The Biblical Covenants -- By: Charles Fred Lincoln

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 100:398 (Apr 1943)
Article: The Biblical Covenants
Author: Charles Fred Lincoln

The Biblical Covenants

Charles Fred Lincoln


There is in the Holy Scriptures a distinctive Biblical doctrine of the Covenants. There is also in the writings of a large number of devout and honored theologians a system of doctrine called “The Covenant Theory,” or “Covenant Theology.” A great difference exists between the Scriptural doctrine and the theological concept. The latter is nowhere constructively taught in the Scripture and was not set forth in a system of teaching until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of the Christian era. Its conception of God’s purposes, His present divine program, and His future plans respecting the nation Israel are at notable variance with the doctrine of the Covenants as revealed in the Scriptures. The misuse of the word covenant in connection with the theory in question is most unfortunate. Scripture knows nothing of the names: Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works, and Covenant of Grace, and the unwarranted and artificial use of the word by the covenantists serves only to misconstrue, divert from, and bedim the real teaching of Scripture regarding the true Covenants.

However, it is not the purpose of this article to discuss critically the Covenant Theory, but rather to point out the Biblical doctrine of the Covenants and to that task we will presently proceed. The above comparison has been noted mainly for purposes of distinction and differentiation. The writer wishes to state that he rejoices in every phase of the teaching of the adherents of Covenant Theology, which honors the truth of the grace of God; and in no sense condemns as heretical the brethren with whom he disagrees on the

subject of the covenants. Nevertheless, important issues are at stake and it is believed that the understanding of God’s truth and purpose is greatly helped by a correct knowledge of the Biblical doctrine of the Covenants, and, conversely, that the comprehension of the teaching of the Scripture is hampered by the conclusions to which the Covenant Theory unavoidably leads.

I. Preliminary Considerations

No worthwhile deductions are possible in an investigation of the character that is now proposed unless there is a well-defined meaning in the minds of all as to the significance of the terms employed. In the present inquiry, because of divergent views, it is particularly important to define the word covenant, note its distinguishing features, and comprehend to whom the term is applicable in the Scripture.

1. Definition of the Word Covenant

The Hebrew word which is usually translated covenant is ברית. I...

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