By Ken Blue
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “Covenant” as: “… n. 1. A binding agreement; a compact. 2. Law. A formal sealed agreement or contract. 3. In the Bible, God’s promise to the human race.”
Dake, in his reference Bible list 15 major covenants. (See notes on Genesis, P.57).
“ It was not until the seventeenth century that a systematized theology based upon the idea of “covenant” developed. Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) from Scotland, and Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669) of Holland, were both instrumental in the establishment of Covenant theology. It became firmly entrenched in Reformed Protestant theology after the Church of Scotland accepted the Westminster Confession in 1647.” -Northwestern Theological Seminary.
Covenant Theology sees three major covenants. The first is a Covenant of Works. This was, supposedly, given to Adam. He was told to do certain things and live. Of course, we know that he disobeyed God and became alienated from Him. Thus the Covenant of Grace began and continues out into eternity. A third covenant was made between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the world. This was the Covenant of Redemption.
One of the best ways to understand Covenant Theology is to see the contrast between it and Dispensational Theology. Covenant Theology does not see a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. A chart at the end of the page will show the distinction. They assert that Israel constituted the people of the God in the OT, and the Church (which is made up of Jew and Gentile) constitutes the people of God in the New Testament. They say, “The Church doesn’t replace Israel; the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church (Galatians 6:16). All people who exercise the same faith as Abraham are part of the covenant people of God (Galatians 3:25-29).”
Since the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647 best explains their theology; we will let them speak for themselves.
CHAPTER III Of God’s Eternal Decree:
III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death.
IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath. chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto: and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath, for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.
Note: Covenant Theology teaches that some men and angels are predestined to salvation and others are predestined to hell. This is the extreme teaching of John Calvin, his TULIP. No one is predestined to heaven or hell. All men have salvation available to them. God has predetermined how one is to be saved, to what he is saved, the conformity of his salvation; but He has not predestined who will be saved and who will be lost.
CHAPTER VII Of God’s Covenant with Man:
VI. 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.
Note: The reader should be aware that there is no such statement as a Covenant of Grace in Scripture. However, Covenant Theology teaches that the way one receives this grace is through the preaching of the Word and the “Sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
CHAPTER XXVIII Of Baptism:
Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.
III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.
IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents, are to be baptized.
VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will in His appointed time.
Note: There are several errors in the above. The first is that one is “baptized into the visible Church.” No one is baptized into the church. The second error is the idea that baptism is a “sign or seal of the covenant of grace.” This is taken from the idea that baptism replaces circumcision and places the baptized person in a state of grace. This is left over from the Roman Catholic Church and explains why those who profess salvation are to baptize their infants by pouring or sprinkling. Notice article IV that baptism confers grace on all thus baptized.
The following chart helps to better understand Covenant Theology by contrasting it with dispensationalism.
Click to Enlarge
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.