The following blog series attempts to define, describe, and explain the fundamental tenets of what is commonly known as New Covenant Theology (some also refer to New Covenant Theology as progressive covenantalism). The source text for this series is Dr. Gary Long’s article on the subject which can be found on the PTS website at the following link: http://www.ptsco.org/NCT%20Brochoure%20Text%202013.pdf.
The Fundamentals of New Covenant Theology
Part 1: NCT Defined (I)
“NCT [New Covenant Theology] may be defined broadly as God’s eternal purpose progressively revealed in the commandments and promises of the biblical covenants of the OT and fulfilled in the New Covenant (NC) of Jesus Christ.” (Long, New Covenant Theology, NCT Defined [http://www.ptsco.org/NCT%20Brochoure%20Text%202013.pdf])
Many have rightly described New Covenant Theology as a via media, that is to say, a middle way between the two theological paradigms which dominate evangelical Protestantism: Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology. Advocates of New Covenant Theology ardently maintain that Covenant Theology overemphasizes the continuity of Scripture, while Dispensational Theology overemphasizes the discontinuity of Scripture. In contradistinction, New Covenant Theology strives to maintain the ‘continuity-discontinuity’ tension which significantly pervades the Scriptures by means of both Christocentric hermeneutics and a biblical theology.
New Covenant Theology acknowledges that God has one overarching redemptive purpose. For example, Ephesians 1:11 declares that the elect were “predestined according to His [God’s] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Furthermore, the Apostle Paul states that the Church reveals God’s manifold wisdom and that this revelation “was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11). Elsewhere, Paul teaches that the Lord saved His people and called them “with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Timothy 1:9). Unlike Covenant Theology, however, New Covenant Theology ardently affirms that God’s eternal purpose is not to be understood as a covenant (e.g. the over-arching covenant of grace of Covenant Theology). Proponents of New Covenant Theology assert that Covenant Theology’s covenant of grace is an unnecessary theological deduction, as Scripture does not describe God’s eternal purpose (Greek: prothesis; Eph. 1:10, 3:10-11; 2 Tim. 1:9) as a covenant (diathēkē). Many supporters of New Covenant Theology also refer to God’s eternal purpose as ‘God’s kingdom purpose’, referencing Matthew 6:10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” As is to be expected, New Covenant Theology differs with Dispensational Theology’s two redemptive plans for the Church and Israel.
New Covenant Theology maintains that God’s eternal purpose is not only worked out progressively in the biblical covenants of the Old Testament but also ultimately fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Covenant. In essence, these covenants furnish the redemptive-historical framework through which the biblical narrative is steadily advanced. The covenants of Scripture realize their telos (i.e. the end, goal) in Christ Jesus and the covenant of which He is the mediator – namely, the New Covenant. It is worth noting that the biblical covenants distinctly manifest the Scriptural ‘continuity-discontinuity’ tension – particularly, with regard to how they are to be understood in light of one another.