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.

Appendix: The Real Covenants in the Old Testament

What are the real covenants in the Old Testament? Who are its recipients, and what are the promises of each covenant (because all Divine covenants carry with them the LORD’s promise of something)? What are the complete Scripture references to each?

[Covenant Theology is well known for its use of extrabiblical speculation and inferences (e.g., the WCF), especially when it attempts to explain the fictitious Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. The purpose of this Appendix is to carefully and thoroughly document each real covenant revealed in the Old Testament by the Scripture alone.]

Early in his first chapter, Dr. Belcher makes the following fantastic claims regarding the value of Covenant Theology:

The central place of covenant theology in the Bible is expressed well by Packer when he calls covenant theology a hermeneutic, 'a way of reading the whole Bible that is itself part of the overall interpretation of the Bible that it undergirds.'[ch 1, pg 17, emphasis mine]

and

“There are many concepts in Scripture that cannot be understood properly without understanding the covenant.[ch 1, pg 17, emphasis mine]

and

“Covenant is so central to the outworking of God's plan of salvation that the gospel needs the framework of covenant theology.[ch 1, pg 18, emphasis mine]

I was dismayed when studying Dr. Belcher’s book and Covenant Theology. I found a "theology" which elevates the position, meaning, and importance of "covenant framework" while simultaneously misunderstanding and misrepresenting the real Old Testament covenants the LORD made! This is as inexcusable as it is indefensible for someone teaching at a reformed seminar (such as Dr. Belcher)!

How could Covenant Theology get this so wrong for so long!?

[As I mentioned in the Introduction, it simply doesn’t matter whether the men who held to this in the last many centuries (beginning with Augustine, I suppose) were "faithful" or otherwise. I don’t have to resolve this dilemma. Simply stated, Covenant Theology is a tradition (in the NT Gospels sense) and is wrong!]

As I was researching this article, it become abundantly clear that I would need a central place in which to teach from the Scripture all the Old Testament covenants and their properties. The content of this appendix stands in stark contrast to the ‘literary handwaving’ and trampling of clear Scripture sprinkled throughout Dr. Belcher’s book.

[By design, I reference and link to this Appendix needed in the discussion of CT within the body of this critique instead of expanding the information inline and disrupting the chain of thought.]

In the early chapters of Dr. Belcher’s book, I found that he asserted several "properties" as necessary components of the covenants. These "properties" are enumerated below, then compared to the real OT covenants to see if Dr. Belcher’s assertions were accurate. By design, I did not include the fictitious Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace and, implicitly, their roots from which all the errors of CT appear to be sourced.

They were many, formidable discrepancies as demonstrated below.

[At the end of this appendix I include an analysis of the so-called Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace to see how they align with the properties espoused by Dr. Belcher.]


Here are the six properties (in summary form) common to "covenants" as taught by Dr. Belcher in the early chapters of his book. The inference was that each of these properties are to be applied to each of the covenants. The tables which follow show just how irresponsible these generalizations were as I prove from the Scriptures that they are mostly false.

  1. “legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals”
  2. “the parties to the covenant are clearly identified”
  3. “conditions”
  4. “signs”
  5. “blessings and curses”
  6. “operate on the basis of a representative principle”

[All page number references below are from:

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

by Dr. Richard Belcher.
Christian Focus Publications Ltd
Great Britain, 2020]

1. Summary:
legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals
Full Quote:
“The word 'covenant' refers to a legal agreement between two parties that is ratified by certain rituals that emphasize the binding nature of the agreement. The phrase in the Old Testament that is used to establish a covenant is 'to cut a covenant'. This phrase highlights the rituals of sacrifice and oaths that are at the heart of establishing a covenant (Gen 15:7-18).”
Reference:
[ch 1, pg 18, emphasis mine]
2. Summary:
the parties to the covenant are clearly identified
Full Quote:
“First, the parties to the covenant are clearly identified.”
Reference:
[ch 2, pg 24]
3. Summary:
conditions
Full Quote:
“Second, covenants have conditions.”
Reference:
[ch 2, pg 25]
4. Summary:
signs
Full Quote:
“Fifth, covenants have signs that point to the blessings of the covenant relationship.”
Reference:
[ch 2, pg 26]
5. Summary:
blessings and curses
Full Quote:
“Third, covenants have blessings and curses.“
Reference:
[ch 2, pg 25]
6. Summary:
operate on the basis of a representative principle
Full Quote:
“Fourth, covenants operate on the basis of a representative principle so that the actions of the covenant representative impacts others who are part of the covenant relationship.”
Reference:
[ch 1, pg 18]

 

As you’ve seen in this Appendix, I make a distinction between the fictitious Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace and the real OT Covenants (because, as I prove in the body of this article), they can’t be found in the Scripture.

Here are the real OT covenants detailed in the pages of the Scripture, in chronological order:

  1. Noahic
  2. Abrahamic
  3. Circumcision
  4. Mosaic
  5. Davidic
  6. New

The format of the information in the table below is self-explanatory.

[There are other examples of covenants in the Old Testament (between men), but these are irrelevant to our consideration. I list only those real covenants made by the LORD with men in the summaries below.]

The rightmost column in the tables indicate the validity of Dr. Belcher's claim, either T (true) or F (false).

 As you’ll see, Dr. Belcher’s assertions were mostly FALSE.

 


The Noahic Covenant

Property
Reference
T/F
 

Before the flood:
Gen 6.18
But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark — you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

After the flood:
Gen 9.9-11
“Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

 
1. legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals
The earth would never again be destroyed by the waters of a flood.
There are no rituals
F
2. the parties to the covenant are clearly identified
1. The LORD.
2. Noah and his family, all land-based animals
T
3. conditions
None
F
4. signs
The rainbow.
T
5. blessings and curses
None beyond the implicit promise represented by the rainbow.
F
6. operate on the basis of a representative principle
No
F
 
Total True
2
 
Total False
4


Notice that the LORD gave His promise in the future tense before the flood, then switched to the present tense (“establish…”) after the flood.

My full review of Dr. Belcher’s presentation of the Noahic Covenant is found in chapter 4.

 


The Abrahamic Covenant

Property
Reference
T/F
 
Before the sojourn:

Gen 12.2-3
“And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

After the sojourn:
Gen 15.18-21
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,

“To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:
the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

 
1. legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals
The LORD promised Abram the land of Canaan.
This is the only covenant in the OT which was exercised with a ritual.
T
2. the parties to the covenant are clearly identified
1. The LORD.
2. Abram and his descendants.
T
3. conditions
There are no conditions.
F
4. signs
There are no signs.
F
5. blessings and curses
The promise of the land of Canaan is an implicit blessing.
There are no curses.
F
6. operate on the basis of a representative principle
The LORD’s promised Abram and his descendants land and blessings (among other things). He did not assign Abram the "representative" of his descendants.
(The covenant was already with Abram's descendants; he did not need to "represent" them.)
F
 
Total True
2
 
Total False
4

 

 Like the Noahic Covenant, there are two components: the preannouncement in Gen 12 (future tense) and the pronouncement Gen 15 (present and past tense).

My full review of Dr. Belcher’s presentation of the Abrahamic Covenant is found in chapter 5.

 


Circumcision  

Property
Reference
T/F
 
Gen 17.9-10
God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.
 
1. legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals
While circumcision may be regarded as a ritual, it did not "ratify" the covenant. Rather, circumcision was the covenant.
F
2. the parties to the covenant are clearly identified
1. The LORD.
2. Abram, his descendants, servants and foreigners living among them ‘throughout their generations’.
T
3. conditions
None: the covenant was given as a command, without conditions!
F
4. signs
Circumcision.
T
5. blessings and curses
Those males who remained uncircumcised were to be "cut off from the people". Those males who were born after the imposition of the covenant and remained uncircumcised were to be "cut off from the people".
F
6. operate on the basis of a representative principle
None; each male "throughout their generations" represented himself only.
F
 
Total True
2
 
Total False
4

 

The Covenant of Circumcision is a distinct covenant from the Abrahamic Covenant, for three reasons:

