WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CHARACTERISTICS OF NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY?
Dr. Gary D. Long
As presented at the 29TH annual Sovereign Grace
October 9, 2004
New Covenant Theology is a developing system of
theology that provides a more biblical way to interpret the
Scriptures. It is based upon a redemptive history approach to
understanding the fulfillment of God's eternal kingdom purpose on
earth. Its principles of interpretation, i.e., its hermeneutic,
are based upon a biblical theology that stresses the theology of
the Bible itself. NCT challenges the basic theological
presuppositions of the Covenant of Grace system of Covenant
Theology and the two redemptive purposes of Dispensational
Theology. The driving motive of NCT is BACK TO THE BIBLE. NCT
emphasizes the inductive study of the Bible. A major
objective of NCT is that its hermeneutic will help bring doctrinal
unity in this sin-wrecked world by breaking down the middle
walls of doctrinal partition that exist within the
theological systems of Covenant Theology (CT) and Dispensational
Theology (DT). The following is a partial list of NCT
The discernment of the Holy spirit is
absolutely essential for accurately handling the Word of God
(I Cor. 2:13-14; II Tim. 2:15) and that the most important
principle of interpretation is contextual exegesis.
Contextual biblical exegesis demands grammatical / historical
/ theological principles of interpretation.
The imputation of Adam's first sin is to
all mankind (Rom. 5:12d, 18a-19a), the elects' sins to Christ
(II Cor. 5:21), and Christ's righteousness to the elect (Rom.
5:18b-19b) are vital for the Christian faith. Without the
doctrine of imputation the whole doctrine of the
substitutionary atonement and justification by faith alone in
Christ alone are undermined (Rom. 5:12-19).
The Law of God is both absolute and
covenantal (Matt. 5:17-20). God's absolute law is
innate, written on the heart of man created in the image of
God. It is God's unchanging standard of righteousness. God's covenantal
law, however, is written and changeable according to the
covenant being administered.
The love of God and the love of neighbor
are the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:36-40) upon which
the whole Law and the Prophets hang. This means that the Ten
Commandments, the Decalogue, hang upon these two greatest
commandments, not the reverse as CT teaches.
The Fourth Commandment, the Sabbath
commandment, being the sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Exod.
31:15-17), is not a creation ordinance as taught by CT.
The Ten Commandments are not eternal
moral law first written in the heart of man at creation and
forever binding upon all mankind as CT teaches in its
confessions of faith e.g., the Westminster Confession of Faith
(WCF) and the 1689 Confession. In fact, the term moral
law does not occur in the Bible. Although under any
given covenantal administration, man is morally obligated to
obey all of God's commandments, yet the Bible does not
separate God's law into three parts: moral, ceremonial and
civil. Historically, this threefold separation was not
substantially taught until the time of Thomas Aquinas in the
13th century and in the 16th century by Calvin.
The law of Christ is not to be equated
with the Decalogue. Although the law of Christ, the law of the
NC people of God, is related to the Decalogue in that it
incorporates nine of the Ten Commandments, the law of Christ
is a better law than the law of Moses (Matt. 5:21-48; Heb.
7:19) because (1) it is a higher revelation of the
righteousness of God (Matt: 5:20); (2) it is based upon a
higher standard of love (Matt. 4:44); and, (3) Christ's
inauguration of the New Covenant brings in things that are
qualitatively newer, expressed in developing the
theological significance of such basic concepts as new
wineskins, new teaching, new commandment, new creation, new
man, new name, new song, new Jerusalem and all things new
The Church, which is the body of Christ
(Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), was first formed in history when
the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost not in past history
under the OC. Most holding to CT see the Church existing in
the OT before Pentecost. NCT does not. Contrary to DT, NCT
sees only one redemptive purpose for the people of God, which
is the Church, the good olive tree (Rom. 11), the body of
Christ (Eph. 2:13-22; 3:1-12).
The ordinance of water baptism is the
pledge of membership in the New Covenant for believers alone
and the sign of the New Covenant is not baptism, rather the
sign is the cup, which memorializes the New Covenant in
Christ's blood (I Cor. 11:25).
The now-not yet principle of
interpretation is essential to understand the teaching of the
NT. The Christian experiences the commencement of every
spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph.
1:3), yet he still awaits the consummation of these blessings
at Christ's return. The End has come! The End has not come!
The whole theology of the NT is qualified by this tension:
between the already or now and the not
yet (I John 3:2).
ADDITIONAL SOURCES REGARDING NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY
The Sound of Grace
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