Covenant Theology vs. Dispensational Theology


The following are the major differences between these two systems of theology. They represent the mainstreams of both systems, though there are variations in each.


(Lewis S. Chafer, John Walvoord, Tim LaHaye, John Nelson Darby, C.I. Scofield)


(Charles Hodge, Loraine Boettner, Louis Berkhof, John Murray, B.B. Warfield)

1. May be Arminian or modified Calvinist. Almost never 5-point Calvinist.

1.Always Calvinist.  Usually 5-point.

2.Stresses rigidly ‘literal’ interpretation of the Bible.

2.Accepts ‘normal’ interpretation of the Bible text (allows both literal and figurative)

3. Usually does not accept the idea of the ‘Analogy of Faith.’

3. Almost always accepts the idea of The “Analogy of Faith.”

4. ‘Israel’ always means only the literal, physical descendants of Jacob.

4. “Israel” may mean either literal, physical descendants of Jacob or the figurative, spiritual Israel, depending on context.

5. ‘Israel of God’ in Gal 6:16 means physical Israel alone.

5. “Israel of God” in Gal. 6:16 means spiritual Israel, parallel to Gal. 3:29; Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:3.

6. God has 2 peoples with 2 separate destinies: Israel (earthly) and the Church (heavenly).

6. God has always had only 1 people, the Church gradually developed.

7. The Church was born at Pentecost.

7. The Church began in O.T. Acts 7:38 and reached fulfillment in the N.T.

8. The Church was not prophesied as such in the O.T. but was a hidden mystery until the N.T.

8. There are many O.T. prophecies of the N.T. Church.

9. All O.T. prophecies for ‘Israel’ are for literal Israel, not the Church.

9. Some O.T. prophecies are for the literal nation of Israel, others are for spiritual Israel.

10. God’s main purpose in history is literal Israel.

10. God’s main purpose in history is Christ and secondarily the Church.

11. The Church is a parenthesis in God’s program for the ages.

11. The Church is the culmination of God’s saving purpose for the ages.

12. The main heir to Abraham’s covenant was Isaac and literal Israel.

12. The main heir to Abraham’s covenant was Christ and spiritual Israel.

13. There was no eternal Covenant of Redemption within the Trinity.

13. The eternal Covenant of Redemption was within the Trinity to effect election.

14. There was no Covenant of Works with Adam in the Garden of Eden.

14.  God made a conditional Covenant of Works* with Adam as representative for all his posterity.

15. There was no Covenant of Grace concerning Adam.

15. God made a Covenant of Grace with Christ and His people, including Adam.

16. Israel was rash to accept the Covenant at Mt. Sinai.

16. Israel was right to accept the Covenant Mt. Sinai.

17. The ‘New Covenant’ of Jer. 31:31- 34 is only for literal Israel and is not the New Covenant of Lk.22:20.

17. The “New Covenant” of Jer. 31 is the same as in Lk. 22; both are for spiritual Israel according to Heb. 8.

18. God’s program in history is mainly through separate dispensations.

18.  God’s program in history is mainly through related covenants.

19. Some Dispensationalists have said that O.T. sinners were saved by works.

19. No man has ever been saved by works, but only by grace.

20. Most Dispensationalists teach that men in the O.T. were saved by faith in a revelation peculiar to their dispensation, but this did not include faith in the Messiah as their sin-bearer.

20. All men who have ever been saved have been saved by faith in Christ as their sin-bearer, which has been progressively revealed in every age.

21. The O.T. sacrifices were not recognized as the Gospel or types of the Messiah as sin-bearer, but only seen as such in retrospect.

21. O.T. believers believed in the Gospel of Messiah as sin-bearer mainly by the sacrifices as types and prophecies.

22. The Holy Spirit indwells only believers in the dispensation of Grace, not O.T. and not after the Rapture.

22. The Holy Spirit has indwelt believers in all ages, especially in the present N.T. era, and will not be withdrawn.

23. Jesus.made an offer of the literal Kingdom to Israel; since Israel rejected it, it is postponed.

23. Jesus made only an offer of the spiritual Kingdom, which was rejected by literal Israel but has gradually been accepted by spiritual Israel.

24. O.T. believers were not in Christ, not part of the Body or Bride of Christ.

24. Believers in all ages are all “in Christ” and part of the Body and Bride of Christ.

25. The Law has been abolished.

25. The Law has 3 uses: to restrain sin in society, to lead to Christ, and to instruct Christians in godliness. The ceremonial Laws have been abolished; the civil laws have been abolished except for their general equity; the moral laws continue.

26. O.T. laws are no longer in effect unless repeated in the N.T.

26. O.T. laws are still in effect unless abrogated in the N.T.

27. The Millennium is the Kingdom of God. Dispensationalists are always Pre-Millennial and usually Pre-Tribulational.

27. The Church is the Kingdom of God. Covenanters are usually AMillennial, sometimes Pre-Millennial or Post-Millennial, rarely Pre-Tribulational.

28. The O.T. animal sacrifices will be restored in the Millennium.

28. The O.T. sacrifices were fulfilled and forever abolished in Christ.

29. The Millennium will fulfill the Covenant to Abraham. Israel has a future.

29. Christ fulfilled the Covenant to Abraham. Some Covenanters believe in a future for literal Israel, most don’t.

30. David will sit on the Millennial throne in Jerusalem.

30. Christ alone sits on the throne. Saints rule under Him.



This chart is part of an article written by Ligon Duncan which you can read here: Dispensationalism - A Reformed Evaluation.

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