2 Tim 3.16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

A Biblical Rebuttal of "The Fulfillment of the Promises of God"

Chapter 3: The Initiation of the Covenant of Grace

A Biblical Rebuttal of:

The Fulfillment of the Promises of God,
An Explanation of Covenant Theology

by Dr. Richard Belcher, 2020.

As mentioned in the Introduction, chapters 1 through 8 in this article match the chapter titles and ordering of their respective chapters in Dr. Belcher's book. This chapter overlays chapter 3, pages 37 through 46 in the book.

 

Format Key:

  • Simple body text looks like this, this and this, and like this, this and this.
  • A quote from Scripture looks like this.
  • A quote from Dr. Belcher’s book “looks like this” [ch X, pg Y[, emphasis mine]]
  • An inline comment [looks like this.]

 

Dr. Belcher begins this chapter with a semi-true statement:

“When Adam disobeyed God and broke the Covenant of Works serious consequences followed.” [ch 3, pg 37]

The true part is “serious consequences followed”; the false part is that there was no Covenant of Works to disobey. As Gen 3.6 makes crystal clear, Adam sinned against God’s simple command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:

Gen 3.6
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

What more do we need to understand? Why is this so complicated that the CT must add a fictitious covenant to break?! Adam sinned by breaking the LORD’s direct command – nothing more or less! Dr. Belcher is correct when he states that “serious consequences followed”, but it is for the wrong reasons.

“Aspects of the Covenant of Works continue, including the legal burden of fulfilling God's law perfectly (James 2.10) and the curse of the conditional promise when the law is not obeyed (Lev 18.5; Rom 10.5).” [ch 3, pg 37-38, emphasis mine]

Hmmm…

Quite suddenly there is an appeal to the Law! How can this be justified, since the giving of the Law would be about 1500 years after Adam/creation, and would be fundamental to the ‘real’ Mosaic Covenant!? Why the overlap with the Covenant of Works?

Then there also is the issue the Apostle Paul raises in Romans. Has Dr. Belcher never read these texts which teach that man is not accountable to the Law before the Law was instituted:

Rom 3.20
because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Rom 4.14-15
For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

Rom 5.12-13
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned — for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Rom 5.20
The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Rom 7.7
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

Adam was pre-Law by multiple centuries! Yes, he broke a single command from the LORD, but that command did not comprise the Law - it would be ~1500 years before the giving of the Law at Sinai. The texts from James, Leviticus and Romans are being used out of context.

[A hallmark of those who are careless with Scripture is the frequent out-of-context use of their “proof texts”.]

Genesis 3:15: The Protoevangelium (the first gospel) [page 38]

We finally get to the purpose of the chapter, namely, the Covenant of Grace.

“This is the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace and has been called the Protoevangelium (the First Gospel).” [ch 3, pg 38]

My full response and review to this citation is found in Appendix: The Protoevangelium and the Fictitious Covenant of Grace.

However, by the top of the next page, Dr. Belcher makes another major leap into speculation:

“Even though Adam disobeyed God in the Covenant of Works, he and Eve were the first members of the Covenant of Grace.” [ch 3, pg 39]

So, let me get this straight: The LORD pronounces a curse upon the serpent (and Adam and Eve) and suddenly it’s a brand-new covenant complete with members!?!?

Remember! This fictitious covenant wasn’t even addressed to Adam and Eve: it was initially addressed to the serpent! After that,

v16: “To the woman He said,”
v17: “Then to Adam He said”

So, according to Dr. Belcher’s teaching that a "covenant is addressed to parties", then the Covenant of Grace must include the serpent as its first member, and Eve and Adam as its second and third members, respectively. Think about that one for a moment: the serpent, as a member of the Covenant of Grace is, apparently, redeemable!!! Dr. Belcher does not handle this abomination in his book, nor does he even mention the horrendous contradictions and problems it creates!

How can Covenant Theology even be considered a serious theology when it teaches this kind of error!? How is it even possible for it to exist at all, much less to exist for centuries? This issue really does highlight the obstinance of the human heart to reject the simple and pure Word of God and shamelessly replace it with the traditions of men!

Seminary Student: please think about this the next time you are in a CT class! Challenge the professor if he is teaching anything like this about the origin of the so-called Covenant of Grace. If this point doesn't come up, then raise it! You are there, presumably to learn from the Scripture, not to be indoctrinated from a framework that can't be sustained without the mindless subjugation of its students. Your faithfulness to solid doctrine is being threatened; I can't stress this enough.

Open your Bible, close the CT texts!

 

Here are the real OT covenants in chronological order and the parties to which they were addressed:

  • Noahic: covenant addressed to Noah and all living creatures
  • Abrahamic: covenant addressed to Abram
  • Circumcision: covenant addressed to Abram and all males
  • Mosaic: covenant addressed to national Israel through Moses
  • Davidic: covenant addressed David
  • New: covenant addressed to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah”

I dare Dr. Belcher to show me to show me any real OT covenant addressed to the fundamental enemy of that covenant. In the case of the fictitious Covenant of Works, the one who was cursed by the supposed covenant was the first addressed party!!

