Systems of Theology — My Position

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Note: My general statement of faith can be found here.

 

Introduction

There are three primary systems of theology by which Christians understand and explain the Scriptures, especially in regard to how the Old and New Testaments relate to each other. Central to this study is how God carried out His redemptive plan for His people. These systems are as follows:

 

Covenant Theology (CT)

— Presbyterian CT  (PCT) (paedobaptist)

— Baptist CT  (BCT) (credobaptist) [Associated with the 1689 SLBC]

New Covenant Theology (NCT)

Dispensational Theology (DT)

 

Note: When people refer to Covenant Theology, it’s the Presbyterian type they’re talking about. It’s the classic version of CT. 

 

The purpose of this is not to do an extensive comparison between the three systems, but merely to introduce you to them so you can do further reading on your own. The primary purpose here is to provide an expanded statement of what I believe, beyond what I’ve written in my general statement of faith (see link above). Here I include some comparison between the systems, but mainly focus on what my own position is. 

To read about the differences between these theological systems, I encourage you to read the links at the end of this post, which describe all three systems. I also encourage you to read books that go into much greater detail.

In terms of how the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament, my understanding aligns well with BCT. There are many points of agreement between PCT, BCT and NCT. On the other hand, DT is in a completely different category in how they view Israel and the Church. While I have issues with PCT and even bigger issues with DT, I identify much with BCT—so much so that it almost totally persuades me. The only real disagreement I have with BCT is that some of its proponents take the position that the Church existed in the Old Testament in the same form as it does today in the New Testament. I agree that the Church existed in the OT, but not in its fully established form, which is what we see accomplished on the day of Pentecost (please see point #7 below for a continuation of this discussion). Other than that, I readily subscribe to BCT. 

I’ve been a proponent of NCT for several years. However, since studying BCT, the shortcomings of NCT have become apparent. Thus, my understanding has been sharpened in agreement with BCT. While there are similarities between the two systems of theology, I believe BCT is more precisely accurate than NCT. It’s been a wonderful study for me, as it really brings God’s plan of redemption and the whole of Scripture in clearer view. It better reveals how it all works together. It makes more sense to me.

In addition, since there’s so much harmony between BCT and NCT regarding their view of Israel and the Church, I don’t have to change anything I’ve written about it. That’s a bonus.  

With all of this in mind, below I provide an overview of what I believe, which for the most part is a brief introduction to BCT. I plan to write an expanded and orderly version of BCT at some point, but this will have to suffice for now. 

 

Note: There’s nothing wrong with the name Baptist Covenant Theology, but I think a better designation for this Christocentric theology would be Christ-Covenant Theology or Christ-Fulfillment Theologysince He, and He alone fulfills God’s will and God’s plan of redemption. All the promises and prophecies relating to Israel and the Church are fulfilled in Him. All the Covenants have Jesus in view. Another reason I offer these two names is that a non-Baptist may see the name Baptist and immediately conclude that this is not a theology they would agree with, and not even bother reading about it. But truth is truth, and so this is for every Christian. Even though I’m Baptistic in my overall theology, I recognize that removing the name Baptist avails itself better to the entire Body of Christ. 

 

Components of My Theology

1. Christocentric – Central is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is key to understanding the Scriptures. That’s obviously true of the New Testament (NT), but it’s equally true of the Old Testament (OT). When it comes to interpreting the OT as it relates to Israel and God’s covenant promises to them, DT does not have the same Christocentric (Christ-centered) approach, but an OT Israel-centered approach that takes precedence over NT teaching, because DT takes a very literal approach to the OT regarding Israel. In other words, DT does not accept that Israel is fulfilled in Christ as the true Israel of God. In their view, it starts with ethnic Israel and ends with ethnic Israel. Conversely, a theology of truth begins and ends with Christ Himself and the NT Scriptures that reveal Him. What the NT reveals is that Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ as a spiritual nation, which is the Church. All the covenant promises and prophecies are fulfilled in Christ (2 Cor 1:20), who is Himself true Israel (Gal 3:16). God’s full plan for His people is fulfilled in His Son and His Church. There is only one people of God—those who are in Christ. This is a true Christocentric theology.

 

2. The New Testament has interpretive priority – All truth is contained in Christ and His Church, for Jesus Himself said that He is “the truth” (Jn 14:6), and Paul said that the Church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (CSB – 1 Ti 3:15). Therefore, an understanding of the OT can only come through a NT understanding of Christ and His Church. Furthermore, Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets. Therefore, understanding of the OT must begin with a proper understanding of Christ and the NT Scriptures. That’s our starting point. It’s a hermeneutical mistake to try and understand the OT apart from a right understanding of the NT. It’s the light of the NT that interprets the truth of the OT, which includes the types and shadows and patterns of the OT that point to Christ and the Church of the NC. All the teachings of the OT Scriptures have Christ and His Church in view. To bring an OT understanding to the NT will result in disastrous misinterpretation of both testaments.

Lest there be misunderstanding, the OT Scriptures are still relevant for today. The point is, we must seek to understand them and apply them via the light of the NT Scriptures. In regard to the commands of the OT, we have to careful to discern what was specifically for the Jews under the Law, and what is still applicable for us today. Thankfully, we have a guide, which again, is the NT Scriptures.

Aside from the discussion regarding the commands of the OT, there’s also so much we can learn about how God worked in people’s lives—through their experiences, through the things they did right and the things they did wrong. There are some wonderful character studies that we can learn and apply that will enrich our lives. We just need to make sure that we have the right starting point, which is first having a good understanding of the NT. That will enable us to learn the OT with discernment.

In regard to the prophetic books of the OT, much if not most of what was written was fulfilled with the first coming of Christ and the establishment of His Church in the gospel era. However, there’s obviously still prophecy yet unfulfilled, which will be fulfilled when Jesus returns and we enter into the eternal kingdom of the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21 and 22.

And of course, central to BCT, we have in the OT the Covenant promises. Understanding the covenants is fundamental to understanding how the two Testaments work together as one book. There’s a singular thread of redemption that runs through it that we must recognize, and the covenants are foundational to that. 

 

3. There are two overarching covenants, Old Covenant (OC) and New Covenant (NC) – (He 8:1-13; He 9:15-16) This is basically a continuation of the above discussion. The Mosaic Law of the OC is replaced by the law of Christ of the NC (Ga 6:2; 1 Cor 9:20-21; Ro 10:4). Luke 22:20 fulfills Jeremiah 31:31-34. In 1 Cor 9:21 Paul equates the “law of God” to the “law of Christ.” So I think better understood, in the NC we are under the law of God in Christ (1 Cor 9:21). In the OC it was the law of God in the form of the Law of Moses. Christ fulfills the Law and the Prophets (which spoke of Him), and essentially has in view the whole OT system and manner in which God dealt with His people and with mankind in general (Matt 5:17; Lu 16:16). Now instead of being under the Law of Moses or OC Law (Exodus thru Deuteronomy, where the Ten Commandments are central), we are now under the law of God in Christ. Old Testament Law has been made “obsolete” in Christ (He 8:13; 2 Cor 3:3-13), and the law of Christ of the NC has been established. This is especially true of the ceremonial laws, which pointed to Christ and the NC as types and shadows (He 8 & 9). The physical of the OT pointed to the spiritual of the NT. Through Christ we’ve been “released from the law” (Ro 7:6). Through Christ we “uphold the law” (Ro 3:31,22). Through Christ “the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us….who walk according to the Spirit” (Ro 8:4) and “serve in the new way of the Spirit” (Ro 7:6), as we’re “led by the Spirit” (Ga 5:18)….and if we’re “led by the Spirit” we’re “not under the law.”

The NC is completely new and replaces the OC. OC law is no longer operational. Thus, we’re no longer obligated. It no longer governs our lives, because Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law and we fulfill them through Him. That doesn’t mean we’re now free to sin. But now our focus is on living according to the NC, which is contained in the NT Scriptures. We’re to live according to the OT as the light and interpretation of the NT Scriptures reveal and guide.

The light of the NT allows us to understand the OT Scriptures correctly. Under the law of Christ: we understand doctrine, we know God’s will, we know how to live via the teachings and life of Christ and the overall teachings of the NT Scriptures. Specific commandments of the OT have been made “obsolete” (He 8:13; 2 Cor 3:3-13), unless the NT teaches otherwise. We have to keep in mind that the OT Law was written to and for the nation of Israel, while the NT Scriptures were written to and for Christians—both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Without the revelation and guidance of the NT, it would be difficult to know how to apply the OT to our lives as NC believers, especially as it applies to the Law of Moses.

