The Fundamentals of New Covenant Theology
Part 3: NCT Defined (III)
“Its major themes may be summarily described with reference to: (1) God’s eternal purpose of redemption: covenantally revealed and administered through biblical covenants beginning with a pre-Fall covenant of obedience with Adam (Rom. 5:12-19) and a post-Fall covenant of promise (Gen. 3:15)” (Long, New Covenant Theology, NCT Defined [http://www.ptsco.org/NCT%20Brochoure%20Text%202013.pdf])
Whereas the last blog post addressed a pre-fall covenant, this week’s post will address the existence of a post-fall covenant with Adam, as explained by some advocates of New Covenant Theology.
Proponents of Covenant Theology also hold to the existence of a post-fall covenant, a covenant to which they refer as the Covenant of Grace. Wayne Grudem succinctly describes the post-fall covenant of Covenant Theology: “The legal agreement between God and man, established by God after the fall of Adam, whereby man could be saved. Although the specific provisions of this covenant varied at different times during redemptive history, the essential condition of requiring faith in Christ the redeemer remained the same.” Essentially, Covenant Theology teaches that the Covenant of Grace overarches all of redemptive history after the fall. In other words, all the explicit biblical covenants (i.e. Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Phinehaic, Davidic, and New) are different expressions or historical administrations of this single, overarching Covenant of Grace. In response, New Covenant Theology passionately and unabashedly declares that Covenant Theology’s view of the biblical covenants (i.e. that each is a different administration of the one, overarching Covenant of Grace) significantly “flattens” the differences and redemptive-historical distinctions between the biblical covenants.
In contradistinction, those adherents of New Covenant Theology who teach a post-fall covenant with Adam (a.k.a. the post-fall Covenant of Promise) do not define such a covenant as do Covenant Theologians. First, since a promise forms the essential substance of a biblical covenant, these New Covenant Theologians assert that the promise of Genesis 3:15, although delivered directly to the serpent (and presumably in earshot of Adam & Eve), indicates that God forged a post-fall covenant with Adam. Recall that Genesis 3:15 constitutes the protoevangelium, that is to say, the ‘First-Gospel’, whereby God promised to send the True Seed of the Woman (i.e. the God-Man Jesus Christ) who by means of His own death would vanquish Satan. Second, these individuals assert that no one can be saved outside of a covenantal relationship with God. Thus, it is argued that a post-fall covenant with Adam would provide the necessary covenantal context within which individuals prior to Noah, such as Abel (Heb. 11:4) and Enoch (Heb. 11:5), would have been saved by faith in the Genesis 3:15 Seed Promise. Third, Genesis 3:21 appears to strongly imply that God slew an animal with whose skins He covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Many see in this implied animal sacrifice not only a typological reference to the future vicarious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of His elect but also evidence of God ratifying a covenant with Adam. Fourth, those who promote a post-fall covenant within New Covenant Theology also see evidence that Adam and Eve exercised saving faith in the Seed Promise (for Adam: Gen. 3:20; for Eve: Gen. 3:15; 4:25). This may further indicate that Adam was the covenantal head of a post-fall Covenant of Promise.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 1239. Another helpful explanation of the post-fall Covenant of Grace can be found in Chapter VII of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF): “(3) Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe. (4) This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed. (5) This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament. (6) Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.”