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New Covenant Theology refers to a theological view of redemptive history primarily found in Baptist circles and contrasted with Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.

Contents

Recent history

Despite its seemingly recent representation in modern theological discussions, New Covenant Theology claims roots extending back to post-Reformation theological developments.

The First London Baptist Confession of Faith, especially in its 1646 edition, is held by many New Covenant Theology churches today. The First London Confession is a much shorter statement of faith than subsequent Baptist confessions, and was not as explicit on matters of law and covenant as the Second London Confession of 1689. This has led New Covenant teachers to claim that 1646 First London baptists did not support Protestant/Presbyterian churches because they believed in Gospel preaching apart from the law, and denied the eternal generation of the Son. However, in the historical whirlwind of later periods, Particular Baptists felt a need to show support for their Reformed brethren in the Congregationalist and Presbyterian churches -- and so adopted the Second London Confession in 1689, a virtual restatement of the famous Westminster Confession with slight modifications, especially, of course, in the area of baptism.

Since 1980 there has been a great resurgence of Reformed theology in Baptist circles. As a result, some have sought to develop a new, non-covenantal approach to theology distinct from the Second London Confession position. Leaders of this movement include such theologians as John Reisinger, Jon Zens, Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells, Gary Long, and Geoff Volker.

Proponents maintain that the primary thrust of New Covenant Theology is the recognition of a promise-fulfillment understanding of Scripture. They suggest that whereas “Dispensationalism cannot get Israel and the church together in any sense whatsoever, and Covenant Theology cannot get them apart” (Reisinger, 19), New Covenant Theology finds the realization of all that the Old Covenant typified in the New Testament church (Covenant Theology, in contrast, merely levels the playing field and identifies them for all intents and purposes). The Mosaic economy is viewed as a temporal, conditional covenant that has been forever replaced by the glory of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3).

New Covenant Theology is also (rarely) referred to in the UK as a "Bovinian view of the law."

Theological Background

In simplistic terms New Covenant Theology is a middle-ground between a Reformed and Dispensationalist view of how the Old Testament, and in particular the Mosaic Covenant, apply to the Christian today. On balance, though, the New Covenantal position probably holds a lot more in common with Reformed Covenant Theology than it does with Dispensationalism.

It is in the understanding of how the covenants God makes with men in the Bible work together - how they progressively reveal God - that one sees the differences between Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism and New Covenant Theology worked out. For example: Do all the covenants have the same function? Do the covenants build on top of one another, or do they stand opposed to each other? Are they expressions of one single covenant God has had with man, or are they given for different people in different ages? These questions are what New Covenant Theology seeks to answer.

Theological distinctiveness

NCT is an Evangelical position. However within evangelicalism there are divergent views on a number of topics. One of those topics is how the salvation history fits together, and the relationship of the covenants within salvation history.

NCT is distinctive in that its adherents believe that the purpose of the Mosaic Covenant was "never to offer eternal life" (Kansas, paragraph 21). The New Covenant Statement of Faith gives a further explanation of this position: "Although the Lord had a gracious purpose in giving this covenant, the covenant itself was a legal covenant that demanded perfect obedience. The failure to obey would result in the curse of God." (New Covenant Statement of Faith, Article 9, "The Old Covenant")

This view makes NCT distinct from Covenant Theology, which believes that all of the post-fall covenants are an expression of the one "Covenant of Grace," and therefore all function in the same way to outline salvation by faith. NCT instead views the Old Covenant – especially the Mosaic Covenant – as a "Covenant of Works (a covenant in which you earn God's eternal favor by obedience to His commands)" (Steve Lehrer, New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered, 2006, p. 47) and therefore, because it sees perfect obedience to the Mosaic Law as impossible, it denies that the Mosaic Covenant, in and of itself, performs any soteriological function other than convicting the reader of sin.

Some logical deductions of New Covenant Theologians and advocates (such as Steve Lehrer of New Covenant Bible Fellowship in Tempe, Arizona and Ben Ditzel of Truth Ministries) have been that since "the whole Old Covenant is obsolete", "none of the commands of the Mosaic Law are binding on believers today" (New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered, pp. 155, 181-182). On the other hand, Covenant Theologians believe that at least portions of the Old Testament law is binding on Christians, though there is some variation on which parts and how they apply.

Abrahamic covenant

This covenant reveals God's plan to save a people and take them into his land. The Old Covenant with the nation of Israel and the promised land is a temporary picture of what is accomplished by the New Covenant where Jesus actually purchased a people and will take them to be with him forever in the new heavens and new earth.

Old Covenant

The Old or Mosaic Covenant is a legal or works covenant that God made with Israel on Mount Sinai that is brought to an end or fulfilled at the cross. It was never intended to save people but instead its purpose was to increase sin and guilt until the coming of the Savior.

New Covenant

The New Covenant came into effect at the Last Supper when Jesus said “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you." Luke 22:20 (NKJV) and it is a written guarantee that from the time it came into effect there will be no more intermediaries like Moses and the prophets because the sin of Adam no longer applies and God now deals directly with each one of His people like He did at the beginning (see New Covenant in Scripture).

This covenant is a gracious covenant in which Jesus purchased all God's elect by his death on the cross so that each of His people within the New Covenant will receive full forgiveness of sins, the new birth and eternal life.

Israel

Israel is a temporary unbelieving picture of the people of God. They served to foreshadow the "true circumcision", the Church, the Church being composed of both Jew and gentile. There always existed a remnant of believers within unbelieving Israel.

Law

The version of law in the Old Covenant era was the Mosaic Law, which included the Ten Commandments. The version of law in the New Covenant era is the law of Christ, which includes the commands of Christ that pertain to the New Covenant era and the commands of his Apostles.

Circumcision and baptism

Circumcision was the physical picture of regeneration. It signified that you were physically born into the unbelieving people of God, Israel. It was given to all Israelites, irrespective of repentance and faith. Baptism is the outward sign that regeneration has occurred. It signifies that you have been spiritually born into the believing people of God, the church. It is given to all those who give evidence of regeneration, which is repentance and faith.

Resources

  • Lehrer, Steven, New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered (2006)
  • Reisinger, John G., Abraham’s Four Seeds (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 1998).
  • Scarborough, C., The New Covenant and the Law of Christ: A Biblical Study Guide. (Published privately and available from New Covenant Media/1-800-376-4146).
  • Stickland, Wayne G. (General editor), Contributors: Greg L. Bahnsen, Walter C. Kaiser, Douglas J. Moo, Willem A. VanGemeren, Five views on Law and Gospel (Michigan, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999)
  • Wells, Tom and Zaspel, Fred. New Covenant Theology: Description, Definition, Defense (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002).

External links

Directories:

Articles:

Comparative Theology:

New Covenant Statements of Faith:

Web Site Ministries:

Churches and Church Associations:

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