Covenant of Grace or New Covenant?

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TSL316

Puritan Board Freshman
I have been studying Covenant Theology for some time now and I was wondering if old testament saints are part of the new covenant or the covenant of grace? I know covenant theology in pretty good detail but I'm struggling to see the point of the covenant of grace when we have the new covenant...or are they one an the same?
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Depending on whom you ask you will get a different answer but classical covenant theology would say that the Old Testament saints were part of the covenant of grace. So although the new covenant is historically or temporally established (at the point of Jesus' death and resurrection) it is based upon eternal promises that are unfolded throughout redemptive history (starting with Genesis 3:15). This is demonstrated in Hebrews 6 (especially vss. 17&18). Or, put another way, Jesus' came not to destroy but to fulfill the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17).

For even in Hebrews 8 we see that the "new covenant" is with the same people (Israel and Judah) including the same promises (inward law & people of God vs. 10 cf. Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalm 40:8 & Genesis 17:7-8). And the "old covenant" though never mentioned by name, is not the "old testament" because in context it clearly refers to the Mosaic economy (Hebrews 7:12ff. & Hebrews 9:1ff. cf. vs. 9).
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The Westminster framers, as far as I can tell, avoided using the New Covemant/Old Covenant distinction and, instead, - at least in the standards themselves - used the New Testament/Old Testament of the one Covenan of Grace distinction. This, in my humble opinion, does a great job to expel the typically ensuing misunderstanding.

Josh, is there a reason why they used the terminology they did? Do you think the terminology (or perhaps theology) of Hebrews is too easily misunderstood as dispensational? thanks.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I have been studying Covenant Theology for some time now and I was wondering if old testament saints are part of the new covenant or the covenant of grace? I know covenant theology in pretty good detail but I'm struggling to see the point of the covenant of grace when we have the new covenant...or are they one an the same?

The classic analogy is to picture the Covenant of Grace as a flower;

There are many phases of the growth of a flower: seed, sprout, plant and full bloom. All are aspects of the flower at a specific point and time. The flower exists in all of them, therefore no one stage can be "equal" to the flower, otherwise that would preclude the other stages being a flower.

But it is easy to see that the clearest, fullest stage of the flower, in fact the expression that lets us know that the other stages were really flower and not grass, is the full bloom. That is what the New Covenant is with respect to the Covenant of Grace.

Make sense?
 

CIT

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I have been studying Covenant Theology for some time now and I was wondering if old testament saints are part of the new covenant or the covenant of grace? I know covenant theology in pretty good detail but I'm struggling to see the point of the covenant of grace when we have the new covenant...or are they one an the same?

The classic analogy is to picture the Covenant of Grace as a flower;

There are many phases of the growth of a flower: seed, sprout, plant and full bloom. All are aspects of the flower at a specific point and time. The flower exists in all of them, therefore no one stage can be "equal" to the flower, otherwise that would preclude the other stages being a flower.

But it is easy to see that the clearest, fullest stage of the flower, in fact the expression that lets us know that the other stages were really flower and not grass, is the full bloom. That is what the New Covenant is with respect to the Covenant of Grace.

Make sense?

I have never heard this analogy before. Could you point me to where others have used this analogy? I would like to read the context.

Thanks.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
The Westminster framers, as far as I can tell, avoided using the New Covemant/Old Covenant distinction and, instead, - at least in the standards themselves - used the New Testament/Old Testament of the one Covenan of Grace distinction. This, in my humble opinion, does a great job to expel the typically ensuing misunderstanding.

Josh, is there a reason why they used the terminology they did? Do you think the terminology (or perhaps theology) of Hebrews is too easily misunderstood as dispensational? thanks.

Dennis,

I'm not Josh, but I think most non-dispensationalists would say it's the other way around. Some passages in Hebrews are quite problematic for dispensationalism, especially the classic (Scofield/Chafer) and normative/revised (Ryrie/Walvoord) varieties.

Dispensationalism has always had problems with what to do with the New Covenant, with some saying there are two new covenants, one for Israel and and another for the church. Ryrie once held that position. Most often today you will hear that the NC is for Israel but that the church participates in the blessings of it. All dispensationalists other than the progressive dispensationalists deny that the New Covenant has been inaugurated. (That's one of the differences, if not THE main difference between normative and progressive dispensationalism.) There is also the issue of sacrifices in the millennium.

Those who disagree with the Confession's teaching on the Sabbath often place heavy emphasis on Heb. 4 along with a few other passages in other epistles, but that's not necessarily a dispensational distinctive. There are a lot of Calvinistic Baptists who hold to neither dispensationalism nor covenantalism but who hold to what is called New Covenant Theology or NCT for short. They are almost always amils, (with a smattering of post trib premils here and there) but they reject the idea of one covenant of grace and therefore are unconfessional because the 1689 teaches one covenant of grace.

If by "dispensational" you mean that Hebrews is interpreted by some to teach a greater degree of discontinuity than what covenantalists (even Baptist covenant theologians) would allow, then you may be on to something. But use of the term dispensational in that context is confusing given the current debates. NCTers often place heavy emphasis on Hebrews, but it is one of the most problematic books for Dispensationalists. NCTers also at times seem to subsume all of the OT covenants (incl. Abrahamic) into "the Old Covenant" when as Daniel noted above, in this context it clearly refers to the Mosaic Covenant.

Hope that helps,
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks Josh and Chris for the responses.

Now, would covenant theology view the New Covenant as making the Abrahamic efficacious? or, was the Abrahamic efficacious in and of itself? (I'm not sure if "efficacious" is the right word to use here..).

Perhaps another illustration is whether the Abrahamic and New Covenants are different cash "pay-outs" from the same Covenant of Grace account?
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The covenants after the Covenant of Works are all adminstrations of the One Covenant of Grace.

Of God's Covenant with Man
Chapter 7 Westminster Confession of Faith.

Section IV.—This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

Section V.—This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.

Section 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 fullness, 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.
 

eqdj

Puritan Board Freshman
Tyler,


The Westminster Standards use "Covenant of Grace" and "New Covenant" interchangeably - Compare WLC 162 with WSC 92.
 
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