Dispensationalism

My Take on the New Covenant (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

When we examine the clear New Covenant passage in Jeremiah 31:31ff, we see that verses 31 and 32 name Israel and Judah as parties. We see also that it concerns the future (“the days are coming”), and that the NC will supersede in some way the Sinai Covenant. It is crucial to ask what the main promise of this covenant is, which is not difficult to ascertain. The New Covenant in the chapter concerns an internal or spiritual change in the elect of Israel.

I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jer. 31:33b)

For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jer. 31:34c)

Because of this inward transformation, this “new birth,” Israel will be right with God, and they shall therefore be qualified to receive the long-standing blessings of the Abrahamic, Priestly, and Davidic Covenants.

So “salvation” is the key ingredient. God will save His people. In Jeremiah 31 His people is Israel. The Gentiles are not mentioned, and neither (naturally) is the Church.

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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 1)

I have been thinking for a while that it might be a good idea to write about the New Covenant. Although there seems to be little confusion about it in the minds of Jeremiah, Paul, or the author of Hebrews, it has become something of a bugbear among Dispensationalists. In this series I want to interact a little with their issues, but I also want to provide my understanding of the New Covenant, which, as it happens, adds one more alternative to the dizzying list already occupying the thought of many good men and women.

Introduction

The New Covenant has given Dispensationalists all kinds of headaches. Taken as a generality, they seem unable to come to a consensus about this extremely important teaching of the Bible. In a helpful way, Mike Vlach has set forth six different ways the NC has been understood by Dispensationalists broadly:

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Literal or Figurative?

One of the biggest debates among Christians is how to interpret the Bible. Liberals accuse conservatives of taking the Bible too literally. Conservatives accuse liberals of not taking the Bible seriously enough, often by declaring controversial sections to be figurative. That seems to be a handy way to avoid passages that teach what you don’t want to believe.

But even conservative Christians divide over the issue of literal verses figurative. For example, Dispensationalists often accuse the Reformed of spiritualizing certain sections of Scripture, and the Reformed frequently fault Dispensationalists for their “wooden literalism” by awkwardly forcing literal interpretations upon passages that are intended to be figurative.

Dispensationalists charge the Reformed with “Replacement Theology,” which means interpreting Old Testament prophecies made to Israel as fulfilled in the New Testament Church, and the Reformed return the favor by charging Dispensationalists with interpretive myopia; focusing too narrowly upon the immediate context, and failing to see the forest for the trees.

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Contrasting Dispensationalism and Biblical Covenantalism

A Little Backstory

As many of my readers will know, I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to place Dispensational theology on what I believe is a more secure footing. Dispensationalism has not produced many top-line academic works, especially in the last half century, and with only one or two exceptions it presents itself as static and unwilling to improve. In the meantime it has been frozen out of mainstream evangelical scholarship and its influence has dwindled.

One example among many will suffice: The huge 8 volume IVP Dictionaries, which cover the entire Bible, and are written by hundreds of top scholars across the broad sweep of evangelicalism, include scarcely any contribution by dispensational scholars. The Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets has (as far as I can tell) only one entry by one dispensationalist (Robert Chisholm on “Retribution,” and I’m not sure Chisholm is much of a dispensationalist).

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Tom Schreiner on Andy Stanley and "Unhitching" the Old Testament

Tom Schreiner: Commenting on Andy Stanley's new book arguing that Christians must "unhitch" from the Old Testament, Schreiner disagrees and argues: "We must interpret the Old Testament in terms of God’s progressive revelation in his covenants in order to discern how to apply it today."

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3 Reasons Sunday Is Not the Sabbath

From Philippe de Champaigne's Moses with the Ten Commandments

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Here are three reasons why I teach that Christians are not under the Sabbath law of the Old Testament, and that it is unwise to call Sunday “the Christian Sabbath.”

I am a dispensationalist

The Sabbath restrictions are found in the Old Testament and are part of the law given to Israel as they entered the Promised Land. The fourth commandment makes clear that the Sabbath law applies to anyone in Israel, regardless of their own personal convictions about the legitimacy of the Covenant. In other words, in OT Israel, just because a person didn’t believe in Yahweh, didn’t mean that they could break the Sabbath. It was a basic component of Israelite Law given to the members of the Old Covenant for their time in the Promised Land.

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On "The Origin and Presence of False Teaching"

The Changing Face of Dispensationalism

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