in Abraham's Seed, Christ (Gal.3:16; Jn.8:56-58). It brings into greater definiteness the promise of the Adamic Covenant concerning the Seed of the woman (Gen.3:15). From: Scofield Reference Bible, p.25.
We basically agree with this statement. However, Scofield then proceeds to make the rest of the things promised apply to the physical Nation of Israel as the "seed of Abraham" and these aspects of the promise soon overshadow everything else.
CT, on the other hand, tries to establish continuity from Gen.3:15 to 12:1-3, and the rest of Scripture, on the basis of a formal and definitive "covenant of grace" that has no textual basis in Scripture. It is the product of "theological deductionism." The concept itself may or may not be useful in some discussions, but using the term as a building block for understanding the foundation of all Scripture is to exalt terms developed by theologians above the actual words used by the Holy Spirit in the Bible itself. We should always be skeptical when someone insists on using words and phrases to prove key points in their systems, especially when they have no texts of Scripture. It always gives me the impression that someone is trying to teach us something that the Holy Ghost forgot to mention. Dr. Gordon Clark, a strong Covenant Theologian, has given some excellent advice to all theologians:
. . . A Christian theologian should use Biblical terms in their Biblical meaning . . . From : First Principles of Theology, unpublished manuscript, p.402.
I would change that into two statements: (1) a theologian should always use the actual terms that the Scriptures uses; (2) he should use those terms only with the specific meaning given to them by Scripture. We should never substitute theological terms for Biblical terms, and we should not load Biblical words with theological meaning, unless that meaning can be clearly established by other texts of Scripture. Both DT and CT constantly violate this principle and use theological terms to "prove" their arguments instead of using Biblical texts and terms. The words of the creeds and "church fathers" have a distinct tendency to replace the words that were uttered by inspired prophets and apostles in the Bible.
Isn’t the doctrine of verbal inspiration in danger of being unconsciously denied by theologians who manufacture theological terms not found in Scripture and then use those terms as the sole support of a given point in their system of theology? Suppose they refuse to accept and use the specific words and terms inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself because those terms will not "fit" into their system?
What question comes to your mind when you see that recurring phrase "commonly called" in the WCF following a key theological term? "Commonly called that by whom? Clearly not by any apostle or prophet in Scripture." What does the confession actually means by "commonly called"? "We do not have any specific Biblical texts to support this term or phrase, but we know it is correct, because it is essential to our theological system, hence it is `commonly' used by theologians all the time."
When the Romanist quotes the Church Fathers for authority instead of appealing to a verse of Scripture (because they have none) we call it the "tradition of the fathers" and reject their doctrine. When the Puritans or their heirs appeal to established creed (for the same reason the Romanist appealed to the fathers) or to human logic, it is called the "Analogy of Faith." We would do well to believe that John Brown was right when he accused the Puritans of putting the Word of God back under the very fetters that Luther and Calvin had destroyed with true Biblical exegesis.
In the age that followed [that of Luther & Calvin], the fetters which had been shattered were strangely repaired by many of the second and third series of Protestant expositors; and, with some noble exceptions, humanly constructed theories for harmonizing the varied statements of Revelation, under the plausible name of "The Analogy of Faith," were by them not only used as a correct means of interpreting the Scriptures, but so elevated above all other means as to control, and indeed, in a great degree, to supersede them. From An Exposition of Galatians, by John Brown, Banner of Truth Trust, p.vii.
John Brown was talking about men like those who framed the WCF who had, with the "Analogy of Faith," made many of their dictums to be the "truth of God" without any textual verification.4 God help us when men in power start using a creed over our conscience and refuse to discuss the actual Word of God itself.
4 The WCF
is just as much a political document as it is a religious document. The framers
of the Confession were writing a document of law to govern society in the same
sense that the Congress of the
DT cuts the Bible in half and "never the twain shall meet." CT does the exact opposite and merges two distinctly different covenants (the Old and the New) into "one covenant with two administrations." DT cannot get the OT into the NT in any sense, and CT does not even have a really "New" Covenant. They have a "newer" and "older" version of the same covenant. DT cannot get the two Testaments together, and CT cannot get them apart!
The basic mistake of both of these systems lies in their misunderstanding the promises made to "Abraham and his seed" in Genesis. This error is the result of failing to see that the true unity of the whole Scripture involves both a Dispensational and a Covenantal change. How many distinct covenants are there? Two - the old legal covenant at Sinai and the new gracious covenant that replaces it. What distinct and unchanging purpose of God runs through them? God’s one election of grace. Neither DT nor CT can see both of these things at the same time simply because of their doctrine of the Church.
Regardless of your response to the foregoing evaluations of both CT and DT, at the moment we are only insisting that God's dealing with Abraham is not, as DT claims, a new "purpose and program for Israel," nor is God, as CT insists, establishing a "Covenant of Grace" with Abraham and his physical children. God is merely taking the first step in bringing Christ, the true Seed, into the world in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. He is announcing the gospel of grace, and it is this gospel promise of Christ that unifies all of Scripture around the Person and work of Christ Himself.
Acts 2 is a very crucial passage that bridges the Old and the New Covenants. Neither DT nor CT can correctly grasp the heart of Peter's message on the Day of Pentecost. DT cannot see Pentecost as the true fulfillment of the kingdom promises given through Joel and David. Their system cannot see the Church as the true Israel of God in any sense. CT, on the other hand, cannot see a totally new age, a new people, and a new experience coming into being at Pentecost as proof that the Old Covenant has passed away and the promised New Covenant has taken its place. (See Heb.8:6-13)
Chapter 6 with Theological Notes is incorporated as Appendix 5
Chapter Seven: ABRAHAM'S "SPECIAL" NATURAL SEED - THE NATION OF
redemption from Egypt does not equal justification by faith; national
"adoption" does not equal "sons of God;" election as a
nation among nations is not equal to "chosen in Christ before the
foundation of the world" unto salvation; the national and physical
redemption from Egypt by blood is not equal to the eternal spiritual redemption
by the blood of Christ; and "called of out Egypt" is not the same as
the effectual call in Romans 1:7, etc. An unsaved Israelite was just as
much "redeemed" from
The following comment on Rom 9:4 throws a lot of light on this particular point:
The Nation of Israel was a nation adopted by God as a type of the adoption of His children in Christ Jesus; and in that typical sense, in which they were the children of God as no other nation ever was, they are frequently spoken of in Scripture, Ex.4:22; Jer.31:9-20. In this way our Lord Himself recognizes them, when anticipating their rejection, He says, "the children of the kingdom shall be cast out," Mt.8:12. Robert Haldane, Commentary on Romans, p.444
exact same things that Haldane says about
"Adoption" can be said about the words "loved, chosen, and
redeemed, etc." when applied to the Nation of Israel. The failure to
see this is a basic error in Covenant Theology's view of the church.
Their whole doctrine of the church is built on making a "one-on-one"
Both a dispensational and a covenantal change took place when Christ completed His work of atonement. In reality, this is the Biblical option to both DT and CT that I, as a Baptist who is thoroughly Reformed in theology (though not CT), clearly see in the Word of God. Don't equate CT with Reformed Theology. A Baptist can consistently hold CT, but he must be grossly inconsistent to hold to the CT of the WCF. We totally reject the Reformer's doctrine of sacralism, but agree with their view of sovereign grace in salvation. We also agree with much of Luther's and Calvin's view of law. The Reformer's position is far closer to our view than it is to that of the later Puritans.
From Chapter Eight: To Whom Are The Covenant Promises Made?
apostle Paul’s real point in arguing that "not
Really grasping Paul's basic argument in Romans 9-11, allows one to answer many apparent problems that neither DT nor CT can solve.
From Chapter Nine: The Abrahamic Covenant
all we had was the OT, it would be very easy to hold the same view of
Gen.15:8-17 records the actual covenant God made with Abraham and verse 18 again states the essence of that covenant to be the physical land. DT insists that this is an "unconditional" promise that has never been literally fulfilled and is therefore still in force in reference to the physical Nation of Israel.
uses Gen.17:7 as a key proof text to prove that their physical children are
still included in "God's covenant (of grace) with Abram." They ignore
the fact that verse eight is speaking to the same people and promising them the
are right when they insist that the heart of the Abrahamic
Covenant as expressed in the language of the OT is the promise that "
keeps insisting that the "faithfulness of God" to keep His covenant
is at stake in
you think that any OT believer, including Abraham himself, would trade what
they now possess in the presence of God for every inch of
the Dispensationalist and the Covenant Theologian bring "the promise of
Abraham and his seed" into the present age in a physical sense via the
lineage of their physical children. They both insist that "the promise
made to Abraham and his seed" is an "unconditional covenant" and
is therefore still in effect for "physical seeds." The
Dispensationalist naturalizes the seed to mean physical
The Dispensationalist will not accept the NT revelation of what was in Abraham's heart, and CT insists on reading that revelation back into the OT Scriptures.
