I am reposting this since
It is very important: It is from: http://breusswane.blogspot.com/2011/05/what-is-new-covenant-theology.html
What is New Covenant Theology?
Here’s an update to an ongoing work in progress. The
recently concluded 2011 John Bunyan Conference in Lewisburg, PA was a good place
to think about these things, and an update to this project was a necessary
outcome. Again, I am indebted to John Reisinger, Gary Long, Fred Zaspel, Steve
West, and Blake White for some of the verbiage contained herein.
What is New Covenant Theology?
Friday, May 06, 2011
Interpretation of the Bible
- New Covenant Theology insists on the priority of
Jesus Christ over all things, including history, revelation, and
redemption. New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the
understanding and meaning of all reality.
- Jesus Christ, who reigns in heaven, has not only
reached the goal of history and its reality, he Himself is the goal of
history and reality, giving meaning to all that has occurred in human
history and will occur in human history. Since it is Christ who gives
meaning to human history, he is the One who interprets all of the deeds
and acts of God in history.
- Special revelation, comprised of the 66 books that we
call the Sacred Scriptures, not only informs us about God, but redeems us
and makes God present to us, focusing on the person and work of Jesus.
- New Covenant Theology interprets Scripture after the
manner of Christ’s and the New Testament writers’ use of the Old
Testament. Jesus and the inspired New Testament writers, by their use of
the Old Testament Scriptures, have left us a pattern by which to interpret
not only the Old Testament prophecies, but its history and poetry.
- The way that Jesus, the Apostles, and the prophets
used the Old Testament is normative for this age.
- All of the Old Testament scriptures are inherently
prophetic in that the entire Old Testament, the Law, the Psalms, and the
Prophets, point forward to and anticipate the WORD Incarnate, Jesus Christ
(Hebrews 1:1-2). New Covenant Theology presumes that Jesus Christ, in his
person and his saving acts, is the hermeneutic center of the Bible.
- A careful study of the way Jesus and the New
Testament writers understand and write about the Old Testament shows that
the Old Testament’s anticipated Messiah (and His work) is revealed in the
types and shadows of the revelation of the Old Testament, both in God’s
speech-revelation and God’s acts.
- The Old Testament Scriptures are God’s revelation of
Himself as the eventual Messiah in Word and Deed, or in Speech and Act. In
the Old Testament, divine activity accompanies divine speech, and vice
versa, prophetically foreshadowing the activity and work of the coming
Messiah. In the revelation of God’s word and deeds, the Old Testament
provides the eschatological and salvation context for the person and work
- Because the Word and its accompanying events are
anticipating the coming of the seed of the Woman, Messiah, the Old
Testament is thoroughly typological. Old Testament events, persons, and
institutions have a typological relationship to Jesus, the antitype. Jesus
Christ, the antitype, is the final, climactic expression of all God
ideally intended through the types in the Old Testament.
- The Old Testament, including its types, Israel’s
history, and revelation, betrays an organic progress of history moving
toward its end in Christ. Old Testament history is God’s revelation of the
history of salvation proceeding toward its full realization in Jesus Christ.
Each era of the Old Testament is both interconnected with and builds on
the era preceding it, with all of the eras and their metanarrative finding
their culmination in the Christ era, the end of days, the age to come. As
history and revelation progress through the Old Testament toward their
goal in Christ, there is increasing intensity in the types and increasing
illumination of the nature and work of the Messiah.
- All of the Old Testament authors are writing from a
Messianic consciousness. The Old Testament Scriptures are thoroughly
Messianic, and therefore interpretation of the Old Testament is
comprehensively Christocentric and Christological. Jesus provides the
fullest and final meaning to the Old Testament scriptures because all of
the Old Testament Scriptures are about Jesus. Christ is the endpoint for
the types and the shadows because those types and shadows in their
original form were ultimately about Him. All of God’s activities and works
recorded in the Old Testament revelation are ultimately saying something
about the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. This does not mean every verse
is about Jesus, but it does mean that Christ and the Christ event are the
context for every passage in the Old Testament.
- The Old Covenant scriptures, what we call The Old
Testament, are to be interpreted in the light of their new covenant
fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only the interpretive key to
understanding the Old Testament; the terminology of the Old Testament must
be understood through and defined in light of Christ’s fulfillment. The
New Testament scriptures bear witness to the Christ event (Christ’s life,
death, resurrection, exaltation) and interpret the Old Testament through
the lens of that Christ event.
- The Old Testament scriptures, its words, and its
deeds are thoroughly and intentionally eschatological. The end of all
things in Christ is always imposing itself into the present, and this is
true of the Old Testament age and its revelation.
- The New Testament scriptures provide a definitive
interpretation of the Old Testament. The end and goal of all things in
Christ gives meaning to and provides interpretation for all that precedes
it. The New Testament use of the Old Testament presumes the hermeneutical
and eschatological priority of the Christ event in interpreting the Old
Testament. The New Testament use of the Old Testament shows that the New
Testament authors are interpreting the Old Testament in a way that the Old
Testament events, persons, institutions, and Scriptures have found their
fulfillment and final goal in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
- New Covenant Theology is based upon a
redemptive-historical approach to interpreting the Bible, understanding
the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Jesus Christ as they are
progressively unfolding from Genesis to Revelation.
- The rhythm of the redemptive history and revelation
of the Old Testament scriptures occurs in the form of Promise and
Fulfillment. Just as the Word accompanies and interprets God’s salvific
events in the Old Testament, so too Promise is consistently and faithfully
followed by fulfillment. This divinely orchestrated pattern that threads
together the events and revelation of the Old Testament becomes, for the
New Testament authors, the pattern by which he has interpreted the Person
and Work and Word of Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah – the Yes and Amen
— who fulfills, or fills up, the meaning of all of the Old Testament
- The New Covenant, Jesus Christ, has inaugurated the
New Covenant age which is the hermeneutical context for the New Testament
scriptures. The New Testament authors are operating with a presumption
that they are living in the New Covenant age. New Testament writers bear
witness to the Christ and the Christ event with a belief that the old
covenants of the Old Testament have given way to a new and better
Covenant, Who fulfills (fills up) their meaning to its fullest.
- Obsolescence is a fundamental hermeneutical
principle in interpreting the Old Testament through the New Covenant lens
of the New Testament. The obsolescence of the Old Testament types and
shadows, including the covenants, is grounded in the emergence and
inauguration of the New Covenant in Christ.
- New Covenant Theology presumes that the “now-not
yet” principle of interpretation is essential to understand the teaching
of the NT.
- The organic historical connection, and the
Christocentric unity that exists between the Old and New Covenants,
guarantees the usefulness of the Old Testament for the church.
- In the term New Covenant Theology we declare
that God, for his own delight, has revealed himself and manifested his
glory ultimately in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and his complete
and perfect work on the Cross through which he has established a New
Covenant in his blood. (Heb. 7:22; 8:6; 9:11; 10:14)
- The pinnacle of God’s unfolding revelation comes to
us in the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ himself, by the New Testament
- The two testaments proclaim the same Christocentric
message, but from differing standpoints.
- The New Covenant documents, interpretive of and
informed by the Old Covenant documents, are binding for the new people of
God until the end of this age.
- God’s plan to glorify himself in Jesus Christ
through the redemption of his people is revealed and administered through
the unfolding of biblical covenants in the flow of redemptive history.
- God’s promise of the New Covenant was that the
Messiah would be Himself the embodiment of an everlasting covenant with
His people. This promise, typified in the covenants, is fulfilled in
Christ. (Is. 42:6-9; 43:19; 45:21-25; 46:9-13).
- The Old and New Covenants are two different
covenants in terms of both form and function. The one is an administration
of death, and the other is an administration of life (2 Cor. 3:6-8).
