Doctrine of Covenant Theology (false)

August 16, 2013

1. In Covenant Theology the general idea is, God has a relationship with man through covenants (or contract). This is not in dispute by any theologian of any stripe.
2. Covenant Theology provides a framework within which we interpret the Bible. This approach
is what is in dispute.
3. There are 3 basic covenants: (1) a covenant of works, (2) a covenant of redemption and (3) a covenant
of grace. These definitions come from the Theopedia1:
a. The first covenant in logical order, usually called the Covenant of Redemption, is the
agreement within the Godhead that the Father would appoint his son Jesus to give up
his life for mankind and that Jesus would do so (cf. Titus 1:1-3).
b. The second, called the Covenant of Works, was made in the Garden of Eden between
God and Adam and promised life for obedience and death for disobedience. Adam
disobeyed God and broke the covenant, and so the third covenant was made between
God and all of mankind, who also fell with Adam according to Romans 5:12-21.
c. This third covenant, the Covenant of Grace, promised eternal blessing for belief in Christ
and obedience to God’s word. It is thus seen as the basis for all biblical covenants that
God made individually with Noah, Abraham, and David, nationally with O.T. Israel as a
people, and universally with man in the New Covenant. These individual covenants are
called the “Biblical covenants” because they are explicitly described as such in the Bible.
d. Sometimes, covenant theology speaks only of the latter 2 covenants, as they are the
general covenants between man and God.
4. These covenants are not found specifically named anywhere in the Bible; they are inferred from
the Bible, and then used as a framework for Biblical interpretation.
5. The general idea is, God was working through the nation Israel and through the race of the
Jews, and they failed so badly, that God began working with a new entity, believers in Jesus
Christ (and the church), who then became the spiritual heirs of Abraham. Since the Jews now
rejected the covenant of grace, God offered this covenant of grace to the Gentiles, the spiritual
heirs of Abraham. In Covenant Theology, there is no real difference between Israel and the
church, except that Israel failed, so God had to move on.

Covenant Theology

6. In Covenant Theology, the covenant of grace is the constant, and those with whom God makes
this covenant are believers in Jesus Christ.
7. Covenant Theology takes all of the promises which God made to Israel (to Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob—men we will study in Genesis) along with the covenants made with Moses, with the
Jews and with David, and spiritualizes these covenants.
8. That is, the actual words of these covenants are no longer precise. Abraham’s seed no longer
refers to those physically descended from Abraham but those who are spiritually descended
from Abraham.
9. The covenants made previously to Israel and to various patriarchs of Israel are no longer
applicable to that particular plot of ground nor are they applicable to that particular race of
10. All of these promises are spiritualized, which, of course, calls into question exactly what these
promises really mean.
11. The reason that this happened is, Israel screwed up so many times, again and again and again,
that God just decided, “These people are just not working out. I need a new group of people
who are better and more faithful.” That turns out to be us, believers in the Church Age
(however, covenant theologians do not recognize the Church Age as a separate dispensation).
12. Covenant theologians do not recognize a substantive difference between the church and Israel;
the latter morphed into the former.
13. Israel, as a people and as a nation, was simply too disobedient and they rejected the covenant
of grace at the advent of Jesus Christ.
14. There is also a new covenant theology which has sprung up, which seems to try to find a place
in between dispensational theology and covenant theology.
Problems with Covenant Theology