From Chapter Ten: Who Then Is Abraham's True Seed?
The problem always comes back to the question, "Who is Abraham's true seed"? Charles Hodge, a Paedobaptist Theologian, has some excellent comments on Romans 9 that are very helpful in answering this question.
The apostle now approaches the subject which he had in view, the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles. That God had determined to cast off his ancient covenant people and to extend the call of the gospel indiscriminately to all men, is the point which the apostle is about to establish. He does this by showing, in the first place, that God is perfectly free thus to act, v.6-24, and in the second, that he had declared in the prophets that such was his intention, v.25-33.
That God was at liberty to reject the Jews and to call the Gentiles, Paul argues, by showing that the promises which he had made, and by which he had graciously bound himself, were not made to the natural descendants of Abraham as such, but to his spiritual seed. This is plain from the case of Ishmael and Isaac; both were the children of Abraham, yet one was taken and the other left. And also from the case of Esau and Jacob. Though children of the same parents, and born at one birth, yet "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated," is the language of God respecting them, vs. 6-13. From: Epistle to the Romans, by Charles Hodge, p.303.
understands Paul's argument. By "not all
...the promises which he (God) has made, and by which he had graciously bound himself, were not made to the natural descendants of Abraham as such, but to his spiritual seed.
Hodge then labors to show how the Jews totally misunderstood God's covenant with Abraham by thinking it meant physical children. His exposition of this section is superb. One wishes that Hodge would have consistently applied his own statements to his theology of infant baptism.
v.6 . . . It was a common opinion among the Jews, that the promises of God being made to Abraham and to his seed, all his natural descendants sealed as such, by the rite of circumcision, would certainly inherit the blessings of the Messiah's reign . . . The reason the rejection of the Jews involved no failure on the part of the divine promise is that the promise was not addressed to the mere natural descendants of Abraham . . . His object is to show that the promises made to the children of Abraham were not made to his natural descendants as such . . . V.8. "That is, they which are the children of flesh, these are not the children of God.” Ibid, p.305-306.
This is the heart of the issue. God did not cast off a physical nation and then replace it with a physical church. He fulfilled the true promise to Abram by creating a spiritual regenerate nation, the Body of Christ.
How can Hodge not see that his Paedobaptism makes the very same mistake that the Jews made? It should be enlightening for one to really understand the ground upon which infant baptism rests and read the above comments substituting "Christian parents" for "Jews,"5 Hodge wants to eliminate the Jews, as the natural seed, from the covenant made with Abraham because, as he says, "The promises were NOT made to the natural descendants of Abraham, but to his spiritual seed." However, Hodge then wants the identical covenant of Abraham to include the natural descendants of believers today.
5 . . . It was a common opinion among the Jews [Paedo-baptists], that the promises of God being made to Abraham and to his seed, all his natural descendants sealed as such, by the rite of circumcision [baptism], would certainly inherit the blessings of the covenant.
Paedobaptists actually claim for their physical children through the Abrahamic Covenant more than Abraham himself could claim for his physical children in the same covenant. Hodge sees this clearly as it relates to the Jews, but then he turns right around and uses the identical argument and the same covenant promise that the Jews used in order to prove his infant baptism.
Theologian nor Dispensationalist will accept the fact that "and thy
seed" cannot, in any sense, be made to mean the physical children of
either a Jew or a Christian. They both insist that the heart of the Abrahamic covenant was made with parents and their physical
children; and since that same covenant is still in effect today, then the
physical children must still be included. Both of these systems of
theology refuse to accept the clear Apostolic interpretation given in the NT
Scriptures of "to you and your seed" and "not all
When all of the smoke clears, it is apparent that we have to "naturalize" the whole covenant in Genesis 17:7-8 or else we have to "spiritualize" the whole covenant. Neither the Dispensationalist nor the Covenant Theologian is willing to either naturalize or spiritualize the whole passage. They both want to "naturalize" one part and "spiritualize" the other. They just choose different parts. In reality both systems ultimately wind up with a hermeneutic that makes the OT Scriptures interpret the NT Scriptures instead of visa versa. As long as both of these theological systems insist that the promise to "Abram and his seed" means physical children, they will both continue to insist on maintaining the very thing that has been forever done away in the New Covenant.
DT insists the
Israel/Gentile distinction is still true in the "church age."
The covenant theologian
does exactly the same thing. He insists that the very same Israel/Gentile
distinction, by another name (covenant community/all others), is still in
effect because the "unconditional covenant (of grace) with Abraham (the
believer) and his children (physical seed)" is still in effect. CT
sees nothing really new, in the sense of different in nature, in the New
Covenant. In actual fact, he does not even have a distinct new
covenant. The new covenant of CT is merely a "spiritualized
administration" of the identical covenant that
Under the "new administration" of the one Covenant of Grace everything is still the same because the covenant is the same. The same things simply get new names. The "Jewish" church becomes the "Christian" church, circumcision becomes baptism, the Sabbath becomes Sunday, etc. Everything is spiritualized and brought over into the "new administration of the same covenant." All that has been changed are the outward methods and means of visible representation. The "covenant children" of believers still have promises made to them which "non-covenant children" do not have. Covenant children today have the right and obligation to the covenant sign of baptism since they are born into the Church, even as the Israelite child was born into the nation (church) under the "old administration" of the same covenant. All that has really changed according to this system is the sign of the covenant. The Israel/Gentile distinction is still in effect in a quasi-spiritual/physical manner as it respects "covenant" and "non-covenant" children, and the "covenant community" (Israel = Church) and "non-covenant" community (Gentile = unchurched).
One of the basic errors
of both CT and DT is their doctrine of the Church. DT does not see the
Church as the true fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and the Nation
of Israel. They do not believe the Church is the true seed of Abraham to
whom the real promises were made. This system of theology introduces a disunity into the Scriptures and the purposes of God at
Genesis 12 from which it can never recover. It separates
CT, on the other hand, does not see the "Body of Christ" as a totally new thing created by the Holy Spirit at His personal advent on the day of Pentecost. They do not see the whole physical nation concept finished forever and a new thing, the Church as the spiritual Body of Christ, brought into being (Eph.2:12-21). The Covenant theologian's doctrine of the Church makes it impossible for him to realize that many of Paul's doctrinal statements could never have been spoken or written by any prophet before the day of Pentecost.
The Jew could not conceive that every one of the distinctions and advantages that he enjoyed under the OC (Rom.3:1-3) were forever gone and that he was now put on the same level with the Gentile - neither he nor his physical children any longer have any special covenantal claim on God.
In reality, the Covenant Theologian has the identical difficulty believing that same thing in reference to his children. He insists that his children are in a different category before God than "non-covenant" children. "There is no difference" somehow just cannot mean his children. After all, his children are "covenant children" and therefore "under the unconditional covenant of grace" that God made with Abraham and his seed. That covenant gives the believer a special promise for his physical children. "There is no difference" simply cannot mean that a believer's children are in the same category before God as a child born in a "non-covenant," or pagan, home.
Much Reformed preaching, especially by some Reformed Baptists, is designed to bring "the law down on the conscience" in a way that cannot avoid legalism and fear. Preachers vehemently deny that they are setting men under the law in order to be saved. However, when these same preachers consistently appeal to fear as the primary motive essential to produce holy living, the end result is experientially the same as it affects the conscience before God.6
A legalist sincerely believes that a conscience freed from the fear of the law is the breeding ground of antinomianism. He honestly believes that "bringing the law down on the conscience" is the only way to produce holy living.7 Paul constantly says that the exact opposite is true. The conscience freed from the law by a realization of God's amazing grace and unchanging love is the only way that true holiness or law-keeping can ever take place.
6. For a lengthy discussion of the law and the conscience see the article on "John Bunyan's View of The Law," also available on both audio and video cassette tapes.
7. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts the following words into the mouths of the objectors of Paul's doctrine of "free from the law":
"At once his opponents take up the cudgels and say, `Surely these are very wrong and very dangerous statements to make; surely if you are going to abrogate the Law and do away with it altogether, you are doing away with every guarantee of righteous and holy conduct and behavior. Sanctification is impossible without the Law. If you treat the Law in this way and dismiss it, and rejoice in doing so, are you not encouraging lawlessness, and are you not almost inciting people to live a sinful life? Law, they believed, was the great guarantee of holy living and sanctification." From The Law: Its Function and Limits, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, p.4-5.
The legalist's great mistake is confusing the means with the ends. His goal of holy living is the goal that we all have. We all long to see the holiness demanded by the law embodied in our own lives as well as in the lives of those to whom we preach. Our difference with the legalist is over what kind of preaching will produce Biblical holy living. What kind of theology in men's hearts will produce a "love that obeys the law?" The two different answers to these questions is the difference between a law-centered preaching and a Christ-centered preaching.
At the close of a message on Eph.2:14-18, a noted Reformed Baptist preacher committed to CT said, "I have struggled to find an application for this message." I could see why the man had such difficulty finding an application. He had waffled all the way through the sermon without actually explaining the text. He kept insisting that we must "remember that the law at Sinai was a `gracious' covenant given to a `redeemed people' for their sanctification." The man was so scared of setting the believer's conscience free from the fear of the law, that he could not in honesty exegete the text. He reminded me of some hyper-Calvinists who simply cannot read out loud the words in John 1:29.
The covenant theologian
cannot see that many things which are spoken of
"visible/invisible" Church idea is not a Biblical concept as it is
used by the Covenant Theologian. It is another theological invention that allows a
congregation to deliberately and consciously include both believers and known
unbelievers in its membership. Baptist churches may have unregenerate
people as members, but it is never with a conscious knowledge and
consent. [Heb.3:1 addresses “holy brothers who share in the heavenly
calling.” V.5 speaks of Moses’
faithfulness in all His (God’s) household as a
servant, referring to the mixed multitude of believers and nonbelievers
Charles Hodge, in his section trying to prove infant baptism, argues that it is not even God's purpose to have only regenerate members in the so called "visible" church:
A false profession of faith and a non-profession of faith
are two different things.
Accepting a hypocrite (only because we cannot see his heart) who has made a
false confession of faith is a totally different matter than knowingly saying
unbelievers may be church members [ie, baptizing the dead and pretending that they belong with
the living]. The Baptist concept of "visible/invisible" Church
is radically different than a Paedobaptist's
view. The Church as "believers only" and the church as
"believers and their children" are two totally different concepts
that have far-reaching consequences.
Infant Baptism. The difficulty on this subject is that baptism from its very nature involves a profession of faith. It is the way in which by the ordinance of Christ, He is to be confessed before men; but infants are incapable of making such a confession; therefore they are not the proper subjects of baptism. Or, to state the matter in another form: the sacraments belong to the members of the Church; but the Church is the company of believers; infants cannot exercise faith, therefore they are not to be baptized. In order to justify the baptism of infants, we must attain and authenticate such an idea of the church as that it shall include the children of believing parents . . ." Ibid, p.546
By applying logic to his CT, Hodge manages to "deduce" a view of the church that will justify baptizing babies. It is this kind of "theological truth" that the Westminster Confession is referring to when it says "good and necessary consequences may be deduced" (Art.1, Sec.VI). I am certain it was not the intention of the framers of the Confession to equate logic and Scripture, but the practical result as seen in their system is the same as if it were intended. A Christian should have only one source of absolute truth, namely, texts of Scripture, upon which to build his basic presuppositions. The Westminster Confession uses two equal sources of truth to establish its basic presuppositions, namely, texts of Scripture plus the theological implications that logic can deduce from its system of theology. Infant baptism, by Hodge's and our admission, is not a result of textual exegesis but purely a theological necessity deduced by logic.
From Chapter Eleven: Who Is The "Great Nation"?
natural sense the "great nation" part of the promise to Abraham was
fulfilled in Ishmael (Gen.17:20). It was also fulfilled in a special
natural sense in the Nation of Israel. However, the NT Scriptures make it
clear that this promise was not really fulfilled until Christ came. The Church is the true nation promised to Abraham, and all her
children are kings and priests. DT totally misses this truth because of
its view of
Covenant Theologian confuses what he calls the visible church, including
believers and their children, with the Body of Christ which is purely
spiritual. He makes the visible Church take the place of physical
argument in Hebrews eight makes it impossible for us to hold the basic
presuppositions of either DT or CT. We will clearly see in that passage a
specific "new" covenant replacing a specific and different
"old" covenant. This makes the "one covenant/two
administrations" view impossible. Verses 6, 7, and
13 show that God has made this new covenant with the "house of
The spiritual nation and the gracious covenant have been the goal of God in redemptive history since the dawn of sin. The physical Nation of Israel has no separate purpose or future independent of the Body of Christ.
Church inherits the true spiritual blessings promised to
This is what Paul means in Romans 6:14 and other places when he says "You are NOT under the law (as a covenant where the blessings are earned by merit) but you are under grace" (as a covenant where blessings have already been earned by our blessed Surety.
ONE: Neither DT nor CT understand the Biblical doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ in the redemptive purposes of God.
A. DT does not see the Body of
Christ as the true Israel of God in fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham
and his seed. This system of theology insists on different promises for
B. CT does not see that the Old Covenant believer never really "inherited" the promises made to Abraham and his seed (Heb.11:13, 39). That system reads the doctrine and unique experiences of the Body of Christ back into the OT Scriptures. CT must do this because their system cannot make a clear distinction between the Nation of Israel and the Body of Christ.
C. DT does not see that the
Body of Christ is the very thing God has been working towards ever since the Fall. It does not realize that the great "days of
the Messiah" prophesied by all of the OT prophets are NOT something to be
experienced in a future earthly millennium. The very days in which we now live
are the days of which the prophets spoke (Acts 3:24-26). The inability of
DT to see this fact grows out of their insistence on separate purposes for
D. CT makes the exact opposite
mistake. It does not realize that a New Covenant believer experiences the
reality of spiritual blessings and a new status that could never have been
experienced before the personal advent of Christ and the personal advent of the
Holy Spirit. This grows out of their insistence on making
TWO: Neither of these systems really has a true "New" covenant replacing an "Old" covenant where both covenants relate to the same redemptive purposes of God for His one true people. This is why Hebrews eight does not fit either system.
A. DT must push the "NC
with the house of
B. CT insists that the
"NC" in Hebrews eight really is not a new and distinctly different
covenant but merely a new administration of the same covenant that
THREE: Neither one of these
systems see the true relationship of
A. CT finds its basic structure of the Church in the OT Scriptures and merely "adds the Gentiles" to what already existed. They ignore the NT Scriptures that teach a whole new thing was created and established at Pentecost on a totally new foundation (Eph. 2:14-22).
B. DT fails to see the Church as the true fulfillment of God's one eternal purpose. CT on the other hand fails to see the uniqueness and newness of the Church as the "Body of Christ."
unconditional promise that God made to Abraham has nothing at all to do with
plural "seeds." It can have nothing to do with physical Jews and
Appendix One: Covenant Theology
The following quotations are taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) which is the most widely accepted and revered document to come out of the Reformation. WCF represents both the historical and the present view of consistent Covenant Theology (CT). There have been differences of opinion on what the Confession actually means and how it is to be worked out, but Presbyterian groups have not 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.
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 Chap.7, Sec.1
Isa.40:13-17; Job 9:32-33; 22:2-3; 35:7-8; 1 Sam.2:25; Ps.100:2-3; 113:5-6; Lk.17:10; Acts 17:24-25.
The whole of Scripture is covered by two covenants.
The first is the Covenant of Works made with Adam in the garden prior to his fall.
The second is the Covenant of Grace made with Adam immediately after his fall.
The Covenant of Works: The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works (Gal.3:12), wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity (Rom.10:5; 5:12-20), 2 upon condition of perfect and personal obedience (Gen. 2:17; Gal.3:10)." 3 Chap.7, Sec.2
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 (Gal.3:21; Rom.8:3; 3:20-21; Gen.3:15; Isa.42:6), 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 (Mk.16:15-16; Jn.3:16; Rom.10:6, 9; Gal.3:11); and
promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit. to make them willing and able to believe (Ez.36:26-27;
Jn.6:44-45). 3 Chap.7, Sec.3.
This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel;… (2 Cor.3:6-9) Chap.7, Sec.5.
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.
". . . life was promised to Adam . . . upon condition of perfect and personal obedience." Chap.7, Sec.3.
"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" (Gen.1:26-27; 2:17; Rom.2:14-15; 10:5; 5:12-19; Gal.3:10, 12; Ecc.7:29; Job 28:28). Chap.19, Sec.1.
4. The content of the covenant of works that Adam was to obey in order to earn "life" was the ten commandments, "commonly called [not by any writer of Scripture] the moral law."
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 . . . (Jas.1:25; 2:8,10-12; Rom.13:8-9; Dt.5:32; 10:4; Ex.34:1) Chap.19, Sec.2.
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.
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.
Do the Scriptures ever represent the tragedy of Adam's fall as "losing an opportunity to earn life" or do they represent the fall as Adam losing the life and righteousness that he already had by virtue of the fact that he was created righteous in the image of God? Nowhere are we told Adam failed to get something that he did not have. The Scriptures always speak 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.
Given the basic assumption of CT that there is only one unchanging Covenant of Grace, some logical deductions necessarily 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."
Appendix Three: Covenant Theology's "Two Administrations of One Covenant."
Professor John Murray in
his later writings disagreed with many modern Covenant Theologians concerning a
supposed "covenant of works" with Adam. He even chided them for using the phrase
"covenant of works" in connection with Adam and also for attempting
to connect the Mosaic covenant with Adam in any way.
Modern writers quote John
Murray as the final authority on CT and in the same breath
deny that the law-covenant at Sinai was the "first" or
"old covenant." Most of
A pamphlet by a Reformed Baptist pastor insists that the so-called Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace are the foundation stones for understanding Scripture. The author never mentioned the two covenants in Galatians four or Hebrews eight; and worse yet, neither of the two covenants that he was talking about are mentioned at all in Scripture. The booklet begins:
Gen.3:15 "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
Gen.3:19 "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
". . . In Genesis chapter three we observe two covenants in action. Two very different covenants are in force at the same time . . ." The Two Covenants, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace, by Walter Chantry
The very first page "assumes" as a fact what cannot be established with texts of Scripture. Nowhere in the booklet does the writer attempt any textual exegesis for either of the two covenants that he "observes" to be at work in Genesis. This is the typical method used by Covenant Theologians. They just assume there are two covenants in Genesis without any textual evidence. This is exactly what the Dispensationalist does with charts.
CT insists on putting the word "covenant" in Genesis where the Holy Ghost has not put it, and then they refuse to let the word covenant really mean "covenant" when the Holy Spirit does use that specific word in passages like Hebrews 8.
I left DT because I could not find its basic presuppositions in the Word of God. Writers would make statements that were not actually in the texts of Scripture, but they "had to be true" simply because the system demanded it. When I began to honestly study the WCF and look up every proof text, I was just as horrified as when I honestly investigated DT. As a Baptist, I expected to find the texts on infant baptism to be totally irrelevant, but I did not expect the same thing to be true of the proof texts used to prove the whole covenant concept as well as the Confession's view of the law.
Covenant theologians are
forced into inventing the terms "covenant of works" and
"covenant of grace" simply because they fail to see the uniqueness of
God's dealings with
Yes, God had a gracious purpose in putting the Nation of Israel under the law as a covenant, but that fact cannot change the law-covenant into a covenant of grace. The law, as a covenant, was intended to be the "needle that pierced the conscience so that the thread of the gospel could follow and heal." However, to be able to accomplish that ministry of death, the law had to have the teeth of a true legal covenant with the power of life and death. If the Decalogue could not make men feel lost in sin and condemned by God, then how could it "prepare the sinner for the gospel?" And how could it accomplish such a ministry without having the authority of a covenant of life and death?
CT consistently confuses God's eternal purpose in electing grace with the specific and different covenants that God made, in time and history, with specific people or nations. They are forced to bleed the word "covenant" of its Biblical meaning and make it impossible to give the word a uniform definition. They will sometimes let it mean "covenant" and other times insist it cannot mean covenant but means "administration." They then force the word "covenant" into places where it does not belong.
CT literally builds its whole system on two deliberate mistakes. It puts two covenants into Genesis 2 & 3 even though those chapters never mention either of the two covenants. The two unproven covenants then become the foundation of the whole system of CT! If there is no "covenant of works with Adam" in the garden whereby Adam could have "earned eternal life by his obedience" or if God did not make a formal "covenant of grace" with Adam immediately after the fall, then the system of theology set forth in the WCF is without any Biblical foundation.
Both of CT’s major covenants are Biblico-theological covenants - not derived from specific texts of Scripture. They are non-textual covenants which are the "good and necessary consequences deduced" from the very system that they are supposed to support! The covenant of works and the covenant of grace are the foundation blocks of the very system that is used as the basis for deducing, as "good and necessary consequences," the very same two covenants used as the foundation that it is trying to establish. This is circular reasoning at its worst > The word "covenant" cannot mean covenant in Hebrews 8 even though the Holy Spirit says "covenant." There must be two covenants in Genesis chapter 2 and 3 even though the Holy Spirit does not mention either one of them, and there can only be one real covenant in Hebrews 8 even though the Holy Spirit says there are two.
Once you read the two non-Biblical covenants into Genesis
2 & 3, you are then forced to deny that the Biblical "Old" and "New"
covenants spoken of in
Heb.8, 2 Cor.3, and Gal.3 & 4 are actually two distinctly different
covenants. Of theological necessity, these two covenants simply must be
two different administrations of the same covenant. After forcing two
non-Biblical covenants into Genesis 2 & 3, CT must now delete from Scripture the true Biblical covenant of works
(the "Old covenant") made at Sinai and turn it into a covenant of
"grace." They must also delete
the Biblical covenant of grace (the "New covenant") established
in the blood of Christ and turn it into a "new
administration" of the same legal covenant that was given to
When a covenant theologian uses the term "covenant of grace," (Hodge quote) what he really means is the "gospel of grace," or God's one and only method of saving men. This is why he calls the promise of "the seed" in Genesis 3:15 and 12:3 the "covenant of grace." He means that God has always saved men by one method, and that method is by grace through faith. We do not question that men have always been saved by grace alone. The Bible calls that "the gospel." Why do Covenant Theologians insist on calling it "the Covenant of Grace"? Why distort Acts 2:39 and its clear declaration of the one gospel message to all men into a supposed "covenant of grace" with Christian parents? Because the Biblical word "gospel" will not do for the covenant theologian what the non-Biblical phrase "covenant of grace" will do for him. If he says, "God preached the gospel of grace to Abraham and promised to save him by faith and also promised to save all of his children who would also believe the gospel," he is speaking Biblically and we will agree with him. However, such Biblical terminology gives him no grounds to baptize a "covenant child." Even Hodge could not find "justification" for infant baptism without inventing a non-biblical terminology.
When the covenant theologian is speaking about the "gospel of grace," he is using Biblical terminology, but when he speaks of "the covenant of grace," he is speaking in purely theological terms without textual warrant. Nothing is gained by ignoring Biblical words and substituting theological terms. However, a lot of confusion and error would be avoided if everyone used the same terms that the Holy Spirit put into the Scripture.
A Covenant theologian seeks to establish his basic presuppositions without using specific texts of Scripture because he has no clear texts to use. He must load a word or phrase with the preconceived concepts of his system and then use the loaded word or phrase as if he were quoting an actual text of Scripture. Check how often the WCF uses the phrase "commonly called" to establish a point instead of quoting Bible verses because at that point they don’t have any. The "truth" they sought to establish did not grow out of texts of Scripture but out of their theological system. Several other statements found repeatedly in the writings of covenant theologians are, "The Standards of our Church declare . . ." or "The Framers of our Larger Catechism correctly state . . ."C
The fact that God
preached "the gospel to Abraham" does not mean that he was
"under a covenant of grace" any more than the fact that the whole
city of Nineveh heard the gospel would mean that God put them "under a
covenant of grace." The clear truth
that God has always saved men "by grace through faith," and it is a
clear truth, in no way proves that
C. Presbyterians treat
their confession and catechism as authoritative because they are
part of a “confessional church” that requires such a commitment to those
documents. Some Reformed Baptists have
also become creedalists and likewise treat their creeds
as absolute in faith and practice. The
Baptist doctrine of “Individual Soul
Appendix Four: An Exposition of Acts 2:39 and Infant Baptism
"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts 2:39
Consider a few very obvious objections to using Acts 2:39 as a "proof text" for infant baptism:
1. Who was Peter speaking to, unbelievers or Christian parents? Was he telling convicted sinners how to be saved, or giving believing parents the assurance that their children are "in the covenant"? The "you" in the phrase "the promise is unto you" are unbelievers asking what they must do to be saved. In the very next verse (40) Peter exhorted these unsaved people to "save yourselves from this untoward generation." Can an exhortation to lost sinners to trust Christ be interpreted as a promise to Christian parents that their children are in a special covenantal relationship with God? Of course not.
2. How can the "promise" in Joel that Peter quoted, "whosoever shall call on the Lord shall be saved," be connected to infant baptism? (Cf. Rom.10:13 where Paul also quotes Joel 2:32 and shows that "the promise" spoken of in Joel and quoted by Peter is the promise of the gospel to all unbelievers whether they are Gentiles or Jews.) Peter declaring the promise of the gospel of grace to unbelievers cannot be turned into "God making a covenant of grace with Christian parents," yet this is exactly what covenant theologians have done with this text.
3. Do the children of believers have more unique promise in this text than do those who "are afar off" (the heathen)? Peter understood the gospel promise of whosoever in Joel to include three distinct groups. Clarify to whom (and their qualifications) the promise that "whosoever shall call on the Lord shall be saved" is given to in Acts 2:38-40.
A. To "you," unconverted and convicted sinners;
and the same promise is to
B. "Your children," if they [themselves, not by proxy] will repent and believe;
and likewise the same promise is to
C. "All who are afar off" in heathen Gentile lands, if they will also repent and believe the same gospel.
Compare Joel 2:32 with Acts 2:38-40.
And it shall come to pass
The promise is unto
that whosoever shall call upon the Lord
You, and to your children, and to all that are afar off,
shall be delivered
shall receive Spirit (v.38)
among the remnant whom the lord shall call.
even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Notice how clearly Peter interprets the words whosoever and as many as. What Peter is declaring is this: Just as all people without exception ("covenant" children included) are guilty lost sinners who need to be saved, so all men without exception ("covenant" children included and no "non-covenant" children excluded) are freely invited in the one gospel of grace to believe and be saved. Under the NC, can there be unregenerate "pagan" children and unregenerate "covenant" children with different promises for each group? No - Peter is showing that the gospel message is for all lost sinners without distinction or exception and not just for the Jews. There is now only one category of lost people before God. No one is physically either inside or outside of a special covenantal category by birth.
4. Who does the "even as many as the Lord our God shall call" apply to? All three categories mentioned in the text. Peter is saying, "as many as God shall call from among you, from among your children, and from among the heathen afar off." It is the sovereign effectual call of God in all three categories that determines the true objects of the promise. The one and only thing that determines whether a person is "in Christ" or "under grace” is the eternal election of God, and the only thing that proves it in time is the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. Being "under a covenant of grace" has nothing at all to do with physical birth. There is not a special spiritual category in Scripture for the physical children of believers to be in before God through physical birth and baptism. The "promise" in Acts 2:39 was given equally to the pagans, to the hearers, and to their children.
5. The people addressed in Acts 2:39 were still unbelievers in v.40, many of whom were converted and baptized in v.41.
Can one think and speak in terms of "covenant children" and "non-covenant children" and not wind up with two different "gospels" - one for the "covenant child" that includes "God loves you" for sure, and one for the "pagan child" that cannot include "God loves you" until we are first sure that they are one of the elect? I think it can be proven historically that one of the major problems created by using Acts 2:39 as a proof text for infant baptism is that it confuses the message of the gospel of grace to all men. Acts 2 is about our Lord Jesus Christ of whom prophecy and promises were made. The message, especially verse 39, is that the promise has been fulfilled — the Messiah Redeemer has come — believe in Him and be saved whoever you are. There is only ONE status before God — GUILTY, regardless of who your parents are, and there is only ONE gospel message to every guilty sinner — REPENT and BELIEVE. This is the one message we must preach to the children of believers as well as the children of unbelievers. Ceremonies (such as baptism) depict realities. God’s Kingdom is spiritual in nature. It can only be entered through spiritual regeneration (rebirth, “God…made His light to shine in our hearts…” 2 Cor.4:6) which cannot be accomplished by a ceremony.
Appendix Two: Dispensationalism [see RPCD http://pop.eradman.com]
The following material is condensed from the book: "Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes, Revised by John F. Walvoord, Academie Books." Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, is recognized as one of the most influential early leaders of DT in this country. Walvoord, retired president of the same seminary, is probably the best representative of DT as it is understood today. Since DT does not have a universally accepted creed, this particular book would represent the most widely accepted authorities at the core of the system.
Walvoord emphasizes the importance of DT:
In the study of Scripture, it is most important to understand that (1) scriptural revelation falls into well defined periods. (2) These are clearly separated, and the recognition of these divisions and their divine purposes constitute one of the most important factors in true interpretation of the Scriptures. (3) These divisions are termed "dispensations," and in successive periods of time different dispensations may be observed . . . . It is probable that the recognition of the dispensations sheds more light on the whole message of the Bible than any other aspect of Biblical study . . . p.126
Chafer and Walvoord define the word dispensation as follows:
A dispensation can be defined as a stage in the progressive revelation of God constituting a distinctive stewardship or rule of life. Although the concept of a dispensation and an age in the Bible is not precisely the same, it is obvious that each age had its dispensation . . .
Scofield defines the word "dispensation" this way:
A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God (p.5, The First Scofield Reference Bible, C.I. Scofield, ed., 1986).
The different dispensations are essential if all men are to be proven truly guilty before God. The various testing periods are necessary in order to "stop every mouth."
Man's relationship to God is not the same in every age. It has been necessary to bring fallen man into divine testing. This, in part, is God's purpose in the ages, and the result of the testings is in every case an unquestionable demonstration of the utter failure and sinfulness of man. In the end, every mouth will be stopped because every assumption of the human heart will be revealed as foolish and wicked by centuries of experience (p.127).
Each dispensation, therefore, begins with man being divinely placed in a new position of privilege and responsibility, and each closes with the failure of man resulting in righteous judgments from God. While there are certain abiding facts such as the holy character of God which are of necessity the same in every age, there are varying instructions and responsibilities which are, as to their application, limited to a given period . . . . In the dispensations God has demonstrated every possible means of dealing with man. In every dispensation man fails and only God's grace is sufficient. In the dispensations is fulfilled God's purpose to manifest His glory, both in the natural world and human history. Throughout eternity no one can raise a question as to whether God could have given man another chance to attain salvation or holiness on his own ability.30 A knowledge of the dispensations is accordingly, the key to understanding God's purpose in history and the unfolding of the Scripture which records God's dealing with man and His divine revelation concerning Himself (p.136).
The Basic Principles of DT:
In studying the seven dispensations, certain principles are essential to understanding this teaching. First DT is derived from natural or literal interpretation of the Bible. It is impossible to interpret the Bible in its normal, literal sense without realizing that there are different ages and different dispensations. A second principle is that of progressive revelation, that is, the fact recognized by nearly all students of Scripture, that revelation is given by stages. Third, all expositors of the Bible will need to recognize that later revelation to some extent supersedes earlier revelation with a resulting change in rules of life in which earlier requirements may be changed or withdrawn and new requirements added. For instance, while God commanded Moses to kill a man for gathering sticks on Saturday (Num.15:32-36), no one would apply this command today because we live in a different dispensation (p.128).
Most (not all) dispensationalists hold to seven dispensations. Here is Chafer and Walvoord's outline:
1. Dispensation of innocence: Age of Liberty. [Begins at Gen.1:26-27, ends at Gen.3:6] (p.129).
2. Dispensation of conscience: Age of Human Determination. [Begins at Gen. 3:7, ends at Gen.8:19] (p.129).
3. Dispensation of human government: Covenant With Noah. [Begins at Gen.8:20, ends at Gen.11:9] (p.130).
4. Dispensation of promise: Covenant With Abraham. [Begins at Gen.11:10, ends at Ex.19:3] (p.131).
5. Dispensation of law: [The Nation of Israel] [Begins at Ex.19:4, ends at Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost] (p.133).
In one sense the
dispensation of the law ended at the cross (Rom.10:4; 2 Cor.3:11-14; Gal.3:19,
25). But in another sense it was not concluded until the day of Pentecost, when
the dispensation of Grace began. Although the law ended as a specific rule of
life, it continues to be a revelation of the righteousness of God and can be studied
with profit by Christians in determining the holy character of God. The moral
principles underlying the law continue, since God does not change; but
believers today are not obliged today to keep the details of the law, as the
dispensation has changed and the rule of life given
6. Dispensation of grace: [The Church] [Begins at Acts 2, ends at the Rapture of the Church].
The dispensation of grace was directed to the church alone . . .
