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Featured Covenant of Works, Covenant of Grace

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Martin Marprelate, Feb 6, 2018.

  1. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    The Covenant of Works

    Read: Gen 2:4-9; 15-17, 25; Gen 3:6-24.

    Rom 5:6-12; 18-21; 1Cor 15:21-22.

    Covenant Theology seems to be regarded today as something akin to Rubik’s Cube or brain surgery- immensely difficult, complicated or abstruse. I don’t believe that this is so, although it is often made out to be. Covenant Theology is a way of showing forth the unity of the Bible, of seeing God’s almighty power and Divine will moving purposefully through the millennia. It is also a counter to the dispensationalism that pervades so many of the evangelical churches today, that divides the will of God into seven dispensations, each ending in failure, and that divides the people of God into Israel and the Church, forgetting that the wall of separation is broken down in Christ (Eph 2:14 ).

    Covenant Theology (hereafter C.T.) is often thought of as a paedobaptist, Presbyterian theology and it is true that many of the great Covenant theologians were paedobaptists, like Herman Witsius, who wrote a monumental book on the subject, The Economy of the Covenants of God. However, the first Particular Baptists were all covenantalists, and the very first of their books, A Treatise Concerning the Lawfull Subject of Baptisme by John Spilsbury was covenantal. The covenants are mentioned in the Baptist Confession of 1689, so if we want to get back to our Particular Baptist roots, we ought to get to grips with C.T. If we want to understand the Bible as a whole, we need C.T. If we want to give our churches a bulwark against charismaticism and liberalism, we need C.T.

    Baptist C.T. differs somewhat from its Presbyterian counterpart. When we get to the covenant with Abraham and the issue of circumcision, we shall need to study these differences. Three books which Baptistic students of C.T. will find helpful without being overly long are:-

    The Divine Covenants by A.W.Pink

    Covenant theology from Adam to Christ by Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen

    A Reformed Baptist Manifesto by Samuel Waldron & Richard Barcellos

    What is a covenant? The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament is Bara, which comes from a root word meaning ‘bonds’ or ‘yokes.’ The idea is of two parties binding themselves to perform some mutually agreed action. The Greek word is diatheke, which means a ‘disposition’ or ‘arrangement.’ The puritan John Owen defined a covenant as, ‘A voluntary convention, pact, agreement between distinct persons about the ordering and dispensing of things in their power, to their mutual concern or advantage.’ A simpler definition might be, ‘A mutual agreement, a benefit being assured on the fulfilment of certain conditions.’

    There is an example of a covenant in 1Sam 20:11-17. Jonathan promises to help David escape from Saul, and David promises to show kindness to Jonathan’s descendants (cf. 2Sam 9:1 ). There is an oath and the name of the Lord is invoked (vs 12, 16-17 ). This is an example of a covenant between equals. Sometimes we see covenants between parties where one side is clearly superior to the other. These are called by theologians Suzerainty Covenants.. In such cases, the terms of the covenant are dictated by the stronger side (eg. 1Kings 20:34 ), and the benefits are therefore likely to accrue to the stronger at the expense of the weaker. It goes without saying that God is always the Superior and He dictates the terms of the covenants into which He enters. However, God’s unmerited love towards sinners means that His covenantal plans bring blessings to those who are without power or strength (Rom 5:8 ).

    The first covenant to be discussed is the Covenant of Works. This is the covenant made between God and Adam in the Garden of Eden before Adam sinned. Now straightaway, we must face the fact that such a covenant is not directly named in the Bible. The nearest we get to it is in Hosea 6:7. “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt treacherously with Me” (NKJV margin). The problem here is that ‘Adam’ is a transliteration for the Hebrew word meaning ‘Man.’ Either rendering might be correct. However, if we look at God’s words to Adam in Gen 2:16-17, I believe that we shall see all the attributes of a covenant as laid out above. As Reformed Baptists, we require a greater level of Biblical evidence than our Presbyterian brethren. Our doctrines must be either stated explicitly or ‘necessarily contained’ (1689 Baptist Confession ) in the Bible. This I take to mean that all doctrine must be found within the pages of the Bible; if not in the form of a straightforward command, at least contained within the Bible as an example or precept.
    [continued]
     
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  2. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    ‘Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die “’(Gen 2:15-17 ). The covenant comes in the form of a provision, a command and a warning, but a gracious promise is implied- eternal life; ‘if you don’t the forbidden fruit, you shall live.’ Adam was put into the position of a tenant moving into a house. The landlord might tell him, “You can live here rent-free in return for doing the garden; you can eat all the stuff that grows in the garden, but don’t touch the vintage claret in the cellar or you’re out!”

    This arrangement has all the attributes of a covenant. The greater party (God) gives to the lesser party (Adam) a perfect environment, ample provisions and eternal life. The lesser party agrees to oversee and to care for the environment, and to obey the rules laid down for him. A breach of these rules is a breach of the covenant and must lead to the forfeiture of its benefits. The covenant might be better termed the ‘Covenant of Obedience’ since it was obedience rather than works which were required, but it has been called the Covenant of Works to distinguish it from the Covenant of Grace which we shall look at in a future article.

    It might be supposed that Adam had no other law to obey save the single one of not eating from the forbidden tree, but that would be a simplistic view. Adam was under the Moral Law of God, the Ten Commandments, as a moment’s thought will confirm. Suppose Adam built an idol in the garden to worship, or suppose he strangled Eve! Would God have said, “Oh, that’s alright, Adam, just as long as you don’t eat the fruit!” The very thought is absurd. It is true that Adam could not have coveted his neighbour’s ox or his ass since he had no neighbours, but he certainly coveted that which God had denied to him and stole it to his own inestimable loss and that of his posterity. ‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned’ (Romans 5:12 ).

    There is no doubt but that the Covenant of Works was a gracious covenant. God was under no obligation to do anything for Adam, yet He gave him a wife, placed him in a beautiful garden with only light tasks to perform (there were no weeds before the Fall- Gen 3:17-18 ) and gave him dominion over all the rest of creation. However, there is no mention of mercy in the covenant. Adam is warned, “In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” To put it another way, “Do this and live.” Adam’s privileges were dependant on his obedience. Yet he was well able to perform this obedience. God had made him entirely righteous; otherwise He could not have pronounced the whole of creation ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31 ).

    Yet Adam was not in the most gracious state possible. Though he had been created sinless, he was still able to sin; he stood or fell by his own actions. This has led many theologians to postulate that Adam was on probation; had he not sinned, they say, God would have promoted him to a still more gracious position in which he would have been unable to sin. We read in Gen 2:9b of the ‘Tree of Life.’ It is suggested that at the end of their probation, Adam and Eve would have been permitted to eat from this tree and their eternal lives would have been assured. Certainly, after their fall, the way to the tree of life was lost to mankind (Gen 3:24 ) and is not heard of again until Rev 2:7 and 22:2 where it is seen as the reward for those who persevere, the very thing that Adam and Eve failed to do. This idea is quite attractive and may be correct, but we cannot insist upon it because it is a conjecture and is not clearly found in the word of God. If we want to remain true to the Baptist Confession, we must take all our doctrine from the Bible and eschew all conjecture.

    We read in Gen 2:25 that, ‘They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.’ To put this in another way, they had no covering. There was no covering or atonement for sin, but that didn’t matter at the time, because there was no sin to cover. But as soon as they fell into sin, it became of crucial importance. ‘Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings’ (Gen 3:7 ). Sinful man cannot stand before a righteous God unless that sin be covered. But a man-made covering is no covering at all as far as God is concerned. As Isaiah says (64:6 ); ‘But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.’ Even as Adam and Eve put on their home-made garments, they knew in their hearts that the fig leaves were worthless to hide their sin from God, so they hid from His presence (Gen 3:8 ). The true covering for sin must come from God Himself, and it must involve the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22 ) as we shall see.

    Adam was a public person or a Covenant head. In the Covenant of Works, he transacted not only for himself and Eve, but also for his seed and his doom was also theirs. ‘For as in Adam, all die…..’ (1Cor 15:22 ). His sin is imputed to his progeny. ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…….’ (Rom 5:19 ). The idea of a Covenant or representative head is not as strange as one might think. The head of a business makes deals and transactions on behalf of the whole corporation. A politician signs treaties that are binding upon the whole population of the country. If the Prime Minister of Great Britain were to declare war upon France, all Britons would be at war whether we approved of it or not, and if we were to meet a Frenchman with a gun, he might well feel justified in shooting us!

    So it is that mankind can be described as having a bad record and a bad reputation. Not only are we constituted sinners by our covenant association with Adam, but we are sinners in our own selves. We have inherited Adam’s fallen nature. ‘And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth’ (Gen 5:3 ). Whereas Adam had been created in the image of the perfect and holy God, each of us is born with the sinful nature of fallen Adam. ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh’ (John 3:6 ). ‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned’ (Romans 5:12 ). The state of fallen man is desperate, and entirely our own fault. Adam sinned deliberately and so do we. We cannot plead that God’s judgements are unfair and that we should not be blamed for his iniquity. Adam sinned once and fell; fallen man sins many times a day (Rom 3:10-18 ).

    Mankind has therefore utterly forfeited and lost all covenant interest in God. He can no longer claim a right in or hope of the promise of eternal life held out in the covenant. At once, he fell under guilt, which was the sentence of his own conscience, seeing himself under the just wrath of God and therefore dreading His approach (Gen 3:8-10 ). We are by nature like cockroaches that scuttle into a dark corner when the light is switched on (John 3:19 ). Unredeemed mankind has entirely lost its relationship with God. He is incapable of true happiness because he is at enmity with God and alienated from Him. As we have observed, the image of God in him is now wholly defaced. Where first there was the beauty of original righteousness, now there is only filthiness and deformity (Titus 3:3; Psalm 14:1-3 ).

    The curse of the covenant is now in effect; man is subject to fear of death and fear of judgement and hell. He has become a debtor instead of a free man. He owes a debt of obedience that he is by no means able to settle- he has sinned infinitely against the infinite love of God and therefore owes infinitely more than he can pay. The curse is also extended to creation. The world has fallen with fallen man; it is God’s righteous judgement that sinful humans shall not live in a perfect world. “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen 3:17. cf. Rom 8:20 ). Man is helpless and without strength in a harsh environment, unable to bring himself before God on a covenant of works and equally unable to bring himself on any other terms. There was no arrangement in the covenant for a second chance. Man is unable to move even one step towards reconciliation with God. The door of repentance was not opened by the Covenant of Works, and even if it had been, there would have been neither the power nor the inclination to enter it.