In regard to moral character and behavior (moral law), inherent sin and the things that are inherently right and good, that which is written upon our hearts (He 8:10; He 10:16; Ro 2:14-16; 2 Cor 3:1-3) and applied to all people in all periods of time (and all guilty of breaking), these are not governed by covenants (Gal 5:18,22-23; Ro 2:14-15). They’re unchangeable. This moral law is summarized in both the two Great Commandments (Matt 22:37-40) and in the Ten Commandments (IRT the Sabbath, Jesus Himself is our rest [Col 2:16-17; He 4:9-10], and we observe this corporately on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, the day of His resurrection). All the things that are inherently right and good in the eyes of God are a reflection of Christ Himself. Thus, these things are by nature an integral component within the law of God in Christ, which is central to NC living (also central to OC Law). Furthermore, as those who have the Holy Spirit living within us – and empowered by Him – the heart and mind and character of Christ is being developed in us (Ro 8:29; Col 3:9-10; 2 Cor 3:18; Ro 12:2).

Basic to understanding the law of Christ is the new commandment that Jesus gave to His disciples in John 13:34. We’re to love one another as Christ loves us. Love fulfills the law (Ga 5:14; Ga 6:2). By loving others we’re always seeking their good and never their harm—in this way we fulfill the law that instructs us in our behavior and how to live, which normally involves our treatment of others. However, no one can love apart from a love for God. Love for others flows out of a love for God. They’re inseparable. A love for God and a love for others with the love of Christ is the basis for living the Christian life, for obeying the will of God as revealed in the NT Scriptures (Matt 22:36-40), as well as the OT Scriptures as it’s in harmony with the moral law and the teachings of the NT Scriptures. It’s an obedience to God that flows out of love in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. In the OC, obedience to God was a legalistic, outward form, absent of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (see point 7 about the Church), although regenerated. In the NC, obedience to God is inward and flows out of a heart of love empowered by the Spirit of God as He conforms us to the likeness of Christ. However, lest you misunderstand, love for God and love for others is taught in the OT (De 6:5; Lev 19:18) and confirmed by Jesus Himself (Matt 22:36-40). Obedience to God in both Testaments was to be motivated by love for God and a love for others. However, in the NT, believers are taught to live as followers of Christ under the NC, as the Holy Spirit is continuously at work to grow us in Christ-like character according to the fuller revelation of Christ and greater light of the NT Scriptures. This advanced revelation and more developed form of living was absent in the lives of OT believers. 

The law of God in Christ (1 Cor 9:21) should be understood as all the will of God that is revealed in the NT Scriptures. All the teachings of the NT Scriptures, all the instructions and commands, are contained in these Scriptures. Indeed, the whole NT is God’s will for us revealed in written form. These were written to Christians and for Christians. They were given to us specifically to show us specifically how to live the Christian life as followers of Christ. Jesus is our King, and we are His servants. We’re under His authority to walk in obedience to Him, to carry out His will—as revealed in the NT Scriptures, and as the NT interprets the OT Scriptures. In other words, we’re to look for harmony between the NT and the OT, with both the NT and the moral law as our guide. We’re also to look for principles in the OT that are in harmony with both the moral law and NT. We’re saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ, but we live out our faith by way of obedience.

Therefore, antinomianism has no place in our lives as servants of Christ.

In regard to sanctification, it’s both positional and progressive. Positionally, we are completely sanctified in Christ. However, in the practical outworking of sanctification, we’re progressively growing. In other words, in daily living we are growing in Christlikeness and will continue to do so until we are in the presence of God. The positional and practical will then be one.

In regard to water baptism, the Bible describes and displays immersion. It also makes it clear that baptism is for believers in Christ only. The universal and local church is made up of regenerated believers only. Furthermore, infant baptism is not taught anywhere in the Bible.  

 

4. Covenant of Works & Covenant of Grace – While OC law (Law of Moses) has been set aside and no longer operational for believers (in general, and interpreted according to the light of the NT), the law of God that was issued to Adam and Eve is still in force, in that it affects the whole human race. In other words, the sin and death that resulted from their disobedience (breaking God’s law – Ro 4:15) is still in force. The law they broke is as if we broke it ourselves, and the resulting sin and death was passed on to the rest of humanity from that time forward (Ro 5:12). The promise of the Seed (Ge 3:15; Ga 3:16), which is Christ, is the way of forgiveness. In that whole situation with Adam and Eve, we see both a requirement of obedience (works – Ge 2:17) and the consequences for disobedience (spiritual and physical death – Ge 2:17), as well as the remedy for the consequences for disobedience (grace/Christ – Ge 3:15).