1. God’s promises are not what they seem. God made many specific promises to Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob, to the nation Israel and to David. These promises involve a specific bloodline and
a specific plot of ground. If the nation Israel is no longer a part of God’s plan and if the Jews
are no longer God’s people, then dozens of promises that God made directly to various Jews
from God make very little sense.
2. According to Covenant Theology, there is a limit to God’s patience. The Old Testament is a
book which testifies to Jewish failure more than almost anything else, yet God is with the Jews
throughout the Old Testament. The book of the Judges is remarkable as to how many times
Israel would go astray, and yet God was always faithful to them. In Covenant Theology, God’s
Problems with Covenant Theology
patience has limits; you can fail enough times where God removes you completely from His
3. Most people who believe in covenant theology do not believe in eternal security (which means,
once you have believed in Jesus Christ, you cannot lose this salvation).
4. The Jews failed so spectacularly, that God, for all intents and purposes, withdrew His specific
promises from the Jews, and has substituted a spiritualized meaning and understanding of
these promises. Or, more accurately, covenant theology always believes that these promises
were spiritual promises.
5. Covenant Theology takes two very different entities—the church and the nation Israel—and
says that they are, in essence, the same thing.
6. Dan Smedra writes: With all varieties of Covenant theology, there is an obsession for an
overriding continuity or unified purpose for the sixty-six books (Canon) which comprise Holy
Scriptures. Rather than having wisdom to discern the real difference among things which
resemble one another, the covenantist is driven to find an “integrating” principle to produce
theological uniformity, in hope of discovering “what the Bible is really all about.” Their “key” is
the erroneous concept that every relationship between God and man must take the form of a
covenant or legal agreement. From this notion, albeit logical, has arisen their apocryphal and
overarching Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.
a. As an aside, there are a variety of consistencies throughout the Bible: God’s character
and essence, the fundamental concept of believing in Jesus Christ (or Yehowah Elohim)
for salvation, etc.
7. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, a dispensationalist, writes:
a. A theology which penetrates no further into Scripture than to discover that in all ages
God is immutable in His grace toward penitent sinners, and constructs the idea of a
universal church, continuing through the ages, on the one truth of immutable grace, is
not only disregarding vast spheres of revelation but is reaping the unavoidable confusion
[fog] and misdirection which part-truth engenders. The outworking of divine grace is not
standardized, though the Covenant idea of theology would make it so…
b. A form of Covenant Theology which would thread all of Jehovah’s purposes and
undertakings upon His one attribute of grace could hardly avoid confusion of mind [fog]
in matters related to His varied objectives. Covenant Theology, in consistency with its
man-made premise, asserts its inventions respecting an Old Testament church, which,
it is claimed, is an integral part of the New Testament Church and on the ground that,
since God’s grace is one unchanging attribute, its accomplishments must be the
realization of one standardized ideal.
c. A Covenant Theology engenders the notion that there is but one soteriology and one
eschatology, and that ecclesiology, such as it is conceived to be, extends from the
Garden of Eden to the Great White Throne. The insuperable problems in exegesis which
such fanciful suppositions create are easily disposed of by ignoring them.
d. Covenantism, which has molded the major theological concepts for many generations,
recognizes no distinction as to ages, therefore can allow for no distinctions between law
and grace. This dominating attitude of Covenantism must account for the utter neglect
of life-truth in all their works of theology. No more representative theological dictum from
the Covenant viewpoint has been formed than the Westminster Confession of Faith,
which valuable and important document recognizes life-truth only to the point of imposing
the Ten Commandments on Christians as their sole obligation, this in spite of the
teachings of the Pauline Church Epistles which assert that the law was never given to
Gentiles or Christians, and that the latter has been saved and delivered from it–actually
dead to it (Gal. 2:19).
8. In short, covenant theology takes something which is clearly found in the Bible (covenants
between God and man), and from this, infers 2 or 3 overarching covenants (which are not found
in the Bible), and then superimposes the inferred covenants over all of Scripture, in order to
give it a unifying set of factors.
9. Covenant theologians must therefore go back and interpret all of the covenants which appear
to have a clear meaning, and yet that meaning must be reinterpreted to fit within the umbrella
of covenant theology. The end result is, many of God’s promises are not what they seem.
10. Therefore, those who believe in covenant theology often reject God using Jews in the future;
they reject the importance of the nation Israel (although it is found in prophecy); and they reject
the millennial rule of Jesus Christ. Again, promises and prophecies which appear to have clear
meanings must be reinterpreted to fit into covenant theology.