Last term I had the joy of doing a Bible Overview with the first year Cornhill students. We did it by looking at the main covenants God makes with people. In his latest book on preaching. Philip Jensen says that preachers need to have both a strong Biblical theology and systematic theology. One of the many things I learned from doing a covenant Bible overview is that covenant is a great way of combining a Biblical and systematic theology. The 'covenant' cuts both ways (please pardon the pun…)
Books on the covenant tend to lean either towards Biblical theology or systematic theology. On the former, I benefited from the close exegesis of both William Dumbrell's Covenant and Creation and Paul Williamson's Sealed with an Oath. Both deny a covenant with Adam which I think is a pity. Looking at covenant more systematically, Michael Horton paints a beautiful picture in his Introducing Covenant Theology.
If you're only going to read one book on covenant, then
my recommendation would be O. Palmer Robertson's The Christ of the Covenants. It is an excellent blending of both Biblical and systematic theology, and although I find his definition of covenant not relational enough, it is a really insightful book with close exegesis of the text and a sensitivity to systematic categories.
If you have read all those and want to dig deeper, here are a couple of suggestions. Tentmaker Publications have just republished Samuel Petto’s careful and balanced 17th century book called The Great mystery of the Covenant of Grace. And from the 19th century, I am told that Patrick Fairbairn's The Typology of Scripture is really unbeatable.
For those who have never really thought about the covenant, perhaps this from Mr Spurgeon might encourage you to do so:
“I love men who love the covenant of grace, and base their divinity upon it; the doctrine of the covenants is the key of theology. The doctrine of the Covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scriptures are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and the covenants of grace. May God grant us now the power to instruct and you the grace to receive instruction on this vital subject.”
CH Spurgeon, 1891 inaugural address at his Pastors College Conference.
More like this:
Why to do a covenant Bible Overview
This term I am teaching the first year Cornhill students a Bible Overview. There are many ways of doing Bible Overviews, and I have benefitted so much from Graeme Goldsworthy and Vaughan Roberts on the 'kingdom', and more recently Christopher Ash on 'scattering' and 'gathering'.
As I was reflecting on how I would do the Bible Overview this term, I felt that it would be helpful to do it through the covenants. I was going to blog why I went for a covenant Bible Overview, but it seems that Liam Goligher has already very helpfully hit the nail on the head. Have a look at what Liam says here: