From my paper “Covenant Theology As Grasped By A Regular Guy”
This is how I get Covenant Theology.
I wrote this in order to communicate, in my own words, the concepts of this theological position. It’s my work, not a photocopy of some high theologian nor a composite of several. In saying it’s mine, this is not to say I don’t owe a debt to others for the development of the position or of contributing to my growth and ultimate acceptance of Covenant Theology. It’s just that I needed to produce this work from the Scriptures and my own processes. Anybody can pick up a theology book and learn this stuff, and anyone can reproduce the material in many ways, but to demonstrate an understanding, I think it’s best, and many will agree – I hope – that one should be able to communicate a position in personal work.
Covenant Theology (CT) is a system of connecting and interpreting Biblical themes that seeks to take, as a whole, the message of God’s Word in a means that most effectively allows that Word to reveal itself in relation to itself. My best understanding is that, with CT, the idea that Scripture interprets Scripture is most thoroughly and accurately accomplished. What CT does not do is provide an exclusive claim to correctly exegeting the Gospel in order to reach the world. Other systems, including Dispensational Theology (DT) have no less success in proclaiming Christ and Him crucified for our sins to unbelievers.
I know that most Biblical systems will claim proper interpretation and connection of Bible Truth. I think that, in most cases, this may be true – at least to some extent — at least to the extent sufficient to communicate the Gospel and basic principles of our relationship to God before and after salvation. With CT, I’m convinced that it is thoroughly true. In taking a Christocentric, historical and redemptive perspective of the Word of God, everything seems to fall into place. With such a hermeneutic, there is something valid to look for in each book of the Bible. That something, when found, is like a puzzle-piece that really does fit into the rest of the scheme, usually with a watershed of truth and new depth to understanding. I’ll take Ruth as an example.
The book of Ruth has been called one of the greatest literary works of all time. It’s filled with drama, meaty conversation, unmatched symbolism and cultural richness. It’s a complete story, one that does not fail to keep the reader tied to the unfolding plot and happily satisfied in the resulting finale. I’m sure it’s great as such, but it isn’t just an isolated story that is wrapped up in good stuff, cultural connection and holiness of God’s people.
Ruth is also prophetic, in the very last verses, pointing to the true purpose of the story: Jesus Christ. His distant fathers are lined up on parade here for all to see. Following that in Matthew, the generations, the connection is clearly made. The continuity isn’t limited there, however, but starts right at the end of Judges, where 21:25 sets the stage:
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
And then Elimilech went ahead and did just that: Headed away from the famine among his own people, the covenant community of Israel to the land of Moab, a idolatrous, miserable nation that just happened to have water and food.
The whole point of Ruth really is the imagery of the Kinsman Redeemer. It’s a typological layout of Christ’s role in human history. It shows an undeserving pagan, coming from a heathen world, married into a disobedient family, childless, friendless, widowed and with no claim on anybody being taken in by a wealthy, honorable, faithful and holy man who has everything to give and nothing but grace for reasons to give. Detailed reading should show Christ and His relationship to men fairly obviously.
The book of Ruth is obvious, but it should make my point: All of Scripture should be connected to Christ like this. It shouldn’t be taken as pieces and parts, with personal perspectives and feelings attached. The Bible should produce reactions in us, yes, but it should not require our personal decisions about what it means. Proper study requires use of the related texts in the Word to interpret each other. This is something that is more often completely ignored in common preaching (click random sermon from random church in random location, USA). In fact, many recent published media does precisely the opposite, taking isolated texts for specific purposes without any contextual background checks at all.
Speaking of background checks: Do we entrust our kids to daycare or school with the responsible adult caretakers being validated through a process of checks? Do we entrust our souls to preachers and theologians with the same? If the answer to either of those is YES, then why don’t we approach our Bible studies in the same fashion? Here is a case in point:
“God’s Wife Edited Out Of The Bible — Almost” It’s a very short read. Does it work? One who has studied the Bible in context should be able to make an accurate snap judgment about this article. But if needed, the references are to be found all through 1 and 2 Kings.
“For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.” — (2 Kings 21:3-6)
So we find an out-of-context discussion about God being married to Ashera, based on the Bible and the discovery of an 8th century B.C. artifact that claimed Ashera was something like that. Sure thing. How about some more background checking just in case we’re dissing a respected scholar here: Francesca Stavrakopoulou. A blogger I discovered has a few comments about the expert as well.
Background checks and context. Do ’em, and you’ll find the right message.
How does this fit in to Covenant Theology? In my humble number-crunching, a position that faithfully holds God (particularly in the person of His Son) and His purpose in the center of all Scriptural study, will end up with a legible, sensible book that is complete and has coherence that stretches from Alpha to Omega. I’ll end this with my favorite example:
Something that captures the essence of God’s consistency throughout scripture: Adam and Eve were clothed by God immediately after they sinned and the Church at the end of the age will be clothed in Christ when all sin is taken away. The garden was closed to us and the Earth was cursed. The Earth will be made new and the garden open to us again in the end.
Here are the rest of the articles in this series: