By Christopher VanDusen
In order to properly understand the main message of the Bible, we need to understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. In order to do that, we have to understand what role covenants play in the Bible’s storyline. This has massive implications for how we understand individual sections of Scripture, and how we apply them to our lives.
A great little book that shows how Scripture defines the relationship of the Old and New Testaments, and especially how their covenants relate to each other, is The Newness of the New Covenant by A. Blake White, published by New Covenant Media in 2008. At the time of publication, A. Blake White was “enrolled in the Master of Divinity program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary”, and definitely did his homework on this book (from back cover).
Three Ways to See the Bible’s Story
In the introduction, White introduces the reader to the three main perspectives on the role of covenants in the Bible. The two most common are called Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. White contends that Scripture presents a third option, which is known in Christian theological circles as New Covenant Theology. He says that it’s only this third system of theology that does justice to the radical newness of the Bible’s New Covenant.
Covenants are One of the Main Themes in Scripture
In the first chapter, White proves that covenants play an extremely important role in God’s work in Scripture. Covenants in the Bible are agreements between two parties, in which both parties have obligations to fulfill. He cautions that they shouldn’t be considered the “center of biblical theology” (White 4). Nevertheless, he asserts that the main covenants that God makes with people are:
- a covenant with Adam (the Adamic)
- the covenant with Noah (the Noahic)
- the covenant with Abraham (the Abrahamic)
- the covenant with Israel through Moses (the Mosaic or Old)
- the covenant with David (the Davidic)
- the New Covenant with Israel.
God Accomplishes the Redemption of Humanity Through Covenants
In the second chapter of his book, White examines each of the covenants he sees in Scripture, and shows how they work together to accomplish God’s redemption of humanity from its fallenness. He begins by attempting to prove that God made a covenant with Adam, which required Adam to “subdue and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). One passage he uses as evidence for his view is Hosea 6:7a, which says in the English Standard Version, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant . . .” I would argue that this sentence should be translated as the New International Version has: “As at Adam, they have broken the covenant . . .” White concedes that the covenant made with Adam is a debated issue, but says that at the least, one should understand that God is devoted to the restoration of his fallen universe, and of the redemption of humanity.
Because of his view that God made a covenant with Adam, White argues that God’s covenant with Noah and his descendants is a renewal of the Adamic covenant. That is, God tells Noah, just as He told Adam, to fill the earth and subdue it. However, White clearly shows that God’s covenant with Abraham is a promise to restore humanity to blessedness. As such, he describes it as the basis for the rest of the Bible’s covenants, and the covenant that serves as the foundation for the rest of the Bible’s story.
After describing the Abrahamic Covenant, White shows that the covenant God made with Israel through Moses serves to physically and temporarily fulfill God’s promises to Abraham. Despite this relationship, White also argues that the Davidic Covenant is a means of fulfilling God’s covenant with Abraham, since God promised that kings would come from him (Genesis 17:6). In God’s covenant with David, He promises that one of David’s Descendants will have an eternal reign over Israel, and He will build God’s temple (2 Samuel 7).
Finally, White demonstrates from Scripture that the New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31 fulfills the Abrahamic Covenant, and succeeds where the Mosaic Covenant fails. Further, in contrast to the Mosaic Covenant, the New Covenant primarily affects individuals, rather than a nation as a group, as well as every single people group, rather than just Jews.
Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant
In White’s third chapter, he walks through several sections of the New Testament to show the character of the New Covenant, and its relationship to the Old Testament. He begins by explaining that Christ fulfills all of the covenants God made with people in the Old Testament. He goes further and states that Christ fulfills all of God’s promises “in their initial stage” (White 27).
In the second section of this chapter, he analyzes the Gospels, to show what they have to say about the New Covenant. He notes that the New Covenant is only explicitly mentioned in the accounts of the night of Christ’s arrest, but that there are many indirect references to this covenant, and its relationship to the Old Testament throughout the Gospels.
In the third section, White focuses on the apostle Paul’s letters. He shows that Paul emphasizes the Old Testament covenants multiple times, especially to contrast the New with the Old, or Mosaic, Covenant.
In the last section, he looks at much of Hebrews to present its description of the New Covenant, and its place in the Bible’s story. He sums it up by showing that Hebrews contrasts the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. In Hebrews, the Old Covenant is shown to be temporary and inadequate to accomplish humanity’s redemption, while the New Covenant is described as eternal and successful in its work of redeeming humanity from sin and destruction, and fulfilling all of God’s previous covenants with people.
The Bible Teaches New Covenant Theology
In the last chapter, White sums up his teaching by contrasting Scripture’s teaching with Reformed Covenant Theology, and distinguishing it from Progressive Dispensationalism. He says that, since the New Covenant is a new and different covenant from all that come before, it can’t be a “new administration of the covenant of grace”, as Reformed Covenant Theology teaches. He ends the book by asserting that New Covenant Theology, or theology that centers on Christ’s fulfillment of the New Covenant, is the natural outworking of proper biblical theology being shaped into a systematic theology.
Value and Writing Quality
This book would be good for almost anyone who wants to understand the relationship of the covenants in Scripture. However, it would be even more valuable for those who are researching the biblical scholarship that’s been done on this subject, since White provides numerous citations of evangelical academic works.
The book is extremely short, and could be read in a couple to a few hours. Also, White’s writing style is pretty clear. However, it’s not very exciting or moving, since White is also writing in an academic and scholarly form. Nevertheless, he provides sufficient evidence from Scripture to demonstrate most of his points.
The book is only available in paperback form, and costs about $13 (US) on Amazon. If you’d like to listen to the teaching found in this book for free, you can listen to White giving lectures based on the book at this site:
So, have you received reconciliation to God by changing your mind and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ? God sent His eternal and divine Son to earth to become a man, to live the perfect life, and to suffer and die on a Roman cross to take God’s punishment for our rebellion against Him. Then, He raised Him from the dead, and took Him into heaven as our King. He commands everyone to change their minds and trust in Christ as their Substitute on the cross, and their risen King and Savior, to grant them God’s forgiveness and peace with Him. Please make sure you’ve repented of your rebellion against God, and are only trusting in Christ for His forgiveness and blessing.