Covenant Hermeneutics -- By: Ronald M. Johnson

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 03:10 (Dec 1999)
Article: Covenant Hermeneutics
Author: Ronald M. Johnson


Covenant Hermeneutics

Ronald M. Johnson, Ph.D.

Senior Pastor
Oroville Evangelical Free Church, Oroville, CA

Origins Of The Covenant

Covenant Theology is the systematic theology of Reformed churches having its prototype in the patristic theology of Augustine. It represents the whole of Scripture as being covered by two covenants: (1) the Covenant of Works, and (2) the Covenant of Grace.

According to covenant theologians, God and Adam were the parties to the Covenant of Works. The promise of the Covenant of Works was life1 Having created man in His likeness and image, a free moral creature without sin, God entered into this Covenant of Works with Adam that He might bestow upon him and his posterity even greater blessings. The Covenant of Works is also referred to as the Edenic Covenant, the Covenant of Nature and the Covenant of Life. The preferred name is the Covenant of Works.2 “The proviso was perfect obedience by Adam and the penalty of failure was death. To save man from the penalty of his disobedience, a second covenant made from all eternity, came into operation, namely, the Covenant of Grace.”3 In the development of Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Grace chronologically preceded the conception and development of the Covenant of Works. Although the word covenant is not mentioned in the early chapters of Genesis, covenant theologians maintain that all the elements of a covenant are present in those chapters, even though the promise of eternal life is implicit, but unstated.

In the covenant of grace God offers salvation through Christ to all who believe. Inasmuch as none can believe without the special grace of God, it is more exact to say that the covenant of grace is made by God with believers, or the elect.4

Covenant theologians find a number of successive proclamations which they offer to certify the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament

beginning with the protevangelium of Genesis 3:15. Much later in biblical history, God then established the Covenant of Grace with Abraham (Abrahamic Covenant) and his descendants thereby making it a national covenant.

In the New Testament, the Covenant of Grace is described as new. Passages such as Romans 4 and Galatians 3 actually show that it is essentially o...

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