bad theology

We often see on social media how Christians accuse fellow-Christians as being heretics, and many of us have even been victims thereof. Calling other Christians as such is often unfair, unloving, and not Christlike at all. There is a huge difference between exposing a false teacher and calling a truthful fellow-Christian names, purely because he or she differ from our own opinions and interpretations. Especially when the other person’s views are also based on Scripture and he or she does not wilfully ignore, add to or take away from the Word of God.

So, what does the word “heretic” actually refer to?


The KJV Dictionary describes heresy as a fundamental error in religion, or an error of opinion respecting some fundamental doctrine of religion. But in countries where there is an established church, an opinion is deemed heresy, when it differs from that of the church. The Scriptures being the standard of faith, any opinion that is repugnant to its doctrines, is heresy; but as men differ in the interpretation of Scripture, an opinion deemed heretical by one body of Christians, may be deemed orthodox by another. In Scripture and primitive usage, heresy meant merely sect, party, or the doctrines of a sect, as we now use denomination or persuasion, implying no reproach.

But there are various reasons why Christians call others heretics, like Marc Cortez from explains, “Defining exactly what constitutes a heresy is harder than it seems. Some think a heresy is just whatever has been condemned at an ecumenical council. Others see any attempt to call something heresy as a pure power play, a way of protecting church authority, or an attempt to create an “other” against which the community can define itself. Still others see heresy as anything that corrupts the essential purity of the church.

There are reasons for each of these approaches. At the end of the day, though, the church has always been hesitant to call something heresy unless it has been determined by some authoritative body that the belief in question explicitly undermines the gospel itself.”

It’s not a heresy just because it’s wrong. I can be wrong about lots of things without undermining the gospel itself. If that wasn’t the case, I’d be undermining the gospel with almost every thought. (I make a lot of mistakes.)

It’s not (even) a heresy just because it might undermine the gospel. There’s a difference between things that clearly undermine the biblical gospel (e.g. denying the deity of Christ) and things that could possibly undermine the gospel depending on how exactly you understand them (e.g. the working of faith).


Although sound theology is of utmost importance, Keith Giles wrote the following in his article “How To Respond When They Call You A Heretic” on the website, that is worth keeping in mind;

“Everyone is someone’s heretic. At least, that’s my opinion these days. Whenever someone calls you a false teacher or a heretic, what they really mean to say is: “Your theology isn’t the same as mine. I can’t be wrong about anything, therefore you must be a heretic.” What these people don’t realize is that, to someone else, they are the heretic.

See, Christians disagree on all sorts of things. This is why there are thousands of different denominations around the globe, and across the nation. Yes, we all use the same Holy Bible. Yes, we all believe that our interpretation of those scriptures is the correct one. Yes, we typically consider those with different theology to be “abhorrent” or “heretical.”

This is precisely why our house church family decided 11 years ago not to adopt any official statement of faith. Because we knew that, historically, every single time Christians attempted to bring unity by establishing doctrine what they actually did was create more division.

So, we have a disagreement on theology. That’s ok with me, honestly. I don’t personally believe that Christians need to have agreement on (all) doctrines in order to have unity.

Not only have I experienced this reality for the last 11 years in our house church – where people who disagreed on all sorts of theologies sat side-by-side every week and never argued or divided over doctrines – but I’m convinced that this is what Paul was referring to when he said that our unity was “in Christ” and not in our agreement on (all) theology, or anything else.

For reference: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26-28)

… sadly for many, many other Christians, the Gospel has become more about having the right information about God. So, if your information about God is different from mine then you are a heretic, and you are also not actually a Christian because you got some of the answers wrong on the theology test I just gave you.

But, the Gospel is NOT about having the right information about God. The Gospel is not about information – it’s about Transformation.

Transformation isn’t dependent upon information. Transformation is what happens when we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us. This can take place independent of the quality or accuracy of the information about God we may have in our brains.

I don’t know about you, but my opinions and doctrines and beliefs about God and other theological ideas have changed over the years. There are things I believe today that I did not believe 5 or 10 years ago. So, whereas my beliefs may fluctuate, my connection to God through Christ never does. It remains constant regardless of my ideas and opinions about theology.”


Marc Cortez from mentions 3 reasons why we should be careful when calling fellow-Christians heretics;

  1. It Waters Down the Word

If anything theologically mistaken qualifies as heresy, then most of my beliefs are heretical. After all, does anyone really want to claim that they understand any theological truth perfectly? Don’t we all mix some fallibility into even our best beliefs? If so, then aren’t all my beliefs heretical?

That’s actually one of the answers I was given when I asked why some people self-identify as a “heretic.” For them, the label is a form of theological humility, a way of acknowledging our limited grasp of God’s perfect truth.

Once we’ve equated heresy with error in this way, though, heresy loses any real meaning. And it blurs the line between minor struggles toward theological clarity and major errors that undermine the gospel.

  1. It Contributes to Suspicions of Authority

Many are inherently suspicious of any attempt to label something as a “heresy” because it feels like a pure power play. Instead of identifying a belief that legitimately undermines the gospel, they think institutional authorities use “heresy” as a label for identifying any belief that they dislike, distrust, or that undermines their authority.

This is particularly important because people know that “heresy” is more than just “wrong.” I could be wrong about whether baptism should be by immersion or by sprinkling, but few will question my eternal salvation over that point. If I’m a heretic, though, that’s something else entirely. Slap that label on me and people begin wondering whether I’m even a part of God’s people.

Thus, using “heresy” loosely just feeds suspicions that it’s a power play where authorities use labels to exclude people they don’t like, creating an us/them mentality that is more about maintaining power than pursuing truth. Unless we have clear reasons for saying that something explicitly undermines the gospel and can point to the careful process that legitimate authorities went through to make this decision, people will see this as confirmation that “heresy” is just a cover for preserving the status quo.

  1. It Makes Salvation about Theological Precision

Finally, when we broaden the category of heresy to include all kinds of mistaken beliefs, we unintentionally introduce the idea that being truly saved is about theological precision. If being mistaken about something like how to interpret biblical prophecies is a heresy, then lots of apparently well-meaning Christians have actually been heretics and should immediately start examining themselves to see whether they are really Christians. (The church has always made a distinction, though, between people who hold a heretical belief without knowing that it is heretical, and people who willfully and intentionally continue to affirm something even after they’ve been instructed on why it is heretical.) Forget grace and faith, eternal destinies are secured by theological precision.

I teach theology for a living, so it should come as no surprise that I think theology and theological precision are both rather important. But I certainly wouldn’t want my eternal destiny to be established on the basis of how perfectly I have understood Christian theology. Perfect knowledge is no better than perfect works as a ground for salvation.

But Sometimes…

All of this suggests that we need to be more careful with the heresy label. But none of it suggests that we should stop using it entirely. Sometimes a heresy is a heresy… (and) we should not shy away for calling them what they are. To do less isn’t humble, it’s irresponsible.

The problem isn’t with the concept of heresy but with the ways that we have misused and abused the concept. While trying to search out error in the church, we haven’t been as mindful of the fact that the way we use the heresy label can create its own errors, some equally as dangerous as the ones we had in mind to begin with.

We all should stop calling people heretics…unless they are.

Marc Cortez is a theology professor at Wheaton College. Visit him at











We who read the Bible for what it says and do not try to add the “wisdom” of man to it are often attacked for our believe that God will keep His promises to the Jews. I found the downloadable document in the link below on the web. It is quite lengthy but it provides us all with excellent answers to those who attack us for our biblical beliefs.

Click to access 6%20reasons%20Replacement%20Theology%20is%20false%20-%20the%20Church%20has%20not%20replaced%20the%20nation%20of%20Israel.pdf


As stated in a previous study, amillennialism is the belief that there will be no literal millennium or future reign of Jesus Christ on planet earth. It’s also linked with what is called “Covenant Theology” because this system of theology follows the allegorization method of interpretation and embraces a non-literal approach to the millennium.

Covenant Theology rejects dispensationalism since dispensationalism believes in the literal approach to prophetic Scripture and sees a clear distinction between Israel and the church and also believes in a literal 1,000-year kingdom reign upon earth. Dispensationalism teaches that God still has a plan for national Israel and that God has not abandoned His covenant promises given to His people. Therefore, the system of Covenant Theology strongly rejects this system of interpretation, which threatens their spiritualized scheme of thinking on the Bible.


