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).


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