Archive for April, 2012

26
Apr
12

The New Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant.

I recently read an interesting article by R. Scott Clark, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary of California. There were several aspects of his article I greatly appreciated. For one, he didn’t call Baptists “heretics.” He actually referred to them as his friends. Additionally, he acknowledged what anyone who has read the NT Scriptures ought to acknowledge, that the Mosaic covenant was a temporary covenant that has been fulfilled and passed away. I found much in his article with which I agreed. There were, however, a few area in which I found disagreement with his statements. I don’t intend to address all of them here, but the following are the most salient:

1. He wrote, “What was it that they did not receive? If we read Jeremiah 31 absolutely, the way some would have us read it, then we should should have to say that none of these received the forgiveness of sins.”

My response: I don’t know who would make such an outlandish statement, but certainly no one who holds to NCT would do so.

2. Concerning Hebrews 11: 39 he wrote: What they did not receive was the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in the new covenant. They had the realities by faith but they did not have the realities by sight. We have what was promised to them. We have the new covenant. We have semi-eschatological blessings. Heaven has broken into history and we, in Christ, have been taken up to heaven. The types and shadows have been fulfilled. What they only saw typologically, we see in reality. We are not yet bodily in glory, however, and thus we must persevere in faith. This is why we must “lay aside also every weight” (12:1).

My response: I believe this is exactly right. They believed the promises; we enjoy the reality. There is no doubt believers before the advent of Christ were declared righteous based on Christ’s redemptive work. The failure of the Law and its typical sacrificial system to quiet the guilty conscience caused them to look forward, based on God’s promises, to the one about whom the promises, types, and shadows of the OT Scriptures spoke. Though they were justified, God had not yet revealed to them the basis of that justification.

What we must realize is that even Abraham belonged to this group. It is not that we look back to him, but that he looked forward to us. Even he lived in the realm of promise; we live in the realm of fulfillment. Circumcision was a typical representation of regeneration. It belonged to the physical and material seed of Abraham as a typical representation of what would be true of his spiritual seed. According to Jesus’ words in John 8, it is possible to be “Abraham’s seed” and not Abraham’s seed at the same time. I think there can be no question that believers from both the circumcision and the uncircumcision belong to the same family of God. Still, the circumcised [physical] “seed” of Abraham descending either from Ishmael or Isaac did not, by virtue of their physical descent, belong to that family. There is a continuity between the Abrahamic covenant which Dr. Clark identifies as an administration of “the Covenant of Grace” and the New Covenant. The point of continuity between the Abrahamic covenant and the New Covenant is not circumcision, but Christ. He is the promised “SEED.” Circumcision was a physical rite and belonged to the physical seed of Abraham. Apart from its typical significance, it had nothing to do with the spiritual seed. Circumcision typically foreshadowed the New Covenant blessing of regeneration, not baptism. Unlike the Abrahamic Covenant, the New Covenant is not concerned with land promises and material blessings. It was possible to be part of the Abrahamic covenant apart from faith. That is to say, Abraham had merely physical offspring and spiritual offspring. Circumcision had nothing to do with the spiritual descendants apart from its typical significance. It was not children of believing parents under the Abrahamic Covenant who were circumcised; it was simply the children of parents, whether believing or unbelieving. The mistake of Covenant Theology is that they assume that all facets of the Abrahamic Covenant are continuous. The reality is, faith and union with Christ are the points of continuinty.

There are no heirs of the New Covenant who are not the spiritual children of believing Abraham. He no longer has any “seed” who are not united to Jesus Christ by faith. Paul wrote, “If you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). Abraham now has no other seed apart from Christ and those who are in him by faith. The New Covenant has no merely physical heirs.

3. He wrote: My Baptist friends tend to talk about the new covenant in ways that do not actually conform to what Scripture says about the new covenant. My Baptist friends tend to make the new covenant more eschatological than it actually is. Were the new covenant as eschatological as they seem to think we would not expect to find the sort of language about the administration of the covenant of the new covenant that one finds in Hebrews 10.

