In Reformed circles one often hears of "one covenant with two administrations," language that reflects the Westminster Confession (chap. 7, sec. 5) that says, "This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel...." Behind this language lies the idea that in redeeming fallen man, God has made a single covenant, "the Covenant of Grace." Arrangements between God and man that come later than the Fall must be thought of as phases ("administrations") of this single covenant. In the words of the Confession (chap 7, sec. 6), "There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations." (p44)While the authors laud the assertion of the unity of God's purpose through the ages, the "covenant" terminology causes many problems.
The reason for this is simple: in the NT the word covenant is almost always used to assert discontinuity. The evidence for this is overwhelming, as well over ninety percent of the occurrences of covenant in the NT are demonstrably used to assert discontinuity. (p45)Far better, according to the authors, is an approach which comes to the text seeing two covenants as opposed to two administrations. But even then, the new-ness of the New Covenant must not be reduced to contrasts between the New and the Old, "but between the New Covenant and all that preceded it" (p50).
For instance, in contrast to traditional Covenant Theology which sees the church of God spanning both covenants, NCT sees the church as being specifically founded in the NT. There are many texts which point to the fact that the church was founded in the NT. I'll limit this post to 2 texts cited by Wells. First, when Jesus said "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18) he was using a future tense verb. Second, if the presence of the church is dependent upon the initiatory presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), then a pre-Pentecost church becomes an impossibility.
What should one make of OT Israel? Rather than seeing OT Israel as God's pre-Pentecost church, NCT views Israel as a type of the NT church. And that will bring me to the discussion in the next post, i.e. viewing the NT as the fulfillment of the typologies and promises of the OT.