    And yet……….

    ‘For when we were still without strength, Christ died for the ungodly’ (Rom 5:6 ).

    O loving wisdom of our God!
    When all was sin and shame,
    A second Adam to the fight
    And to the rescue came.
     
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  3. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    The Covenant of Grace

    Read: Eph 1:3-14.

    In the last article, we saw the desperate state of mankind after the Fall of Adam. He was our Representative or Covenant Head, and when he fell into sin we fell with him, both positionally and actually. On the one hand, since we were federally joined to him, his sin is imputed to us; we are constituted sinners in Adam (Rom 5:19 ). On the other hand, we have actually inherited Adam’s fallen nature and we are sinners, as it were, in our own right. ‘And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth’ (Gen 5:3 ). The image of God in which Adam was created is ruined and defaced in fallen man. Instead we carry the image and the nature of the one who fell.

    There is no way back to Eden for man by his own power. There was no arrangement to deal with sin under the Covenant of Works. Its precept was “Do this and live.” In Adam, we failed, and we die. Man has lost the original righteousness that Adam possessed. We owe a debt for Adam’s sin that we can by no means pay, and we are under God’s wrath for our own sin.

    Yet long before Adam was created, God had foreseen his fall and had prepared against it, so that Paul can speak of the, ‘Hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began but has in due time manifested’ (Titus 1:2 ). The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His death upon the cross were not therefore mere afterthoughts or God’s reaction to an unexpected crisis, but in fact His plan from eternity past.

    Before we start, it needs to be acknowledged that the term, Covenant of Grace does not appear in the Bible. Therefore one sees various other terms being used by theologians to describe that arrangement which was made between Father, Son and Spirit to save mankind. Many Reformed Theologians refer to it as the Council of Redemption and only speak of the Covenant of Grace as the announcement made to Adam and Eve in Gen 3:15. A. W. Pink speaks of the Eternal Covenant, which has the merit of being biblical (Heb 13:20 etc). Others call it the Covenant of Peace (Isaiah 54:10 ). I have tried to follow the Westminster Confession and the Baptist 1689 Confession which use Covenant of Grace throughout. The name we give is not important, so long as we understand that there was such an arrangement made between the Persons of the Trinity in eternity past and that the whole history of redemption as we read it in the Bible is nothing else than an outworking of that great covenant.

    It may be helpful here to quote from the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession.

    Q.30. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

    Ans. God doth not leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the……. covenant of works; but of His mere love and mercy delivereth His elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

    Q.31. With whom was the Covenant of Grace made?

    Ans. The Covenant of Grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in Him with all the elect as His seed.

    Let us turn to Eph 1. In verses 3-14, we see the parts played by each Person of the Trinity in the salvation of mankind. The text is divided into three parts by the phrase, ‘To the praise of His glory.’ There is glory here for Father, Son and Spirit. First, the Father’s part in salvation is displayed. Verses 3-7. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved [Son].’

    In the Covenant of Grace, the Father and the Son have covenanted together. The Father’s part is to choose or elect a people that He has willed to save out of the wreck of Adam’s fall. He has predestined them to be adopted as sons and to receive every spiritual and heavenly blessing. This He has done not for any virtue that He has seen in Man, but solely according to His good pleasure has He lavished grace, or unmerited favour, upon us. But notice that all these blessings do not come to us by themselves; everything comes through and ‘in’ Christ. God chose a people ‘in Christ.’ That is, He gave the Lord Jesus a chosen people out of Adam’s fallen posterity, that He should be to them a Covenant or Representative Head, just as Adam was. ‘The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven’ (1Cor 15:47 ).

    The part of the Lord Jesus Christ is to succeed where Adam failed, on behalf of those whom the Father has placed in His care. Like Adam, the Lord Jesus was made a ‘Public Person.’ When He was on earth, He acted, not only for Himself, but also for those whom God had given Him. Therefore, just as Adam’s sin was imputed to his physical posterity, so our Lord’s perfect righteousness is imputed to His spiritual children whom the Father has given Him (cf. Heb 2:13). ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (Rom 5:19). So it was that no sooner had He been commissioned for His public ministry than He must face Satan in single combat (Mark 1:9-13 ), and all the advantages appeared to be with the devil. Adam and Eve faced Satan in a beautiful garden filled with delightful things to eat (Gen 2:16 ); Christ faced him weakened by hunger in a howling wilderness. Yet our Lord was faithful to His part in the covenant. ‘For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me’ (John 6:38). And He did it, perfectly and completely, not just in life but also in death (Phil 2:8). For as the ‘Last Adam,’ Christ needed not only to live the life that we cannot live, but also to die the death that we deserve to die; in short, to pay the penalty that Adam’s sin and our own sins deserve. ‘For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’ (2Cor 5:21). This is what Luther termed ‘The Great Exchange.’ He receives our punishment and takes away our guilt; we receive His righteousness and partake of His inheritance. ‘For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil’ (1John 3:8). The devil’s work was the corruption of Adam and Eve and the condemnation of them and their posterity. Christ has destroyed his work by redeeming a vast crowd of that posterity. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1).
    [continued]
     
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  4. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    ‘In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:7-12).

