What Is The Sine Qua Non of New Covenant Theology? The sine qua non of NCT can be defined as the consistent Christotelic interpretation of the OT in light of the NT (Luke 24:27, 44; Rom. 10:4; 2 Cor. 1:20) that results in the following theological distinctives:
- the plan of God: one plan of redemption, centered in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10; 2 Cor. 1:20; Col. 1:18), implemented according to God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 1:11; 3:11; 2 Tim. 1:9), and securing the salvation of God’s elect (Rom. 8:28-32);
- the biblical covenants: the covenants of Scripture progressively unfold God’s kingdom purpose (Matt. 6:10) in history, culminating in the New Covenant;
- the Old Covenant: the conditional (Exod. 19:5-6) treaty which God established with the ethnic descendants of Jacob at Mount Sinai – a covenant which formed the nation of Israel as a geopolitical entity, the sign of which was the Sabbath (Exod. 31:15-17), which was temporary in terms of its purpose and duration (Heb. 8:7-13), and which was superseded by the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-33);
- the New Covenant: the promised everlasting covenant (Heb. 13:20) established by Christ Jesus (Luke 22:20; Dan. 9:26-27) that fulfills all preceding biblical covenants – a covenant in which all believers have full forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:34), are permanently indwelt by the Spirit (Ezek. 36:25-27; Eph. 1:13-14), and are empowered by the Spirit to please God (Jer. 31:31-33; Phil. 2:12-13);
- the people of God: all God’s elect, comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:15), first formed as the body of Christ, which is the Church, at Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-41), not before (John 7:39; 17:21; Col. 1:26-27; Heb. 11:39-40), as one corporate spiritual body in New Covenant union with Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:19-21; Col. 1:18, 24);
- the nation of Israel: the ethnic descendants of Jacob (Gen. 28:13-15) formed into a geopolitical entity at Sinai via the Old Covenant (Exod. 19:5-6), comprised of both believers and unbelievers (1 Cor. 10:1-5; Heb. 3:16-4:2), typological of Christ (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15) and His Church (Exod. 19:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:9), the believing remnant (Rom. 9:27; 11:5) of which was transformed into the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-10,41), and which awaits a future spiritual restoration (Amos 9:8) in the form of a massive, end-time ingathering of elect Jews into the Church at Christ’s Parousia (Rom. 11:12, 15, 25-27);
- the law of God: the two greatest commandments – love of God and neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40) – constitute God’s absolute or innate law, which is righteous, unchanging, and instinctively known by man (Rom. 2:14-15) created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), and of which each system of covenantal law is a temporary, historical outworking (Heb. 7:12) in accordance with God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 1:11; 3:11; 2 Tim. 1:9);
- the Law of Moses: the covenantal outworking of God’s absolute law under the Old Covenant – the exhaustive, indivisible (Jas. 2:10; Gal. 5:3) legal code, summed up in the Ten Commandments (Exod. 34:28), covenantally binding upon the nation of Israel (Exod. 19:5-6; 24:3), temporary in its duration (Heb. 7:11-12; Col. 2:14), and fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:4; Matt. 5:17-18; Col. 2:16-17);
- the Law of Christ: the covenantal outworking of God’s absolute law under the New Covenant – the gracious law of the New Covenant (Rom. 6:14), which is covenantally binding upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:20-21) and consists of the law of love (Matt. 5:44; Gal. 6:2; Jas. 2:8; Rom. 13:8-10), the example of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 13:34; Phil. 2:4-12), Christ’s commands and teachings (Matt. 28:20; 2 Pet. 3:2), the commands and teachings of the New Testament Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:2; Eph. 2:20; Jude 1:17; 1 John 5:3), and all Scripture interpreted in light of Jesus Christ (Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 24:27,44; 2 Tim. 3:16-17);
- the Kingdom of God: the everlasting reign of God over the universe and His people, progressively unfolded via the biblical covenants – ultimately realized in the messianic reign of Jesus Christ in heaven with His saints (Heb. 1:1-4; Rev. 20:4; Eph. 2:6), that was eschatologically inaugurated at His ascension (Dan. 7:13-14) in fulfillment of the biblical covenants (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Acts 2:25-36), is advanced through the Spirit-empowered preaching of the Gospel (Acts 1:7-8), and will be consummated in the new heavens and new earth at the Second Coming when Christ subdues all His enemies (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
The word Christotelic results from the combination of two Greek words: Χριστὸς (Christos – Christ) and τέλος (telos – end or goal). A Christotelic hermeneutic views the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate goal or end of God’s Word and seeks to consistently interpret all Scripture in view of this great truth. A Christotelic hermeneutic, as defined by Providence Theological Seminary, assumes outright that the Old and New Testaments together comprise the wholly inspired, wholly infallible, and wholly inerrant Word of God, which is the sole authority of faith and practice in the life of a believer. Furthermore, this particular method of interpretation emphasizes five principles: (1) the Lord Jesus Christ is the nexus of God’s plan in redemptive history, (2) all Scripture either refers to Christ directly (e.g. the Gospel narratives, messianic prophecies), refers to Christ typologically, or prepares the way for Christ by unfolding redemptive history which ultimately points to His person and work (e.g. the Flood, the calling of Abram), (3) the New Testament Scriptures must have interpretive priority over the Old Testament Scriptures due to the former being the final revelation of God, (4) an accurate analysis of a passage’s context is key: local, literary, canonical, and historical, and (5) the principle of historical-grammatical interpretation (guided by the first four principles).What Is The Sine Qua Non of New Covenant Theology? Peter Enns (formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia) is generally held to have coined the term Christotelic. That being said, Enns’ view of the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture is unorthodox and problematic. Although Providence Theological Seminary views Christotelic as a biblical term in light of Romans 10:4, it seeks to distance itself from Enns’ unorthodox view of the inspiration and fallibility of Scripture. Hence, the following sentence: “A Christotelic hermeneutic, as defined by Providence Theological Seminary, assumes outright that the Old and New Testaments comprise the wholly inspired, wholly infallible, and wholly inerrant Word of God, which is the sole authority of faith and practice in the life of a believer.”
Stephen Wellum rightly argues that “the biblical covenants form the backbone of the metanarrative of Scripture, and apart from understanding each biblical covenant in its historical context and then in its relation to the fulfillment of all of the covenants in Christ, we will ultimately misunderstand the overall message of the Bible.” Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 21.
Recounting a telephone conversation between himself and Fred Zaspel, Dennis Swanson writes: “When asked what the sine qua non of NCT is, Zaspel replied, ‘I’m not sure NCT can be reduced to that level.’” See Dennis Swanson, “Introduction to New Covenant Theology,” TMSJ 18/1 (Fall 2007): 157. It is difficult to define the sine qua non of NCT as this author’s attempt clearly demonstrates.