Part One dealt with the alleged agreements between the two covenant concepts, though neither the NCT’s own views of God’s Covenant with His Son, nor their erroneous presentation of Covenant Theology represent Biblical teaching. NCT’s dualistic view of the Testaments also affects their alleged disagreements with Covenant Theology as outlined in Theopaedia.
NCT alleged disagreements with Covenant Theology
1. The Church started at Pentecost, and there is therefore no “Church” as such in the Old Testament/Covenant.
One cannot separate the Church from the everlasting Covenant of Grace. This was preached and believed by the prophets in the Old Testament and also preached and believed by New Testament saints such as Zacharias, the Apostles and the author of Hebrews. God’s Covenant was made in eternity with the Son for eternity. The NCT claims this Covenant was merely post-Pentecostal. They hold that Christ had to ‘earn the right’ to his offices, which He then received as a reward,1 before the New Covenant could be established. This is Socinianism. At Pentecost, the faith of the Old Testament prophets was made available on a world-wide basis and shared with believing Gentiles as their new inheritance, thus the covenant was not commenced here but extended. The Pentecost message came to the Jews first authorising them to preach the faith held by the patriarchs and prophets to ‘all flesh’. However NCT’s Tom Wells and Randy Seiver tell us that Old Testament references to believing patriarchs are merely figurative and for ‘prophets’ we must ‘read ‘New Testament prophets only’.2 So the NCT church has no Old Testament beginnings because God’s Covenant in that dispensation applied only to temporary land promises. They ban both Jews and Non-Jews from salvation in the OT, claiming pre-Jewish Patriarchs were merely physical pointers to spiritual things to come in a post-Jewish era. Thus the Jewish prophets predicted a salvation which neither they nor their hearers could understand and believe, so Christ had no saving function for them. Yet Randy Seiver writes of Christ, ‘As our prophet, He is faithful over the Household of God’, giving Old Testament Deuteronomy 18:18-19 as evidence. He then relates this to Hebrews 3:2-6.3 Here, unwittingly, a saving continuation is admitted between the Testaments. Siever obviously associates Christ with God’s Household in the OT which the author to the Hebrews associates with the Church. However, Seiver rejects the only conclusion his OT-NT comparison affords. Furthermore, Hebrews 11:2 teaches that the OT saints’ faith was ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’. Yet in his overview of Hebrews 11, Seiver claims that the OT saints had no actual saving faith. All they looked for was earthly enjoyment in Canaan because they could not see the fulfilment of the promises.4 This contradicts Heb. 11:
‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them,5 and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly: where God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.’
Heb. 11:1 claims that Christians live by faith and not direct sight. This chapter depicts our OT fathers in the faith living in fellowship with Christ and the Old Testament saints being made perfect with those of the New. We are told Abraham, ‘looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God’. This links with 1 Cor. 3:11 concerning the foundations which no man can lay but Jesus Christ. Chapter 12 then tells us that these patriarchs and prophets teach us to keep ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,’ so that the gentiles may become ‘fellow-heirs of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel.’6 Instead, Reisinger claims that Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, did not father any faithful in Old Testament times. According to his theory, Abraham can only have given birth to his heirs in the faith after first ‘realising hope’ in Limbo over 1,400 years after his death.7 I first encountered this proto-NCT Limbo teaching in 1994, Then, however, they argued that Christ visited the Patriarchs in Limbo after Calvary and before Pentecost. Reisinger says that the Patriarchs’ hope ‘was not realised until Calvary and Pentecost’,8 thus merging old and new NCT teaching. Modern NCT authors now differ from Reisinger on fundamental issues.9 According to Scripture, ‘realised hope’ is rendered by faith and not by sensory perception. We post-Pentecostal saints are also saved by faith and not sight.
The NCT cannot envisage God directly acting from eternity both in Old Testament and New Testament times.10 They say this would be placing salvation in a past eternity whereas God’s justification of His elect is in post-OT time only. Christians do not believe in an Old Testament god who is different from the God of the New. There is no such thing as ‘past eternity’, and Christ is the author and finisher of the faith of all He died on behalf of past, present, future and eternity Salvation was not prepared for us in time but in eternity from where God always acts. Thus the NCT expression ‘eternity future’ has also no validity.
2. Rejects the three “theological covenants” often espoused (with some variation) in Covenant Theology, viz. the covenants of redemption, works, grace.
NCT does not reject these characteristics of God’s Covenant, but separates, re-dates, re-shuffles, re-names and re-interprets them according to NCT Eschatology. Indeed, New Covenant Theology name far more covenants than their opponents. Though the NCT objects to being called ‘Dispensationalist’, Wells is certainly Hyper-Dispensational in his theology, merely replacing ‘dispensations’ by ‘covenants’. He postulates numerous dispensational covenants depicting different periods of revelation to emphasise that God’s covenant relation with man was always discontinuous. New Covenant Theology is Multi-Covenant Dispensationalism. The list of cut-up Biblical references to ‘Covenant’ in Wells’ appendix does not support what the book teaches. Furthermore, Wells argues from human covenants to divine ones, which is the wrong way round.11
Wells and Zaspel refer to God’s Covenant of Grace only twice in their 324 page book, dismissing it for two untenable reasons. The first (p. 3) is that Zwingli invented the phrases ‘Covenant of Grace’ and ‘Covenant Theology’ to help him fight the Täufer movement, thus giving theology a new rational, hermeneutic approach to Scripture. The second (p. 45) is where the authors argue correctly that ‘God has a single purpose of redemption running through history’ but conclude wrongly that thus ‘a mistake has been made in speaking of this purpose as ‘the Covenant of Grace.’’ They go on to say, ‘The reason for this is simple: in the NT the word covenant is almost always used to assert discontinuity,’ i.e. Dispensationalism again.
Zwingli was not the first to use the term ‘Covenant of Grace’ which already had a centuries-long history. Thus it did not develop out of confrontations with the different covenantal views of the twelve or so Täufer groups of around 1520-27. Fully Reformed Bullinger’s covenant teaching predated Zwingli’s lesser work by several years but Zwingli had begged him to withhold it until he published himself. Bullinger emphasised that the Mosaic Law still leads to conviction of sin. Even before Bullinger, Oecolampadius had taught that the covenant of grace was made in eternity between the Father and the Son. The highly conflicting pre-Reformed Catabaptist religio-political and anarchistic views of the fifteen-twenties cannot possibly be identified with the English Particular Baptist Fathers and modern Reformed Baptists, nor with today’s NCT.
Reisinger has understandably reacted to a faulty Covenant Theology which sees Israel according to the flesh as the Body of Christ12 and believes that covenant promises are to Christian parents only,13 but most of Reisinger’s opponents do not teach this. NCT writers claim I personally believe such nonsense, though my articles prove otherwise. Reisinger maintains that Covenant Theologians believe the Jews were a redeemed people en bloc who experienced spiritually salvation.14 Yet when covenant believers rightly deny this, Reisinger accuses them of being inconsistent with themselves. However, rather than reject the terms ‘Covenant of Redemption’ and ‘Covenant of Grace’, which Baptist John Gill sees as synonyms, Reisinger says that Covenant Theologians confuse the two.15 If these terms are erroneous, indeed, meaningless, why does he use them himself and accuse others of confusing them? However, when Reformed believers insist that God’s covenant promises are to believing pre-Jewish Abraham and his seed and subsequently to believing Gentiles and their seed, Reisinger accuses them of ‘twisting words’.16
Genesis 17:7 clearly speaks of the everlasting covenant with Abraham to establish a People of God, which is, according to Hebrews 11 and 12 a covenant leading souls from earth to Heaven; from time into eternity. Reisinger argues that, ‘we only know what Abraham understood by what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us in NT Scriptures. We could read the life of Abraham in Genesis for a million years and never find out what is revealed in Hebrews 11:8-10.’17 Reisinger appears to believe that though we know with hindsight that Abraham was safe in Christ and after Pentecost would experience true Christian experience, Abraham did not know this himself in his life-time. This, of course, contradicts not only God’s OT revelation but also Christ’s own NT testimony, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad (John 8:56). Jesus’ words, of course, were pre-Pentecostal! All Scripture is Spirit-breathed not just the NT!
3. Sees the Mosaic Law as only a means of blessing in Canaan.
This is in keeping with NCT’s dispensational redefinitions of Mosaic Law and Canaan. NCT opposes those who will not accept NCT Newspeak as a valid theological language. Anyway, who describes the Mosaic Law as only blessings? Not sinners, surely! Law breaking brings death. However the twelve tribes were put under the Law before they set foot in the Promised Land. It still spoke to them after the kingdom split up; when they were exiled, and in the Diaspora, too. It still tells every sinner today, that the wages of sin is death. The Mosaic Law was not abolished by Christ but Christ placed himself under the Law to redeem His Bride from all times, nations and climes. Christ was vicariously punished according to the Mosaic Law and it is in Christ alone that we keep all that it teaches. However, Moses still points a finger of condemnation at all sinners unless Christ comes by and declares that He has suffered the just penalty for them.