Under grace, however, failure also was evident as grace produced neither worldwide acceptance of Christ nor a triumphant church . . .
The dispensation of grace
ends with the rapture of the church, which will be followed by the judgment of
the professing church (Rev.17:16). The age of grace is a different dispensation
in that it concerns the church comprising Jewish and Gentile believers. By
contrast, the law of
7. Dispensation of the kingdom: [The Millennium] [Begins at the Second Coming, ends with the destruction of the earth and heaven by fire and is followed by the eternal state] (Rev.21-22) (p.136).
The dispensation of the kingdom begins with the second coming of Christ (Mt.24; Rev.19) and is preceded by a period of time including the Tribulation, which to some extent is a transitional period (p.136).
In the millennial
kingdom, divine grace is also revealed in fulfillment of the New Covenant
(Jer.31:31-34), in salvation (Isa.12), in physical and temporal prosperity,
(Isa.35), in abundance of revelation (Jer.31:33-34), forgiveness of sin
(Jer.31:34), and in the regathering of
The dispensation of the kingdom differs from all preceding dispensations in that it is the final form of moral testing. The advantages of the dispensation include a perfect government, the immediate presence of Christ, universal knowledge of God and the terms of salvation, and Satan rendered inactive. In many respects the dispensation of the kingdom is climatic and brings to consummation God's dealing with man" (p.136).
From Chap 2 repositioned here as Appendix Five: Christ is the Seed of David.
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 2 Sam.7:12.
Where is the true understanding of this promise God made with David given? Peter in his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost connects the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam.23:5; Ps.89:3, 28) to the prophecy of Joel to show that both the prophecy made to David concerning a throne and a kingdom, and the prophecy made to Joel concerning the new age, have been fulfilled in the resurrection and ascension of Christ. The "giving of the Spirit" proves both of these prophecies are fulfilled. It is clear from Peter's sermon that the "new age" envisioned by Joel is the same thing as the "kingdom age" promised to David. The new age signs are the proof of some kind of a present Kingship of Christ.
When the amazed people asked, "What meaneth this?" (Acts 2:12), Peter declared that what they were witnessing that very day established, in some sense and to some degree, the following facts:
(1) Joel's prophecy concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit being "poured on all flesh" (not just Jews) was being fulfilled (v.14-21),
(2) The covenant that God made with David concerning a throne and a kingdom was also fulfilled (22-36).
Peter explained and grounded both of these facts in the events taking place on the Day of Pentecost. The giving of the Spirit was seen as the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, and that in turn proved that Christ was sitting on David's throne in fulfillment of God's covenant to him. In other words, Peter was declaring that the Day of Pentecost proved the following:
· It was the absolute proof that the Man they had crucified was not only truly alive from the dead, but He was at that very moment sitting at God's right hand in resurrected glory.
· The ascension of Christ to David's throne with glory and power was the fulfillment of the specific prophecy made to David in 2 Sam.7 concerning the establishment of the kingdom.
Peter saw the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of the specific prophecy given to Joel concerning the inauguration of the "new age." In other words, the personal advent of the Holy Spirit was the proof that Joel's prophecy was being fulfilled; and that in turn proved that Christ, David's seed, had been "raised up" to sit on David's throne, just as God had promised in the Davidic covenant.
An Exposition of Acts 2
Acts 2:1-11, The Miracle of Tongues - Both verses seven and twelve say, "they were all amazed." The first amazement was that men from sixteen places, speaking sixteen different languages, each heard the message of the gospel in his own tongue:
Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?" Acts 2:7-8.
The second cause of amazement was that the gospel or "wonderful works of God" was being preached to Jews in Gentile languages:
We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. So they were all amazed and perplexed . . . v.11
V.12, The Obvious Question - "What could this mean?" grows out of both of the "amazements" mentioned above. [see Short Course – truth, The Impact of Truth http://pop.eradman.com/]
V.13, The Carnal Answer - "Others mocking said, ‘they are full of new wine’." It seems that all of those present did not hear the message of the "wonderful works of God." Those asking the question saw the hand of God in the message that they were hearing, but others heard only babbling. The miracle appears to have been on the ear of the listeners as well as on the tongues of the speakers.
V.14-20, Peter's Inspired Interpretation - Peter's understanding of what took place on the Day of Pentecost is full of instruction.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: `And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your Sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophecy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. And the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord." Acts 2:14-20
The "pouring out of the Spirit" was the sign that would inaugurate the New Covenant age. This was clearly foretold in the prophets (not only by Joel), and Peter is telling his hearers that the events they were witnessing were the positive proofs that the New Covenant Age had come.
We must avoid two extremes as we seek to understand Peter's use of the prophecy of Joel. First, we must not get our concept of the kingdom out of Joel and then demand that the events in Acts literally, meaning "in natural language," agree on a one and one basis. This method will easily "prove" that Joel's prophecy was not "literally" fulfilled at Pentecost and therefore it awaits a millennium fulfillment. Characterize this approach. Using the OT to interpret the NT Scriptures instead of the other way around. This is not allowing Peter to mean exactly what he "literally" says.
The second mistake is to make Peter's words in Acts 2 mean far more than they actually say. This is often done by showing that Peter clearly understood Joel 2:32 to be fulfilled in the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to indwell believers. So far, so good, however this fact is then extended to everything in the Book of Joel, and by further extension, to every kingdom prophecy in the whole Old Testament Scriptures. There is no question that Peter is using both the Davidic covenant and Joel's prophecy to prove that the kingdom has truly come or been inaugurated but that in no way means that the kingdom's fullness or every predicted aspect has been accomplished. Because Peter declares Joel 2:32 is fulfilled does not mean every single kingdom prophecy has been fulfilled.
V.21, The Heart of the Pentecost Passage - This is the heart of Joel's prophecy and shows beyond question that Joel was talking about the gospel message for the whole world when he was prophesying. Joel was talking about this present age when the gospel of grace would be extended to all men, including the "far-off" Gentiles, and Peter is saying, "That age has come. That prophecy is being fulfilled in front of your eyes." Look at Peter's interpretation of Joel:
And it shall come to pass that WHOSOEVER shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:21
By setting Peter's words along side of Joel's, we not only see how Peter understood Joel's prophecy, but we also get a lesson in how the inspired New Testament Apostles interpreted the "kingdom" prophecies of the OT Scriptures. Our hermeneutical approach to the OT Scriptures ought to be the same as that of the writers of the NT. Both CT and DT approach the NT Scriptures with a system already fixed in their minds that they derived entirely from the OT Scriptures. Both of those systems of theology insist on interpreting the new in light of the old instead of the other way around. Unfortunately, both systems are fully developed before they even get out of the book of Genesis. Instead of allowing the Apostles to tell us what the Old Testament prophets meant, both CT and DT make the Old Testament prophets establish what the Apostles have to say. They merely do it in different areas in order to "prove" different doctrines.
Compare Joel 2:32 with Acts 2:21, Peter's inspired interpretation is an example of how to read the OT Scriptures in the light of its interpretation by inspired NT apostles.
And it shall come to pass that
And it shall come to pass that
whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord
whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord
shall be DELIVERED.
shall be SAVED.
The new age "of the Spirit" is the gospel age predicted by Joel. Peter was stating the following facts about the kingdom.
1. WHEN would this kingdom be established? Joel's prophecy concerned the time in which you and I live today and not just the future.
2. To WHOM was this kingdom promised? The promise is equally applied to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. According to Peter's interpretation of Joel's prophecy, the "promise" is to "whosoever" and not just the Nation of Israel.
3. HOW were the blessings of kingdom to received? Deliverance was to be given on the basis of faith in the gospel message and had nothing at all to do with physical birth.
4. Exactly WHAT did Joel mean by "deliverance”? Peter says that Joel's "deliverance" was spiritual salvation for Jews and Gentiles in the gospel age (cf.Lk.1:68-79) [not national, political freedom for the Jews in a future earthly kingdom, see Apdx.4].
V.22-24 - Jesus had all of the credentials necessary to prove that He was the Messiah; but, in spite of all the evidence, the Jews still crucified Him. However, "God raised Him from the dead." Peter's emphasis proves that the Man they crucified had fulfilled the prophecies contained in the prophets concerning the Messiah King.
V. 25-28 - This resurrection of Christ from the grave was also clearly prophesied by David.
V.29-36 - Peter's application of the fact of the resurrection and the ascension of Christ reveals that David understood exactly what was being promised to him in 2 Sam.7. Peter's sermon also shows that David understood both when and how the covenant promise to "raise up His Son to sit on His throne" would be fulfilled. This very clear "time" reference is often missed when discussing the establishment of David's throne.
Compare 2 Sam.7:12 & 1 Chron.17:11 with Acts 2:29-31 to see how a New Testament apostle understood and applied an Old Testament prophecy concerning the Davidic kingdom.
2 Sam.7:12 & I Chron.17:11
"Let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David,
"And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt go to be with thy fathers [die],
that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.
I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels,
Therefore...being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh,
and I will establish his Kingdom."
he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
He [David] seeing this beforehand, spoke of the resurrection of Christ..."
The following facts are established by comparison of the actual words in the prophecy and Peter's inspired interpretation of them.
1. Peter substitutes the word "Christ" for "seed" [identifies the seed as Christ] so there is no question as to whom the prophecy refers. Christ is the "seed" that was "raised up" (or "resurrected" clearly pinpoints the time of fulfillment) to sit on the throne in fulfillment of the covenant promise to David.
2. Peter shows that David understood these words to be more than just a promise of the bodily resurrection of Christ. He connected the resurrection and ascension of Christ with the establishment of the kingdom promised to David. The "setting up the seed" and "establishing the kingdom" are the same thing as "raising up Christ" to "sit on his [David's] throne" and all of this was to happen at the same time. David was speaking of the resurrection and ascension of Christ that had just taken place (v.30-31). Peter's words mean that David's greater Son was to begin sitting on the promised throne at the time of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
There is not the slightest hint of a postponed future earthly throne in Peter's words. Taking Peter's words "literally," proves that the Holy Spirit deliberately "spiritualized" the Old Testament prophecy of the Davidic kingdom.
3. Christ would sit on David's throne
at the same time that David was still "sleeping with the fathers" or
before David's resurrection. This is why Peter deliberately mentions that
David is "both dead and buried and his sepulcher is with us unto this
day." Peter is saying, "The
promise to David has been fulfilled in the exact manner and precise time (how
and when) as it was prophesied to David."
The throne was to be established at the time of the resurrection and
ascension of Christ, and it would happen while David was dead awaiting his own
resurrection. (cf. Acts 13:35-36)
It is impossible to fit Walvoord's
statement (see p.23) that "resurrected David will reign under Christ as a
Prince over the house of
4. The words "I will establish his kingdom" in the promise to David becomes "raise up Christ to sit on his throne" in the inspired interpretation by Peter, an event that took place at the ascension of Christ. Is there any hint in Peter's words of any expectations of a future Davidic throne or kingdom that has temporarily been "postponed"? No. When would David be raised from the dead if this enthronement of David's Seed were to take place during a future earthly millennium? After that millennium was over.
David's Seed is sitting
on David's throne right now and that the kingdom promised to David has, in some
sense, already been established at the ascension of Christ (cf. 1
Chron.17:11-14). The NT does not allow us to
say that Christ now sits in heaven on a throne as Lord of the church, but He
will later sit on a physical throne in
D. Nothing I have said disqualifies historic Premillenialism. The Psalmist was not denying God's present sovereignty when he prayed for God to manifest His sovereign power. Likewise, it is not a denial of the present Lordship of Christ to believe there will also be a future visible revelation of that Lordship over the whole earth. We need not be forced into an "either/or" or into a "present or future" kingdom. It may well be that both are true.
The gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is the evidence of Christ's ascension to David's throne as promised in 2 Sam.7. Pentecost is also a visible expression or exercise of Christ's earned Lordship or present Kingship (cf. Joel 2:28-29). The gift of the Holy Spirit was the direct and earned response to the victorious work of the enthroned King, and it was also the full proof that the Father was perfectly satisfied with that work.
DT must deny, ignore, or minimize a "Lordship of Christ" theology for
the present "church age." That system cannot see the events of
the Day of Pentecost as being the true fulfillment of Joel's prophecy and the
Davidic Covenant. Joel's prophecy and David's throne simply must be
pushed into the future and be related to physical
CT, on the other hand, must downplay any idea that the Day of Pentecost inaugurated either a distinctly new and different Covenant or any really new and distinct work of the Holy Spirit. The personal advent of the Spirit is reduced to merely a "greater effusion" of what was already a reality in the experience of the Old Covenant believer. CT practically ignores the specific NT Scriptures that say otherwise.
CT no more allows the NT Scriptures to interpret the OT Scriptures than does DT.
Both systems have a fully developed Theology before they ever get to the NT
Scriptures. In the one case, "God's unconditional covenant with
The clear facts revealed in the NT:
1. The Holy Spirit could not come until Christ had completed His redemptive work and ascended to His newly earned throne. When the Holy Spirit did come, it was as a direct consequence of Christ having ascended to the right hand of God to sit on David's throne after being crowned with "glory and power" as a reward for His "finished work" of redemption. The apostle John is emphatic:
But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive [future tense] for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified. Jn.7:39
What reasons do theologians have for saying, "The Holy Spirit has always been here doing the same work as He now does?" There must be a New Covenant "coming of the Spirit" to do a new and distinct work from that which He did in the Old Covenant, and that work must be in direct response to the ascension of Christ to the Father's right hand.
Though I may not understand what the totally new work is that the Holy Spirit has come to do in this dispensation [age], these verses call for some kind of a totally new work. These words cannot be glossed over by saying, "We know that since God's people are always under the same covenant of grace, the verse cannot mean that there is something which is essentially and totally new and different in the Spirit's ministry to believers today." That is forcing Scripture to fit into one’s system instead of allowing the Scripture to produce the system.
Our receiving the Holy Spirit is a manifestation and proof that the days of Christ's "glory" have already begun. Notice the specific and essential relationship between the "glory of Christ" and the "giving of the Spirit" in Jn.7:39. The latter is the proof that the former has already happened.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. J.n16:7
If the Holy Spirit was already here, then Christ's words have no meaning. These words demand a new ministry of the Spirit, and the beginning of that new ministry is contingent upon the victorious ascension of Christ to David's throne. This is exactly how the early believers understood these words of Christ. You do not "wait" for something that you already possess. The Apostles were not waiting to receive the fulfillment of a promise for more of some thing they already had. They were waiting for the promise of the Spirit Himself.
And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. Acts 1:5
This is only one of many texts that prove the "days of Christ's glory" do not await a future kingdom but began when He ascended into heaven and sat down at His Father's right hand.
personal advent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost began a totally
new era in which He has a distinctly new ministry. CT cannot allow a
new and distinct dispensation governed by a new and distinctly different
covenant to come into being as the result of the personal advent of Christ and
of the Holy Spirit because it cannot admit any essential difference between
The Dispensationalist on the other hand cannot see that the kingdom of "glory" looked forward to by the OT prophets has already been inaugurated because the King Himself has already been "glorified" and is right now sitting on David's throne with "all power and authority." Because the Dispensational system will not allow the church to be the true Israel of God in any sense, it is forced to make the church an interlude between the time the kingdom was "postponed" (when Christ supposedly announced an earthly kingdom and the Jews rejected it) and the future time when God again deals with Israel as a nation and establishes the earthly kingdom [millennium, earthly paradise with rebellion at the end] that was postponed.
DT cannot see that we now live in the very days "promised to the fathers and the prophets." The kingdom, the King, David's throne, the days of glory, the display of power, etc., must all be pushed into the future. The A-mil on the other hand assumes, with no textual warrant, that we have seen and experienced the full extent of everything that was promised. He must insist that we have seen all of the earthly display of Christ's power and glory that will ever be seen on the present earth. Everything else awaits the "new heavens and the new earth."
When I hear A-mils lauding the "present gospel millennium," [or Gospel-Age aka realized millennium] as the total package for this dispensation, I feel like singing Peggy Lee's song, "Is this all there is?"E The kingdom inaugurated and established is not the kingdom consummated in total victory.
E. If a Pre-Mil is totally consistent, then he cannot have any kingdom prophecies fulfilled before the second coming of Christ. Likewise, if an A-Mil is totally consistent, he cannot have any kingdom prophecies fulfilled after Christ comes. It is impossible to use the word "millennium" to denote any prophetic system without creating contradictions and confusion. We need to speak in terms of "the Kingdom" instead of "millennium," and when we do, we will realize that the Kingdom has already come and the Kingdom is yet to come. This is called "now/not yet." However, when both an A-Mil and a Pre-Mil say "now/not yet", they mean two different things.