    The Holy Spirit also played a vital part in that great covenant, bringing the elect to faith and sealing them- being as it were, the certificate of authenticity that believers do indeed belong to Christ: 'In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory’ (Eph 1:13-14). It is worth noting briefly here that baptism is not the seal of the covenant as the Westminster Confession claims (WCF. XXX. I); the Holy Spirit is, and always has been (cf. also Eph 4:30 & 2Cor 1:22 ).

    All this was determined, before ever there was a world, in the Covenant of Grace. That is why Paul can say of the Thessalonians, ‘But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth’ (2Thes 2:13 ). The whole of the Bible may be seen as the outworking of this great covenant and the accomplishment of God’s gracious plan for our salvation.

    References to the Covenant of Grace can be found in various parts of the Bible if one is prepared to look for them as the following examples will show:-

    Luke 22:22. “And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined……” Determined where and by whom if not in the Covenant of Grace?

    John 6:38-39. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Christ has been given a people and the task by the Father which He is determined to fulfil. What can this refer to if not the Covenant of Grace?

    John 10:16. “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” Not, “I will bring,” but, “I must bring.” Our Lord had been given a commission to fulfil.

    John 10:17-18. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” Where did Christ receive this command, the doing of which merited so well the Father’s love? In the Covenant of Grace, of course.

    Phil 2:6-8 (my translation). ‘Who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be held onto for His advantage, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.’ In the Covenant of Grace, our Lord gave up temporarily that equality with the Father that had existed from all eternity, and became the willing servant of Exodus 21:5-6 and Psalm 40:6-8 in order to rescue those who had been given to Him (John 17:2, 6 ).

    Heb 2:13. ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given to Me.’ Given by the Father to the Son in the Covenant of Grace to be redeemed from sin and brought to heaven.

    In Isaiah 42:6, Christ is described as the Covenant itself. He is, in His own Person and work, the very substance of it. In Mal 3:1, He is, ‘The Messenger of the Covenant’ because He came to proclaim it and make it known. In Heb 7:22, He is, ‘The Surety of a better covenant.’ Christ came as the representative of fallen Man, being engaged to fulfil the obligations incurred under the Covenant of Works. In Heb 9:15, He is, ‘The Mediator of the New Covenant’ since He has brought about legal satisfaction between God and man so that covenantal blessings are now imparted to those who had previously forfeited them, and He now stands between the two parties, advocating the cause of man to God (1John 2:1 ) and speaking a word of the comfort of God to the weary man (Isaiah 50:4 ). I am indebted to A. W. Pink for much of the forgoing; let us now hear from him direct. ‘But how could Christ sustain such offices a these unless the covenant had been made with him (Gal 3:17 ) and the execution of it had been undertaken by Him (Heb 10:5-7 )? [Heb 13:20] is quite sufficient to establish the fact that an organic connection existed between the Covenant of Grace and the sacrifice of Christ. In response to Christ’s execution of its terms, the Father now says to Him, “By the blood of Thy covenant I have set forth Thy prisoners [those given to Him before the foundation of the world, but in Adam fallen under condemnation] out of the pit wherein is no water” (Zech 9:11 ).’

    In the light of all this, various other covenants may now be seen as subsidiary to the Covenant of Grace. These are the Covenants of Promise (Eph 2:12; Rom 9:4 ). Let us hear from Pink again:-

    ‘God made covenants with Noah, Abraham, David; but were they, as fallen creatures able to enter into covenant with their august and holy Maker? Were they able to stand for themselves, or to be sureties for others? The very question answers itself. What, for instance, could Noah possibly do which would ensure that the earth should never be destroyed again by a flood? These subordinate covenants were nothing more or less than the Lord’s making manifest, in an especial and public manner, the grand covenant: making known something of its glorious contents, confirming their own personal interest in it, and assuring them that Christ, the great covenant Head, should be of themselves and spring from their seed.
    ‘This is what accounts for that singular expression which occurs so frequently in Scripture: “Behold, I establish My covenant with you and your seed after you” (Gen 9:9 ). Yet there follows no mention of any conditions, or work to be done by them: only a promise of unconditional blessings. And why? Because the “conditions” were to be fulfilled and the “work” was to be done by Christ, and nothing remained but to bestow the blessings upon His people. So when David says, “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant” (2Sam 23:5 ) he simply means, God had admitted him into an interest in the everlasting covenant and made him partaker of its privileges. Hence it is that when the apostle Paul refers to the various covenants which God had made with men in Old Testament times, he styles them not “covenants of stipulations” but “covenants of promise”

    As we consider these things, we may see that the very first ‘Covenant of Promise’ was made, not with Noah, but with Adam, immediately after his disastrous fall from grace. The words are spoken to the serpent, Satan, but the application is to us through the merits of Christ. ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’ There was nothing that Adam could do to bring this about. It is the work of Christ (1John 3:8 ), the true Seed of the woman (Gal 4:4 ) that comes to us through our union with Him (Rom 16:20 ). As a sign of this covenant, God graciously provide a covering for the guilty couple (Gen 3:21 ) and for this an innocent creature had to die, foreshadowing the one great sacrifice of the Lamb of God who provides for us the true covering or atonement for sin (cf. Isaiah 61:10; Rev 7:14 ).

    So it was that Abel, having learned from his parents of their great sin and fall, seeing himself lost and mired in sin, took that promise to his parents and made it his own by faith. He looked down the millennia by that same faith and saw the Seed that should come taking his sin upon His sinless shoulders on the cross, and, filled with love for the God that loved him so much, he took the finest lamb of his flock and sacrificed it to Him who would not withhold His beloved Son to save him. It was not the sacrifice that wrought salvation for Abel; it was his faith that united him to Christ in His death and resurrection. And so it is for us, that if we will look to Christ in repentance and faith, we too will be clothed in His righteousness and know the forgiveness of our sins. Abel and the Old Testament saints knew only the promise of Christ as they looked forward to His coming; we know the historical fact as we look backwards to the cross; yet the outcome is the same. “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” The one Covenant of Grace, expressed in the will of the Father and the obedience of the Son, has brought about salvation for all of God’s elect, from Adam and Eve themselves, to the very last sinner to be saved before Christ comes again.

    ‘In Him the tribes of Adam boast,

    More blessings than their Father lost.’
     
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  5. Covenanter

    Covenanter Well-Known Member
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    Covenant theology is soundly based on Scripture.

    A Scriptural "Covenant" is vastly more than an agreement. The expression "I will establish my covenant" occurs 8 times in the OC. The wording implies a pre-existing covenant, & is generally unconditional. Even in human covenants, it is made by the greater to the lesser party as a Promise, of Protection & Peace. See the account of the Gibeonites. Joshua 9, where they ask Joshua to make a league/treaty/covenant with them.

    Notice the way the New Covenant is introduced in Jeremiah 31:31, quoted in Hebrews 8 -
    31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

    That covenant expression "their God...my people" occurs throughout Scripture in various forms, not just to the people of Israel, but to the church of Corinth & to all the redeemed in the NH&NE for all eternity.

    The NT opens with what amounts to a declaration of God's covenant promises to Abraham & David. Mat. 1. The songs of Mary & Zachariah, the angels & Simeon, in Luke 1 & 2 are of God fulfilling his (covenant) promises by the incarnation of the LORD Jesus Christ.

    NOT a two-way agreement but the fulfilment of the Covenant promises of God in the LORD Jesus Christ.

    Note the conditional "old" Covenant promise of Exodus 19:
    5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth isMine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

    Is that a futile covenant (of works), a promise that God made that the subjects could NEVER fulfill? Not at all. It is an expression of the eternal Covenant made by Father & Son to be fulfilled by the perfect obedience of the Son as the Son of man, for man - for the elect & redeemed people of God. That covenant needs no imperfect future millennium for its fulfilment.

    Countless Israelite saints walked with God by faith, & were blessed by that Covenant relationship. Hebrews 11 is a partial list.

    In the present New Covenant "dispensation" God is using the New Covenant Gospel of his Son, in the power of his Holy Spirit to call his redeemed people for their eternal dwelling in the NH&NE.
     
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  6. Covenanter

    Covenanter Well-Known Member
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    Bearing in mind the widely accepted maxim "a hammer makes a better screwdriver than pliers" you have hit the screw very forcibly on the head with that observation.

    Infant baptism is justified by the covenant commanding infant circumcision. Many infant baptists recognise baptised children as being regenerate covenant children & members of Christ. So covenant theology is rejected on the basis of faulty theology.

    Maybe that's why John considered & rejected covenant theology, he's never told us.

    It would be very interesting, @John of Japan if you would give the gist (in English) of your student's study of "Covenant theology & the church."
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Sorry, all desire to discuss covenant theology on the BB has been driven far from my mind by its adherents. (I don't include you as one, since you once told how you disagreed with Berkhof.) And I don't think it would be proper to discuss my student's paper on the Internet. She's a lovely, young, faithful Christian with a wonderful future in ministry for our Lord Jesus Christ.
     
  8. Covenanter

    Covenanter Well-Known Member
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    Now I'm back .... moved out of a London suburb to a tiny village in the idyllic "Golden Valley" on the border of England & Wales. The nearest Gospel church is 10 miles away in Hay on Wye, a small town famous for its annual Literary Festival.

    I've found more people to get to know - and to disagree with. The vicar has begun a course on "meditation"; the local shopkeeper observed that the 1,000 year old church has become a cafe. It also houses the library (in the tower) & various yoga & other sessions. Lunch is served 4 days a week, & one of the 2 monthly services is a Bistro. It's a mission field.

    Back to topic -

    It would be helpful, John, if you gave a summary of why you reject "covenant theology" other than the above ad hominem remark about its adherents. A link would be acceptable in the first instance.

    If it is to do with the logical inferences from infant baptism (aka Covenant baptism) then I think most of would reject infant baptism also because of the implied acceptance of those baptised as Christians. That's a question I will need to deal with locally by the Gospel. I don't think I'm dealing with Covenant theologians.
     
  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Congratulations. Sounds like a very nice place to live. We recently moved into a condominium here in the same town, and are really enjoying it. This is the first time we've ever owned property, having been in Japan for 33 years. where owning property is difficult for foreigners.
    First of all, my remark was not ad hominem, since I said nothing derogatory about anyone, but simply posted a reaction to the ad hominem attacks on me by adherents to covenant theology.
    I've posted a number of times here the reasons I disagree with covenant theology. Infant baptism is a logical step for one who holds to the theology, but I know that the Baptists here on the BB do not hold to it, so I don't make an issue of it here.

    I don't plan to go into detail on this thread, but since you asked, I disagree with covenant theology for the following reasons (not limited to these):
    1. It comes from an allegorical interpretation of Scripture.
    2. It operates from a soteriological basis, but I believe a doxological basis for theology is most important.
    3. The two or three (depending on the theologian) covenants are not the ones listed in the Bible (Noahic, etc.) but are invented by the theologians with only inferences from Scripture.
    4. The covenant theologians see the church as existing in the OT, and I do not believe that to be true.
    5. The three covenants supersede the historical covenants of the Old Testament (Abrahamic, Mosaic, etc.). Thus, the Biblical covenants which establish an eternal Israel are abrogated in covenant theology.
    6. In the Covenant of Grace, the children of a Christian family are included even if lost. This is what justifies infant baptism, having lost people as church members (remember the “Halfway Covenant” of the Puritans), etc.
    7. Covenant theologians disagree on so many things between each other. When the Covenant of Grace was established is unsure in covenant theology. Who the second party of the covenant was is also unsure.
     
  10. Covenanter

    Covenanter Well-Known Member
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    Thanks, John - Lots to consider. I can't give a quick answer to that!
     
  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    You are welcome.

    Just took a look at my lecture notes on the subject. I conclude with this:

    "CONCLUSION: The student of dispensationalism must know what covenant theology is in order to more thoroughly understand the need for dispensational theology. This has been just a brief overview of covenant theology, with no attempt to counter it. Some of the faults of this theology are quite obvious. (1) There is no Biblical basis for these covenants. (2) God exists outside of time, since He created it. Therefore, it is inaccurate to say God covenanted with Himself in ages past or at Creation. (3) Since God is a unity, there is no need for Him to covenant with Himself."
     
  12. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    I disagree. I set out the Biblical bases for the Covenants of Works and Grace in the O.P.s.
    Again, I disagree fundamentally. Covenant theology is all about the glory of God. The Baptist catechism, Question 10, asks,
    What are the decrees of God?
    Ans.
    The Decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby for His own glory, He has foreordained whatever comes to pass.
    This is not correct. To be sure covenant theologians see the Covenants of works and grace as being 'necessarily contained' in the Scriptures, but the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic (or 'sinaitic'), Davidic, and New Covenants form an integral part of C.T.
    Nor do I. :) The O.T. Church is an integral part of paedobaptist C.T., but not of Baptist C.T.
    Here you have struck the primary difference between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. There is only one people of God: believing Jew and believing Gentile together (e.g. Romans 10:12; Ephesians 2:14ff). In the New Covenant, the Gentiles are brought into the blessings of Abraham. This is the teaching of the O.T. as well as the New (e.g. Isaiah 49:6).
    Not in Baptist C.T. Reformed Baptists see a contrast between the Old (Sinaitic) and New Covenants (Jeremiah 31:31-32), whereas paedobaptists see them as fundamentally the same, and baptism as the new circumcision :eek:
    The covenant of grace was established in eternity past. I don't know of anyone who disagrees with that. To be sure there are disagreements concerning the covenants, but there are certainly also disagreements among Dispensationalists. ;)

    If you would like to discuss further any of your seven points, I would be happy to engage with you. :Geek
     
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  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    I have too much on my plate right now, and anyway no desire to discuss covenant theology on the BB right now.

    P.S. For anyone who wants to do deeper study on this subject, comparing the two theologies, Renald E. Showers does a good job in There Really Is a Difference.
     
    #13 John of Japan, Mar 27, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
  14. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    That's OK. :) If you change your mind, just let me know. I'd only like you to be aware that there is a Baptist Covenant Theology which goes back to the 17th Century (Spillesbury et al.) , and so C.T. does not have to be paedobaptistic.
    I'm going to suggest what is really a primer on Baptist C.T.-- A Reformed Baptist Manifesto by Sam Waldron and Richard Barcellos (RBAP. ISBN 0-9760039-0-2). In its relatively few pages, the authors compare Reformed Baptist covenant theology with Dispensationalism, Arminianism, Paedobaptism and Antinomianism.
     
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  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Point taken.

    Thank you.
     
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  16. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    I think it might be helpful now to move on to the Abrahamic Covenant. The following is taken from my blog:

    Read Gen 12:1-3; 17:1-14; Gal 3:1-18; 4:21-31

    It is hard to know how to approach this article; there is a bewildering amount of information on Abraham to be found in both Old and New Testaments. Also, the Abrahamic Covenant is the most controversial of all the covenants, having been very much tied in with the question of baptism. In his booklet, What Christian Parents should Know about Infant Baptism, John P. Sartelle commenced by writing, ‘We begin our study with the Old Testament character, Abraham.’ Now it goes without saying that Abraham was not himself baptized, nor did he ever baptize anyone, but nonetheless, paedobaptists argue that since male infants were circumcised in ancient Israel, the infant children of Christians ought to be baptized. In my opinion it is a fundamental error to start looking at a New Testament ordinance in the Old Testament; we should start with Christ, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2). However, I hope to consider the question of the relation of circumcision to baptism in a separate article. Here we shall consider the Abrahamic Covenant as a whole.

