Archive for the ‘Covenant Theology’ Category

The Covenants-Chapter 7-Philology of the Covenants

Meaning of their terms; authorities; illustrations;  expositions as to the seed of Abraham; the conversion of the nations to Christ; perpetual possession of Canaan; perpetuity of David’s throne.

“WHATSOEVER things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience, and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.” But how can we have such patience, comfort and hope, unless we correctly understand and properly appreciate the scriptures? This remark is especially applicable in relation to the covenants now under consideration. Let us therefore look somewhat more carefully into the import of the language in which they are expressed. To these covenants all competent Biblical interpreters, of every class, agree in attributing a peculiar philology. Their promises were, in one sense, undoubtedly intended to be literally understood, and fulfilled. But their true legitimate import does not terminate here. No one who studies them, can fail to perceive that they convey a second and higher meaning, full of the deepest interest and importance. Examine the covenants themselves, and you will be struck with a phraseology inconsistent with the expectation of only a simple literal fulfillment. Study their various expositions by the prophets, and apostles, and you will at once learn that they received and interpreted them, as containing also a second and higher sense; a sense which indeed, pervades the substance of the whole kingdom of grace in Jesus Christ. This higher meaning of the covenants, it is our present purpose to establish, and ascertain, that by their teachings our faith may be invigorated and our hopes confirmed.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants


A careful consideration of these human examples will enable us to understand better the covenants which God has been pleased to enter into

We read of Jonathan and David making a covenant (1 Sam. 18:3) which, in view of 1 Samuel 20:11 17,42, evidently signified that they entered into a solemn compact (ratified by an oath: 1 Sam. 20:17) that in return for Jonathan’s kindness in informing him of his father’s plans—making possible his escape—David, when he ascended the throne, would show mercy to his descendants: (cf. 2 Sam. 9:1). Again, in 1 Chronicles 11:3 we are told that all the elders of Israel (who had previously been opposed to him) came to David and he made a covenant with them, which, in the light of 2 Samuel 5:1-3 evidently means that, on the consideration of his captaining their armies against the common foe, they were willing to submit unto him as their king. Once more, in 2 Chronicles 23:16 we read of Jehoiada the priest making a covenant with the people and the king that they should be the Lord’s people, which, in the light of what immediately follows obviously denotes that he agreed to grant them certain religious privileges in return for their undertaking to destroy the system of Baal worship. A careful consideration of these human examples will enable us to understand better the covenants which God has been pleased to enter into.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Introduction

The Covenants-Chapter 6f-The Covenants of the Law

Is it a question of infinite importance to the faith of all nations, by what means Messiah when he comes, shall be known with positive certainty, to be the very Christ promised in the covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob, with Judah, and with David? We have now seen how those means were provided, by divine wisdom, and goodness. The result proposed was perfectly secured by the operation of “the covenants of the law;” which are the covenant that gave to Israel a prescribed territory, and made them a separate nation; the covenant of circumcision, by which they were distinguished personally, from all other men; and the covenant of Sinai, which gave them a national government; and by the auxiliaries of these covenants, which are the history, and genealogy of the people of God; and the delineations of Christ, in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms. The forms, ordinances, and rites enjoined in these covenants, were obligatory upon the Hebrews only. Moral principles, I have said, were the same in every dispensation of God. In all these covenants they were identical with each other, and with those of the law under which man was originally created, and to bring us back to which, is the great design of the gospel of Christ. Truth, justice, and purity, are of eternal obligation, and have ever been, and must ever be, binding alike upon all men. Not so the ceremonies of the covenants, which gave outward character to the religion of the Mosaic economy, except in so far as sacrifices, and the Sabbath were involved, which were enjoined in Eden, and belonged to mankind. The forms, ordinances, and rites peculiar to Israel, belonged alone to Israel, and their observance by Gentiles was not obedience to God, because they were not commanded by God. Gentiles were, we have seen, as much interested in the certification of Messiah as was Israel; but he was to spring not from them, but from Israel; therefore, until his appearing, Israel must be distinguished from all other men. “The fullness of the time” at length came, and Messiah appeared. By all these, and many other “infallible proofs,” Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated his claims to be received as “The seed of the woman;” “the Son of Abraham;” the promised “Shiloh;” “the offspring of David;” “the King of Israel,” “Immanuel, God with us.” He is the Messiah.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The nature of a covenant: in what it consists

Before attempting to furnish any answers to these questions, let us point out the nature of a covenant: in what it consists. “An absolute agreement between distinct persons, about the order and dispensing of things in their power, unto their mutual concern and advantage” (John Owen). Blackstone, the great commentator upon English law, speaking of the parts of a deed, says, “After warrants, usually follow covenants, or conventions, which are clauses of agreement contained in a deed, whereby either party may stipulate for the truth of certain facts, or may bind himself to perform, or give something to the other” (Vol. 2, p. 20). So he includes three things: the parties, the terms, the binding agreement. Reducing it to still simpler language, we may say that a covenant is the entering into of a mutual agreement, a benefit being assured on the fulfillment of certain conditions.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Introduction

The Covenants-Chapter 6e-The Covenants of the Law

One other form of testimony previously provided, demands in this connection, a moment of our attention. The Redeemer himself refers to it when he says, “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” These together, embrace the whole of the Old Testament, and it is in every part full of Christ. I may not here, descend to particulars. Well do you know how minutely the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, describe the person, and work of our Lord Jesus Christ; his miracles, his teaching; his persecutions, his betrayal, his sufferings, his death, his burial, his resurrection, his ascension, and his glorious intercession at the right hand of the Father on high; not “one jot, nor one tittle” of which has failed; all has been fulfilled. They have received their accomplishment in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Puritans writings on the covenants fell into neglect and men arose who propagated the false views found within the Scofieldian-dispensational schema of the covenants

During the palmy days of the Puritans considerable attention was given to the subject of the covenants, as their writings evince, particularly the works of Usher, Witsius, Blake, and Boston. But alas, with the exception of a few high Calvinists, their massive volumes fell into general neglect, until a generation arose who had no light thereon. This made it easier for certain men to impose upon them the crudities and vagaries, and make their poor dupes believe a wonderful discovery had been made in the rightly dividing of the word of truth. These men shuffled Scripture until they arranged the passages treating of the covenants to arbitrarily divide time into “seven dispensations” and partitioned off the Bible accordingly. How dreadfully superficial and faulty their findings are appear from the popular (far too popular to be of much value—Luke 16:15!) Scofield Bible, where no less than eight covenants are noticed, and nothing is said about the everlasting covenant!

If some think we have exaggerated the ignorance which now obtains upon this subject, let them put the following questions to their best-informed Christian friends, and see how many can give satisfactory answers. What did David mean when he said, Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation (1 Sam. 23:5? What is meant by The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant (Ps. 25:14)? What does the Lord mean when He speaks of those who take hold of my covenant (Isa. 56:6)? What does God intend when He says to the Mediator: As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water? To what does the apostle refer when he says, That the covenant, that was confirmed before of God is (or “to”) Christ (Gal. 3:17)?

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Introduction

The Covenants-Chapter 6d-The Covenants of the Law

We have now examined “the covenants of the law,” and seen their nature, and especially the grand purpose of them all. I have said that this purpose was still further aided, by the inspired history contained in the word of God.

This history is for the most part, recorded in the books of Moses, and Joshua, the Judges, and Ruth, Samuel, and the Kings, the Chronicles, and Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Prophets. Often in its perusal, have you perhaps, earnestly desired more of detail. But detail would have rendered the Bible inconveniently voluminous, and was besides unnecessary to the purpose contemplated, which demanded so much only, as that when Messiah should come, the means of establishing his claims should be perfect. That part of inspired history, however, which is most important to this end, is contained in the genealogies with which the whole Bible so much abounds. These genealogies had previously been scrupulously observed, but they were subsequently enjoined, and regulated by the law of Moses, which is identical with the covenant of Sinai. A learned Jewish Rabbi, of the last age, who afterwards became a christian, and a minister, writing of the testimony for the Messiahship of Christ, drawn from the genealogies, remarks:- “I cannot proceed without observing, and admiring the wonderful provision which was made for this purpose, in the law of Moses. Our nation [Israel] was not only divided into several tribes, but each tribe into several families. And as every tribe had a distinct inheritance, which obliged them to keep genealogies of their several families, so to make them more exact, and punctual in this record, no alteration of inheritance was allowed, for longer than the year of Jubilee, which returned every fifty years. And then every one that could clear his pedigree, and make out his right to the inheritance of his ancestors, was to be reinstated in the possession of it. This made it every one’s interest to preserve his genealogy. But what still further contributed to this end, and made them the more careful in the matter, was the law of lineal retreats. By this law, upon failure of an heir in any family, the next of kin was to be heir at law. Thus was every tribe incited not only to take care of its own genealogy, but of that also of the several families of its kindred, that by knowing the several degrees of proximity of their blood, they might be able at any time, upon failure of an heir, to make out their title to the inheritance of their fathers. This was the method to be taken throughout their generations, so that when the fullness of the time should come for Messiah to appear, he might by this means easily, and certainly, prove his lineal descent, from the seed of Abraham, from the tribe of Judah, and from the family of David.” How often do thoughtless readers of the Bible, look upon these catalogues as useless impediments, if not positive defects. At most, they inspire them with no special interest. In the light of these facts, however, you perceive that they are really chains of pearls, and to every christian of priceless worth. They are, therefore, recorded at great length, in both the Old and the New Testament, and their freedom from error is vouched by their inspiration. As evincive of the Messiahship of Jesus, they are introduced into two of the gospels. Their testimony is direct and most conclusive. And it is also worthy of remark, that Matthew who writes for the Jews, extends his catalogue back only, as far as Abraham, the father of Israel, to whom the second promise of Messiah was made; but that Luke, who writes for the Gentiles, carries his to Adam, the primeval father of mankind, to whom was given the original pledge of a Deliverer from sin. Such was the design of the history, and the genealogies, contained in the divine oracles. They were auxiliaries to “the covenants of the law,” to identify and designate the Saviour of men.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants