As I began my study of Covenant Theology many things stuck out to me as I read through the different Reformed Confessions. I will write about one of these things here today, which is the claim that the New Covenant is not really new at all. The idea is that the New Covenant prophesied in Jeremiah, and consummated in the New Testament by Christ, was really just an expansion or renewal of the Abrahamic Covenant. Which means that the New Covenant while in a sense being new, was not new in the way we use the term today.
Concerning the Covenant of Grace, the Westminster Confession of Faith 7.5 says…
“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 foresignifying 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.”
and in 7.6…
“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.”
In making every Old Testament covenant the actual Covenant of Grace, those that subscribe to Westminster Confession must say that the New Covenant is not really new at all. But this raises many concerns. One is that the scriptures teach that the New Covenant is in fact, new.
Jeremiah 31:31 says…
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…”
Hebrews 8:6 says…
“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.”
Hebrews 8:7 says that the Old Covenant was faulty, therefore…
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.”
For those of you that are familiar with me, you would be well aware that I am not interested in bringing anything new to the table…no pun intended. 😉 If all I am ever known for is being the guy that points you to the guy, I would be completely fine with that. Whether that is pointing people to Christ as I share the wonderful Gospel, or as in this case, pointing you to scholars who have already written about the same inconsistency I have mentioned here (and then some), and have already done so in a manner far better than I ever could.
In the book A Reformed Baptist Manifesto – The New Covenant Constitution of the Church, Richard Barcellos, and Sam Waldron speak concerning this inconsistency in great detail. In chapter 4 of the book, they explain the paedobaptist system which produces this result and then contrast that with what the scriptures teach. Three main points are used to do this…
The Emphasized Dissimilarity of the New Covenant
The Precise Superiority of the New Covenant
The Ultimate Fulfillment of the New Covenant
In their conclusion, Barcellos, and Waldron take into account the broader implications of what Jeremiah 31 teaches about Church membership or membership in the New Covenant. Their concluding 5 paragraphs are as follows…
We see the utter folly of placing any confidence in our having been baptized as infants into the church of the New Covenant.
We see the absolute and binding duty of being baptized as a believer.
We see the crucial importance of maintaining biblical standards of Church membership.
We see the unchanging qualifications for biblical Church membership.
We see, finally, the glorious blessing of membership in a true church.
This book has been a helpful resource for my study of the covenants. Not only is the book a compact size, enabling me to place it in my back pocket in case the wife wants to make her daily stop at the Dollar Tree, but its contrast of the new constitution of the church and paedobaptism is just one of four chapters. The authors also critique Dispensationalism, Antimomiamism, and Arminianism. Whether you’re on a journey trying to learn about covenant theology, Arminianism, dispensationalism, or the like, or perhaps would love to challenge your own tradition I encourage you to read this book.
A Reformed Baptist Manifesto can be purchased here:
The book is currently out of stock at RBAP, but the link is below. Word on the street is if you apply a little pressure to the publisher he will get some more copies on the RBAP shelves. 😉