According to Hebrews 10:26–31 members of the new covenant church may find themselves in even more jeopardy than existed under Moses. If the new covenant has the sort of characteristics some would have us believe we would not have expected this sort of language:

Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Heb 10:28–29)

My response: These words pertain to those who have professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah but were in danger of going back to Judaism. The Mosaic covenant prescribed physical death for those who disobeyed; those who turn their backs on Christ, the only sacrifice for sin, prove they were never in covenant with him and face certain eternal destruction. There is nothing in this statement that is out of character with new covenant teaching. Who is there that understands the Scriptures aright who denies there are false professors in the church?

4. He wrote: Reformed theology explains this phenomenon by observing that there are two ways of existing in the one covenant of grace (Rom 2:28; see also this booklet). Not everyone who is admitted to the visible covenant community actually receives the benefits of the covenant of grace.

My response: No joke. Who in his right mind and who understands biblical truth says they do? Of course, the visible assembly is comprised of believers and false believers, but as stated previously for the Baptist, this is by default not by design. We know unbelieving children are not partakers of the covenant from the outset.

5. He wrote: When Reformed folk look at v. 38 [Acts 2] and the command to the heads of thousand of households to “repent and be baptized” we see the analogy with Abraham, who was not an infant, but who was also the head of a household. He was initiated into the covenant community as an adult and his children were initiated into the covenant community as infants. Those heads of those households were in the same position as Abraham. The analogy with Abraham is only strengthened by the invocation of the Abrahamic covenantal formula: “for the promise is to you and to your children.” The essence of the covenant of grace remains unchanged: “I will be a God to you and to your children.” My Baptist friends object by pointing out the inclusion of Gentiles. I reply by saying, so what? The Reformed argument is not that Abraham was not typological. Of course Gentiles are being included. That is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, that God would make him the father of many nations. This is exactly what Paul argues in Romans 4. Abraham is the father of all who believe, both Jew and Gentile. The inclusion of Gentiles does not weaken the Reformed case; it strengthens it by completing the analogy with Abraham.

My response: The issue is not the inclusion of the Gentiles, but the addition of the phrase, “even to as many as the Lord, our God, shall call.” There is no promise to the uncalled [unregenerate] children of believers any more than there is a promise to unregenerate Gentiles. The promise is to you who are called and to your children who are called and to Gentiles who are called. There are no promises to unbelieving children of believers.

6. He wrote: In discussions with my Baptist friends it seems as if this question, eschatology, is a central element to the discussion. When Baptists speak about the new covenant they tend to speak in eschatological (consummation) terms rather than in semi-eschatological (inaugurated) terms.

My response: I don’t know to which Baptists he is referring, but those Baptists who believe in classic New Covenant Theology believe that though the New Covenant promises have been inaugurated, they have not yet been consummated. I have written on this subject extensively since the early 90’s. Anyone wishing to verify that this has been my view may do so at http://www.new-covenant-theology.org.

7. He wrote: Baptists know that they, like Reformed congregations, have unregenerate members but by administering baptism only to those who make a profession of faith they are doing what they can to ensure a regenerate church membership.

My response: As I have stated in a number of places in my writings, we Baptist know it is impossible to guarantee a regenerate church membership. Through the process of church discipline we seek to maintain that standard, still we know there will be some in the visible church who are unregenerate. The difference is,ours is, in part, an unregenerate membership by default; theirs is unregenerate by design. There is no evidence in the NT Scriptures that anyone other than professed believers were to be considered part of the visible church.

In reading Reformed writers, one would think they were seeking to explain all the incidences of infant sprinkling in the New Testament Church and the biblical commands to engage in such a practice. If such were the case, one could understand such feeble attempts to justify such a practice. The reality is, no such commands or examples exist. If they could offer just one command or example, perhaps one could understand why they feel the need to justify such a practice. Until they do, I plan to hold steadfastly to my belief that baptism is for believers only.

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25
Apr
12

The Distinctiveness of the New Covenant

There are clear differences between Covenant Theology and New Covenant Theology. There are also clear points of agreement between them. One of the straw man arguments CT often uses against NCT is that the latter believes God based justification prior to the establishment of the New Covenant in the redemptive work of Christ on works of obedience to the Law. That is clearly a false charge. We do believe justification is based on obedience to the Law, but it is Christ’s legal obedience, not ours.

This is what one of CT’s proponents has written,

The problem with Non-covenantal thinking is that it consistently shows an inability to understand that Covenantal progress in redemption allows a maturation that is significant but still connected to the original covenant. The danger with Non-covenantal (i.e. Baptist) thinking in [is?] its inevitable tendency to emphasize total differences between covenants as opposed to maturative inspired distinctions in the one covenant of grace is that they often end up with one way of salvation for the old covenant saints with a new way of salvation for the new covenant saints which and this by necessity implies a God who is janus faced with His stern mien turned to His old covenant people and gentle faced turned to the new covenant people.

Welcome to “Straw Man City.” We do not emphasize the total differences between covenants. We believe there are likenesses between the OT covenants and the New Covenant. This is why we believe there is a type/antitype or a promise/fulfillment relationship between those covenants. If they were totally different, such a correspondence would not be possible. Secondly, we do not believe any sinner has ever been justified apart from the free grace of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

There is no question the Abrahamic Covenant finds its spiritual fulfillment in Christ. By that I mean the spiritual, not the physical and material promises of that covenant are fulfilled in Christ, not that the physical and material promises must be “spiritualized.” There are no spiritual blessings promised to anyone apart from spiritual union with Abraham’s SEED, Christ.

This same proponent of CT stated that he prefers to talk about “the Covenantal progress of redemption” rather than “differing administrations of one covenant of grace.” In my view, it all amounts to the same thing. There is still, in his view, but one covenant of grace that never changes in character in any of its manifestations. It simply matures as history progresses. The illustration he uses is that his son is still the same son whether he is three or eighteen. One wonders how the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews could state that the New Covenant God established with Israel was “. . .not like the covenant I [he] made with their fathers. . . .” (8:9a). It would seem, would it not, that these two covenants were different. One difference is that God disregarded them because they did not continue in his covenant (8:9b). That will never happen to the heirs of the New Covenant because all the conditions of that covenant have been fulfilled by Christ, our Covenant Head.

The question I can’t seem to get an answer for is whether he believes everyone who was born into one of the progressive stages of that covenant [insert your own expression if you don’t like mine] was a redeemed child of God. If the Mosaic covenant was but a phase in the covenantal progress of redemption and not essentially different from the New Covenant in Christ, then it would seem to follow that everyone born under that covenant was redeemed by the blood of Christ, just as everyone who is united to Christ under the New Covenant is redeemed and justified. Supposedly, it is all the same covenant

I think it is fairly clear from NT teaching that all the physical descendants of Abraham are not God’s sons (See John, 8 for example). Perhaps someone could explain to me why, if these are all progressively revealed stages of the same covenant, progressively working itself out in redemptive history, being born into the Abrahamic covenant and born under the Mosaic covenant does not necessarily translate into being justified freely by God’s grace. Certainly, being united to Christ and thus becoming heirs of the New Covenant secures for us all the blessings of that covenant. If that covenant is simply a part of the “covenantal progress of redemption” and is no different in character from the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic etc. covenants, why didn’t participation in those covenants guarantee the justification of all who were participants in them?