2. The Feast of Pentecost was 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits. The specific day was already established. We do not call the day upon which the Holy Spirit came "the Day of Pentecost" because He came on that day. The Holy Spirit came that particular day because it was the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:1 says, "When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all together in one place." The coming of the Spirit on that specific day was the direct fulfillment of the Levitical feasts, just as the death of Christ was on the Day of Atonement. The events on the Day of Pentecost were the final and full proofs that Christ was the true Passover Lamb. The long awaited promise of the "pouring out of the Spirit" (Joel 2:28-29) had come. The promise of Jesus to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be "in them" was being realized. This is the new ministry of the Holy Spirit that had to await the crowning of the victorious ascended Lord and King. It was a work that was clearly foretold in the prophets but not experienced until the exaltation or glorification of Christ.
The "giving of the Spirit" was the heart of the promise of the gospel in the OT Scriptures, and it is the crowning experience of the gospel under the New Covenant. This is why the Apostles not only emphasized the ascension of Christ to the "Father's right hand" in their preaching, but they also emphasized it as the fulfillment of the promises made in all of the prophets. Joel's prophecy and the covenant made with David are both clear examples.
Peter's whole sermon hinged on the personal Advent of the Holy Spirit being the following things:
(1) The fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel
(2) the fulfillment of the covenant made with David
(3) the fulfillment of the OT concept of the kingdom promised in all of the prophets.
Spurgeon emphasizes the newness of the Spirit's ministry in this age in a sermon, taken from the words "and I will put my Spirit within you," Ez.36:27, entitled "The Covenant Promise of the Spirit."
Clearly this is a word of grace, for the law saith nothing of this kind. Turn to the law of Moses, and see if there be any word spoken therein concerning the putting of the Spirit within men to cause them to walk in God's statutes. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol.37, p.217.
When we put together several verses of Scripture, they show us exactly what this new ministry of the Spirit is, and why it could not begin until the ascension of Christ and the establishing of the New Covenant:
Therefore being at the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He (Jesus) hath shed forth THIS, which you now see and hear. Acts 2:33
...but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. Acts 1:4-5
The "baptism of the Spirit" is the New Covenant experience of "Christ in you" and "You in Christ," and this experience is only possible because Pentecost has taken place – which was not before the ascension of Christ to glory. The experiential reality of being personally united to Christ in his "death, burial, resurrection, and ascension" could not possibly precede Christ's own ascension to His newly earned throne. The "giving of the Spirit" is the result and absolute proof of His ascension and Lordship.
Old Covenant believers could never have had a realization of "being seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph.2:6). Ephesians had not yet been written because the historical events described in Heb.9:11-28 upon which the Ephesian experience is based had not yet occurred.
3. It is the "baptizing work" of the Holy Spirit that created the Body of Christ or "New Man" of Ephesians. Pentecost united, on an equal footing, believing Jews and believing Gentiles by creating the totally new thing (the Body of Christ) described by Paul:
...His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God IN ONE Body by the cross...for through Him, we both have access by one spirit unto the Father. Eph.2:15-18
CT cannot make this text refer to the church as a new and distinct entity that never existed before. Its view of Pentecost only allows for a "greater effusion" of what is already the experience of old covenant believers. Neither the Jew nor the Gentile could have had the "access" spoken of in this text as long as the veil, the covenant, and the old priesthood were in effect. John Owen’s sermon on Eph.2:18 entitled "The Beauty of Gospel Worship" contrasts worship under the Old Covenant with "gospel" worship under the New. Owen first shows how worship under the gospel age gives us "access unto God Himself," and then says the following:
We have in this
spiritual worship of the gospel access unto God as a Father. I showed, in
the opening of the words, that God is distinctly proposed here as the Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, and in him our God and Father. Hence are we said
to come "to the throne of grace," Heb.4:16; that is, unto God as he
is gloriously exalted in the dispensation of grace, in kindness, love, mercy, -
in a word, as a Father. God on the throne of grace, and
God as a Father, is all one consideration; for, as a Father, he is all love,
grace, and mercy to his children in Christ. When God came of old
to institute his worship in giving of the law, he did it with the dreadful and
terrible representation of his majesty, that the people chose not to come near, but went and
"stood afar off, and said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will
hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die," Ex.20:18-19. And
by this dreadful representation of the majesty of God, as the object of that
worship, were they kept in fear and bondage all their days. BUT NOW are the saints encouraged to
make their approach unto
This new access to God as "Father" is a new and distinct reality under the New Covenant that was not possible under the Old Covenant.F It is the baptism by the Spirit of every believer into the Body of Christ that gives New Covenant believers, for the first time, the status of "adopted sons" (Rom.8:14; Gal.4:4-7) and destroys forever all of the distinctions and categories established and enforced by the Old Covenant (Gal.3:26-29). It is the new "status" of sonship that gives the new boldness to approach the throne and know that He Who sits there is our Elder Brother. An Old Covenant believer could never even imagine such a thing. It is impossible to have the "in Christ" experience where every believer, Jew or Gentile, is united to Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and to each other, as equal brothers and sisters; and, at the same time, be "under the law" and the distinctions of Jew/Gentile, male/female and bond/free that the Old Covenant mandated.
F. For an excellent presentation of this same emphasis, see Knowing God, by J.I. Packer, pgs.182-184.
The Old Covenant proved your guilt and forbade you to draw near without a perfect righteousness or an acceptable sacrifice. The New Covenant declares a believer to be both righteous and acceptable in God's sight, and it bids him come "boldly" without fear into the very Most Holy place that was totally closed off to all but Aaron under the OC.
The law as a legal covenant ended when the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom (Mt.27:50-51),G and the law, as a pedagogue over the conscience, was dismissed on the day of Pentecost when the "promise of the Father" took up His abode in every believer as the personal Vicar of the ascended Lord. "The giving of the Spirit" is the proof of the accepted work of Christ in the heavenly tabernacle, and the "given Spirit" indwelling the believer is the indelible assurance of our eternal acceptance by the Father. This is the truth that Peter was delivering in his message in Acts 2:33 (cf. Gal.3:24-29):
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which now ye see and hear. Acts 2:33
G. I have developed the significance of Mt 27:50-51 in a paper entitled "The Better Priesthood of Christ." These verses, along with Heb.8:6, are some of the most important words in the New Testament in understanding Biblical covenants and the relationship of law and grace.
Acts 2: 37-41, The Effect of the Sermon - The unbelieving Jews were convicted of their sin and cried out in fear, "What shall we do?" Peter repeated the Gospel message and again reinforced it with the prophecy of Joel. Peter exhorted them to repent and be baptized and assured them that they would be saved and would receive the Holy Spirit just as Joel had promised:
. . the promise [of salvation and the giving of the Holy Spirit promised to "whosoever believes" as prophesied by Joel] is unto  you, and  unto your children, and  to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Acts 2:39 [see Apdx.4]
Christ is the Subject of all Scripture - Every type and shadow in the OT Scriptures teaches us something about our Savior.
And He said unto them . . . that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures . . . Luke 24:44-45
The OT Scriptures are not just a book of laws nor do they merely contain the history of the Nation of Israel. They picture Christ the promised Messiah (Heb.10:5-9).
Christ is the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29) that takes away the sin of the world. He is the fulfillment of the gospel promise that God gave to Abraham, David, and all of the fathers and prophets.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed His people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began; That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he swore to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Lk.1:68-79
The Seed is here presented and His kingdom of grace is proclaimed. It would be difficult to get the Dispensational view of a "postponed earthly kingdom" out of Luke's words. The pious Jew living prior to Christ's coming was looking forward to a spiritual kingdom. The kingdom described in these verses is the very kingdom that Christ both offered and established - the subject and hope of all of the Old Testament prophets. It is the "kingdom of His dear Son" into which we have already been translated (Col.1:13) and of which we are willing subjects that "serve without fear."
He is the both the Sum and Substance of the gospel of sovereign grace (Acts 2:36, 3:24-26; 7:2-53; 13:32-41). The preaching of the gospel is nothing less than telling the story that (1) the promised "Seed of Abraham" has finally come; (2) God has fulfilled, in Christ, all of the promises made to "Abraham and his Seed"; and (3) now those same promises are being fulfilled in all those that are united to that true Seed, Christ, by a living faith.