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Copyright © February 9, 2018
This chapter will not examine Covenant Theology in detail, but some explanation is necessary. Some information will repeat some of the concepts already discussed. This study is primarily concerned with Covenant Theology, as practiced in the American colonies by established churches and the resulting unbiblical practices including persecution of dissenters.
Covenant Theology is “a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of two or three covenants,” the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. Covenant Theology began as a system in the 16th or 17th century and was introduced into America primarily through the Puritans.[i] One version of Covenant Theology combines the Covenant of Redemption with the Covenant of Grace. Covenant Theology teaches that God established the Covenant of Redemption in eternity past when God determined to provide redemption during the course of history for the elect. This Covenant placed requirements on the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father gave the Son the responsibility of paying for the sin of Adam and His elect (those the Father had given Him). He could do that by keeping the law thereby assuring eternal life for His children.[ii]
According to Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace came after God created man. These covenants are deduced by Covenant Theologians and are not specified in Scripture. The Covenant of Works was established between the creation and fall of man. It required “implicit and perfect obedience of Adam.”[iii] Adam broke the Covenant of Works after which God established the Covenant of Grace.
The Covenant of Grace has been defined as “that gracious agreement between the offended God and the offending but elect sinner, in which God promises salvation through faith in Christ, and the sinner accepts this believingly, promising a life of faith and obedience.”[iv] God is the first party to the covenant, and, depending upon the theologian, the second party is the sinner, the elect, or the elect sinner in Christ. Some people who never become regenerate are included in the Covenant of Grace since it exists as both ‘a communion of life’ experienced by only the regenerate and as a ‘purely legal relationship’ experienced by both believers and their children.
The children of believers experience the Covenant of Grace as a legal relationship in four ways: They are in the Covenant (1) “as far as their responsibility [to repent and believe] is concerned;” (2) “in the sense that they may lay claim to the promises which God gave when He established His covenant with believers and their seed;” (3) “in the sense that they are subject to the ministrations of the covenant;” and (4) “as far as the common covenant blessings are concerned.” A person who is a child of the regenerate is regarded as a member of the covenant even if he does not enter into the communion of life aspect through a confession of faith.[v]
[i] Showers, pp. 7-8; Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 183-184.
[ii] See, e.g., Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, New Jersey: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), p. 9.
[iii] Showers., p. 10; see also, Ryrie, pp. 188-189.
[iv] Showers, pp. 10-11; see also, Ryrie, p. 184 citing Berkhof, p. 277.
[v] Showers, pp. 11-13.