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What is Covenant Theology?
Covenant Theology is a branch of theological study that examines the Bible within the context of the Bible's covenants. The two covenants (contracts) usually in focus include the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. A third covenant, the covenant of redemption, is also frequently emphasized. These two (or three) covenants are seen as extensions of the seven covenants mentioned in Scripture (Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Palestinian, Mosaic, Davidic, and New).
What exactly is Covenant Theology? It begins with the covenant of works that began in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were given one command, with a clear consequence for disobedience.
When Adam and Eve failed to keep God's commandment, God established the covenant of grace. This covenant of grace is SO clearly seen in Jesus Christ, with salvation offered as a free gift of grace by faith (Eph.2:8-9).
Covenants are broken by humans but kept by God's grace. Abraham failed God at times, yet God's grace was sufficient. The Davidic Covenant was fulfilled despite David's sins.
In the New Covenant, Jesus fulfills the law and offers salvation to those who turn to Him. He does NOT fail as other humans, but fulfills the covenant both as a human and as God. All the earlier covenants find fulfillment in Jesus, who claims not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mat.5:17).
Because of the focus on covenants, Covenant Theology stresses the covenantal nature of both baptism and the Lord's Supper. These sacraments are seen as signs and seals of the covenant of grace. Salvation is not acquired through these acts, yet these sacraments hold a special role in God's covenant work.
What are the different covenants in the Bible?
Covenants are an important feature of the Bible's teaching. Seven specific covenants are revealed in Scripture. These seven covenants fall into three categories: #1. conditional, #2, unconditional, and #3. general. Conditional covenants are based on certain obligations and prerequisites; IF the requirements are not fulfilled, the covenant is broken. Unconditional covenants are made with no strings attached and will be kept regardless of one party's loyalty or unfaithfulness. General covenants are not specific to one people group and can involve a wide range of people.
The conditional covenant mentioned in Scripture is the Mosaic Covenant; the blessings it extends are contingent upon Israel's adherence to the Law. The unconditional covenants mentioned in the Bible are the Abrahamic, Palestinian and Davidic Covenants. God promises to fulfill these regardless of other factors. The general covenants mentioned are the Adamic, Noahic, and New Covenants, which are global in scope.
#1. Adamic Covenant. . . . Found in (Gen.1:26-30; 2:16-17), this covenant is general in nature. It included the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, pronounced a curse for sin, and spoke of a future provision for man's redemption (Gen.3:15).
#2. Noahic Covenant. . . . This is found in (Gen.9:11), and is a general covenant was made between God and Noah following the departure of Noah, his family, and the animals from the ark. Genesis 9:11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. (KJV)
#3. Abrahamic Covenant. . . . This is an unconditional covenant, first made to Abraham in (Gen.12:1-3), promised God's blessing upon Abraham, to make his name great and to make his offspring into a great nation. The covenant also promised blessing to those who blessed Abraham and cursing to those who cursed him. God also vowed to bless the entire world through Abraham's seed. Circumcision was the sign that Abraham believed the covenant (Rom.4:11). The fulfillment of this covenant is seen in the history of Abraham's descendants and in the creation of the nation of Israel. The worldwide blessing came through Jesus Christ, who was of Abraham's family line.
#4. Palestinian Covenant. . . . This unconditional covenant is found in (Deut.30:1-10), and noted God's Promise to scatter Israel if they disobeyed God, then to restore them at a later time to their land. This covenant has been fulfilled twice, with the Babylonian Captivity and subsequent rebuilding of Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great; and with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, followed by the reinstatement of the nation of Israel in 1948.
#5. Mosaic Covenant. This conditional covenant is found in Deuteronomy 11 and elsewhere, promised the Israelites a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. Much of the Old Testament records the fulfillment of this cycle of judgment for sin and later blessing when God's people repented and returned to God.
#6. Davidic Covenant. . . . This unconditional covenant is found in (2 Sam.7:8-16), and promised to bless David's family line and assured an everlasting kingdom. Jesus is from the family line of David (Lk,1:32-33) and, as the Son of David (Mk.10:47), is the fulfillment of this covenant.
#7. New Covenant. . . . This covenant is found in (Jer.31:31-34), and promised that God would forgive sin and have a close, unbroken relationship with His people. The Promise was first made to Israel and then extended to everyone who comes to Jesus Christ in faith (Mat.26:28; Heb.9:15).
Not all Bible scholars agree on every detail regarding these biblical covenants, but it is very clear that God has made certain Promises. Some of His promises are to all people, and some are limited to Israel. ALL God's Promises are based on who He is and His plan for the world. Under the New Covenant, which Jesus sealed with His own blood, everyone is offered salvation by grace through faith. Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (KJV)
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