Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Humble Covenant Theology


I was brought to a saving knowledge of Christ our Lord at the age of 14. Up until that time, I had been to two church services my entire life. I was not raised in the church. When the Lord opened my heart to the gospel, it was outside the church through an uncle that had been saved out of the drug culture. He was a former hippy and now, a traditional Pentecostal Christian. I began my journey in the Church of God, headquarters, Cleveland, TN. I quickly became a non-traditional Pentecostal, denying the miracle workers on TV, the abuses, and that tongues were for everyone. Then I moved away from the Pentecostal ranks. But the dispensational, rapture fascination was deeply imbedded in my thinking. Eventually I would come to the doctrines of grace and loosen my grip on the rapture until I reached the leaky dispensation views of my favorite minister, John McArthur. John is still, by far, my favorite preacher.

Don't say a word to anyone
Today, my theological views continue to slowly morph over time. I suspect that is how it is supposed to be. While we ought not to be like ships tossed about at sea with every wind of doctrine that comes along, we must remain open to growing in our understanding of the truth God has given us. I have learned that just as I once had an aversion to Calvinism, like many non-Calvinists, and now I am one, that my aversion to covenant theology has also improved, as I have remained open and teachable. This is not to say that I do not acknowledge the difficulties and challenges in the system to which I now find myself subscribing. But I have always be blessed to see the problems and difficulties in whatever system I have found myself in, be it the Pentecostal movement, Arminian dispensationalism, and now, a humble proponent of reformed Baptist covenantal, historic premillennialism.  

Really? That can't be true.
My first difficulty was with the question of hermeneutics. I have always been a strong advocate of a grammatico-historical approach to the biblical text. And I really don’t think that has changed with one exception: the OT must be interpreted by the New. The principle that the OT is in the New revealed and the New is in the Old concealed must be a guiding principle in our hermeneutical method.

My second question concerned the existence of a Covenant of Works with Adam. I have often wondered if there was an actual covenant with Adam in the garden prior to the fall. After adopting a more humble approach to the possibility that such a covenant was present, I have adopted the view that the biblical evidence supports the view that Adam was indeed in a covenant relationship with the LORD prior to his fall. Hosea 6:7 tells us that “like Adam, they have transgressed the covenant.” The easiest reading of this text is that Adam is literally Adam our father from the garden. Alternative interpretations seem to display an aversion to the covenantal idea the text clearly espouses. The bottom line is that I found no good exegetical reason not to take the text at face value.

Paul claims we are all one body now. Can this be true?
The third question concerned the relationship of the Old and the New, national Israel and the Church. What then is the relationship between Israel and the Church? Is the Church Israel and is Israel the Church? Is there a future state in which Israel will return to the land and even set up the sacrifices once removed by the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice? To be perfectly frank, I am still working out these complexities in my personal studies. I admit that I am hesitant and very cautious concerning the view that physical Israel will be converted. The emphasis of those texts seems to be on the unfailing Word of God as opposed to loyalty to national Israel. If it is true that national Israel in the OT was a type of NT Church, we have reason to scrutinize any view that seems to run contrary to this basic theme. The fact is that national Israel was predominantly in a state of apostasy during most of the OT period even though we are reminded that God had always had His elect throughout the ages. But as I have done in my journey into a confessional reformed covenant Baptist position, I will remain open as I continue to study the future of Israel. That being said, I will also confess that I continue to hold pretty firmly to a historic premillennial position at the present time. It seems that an earthly reign of Christ over the nations for 1,000 years at the end is one that will not be so easy to dismiss due to the exegetical evidence in favor of that position. And we are, in the end, in hot pursuit of an understanding of God’s revealed truth as opposed to a certain theological scheme.

My final question centered on the question of law and gospel and the nature of the New Covenant as it relates to the way NT writers seem to think about the Mosaic Covenant. I think due care must be exercised in order to ensure we make sound distinctions between the Mosaic Law and the New Covenant. I do believe that dividing the Mosaic Covenant into three sections seems reasonable from a literary standpoint. It seems clear that some components of that law are moral, some judicial, and some ceremonial. What I do not think is sound is transference of any part of those laws into the New Covenant. While it may be true that certain components of the Mosaic Covenant are more directly related to the divine moral law written on the conscience, it does not follow that we must conclude that some of Moses is still applicable today. We know this because we can see the divine moral law in play prior to Moses. Therefore, I understand that in the New Covenant we see a different administration of the divine moral law than what we see in the Mosaic Covenant. This does not mean it was a different law. It was not. What it means is that just as there were components of the universal moral law of God expressed and administered in the Mosaic Covenant, there are components of that same moral law expressed and administered in the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not the same as the Old Covenant. It is a different Covenant. We must seek to avoid the legalism that comes with the failure to recognize the discontinuity of the Old and the New Covenants while at the same time guarding against an antinomian attitude that lends itself to an ungodly casual disposition in our relationship with the LORD our redeemer, and soon coming King.





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