The only conclusion I can come to is that his view of the NC and its heirs is different from mine, and, I would suggest, from that of the biblical writers. Being a Paedo-baptist, he clearly believes the covenant community is made up of believers and their children. This is a doctrine that has no legitimate biblical foundation whatsoever. In reality, it is part of the vestigial remains of the Papacy. The truth is, the Reformers maintained the same sacral view as the Papists. They believed the church consisted of all within a given location. In Calvin’s case, “the church” was co-extensive with Geneva. Everyone born in the city was “baptized into the church.” If these little moistened vipers truly became part of the covenant community, [but they didn’t] then there is no difference between the Mosaic covenant and the New Covenant. One enters both of them, not by a spiritual renewal, but by an “accident” of birth. But see, John 1:13.

It was necessary for those who were born under the Mosaic covenant to exhort others born under the same covenant to know the LORD. There were many members of that covenant nation who clearly needed such an exhortation. Their conduct made it clear they had no knowledge of or love for Jehovah.

Every member of the NC community is so through sovereign calling and regeneration. It is wrong to read Acts 2:39 as if it teaches the promise of the Holy Spirit is for believer’s children merely by virtue of their physical birth whether they believe or not. The text continues, “even to as many as the Lord, our God, shall call.” No longer do we need to say to members of the NC community, “Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11).

21
Apr
12

On J.C. Ryle’s view of Justification and Sanctification

There are some who are asserting that J. C. Ryle disagreed with Calvin on the issue of justification and sanctification being found in the same persons. That is, does God always sanctify the same people he has justified, and does he accomplish these two works by the same grace and by the same work of Christ?

The following decisively answers that question:

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide
justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or
not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has
undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of
their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the
Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their
“righteousness,” but their “sanctification.” (1 Cor. i. 30.). . .

Sanctification, then, is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith
gives to a Christian.—’He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.’
(John xv. 5.) The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ
which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God.

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots J. C. Ryle

19
Apr
12

Are Believers Totally Depraved?

I received an email this morning from my good friend Dan Cartwright over at http://www.born4battle.wordpress.com asking me to comment on an article written by Tullian Tchividjian entitled, “Are Christians Totally Depraved?” He asked this in relation to another blogger’s comments [the Guru I mentioned in an earlier post] who has been railing against these “heretics” who believe in the total depravity of the saints.

For what they are worth, the following are my thoughts:

My view re: the “total depravity” of believers is that Tchividjian has used the term unadvisedly. I think it better simply to talk about the pervasive nature of remaining sin. Though he is correct in stating that sin still affects every aspect of our being, i.e., it is “total,” I think the term “depravity” is too strong to use of those who are being put straight or righteous. The use of the term “total depravity” blurs the distinction between the regenerate and the unregenerate. It also blurs the distinction between the true believer under the Law and his struggle to please God, and the true New Covenant believer under grace. In Romans seven Paul wrote, “that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter [Law].” It is this contrast he unpacks in the remainder of chapter seven and into chapter eight. As New Covenant believers, we are no longer characterized by the helplessness that characterized Old Covenant believers. The Law has now been replaced by God’s indwelling and enabling Spirit. He enables us as holy priests “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (See. 1 Peter 2:5). The grace of God is not only unmerited favor that forgives our sins; it is also enabling in that it causes us to forsake our sins. As believers, we need both aspects of grace.

I believe Tchividjian is right in stating that we never outgrow our need for pardoning grace. What I think he misses is that we are not only growing in our understanding that we need God’s grace more and more to forgive us, but we are also growing in our understanding that the power of sin’s reign over us has been broken so that we are no longer bound to serve sin.

There can be no doubt that even as believers we continue to be affected by the ravages of sin in every sector of our personalities, i.e., intellect, emotions, will, conscience. That the effects of remaining sin are so pervasive that our best works can never rise to the level necessary to merit God’s judicial approbation is clearly taught in Scripture. Even our spiritual sacrifices are only acceptable to God “through Jesus Christ.”

The “Guru” I mentioned in a previous post has not only rejected “New Calvinism,” he has now rejected Calvinism altogether. He has declared himself a “zero point Calvinist.” He bases this on his belief that Calvin taught “the total depravity of the saints.” His arguments, as usual, are horribly incoherent and convoluted. And even if what Calvin taught on this point was in error, his error would not render the remainder of what he wrote on this point erroneous.

Now, we need to understand that the correctness of the doctrines that have come to be known as “Calvinism,” has little, if anything, to do with what Calvin wrote or what the Divines of Dordt stated. Though I happen to believe they did a splendid job of articulating these doctrines that are taught in the Scriptures, we do not depend on them as our authorities. We believe these truths because we have discovered them through Spirit illuminated exegesis of biblical texts.

I think the point he [the Guru] is missing in Calvin’s statements is that Calvin is writing about works of merit. Do our post-conversion works, though acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, ever rise to the level of meritorious works? No, Calvin was absolutely right in stating that our best works can never merit God’s judicial approval. That God, as our Father, is pleased with our obedience as it is bathed in the redemptive work of Christ, does not mean those works in themselves could merit a declaration of righteousness before him.

I was watching a T.V. program the other night in which one of the characters was watching a brief video of his son taking his first steps. Those steps were clearly wobbly and halting, yet the father clearly took delight in them. I couldn’t help thinking how similar that is to God’s delight in us, his spiritual children. Our steps toward obedience continue to be wobbly and halting, and never approach the perfection necessary to satisfy the rigid demands of his holy law. Still, our Father is pleased with our Spirit prompted obedience because he delights in us as his children, through Christ “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1: 30-31).

04
Apr
12

Prodigious Misrepresentation Ought to be a Crime!

I must confess my inability to understand how some bloggers can find what they find in the statements others have made. What is an even greater mystery to me is how those who read their blogs can think they have such great insight. If you think I have great insight because I can see in someone’s statement something you can’t see, it is likely that I have simply misinterpreted the statement. I spent months debating with a certain blogger over his misinterpretations of statements made by “New Calvinists.” I continued commenting on that blog as long as I did in an effort to help some who might be reading his bilge and being deceived by it. I finally came to realize I was fighting a losing battle.

Please understand I don’t claim to be a New Calvinist. There are a number of elements within that movement I find to be disturbing. What I find more disturbing are the statements made by their detractors that have no resemblance to reality whatsoever. Let me give you just one example. This time, the quote is not from a New Calvinist but from Calvin himself. Calvin wrote, “D: “In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, ‘but by grace are ye saved,’ ‘not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph 2:8,9).”

As I read Calvin’s statement, his meaning is clearly that all of salvation, from eternity to eternity, is by the grace of God, and for that reason, boasting is excluded.

The blog Guru found the following in Calvin’s statement:

“Calvin is clearly making sanctification part of the justification/salvation process. He makes no distinction between God’s grace in sanctification and justification. The grace of God based on the works of Christ to declare us righteous is not a finished work, though Christ Himself said it was.”

His statement contains the following elements:

1. Calvin is making sanctification part of the justification/salvation process.

My response: Which is it, “the justification ‘process,’” or “the salvation process?” His huge blunder here is that he fails to distinguish between justification and salvation. One, justification, is a decisive, legal declaration about believers based on the redemptive work of Christ alone; the other, salvation, describes all God’s salvific activity from eternity to eternity. Salvation does indeed involve a process; justification does not.

2. Calvin is confusing [or “fusing”, to use one of the Guru’s favorite terms] justification and sanctification.

My response: For Calvin to state that not only the beginning of salvation but its entirety is by God’s grace does not involve a conflation of justification and sanctification at all. If I should say, “My life is has been comprised of four stages, infancy, childhood, adulthood, and old age,” would anyone think I was confusing infancy with adulthood? Of course not! How could anyone ever think that saying all the multifaceted aspects of salvation are by the grace of God conflate or fuses those aspects?

3. Calvin is saying Christ’s redemptive work is not finished. “The grace of God based on the works of Christ to declare us righteous is not a finished work, though Christ Himself said it was.”

My response: This statement confuses Christ’s accomplishment of redemption with the application of that redeeming work. First, Calvin’s statement makes no reference at all to the issue of the completion/non-completion of Christ’s work of redemption. The truth is, the grace of God, by which I would understand the application of Christ’s finished work, is not finished and will never be finished as long as we live. Jesus never said the application of his redeeming work was finished. I, for one, am grateful it isn’t.

This is my point; don’t buy into everything you read on the various blogs you visit. Put everything to the test. Analyze statements for yourself to determine if they are saying what is claimed. If they are not, have the courage to confront the accuser graciously and patiently but firmly. “Gurus” like this are doing damage to the cause of God and truth.

04
Apr
12

Fifteen Tenets of Classic New Covenant Theology

I recently read on [what used to be ] a New Covenant blog site some concerns of a dear brother who questioned the viability of New Covenant Theology given the differences that exist between those who claim an affinity for it.  I thought it might be helpful to post what I believe are the major tenets of New Covenant Theology and try to assess what is essential to that position.

Years ago, I attempted to define the position of New Covenant Theology in a booklet entitled “The Cross, the Heart of New Covenant Theology.” I never intended that eschatology [the doctrine of last things] be an essential part of the New Covenant Theology position.  I had always been essentially a “Pan-Millennialist,” believing that everything would pan out O.K. in the end. Almost immediately, there were those who joined the movement who, as Progressive Dispensationalists, presented ideas that departed markedly from some of the ideas I had set forth.  Since one of them later wrote a book on New Covenant Theology, I suppose he has done more to define the position than I did.  Still, it seems to me there are certain positions within what I called “New Covenant Theology” that preclude a Dispensational view, progressive or otherwise.

In my view, any viewpoint that entertains a national restitution of Israel as the people of God, or a re-institution of the sacrificial system and Levitical priesthood etc., is not New Covenant Theology.

There are several key elements that I believe constitute New Covenant Theology without which it would be something else altogether.  I wish to simply list a number of them without a great deal of explication.  It is my hope that these tenets find general agreement among those who have claimed to hold to New Covenant Theology and provide a forum for a discussion of those details in which we disagree.  These tenets are as follows:

1.    Given that, biblically speaking, a covenant is a unilateral decree and not an agreement between two or more persons, we have no problem with the idea that there was a “pre-fall covenant of works” with Adam.  Its terms were these–you will die as soon as you disobey.

What we have difficulty with is the idea that God promised Adam and all his posterity eternal life based on his perfect obedience during a probationary period.  What he was promised was that he would certainly die if he disobeyed God’s one prohibition.  He would continue to live as long as he obeyed, but there is no evidence he would ever have been confirmed in righteousness at any point.

2.    We have no difficulty with the idea that every sinner who has ever been justified before God, was justified through faith alone, based on the redemptive work of Christ alone.  This does not mean God established an over-arching “Covenant of grace” in Genesis 3:15, and that every subsequent covenant is part of that covenant.

3.    The New Covenant and the Old Covenant are distinct covenants, not different administrations of the same covenant.

4.    The Law, the covenant by which God constituted Israel a nation before him, was a homogeneous whole.  There were certain elements of it that pertained to the civil state; others that pertained to the ceremonial system; still others were “moral” in nature.  Biblical writers never speak of these aspects of the law as though they are separable.  If Jesus has fulfilled the “Law.” it is not merely one or two aspects of the law he has fulfilled, but the entire covenant.

5.    Israel was a typical representation of the church.  As such, it was neither “the church” in the Old Testament nor were it and the church separate and eternally distinct peoples of God.  Nothing that is predicated of natural and national Isreal has the same meaning as the same terms used to describe the New Covenant people of God.  The Hebrews can be both Abraham’s seed and not Abraham’s seed at the same time.  The continuous relationship between the Old and New Covenants is that of type to antitype and promise to fulfillment.

