Vol: 109 Issue: 26 Tuesday, October 26, 2010
This morning, I received the following email from a fellow who signed his name “Pastor” Steve. I am always a bit wary of those who sign off a personal email with their title and their first name. It seems like a contrived formality.
“Pastor” is the honorific bestowed upon the leader of a local church. It identifies a person as the shepherd over a particular flock. I’m not sure how it is relevant outside the local church.
In any case, Pastor Steve was writing to address a column he read recently and he didn’t mince any words in the process.
“You misrepresent Calvinism to try and prove “dispensationalism” which is a man made theory that distorts the truth that people have always been saved by grace through faith. You are a false teacher who are [sic] not even honest enough to share the truth about Calvinism, but distort it to prove your point. You will have to answer to God for your twisted views of Scripture. Pastor Steve”
(I’m surprised he didn’t sign it “in Christian love”.)
Since Pastor Steve didn’t identify which column he was taking umbrage with or specify the untruths about Calvinism that I had distorted, or how my views of Scripture were twisted, I don’t know exactly what his point is, other than he apparently rejects dispensationalism, since he offset it with quotes.
In the mid 1600s a theologian named Johannes Cocceius introduced the one-covenant-of-grace idea, giving rise to the belief that God has but one objective insofar as His interaction with human beings is concerned.
But it does not necessarily follow that because there is only one righteous ground upon which God can deal graciously with sinners, that there must be but one covenant relationship between God and man.
God has earthly, as well as heavenly purposes, transforming blessings adapted to each group and the sphere to which they belong. God has made various covenants with Israel. Some are conditional and some are unconditional.
Conditional covenants are those that require human faithfulness; unconditional covenants are those in which God simply declares what He will do, completely apart from the question of either human worthiness or faithfulness.
The Scriptures identify nine separate covenants entered into between God and man on this earth. It is via these nine covenants that all Scripture binds together.
The Edenic Covenant: This covenant conditioned unfallen man’s life at Eden and is in seven parts. In essence, it placed humanity at the center as the focal point of God’s creation. It was an unconditional covenant on God’s part. On Adam’s part, remaining in fellowship with God demanded obedience.
The Adamic Covenant: This was God’s covenant with Adam after the Fall – it is also in seven parts. Adam’s unbelief and disobedience resulted in the failure of the Edenic covenant, which resulted in “death being passed upon all men” and the need for a Redeemer to come.
The Noahic Covenant: This was God’s seven-part covenant with Noah for governing live after the flood. The Noahic covenant otherwise known as the covenant of preservation, was “a renewal of the provisions of creation, and even reflected closely the language of the original covenant.” (Genesis 9:9-11)
The Abrahamic Covenant: This is the first formal covenant between God and a people, rather than with persons, as before. It is a covenant between God and Abraham’s seed.
God not only made this covenant with Abraham but also with Isaac and Jacob, which not only included the promises of the previous covenants (Edenic, Adamic and Noahic) but expanded upon them.
God assured Abraham of his covenant by his instructions to present certain animals in a particular form to God (Gen. 15:7-9). These instructions were exactly in the form of a covenant that might take place between two men.
Abraham halved the animals placing the halves opposite each other, except the bird which he killed but did not divide (Gen. 15:10-11).
As Abraham slept, the Lord came as a “blazing torch” (Gen. 15:17), passed in between the animals, and established a covenant that could never be annulled (Gal 3:15-17).
This act symbolized the participants pledged to the other total commitment, and that if that was to be broken “they were asking that their own bodies be torn in pieces just as the animals had been divided ceremonially.”
In other words, if the covenant was broken, somebody had to die. Since God pass through the aisles alone, only God was judicially capable of redeeming the covenant. 2000 years later, God stepped out of eternity and into time and space in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ kept the terms of the covenant, and was therefore guiltless of violating it. That made Him the only One qualified to pay the debt incurred, since He had no debt obligation of His own to satisfy.
When He paid the penalty for Abraham and his seed, He also opened up a way for Gentiles to enter into their own covenant relationship with Him. But it was all set in motion by God’s covenant with Abraham, without which, it could not have been.
The Abrahamic covenant is an unconditional, seven part covenant.
- “I will make of thee a great nation”
- “And I will bless thee.”