This is not an auspicious start! This is a level of carelessness that is Olympic in its scope by someone in a position of teaching responsibilities at a well-known reformed seminary. Truly, the world is backwards, upside-down and inside-out!

[Again, I ask that if any of my readers are seminary students or young/inexperienced pastors or teachers, please:

  1. Read this article completely!
  2. Forward a link to this article to whomever you know may be caught in the error of CT.

Likewise, if you seek to message me directly – or to challenge me on any point in this or any other article on this site – I supply an email address at the top and bottom of every page on SolaScripturaToday.org. You are also welcome to post a comment on any article.]

There are a few more comments on the "seed of the woman" that we need to consider.

“The seed of the woman will triumph over the seed of the serpent by defeating him. The identity of this descendant is progressively revealed throughout Old Testament history and is fulfilled in the person of Christ. Genesis 3:15 speaks ultimately of Christ, the second Adam, the mediator of the Covenant of Grace (WLC 36), the redeemer of God's elect (WSC 20). Just as Adam represented his descendants in his actions, so Christ represented those elected to eternal life.” [ch 3, pg 40-41, emphasis mine]

So, "the seed of the woman will triumph over the seed of the serpent by defeating him", that Serpent who was first addressed in the so-called Covenant of Grace as its first member. What kind of incompetent, ridiculous God would make a foundational covenant with such an evil, duplicitous being, then within the same pronouncement would predict the defeat of that being!

The LORD never contradicts Himself, Dr. Belcher!

Dr. Belcher gets federal representation correct (as I’ve mentioned earlier); his problem is that he insists on inserting the Covenant of Works as part of that wonderful doctrine of Rom 5. What is troubling here is the citation of the WLC 36 in place of the Scripture.

[For those of my readers who might object with something like “But, the citation to WLC 36 is merely to save space. The references to prove the assertion are within the citation. Give him a break!” As we’ll see immediately below, no, he doesn’t deserve a break because WLC 36 is quite flawed in and of itself.]

I quote here the text of WLC 36 (without its text references; the reason for this will be apparent).

Q. 36. Who is the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace?
A. The only Mediator of the Covenant of Grace is the Lord Jesus Christ,137 who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father,138 in the fulness of time became man,139 and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.140

The Scriptures cited in footnotes 137 through 140 do a good job of proving that the Lord Christ is the Mediator “between God and men”, but nowhere declare Him to be the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace! We don’t get to restate Scripture to our own design to meet our own man-made theological narrative. Shame on the CT for doing just that.

The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace [page 41]

Dr. Belcher continues to assert – even if he doesn’t defend or justify – the Covenant of Grace.

“There are two distinct covenants in scripture, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace (bi-covenantal). The Covenant of Grace was historically initiated right after Adam broke the Covenant of Works.” [ch 3, pg 41]

There are two pronouncements here, neither of which are demonstrated from the Scripture. Are we just supposed to take Dr. Belcher’s word for these? What Scripture declares the “initiation” of the Covenant of Grace?

“The promise of both covenants is to receive eternal life and the general aim of the covenants is to the glory of God.” [ch 3, pg 41]

Again, here are two pronouncements with no Scripture to support them. Where are these statements in the text of Gen 1-3, Dr. Belcher? There isn’t even a hint of them. No matter: he continues with more ‘truths’ which are nowhere to be found in the text:

“There are also major differences between these two covenants. In the Covenant of Works, God is the Creator and Lord who condescends to establish the covenant with his innocent creature. In the Covenant of Grace God is the redeemer who graciously pursues the sinner and covenant breaker.[ch 3, pg 41, emphasis mine]

I find it troubling that the ‘God’ spoke of in the first two pronouncements has such different purposes for two covenants that were, purportedly, created so close together in time. Where is the shift in the LORD’s thinking in the text? Yes, certainly, Adam no longer had unfettered fellowship with His Creator; sin marred everything. Is it really necessary, though, to create an entire theological ecosystem to accommodate this?

No!

When I read Gen 1-3, I find the same LORD, both before and after the fall. I don’t need to – nor should – create another version of 'God' just because I have a theological narrative to maintain. These pronouncements are wrong!

“In the Covenant of Works the promise of eternal life depends on the perfect, personal obedience of Adam, but in the Covenant of Grace the promise of eternal life depends on the sinner having faith in the person and work of Christ. [ch 3, pg 41, emphasis mine]

This statement could be ambiguous, depending on what Dr. Belcher believes regarding faith and the election of grace. As stated, it nearly makes faith a good work which leads to salvation. However, while not prominent in his book, I found 5 references to election (1 in chapter 1, 1 in chapter 2, and 3 in chapter 3).

[I present a Theology 101-type introduction to theology in my series “The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics”, the first five chapters. The topic of the Election of Grace is chapter 5.]

There is, however, another matter: namely the conditions of "eternal life" as stated in the text of Gen 3. You see, there is a ‘loophole’! Note once again Dr. Belcher’s assertion:

“the promise of eternal life depends on the sinner having faith in the person and work of Christ”

I suspect that my readers are puzzled regarding what could possibly be wrong with that statement. Well, we have this Scripture to contend with in the context of the Covenant of Grace:

Gen 3.22-23
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” — therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.

I am not engaging in speculation or playing semantic games with the Scripture here! Adam and Eve were forcibly expelled from Eden, not because of their sin (at least not as explicitly stated in the text), they were expelled from Eden because they might eat from the Tree of Life and live forever – as sinners! The text says, "live forever": this is the definition of eternal life!

This is the Word of the Triune Godhead in the eternal, inspired text of Scripture!

One last thought on this text: the so-called Covenant of Grace was pronounced with this loophole in place. Yes, the LORD 'plugged the hole' before Adam and Eve had the chance to take from the tree – by not allowing Adam and Eve to take from the tree – but nonetheless the loophole existed and continued to exist. I’d say that due to that little concern that the Covenant of Grace was not very well thought out by the Almighty Himself! (#SARC)

[Just to be perfectly clear, in case my readers missed my intentional sarcasm: the LORD does not declare flawed covenants! It is Covenant Theologians who declare flawed covenants.]

Dr. Belcher now reveals additional properties of Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. They seem very similar:

There is a principle of Works in both covenants. In the Covenant of Works Adam was to obey the stipulation related to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and in the Covenant of Grace Christ fulfills the works requirement. The Covenant of Grace did not abolish the Covenant of Works because both require that the righteousness of the law be fulfilled. Christ fulfilled this righteousness by meeting the requirements of the Covenant of Works, enabling his righteousness to be offered to those who believe in him. The Covenant of Grace through Christ accomplishes what the Covenant of Works required.[ch 3, pg 41-42, emphasis mine]

What a mess! Again I ask, why was the so-called Covenant of Works needed in the first place if both could grant the reward of eternal life? In the case of the Covenant of Works, Adam broke that covenant. That should have been the end of the story; it certainly was with the Mosaic Covenant even before Moses returned to the camp with the tablets.

[If my readers question this, consider that the covenant had to be the one given (again) in Deu 5. I cover this in some detail in Chapter 6: The Mosaic Covenant.]

So, the CT would have us believe that the LORD said something like this as a result:

“It looks like the Covenant of Works was too stringent, I need something else that would give Adam another chance at life. And, while I’m at it, I require My Son to fulfill it in place of Adam, even though I nowhere specified that "little detail" in the agreement of the Covenant of Grace in the text of Genesis.”

As I understand it, after the fall the so-called Covenant of Works was completely replaced by the so-called Covenant of Grace. It seems unnecessary to keep bringing the former up in the context of the latter.

Dr. Belcher stated earlier that Adam and Eve were the first members of the Covenant of Grace (ch 3, pg 39). Since Adam was also under the Covenant of Works, doesn’t that mean that he was under two very different covenants at the same time, covenants which imposed very different requirements for life? Adam, by his sin, broke the fictitious Covenant of Works. Then, when he was "inducted" (my term) into the Covenant of Grace, the LORD actually placed Adam in an intractable condition: he could not possibly fulfill the conditions of both, though he was a member of both.

“But”, the CT says, “the terms of the Covenant of Grace were fulfilled in the Lord Christ, not in Adam.” So, the Covenant of Grace abrogates the Covenant of Works? “No”, says the CT, “the Covenant of Works still applies to those not yet under the Covenant of Grace.” Well, then, how is it that Adam was placed in the Covenant of Grace while others are left in the Covenant of Works? And what happens to the principle of "representation" maintained by Dr. Belcher? If Adam was the representative of mankind, doesn't that mean that mankind is now under the Covenant of Grace?

As I said: what a mess! (You know what James said regarding the double-minded man [Jam 1.7-8]).

[There is very serious matter to consider here: Adam and his future opportunities in grace.

Rom 5.12-21 juxtaposes Adam and the Lord Christ:

  • v14: “death reigned from Adam to Moses”
  • v15: many died because of the transgression of Adam
  • v16: judgment arose from the sin of Adam
  • v17: death reigned in Adam
  • v18: condemnation resulted upon all men through the one transgression of Adam
  • v19: through the disobedience of Adam many were made sinners
  • v15: the grace of the Lord Christ abounded to the many
  • v16: the free gift arose through the Lord Christ
  • v17: life reigns in those who receive the abundance of grace in the Lord Christ
  • v18: the one Act of righteousness of the Lord Christ resulted in the justification of all men
  • v19: through the obedience of the Lord Christ many will be made righteous 

Everything touched by Adam resulted in condemnation and death; everything touched by the Lord Christ resulted in life and righteousness.

One reason that I reject the Covenant of Grace summarily is that, by design, it purports to give Adam (presumably) another chance to obey the requirements of the Law (by proxy, but obedience nonetheless). The Apostle’s point in Rom 5.12-21 is that Adam represents for all time the failure of sin and death, he is the Unredeemed while the Lord Christ is the obedient Son, the Redeemer. There is nothing in the text of Rom 5 to suggest that Adam was "redeemable"; there is everything to suggest the opposite. If the Covenant of Grace is real, then it works to undo the truths of Rom 5. This is something that I will never support. Again, the Covenant of Grace is an afterthought, something tacked onto the original error of the Covenant of Works in order to "fix" it. Instead, these solutions aggravate the problem.

I’m convinced that Covenant Theology is the Rube Goldberg of theologies!]

Issues related to the Covenant of Grace [page 42]

The Condition of Faith [page 42]

“Some struggle with the concept of a condition connected to the Covenant of Grace, but it is important how that condition is understood. The Bible requires faith as necessary for someone to experience the blessings of salvation (John 3.16,36; Act 8.37; Rom 10.9). God requires faith but he also gives faith to the elect as a gift (Eph 2.8).” [ch 3, pg 42, emphasis mine]

If we are to be true to the Scripture, we must contend to that truth expressed in the Ordo Salutis: while true salvation is never apart from faith, the dead sinner must first be made alive. His/her first action as a newly living being is to repent of their sins and believe the gospel.

[I direct my readers to my article Dead or Alive? The Order of Salvation (Ordo Salutis) on this site for a full discussion and presentation of the Bible truths on this matter.]

A concern with Dr. Belcher’s statement above is that there really is no proper setting of the necessary context for what it a very foundational level Bible truth.

The Unity of the Covenant [page 43]

There is only one Covenant of Grace, but it was administered differently in the time of the law and in the time of the Gospel. The administration of the covenant in the time of the law was 'by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types of ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come' (WCF 7.5). The substance of the covenant is the same even as it was administered in different historical manifestations that include the covenant with Adam, the covenant with Noah, the covenant with Abraham, the covenant with Moses, and the covenant with David, which are all fulfilled in the New Covenant in Christ.[ch 3, pg 43, emphasis mine]

[See Appendix: The Problems in the WCF. for details.]

All covenants executed by the LORD are – and must be – consistent, but that is different from what Dr. Belcher asserts above. He contends that if we see similar results from the real OT covenants, leading to the New Covenant, then it must be that those earlier covenants are "fulfilled" in the New Covenant. That logic is dangerous and irresponsible.

[Let me propose a silly example: 

I have a '97 Toyota truck; it gets me where I need to go. So, one day I go to the store and when I come out, a brand new Tesla has parked next to my truck. By Dr. Belcher's logic, my Toyota did its job in its time, but now its time has been "fulfilled" by a much more elegant vehicle. I should therefore be able to drive the Tesla back home.

Wow, sign me up…]

To expound the truth takes far more work than Dr. Belcher expended here. Let’s unpack his statement, because it has at least three problems.

Look at the first statement: “There is only one Covenant of Grace, but it was administered differently in the time of the law and in the time of the Gospel.”

This assertion is made without any attempt at direct Bible proof.

  • Which of the real OT covenants would permit different administrations?
  • How can such a claim even be made about any real OT covenant made by the One who is immutable?
  • How would the Noahic covenant, for example, have different administrations?
  • I have the same questions for the Abrahamic, the Davidic and the New Covenant.
  • Can Dr. Belcher show us even one example of this being done, anywhere, with any of the real OT covenants?

As I’ve stated earlier, this is another example of the rampant speculation by the CT.

The second statement with troubling inferences is: “… the [Covenant of Grace] … was administered in different historical manifestations that include the covenant with Adam, the covenant with Noah, the covenant with Abraham, the covenant with Moses, and the covenant with David, which are all fulfilled in the New Covenant in Christ.”

This is an example of theological laziness. And of course, no proof is offered for such a fantastic assertion.

[I’m weary of having to repeat this and I’m sure my readers are weary of reading it. But I’ll keep it up because this, apparently, is a hallmark of the CT "exposition" that needs to be exposed. The repetition is amply justified.]

Instead, the statement is issued with a type of faux certainty that presumably makes it immune to questioning! Stated another way, the CT makes a declaration that something is true – and it therefore must be true because the CT declared it!

This is not Bible teaching; this is indoctrination of the worst order, not to mention circular reasoning.

I refer to this as laziness because Dr. Belcher has not proceeded through careful exposition to make his point.

[It is also why this critique is approximately three times the size (by word count) of the first 137 pages of Dr. Belcher’s book: I do go to the trouble of expounding the Bible truths needed to establish Truth to anyone who humbles himself before the Word of the LORD, instead of merely repeating the party line. Political parties engage in this sort of indoctrination and gaslighting; it should NEVER be found among theologians.]

Instead, this is a theological shortcut to flatten the differences between the real OT covenants into a mashup (a fairly recent word in our culture, but an appropriate one) of one covenant (the Covenant of Grace) with different sides/versions/representations/implementations/ad nauseum. It was a futile effort to assert the subtitle of the section, The Unity of the Covenant, but it should be evident the entire exercise is one clumsy example of circular logic, specifically:

  1. The Covenant of Grace is unified; therefore all the other OT covenants are rolled into it.
  2. All the other OT covenants are unified because they are implementations of the Covenant of Grace.

Circular.
Handy.
Wrong.

The third issue is the questionable assertion: “which are all fulfilled in the New Covenant in Christ.”

To properly analyze and falsify these statements, let’s review the substance and nature of the New Covenant, then look for its properties in each of the real OT covenants. In other words, let’s invest the work needed to establish the truth (which is what Dr. Belcher should have done in the first place).

[I’ve reformatted the text of the New Covenant to highlight its components which the LORD promised. This will make the discrepancies of Dr. Belcher's claims the more evident.]

Jer 31.31-34
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord,
1. “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it;
2. and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
3. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord,
4. “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Here is each of the components of the New Covenant formatted for easy readability.

  1. The covenant was made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
  2. The covenant was not like the one made at Sinai.
  3. The LORD will put his Law into the hearts of Israel.
  4. The LORD will be the God of Israel.
  5. All Israel will know the LORD.
  6. The LORD will forgive their iniquity.

Now, let’s compare each of the real OT covenants with Dr. Belcher's assertions regarding the New Covenant to determine how true is his statement: “Each covenant will display these elements in various ways.”

[Please note that I prepared an appendix to handle most of the comparisons and details of the real OT covenants compared to Dr. Belcher’s 'covenant property assertions': Appendix: The Real Covenants in the Old Testament. The information here I decided to handle inline for readability and train-of-thought benefits.]

Noahic

The covenant of Gen 9 was with Noah and all living (land) animals; the essence of the covenant was that the LORD would never again destroy the earth by water.

  1. The covenant was made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not found in the text. There is no (single) nation of Israel and there certainly is no house of Israel and house of Judah.
  2. The covenant was not like the one made at Sinai. Not found in the text, since there is no Israel.
  3. The LORD will put his Law into the hearts of Israel. Not found in the text, since there is no Israel.
  4. The LORD will be the God of Israel. Not found in the text, since there is no Israel.
  5. All Israel will know the LORD. Not found in the text, since there is no Israel.
  6. The LORD will forgive their iniquity. Not found in the text, since there is no Israel.

Abrahamic

The covenant of Gen 15 was with Abram and his descendants. The covenant was the promise that Abram’s descendants would own what I term the ‘extended region of the Middle East’.

[This is distinct from the relatively small region of Canaan. This is found in the introduction of The Day of the LORD and discussed in great detail in chapter 7, Addendum: The Promised Land Fulfilled.]

  1. The covenant was made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not found in the text, since there is not yet a nation Israel, much less one with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
  2. The covenant was not like the one made at Sinai. Not found in the text, since at this time there is no covenant with Israel.
  3. The LORD will put his Law into the hearts of Israel. Not found in the text.
  4. The LORD will be the God of Israel. This is implicit but is not found in the text as an assertion of the covenant with Abram.
  5. All Israel will know the LORD. Not found in the text.
  6. The LORD will forgive their iniquity. Not found in the text.

Circumcision

The covenant of Gen 17 was with Abram and all males, including servants and foreigners living among the Jews, in perpetuity. Those who broke the covenant were to be "cut off" from Israel.

Notice this stunning statement made by the Apostle:

Gal 5.6 (6.15)
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

[The true spirit of the New Covenant eliminates the benefit the OT Jew derived from being obedient to the law of circumcision. For all those under the New Covenant, circumcision is nothing!]

  1. The covenant was made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not found in the text, since there is not yet a nation Israel, much less one with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
  2. The covenant was not like the one made at Sinai. Circumcision was Active in the time of the Law (of course), but there are only 2 mentions of circumcision in Exo (Exo 12). Neither of these are proscriptive; rather, they assume that the covenant of Gen 17 is Active.
  3. The LORD will put his Law into the hearts of Israel. Not found in the text.
  4. The LORD will be the God of Israel. Not found in the text.
  5. All Israel will know the LORD. Not found in the text.
  6. The LORD will forgive their iniquity. Not found in the text.

Mosaic

The covenant of Exo 20 was the only real covenant in the OT which imposed blessing and curses. It specified the conditions which Israel was to keep in order to live and prosper in the land of Canaan. Each generation of the Jews until the exile either broke the terms of the covenant or never bothered to live under those terms in the first place.

What was so surprising about Dr. Belcher’s assertion is that of all the covenants, the Mosaic Covenant – by design – can in no way fulfill the spiritual nature of the New Covenant in any way! It is the LAW! Grace is NOT at work:

Gal 2.21
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.

Gal 3.2-3
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Gal 3.10-14
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Gal 3.19
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

Gal 4.21-22
Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.

Gal 5.4
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Gal 5.18
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

There are many other texts to which I could appeal, but those above should be adequate. The takeaway is this: the LAW and faith are mutually exclusive terms when it relates to the salvation of the lost sinner, including OT Jews. They never meet, they never work together, they never compromise with each other, they can't compromise with each other. Exactly one grants only life while the other grants only death. There can be no outworking of the Mosaic Covenant which can be fulfilled in the New Covenant. To assert that the Mosaic Covenant displays the elements of the New Covenant is especially absurd since their differences are the topic of an entire NT epistle (Galatians)!

  1. The covenant was made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not found in the text, there is only the people of Israel; they are barely one nation.
  2. The covenant was not like the one made at Sinai. This is – and must be – the primary reason that the covenant at Sinai has no overlap with the New Covenant. It truly is a mystery that Dr. Belcher can assert what he did in the face of this clear Scripture! This is yet another example of theological gaslighting.
  3. The LORD will put his Law into the hearts of Israel. Not found in the text.
  4. The LORD will be the God of Israel. Not found in the text.
  5. All Israel will know the LORD. Not found in the text.
  6. The LORD will forgive their iniquity. Not found in the text.

Davidic

The covenant of 2 Sam 7 was with David. In it the LORD promised:

  1. To make David’s name great;
  2. To appoint a place for the people of Israel in order to plant them;
  3. To grant to David rest from his enemies;
  4. To make a house for David;
  5. To raise up David’s descendants;
  6. To ensure that David’s house and kingdom would endure before the LORD forever.

All these promises have physical and temporal fulfillment, a fulfillment that can only be during the Millennial Kingdom of the Lord Christ.

[See my article: The Day of the LORD. This truth is presented with significant biblical detail.]

Let’s now compare the components with Dr. Belcher’s claim above.

  1. The covenant was made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. The covenant was made with David, not with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
  2. The covenant was not like the one made at Sinai. The covenant at Sinai was with Israel; the Davidic covenant was with David. So, no, this is not found in the text as an assertion of the covenant.
  3. The LORD will put his Law into the hearts of Israel. Not found in the text as an assertion of the covenant.
  4. The LORD will be the God of Israel. Not found in the text as an assertion of the covenant.
  5. All Israel will know the LORD. Not found in the text as an assertion of the covenant.
  6. The LORD will forgive their iniquity. Not found in the text as an assertion of the covenant.

That there are a number of blessings which accrue to Israel because of the Davidic Covenant is true; but it is an entirely different matter to conflate the blessings of the Davidic Covenant with the blessing of the New Covenant.

The Davidic Covenant is a covenant with David, not with Israel.
The New Covenant is a covenant with Israel, not David.

It seems difficult to do, but Dr. Belcher has confused these two truths in a spectacular way.

 

So, in summary of Dr. Belcher’s claim below (“Each covenant will display these elements in various ways.”), is completely false.

We are still in the subsection The Unity of the Covenant of Grace. It is in this paragraph that Dr. Belcher looks for support in the WCF 7.5 rather than direct Scripture. (The reference to WCF 7.5 appears in the paragraph before this one.)

Unity can also be seen in the effectiveness of the administration of the Covenant in the time of the law, … These elements are seen in the initiation of the Covenant of Grace with Adam in the garden. The issue of eternal life was part of the Covenant of Works and continues as a promise in the Covenant of Grace. After Adam broke the Covenant, if he would have eaten of the Tree of Life in the condition of sin, he would live forever in that condition. Part of the reason Adam is driven from the garden is to ensure that the hope of eternal life continues. The tree of life is not destroyed, but the way to it is guarded because the way to it will be more clearly laid out as redemptive history unfolds. The emphasis at this stage is on the continuation of life.” [ch 3, pg 43-44, emphasis mine]

Before we unpack this, let’s look at WCF 7.5:

“This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: 151 under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; 152 which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah,153 by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament. 154”

[Let it suffice here to say that WCF 7.5 does not support Dr. Belcher’s claims from its 'proof texts'. I provide for clarity here in Appendix: The Problems in the WCF.]

Let’s now handle each of the 4 statements highlighted in the clip from ppg. 43-44 above.

1. “Unity can also be seen in the effectiveness of the administration of the Covenant in the time of the law …”

Dr. Belcher has not even directly proved the existence of the Covenant of Grace! How can he possibly talk about the “effectiveness of” its administration! The indifference (or perhaps arrogance?) of the CT ignoring the direct truths of Scripture is astonishing.

2. “The issue of eternal life was part of the Covenant of Works and continues as a promise in the Covenant of Grace.”

Again, here is a confident assertion without a shred of Bible support. How can a covenant oriented around works be considered in the same breath with a covenant oriented around grace? Has the CT never read the Epistle to the Galatians or even Gal 3!?

3. “Part of the reason Adam is driven from the garden is to ensure that the hope of eternal life continues.”

Adam was driven from the garden to ensure that he would not have opportunity to eat from the Tree of Life! It was at that point that his death sentence was sealed, since the only possibility of eternal life was permanently eliminated for Adam! In what manner, Dr. Belcher, was “the hope of eternal life [continued]” by Adam’s expulsion when the Scripture tells us that “the wages of sin is death”? Did Adam somehow not die afterall?

4. “… the way to it will be more clearly laid out as redemptive history unfolds. The emphasis at this stage is on the continuation of life.”

No, Dr. Belcher: at this stage not only was Adam’s death sentence assured, but it was also assured that each and every one of his posterity would suffer the same fate:

Rom 5.12
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned …

So, how is it even reasonable that you could write, “The emphasis at this stage is on the continuation of life.”? Yes, mankind continued, but that was not related to the fact that Adam and Eve were driven from the Tree of Life. It was the result of Adam and Eve being alive as humans and procreating as the LORD commanded.

[See Appendix: The Problems in the WCF. for details on the Tree of Life argument.]

“There are many elements to the one substance, but they can be summarized at the same promise of eternal life, the same mediator, Jesus Christ, in the same condition of faith. Each covenant will display these elements in various ways.” [ch 3, pg 43]

This curious statement of the obvious seems like an add-on with no particular purpose. Yes, of course there is unity in the Lord Christ. Yes, eternal life has always been granted in the same way, regardless of the age. But what does the unity in the Lord Christ have to do with the fictitious Covenant of Grace?

The Parties to the Covenant of Grace [page 44]

There's some debate concerning who the parties are to the Covenant of Grace. God is one of the parties, but who is the second party? The Westminster standards seem to answer this question in two ways. One answer is that the covenant is made with the elect.” [ch 3, pg 44, emphasis mine]

Did you notice the “… but who is the second party?”. For a "settled theology" (about 400 years!), there are remarkable number of "unsettled" issues, including something as fundamental as who the parties to the covenant were!! How can the CT, with a straight face, even imply such a thing, much less actually say it?

[For that matter, is there anything that CTs are actually unified about?]

Continuing along this thread, did you notice Dr. Belcher’s language: “The Westminster standards seem …”. If ever there should be a discipline in which equivocation should be non-existent, it is the teaching of the Scripture. However, equivocation exists strongly throughout Covenant Theology; that alone makes it untrustworthy.

Note also that Dr. Belcher appeals again to the WCF instead of Scripture.

Dr. Belcher then proceeds with an astonishing "clarification":

“But then WLC 31 the question is asked, ‘with whom was the Covenant of Grace made?’ The answer is ‘with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed'. There's no discrepancy between these two statements. The Covenant of Grace cannot be established with sinful human beings without a mediator who acts on their behalf. The work of the mediator satisfies the justice of God so that there can be a relationship restored between God and sinners.” [ch 3, pg 44-45, emphasis mine]

First, there is the apparent discrepancy (despite Dr. Belcher’s claim to the contrary) between the WCF and the WLC; the former is uncertain, the latter is completely certain. Now what do we do when there are dueling "authorities"?

[Actually, theologians love to engage in frivolous debates. This problem gives them something with which they can waste time but appear to be busy. (#SARC)]

Well, what Dr. Belcher does is to declare yet another certainty to fix the issue: “The Covenant of Grace cannot be established with sinful human beings without a mediator who Acts on their behalf.”. He appeals to the concept of the mediator. The only problem with this is that he has yet to declare where in the Scripture the Covenant of Grace can be found. He can’t merely set up a new principle (the need for a mediator), then respond with the "fact" that the Lord Christ is the mediator without having the clear indication from the Scripture of the covenant about which he is teaching.

I notice that Dr. Belcher is careful to not overstate his case: “The Covenant of Grace cannot be established with sinful human beings …” instead of “A covenant cannot be …”. Was this deliberate, or merely an automatic response because he was writing about the fictitious Covenant of Grace? The reason I mention this is because all other real OT covenants were, in fact, made with sinful man! If the response is, “Well, that’s because it is the Covenant of Grace and not another covenant. It is a special requirement/property of the Covenant of Grace that doesn’t exist in the other real OT covenants.”, then please tell me how this is supposed to work.

Actually this is theological laziness: make declarations – even codify them in confessions and catechisms – but produce no careful, consistent, biblical exposition to give real authority to your pronouncements.

The Historical Administration of the Covenant [page 45]

“The historical administration of the Covenant of Grace explains certain distinctions found in Scripture and in the Westminster Standards. There is a visible and invisible church, with the visible church defined as 'all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; together with their children; and of their children: and is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God (WCF 25.2).[ch 3, pg 45, emphasis mine]

I’m really not certain what Dr. Belcher is doing by appealing to the visible and invisible church here. Moreover, what has either to do with the Covenant of Grace?

It is true that WCF 25.2 includes the phrase “… and of their children …” in a context compatible with Dr. Belcher’s claim (“… with their children; and of their children …”). However, the ‘proof texts’ cited by WCF 25.2 do not support the claim. So, not only is Dr. Belcher appealing to the WCF instead of Scripture directly, the Bible support of the WCF 25.2 assertion is non-existent.

[See Appendix: The Problems in the WCF. for details.]

Dr. Belcher closes the chapter with yet more astonishing claims:

The visible Church includes the elect, but it also includes those who may not be the elect, whether children of believers who do not believe or those who make false profession of faith. The Covenant of Grace has both relationship aspects and legal aspects and a person can be a part of the Covenant of Grace legally but not be in a relationship with God. [ch 4, pg 45-46, emphasis mine]

At the very best, Dr. Belcher’s language here is careless. Yes, many/most of the Christian professions today are false (certainly from my ‘unofficial’ observations of churches and their congregants, as well as what I read of their doctrinal stances). But, in the chapter which purports to be about the so-called Covenant of Grace, I’d expect more inclusive membership and terminology which refers to "church" as a reference to those who are true believers rather than as a reference to those who are not. Else, what is the purpose of the Covenant of Grace? It sounds like the Covenant of Grace is grace in name only and does not work in the heart of the parties to the covenant to make them real children of grace.

If this is true, that the grace of the Covenant of Grace is in name only, then for what possible purpose does it exist?

The Mosaic Covenant (one that does exist!) demonstrated that the Law could not save, and therefore its "legal" members were largely corrupt idolaters. So yes, it is possible for there to be a true, divine covenant in which nearly all the members were still lost (in the NT redemption sense of the term). I just would not expect that characteristic from a covenant which purports to be based in grace, particularly one that is supposed to have as its second party (as we saw above) the Lord Christ, the Mediator. And, it should go without saying that its Mediator must be doing a very poor job for there to be this scope of failure.

Dr. Belcher last of all appeals to a very well-known paragraph in Rom 11:

Romans 11:16-24 sets forth a holiness that comes from being engrafted into the tree that is not the inward holiness that is a result of the Spirit's work in the life of a believer. This holiness is shared by the branches that are connected to the root of the tree. The church is depicted in Romans 11 with the same imagery as that of Israel, so that this principle of the covenant administration continues in the New Covenant it because Gentiles who are grafted in can also be cut off (Rom 11:20-22).” [ch 3, pg 46, emphasis mine]

When Dr. Belcher tells us this is not a “holiness that comes … [from an] inward holiness that is a result of the Spirit's work in the life of a believer”, he is correct. However, he is incorrect when he tells us that this type of "holiness" comes from being engrafted into the root.

He has it backward: those people who have essentially equal obedience/faithfulness to the LORD are those who are engrafted into the root. When they, as a people, become disobedient, then they are torn from the root. This is a major topic of Rom 11.

[I find it odd that someone with a supposed background/adherence/other in/to Reformed Theology has this type of trouble with a very clear section of the Scripture.]

Rom 11.20
Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith.

Moreover, Dr. Belcher holds to a defective understanding of the passage in regard to the "church". It has nothing to do with the "church"; it has everything to do with groups of Israel and the Gentiles. (This appears to come from the CT’s disposition to equate OT Israel with the NT church?)

[I hope to make "replacement theology" the topic of a future article. This just happens to be one of the passages where this defective interpretation comes into the picture.]

To complete the needed exposition here, I direct Dr. Belcher to a short section in Matthew 21. The context is that the chief priests had been challenging the Lord Christ; He, in response, told them the Parable of the Two Sons (21.28-32) and the Parable of the Landowner (21.33.44). A key item is expressed in vv. 45-46:

Mat 21.45-46
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

Why were the chief priests so upset? Exactly what did the Lord Christ tell them to get them so angry? Here is the essence of the controversy:

Mat 21.43
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.

What did he mean? It should be clear enough from the pages of Acts and the Epistles: the Jews, who had been the sole ‘truth holders and propagators of the LORD’s words’ since the beginning, were now being replaced by the Gentiles! The Jews were incensed!

Dr. Belcher did not refer to the preceding context (above), which is a problem because it is critical to a proper understanding of the passage:

Rom 11.11-15
I say then, [the Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

The LORD ‘moved’ His primary outworking of the gospel message from the Jews to the Gentiles. (The success of the church in Syrian Antioch is ample proof of that.) The Apostle uses a metaphor (branches, etc.) to illustrate that divine action. The primary warning of Rom 11.17-24 is against the arrogance of the Jews who thought that they had the ‘lock’ on the LORD’s message. The secondary warning was to the Gentiles; the LORD could do to them what He did to the Jews if the Gentiles begin to exhibit the same arrogance, disobedience and indifference.

This has little to do with “the Spirit's work in the life of a believer”; it has a great deal to do with the work for the LORD of an entire subculture. Here, Dr. Belcher has 'missed the forest for the trees' by making this a picture of the individual rather than of the aggregate peoples of the Jews and the Gentiles.

There is yet more proof of this understanding that we may marshal:

Act 11.19
So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.

The NT Jews were notoriously selective with the preaching of the Gospel, despite the Lord’s command in Mat 28. The history of OT Israel is one of essentially unbroken obstinance and unbelief, along with a corresponding and extraordinary Divine patience (since they remained in the root for centuries, speaking in terms of the metaphor of Rom 11). But the LORD warned them until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, at which time the prophecy of Hosea 5.14 - 6.3 comes into view.

[I leave it as an exercise to the reader to review this wondrous prophecy. I especially pose this question to my readers: what are the ‘two days’ and the ‘third day’ mentioned by Hosea?]

“Thus, the church should not be defined only in terms of election (believers) because it also includes believers and their children.” [ch 3, pg 46, emphasis mine]

What a leap! I’m completely mystified how the Covenant of Grace implements this "truth". There is no Scripture presented here upon which to base this claim. It is troubling, though, that CTs believe that in the context of election that children of believers are themselves members of the "covenant". The CT fails to make the case that these belong together in the first place – and in Reformed Theology they don’t!

Frankly, I’m beginning to discount the CT’s use of language generally, since it appears that their words have "fluid" meanings (in an age of "fluidity" and the changing definitions of words).

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