Therefore, I agree with BCT that both a covenant of works and a covenant of grace (which functioned until the inauguration of the NC) is certainly revealed, even though the word covenant is not used. This is where I believe NCT has it wrong, which teaches that these are not covenants. The word covenant doesn’t have to be present for there to be a covenant present. God issued a command (law) to be obeyed (works), and paraphrasing, said to Adam, “if you disobey you will die.” Or by implication, “if you obey, you will live.” Therefore, I think it’s a reasonable deduction that this describes a covenant. In fact, I believe Hosea 6:7 confirms this by actually referring to it as a covenant.

This covenant of works is still in force for the unsaved, and the grace of God that is represented by the New Covenant of Christ is, of course, the remedy for sin and death under both Old and New covenants. On that note, I think it’s also reasonable to conclude that Genesis 3:15 reveals a covenant of grace when God refers to “her seed,” which refers to His Son (Gal 3:16), through whom we have salvation through His graceJesus as the “mediator of a new covenant” (He 9:15; 12:24). In other words, it’s a covenant of grace for the purpose of redemption.

To be more precise, I believe Genesis 3:15 is the promise of the NC that would come (which is a covenant of grace), but became effective and functional immediately as it looked forward to the inauguration of the NC (Ge 3:21; 4:4). In other words, there’s the New Covenant, then there’s the promise of the New Covenant, which is the covenant of grace. The promise of the NC in Genesis 3:15 was more clearly stated in Jeremiah 31:31. In effect, the NC came before the OC, for it’s only through the NC of Christ that people are saved, in both Old and New Testaments. The NC was set in motion in Genesis 3:15. The OC didn’t begin until the time of Moses and Mt. Sinai.

In regard to the law of God (command) and the covenant of works (obey), the Law of Moses elevated both to a higher level. In other words, the covenant of works was republished (reissued) and expanded in the Law of Moses. God’s will was revealed in greater detail, and the requirements were much more extensive than what was required of Adam and Eve. Same will of God and same covenant of works, but greatly expanded.

Let me add to this explanation. There was certainly a covenant of works (law to obey) and there was certainly a covenant of grace in the OT. I believe the promise itself was the covenant of grace. It was not the NC itself, but the means of salvation that the NC represents was in effect between Adam and the second Adam (Christ – Ro 5:14; 1 Cor 15:47-48) when the NC was inaugurated. Therefore, it was a covenant of grace based on God’s promise of provision. The promise itself was God’s grace to humanity. It was a promise characterized by grace. The substance of the promise was grace.

While this covenant of grace was not the New Covenant itself, the means of salvation that the NC represents was operational from Adam onward until the NC was established, thereby ending the Old Covenant. Since that time we’ve been living under the New Covenant of Christ, which is a covenant of grace—since Jesus fulfilled the covenant promises and the will of God perfectly on our behalf.

Summing up, I believe it’s best to understand and describe the covenant of grace as the promise that points to the NC, and as the means of grace in the OT that operated in the light of the New Covenant. This is in harmony with how OT believers were saved, which was based on the promise of the coming Christ and salvation in Him. He had not yet come, but they placed their faith in Him based on the promise. They were saved as though Christ had already gone to the cross for them. Likewise, God’s grace was operational in the OT based on the New Covenant that would come. In other words, the NC casted its shadow backwards and functioned as though it had already been established.

 

Note 1: We don’t have to call Genesis 3:15 a covenant of grace. We can call it the promise of grace or the promise of Christ (“Seed”), which is a promise of grace, since Jesus totally fulfilled the covenant of works and will of God on our behalf. So whether we call it a covenant/promise of grace or the promise of Christ (or even the promise or covenant of life), it amounts to the same thing. Our terminology doesn’t change the meaning, which we can all agree on. Why quibble over words that don’t change meaning?

