New Covenant Theology
refers to a theological view
of redemptive history primarily found in Baptist
circles and contrasted with Covenant Theology
Despite its seemingly recent representation in modern theological
discussions, New Covenant Theology claims roots extending back to
The First London Baptist Confession of Faith, especially in its
1646 edition, is held by many New Covenant Theology churches today.
The First London Confession is a much shorter statement of faith
than subsequent Baptist confessions, and was not as explicit on
matters of law and covenant as the Second London Confession of
1689. This has led New Covenant teachers to claim that 1646 First
London baptists did not support Protestant/Presbyterian churches
because they believed in Gospel preaching apart from the law, and
denied the eternal generation of the Son. However, in the
historical whirlwind of later periods, Particular Baptists
felt a need to show
support for their Reformed brethren in the Congregationalist and
Presbyterian churches -- and so adopted the Second London Confession in
, a virtual restatement of the famous Westminster Confession
modifications, especially, of course, in the area of baptism.
Since 1980 there has been a great resurgence of Reformed theology
in Baptist circles. As a result, some have sought to develop a new,
non-covenantal approach to theology distinct from the Second London
Confession position. Leaders of this movement include such
theologians as John Reisinger, Jon Zens, Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells,
Gary Long, and Geoff Volker.
Proponents maintain that the primary thrust of New Covenant
Theology is the recognition of a promise-fulfillment understanding
of Scripture. They suggest that whereas “Dispensationalism cannot
get Israel and the church together in any sense whatsoever, and
Covenant Theology cannot get them apart” (Reisinger, 19), New
Covenant Theology finds the realization of all that the Old
Covenant typified in the New Testament church (Covenant Theology,
in contrast, merely levels the playing field and identifies them
for all intents and purposes). The Mosaic economy is viewed as a
temporal, conditional covenant that has been forever replaced by
the glory of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3).
New Covenant Theology is also (rarely) referred to in the UK as a
"Bovinian view of the law."
In simplistic terms New Covenant Theology is a middle-ground
between a Reformed
view of how the Old Testament
, and in particular the Mosaic Covenant
, apply to the Christian
today. On balance, though, the New Covenantal position probably
holds a lot more in common with Reformed Covenant Theology than it
does with Dispensationalism.
It is in the understanding of how the covenants God makes with men
in the Bible work together - how
they progressively reveal
God - that one sees the differences between Covenant Theology,
Dispensationalism and New Covenant Theology worked out. For
example: Do all the covenants have the same function? Do the
covenants build on top of one another, or do they stand opposed to
each other? Are they expressions of one single covenant God has had
with man, or are they given for different people in different ages?
These questions are what New Covenant Theology seeks to
NCT is an Evangelical position. However within evangelicalism there
are divergent views on a number of topics. One of those topics is
how the salvation history fits together, and the relationship of
the covenants within salvation history.
NCT is distinctive in that its adherents believe that the purpose
of the Mosaic Covenant was "never to offer eternal life" ( Kansas, paragraph 21
). The New Covenant Statement of
Faith gives a further explanation of this position: "Although the
Lord had a gracious purpose in giving this covenant, the covenant
itself was a legal covenant that demanded perfect obedience. The
failure to obey would result in the curse of God." ( New Covenant
Statement of Faith
, Article 9, "The Old Covenant")
This view makes NCT distinct from Covenant Theology, which believes
that all of the post-fall covenants are an expression of the one
"Covenant of Grace," and therefore all function in the same way to
outline salvation by faith. NCT instead views the Old Covenant –
especially the Mosaic Covenant – as a "Covenant of Works (a
covenant in which you earn God's eternal favor by obedience to His
commands)" (Steve Lehrer, New Covenant Theology: Questions
, 2006, p. 47) and therefore, because it sees perfect
obedience to the Mosaic Law as impossible, it denies that the
Mosaic Covenant, in and of itself, performs any soteriological
function other than convicting
the reader of sin.
Some logical deductions of New Covenant Theologians and advocates
(such as Steve Lehrer of New Covenant Bible Fellowship in Tempe,
Arizona and Ben Ditzel of Truth Ministries
) have been that since "the
Old Covenant is obsolete
of the commands of the Mosaic Law are binding on believers today"
(New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered
, pp. 155,
181-182). On the other hand, Covenant Theologians believe that at
least portions of the Old Testament law is binding on Christians,
though there is some variation on which parts and how they
This covenant reveals God's plan to save a people and take them
into his land. The Old Covenant with the nation of Israel and the
promised land is a temporary picture of what is accomplished by the
New Covenant where Jesus actually purchased a people and will take
them to be with him forever in the new heavens and new earth.
The Old or Mosaic Covenant is a legal or works covenant that God
made with Israel on Mount Sinai that is brought to an end or
fulfilled at the cross. It was never intended to save people but
instead its purpose was to increase sin and guilt until the coming
of the Savior.
The New Covenant came into effect at the Last Supper when Jesus
said “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed
Luke 22:20 (NKJV
) and it is a
written guarantee that from the time it came into effect there will
be no more intermediaries like Moses and the prophets because the
sin of Adam no longer applies and God now deals directly with each
one of His people like He did at the beginning (see New Covenant in
This covenant is a gracious covenant in which Jesus purchased all
God's elect by his death on the cross so that each of His people
within the New Covenant will receive full forgiveness of sins, the
new birth and eternal life.
Israel is a temporary unbelieving picture of the people of God.
They served to foreshadow the "true circumcision", the Church, the
Church being composed of both Jew and gentile. There always existed
a remnant of believers within unbelieving Israel.
The version of law in the Old Covenant era was the Mosaic Law,
which included the Ten Commandments. The version of law in the New
Covenant era is the law of Christ, which includes the commands of
Christ that pertain to the New Covenant era and the commands of his
Circumcision and baptism
Circumcision was the physical picture of regeneration. It signified
that you were physically born into the unbelieving people of God,
Israel. It was given to all Israelites, irrespective of repentance
and faith. Baptism is the outward sign that regeneration has
occurred. It signifies that you have been spiritually born into the
believing people of God, the church. It is given to all those who
give evidence of regeneration, which is repentance and faith.
- Lehrer, Steven, New Covenant Theology: Questions
- Reisinger, John G., Abraham’s Four Seeds (Frederick,
MD: New Covenant Media, 1998).
- Scarborough, C., The New Covenant and the Law of Christ: A
Biblical Study Guide. (Published privately and available from
New Covenant Media/1-800-376-4146).
- Stickland, Wayne G. (General editor), Contributors: Greg L.
Bahnsen, Walter C. Kaiser, Douglas J. Moo, Willem A. VanGemeren,
Five views on Law and Gospel (Michigan, Grand Rapids:
- Wells, Tom and Zaspel, Fred. New Covenant Theology:
Description, Definition, Defense (Frederick, MD: New Covenant
New Covenant Statements of Faith:
Web Site Ministries:
Churches and Church Associations: