Defining New Covenant Theology

By Jerry Wierwille

New Covenant Theology is a mediating position between dispensational and covenant theologies. This session will be focusing on defining Progressive Covenantalism, which is a form of New Covenant Theology, and how it seeks to answer difficult questions better than alternative theological frameworks.

Covenantalism — a system of thought used to interpret the Bible where the organizing principle of biblical history is covenants, which are the expressions of and mechanism through which God unfolds his redemptive plan and purpose.

Covenant — a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to
each other.

Progressive — unfolding or advancing over time; there is a sequence and development to God’s plan of redemption.

New Covenant Theology (NCT)

  • Progressive Covenantalism: a framework of interpreting the entire story of Scripture whereby God’s one, unified plan of redemption is progressively unveiled and accomplished through the biblical covenants, and how all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ and applied to the church today as God’s new covenant people.
  • NCT seeks to merge together strengths of Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology and discard certain weaknesses.

Strengths: The Best of Both Worlds

Dispensational Theology

  • Distinctions between old and new covenant
  • Distinctions between Israel and the Church

Covenant Theology

  • One people of God and one plan of redemption
  • Covenant focused
  • NT fulfillment of OT

Weaknesses: Pruning the Framework

Dispensational Theology

  • Separation between Israel and the Church
    • The Church is a distinct entity with no connection to Israel
    • The Church will not receive equally or fully the promises of the
      Abrahamic covenant
    • The Church will be dissolved into constituent parts (Jews & Gentiles) in
      the future

Covenant Theology

  • Equivocation of Israel and the Church
    • The Church began in the OT and there is nothing essentially “new” regarding the Church in the NT
    • The Church is a mixed community
    • The Law is still binding on Christians

Theological Framework of Progressive Covenantalism

  1. God’s redemptive plan unfolds through covenants
  2. All God’s covenants find their fulfillment in Christ

Biblical (Historical) Covenants

  1. Adamic (Gen 1–3)
  2. Noahic (Gen 6–9)
  3. Abrahamic (Gen 12, 15, 17)
  4. Mosaic (Exod 19:3b–8; 20-24)
  5. Davidic (2 Sam 7; Ps 89)
  6. New (Jer 31–34; Ezek 33:29–39:29)

Additional Reading

Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (2nd ed; Crossway: 2018)

Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies (Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker, eds; B&H Academic: 2016)

1 Response

  1. Jerry and Sean, I think I have been tracking with you fairly well up to this point. It seems perhaps I have been a New Covenant Theology guy of the Progressive type for some time now. Although I would like to hear at some point more about what it means to be in this camp, i.e., what my thinking should be and what it shouldn't be. I know you have been doing that in a sense by going through the frameworks with their pluses and minuses, but on a practical level how this would affect my thinking going forward as an "Abrahamic". Maybe that's not possible given the variety of journey's we have all been on in our pasts? Also, Jerry, I agree that covenants are fulfilled in Christ. However, I am struggling with the way you have described Jesus as the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant. I don't see Matt. 5 as having the "fulfillment" meaning as you describe it (fulfilling obligations of Moses). Yet at least you do make the all important separate point regarding the law of Christ, which I completely agree with.

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