Philip Cary responds to… Objection! There’s grace in every covenant!.
Did the framers of the 1677/1689 Second London Baptist Confession reject a covenant of works made with Adam? Sam Renihan says, “NO.”
One of the key differences between the Covenant Theology of the framers of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and that of the Westminster Confession has to do with the nature of the Covenant of Grace, that is, the covenant through which sinners are saved. The Westminster Confession presents the view of one over-arching Covenant manifested in several historical covenants (e.g. Abrahamic, Mosaic, New). The 1689 Confession, on the other hand, maintains that prior to the formal establishment of the New Covenant at the time of Christ, the “covenant of grace” consisted only in the form of gospel promises revealed “by farther steps” throughout biblical history. If an individual living before Christ believed these promises, he was redeemed by the future spilled blood of Christ just as surely as believers living today.
Nehemiah Coxe answers the question, Was there an old covenant administration of the covenant of grace?.
A friend of mine asked me to take a look at this article and let him know what my thoughts were. This post is my response.
Rather than reproduce sections of the article in this post, you can read the original post here (Don’t worry; it’s not lengthy): Does Romans 9:25-26 Support Covenant Theology?
1. Mr. Waymeyer seems to be reading the Dispensational definition of “church” into that of covenant theology, making it seem as though Covenant theologians advocate the church’s replacement of Israel. Dispensational theologians typically restrict their definition of “the church” to those believers (Jew & Gentile) in the present age of history, beginning at Pentecost and ending (as far as new members go) with the “Rapture” at the end of this age. Regardless of whose definition is correct, we need to at least let our brothers’ definitions stand for the sake of discussion, so we do not unintentionally misrepresent them. This goes for both Dispensationalists and Covenant Theologians, who often end up talking past one another.
What Mr. Waymeyer needs to take into account is that in Covenant Theology terms, the entirety of the elect throughout history is the “new and true” Israel – the elect are the antitype of Israel’s type. Most Covenant Theologians will simply say “the church,” but usually they simply mean nothing more than the elect of God throughout history, even though the church was not formally organized until the time of the New Testament. This is because Covenant Theologians see Scripture presenting one unified people of God, not two peoples of God with two parallel eschatalogical destinies. Rather, they see the elect, and ethnic Israel as her type. We’ll come back to typology later.
2. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Waymeyer in his rejection of the “People = Israel” view, for the reasons he presents.
3. For all his desire to be true to the plain meaning of the Old Testament text, I believe Mr. Waymeyer’s attempt actually obscures the plain meaning of the New Testament text. This happens by way of his “analogical” interpretation of the New Testament use of the Old Testament. He provides examples of other “analogical” passages, including Matthew 2:14-15, 17-18; and 8:17. But all three of these passages in Matthew explicitly speak of the “fulfillment” of prophecy – not an analogical illustration. Making the statement, “This event is similar in principle to what that Old Testament text spoke of” cannot be construed as a “fulfillment” of what was said in a passage of prophecy. The fact that Mr. Waymeyer uses these text as examples should cast doubt on the validity of his “analogical” assumption regarding the proper interpretation of Romans 9:25-26 as well.
4. The “absence of any referent in the introductory formula” is an argument from silence, not a positive support for Mr. Waymeyer’s analogical interpretation.
Finally, I have not read Ladd (who held to historic premillennialism) or Storms on the subject, so I do not know if Mr. Waymeyer’s description of the “reinterpretation view” accurately applies to them. However, I will say that it does not apply to me, nor to what I know of Covenant Theology in general. His description is basically that Paul is cherry-picking an Old Testament text, completely divorcing it from its original meaning, and giving it a new meaning. Actually, I think Mr. Waymeyer is being polite by using the label “reinterpretation.” The view he describes is tantamount to saying Paul is performing divinely-inspired eisegesis. Needless to say, for a truthful God for whom yes means yes and no means no, such a view would be unacceptable, and we would be wise to reject it. However, I do not believe his description accurately portrays a Covenantal view of typological interpretation.
Instead of the “reinterpretation” view as Mr. Waymeyer describes Covenant Theologians as espousing, I would actually hold to a typological interpretation of the passage. The apostle Paul is unpacking an Old Testament prophecy which involves typological elements. In this case, the type is ethnic Israel, and the antitype (what is meant by “true Israel”) is the elect. One need only go back to the beginning of the chapter in verses 6-8 to see Paul making this very point. “Israel” can refer to either a) the entirety of ethnic Israel, or b) Israelite believers (the group of whom which would later be expanded to include Gentiles, becoming what is formally known as “the church”).
In conclusion, while I would agree with Mr. Waymeyer that Romans 9:25-26 is not a “proof-text” for Covenant Theology, I would also say that a proper recognition of biblical typology, and allowing the NT writers to mean what they say, in no way contradicts a likewise proper view of Covenant Theology (such as that of the 1689 London Baptist Confession).
For a brief, general comparison of the hermeneutics of 1689 Federalism (Covenant Theology) and Dispensationalism (as well as other systems like New Covenant Theology and Westminster Paedobaptist Covenant Theology), check out this site: 1689federalism.com.
Abraham Booth reminds us that Tenure in Canaan is not the same as tenure in Christ.
Thomas Patient responds to… Objection! The old and new covenants are but administrations of one covenant!.
Philip Cary and John Owen explain how No one was saved by virtue of the Old Covenant.