4. The Mosaic Law is fulfilled with the advent of Christ and the New Covenant; New Covenant believers are under the Law of Christ 1 Cor 9:21):
As we believe that Christ is the One Lawgiver and Moses was Christ’s law spokesman not a lawgiver in his own right, we also believe that Christ fulfils the Law but does not destroy it as it still condemns those outside of Christ and indeed, is used by the Spirit to drive sinners in despair to Christ. Christ still fulfils it for us and in us. The idea that Christ founded a new law is sheer Neonomian. The idea of two different laws is Marcionite.
5. All hold to credobaptism:
If NCT means by this all NCT members are Baptists, it no longer figures. If they mean all Baptists are NCT, it does not figure at all. NCT tells Baptists that they can only be true Baptists if they join the NCT. The works of Particular Baptist fathers such as Gill, Booth, Brine and Ryland and this Christian magazine (New Focus) refute such hype.
6. The Holy Spirit worked differently in the Old Covenant than in the New (the Spirit now indwells believers):
This is a catch. The NCT teaches that there is a different Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. The Old Testament Eloim for New Covenant Theology is a mere Demiurge. Why mention just the Holy Spirit? According to NCT, God does not save and justify in the Old Testament and the Son has no offices in the Old Testament. NCT rejects the soteriological role of the Trinity in the Old Testament. The New Testament clearly shows that Father, Son and Holy Spirit worked savingly in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit was truly at work in the OT from His activity at creation to His presence with the saints, as David testifies. If we believe orthodox, Biblical teaching that Christ’s work on the cross in the fullness of time radiates throughout all time, then we must believe that Abraham’s trust in Christ was not without the Spirit’s motivation which Scripture teaches. Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever. Rather than have a different God, we know more about the Only God now. This is seen at Pentecost where the Old Testament flows into the New and the Covenant is continued (Acts 2:16-36). Indeed, If Peter’s and Hebrew’s emphasis on what the long dead prophets believed is not proof of God’s continued Covenant of Grace, what is?
So, too, Luke’s gospel begins before Pentecost with Zacharias filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking of God’s plan of salvation from the beginning of the world and of those who ‘remember His holy covenant’. There is no talk of discontinuity here. Zacharias is not saying that this is all meaningless to his contemporaries and will only mean something after Pentecost. Zacharias, whilst in the Spirit, says God swore an oath to Abraham and will never break it. This is proof indeed that God’s covenant with His Son was as continuous as God’s immutability, omniscience and omnipotence. These passages displease NCT doubting Toms. Tom Wells even denies God’s clear testimony to His Word in 2 Tim. 3 concerning Timothy’s upbringing,18 arguing that OT Scripture such as Moses Law was merely for a specific people for a specific time but is now redundant so we cannot take Paul’s account of Timothy literally. ‘No Christian believes 2 Timothy 3:16-17’, he says. However, Paul, putting doubting Tom Wells in his place, tells Timothy ‘from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ Paul is speaking of the Bible of Christ and the Apostles and the Early Church’s inheritance. This was the Old Testament from which they preached salvation. Wells, however, cannot accept a New Testament salvation preached from the Old Testament. The New Testament reveals that God’s Covenant is at work throughout all times and thus we pray, ‘Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.’19
- See Reisinger’s Christ the Lord of the Church, p. 1-2 and Christ: Lord and Lawgiver Over the Church, p. 7. and Abraham’s Four Seeds, p. 58. ↩
- New Covenant Theology, Wells and Zaspel, pp. 52-53. ↩
- In These Last Days, page 237. ↩
- Pages 96-97. ↩
- My emphasis. ↩
- Ephesians 3:6. ↩
- Abraham’s Four Seeds, pp. 111-112. ↩
- Ibid, p. 111. ↩
- Revealed law; natural law; moral law, how Abraham came to faith; continuing usefulness of OT; which laws were rescinded which not. See also Well’s criticism of Reisinger in New Covenant Theology p. 188. ↩
- Ephesians 3:9-11. ↩
- New Covenant Theology, Appendix III. ↩
- Abraham’s Four Seeds, p. 19. ↩
- Ibid, p. 144. ↩
- Ibid, p. 17. ‘Spiritual salvation’ is Reisinger’s term forced on covenant theologians. ↩
- Ibid, p. 37, fn. 14. ↩
- Ibid, p. 144. ↩
- Abraham’s Four Seeds, p.p. 92-95. ↩
- New Covenant Theology, pp. 85, 201. ↩
- Ephesians 3:21. ↩
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