VerMeer's Geographer

VerMeer's Geographer
The Geographer, by Vermeer, c. 1669


Covenant Theology is Not Replacement Theology

Another good one by R. Scott Clark
Covenant Theology is not Replacement Theology

Recently I had a question asking whether “covenant theology” is so-called “replacement theology.” Those dispensational critics of Reformed covenant theology who accuse it of teaching that the New Covenant church has “replaced” Israel do not understand historic Reformed covenant theology. They are imputing to Reformed theology a way of thinking about redemptive history that has more in common with dispensationalism than it does with Reformed theology.
First, the very category of “replacement” is foreign to Reformed theology because it assumes a dispensational, Israeleo-centric way of thinking. It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen. 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself. According to Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22, in Christ the dividing wall has been destroyed. It cannot be rebuilt. The two peoples (Jews and Gentiles) have been made one in Christ. Among those who are united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, there is no Jew nor Gentile (Rom. 10:12; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).
At least some forms of dispensationalism have suggested that God intended the national covenant with Israel to be permanent. According to Reformed theology, the Mosaic covenant was never intended to be permanent. According to Galatians 3 (and chapter 4), the Mosaic covenant was a codicil to the Abrahamic covenant. A codicil is added to an existing document. It doesn’t replace the existing document. Dispensationalism reverses things. It makes the Abrahamic covenant a codicil to the Mosaic. Hebrews 3 says that Moses was a worker in Jesus’ house. Dispensationalism makes Jesus a worker in Moses’ house.
Second, with respect to salvation, Reformed covenant theology does not juxtapose Israel and the church. For Reformed theology, the church has always been the Israel of God and the Israel of God has always been the church. Reformed covenant theology distinguishes the old and new covenants (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 7-10). It recognizes that the church was temporarily administered through a typological, national people, but the church has existed since Adam, Noah, and Abraham; and it existed under Moses and David; and it exists under Christ.
Third, the church has always been one, under various administrations, under types, shadows, and now under the reality in Christ, because the object of faith has always been one. Jesus the Messiah was the object of faith of the typological church (Heb. 11; Luke 24; 2 Cor. 3), and he remains the object of faith.
Fourth, despite the abrogation of the national covenant by the obedience, death, and resurrection of Christ (Col. 2:14), the NT church has not “replaced” the Jews. Paul says that God “grafted” the Gentiles into the people of God. Grafting is not replacement, it is addition.
It has been widely held by Reformed theologians that there will be a great conversion of Jews. Some call this “anti-semitism.” This isn’t anti-semitism, it is Christianity. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The alternative to Jesus’ exclusivist claim is universalism, which is nothing less than an assault on the person and finished work of Christ. Other Reformed writers understand the promises in Rom. 11 to refer only to the salvation of all the elect (Rom. 2:28) rather than to a future conversion of Jews. In any event, Reformed theology is not anti-semitic. We have always hoped and prayed for the salvation, in Christ, sola gratia et sola fide, of all of God’s elect, Jew and Gentile alike.
Here is a resource for getting to covenant theology.
Here are Lig Duncan’s lectures on covenant theology.


  1. I don't know much about Clark, except he's a prof at Westminster Cali(meaning he's very likely basically sound), but this pretty much nails it. It's tiresome that many dispensationalist-types use this bogey-man (a veiled accusation of anti-semitism actually) of "Replacement Theology" to close minds against a covenantal approach to scripture.

  2. Good post Ralph. One thing that I always thought pointed the way toward the people of God not being a particular ethnic group was that God made rules for the reception of non-Jewish converts to become Jewish within the Torah. That right there is significant in my eyes. So from almost the very beginning God was grafting non-Jews into the olive tree of Israel.

    Of course this creates the problem. That being, why would God change the rules in order to include Gentiles because he has already made a way for them to be included within Judaism before Christ. It seems that the dispensational side assumes that for Gentiles to be saved there has to be a separate class of people for them from the Jews, but that is the exact opposite of what God did in the Torah. He made it possible for Gentiles to be part of national Israel. To me that seems to show that it was never going to be about an ethnic Israel for the long term. It started out that way so that there could be a national people through whom God could work and demonstrate both his justice and mercy, but once Christ came, there was no need for a national people because it became explicit that all could be part of the people of Israel now.

    Anyway, I think that I am rambling a bit now...Took me a couple of hours to write this comment out. I hope that it makes sense to you. haha