    The covenant with Abraham is revealed to us in four stages:-

    1. Gen 12:1-3. The covenant Announced. The word ‘covenant’ is not mentioned here but Peter in Acts 3:23 makes it clear that God’s initial promises to Abram were part of the covenant. The three part of the covenant, Land, Nation, Seed are made clear.
    2. Gen 15. The Covenant Transacted. The word ‘covenant’ is used in connection with Abraham for the first time, and a sacrifice is made. It is important to note that circumcision is not part of the covenant at this stage. The blessings promised to Abram are on the basis of his faith alone.
    3. Gen 17. The Covenant Instituted. He receives a new name, and the sign of the covenant, circumcision,
    4. Gen 23. The Covenant Confirmed. Abraham’s faith is proved by his actions (cf. Heb 11:17) and the promises repeated.
    The Abrahamic Covenant, like the covenants with Adam (Gen 3:15) and Noah, is a ‘covenant of promise’ (Eph 2:12). The word promise is used quite frequently in the New Testament with reference to Abraham (Acts 7:5; Rom 4:12; 9:4-9; Gal 3:5-29; 4:28; Heb 6:13-20; 11:9, 13, 17). The promises are ‘in Christ’ (Gal 3:17 NKJV. cf. 2Cor 1:20) as well as ‘of Christ’ (Gal 3:16); that is, they refer to Christ and are for those who are His by faith. The ‘Seed of the woman,’ spoken of in Gen 3:15, is shown to be also the Seed of Abraham, but the blessing is to the whole world. The promises are entirely gracious. There was nothing in Abraham to make him worthy of being the recipient of these promises. He was not brought up in a household that worshipped Yahveh; ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the river in old times: and they served other gods’ (Josh 24:2-3). It was not the piety of Abraham which commended him to God, but grace alone through God’s sovereign election. Nor could Abraham do anything to bring the promises about; he and Sarah might have been married for about fifty years before ever God spoke to him (cf. Gen 12:4), and they were doubtless already resigned to childlessness, but God was pleased to show him unmerited favour.

    With whom was the Abrahamic Covenant made? Only with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These last two received the Abrahamic promises not through their relationship to Abraham, but directly from God (Gen 26:2-5; 28:12-15). The covenant is made with no one else. If I believe that God is going to make a great nation out of me, or make me a blessing to all nations, or give my descendants the Land of Canaan as a possession, I am more than likely to be deceiving myself. Nor could an Israelite appropriate the promises to himself; any of Abraham’s descendants other than Isaac and Jacob might be childless. But when we place our faith in the promised Seed, we may appropriate the promised blessing as we become a child of Abraham by faith (Gal 3:7) and inherit the heavenly country that Abraham sought and found (Heb 11:15-16). The covenant ‘with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ is repeatedly mentioned in Scripture (Exod 2:24; 32:13; Lev 26:42; Num 32:11; 2Kings 13:23; 1Chron 16:16ff; Psalm 105:9 etc.) but no one else is ever spoken of as being in the covenant with them.

    We have said that the covenant promises to Abraham were of land, nation and seed. Each of these has both an earthly and a heavenly fulfilment. There is an earthly land of Canaan which the Israelites eventually came to inherit, but we are told in Romans 4:13 that the promise was for the whole world (cf. Matt 5:5; Rev 5:10), and in Heb 11:16 that Abraham looked forward to a heavenly city. These are fundamentally the same promise and refer to the new heavens and new earth and also to the heavenly Jerusalem of Rev 21;1-3 which Abraham will inherit along with all believers at the end of time. Likewise, there was an earthly nation descended from Abraham who came to live in Canaan, but we learn from Gal 3:7 that believers of all nations are his true descendants and it is they who will inherit the heavenly promises.

    [Continued]
     
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  17. HankD

    HankD Well-Known Member
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    Thank you John for your expertise. I have always realized the importance of God's covenants with man (Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic...) in dispensationalism but never went into much discussion about it because I didn't want to be wrongly associated with "Covenant Theology" so-called which centers on covenants with no Biblical basis.
     
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  18. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    [Part two]

    This brings us nicely on to the two seeds of Abraham; for there are two seeds with two different promises. Firstly, there is a physical seed to whom are given physical promises- a great nation and a physical land for it to dwell in. These promises were received by Israel in full (Josh 21:43-45). This seed ‘after the flesh’ (Gal 4:29) is represented by Ishmael. It is most important to understand that Ishmael is not in the Covenant. ‘And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before you!” Then God said, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish My covenant with him”’ (Gen 17:18-19). Nothing could be clearer than this; Ishmael is not in the covenant, although he receives the covenant sign (v26). Ishmael, though not an Israelite, is a type of Israel after the flesh. He receives the earthly promises (Gen 17:20) and the outward sign, but not the spiritual blessings (Gal 4:30; Acts 7:51-53). He persecutes the True Seed (Gen 21:9; John 8:37ff; Gal 4:29). His circumcision is of no avail to him since he lacks what circumcision symbolized; a humble, circumcised heart (Jer 9:25-26).

