Understanding Covenant Theology #2

As I struggle to get a fuller understanding of Covenant Theology myself, I want to share with my readers what little nuggets of truth I might have captured along the way.  I will do some small posts – sound bites, if you will, geared toward helping my dispensational friends grasp the concepts at a very basic level.  This is not to insult those who might have an advanced understanding of the issues, but to help those that are like myself, needing concepts broken down into basic building blocks before I can see the whole.

And I would like to invite any experienced Covenant Theologians that may happen by to critique my work here so that we may all learn.

First of all, the thing to know about Covenant Theology (CT) and Dispensational Theology (DT), is that it is not so much about the idea of covenant against the idea of dispensation, but it is the idea of continuity or flow against the idea of discontinuity or stop/start. 

CT emphasizes the continuity of scripture — the flow, as a river is a single body of water, and flows from its head to its end.  DT emphasized the changes in scripture — like a river that flows but is quickly confronted by a dam which requires a major diversion of the flow before it continues.

But this does not mean that CT does not recognize changes, nor does it mean that DT does not recognize continuation.  The difference is in the emphasis and how those aspects fit into the puzzle as a whole.  For example, CTer’s often speak of dispensations, and likewise DTer’s often speak of covenants.  But when a CTer speaks of a “dispensation”, he may or may not be talking about a period of time, whereas a DTer is nearly always talking about a period of time.  CT recognizes that “dispensation” can mean either a period of time, but more often, it means to dispense or distribute in the working out of a commission or or tasking.  See Ephesians 3:2 for an example of this.

But let’s get back to the idea of flow and my example of a river.  Imagine a River named “Covenant”, and the head of this river is called “Grace”.  CT speaks of the “Covenant of Grace”, which is the single, continuous, unifying theme of the entire Bible.  We learn of this Covenant of Grace first of all in Genesis 3:15: 

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” 

This is the first time in the Bible we read of a promise from God to save His people.  “It shall bruise they head” is the promise to Adam and Eve and their believing descendants that Christ (the “seed”) would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), thereby silencing the “accuser of the brethren”.

Since God was not obligated to save Adam and Eve, the fact that he DID save them is called “grace”, hence, the Covenant of Grace.  From this point forward, the entire remainder of the Bible is the story of how God brings about the fulfillment of that Covenant.   

Let’s think about these things for now.  Here  are some things I will cover in coming installments:

– The covenant of redemption

– The covenant of works (both of which preceeded the covenant of grace)

–  The issue of discontinuity and “economy” in the dispensational view

–  How does the Law flow in the same direction as the Gospel

– To whom does the Covenant of Grace apply?


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