- “And make thy name great”
- “And thou shalt be a blessing”
- “And I will bless them that bless thee”
- “And curse him that curse thee”
- “And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
The Mosaic Covenant: The Mosaic Covenant is made between God and Israel alone. But the Law was given Israel, not as a means of redemption or to atain a covenant relationship with God, but rather because Israel is already in a right relationship with God as a redeemed nation — under God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham.
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. “(Romans 11:26)
Replacement theology claims the blessings of the Old Covenant relationship with God, often including the Ten Commandments.
It is obvious that the Commandments were never intended to address Christians but for some reason there are those within the Church that cannot understand that the saints of God in the age of Grace cannot be under the Law.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14)
The covenant of the Law was not made with the Church. It was not made with the Gentiles. It is a covenant agreement entered into by God and the Israelites fleeing Egypt. There are two sides to a covenant agreement, even an unconditional covenant agreement.
The Church cannot be under a Covenant agreement made between God and Israel. That’s why the Reformers spiritualized Israel into meaning “the Church.”
It seemed to make sense – when there was no Israel. Which brings us to the sixth covenant.
The Palestinian Covenant: The sixth covenant, also expressed in seven parts, set out the conditions of Israel’s relationship to the Promised Land. The Land will be for them an everlasting possession and to it they were prophesied to return.
The Palestinian Covenant is unconditional – it cannot be broken, transferred or otherwise abrogated. (Not even by order of the Vatican’s Middle East Synod.)
The Davidic Covenant: The seventh covenant is with David and it is set forth in but five parts.
- David’s posterity will fail not – there will always be a member of the line of David.
- David’s throne is established forever; Israel will never have a King from any other lineage.
- David’s kingdom or sphere of rule, will also last forever.
- The line of David will never lack a son
- The Messiah will be a direct descendant of King David.
The Kingdom Covenant: This is the eighth covenant – also established with Israel. It conditions their life in the Kingdom during the Millennial Reign. God tells Jeremiah that this is a “New Covenant” – one that both replaces and yet includes parts of the Mosaic Covenant.
Are you starting to see where this leads? God has entered into nine different covenant agreements with mankind. Each covenant contract was presented by God to mankind, who was then free to accept or reject God’s covenant promise.
Once entered into, however, a covenant agreement is forever.
Every covenant that God made with His people demonstrated his grace and mercy, each one being unique and all being interrelated, progressively revealing and pointing toward the new covenant which fulfilled all of the earlier covenants and itself — equating to the great everlasting covenant.
I said there are nine covenants between God and mankind. Note that each one formed a progressive revelation from God. God revealed more of Himself and His plan to mankind with each successive covenant agreement.
The first three were between God and named individuals; Adam and Eve, Adam and later, Noah. The next five were between God and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant at the Cross, introducing the ninth covenant, the New Covenant, and not with the Jews only, but with all mankind.
The Abrahamic Covenant was not abrogated – it was fulfilled – but it is still in force. The seed of Abraham continue to bless the nations of the world. It was through the Abrahamic Covenant that the Lord introduced the New Covenant blessing of salvation by grace through faith.
The New Covenant, established in His Blood, is irrevocable but not unconditional. To enter into the New Covenant, one must personally receive the gift of salvation obtained for them at the Cross. Every person is free to reject the offer and stand before the Lord clothed in his own righteousness.
Ok, so what are the take-away facts here?
First, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God cannot take back His covenant relationship with Israel and God cannot transfer it to the Church. To do either would make God a liar.
Secondarily, transferring Israel’s blessings to the Church is redundant. The Church has its own Covenant relationship and combining it with Israel’s makes salvation by grace through faith impossible.
Israel’s new covenant rests on the sovereign “I will” of God. The new covenant for the Church is written in Christ’s Blood.
Put another way, everything that the Abrahamic Covenant promises to Israel in the future, the Church already possesses, and infinitely more.
Looking at the Nine Covenants of God one sees that God was, is and always will be a promise-keeping God. God always keeps His promises—irrespective of persons – and the gifts and calling of God is without repentance – God didn’t change His mind about the national redemption of Israel.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:27-30)
Replacement theology seems simple enough, on the surface. If one doesn’t know what the Bible teaches about covenant relationships, it is easy to believe that God got so mad at the Jews over Jesus that He washed His Hands of them and passed their covenant blessings along to the Church.
It’s a little harder to buy into that nonsense when you read what the Bible says about it.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)
“Lest we be wise in our own conceits” — that sums it up nicely.