6.    We believe there is a continuity in God’s righteous standard between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  God requires no less under the New Covenant than under the Old Covenant.  In fact, we believe Christ’s law presents an even higher standard than did the Law of Moses.  Often mercy is more difficult to display than justice.

7.    We believe the focus of the gospel is what God has done in Christ rather than on what God is doing in us.  We do not deny the necessity or importance or regeneration, but insist that we are what we are only “in Christ.”  For this reason, New Covenant Theology is God-centered and Christ-centered rather than man-centered.

8.    The redemptive-historical approach stresses that this is the final age of human history. These are the last days. This is the time of fulfillment. We are those on whom “the fulfillment of the ages has come.” This does not mean God’s people have already fully and personally experienced everything that God has promised. Paul tells us in Romans 8:23 that we believers have the first-fruits, the pledge, of our inheritance, namely, the Holy Spirit. Yet, we, along with the rest of creation, go on groaning as we wait for the full enjoyment of all Jesus won for us at Calvary. The realm in which we are saved is the realm of confident expectation, not full fruition.

9.    The redemptive-historical approach does not minimize the reality that believers personally and individually enjoy the blessings that accrue from the redemptive work of Christ. Yet, the focus of this approach is not the individual’s experience, but God’s accomplishment of redemption in Christ. In Paul’s Epistles it is clear that, in his theological thought, all of redemptive history consists of God’s dealings with two representative men. All others are what they are in God’s sight by virtue of their relationship to one of these two men. A person is either in Adam or in Christ, whom Paul designated as the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). Accordingly, every person belongs to one of two spheres or realms. They belong either to the old creation (this world, this present age) in Adam or the new creation in Christ. When Paul writes about the “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15), he is not talking about something that God does in the believer, but about the realm into which the believer has been transferred in Christ. Similarly, when he talks about “the flesh,” he is not making reference to the “sinful nature.” He refers instead to the environment into which sinners are born in Adam. This is that which characterizes the realm or age to which man, in Adam, belongs.

New Covenant Theology teaches the gospel is more about what God has accomplished in Christ than it is about what he is doing in us. This does not mean we deny the work of God’s Spirit in us or depreciate its importance.  It is simply that we believe his principal work is the application or the redemptive accomplishments of Christ.

10     God assures us that the full inheritance is ours, but the best (the experiential enjoyment of it) is yet to come.

The idea of present eschatological fulfillment creates an “already/not yet” tension between that which is true of the believer because of His redemptive-historical union with Christ and that which is not yet true in his experience. “If any man is in Christ, there is to him a new creation, old (that which belongs to a former time) has passed away, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

11.    New Covenant Theology teaches that the Holy Spirit enables believers to do what the Law could only demand.  This does not mean New Covenant believers are without imperatives to be obeyed.  It simply means we will not be frustrated in our efforts to obey those imperatives.  Sin shall not have dominion over us since we are no longer under Law, but under grace.  Obeying rules out of gratitude is not legalism.  Legalism is the sense that I must obey rules to obtain or maintain God’s approval.

12.    New Covenant Theology does not teach that anyone has ever been without God’s Law in an absolute sense.  What we argue is that the Law in the sense of a covenant God made with Israel entered at Mt. Sinai and came to fulfillment at Mt. Calvary.

13.     Just as we are to interpret obscure passages in the light of clearer passages, so New Covenant Theology believes we are to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures in the light of New Testament revelation, not visa-versa.

14.    New Covenant Theology teaches that all the Law of God depends on two commandments–supreme love for God and appropriate love for ones neighbor.  Obedience to these two commandments is demonstrated in differing ways under different covenants.

15.    New Covenant Theology is in full agreement with neither  the assertions of Covenant Theology nor those of Dispensationalism.   Still, we readily acknowledge the correctness of their assertions when we find them to be consistent with the teachings of the Scriptures.