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A Comparison of The Hermenutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

In the previous article, this writer had addressed the claim from those who endorsed what has become known as Covenant Theology. The article claims that Israel was used as a “means to an end” with the sole purpose of bringing about Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. In the author’s critique of Dispensational thought they state the following: It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen. 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself.

It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen. 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself.

The authors claim there is no distinction between Israel and the church. The church, according to their perspective, has existed in the Old Testament, even since the time of Adam

with respect to salvation, Reformed covenant theology does not juxtapose Israel and the church. For Reformed theology, the church has always been the Israel of God and the Israel of God has always been the church…[Reformed Theology] recognizes that the church was temporarily administered through a typological, national people, but the church has existed since Adam, Noah, and Abraham; and it existed under Moses and David; and it exists under Christ.

Is it true that the church was seen during the time of the Old Testament, thus solidifying the claim that those who subscribe to Covenant Theology are not replacing the plans and promises that God has given ethnic Israel to the church? Such an assertion would have significant implications on how one observes Scripture, and the eschatological events that are to occur in the future. How did the apostolic writers of the New Testament observe the body of Christ? How did they observe the church in relation to the program and promises given to Israel?

Paul addressing the individuals in Rome stated the following

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faithRomans 16:24-25 NASB

Paul before concluding his letter praises God who is able to set them in strength by the good news (i.e., gospel) and the proclaimation of Jesus Christ. Paul then says that this gospel that established them was a mystery (mystērion), and that this message Paul gave to them had been silent (sigaō) in previous ages. In other words, this work of God in bringing in the Gentlies by the gospel that had been given to Paul was not something that was disclosed in times past (i.e., the Old Testament). Paul stated that this had now been made known (phaneroō) through the writings of the prophets (through the prophets of the church (c.f., Eph. 4:9-12) since it was not revealed through the prophets of the Old Testament), for all of the nations to know. Paul also wrote something similar to the people of Colossae

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.Colossians 1:24-27 NASB

Paul when discussing the preaching of the word of God referred to it as a mystery twice in this letter (mystērion). This was the very same word that was used when concluding his letter to the saints of Rome. Furthermore, Paul wrote that this word of God given to him was hidden from (apokryptō) past ages and generations (i.e., the Old Testament saints). Here in this letter Paul used the very same word that was used in Romans that this word of God Paul preached had appeared (phaneroō). This good news God desired to make known to the Gentiles that the Messiah was now among them through the proclamation of the gospel delievered to them by Paul.

There are several details that must be emphasized. From Paul’s observation (and from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) the word of God he brought to the Gentiles he detailed that those of old were unaware of this specific plan of God. This desire of God was kept hidden from the prophets of the Old Testament. Since this is the case the reality of the church cannot be found in the writings of the Old Testament. The promises of a Messiah can be observed through various passages of Scripture (c.f., Gen. 3:15, Isa 53:1-11). However, God’s plan for the program of the church should not be forced into the passages when reading the Old Testament. To do so would be to place a reality on the Old Testament Scripture that is absent. Second, Paul used several objects to describe the reality of this mystery of Jew and Gentile: a body (soma), temple (naos), and building (oikodomē), but never once did Paul use the Greek work nation (ethnos) to describe the reality of the church. In fact, whenever Paul used the particular word nation it is always in reference to national Israel (1 Corinthians 10:18, Philippians 3:5). Since the reality of the church cannot be found in the writings of the Old Testament prophets this also means that the personal promises associated with Israel cannot be transferred to the church. God in the Old Testament promised that Israel would always be an ethnic nation before Him, even associating their physical existence as a nation to creation itself (Jeremiah 31:35-37). They are promised that their enemies, especially Egypt, will pay homage to them and to thier King (i.e., Jesus) in the future (Zechariah 14:15-19). The prophet Ezekiel prophesied David will be a vice-regent over them (Ezekiel 37:22-24), and even the twelve apostles will also govern the twelve tribes of Israel in the future (Matthew 19:28). All of these promises outlined in the Old Testment, and the account of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (and even John to some degree) have everything to do with the national Israel and their ultimate delieverance and blessing.

Based on some of the Scriptures that were observed above if one associates the promises of the Old Testament to the church, or a person claims that the church has been outlined in the Old Testament when Scriptures say otherwise, or even if one says that the church is a “spiritual nation” or “spiritual Israel,” and actively attribute promises that are meant for Israel to the church they are failing to observe Scripture as it is plainly taught. Therefore based upon this analyis Covenant Theology is a replacement theology and the results of one who are convinced of this theological view are problematic. This view not only diminishes the glory of God as God’s fame is connected to His promises to Israel in the future, but one who is convinced of this particular theological position whether knowingly or unknowingly is saying that God is in error with His purpose and future work as God has clearly laid out His plan for national Israel.

Let us continue to observe Scripture as it is laid out by the apostles paying close attention to the peoples, plan, and purpose. To do so we observe His word plainly and glorify Him fully for all of His works. Amen.

Until next time

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. LS

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