Covenant of Works

June 20, 2009 at 12:37 PM

How many things seem to be occurring today that can easily be described as things which only take place during the End Times?  Now I realize that of course not everyone believes in the End Times.  Many think it’s all a bunch of nonsense, created by people who want nothing more than to either 1) make a fast buck feeding on people’s fears, or 2) feed on people’s fears.

However, some things simply cannot be ignored and for the astute individual who tends to notice things in society, it would appear that the world is in a bit of an upheaval.  There are many opinions and searching hard enough will allow anyone to find an opinion with which they agree.  The reality though is that I do not want an opinion.  I want to know what the Bible teaches and to me, it certainly appears as though many aspects of God’s Word are coming to fruition.  Only time will tell if it is the Bible that’s coming true, or simply the overworked imagination of people who want to believe it.

Preterists are individuals who believe that much of prophetic discourse has already occurred, with the Tribulation/Great Tribulation having occurred in A.D. 70, when forces of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple.  If that’s the case, then we have nothing to worry about, do we?  Preterists (and many Covenant Theologians) also believe that Jesus “returned” during that period of time, in judgment against Israel and the Jewish people.  This is one of the large reasons these folks also believe that God has washed His hands of Israel completely and permanently.  In so doing, He is now concerned with the Church, which is believed by many to be the New Israel.

Preterism, an offshoot of Covenant Theology has only been around for a few decades.  Covenant Theology itself really began in earnest in the early 1600s and was popularized mainly by Louis Berkhof.  The main tenets consist of two covenants (some say a third is included, but this is rare):  Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.  The former offered salvation to Adam and Eve based solely on works.  They were to obey God and had they done so, they would have been granted eternal life.  Once they fell through the sin of disobedience, Covenant Theologians say that God instituted the Covenant of Grace, which has been the overarching covenant since then.

The Dispensationalist, on the other hand, believes that God’s method of salvation has always been the same; based on faith and never works.  Adam and Eve transgressed God’s law outwardly (a work) due to what they believed inwardly.  At first, they believed God, evidenced by avoiding the forbidden fruit.  The Tempter came along and induced them to conclude that God was a liar.  At this point, they opted to believe Satan, while at the same time, choosing to disbelieve God.  This disbelief was an inward attitude, which merely manifested itself in the outward act of actually eating the fruit.

God’s salvation has always been based on faith.  It was never works.  I realize that Covenant Theologians often point to C. I. Scofield and his poorly worded note for John 1:17, in which he states, “As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 3. 24-26; 4. 24, 25).  The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation…[1] (emphasis mine)

This particular (and unfortunate) bolded phrase was modified in later editions to reflect the truth of God’s Word and the actual meaning of Scofield.  It is extremely unfortunate that he wrote this as he did, without proper clarification, because it certainly appears as though he is stating that obedience directly connects to and results in, salvation.  This is not true and can be clearly seen by the rest of his study notes included throughout the Scofield Study System Bible.

It is unfortunate that his position was not clarified prior to the publication of the 1909 version of his study Bible.  It would have been good had he stated his position more unmistakably by making the distinction between obedience within the arena of, and because of the exercise of faith.  As I have shown throughout this book so far, the reason people were counted righteous at all had to do with their attitude before God, which was the result of their faith in Him and His Word.  This right attitude is what enabled God to credit their faith as righteousness, looking ahead to the cross of Christ.  It was also from this right attitude that the proper obedience flowed.  Obedience stems from having the right faith, not the other way around.  Scofield certainly knew and taught that and it is unfortunate that he failed to explain it more clearly in that note he wrote for John 1:17.

His verifiable understanding of salvation is seen at the front of this very same 1909 edition of the Scofield Study Bible.  In a short, one-page article he wrote titled “A Panoramic View of the Bible,” he states “(5) From the beginning to end the Bible testifies to one redemption. (6)  From beginning to end the Bible has one great theme – the person and work of the Christ.”[2] Here, as well as in other portions of his notes, his full understanding of salvation can be easily grasped.

The tragedy is that in spite of all attempts to prove that the Dispensationalist does not believe that God has two different methods of salvation, it seems to be to no avail, as many continue to assess and charge the Dispensationalist with believing just that.  It is clear however, that the Covenant of Works does express salvation in terms of man’s effort in having to earn it.  One wonders then, why there is such a seeming sanctimonious attitude with many Covenant Theologians regarding what they believe to be the error, or even heresy as some say, within Dispensationalism, when their own system is the one that actually teaches two methods?

In spite of this, things will continue most likely as they are, with many Covenant Theologians continuing to believe that Dispensationalism is heresy, in spite of the fact that it is the Covenant Theologian who believes and espouses two methods of salvation; one based solely on works (prior to the fall), and one based solely on grace (after the fall).

Like the error taught regarding salvation, many within the Covenant Theological system also err seriously when it comes to the area of Eschatology, or the study of End Times.  Their use of the allegorical method of interpreting Scripture, places them in the position of being the subjective determiner of Scriptural truth.  This is in spite of the fact, that the symbolism used within Scripture is either explained in that particular passage, or somewhere else in the Bible, leaving no room for idle imaginations.

In the end, each person must come to their own conclusions regarding what the Bible says about the End Times.  Has all of it already taken place except possibly the last few chapters of Revelation, or is much of is still ahead of us?  The way this world seems to be moving, appears to be a clear enough indication that it is yet before us.  Should this give rise to panic and fear?  Only if you are not a Christian.  Christian, what about your attitude and demeanor?  Now is the time to be about our Father’s business and this will not happen if we are concerned only about what the world has to offer us, which is nothing permanent.  We need to walk in the Spirit and seek to glorify Him.  This can only be done by submitting ourselves to Him in order that His will might be done in and through us.  That is our calling.  May we respond in humble submission.

[1] Rev. C. I. Scofield, D.D. Scofield Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1909, 1917), v

[2] Rev. C. I. Scofield, D.D. Scofield Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1909, 1917), 1115

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Prophecy. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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