- The New Covenant is distinct from, while typified
by, previous covenants in the Old Testament. The New Covenant, personified
by and having put on flesh and blood in Christ, fulfills all previous
covenants making them obsolete, including the Abrahamic and Sinaitic
- Christ has fulfilled the Adamic, Noaic, Abrahamic,
Mosaic, and Davidic covenants in his life, death, resurrection, and
exaltation. While he has completely fulfilled them, they yet will be
consummated in him in the New Heavens and New Earth.
- The New Covenant is a new covenant in its own right.
The New Covenant is not the Abrahamic Covenant or a recapitulation of the
Abrahamic Covenant. The New Covenant is not a new administration of the
- The New Covenant is not like the covenant made with
the people through Moses. Embodied and personified in Christ, the New
Covenant brought into existence through the life and cross work of Christ
is made with his redeemed people through grace. God’s people do not enter
the New Covenant by works, but by grace through faith; it is radically
internal, not external; everlasting, not temporary.
- The tearing in two of the veil in the temple was a
decisive, supernatural act that visibly demonstrated the end of the Old
Covenant and the establishment of the New. This end of the Old Covenant
was consummated in the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the
- As the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of
a New Covenant, Jesus Christ personifies, embodies, and incarnates the New
Covenant. Thus, he Himself is the New Covenant (Isaiah 42:6, 49:8, Luke
- All of Scripture is to be read, understood, and
interpreted in light of the New Covenant, established in Jesus Christ
(Matt. 5:17; Luke 10:23-24; 24:27, 44; John 5:46; 8:56; Heb. 10:7). The
New Covenant has become the interpretive paradigm for understanding the
church’s existence in temporal and redemptive history.
- True biblical theology of the New Covenant is the
recognition of God’s purpose, unfolding and weaving its way from Genesis
to Revelation on the timeline of redemptive history, culminating in Jesus
- Christ’s inauguration of the New Covenant brings in
things that are both qualitatively and quantatively “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 (Rev. 21:5).
- The Law of Moses (as a totality) was connected to a
particular covenant people. It was codified after a specific act of
redemption, the Exodus.
- In the ultimate purpose of God, this Mosaic economy
was temporary, destined to exist “until the time of
reformation” (Heb.9:10) when God would speak in a final way in His
Son in the last days (Heb.1:1-2).
- Everything going on in Israel, including the
covenants and the law, was of a typical nature, and was fulfilled
in the person and work of Christ (Heb.3:5; 8:5; 9:8-9) who is the New
Israel of God (Matthew 2:15).
- The Ten Commandments are not “eternal moral law”
first written in the heart of man at creation and forever binding upon all
- The Decalogue is not “transcovenantal”.
- The Decalogue is specifically tied to the Mosaic
covenant and is a covenantal expression of the two greatest commandments,
loving God and loving neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew
- The church no longer has to do with the law in any
other way than in Christ, being onnomos Christou (in-lawed to
Christ). The Old Covenant law, including the Decalogue, has been
completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ which it typified in shadow and
- New Covenant believers are in-lawed to Christ
through their union with Christ, and in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit;
they are not under the OC law of Moses.
- Because the Old Covenant law, including the
Decalogue, has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, New Covenant Theology
denies that the Old Covenant law, including the Decalogue and its
so-called “moral law”, is binding on New Covenant believers today. Yet, as
the special revelation of God as fulfilled in Christ, the Old Covenant
law, including the Decalogue, continues to inform behavior in the New
- New Covenant believers, no longer under the law but
in-lawed to Christ, are under the grace personified by, expressed in, and
given through Jesus Christ. This means that New Covenant believers are no
longer under the covenant of Moses and its terms. Since New Covenant
believers are no longer under the covenant of Moses, they are no longer
under its covenantal law.
- All behavioral norms, including those detailed in
the Decalogue, are ultimately defined by and expressed in the person and
work of Jesus Christ.
- While at times it may be helpful to distinguish
between the ceremonial, civil, and moral aspects of Old Testament law, all
laws of the Old Covenant were moral since right relationship with the God
of the covenant was at stake in the keeping or breaking of those laws.
- While at times it may be helpful to distinguish
between the ceremonial, civil, and moral aspects of Old Testament law, the
New Testament treats the law as a singular unit and does not distinguish
between these aspects.
- Just as the law cannot justify, the law cannot
sanctify. Just as it is impossible to be justified by the law, one cannot
be sanctified by the law. The background problem being addressed by Paul
in 2 Corinthians 3, Galatians 3-5, and Romans 7 (albeit in 3 different
church situations) is the attempt to be sanctified by the law.
- Regeneration does not change the inability of the
law to transform. “Walking” in or by the law is the antithesis
of “walking” in or by the Spirit (Galatians 5).
- God’s Old Covenant law is fulfilled in Christ
Himself and obeyed by those who, in Christ, fulfill the greatest
commandments to love God and their neighbor.
- New Covenant Theology insists that the law of Christ
is not to be equated with the Decalogue, nor is it to be equated with that
work of the law which was on the heart of Adam and all natural men. The
work of the law on all men (Romans 2:14-16) causes all men to perceive
God’s power and divine nature (Romans 1:20) so that the natural man’s
conscience does what the law requires (Romans 2:14) and he is without
- The New Covenant law is called the law of Christ
which is distinguished — both in substance and in form — from the Mosaic
- Christ is the Law of the New Covenant, incarnating
the new standard of judgment as to what “has had its day” in the
law and what has abiding validity (Col. 2:17). The Holy Spirit is the
indwelling Law of Christ, causing New Covenant members to obey Christ the
Law in conformity to His image.
- God also promised that each New Covenant member
would have His law written on their hearts. This promise, typified by
circumcision, is fulfilled by the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers to
guide their steps and conform them to Christ.
- Just as the Old Covenant community was structured by
written revelation which centered in Moses, so the New Covenant community
is ordered by the “law of Christ” as personified and incarnated
in the person of Jesus Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit, and given in
the writing of the Apostles and prophets (Eph.2:20).
- The indwelling Holy Spirit, the law written on the
heart, is the norm for Christian living.
- New Covenant Theology emphasizes that it is the
Spirit, the indwelling “law” who both causes (Ezekiel 36:27) and
enables the Christian to be conformed to and transformed into Christ’s
image, Who is the Imago Dei, the perfect image of God.
- “Do this and live” (Leviticus 18:5, Ezekiel
20:11,13,21, Luke 10:28, Romans 10:5, and Galatians 3:12; also Matthew
5:48 via Leviticus 19:2) is the fundamental principle of obedience to the
law, expressing both Israel’s obligation to the law of God as well as all
men (Romans 3:19-23). Because his people could not fulfill the fundamental
principle of obedience to the law, Christ obeyed the law on behalf of his
people in order to fulfill the obligations of the law and release his
people from the condemnation of the law (Romans 5:1, Romans 8:1-2).
- Christ’s perfect obedience to the law and
fulfillment of the obligations is the necessary grounds for the
righteousness imputed to his people, without which there is no right
standing with God.
- Because Christ has obeyed the law on behalf of his
people and has become a law for his people, unlike the external Mosaic
law, the Law of Christ as the Spirit applied to the redeemed is able to
effect and enable the obedience and love that is in accord with Christ’s
obedience and love.
- For the New Covenant church, the law of God is no
longer an external standard that demands compliance with the will of God.
The Law of Christ as the indwelling Spirit is now an internal person who
causes and inclines us to obey God from the heart.
- The New Commandment of the New Covenant, the Law of
Christ, expresses the indwelling of the Spirit through belief in Christ
and love for one another (John 13:34, Galatians 6:2, 1 John 3:23). The
work of the Spirit as the new covenant law applied to the heart of the
believer (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:27) is manifest in love for God
and one another, in following the examples set by Christ and his apostles,
and in living out an ethic informed by the whole of the canon. Love is
central to the law of Christ.
- The New Testament and New Covenant Theology do not
teach that the Ten Commandments are the objective standard for evaluating
the Christian life. Christ is now the objective standard by which all
holiness in the Christian life is measured.
- The progression of history to a final New Covenant
guarantees the “law of Christ”, as personified and incarnated by
Jesus Christ, and applied by the Spirit who is written on the heart, to be
sufficient for the church.
