The Covenants of Scripture


          In enabling people to properly understand Scripture, there are a lot of basics that seem to be overlooked by many, and I believe the reader will benefit with some basic Bible college/seminary education.

          The two primary or basic theological positions that prevail in Biblical thinking today are the so-called "Covenant/Reformed" school of theology and the "Dispensational" school of theology.  These are the basic schools of thought in Theological studies today and have been for centuries.

          The "Covenant/Reformed" school errantly over-simplifies the Bible when it comes to the topic of covenants.  They divide the Bible on the basis of the two-covenant divide, i.e., the Old Testament and the New Testament.  This group is mostly the Catholic bodies and the mainline denominations with roots coming out of Roman Catholicism.

          The "Dispensational" school is a more precise view in the delineating the structure of covenants of the Bible.  Most "Dispensationalists" see between seven and nine covenants.  For our purpose here we simply want to ascertain a more accurate rendering of the Biblical Covenants.  This is important in a number of ways that I will share.  But for this post, I will share the listing of Covenants as detailed in 'The New Unger's Bible Handbook' by Dr. Merrill F. Unger, first published in 1984 and its latest edition was 2005.

Biblical Covenants

Eternal Covenant - Hebrews 13:20 - The redemptive covenant before time began, between the Father and the Son.  By this covenant we have eternal redemption, an eternal peace from the 'God of peace', through the death and resurrection of the Son.

Edenic Covenant - Genesis 1:26-28 - The creative covenant between the Triune God, as the first part -(Genesis 1:26), and newly created man, as the second party, governing man's creation and life in Edenic innocence.  It regulated man's dominion and subjugation of the Earth, and presented a simple test of obedience.  The penalty was death.

Adamic Covenant - Genesis 3:14-19 - The covenant conditioning fallen man's life on the Earth.  Satan's tool (the serpent) was cursed -(Genesis 3:14); the first promise of the Redeemer was given -(Genesis 3:15); women's status was altered -(3:16); the Earth was cursed -(3:17-19); physical and spiritual death resulted -(3:19).

Noahic Covenant - Genesis 8:20-9:6 - The covenant of human government.  Man is to govern his fellowmen for God, indicated by the institution of capital punishment as the supreme judicial power of the state -(Genesis 9:5-6).  Other features included the promise of redemption through the line of Shem -(Genesis 9:26).

Abrahamic Covenant - Genesis 12:1-3; confirmed, in 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8 - The covenant of promise.  Abraham's posterity was to be made a great nation.  In him (through Christ Jesus) all the families of the Earth were to be blessed -(Galatians 3:16; John 8:56-58).

Mosaic Covenant - Exodus 20:1-31:18 - The legal covenant, given solely to Israel.  It consisted of the commandments -(Exodus 20:1-26); the judgments (social) - (Exodus 21:1; 24:11) and the ordinances (religious); -(Exodus 24:12-31:18); also called the Law.  It was a conditional covenant of works, a ministry of 'condemnation' and 'death' -(2nd Corinthians 3:7-9), designed to lead the transgressor (convicted thereby as a sinner) to Christ.

Palestinian Covenant - Deuteronomy 30:1-10 - The covenant regulating Israel's tenure of the land of Canaan.  Its prophetic features include dispersion of disobedience -(Deuteronomy 30:1), future repentance while in dispersion -(30:2), the Lord's return -(30:3), the restoration -(30:4-5), national conversion -(3:6), judgment of Israel's foes -(30:7); national prosperity -(30:9).  Its blessing are conditional upon obedience -(30:8,10), but fulfillment is guaranteed by the new covenant.

Davidic Covenant - 2nd Samuel 7:4-17; 1st Chronicles 17:4-5 - The kingdom covenant regulating the temporal and eternal rule of David's posterity.  It secures in perpetuity a Davidic 'house' or line, a throne, and a kingdom.  It was confirmed by divine oath in Psalm 89:30-37 and renewed to Mary in Luke 1:31-33.  It is fulfilled in Christ as the World's Savior and Israel's coming King -(Acts 1:6; Revelation 19:16; 20:4-6).

New Covenant - Jeremiah 31:31; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:8-12 - The covenant of unconditional blessing based upon the finished redemption of Christ Jesus.  It secured blessings for the church, flowing from the Abrahamic covenant -(Galatians 3:13-20), and secured all covenant blessings to converted Israel, including those of the Abrahamic, Palestinian, and Davidic covenants.  This covenant is unconditional, final and irreversible.

Because the "Covenant/Reformed" theological school maintains a very narrow definition by limiting the Bible to just two covenants, i.e., Old Testament and New Testament, it is fraught with many misconceptions, doctrines, teachings, and understandings; and this approach is aimlessly wanting and inadequate to offer any sense of coherence, continuity, to the Biblical message.  It is a factor in the larger scope of the Bible that establishes the differences between Israel and the Church, and from which can unravel to perpetual confusion. 

The "Dispensational" theological school sees the distinction of the various covenants as essential in maintaining a comprehensive, coherent, and a continuity of God's Word that makes sense, but that is most importantly, Biblically based. 

This Covenant listing will prove extremely helpful in a new series that will be forthcoming in a few weeks. 

God bless,

Pastor Bob