By Greg Gibson
Here is a brief 7 minute and 20 second audio/podcast interview I did on New Covenant Theology. (Thanks to Uri Brito for providing the audio. Below are my edited notes from the interview…
New Covenant Theology is a hermeneutic that results in a system. First we will define the hermeneutic, then the system, and finally answer some questions…
New Covenant Theology Hermeneutic
Hermeneutic: The New Testament consistently interprets the Old Testament. We can see this New Testament hermeneutic in church history…
- A. Justyn Martyr: Called the Church the new Israel (despite being historic pre-millennial).
B. Many apostolic fathers: Non-Sabbatarians (did not believe God changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and did not apply the 4th command to Sunday).
C. “Pre-Anabaptists” like the Donatists and Waldensians (mostly Baptists), and Reformation Anabaptists rejected paedobaptism for credobaptism, and rejected church-state theocracy. (Agreement with their New Testament hermeneutic applied to ecclesiology is not necessarily an endorsement of all their other beliefs.)
This New Testament hermeneutic resulted in parts which were combined into a whole system by Jon Zens, John Reisinger, etc. starting in the late 20th century.
New Covenant Theology System
1. New Testament eschatology (contra Dispensationalism)
2. New Testament ecclesiology (contra paedobaptist, Covenant Theology)
3. New Testament nomology (contra paedobaptist and Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology)
IOW, Christ brought a new covenant with a new priest, new sacrifice, new temple, new land, new people of God, and new law.
New Covenant Theology Distinctives
1. Hermeneutic: New Testament consistently interprets the Old Testament (not author’s original intent/literal/grammatical-historical).
2. Scripture: Christ-centered Bible (not Israel-centered or covenant-centered).
3. God’s Purpose and Covenants: One pre-historical purpose revealed in historical, distinct covenants (not two purposes, or one Covenant of Grace).
4. Old Testament Prophecy: Promises to Israel fulfilled by Christ and believers (Jews and Gentiles) in the Church.
5. Church: Regenerate members (not believers and their children).
6. Law: Obey all that Christ commanded (not Antinomianism, or Moses’ commands).
7. Sanctification: Christ-centered growth (not law-centered).
New Covenant Theology Questions
1) In what sense is the Decalogue abolished?
My view is that Christ abolished the Decalogue for direct obedience, but not revelation and doctrine. Jesus and His apostles transferred 9 of the 10 Commandments into the New Covenant canon (New Testament), so that we obey them from the authority of the New Testament, not the Old Testament.
2) What about Matthew 5:17 in this debate?
It’s probably the most important passage on how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament. I’m not sure if New Covenant Theology has a consensus view, so I’ll explain my view.
- A. Law or Prophets means Pentateuch or Prophets (both parts of the whole Old Testament), not the Decalogue or moral law alone.
B. Fulfill means for eschatological/typological/prophetic fulfillment, not confirm for obedience.
C. “These commandments” are Christ’s commands, not Moses’ commands.
3) How does New Covenant Theology view the 4th commandment?
New Covenant Theology views the Sabbath command as fulfilled and cancelled by Christ. Many New Covenant Theologians distinguish between 2 Sabbaths: God’s eternal rest (salvation: Gen. 2, Mt. 11:28-29:, and Heb. 4) vs. Israel’s 24-hour, weekly rest (Ex. 16, Ex. 20, Deut. 5, etc.) We see Israel’s weekly Sabbath as a gospel picture of Christ’s eternal rest which we enter by faith. IOW, the type was Israel’s weekly Sabbath, and the antitype is Christ’s eternal rest (Col. 2:16-17) in the new creation.
4) How does New Covenant Theology view the Lutheran law/gospel distinction?
As a hermeneutic where the whole Bible can be divided into law or gospel, I’m not aware of a New Covenant Theology consensus. But for sanctification, NCTs clearly distinguish between indicatives and imperatives, especially since we see a contrast between the Old Covenant’s “if you obey, then you will be” in Ex. 19:5-6 vs. the New Covenant’s “you are” in 1 Pet. 2:9. Also in redemptive history, we distinguish between law-grace, not law-gospel (Jn. 1:17; Rom. 6:14).
5) Should we use the law in evangelism?
RE: Decalogue-evangelism, I agree with Doug Moo, “the popular notion that the Mosaic law should be preached as a preparation for the gospel, revealing sin and one’s need of salvation, has slim Biblical support. None of the examples of evangelistic preaching in the New Testament uses the law in this way” (Stanley N. Gundry, Ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 339).
Proof: Look at a Bible that shows Old Testament quotes in the New Testament. In Acts, you’ll see direct, explicit quotes from Joel 2, Ps. 110, etc., but not Ex. 20 or Dt. 5 (although they were implied).
When evangelizing, we can convict sinners by appealing to 3 different sources of law:
- 1. The Old Covenant Law of Moses: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Ex. 20:4).
2. The New Covenant Law of Christ: “idolaters…their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire” (Rev. 21:8).
3. Conscience: “Idolatry is a sin” (no Scripture).
Summary of Christ and the Apostles’ Evangelistic Preaching on Sin:
- 1. Jesus evangelized one Jew by quoting from the Decalogue, but not for conviction of sin (Mt. 19:16ff).
2. The apostles evangelized Jews by implying, but not explicitly quoting the Decalogue.
3. The apostles evangelized Gentiles by convicting of sin from the conscience, not the Decalogue.
Conviction of sin of unbelief in Jesus the risen Lord:
“he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (Jn. 16:8).
6) What is New Covenant Theology’s eschatology?
Most NCTs are amillennial., some are historic premillennial.