Covenant theology

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Covenant theology

    Covenant Theology (or Federal theology) is a prominent feature in Protestant theology, especially in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, and a similar form is found in Methodism and Reformed Baptist churches. This article primarily concerns Covenant Theology as held by the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, which use the covenant concept as an organizing principle for Christian theology and view the history of redemption under the framework of three overarching theological covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. These three are called "theological covenants" because although not explicitly presented as covenants, they are, according to covenant theologians, implicit in the Bible.

    In brief, Covenant Theology teaches that God has established two great covenants with mankind and a covenant within the Godhead to deal with how the other two relate. The first covenant in logical order, usually called the Covenant of Redemption, is the agreement within the Godhead that the Father would appoint his son Jesus to give up his life for mankind and that Jesus would do so (cf. Titus 1:1-3).

    The second, called the Covenant of Works, was made in the Garden of Eden between God and Adam and promised life for obedience and death for disobedience. Adam disobeyed God and broke the covenant, and so the third covenant was made between God and all of mankind, who also fell with Adam according to Romans 5:12-21.

    This third covenant, the Covenant of Grace, promised eternal blessing for belief in Christ and obedience to God's word. It is thus seen as the basis for all biblical covenants that God made individually with Noah, Abraham, and David, nationally with O.T. Israel as a people, and universally with man in the New Covenant. These individual covenants are called the "biblical covenants" because they are explicitly described as such in the Bible.

    Covenant theology as a refinement of Reformed theology is evident among early Scottish theologians. For example, see The Theology and Theologians of Scotland, Chiefly of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1872) passage: "The old theology of Scotland might be emphatically described as a covenant theology.

    The Covenant of Grace is one of the three theological covenants of Covenant theology: the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. This third covenant, the Covenant of Grace, promised eternal blessing for belief in Christ and obedience to God's word. It is seen as the basis for all biblical covenants that God made individually with Noah, Abraham, and David, nationally with O.T. Israel as a people, and universally with man in the New Covenant.

    Westminster Confession of Faith

    VII.3. Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant (the Covenant of Works), the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

    VII.4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

    VII.5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.

    VII.6. Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed, are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.

    The Mosaic Covenant is found in Exodus 19 through 24. In this covenant, God promises:

    To make Israel His special possession among the people of the land.
    To make Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. God followed this up with requirements and laws.

    The Abrahamic Covenant, found in Genesis 15, granted the Israelites a promised land in the Land of Israel. In this covenant, God promises (see Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-21; 17:1-22):

    To make from Abraham a great nation and to multiply his seed exceedingly and to make him a father of great many nations.
    To bless Abraham and make him great.
    To make Abraham a blessing to all the families of the earth.
    To bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him.
    To give Abraham and his seed forever all the land which he could see.
    To give him a sign of the covenant (circumcision).

    The Davidic Covenant, found in 2 Samuel 7, establishing David and his lineage as the rightful kings of Israel and Judah and extends the covenant of Abraham to David's lineage.

    The Davidic Covenant is an important element of Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. Jesus, by his death and atonement created a New covenant of faith in which Gentiles as well as Israelites could participate, and under which God promised to grant the faithful eternal life.

    In Covenant theology, the Covenant of Works is the second of three theological covenants. It is that pre-Fall agreement between God and Adam in which Adam was promised blessing and life upon obedience to the terms of the covenant and cursing and death should he disobey the terms of the covenant. Covenant theologians maintain that the requirements of the covenant relationship are clearly defined in the commands that God gave to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28-30; cf 2:15) and in the direct command to Adam, 'You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die' (Gen. 2:16–17).

    The Bible teaches that in Adam, all broke the covenant (Hos. 6:7) and so, in Adam all die (1 Cor. 15:22). Within covenant theology, the Covenant of Grace is God's covenant designed to bring humanity into a restored covenant relationship with him, through the death of Christ.
    Westminster Confession of faith

    VII.1. 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 condescencion on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

    VII.2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

    The Covenant of Redemption is one of the three theological covenants of Covenant theology: the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. This Covenant of Redemption refers to the covenant within the Trinity which established the plan of salvation, i.e. the agreement within the Godhead that the Father would appoint the Son to give up his life for mankind and that Jesus would do so (cf. Titus 1:1-3).

    Phraseology

    Although it is commonly called the "Covenant of Redemption," some have suggested that this wording is inappropriate as applied to the Godhead. There are a few reasons this has been suggested.

    1 - Usually, the two sides of a covenant are not equal. Rather, the covenant is established by a sovereign person/nation with a lesser person/nation. Historically (as in the Old Testament) a King would covenant with a nation he defeated. On page 4 of Dr. O. Palmer Robertson's book, "The Christ of the Covenants", he summarized this by defining a covenant as "a bond in blood sovereignly administered." Since the persons of the Trinity are equal, there is no particular sovereign in this "Agreement of Redemption."

    2 - A covenant was instituted by blood because it was a sign of what would happen to the person breaking the covenant conditions. In this respect a covenant and testament are different. A testament is enacted when the person dies, in a covenant the person dies if he fails to uphold his conditions. Although the Agreement of Redemption was for Jesus the Son to die, it was not because He violated requirements placed on Him.

    3 - One of the reasons for making a covenant is the possibility of one of the parties breaking that covenant. The Agreement of Redemption never had the possibility of failing in any respect.

    It is therefore sometimes referred to as the "Intra-trinitarian Covenant."
Working...
X
Articles - News - SiteMap