 

Note 2: This doesn’t mean that the Old Covenant doesn’t exist, it obviously does. It’s still there in the Old Testament of our bibles. It’s just not operational in the plan of God. The Lord Himself ended it. Orthodox Jews still live according to the OC, but they do so under a covenant that has been abolished. They’re placing their faith in a covenant that God no longer honors, if that is where it ends for them. HOWEVER, it still serves the same purpose as it did for the Jews in the days of Christ and the early years of the Church. A careful study of the OT Scriptures can still lead them to the Christ of the New Covenant, as the Holy Spirit opens their spiritual eyes to Him. 

 

5. There’s a unity between the Abrahamic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant – The Abrahamic Covenant (Ge 12:2-3; 17:1-10) has both his physical and spiritual offspring in view. It was through his physical line (Isaac and Jacob) that Jesus came (Seed of Christ, Gal 3:16). In regard to Abraham’s spiritual offspring, it has spiritual Israel in view, which is the Church in Christ. Those who make up the Church are spiritual Jews who share Abraham’s faith (Ro 2:28-29; Ga 3:29). Through Abraham’s offspring (Seed/Christ) all the peoples and nations of the earth would be blessed (Ga 3:8) in the form of salvation for His people. The Abrahamic Covenant is a continuation of the promise of Genesis 3:15 (Seed/Christ, NC), which provided further revelation of how it would be accomplished.

The Davidic Covenant (2 Sa 7:12-17; Ps 89; Ps 110; Acts 2:14-36) had Christ the King and His throne in view, from where He reigns over the universe and His kingdom (Col 1:13), which is His Church.

 

6. All are saved by grace through faith in Christ in both Old Testament and New Testament – In the OT, people were saved by responding in faith to whatever light they were given about Christ (Ro 9:30-33), which involved the covenant promises regarding Christ [Adamic Cov (Ge 3:15); Abrahamic Cov (Ge 12:2-3; 17:1-10; Davidic Cov (2 Sam 7:12-17; Acts 2:14-36)], types and shadows (especially via the temple and temple sacrifices), and later on through prophecies such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, and the OT Scriptures in general. Christ and redemption through Him was revealed from the very beginning with Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel (Ge 3:14-15, 21; 4:1-7). Thus they were responsible to believe whatever light was revealed to them. The revealing of Christ the Redeemer was progressive, and people were responsible to believe whatever was revealed to them at their particular time in history within the plan of God. The OT Law was not a means of salvation. Those under the Law were still saved by God’s grace through faith by believing the promises regarding Christ (the Seed of Abraham – Gal 3:16; Ro 9:30-33). The purpose of the Law was to test the faith and faithfulness of His people. It was also for the purpose of revealing their (our) sinfulness and need for a Savior (Ro 5:20). It was their tutor to lead them to Christ (Gal 3:24-25). Keeping the OT Law was the outward evidence of inward faith—the same thing that’s taught in the NT. We follow Christ because we believe. Likewise, they obeyed the Law because they believed.

 

7. The Church existed in the Old Testament, but not in current form – I disagree with NCT that the Church didn’t exist in the OT. On the other hand, I agree with BCT that the Church existed in the OT as the regenerate corporate people of God, but not in the fullness that it exists today (as some proponents of BCT believe) since the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers and baptized us into the Body of Christ, bringing us into union with Him (1 Cor 12:13; Ga 3:27). The Church existed as the regenerate people of God in the OT (Jn 1:12-13; Jn 3:3,5), but the Holy Spirit did not indwell them (Jn 7:37-39; Jn 14:16-17; Jn 16:7). While He was not “in” them, He was “with” them and enabled them to remain steadfast in their faith and faithfulness to the true God. They were His remnant people, those who belonged to Christ individually and collectively. They all had the Messiah in common. They were a redeemed group unto themselves because of their faith in the Christ who was to come, who was promised to His people.

Those who make the case that OT believers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, use Romans 8:9 as validation of that notion. However, I believe that verse is to be understood as believers of the New Covenant since Pentecost.

Think of the Church of the OT as a seed that began in the Garden of Eden, and continued to grow into a plant until it reached full growth and full bloom in the coming of the Holy Spirit of the NC on the day of Pentecost. The Church of the OT was the foundation and skeleton of the building, while the Church was finished with all the rooms and walls inside and enclosed on the outside.

However, even though OT believers were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not yet baptized into the Body of Christ, in some sense they were were united to Christ because they belonged to Him as children of God…..and in some sense they were untied to each other as children of God, as part of the same family of faith—for John tells us that to be born again is to become a child of God (Jn 1:12-13). 

One can surely make the case that the Church existed in the OT. That being said, there’s no need to insist that it was in the exact form as it is today, as some BCT proponents teach. Virtually nothing in the OT is exactly as it is under the NC of Christ. Most everything in the OT was a type and shadow or incomplete in its form of that which was to come in the NC. This is true of the Church. It looked ahead to the time when it would be in its more glorified form after Christ’s work was finished. The most glorified form of the Church will be when we are resurrected and dwelling in the “new heaven and new earth” of the Revelation 21 & 22. Just as the Church is not today in its most glorified form, so was the Church in the OT not in the present Pentecost-glorified form. 

I mostly agree with BCT, but I don’t believe there’s any biblical reason to insist that the nature of the Church in the OT was as it is in the NT (being indwelt by the Spirit and baptized into the Body of Christ), being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). One does not have to give up their position that the Church existed in the OT, but simply realize that it was in an early stage of development that reached full maturity in Christ in the establishment of the NC. Likewise, proponents of NCT don’t have to give up their position that the Church didn’t exist in the OT (as believers who are indwelt by the Spirit and baptized into the Body of Christ), but simply realize that the nature of the Church in the OT was not the same as it is in the NT. I believe the two systems of theology can come together by recognizing this distinction. To be clear, not all proponents of BCT believe that OT believers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit as we are today. 

Lastly, in the OT, the Church of the NT was always in view as Israel’s total fulfillment and continuation as a spiritual nation, as the true Israel of the NC. Yes, true Israel was in the OT too as spiritual offspring of Abraham, but not in its completed Pentecost form. The OT looks ahead and sees spiritual Israel in its NT form.

 

Note: I encourage you to read the article by James M. Hamilton Jr. titled, “Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?” I believe he makes a sound case against that idea. For your convenience, you will find the article here.

 

8. True Israel Is Christ Himself – Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ (Gal 3:16. 28-29; Ro 2:28-29; Eph 2:11-22; Ro 9:6-8). Jesus Himself is true Israel. Through Christ, Israel continues as a spiritual nation, which is the Church (1 Pe 2:4-10). The Church is New Israel in Him. This means that the OT covenant promises and prophecies regarding the nation of Israel are fulfilled in Him. In regard to the land promises, they too are fulfilled in Christ and the kingdom of His Church, which continues in the New Earth of the “New Heaven and the New Earth” which is the Eternal Kingdom (Rev 21:1-2; 2 Pe 3:13; He 11:10, 14-16; 12:22; 13:14).

Only Christ fulfilled the will of God. He alone fulfilled what Israel could not. Accordingly, only Christ has the right to bear the name Israel. As true Israel, He’s a nation of one (Gal 3:16). Believers are spiritual Jews in Him as spiritual offspring. Or put another way, we are spiritual offspring of Abraham in Christ (Gal 3:26-29; 1 Pe 2:5; Ro 2:28-29; Ro 9:6-8; Ro 4:13; Ro 4:16-18). The nature of Israel changed with Christ’s fulfillment—from physical and earthly to spiritual and heavenly. As the Church, we are a spiritual kingdom (Col 1:13).

 

9. Israel and Election – In regard to the doctrine of election, it’s both corporate and individual, and is patterned by national Israel. God chose the whole nation of Israel to be His people, beginning with the choosing of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Although God has always had but one redemptive elect people, He chose the whole nation of Israel to represent Him and through whom to carry out His will. Although OT Israel consisted of both believers and unbelievers, God Himself referred to them corporately as His people. It’s the choosing of the whole nation that provides the pattern for the NT election of His people, which is corporate. This corporate choosing of a people unto Himself continues in Christ as the elect Church, for whom Christ died (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25,23). However, the Church is composed of individual members. Therefore, the unconditional election of the Church must be the same for the members who make up the Church (He 9:15; Ro 8:28-30). Accordingly, the doctrine of election is to be understood as the unconditional election of both the corporate body of Christ and the individuals who comprise that body.

In regard to the fact that the election of OT Israel consisted of both believers and unbelievers, it reveals the imperfection of Israel and the insufficient nature of the OC. In the NC we see election perfected in Christ and His Church. The choosing of imperfect Israel served as a mere type and shadow of the choosing of that which is perfect, which is the Church in Christ—spiritual Israel in Him. Thus we see that Israel is perfected in Christ as both a nation and in its election (1 Peter 2:4-10).

 

10. The prophesied Messianic kingdom is fulfilled in the Church – Jesus is the Messiah that was to come and reign as King of Israel (2 Sa 7:12-17), and He does so now over His Church (Acts 2:29-36; Acts 15:13-18; He 1:3,8,13; 1 Cor 15:25; Col 1:13). The Church is the Kingdom of Christ. Thus the prophesied kingdom is not an earthly, physical kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom. When Jesus ascended, He sat down at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:14-36; He 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pe 3:22). From His throne in Heaven (and within the hearts of believers), Jesus reigns over His people. His kingdom will continue in the New Jerusalem of the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 21:1-3), where He will co-reign with the Father.

 

11. Eschatology (prophecy) – Believers reign with Christ in His kingdom now and throughout the Church age (Col 1:13), for the Church is Christ’s Kingdom. The book of Revelation covers the whole Church age. At the end of the age, Christ will return to defeat His enemies, the resurrection of the saved and unsaved will occur where we will all stand before the throne of Christ to be judged, followed by the Eternal Kingdom of the New Heaven and New Earth (after the present universe is destroyed).

There is no earthly, millennial kingdom. That’s a premillennial interpretation of prophecy, a viewpoint shared mostly by dispensationalists who believe God still has a future plan for the nation of Israel that is separate from the Church.

My eschatological position is Amillennial.

 

12. Situational Cessation of miracle gifts – The miracle gifts ceased with the completion of the NT Scriptures and the full establishment of the Church of the New Covenant. The OT pattern of miracles were completed in Christ and His Apostles and in the foundation they laid for the Church. When the Apostolic period ended, so did the miracle gifts that accompanied the Apostles and their mission. While God still performs miracles today, the miracle gifts themselves are not normative where Christianity flourishes—such as in the United States.

HOWEVER, in places where Christianity is new and undeveloped, God may choose to employ any or all of the miracle gifts in those areas. For example, in places around the world where Christianity is outlawed and Bibles are rare, God may choose to activate the miracle gifts as needed, because these types of situations are much like what we had in the early years of the Church where Christianity was being established and the NT Scriptures were being written. This describes situational cessationism. 

 

Comparison of Theologies

Below you will find links that compare the differences between Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology and New Covenant Theology. In brief, the major difference between Dispensationalism and the other two is that DT views Israel and the Church as completely distinct from each other. DT teaches that God has a future plan for the nation of Israel that is completely separate from the Church, and will be fulfilled once the Church has been “raptured.” It teaches that there will be a millennial kingdom on this present earth where Christ will rule as King, which includes a Jewish temple and a return to animal sacrifices (as a “memorial”).

As for the other two theological systems, CT and NCT are basically in agreement that the Church is Israel of the New Covenant. Baptist CT and NCT describe it as Israel having its fulfillment in Christ as the True Israel. In Christ, as the Church, we are spiritual Israel and a spiritual nation. Presbyterian CT sees Israel and the Church as the same in both testaments, consisting of both regenerate and unregenerate offspring of Abraham in the OT, which carries over into the NT as regenerate and unregenerate (baptized children) in local church settings. In their view, Israel is the Church and the Church is Israel. I don’t believe the Bible teaches this. Therefore, I cannot agree with either PCT or DT.

BCT, NCT and PCT also agree that God does not have a future plan or kingdom for national Israel. BCT and NCT teach that the Kingdom of Christ is now – as the Church – and that Jesus reigns within and over His Church now. We will see its ultimate fulfillment in the everlasting kingdom of the New Heaven and the New Earth of Revelation 21 & 22.

The reason for these differences is that DT brings an OT understanding of Israel to the NT. Proponents interpret the NT according to their understanding of the OT—which is a backwards hermeneutic, since the NT fulfills the OT. Christ is central in both testaments, but fully revealed in the NT Scriptures. 

 

Links:

Book Recommendations:

“The Kingdom of God – A Baptist Expression of Covenant Theology,” by Jeffrey Johnson (excellent!)

“The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology,” by Pascal Denault  (provides a good history of BCT, as well as a comparison between PCT and BCT).

 

Articles:

Covenant Theology – (TGC)

1689 Federalism (Baptist CT) vs. New Covenant Theology

Comparison between DT, CT, and NCT

New Covenant Theology

Covenant Theology (Presbyterian)

Covenant Theology (Baptist)

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