Covenant theology is primarily a Post-Reformation teaching formulated in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries that was introduced to America primarily through the Puritans. This system of theology was not developed in the early church, the Middle Ages or by the prominent Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli or Melanchthon.

Louis Berkhof says: “In the early Church Fathers the covenant idea is not found at all.”

According to Berkhof, Kasper Olevianus (1536-1587), a secondary Reformer, was the real founder of a well-developed Covenant Theology. Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was credited for teaching that this covenant of grace was created in eternity past when the Godhead agreed upon the terms for redemption. These were men whose influence was secondary to the great Reformers of the time. The main Reformers did not teach or develop a covenant scheme like other lesser-known men. A German named Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669) actually set forth the view of two covenants of works and grace in a work published in 1648. However, the teaching was spreading, since one year before the publication of Cocceius’s work the Westminster Confession’s covenant of works and grace appeared.

Renald Showers adds this important note: “The system started to be developed in the Reformed Churches of Switzerland and Germany and passed to the Netherlands, Scotland, and England. In 1647 the Westminster Confession of Faith in England became the first confession of faith to refer to Covenant Theology.”

Covenant theology came to America through the writings of Francis Turretin and Herman Witsius and was championed in the new world in the works of John Cotton and others.


Covenant Theology represents the whole of Scripture as being covered by two or three covenants. This theological system begins its allegorization scheme of interpretation by claiming that God only made two or three covenants.

Covenant of Redemption

The first covenant is a covenant of redemption between the Godhead in eternity past. This theological system claims that this covenant came about because of some secret agreement that was made between the Father and Son. God the Son agreed to provide salvation through His death upon the cross and the Father agreed that the Son would be the Redeemer and head of the elect.

Covenant of Works

Second, there is a covenant of works, which God made with Adam (Gen. 2:17). God promised life for his obedience and death for his disobedience. Adam was temporarily put on probation to see what he would do. When he failed he plunged the world into sin and spiritual death and became the head of a human race that would be separated from God.

Covenant of Grace

The third covenant consisted of a covenant of grace after Adam sinned (Gen. 3:15) which was the promise of salvation through a coming Redeemer. God offered the covenant to Adam in order to bring salvation to him through Jesus Christ. And today God is operating under this same grace-redemption covenant purpose, which is now being extended to the elect. The covenant of grace is actually based upon the covenant of redemption, which was made in eternity past.

Interpretation of Jewish promises

According to Covenant Theology, there is the need to simplify the national Jewish covenant promises, through the process of figurative/spiritualized language, since this makes the unifying concept of salvation and grace easier to be seen and understood throughout history.  This leads them to nullify the covenant promises given to the Jews and spiritualize them. When the covenant programs of God are interpreted literally and the distinctions between God’s covenant programs are clearly seen, it will allow for a future kingdom for national Israel.

This is the crux of covenant theology and the amillennial position: The promises given to Israel about a land, a nation, a king and a kingdom (Gen. 12:2; 15:18-20; 2 Sam. 7:12-16) have been given to the church and take on a new spiritual dimension and meaning.

Since the old Israel rebelled against God’s conditional covenants and ultimately rejected Christ, she forfeited her right to enjoy any earthly kingdom. Calvin went so far to say that the literal interpretation of Israel’s earthly promises were not even to be interpreted by the Jews to mean a literal earthly kingdom. Rather, they were given to teach realities about their glorious prospect of heaven.

Calvin States: “The point of controversy between us and these persons, is this: they maintain that the possession of the land of Canaan was accounted by the Israelites their supreme and ultimate blessedness, but that to us, since the revelation of Christ, it is a figure of the heavenly inheritance. We, on the contrary, contend, that in the earthly possession which they enjoyed, they contemplated, as in a mirror, them, in heaven.”

Of course, this is an incredible hoax on the Bible. It is huckstering the Bible (2 Cor. 4:2) to try and fit a Platonic interpretive scheme that is contrary to belief in a literal Bible. This is called “Replacement theology.”


Covenant theology views both history and prophecy through the lenses of this proposed covenant of grace and this is what directs their interpretation of Scripture, causing the prophecies about the millennium to be spiritualized and interpreted figuratively, as the present day church.

It’s very significant that there is no mention of these proposed covenants in Scripture. The first time the word covenant is used is with Noah (Gen. 6:18; 9:11). The covenant of works and grace are not Biblical covenants as Reformed Theology teaches. Covenant theologians base their entire system of theology on a deduction rather than a clear statement of Scripture.

Abraham no doubt understood that a covenant was being made when he cut the animals in half and when God passed through the pieces of the sacrifice (Gen. 15:17-21). But this cannot be said of Adam. Adam was not aware of some kind of covenant of works and grace taking place as Covenant theology assumes happened.

It must be understood that the covenants of redemption, works and grace are man-made theological covenants but not biblical covenants. God’s dealing with Adam was in the form of a test and the subsequent provisions given to Adam if he fails the test. It was not necessarily a covenant. Scripture never verifies that this was a covenant as it does with the other covenants (Gen. 6:18 = Noahic; Gen. 15:18; 17:2 = Abrahamic; Deut. 4:12-13 = Mosaic; Deut. 29:1 with 30:3-10 = Land; 2 Chronicles 21:7; Ps. 89:3 with 2 Samuel 7:8-18 = Davidic; Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:8 = New). Thus, the whole premise of Covenant Theology crumbles because they argue for covenants that are not even directly or clearly mentioned and revealed in the Bible as covenants.

Even if one was to assume that a covenant of works was made to Adam and a covenant of grace was the result of Adam’s failure, it does not mean that every other covenant mentioned in the Bible must be spiritualized to fit into some kind of single covenant scheme of grace, which leads to nullifying other covenants of their literal promises to national Israel. Covenant Theology is in error because it tries to make all of the other covenants subservient to the one imaginary covenant of grace.

It’s true that other covenants contain a picture of God’s grace in that He acts on the behalf of the people. Even in the Mosaic Covenant there is the institution of the gracious sacrificial system. But this conclusion does not give the interpreter the permission to spiritualize the other covenants in an attempt to give them one common goal – salvation by grace. Covenant Theology has only one goal that it focuses on – salvation by grace. But this single goal throughout history is too narrow.

We must remember that God has other goals that He intends to fulfill during the course of history which contribute to His ultimate purpose for history. God has different goals for nations (Job 12:23; Isa 14:24-27) and rulers (Dan. 2:21, 4:17). God has judgment plans for planet earth (Revelation 6-19). He has plans for Satan (Rev. 12:7-10, 20:1-3) and even for the redemption of nature (Matt. 19:28; Rom. 8:19-22). Likewise, God has a plan for the Gentiles (Rom. 11:25) and for the Jews or national Israel (Romans 11:26-27). He promises the Jews a literal kingdom (Daniel 7:27; Luke 12:32). These goals cannot be overlooked or spiritualized in order to try and unify the working of the grace of God in some kind of generalized and spiritualized program of one common people and goal that embraces grace and salvation. To try and narrow the goals or plans of God by squeezing them into a single covenant of grace does not do justice to God’s other plans that He is working out in history.

Renald Showers observes: “Since God has many different programs which He is operating during the course of history, all of them must be contributing something to His ultimate purpose for history. Thus, the ultimate goal of history has to be large enough to incorporate all of God’s programs, not just one of them.”

Distinctions cannot be set aside without falling into grievous error. For instance, Paul makes a clear distinction between the Mosaic covenant and Abrahamic Covenant by arguing that the promised seed cannot be based upon both the Law and Abrahamic covenant at the same time (Gal. 3:18). One said, “Do this and you will be blest” where the other said, “I will do this for you so you will be blessed.” The Mosaic Covenant instituted conditions that were not required in any earlier covenants. There is also an expressed distinction between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant (Jer. 31:32). Furthermore, the Mosaic Law was an administration of death (2 Cor. 3:9) whereas the New Covenant is an administration of righteousness (2 Cor. 3:9). In addition the Old Mosaic Law was written on tables of stone whereas the New Covenant is said to be written upon the tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3). The idea that all of the covenants have a single meaning, purpose and common goal attached to them (salvation by grace) is too narrow.

We have the Noahic covenant with the rainbow of promise (Gen. 9:11-15). We have the Mosaic covenant with the demands to obey for blessings and resulting curses for failure (Deut. 27:14-26). Then we have the Abrahamic, Land and Davidic covenants with the promises of a continuing people, future land and future kingdom. We have the New Covenant with the promise of the permanent indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:27). The differences are more than minor as Covenant Theologians suggest. They are major differences that demonstrate the outworking purposes of God as being much more involved than just salvation by grace. (For this reason I get highly upset when Christians in a disrespectful manner refer to biblical aspects, other than salvation, as “secondary” or “non-salvic” issues, as if they don’t matter – to God they matter!)

Covenant Theology follows our earlier amillennial teaching, which claims that the church today has inherited the Old Covenant promises of Israel in a generalized spiritual way. The Covenant Theology of amillennialism views all the covenants of the Bible to be progressive revelations of the one covenant of grace. They are all squeezed into the same mold as the covenant of grace. And since there is only one general covenant that God is working with throughout history it is proposed that there can be only one group of people that He is working with in both the old and new dispensation – the church. And to keep the unifying principle of the covenant of grace intact there must be a spiritual or figurative transfer of the Old Testament covenant promises to the church today.

Covenant Theology attempts to simplify God’s sovereign program by combining different people into one entity and various dispensational economies into one generic phase of God’s work. Amillennialism opts for an oversimplification of God’s earthly plans and tries to avoid unwanted distinctions at all costs to keep what they term as “A more feasible working hermeneutic.”

The point of Covenant Theology is trying to make is that too many different covenants and different programs would steer us away from God’s common plan of grace and no longer create a common picture of redemption throughout history. This is why the church today is called “Abraham’s spiritual seed.” They have received or inherited the Old Testament promises in a spiritual or figurative way as evidence by the New Testament.

According to Covenant Theology and their New Testament analysis, those covenants that are mentioned in the Bible (Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic and New) are all viewed as being a spiritual or non-literal extension of the covenant of grace. Furthermore, it’s promoted by this interpretive system that all of the Old Testament covenants are in some way related to the promised salvation blessings given to the universal church down through the ages of time – even the New Testament church of today.

For many the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12) is seen to be the official beginning of the covenant of grace and the institutional church. Abraham is seen as the head of the covenant of grace. Other amillenarians see Adam as fulfilling this role as head of the covenant of grace and view the church beginning back in Genesis chapter 3:15 with the promise of the Redeemer. Berkhof suggests that in Genesis 3:15 we see the revelation of this covenant but it was not until the time of Abraham that this covenant was officially established.


Reformed Theology of today continues to embrace this covenant of grace relationship with God and claims that the children of saved parents are born within the covenant of grace relationship. Like Old Testament Israel, those born to regenerate parents (the new Israel) experience a “legal relationship” with God within this covenant relationship.

These children become like the spiritual seed of the believers and enter this covenant of grace by physical birth. When they come to the age of accountability before God they are then expected to enter the “communion of life” aspect of this covenant, which involves salvation. As a rule, they believe God gathers the number of His elect out of those who stand in this legal covenant relationship with Him. Those who are born in the covenant of grace relationship have a privileged position and it is believed that God gives them special blessings such as the Spirit’s conviction, striving and common grace (Gen. 6:3; Mt. 13:18-22; Heb. 6:4-6). By the process of spiritual transfer and replacement the new sign of the covenant relationship between God and His people today (the new Israel) is baptism (sprinkling), which replaces the old sign of circumcision in the Old Testament Abrahamic covenant. This is the seal of the covenant of grace and the young children are considered the “children of the kingdom” to which the Gospel must be preached first of all (Matt. 8:12; Luke 14:16-24; Acts 13:46).

This Reformed way of thinking and baptismal practice of infants runs contrary to Scripture. The Bible never calls circumcision the “seal” of the Abrahamic covenant let alone baptism becoming the seal of the New Covenant. This is terminology not used in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is the seal of the present dispensation (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30). Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible does it state that infant baptism and circumcision is the same thing. They cannot signify the same thing since children of believing parents are not Israelites and since circumcision was only performed on males whereas baptism was practiced on both males and females.

In addition, New Testament baptism followed the salvation of any person, no matter what age they had reached, whereas circumcision was performed on children eight days old (Gen. 17:12). To argue that baptism replaces circumcision and becomes a seal of the covenant of grace that we have with God is nowhere stated nor even assumed in the entire Bible. If the baptism of boys replaces the Old Testament practice of circumcision then what does the practice of infant girls replace?

Verses that are used by covenant theologians to support the notion that infant baptism replaces infant circumcision teach nothing about baptizing infants (Col. 2:11; Matt. 19:14). The supposed proof text of Colossians 2:11-12, which Reformed theologians use to support the idea of baptism replacing the sign of circumcision, says nothing of infants! However, this passage does teach that salvation is a spiritual operation of circumcision that does not involve the hands of man. It does teach that salvation takes place through the spiritual operation that God performs in our life when we are spiritually identified with the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and brought into new life with Him.

By comparison, where do we read that all the people within Old Testament Israel, who were in covenant relationship with God, were actually saved? Even today Paul says that all Jews, who are born as Israelites and circumcised, are not necessarily part of the true regenerated Israel (see Romans 9:6). This tells us that it is dangerous to assume that some person born into a covenant relationship with God possesses eternal life. These kinds of confusing statements made by Reformed Theologians result when failing to distinguish between membership in a covenant people and membership in the true church through faith in Christ (Heb. 12:23).

Reformed Theology also teaches that since Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), it’s reasonable to assume that Christ is the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace. It is Jesus Christ who goes between God and sinful man and brings man into right relationship with a holy God. But problems arise when churches begin to identify baptism as some kind of sealing agent into the covenant of grace. The dangers arise when people understand that the Mediator of the covenant transfers His actual saving work to their lives through the act of baptism. This is nothing more than a works salvation (Eph. 2:8-9).

Perhaps covenant theologians do not intend to teach that baptism regenerates little children but their statements would teach otherwise. The statements of covenant theologians seem to imply salvation by the act of baptism.

Murray says: “Baptized infants are to be received as the children of God and treated accordingly.” Bromiley, writing about the children of promise, says: “Baptism declares the inward regenerative cooperation of the Holy Spirit which makes us conformable to Jesus Christ.”

In his book entitled Baptism: It’s purpose, Practice and Power, Green wrote these words: “Baptism is the initiation of the Christian person. It is his inclusion in the salvation history of God. It is the incorporation into the church, the Body of Christ.”

Calvin, writing in his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” recorded these words: “The sign [of infant baptism] … opens to them a door into the church, that, adopted into it, they may be enrolled among the heirs of the Kingdom of heaven.”


This interpretive scheme leaves large areas of the Old Testament Scripture and prophecies without any generally accepted meaning or explanation by the Amillennialists. This is because when you advance your own mind upon the Scriptures there are a countless number of conclusions that will be promoted for the meaning of Scriptural texts. Amillennialism, with its multiplied spiritualized schemes to find hidden meanings behind literal texts in the Old Testament, is a blight upon the understanding of Scripture and causes wreckage to occur in the study of the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15). It comes to the Scripture with subjective reasoning where the meaning of a text is at the mercy of the interpreter instead of interpreting God-breathed Scripture objectively in its grammatical, ordinary and literal sense.


(Source: Pastor Kelly Sensenig)




Covenant and Dispensational theology agree that Scripture is progressive. Where dispensational theology saw a discontinuity between the various dispensations (and in particular between the Old and the New Testaments), covenant theology sees a great deal of continuity.


Covenant Theology remains the majority report for Protestantism since the time of the Reformation, and it is the system favored by those of a more Reformed or Calvinistic persuasion.

Covenant Theology defines two overriding covenants: the covenant of works (CW) and the covenant of grace (CG). A third covenant is sometimes mentioned; namely, the covenant of redemption (CR). All of the various covenants described in Scripture (e.g., the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant) are as a result of either the covenant of works or the covenant of grace.


The covenant of redemption logically precedes the other two covenants. It is a covenant made among the three Persons of the Trinity to elect, atone for, and save a select group of individuals unto salvation and eternal life. “The Father chooses a bride for His Son.” Jesus often referred to His task as carrying out the Father’s will (John 5:3, 43; 6:38-40; 17:4-12). That fact that the salvation of the elect was God’s intention from the very beginning of creation cannot be doubted.


The Old Covenant is more than just the moral law codified in the Ten Commandments. The Old Covenant includes the rules and regulations regarding the worship of God as well as the civil law that governed the nation of Israel. With the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of the OT, many aspects of the Old Covenant become obsolete because Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant types and figures (again, see Hebrews 8–10). The Old Covenant represented the “types and shadows,” whereas Christ represents the “substance” (Colossians 2:17).


From a redemptive historical perspective, the covenant of works is the first covenant. When God created man, He gave him one simple command: “… you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Life is the reward for obedience, and death is the punishment for disobedience.

Moses / Israel:

We see a similar structure in the giving of the Old Covenant through Moses to Israel. Israel made a covenant with God at Sinai. God would give the Promised Land and His blessing and protection against all enemies in return for Israel’s obedience to the stipulations of the covenant. The punishment for covenant violation was expulsion from the land (which occurred in the conquest of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. and the Southern Kingdom in 586 B.C.).


When Adam failed in keeping the covenant of works, God instituted the covenant of grace. God freely offers to sinners eternal life and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. We see the provision for the CG right after the fall when God prophesies the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15. Whereas the covenant of works is conditional and promises blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience, the covenant of grace is unconditional and is given freely on the basis of God’s grace. The Bible also clearly teaches that even saving faith is a gracious gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).


We see the covenant of grace manifested in the various unconditional covenants God makes with individuals in the Bible. The covenant God makes with Abraham (to be his God and for Abraham and his descendants to be His people) is an extension thereof.


The Davidic Covenant (that a descendant of David will always reign as king) is also an extension of the CG. God writes His law upon our hearts and completely forgives our sins. The various OT covenants all find their fulfilment in Jesus Christ. The promise to Abraham to bless all the nations and the Davidic king who will eternally rule over God’s people were fulfilled in Christ. The New Covenant was obviously fulfilled in Christ.

The CG does not abrogate the covenant of works as codified in the moral law. God demanded holiness from His people in the OT (Leviticus 11:44) and still demands holiness from His people in the NT (1 Peter 1:16). Romans 5:12-21 describes the situation between the two federal heads of the human race. Adam represented the human race in the Garden and failed to uphold the CW. Jesus Christ stood as man’s representative and perfectly fulfilled the CW. That is why Paul can say, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Replacement Theology or not?:

In conclusion, Covenant Theology sees the OT as the promise of Christ and the NT as the fulfillment in Christ. Some have accused Covenant Theology as teaching what is called “Replacement Theology” (i.e., the Church replaces Israel). This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology does not see a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. Israel constituted the people of the God in the OT, and the Church (which is made up of Jew and Gentile) constitutes the people of God in the NT; both just make up one people of God (Ephesians 2:11-20). The Church doesn’t replace Israel; the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church (Galatians 6:16).


Baptism is considered by Covenant Theologians as the visible sign of entrance into the New Covenant and therefore may be administered individually to new believers making a public profession of faith, corporately to the households of believers which typically would include children, or individually to children or infants of believing parents (Infant baptism). Baptism is thus seen as the functional replacement and sacramental equivalent of the Abrahamic rite of circumcision and symbolizes the internal cleansing from sin, among other things.

Interpretation of the Bible:

It requires an allegorical interpretation of many Scripture passages, including prophecy that relates to God’s future plans for Israel. Allegorical interpretation is an interpretive method (exegesis) which assumes that the Bible has various levels of meaning and tends to focus on the spiritual sense (which includes the allegorical sense, the moral sense, and the anagogical sense) as opposed to the literal sense.

Approach to end time Bible prophecy:

Most Reformed thinkers do not believe that the reference to a 1000-year reign of Christ should be taken as a future event (Rev. 20:1-5). They regard this section of Revelation as a symbolic “recapitulation” of Christian church history, with Satan spiritually “bound” through Christ’s resurrection. Although this view is often called a-millennialism, this is not quite accurate. The prefix “a” means “no”. Covenant writers do believe in a Millennium; but they define it non-physically and non-futuristically. Most Covenant thinkers accept the general idea of a final period of extreme apostasy and divine wrath just prior to Christ’s return.

There has recently been a resurgence of post-millennialism in Reformed circles as well. This is the belief that all the glorious O.T. predictions of a Golden Age for Israel will be fulfilled through the Christian Church prior to Christ’s return.

Reformed writers believe that the translation of the saints into glory, the resurrection of the just, (1 Thess. 4:13-18), the return of Christ (Rev. 19:11-16), and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) all happen at the same time. (sequentially) I.e., they disagree with the teaching that the Rapture of the Church happens prior to the final tribulation. Most would teach that the Rapture happens at the end of the great tribulation (post-tribulationalism). Christ’s return ushers in the final regeneration of the cosmos, with no intervening millennium.


In theology, a dispensation is the divine administration of a period of time and each dispensation is a divinely appointed age. Dispensationalism recognizes these ages ordained by God to order the affairs of the world.

Dispensationalism has two primary distinctives:

1) a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy, and
2) a view of the uniqueness of Israel as separate from the Church in God’s program. Classical dispensationalism identifies seven dispensations in God’s plan for humanity.

Literal interpretation of the Bible:

The literal interpretation gives each word the meaning it would commonly have in everyday usage. Allowances are made for symbols, figures of speech, and types, of course. The latter have literal meanings behind them.

Dispensationalists understand the Bible to be organized into seven dispensations: Innocence (Genesis 1:1—3:7), Conscience (Genesis 3:8—8:22), Human Government (Genesis 9:1—11:32), Promise (Genesis 12:1—Exodus 19:25), Law (Exodus 20:1—Acts 2:4), Grace (Acts 2:4—Revelation 20:3), and the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:4–6). These dispensations are not paths to salvation, but manners in which God relates to man. Each dispensation includes a recognizable pattern of how God worked with people living in the dispensation. That pattern is 1) a responsibility, 2) a failure, 3) a judgment, and 4) grace to move on.

Dispensational theology views the revelation as progressive, i.e., in each dispensation, God reveals more and more of His divine plan of redemption. And each dispensation is typically introduced with some new revelation from God.

Fulfilment of prophecies:

Every prophecy about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament was fulfilled literally. If a literal interpretation is not used in studying the Scriptures, there is no objective standard by which to understand the Bible. Each person would be able to interpret the Bible as he saw fit.

So, for example, when the Bible speaks of “a thousand years” in Revelation 20, dispensationalists interpret it as a literal period of 1,000 years (the dispensation of the Kingdom), since there is no compelling reason to interpret it otherwise.

Dispensationalism, as a system, results in a premillennial interpretation of Christ’s second coming and usually a pretribulational interpretation of the rapture.

Two distinct people – Israel and the Church:

Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by grace through faith alone—in God in the Old Testament and specifically in God the Son in the New Testament. Dispensationalists hold that the Church has not replaced Israel in God’s program and that the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the Church. The promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament (for land, many descendants, and blessings) will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation 20. Dispensationalists believe that, just as God is in this age focusing His attention on the Church, He will again in the future focus His attention on Israel (see Romans 9–11 and Daniel 9:24). Until then is the Church Age—the time of the Gentiles.


It stands as a bridge between dispensational theology and covenant theology. It has not intentionally set itself up between dispensational theology and covenant theology, but it shares things in common with both.

It shares a lot in common with classic covenant theology, in particular the continuity between the Church and Israel as being one people of God. However, it also differs from covenant theology in that it does not necessarily view the Scriptures as the unfolding of redemption in a covenant of works/covenant of grace framework. Instead, it sees the Scriptures in a more promise/fulfillment paradigm.

Mosaic law:

By far the biggest difference between new covenant theology and covenant theology is how each views the Mosaic Law. Covenant theology sees the Law in three ways: civil, ceremonial and moral. The new covenant theologians agree with the Jews who did not delineate between civil, ceremonial and moral laws.
According to classic covenant theology, Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). He did so by satisfying all of the ceremonial, civil and moral aspects of the Law. Jesus Christ is the reality behind the shadows of the Old Testament sacrificial system and thereby fulfills the ceremonial aspect of the Law. Jesus Christ also bore the penalty our sins deserved and thereby fulfilled the civil aspect of the Law. Finally, Jesus Christ lived in full accordance with the moral aspect of the Law and fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law.

However, moral aspect of the Law (especially the Ten Commandments) still stands as the standard of morality for mankind because it is reflective of God’s character, and that does not change.

Because new covenant theology sees the Mosaic Law as a whole, it also sees the moral aspect of the Mosaic Law as fulfilled in Christ and no longer applying to Christians. Instead of being under the moral aspect of the Mosaic Law as summarized in the Ten Commandments, we are under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21). The law of Christ would be those prescriptions that Christ specifically stated in the Gospels (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount). The old covenant is obsolete (including the moral aspect of the Mosaic Law) and replaced by the new covenant with the law of Christ to govern its morality.