- The Old Covenant Sabbath day was the divinely
ordained sign of the Mosaic Covenant. With the rest of the Mosaic
Covenant, the Old Covenant Sabbath commandment has passed into
obsolescence in the inauguration of the New Covenant in Christ. The Old
Covenant Sabbath has been typologically and eschatologically fulfilled by
Christ for the people of God who rest in Him by faith (Romans 14:5;
Colossians 2:16,17; Heb. 4:9-10).
- New Covenant Theology denies that Sunday is a
Christian Sabbath after the manner of the Old Covenant. New Covenant
Theology denies that the Sabbath principle of physical rest in the Old
Testament has been transferred to the first day of the week. New Covenant
Theology also denies the so-called “floating day” principle, or one day in
seven, since the Sabbath principle has passed into obsolescence with the
rest of the Mosaic Covenant and its so-called “moral law”. New Covenant
Theology denies that the physical principle of Sabbath-keeping can be
transferred to the first day of the week, or any other day, without doing
violence to the so-called moral aspect of the Sinaitic Covenant’s Sabbath
- New Covenant Theology affirms that every Christian
is a Sabbath-keeper because every Christian has entered in a rest from
works in Christ the Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4). Sabbath Rest for the New
Covenant believer consists of resting or ceasing from works of the law or
works of sin and resting by faith in Christ. Christ is our Sabbath Rest
because having finished his work on our behalf he now sits at the right
hand of the Father. Because Jesus Christ has become Sabbath Rest for his
people, every moment of every day is Sabbath for the New Covenant
- The dominion of Christ over His Kingdom (the church,
Matt. 16:19, 18:17,18), typified and foreshadowed in Israel’s Old Testament
theocracy, has been inaugurated in the New Covenant, is expressed in the
New Testament, and is effectively carried out in the life of the local
assembly, the visible New Covenant church.
- The visible and local New Covenant church is the
primary means by which the invisible church is expressed and manifested in
the New Covenant.
- The church on earth is located in the local church.
New Covenant Theology recognizes that Christ exercises his Lordship in and
through the local church.
- The New Covenant church is a local, visible colony
of the universal gathering in heaven. The universal gathering of God’s
redeemed people has begun on earth in the form and expression of the local
church. Thus by intent and design, the local church as a gathering of New
Covenant people who participate in faith, mirrors the universal gathering
of the redeemed.
- It is through the New Covenant church that God’s
wisdom for the ages and his purposes throughout revelation and history —
having been fulfilled in Jesus — are most visibly expressed.
- New Covenant Theology posits that the Church, which
is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), first came into visible
existence in history when the Spirit descended and was poured out at
Pentecost, not in past history under the Old Covenant. There is 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
visible expression of which is the local church.
- The New Covenant is now in force and finds its
fulfillment in Jesus, the antitypical New Israel.
- New Covenant Theology sees in Christ a fulfillment
of promises that, in their Old Testament context, seemed to be addressed
to Israel as a nation. It is in Christ, the New Israel, that the church
enjoys the blessings of the promises that seemed to be addressed to Israel
as a nation in the Old Testament Scriptures.
- New Covenant Theology denies that there is a one to
one correlation between Israel and the New Covenant church. Israel was not
the church in the Old Covenant, which consisted of an admixture of those
who participated in faith and those who did not. In Christ, the New
Israel, the church is not an admixture of believer and unbeliever, but is
entirely by faith.
- Under the Old Covenant, Israel was the people of
God. Under the New Covenant, the church is the people of God anticipated
in and foreshadowed by national Israel in the Old Testament scriptures.
- In the Old Covenant, Israel, the second Adam, was a
demonstration and proclamation of Jesus as a type. Israel typified the New
Israel and His redeemed New Covenant people of God. That which was true of
Israel, in type, is now true of Jesus as the federal head of His new
covenant people in fulfillment. Thus, the supreme covenantal formula
promised to Israel is now true of the church: Jehovah is our God, and we
are His people. Christ, the New Covenant, now dwells among His people.