    There is also a spiritual seed of Abraham; those who are in Christ, the True Seed, by faith. These are they who are looking for a heavenly country just as Abraham was. Just as Abraham did not receive an earthly inheritance (Acts 7:5 etc), so the true Israelite knew that Canaan was not his true home (Psalm 39:12; 119:19. cf. 1Peter 2:11). He put no confidence in his circumcision, but rather his circumcision spoke to him of the promised Seed of Abraham who should come (cf. Luke 2:25-32; Phil 3:3).

    It may be asked then, are there two Abrahamic covenants, one to the physical descendants of Abraham and one to his spiritual seed? No, for as we have seen, Ishmael receives certain promises, and is given the sign of circumcision, but he is not in the covenant. But what then of Gen 17:10ff, which says, “This is My covenant which you shall keep between me and you and your descendants (lit. ‘Seed’) after you. Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you………and the uncircumcised male child who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant”? How could someone break the covenant if he’s not in it?

    As so often in the Scriptures, we can use the New Testament to shed light upon the Old. First, we can look at circumcision: ‘And [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also’ Rom 4:11). First we should note that circumcision was not a seal of anything to anybody but Abraham, and even to him it was simply a confirmation of the blessings that had been already promised to him. It was a divine pledge to him that from him should come that Seed through Whom all nations should be blessed. It was not a seal of his faith, but of the righteousness that should, in due time, be wrought by Christ in Whom he had believed (cf. John 8:56).

    What then did circumcision signify to Abraham’s physical male progeny and to his male servants? Well, firstly it had nothing to do with faith. It was a requirement for service in Abraham’s household. If you wanted to work for Mr Abraham, you had the snip. Indeed, nowhere in the entire Bible will you find physical circumcision connected with anybody’s faith but Abraham’s. In itself it signified precisely nothing. From the descendants of Abraham, the Messiah would be born, but it did not follow that any particular descendant should be an ancestor of Christ. Circumcision was a sign, not to Abraham’s physical seed, but to those ‘Israelites indeed’ (John 1:47) who were looking forward to Christ by faith, that the promises of God should eventually be fulfilled.

    Next we can look at the ‘promises:’ ‘Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ……..and if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Gal 3:16, 29). In the light of this divinely-inspired commentary on Gen 17, it is perverse of the NKJV and other modern translations to speak of ‘descendants’ in Gen 17:10 and elsewhere, instead of ‘seed.’ The Authorised Version is more reliable at this point. The spiritual promises of the Abrahamic Covenant never applied to those who were physical descendants of Abraham, but to those of all nations (including Israel, of course) who are in Christ by faith. Very solemn are the words of our Lord on this matter: “And I say to you that many will come from east and west and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:11-12).

    So we see that the Abrahamic Covenant is tied up with the coming of the promised son- the miracle child (Gen 15:2-6). Isaac is not Christ, but he is a type or foreshadowing of Christ: long promised, born miraculously, persecuted by his own kin (Ishmael), offered up by his father, who received him (figuratively- Heb 11:19) back from the dead. The children of God come from him (Rom 9:7; Heb 3:5b). It is worth reading Isaiah 54 prayerfully in the light of these points.

    So are Christians in some way ‘under’ the Abrahamic Covenant? The reader may search the whole Bible through but he will find no indication that they are. Believers are the true children of Abraham, and we read in Gal 3:14 that, ‘…….. the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. There is no promise here for the children of believers, any more than there was for Abraham’s children by Hagar or Keturah (Rom 9:7 again!). ‘Know therefore that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham’ (Gal 3:7).

    In the words of A.W.Pink: “The grand design of God’s covenant with Abraham was to make known that through him should come the One who would bring blessing to all the families of the earth.” But in order for this design to come to pass, it was necessary for a nation to arise for Christ to be born into, so that His earthly genealogy might be preserved. Pink continues, “Abraham is called a ‘father’ neither in a federal nor in a spiritual sense, but because he is the head of the faith clan, the prototype to which all believers are conformed. Christians are not under the Abrahamic covenant, though they are ‘blessed with him’ by having their faith counted unto righteousness. Though New Testament believers are not under the Abrahamic covenant, they are, because of their union with Christ, heirs of its spiritual inheritance.”
     
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  19. HankD

    HankD Well-Known Member
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    Oh and JoJ I'm happy to hear that The Lord has given you your own condo!

    How wonderful.:)
     
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  20. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    In recommending that book, I was thinking more of the general reader than a scholar like yourself.
    More heavyweight works on the covenants are The Divine Covenants by A. W. Pink (Pietan Publications but available on lined here: http://www.reformedbaptist.co.uk/The Divine Covenants by AW Pink.pdf or Recovering a Covenantal Heritage edited by Richard Barcellos (RBAP. ISBN 9-781499-714487). The latter has contributions from James and Michael Renihan, James White, Stephen Weaver Jr. and the Puritan John Owen, and recommendations by such Baptist luminaries as Tom Nettles, Voddie Baucham, Conrad Mbewe & Nathan Finn.

    Loads more stuff on the 1689 Federalism website.
     
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