  1. If the LORD "changed His mind" about the solemn promise He made with Abram by adding a new condition to the covenant of Gen 15 (namely, circumcision), then His promise of Gen 15 would have been unreliable and incomplete. This can’t happen! The language of Gen 17.7-8 ("establish") refers to the existing covenant of Gen 15, not a new covenant of circumcision being established at that time.
  2. The Covenant of Circumcision was with a different and distinct set of parties from the covenant of Gen 15: it included "every male among you" including servants and foreigners.
  3. The Covenant of Circumcision included a penalty for not being circumcised (i.e., breaking the covenant), something not included in the covenant of Gen 15.

 My full review of Dr. Belcher’s presentation of the Covenant of Circumcision is found in chapter 5. [Dr. Belcher incorrectly combines the Covenant of Circumcision with the Abrahamic Covenant. For this reason, my comments on this error had to be made chapter 5.]

 


The Mosaic Covenant

Property
Reference
T/F
 

Pre-Covenant:
Exo 19.5
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;

Post-Covenant:
Exo 24.3
Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!”

 
1. legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals

OT Israel agrees to the terms of the covenant in Exo 24.

There are no rituals used to establish the covenant. Animal sacrifices are an enduring part of the covenant rather than being merely the "ratification" of the covenant upon OT Israel.

F
2. the parties to the covenant are clearly identified
1. The LORD.
2. OT Israel.
T
3. conditions

In Exo 19, the LORD tells OT Israel that he is about to make another covenant with them. Note that while the covenant had conditions, the covenant itself was imposed. While national Israel could disobey the covenant (which they did!), they did not have the opportunity to refuse being placed into the covenant.

The use of the phrase “if you indeed obey …” clearly shows that the promised blessings were conditioned on Israel’s obedience.
Conversely, Israel’s judgment was conditioned on their disobedience.

T
4. signs
The Sabbath (Exo 31.12-17): “It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever” v. 17
T
5. blessings and curses
The blessings of the land, freedom and conquest were promised for obedience. The curse of losing the land and becoming enslaved and brutalized were promised for disobedience. This is the extent of conditions associated with the covenant.
T
6. operate on the basis of a representative principle
None. Each member of OT Israel stood on their own obedience or disobedience.
F
 
Total True
4
 
Total False
2

 

Again, the imposition of the Mosaic Covenant upon Israel was unconditional: the LORD told them what He was doing as He revealed the covenant and its terms to the nation. The blessing and curses were conditional.

Nonetheless, in Exo 24, national Israel agrees to the terms after witnessing the power of the LORD from a distance.

My full review of Dr. Belcher’s presentation of the Mosaic Covenant is found in chapter 6.

 


The Davidic Covenant

 
Property
Reference
T/F
 

2 Sam 7.8-16
“Now therefore, thus you shall say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth. I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’”

2 Sam 7.19a
And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord God, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future.

2 Sam 7.25-26
Now therefore, O Lord God, the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as You have spoken, that Your name may be magnified forever, by saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel’; and may the house of Your servant David be established before You.

Psa 89.3-4
I have made a covenant with My chosen;
I have sworn to David My servant,
I will establish your seed forever
And build up your throne to all generations.” Selah.

Jer 33.14-18, 19-22
‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’”

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’”

 
1. legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals
The LORD unconditionally promised to bless David and his descendants as the royal line.
There was no ritual.
F
2. the parties to the covenant are clearly identified
1. The LORD.
2. King David.
T
3. conditions
None
F
4. signs
None
F
5. blessings and curses
The covenant was unconditional and contained great blessings; there were no curses. Psalm 89 is a wonderful and powerful witness to the permanence of the LORD's blessing to David and the "throne of David".
F
6. operate on the basis of a representative principle
None. The covenant was with David and his sons into the distant future.
F
 
Total True
1
 
Total False
5


The Davidic Covenant is one of the most glorious of the OT. The LORD unconditionally promised King David that his posterity would sit upon the throne of Israel. Note the use of the future tense in 2 Sam 7; essentially all the promises the LORD made to David were in the future. This is reflected in the essence of David’s prayer of thanksgiving and humility:

2 Sam 7.19a
And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord God, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future.

2 Sam 7.25-26
Now therefore, O Lord God, the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as You have spoken, that Your name may be magnified forever, by saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel’; and may the house of Your servant David be established before You.

King David recognized that the promises would affect his posterity more than himself.

A very interesting component of the LORD’s promises to David was the recognition of the potential disobedience of David’s posterity: what happens if his posterity is disobedient? Are the LORD’s promises voided? The promises in 2 Sam 7 are clear and unambiguous. The following quotes from Dr. Belcher reveal an astonishing inference:

“Hertzberg thanks the statements refer to the past but translates them as present because of the possibility that they have been left intentionally ambivalent.[ch 7, pg 101, emphasis mine]

“The covenant has a conditional aspect that relates to each individual king. Each king must keep the Covenant, and if the king does not keep it, God may use other nations to bring judgment against him and the people.” [ch 7, pg 102, emphasis mine]

“Second, the statement that when the son commits iniquity, he will be disciplined in 2 Samuel 7.14b is omitted in 1 Chronicles 17.13. This omission causes some to think that the unconditional nature of God's promise is not retained in 1 Chronicles 17. The issue is not whether one text is unconditional, and the other text is conditional because both elements are present in the overall presentation of both books.” [ch 7, pg 107, emphasis mine]

No honest "theologian" could read 2 Sam 7 and "somehow get the notion" that the LORD’s promises were anything other than unconditional! Equivocation is not the mark of a competent theologian who loves, fears and reveres the Word of the Holy One!

Between 2 Sam 7 and Psa 89, it is impossible to form any conclusion other than the LORD made an extraordinary promise to that one He termed a "man after [His] own heart". (Act 13.22) It is perhaps this realization that caused Dr. Belcher to assert the following apparent backtrack:

“The covenant also has an unconditional element to it so that the promises of an enduring Dynasty and the kingdom are not ultimately dependent on the obedience of the individual Kings.” [ch 7, pg 102, emphasis mine]

There are many troubling elements of Dr. Belcher's treatment of the David Covenant:

"The Davidic Covenant is unconditional".
"The Davidic Covenant is conditional".
"The Davidic Covenant has aspects of conditional and unconditional language".

ENOUGH!

Dr. Belcher, either teach the Scripture or don't teach the Scripture BUT BY ALL MEANS, GET OFF THE THEOLOGICAL FENCE!! I'm sick of the equivocation!! What type of damage are you doing to your students with your considerable disrespect for the Holy Word by framing so much as "debate" and dissimilar opinions? How could you possibly expect to make them better students of the Word when some of them believe the polar opposite of the other students, and neither group is entirely convinced (probably) of what they believe?

I highlighted the future aspects of the Davidic covenant because it will have its fulfillment only in the last son of King David, the Lord Christ. The CT typically maintains that the Millennium (the kingdom of the Lord Christ on earth) has already begun; the only problem with this fallacious eschatology is that that kingdom is nowhere to be found. “The kingdom of Christ, you see, is spiritual–it can’t be seen with human eyes.”, says the CT. Yet, the nature and details of the LORD’s promises to David were very specific: a Son of David will sit upon the throne of Israel!

Notice the promises below: some have been fulfilled or partially fulfilled, while others await fulfillment. Unless they all have been fulfilled on the current earth with a physical Kingdom of Israel and a real Lord Christ (the Son of David) upon that real throne as the earth’s real, predominant political and religious power, the CT can't biblically say that the covenant of 2 Sam 7 has been fulfilled in the so-called Amillennial rule of the Lord Christ here right now. When compared to the LORD's promises, Amillennialism is a lie!

I will make you a great name
The name of King David is great in the annals of history.
I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them
In 1948, Israel was once again recognized as a nation. They are currently "planted'’, but only in a small portion of the land that was promised to them through the covenant with Abram. The fulfillment of the land promises is yet future.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
Israel has not obtained rest from her enemies.
This awaits fulfillment.
the Lord will make a house for you.
The house of David will once again be established in Israel.
This awaits fulfillment.
I will raise up your descendant after you … and I will establish his kingdom. … I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him …
This was partially fulfilled through the time of Zedekiah; there is coming a King over Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be just as visible in national Israel as the sons of David were in their days. It will be a physical kingdom, not merely a phantom kingdom that can’t be directly observed or illustrated by clever verbal semantics.
This awaits fulfillment.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.
This kingdom can only be the Millennial Kingdom of the Lord Christ on earth.
This awaits fulfillment.

 
These can’t simply be dismissed by the CT without great damage to the credibility and expressed details of the Word of the LORD regarding the Davidic Covenant.

My full review of Dr. Belcher’s presentation of the Davidic Covenant is found in chapter 7.

 


The New Covenant

 

Property
Reference
T/F
 

Jer 31.31
“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,”

Jer 31.33
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

 
1. legal agreement between two parties … ratified by … rituals
“I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
There are no rituals.
T
2. the parties to the covenant are clearly identified
1. The LORD.
2. The house of Israel and the house of Judah.
T
3. conditions
None
F
4. signs
None
F
5. blessings and curses
None
F
6. operate on the basis of a representative principle
None
F
 
Total True
2
 
Total False
4

 
The New Covenant began to be fulfilled at the Last Supper:

Luk 22.20
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My blood."

The Apostle Paul confirms this as an ordinance in his instructions concerning the Lord’s Table to be regularly practiced in Christian churches:

1 Cor 11.25
In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Hebrews chapter 8 is the most detailed NT exposition of the New Covenant and its application to the church.

[Remember, the New Covenant was made by the Lord with "the house of Judah and the House of Israel", not with NT Christians. This does not mean, though, that it has no application to NT Christians. I cover this assertion in chapter 8.]

The author of the Epistles to the Hebrews builds the case that the Old Covenant (that is, the Mosaic Covenant) became obsolete and is now replaced by the New Covenant:

Heb 8.13
When He said, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews additional exposition of the New Covenant shows it to be closer to the concept of a Last Will and Testament rather than a covenant. Note the stated condition:

Heb 9.16-17
For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.

This is the aspect of the Last Supper celebrated by Christians; it remembers the sacrifice of the Lord Christ and that the New Covenant–the Lord’s Last Will and Testament–brings about a new heart within His true people.

But how is that blessing "transferred" from "the house of Judah and the House of Israel" to NT Christians? The answer is here:

Eph 3.6
that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel

Eph 4.4-5
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Gal 3.8-9
The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Gal 3.26-29
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

There are other texts, but these should suffice.

From the very beginning the LORD planned to unite all His true people through the sacrifice of His Son: Jews and Gentiles are one body in Christ. The celebration of the Lord’s Table is the implementation of the New Covenant within the hearts of all true believers, Jews and Gentiles alike.

My full review of Dr. Belcher’s presentation of the New Covenant is found in chapter 8.

 


 

At this point, it is only fair to apply Dr. Belcher’s properties to the so-called Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. We’ll see how well he does when compared to his own principles of a covenant.

For a discussion of the Covenant of Works, we’ll refer exclusively to his chapter 2, The Covenant of Works.

For a discussion of the Covenant of Grace, we’ll refer exclusively to his chapter 3, The Covenant of Grace.

 


Covenant of Works

In chapter 2 of Dr. Belcher’s book, the section entitled The Evidence for the Covenant of Works in Genesis 1-3 contains the bulk of the "proof". I first cite a few sections (in order), then comment.

  1. “The word 'covenant' does not occur in Scripture until the Flood account in Genesis 6:18. If the word 'covenant' does not occur in Genesis 1-3, what is the evidence that the relationship between God and Adam is a covenant relationship? The absence of the word 'covenant' does not necessarily mean that there is no covenant in Genesis 1-3. … The key is not whether the word 'covenant' occurs in Genesis 1-3 but whether the elements of a covenant are present.” [pg 24]
  2. “Several elements commonly associated with covenants are present in Gen 1-3. First, the parties to the covenant are clearly identified.” [pg 24]
  3. “Second, covenants have conditions. The condition to this covenant relationship is set forth in the commandment that God gave to Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … This commandment with a penalty attached to it focuses on the importance of the requirement of Adam obeying God in everything. It presents Adam with a clear choice of obedience or disobedience to God, and Adam could keep this divine commandment. … This commandment with a penalty attached to it focuses on the importance of the requirement of Adam obeying God in everything. It presents Adam with a clear choice of obedience or disobedience to God and Adam could keep this divine commandment.” [pg 24-25]
  4. “Third, covenants have blessings and curses. The relationship between God and Adam also includes blessings and curses. In Genesis 1:28 God blesses mankind and commands them to multiply and fill the earth, to subdue it, and to have dominion over every living thing that moves on it. God's blessings are experienced in the fulfillment of God's commands.” [pg 25]
  5. “Fourth, covenants operate on the basis of a representative principle so that the actions of the covenant representative impacts others who are part of the covenant relationship. … Adam was the covenant head of the human race and his sin negatively impacted all of his natural descendants.” [pg 26]
  6. “Fifth, covenants have signs that point to the blessings of the covenant relationship. Scholars have debated how many signs there are in Genesis 1-3 but most agree that the tree of life is a sign of the covenant. The tree of life was a pledge of the covenant of life (WCF 20), the promised reward for obedience. The fruit of this tree should not be regarded as having an innate power to prolong life. Rather, the tree symbolized life so that when Adam forfeited the promise he was kept from the sign (Gen 3:22)." [pg 26-27]

I hope that you see a tremendous difference between the covenant details I presented above and those for which Dr. Belcher provides for the so-called Covenant of Works. I provided the Scriptures, compared them to the "properties" Dr. Belcher claims describe a covenant, and provided biblical commentary on the true nature of the real OT covenants. And remember, most of the "properties" Dr. Belcher detailed poorly describe the real OT covenants–at best. (As I showed above, he was wrong twice as frequently as he was right. And one of those, "the parties were clearly identified", was basically a give-away!)

These 6 citations from Dr. Belcher’s book are poor substitutions for real commentary. They are presented as the apologetic for the so-called Covenant of Works by someone who has been teaching them for 20+ years at RTS! That’s it; that’s the summation of the defense for the Covenant of Works: no Scriptures, no real Bible commentary.

Read them over carefully.

Following the citations above, Dr. Belcher has a subsection entitled Hosea 6.7: A Reference to a Covenant with Adam?, I devoted an entire appendix to this topic. Then, following that, he has another section entitled Major Issues related to the Covenant of Works. So, the citations above form the major arguments for the existence of the Covenant of Works as he presents it.

I found it remarkable that the Bible details of the Covenant of Works, the singular base of Covenant Theology, can be "proven" without the use of a single Scripture. Granted, Dr. Belcher does refer to Gen 3.22 in the last citation, but that use is dubious at best, as we’ll see. It is equally remarkable that he follows his presentation with the section “Major Issues ...”; this does not bode well.

I now handle each of the citations above in numerical order in the table below.

Citation #1
There is biblical precedent for a real covenant not being called a "covenant" at the point in which it occurs in Scriptures: the Davidic Covenant. Psa 89.3,28,34,39 make it abundantly clear that the LORD made a covenant with David in 2 Sam 7.

But what about “the elements of a covenant are present”? Does this argument hold any weight? No, it doesn’t, for the following reasons:

It was in this section in chapter 2 that Dr. Belcher presents 5 of his 6 "properties" of the covenants, then attempts to apply them to the Covenant of Works. In my section above when I attempted to apply his "properties" to real OT covenants, the applicability/validity was pathetic, at best. So, do you see what happened? It’s simple: Dr. Belcher generalizes a group of "properties" (a mashup of the real OT covenants), then makes faux application to the Covenant of Works.

The entire exercise is circular:

  • Define the properties from the Covenant of Works, then
  • Show how well the properties match the Covenant of Works.

He then attempts in the remaining point to "add meat to the bones".

Citation #2
“First, the parties to the covenant are clearly identified.” Of course, the parties are identified! The LORD does not hand-wave regarding His Words! What a lame argument! This is like saying: “Look, this truth is special: rain is wet.”

Citation #3
“Second, covenants have conditions.” As we see above, I demonstrate from the Scripture that only 1 of the 6 real OT covenants have conditions, namely, the Mosaic Covenant. The remaining 5 covenants were imposed without conditions; even then, the Mosaic Covenant itself was imposed.

There is nothing of the imposition of a covenant (conditional or unconditional) in Gen 1-3. In each of the 6 real OT covenants, it is very obvious when the LORD makes the covenant and what is entailed in it. “In the commandment that God gave to Adam”yes, it was a commandment, not a covenant! The CT seems utterly unable to process this simple distinction.

CT, let me ask you a question: Are we to infer, because of this remarkable "reasoning", that everywhere in the Scriptures in which the LORD gives a command to man, that He is actually making a covenant with the man? If not, then what is the distinction by which we may say, “This is command.” and “This is a covenant.”?

CT, let me ask you another question: Does the attachment of a “penalty” to a commandment make it a covenant? Moreover, isn’t there always an implicit penalty for breaking any of the LORD’s commandments? So, the hand-waving about a “penalty” only gets you into more trouble, not less.

“focuses on the importance of the requirement of Adam obeying God in everything”. By this are we to infer, because the LORD was supposedly here making a covenant with Adam, that the LORD can nonetheless give a person a command and not implicitly expect obedience from the person? Of course not! But that is the inference of your statement.

“The key is not whether the word 'covenant' occurs”. Of course, when all else fails, fall back on the “key is not whether” gaslighting.

Citation #4
“Third, covenants have blessings and curses.” As the biblical notes above show, only a single real OT covenant carried with it explicit “blessings and curses”, namely the Mosaic Covenant. All other real OT covenants are unconditional — they can't have curses (if you stop to think about it for even a millisecond!).

Citation #5

“Fourth, covenants operate on the basis of a representative principle.” No, there are no real OT covenants that operate by this principle. Only in the fabricated and tangled web of the so-called Covenant of Works is this "principle" found.

My readers may object to my denial, using the Abrahamic or Davidic covenants as examples. The LORD made the covenant with Abram and David, respectively; in neither case did the LORD make Abram or David a representative and, in neither case, did the LORD make the covenant with Abram’s or David’s descendants. That the blessing of the covenant accrued to the account of their descendants is beyond doubt. But the application of a blessing is vastly different from an individual covenant. Read the Scriptures above carefully, you’ll see this is so. It is a fine distinction, but a valid one.

But let’s get back to representation, because that is seen in Gen 2-3, and proven in Rom 5.12-21.

Dr. Belcher attempts to make Adam’s representation of the human race a property of the so-called Covenant of Works. Again, he can point to no Scripture (and no, Hos 6.7 does not count as I prove in a separate appendix). As I detail in the body of this article in his chapter 2, Dr. Belcher has several, major misunderstandings of Rom 5.12-21.

Yes, Adam was a representative, without any doubt. But it is significant that the Apostle Paul states nothing which even remotely "looks like" the Covenant of Works in the masterful section in Rom 5. Of the two assertions, “Adam was the covenant head of the human race and his sin negatively impacted all of his natural descendants.”, only the second is true. Adam was never the "covenant head" since the Covenant of Works can’t be proven from the Scripture.

Adam was the representative head of the human race, not the fictitious "covenant head" of the Covenant of Works; again, this is a subtle distinction, but a vital one nonetheless.

Citation #6

“Fifth, covenants have signs.” No, only 3 of the 6 real OT covenants do have signs: the Noahic (rainbow), Circumcision (circumcision), and the Mosaic (Sabbath). However, in each of these, it is clearly called out that

1. It is a sign, and
2. It is to be associated with the covenant.

Neither of these is present in Gen 2-3. So, of Dr. Belcher’s 6 ‘properties’, none of them are found and defensible from Scripture in the so-called Covenant of Works. Moreover, they mostly do not find application in the real OT covenants either.

 

 


The Covenant of Grace

In chapter 3 of Dr. Belcher’s book, he handles the “Initiation of the Covenant of Grace” I will cite several clips from Dr. Belcher’s book, then comment below (just as the structure above).

  1. "This is the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace and has been called the Protoevangelium (the First Gospel)." [pg 38]
    See Appendix: The Protoevangelium and the Fictitious Covenant of Grace.
  2. “Even though Adam disobeyed God in the Covenant of Works, he and Eve were the first members of the Covenant of Grace.[pg 39]
  3. “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.” [pg 40]

 Yes (believe it or not...), the citations above are the meat of Dr. Belcher’s “proof” of the Covenant of Grace!

Following the citations above, Dr. Belcher moves quickly to the section entitled The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. What follows is very telling:

  1. “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. …. The promise of both covenants is to receive eternal life and the general aim of the covenants is glory of God.” [pg 41]
  2. “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 breaker.” [pg 41]
  3. “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.” [pg 41-42]

I now handle each of the citations above in numerical order in the table below.

Citation #1
So, completely "out of the blue", Dr. Belcher issues this statement (referring to Gen 3.15): “This is the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace”. Let it suffice here to say, no covenant is to be found here!
See Appendix: The Protoevangelium and the Fictitious Covenant of Grace.
Citation #2

In very much the same manner as the notes on citation #1 above, Dr. Belcher confidently announces that “[Adam] and Eve were the first members of the Covenant of Grace”. Since there is no mention of the initiation of the so-called Covenant of Grace, along with at least the minimal set of characteristics–including who the recipients were–there is no covenant and no covenant members!

Personally, I can’t understand how the CT can accept this lack of Bible proof for something that is held to be foundational to Covenant Theology. I would be terrified to live before the LORD if I regularly held to this level of practical contempt for His Word.

Citation #3
I spent quite a bit of time on the principle of representation in chapters 2 and 3 of this article. Dr. Belcher gets some of Rom 5.12-21 right, but some very important items very wrong. I direct my readers to those chapters.

Citation #4
“The promise of both covenants is to receive eternal life”. if Dr. Belcher can define the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace as he does, then I suppose that he can just as easily define the purpose of those so-called covenants. However, in this he specifies something without precedent in very one of the real OT covenants. While their purposes certainly are compatible with each other:

  1. None of them have the same recipients, and
  2. None of the have the exact same purpose.

If you think about it, in the world of the CT, if we are to be exact, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace are mutually exclusive. The reason for this is quite simple: Dr. Belcher maintains

  1. Adam (mankind generally, which included Eve) were members of the Covenant of Works [pg 24], and
  2. “[Adam] and Eve were the first members of the Covenant of Grace”,
  3. “The promise of both covenants is to receive eternal life”.

So, we have a dilemma: both covenants were with the same persons and had the same goal in very different ways! The Covenant of Works achieves its goals by the recipient keeping the Law of God perfectly, while the Covenant of Grace achieves its goal by the proxy obedience of the Lord Christ–something entirely unknown to Adam and Eve and the mythical Covenant of Works!

One item that Dr. Belcher simply does not handle is why the LORD would make two covenants with the same individuals which were mutually exclusive at nearly the same point in time! How would it even be possible to hold that this entire process was simply not well thought out.

Think about this; you’ll realize sooner or later that this is the correct view.

Citation #5
This is something of a backtrack, perhaps. I’ve dealt with the main issue in Citation #4 above.

Citation #6
“There is a principle of Works in both covenants.” Here Dr. Belcher attempts to provide yet more information about the proxy work of the Lord Christ; in some respects he presents the truth. However, since his understanding of Rom 5.12-21 is deficient, Dr. Belcher misses the foundation of the representation. In his world, Adam represents mankind because of the Covenant of Works; in the real world of Scripture and Rom 5, Adam was appointed mankind’s representative absent a Covenant of Works.

It is important to note that while Adam knew of his position as a representative of mankind, we do not learn this from Gen 2-3, but from Rom 5.12-21. That truth is a NT revelation, not a revealed truth in the OT.

 

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