CFTP Podcast: NCT & 1689 Federalism

Conversations From the Porch Episode #50 is a discussion between a proponent of NCT (Dustin Segers) and a proponent of the 2nd London Baptist Confession (Jason Mullet). For those interested, the conversation is worth listening. It shows have far NCT has come (at least this version of it). Segers notes that to deny a constant, unchanging absolute law that binds all men (something some proponents of NCT have denied) is a serious error. Segers argues this unchanging absolute law transcends the Old Covenant but also overlaps with many Old Covenant commands (he says 9 of the 10 commandments). The Old Covenant as a unit was abrogated, but absolute law continues. I offered the following comments on the web page.


Thank you for the discussion, gentlemen. Jason gave a disclaimer that he hasn’t necessarily studied all the details of 1689 Federalism. With that in mind, I’d like to clarify a very important point.

1689 Federalism agrees with Dustin that the entire Old Covenant, as a unit, was abrogated. On this point, we disagree with Westminster covenant theology. Note Richard Barcellos:

“Hearty agreement must be given when New Covenant theologians argue for the abolition of the Old Covenant. This is clearly the teaching of the Old and New Testaments (see Jeremiah 31:31-32; Second Corinthians 3; Galatians 3, 4; Ephesians 2:14-15; Hebrews 8-10). The whole law of Moses, as it functioned under the Old Covenant, has been abolished, including the Ten Commandments. Not one jot or tittle of the law of Moses functions as Old Covenant law anymore and to act as if it does constitutes redemptive-historical retreat and neo-Judaizing. However, to acknowledge that the law of Moses no longer functions as Old Covenant law is not to accept that it no longer functions; it simply no longer functions as Old Covenant law. This can be seen by the fact that the New Testament teaches both the abrogation of the law of the Old Covenant and its abiding moral validity under the New Covenant.”
-In Defense of the Decalogue, 61.

For more on this, see:

It seems that Dustin is also unfamiliar with 1689 Federalism distinctives. He said there are only two possible approaches to law in the NT: either all Old Covenant commands are binding unless explicitly repealed, or all Old Covenant commands are abrogated unless explicitly repeated in the New. Neither approach is held by 1689 Federalism, which argues that all Old Covenant law was abrogated with the Old Covenant, however, when the Old Covenant was abrogated, what remained was a transcovenantal law that pre-dated the Old Covenant. We call this the moral law, while you call it absolute law. But the basic concept we agree on.

The question then is how do we know which Old Covenant commands overlapped with absolute law? You say “Those that are repeated by the Apostles in the New Covenant.” We say, “No, that’s not something that the Apostles say” (a point Justin brought out well). We believe that the Apostles’ hermeneutic should be our hermeneutic. Obviously the Apostles did not determine which laws were absolute by looking at what was repeated in the NT. They had to have a method of reading the Old Testament and determining which ones still applied (which ones were absolute law). Whatever their method was is our method as well. Their method was not “whatever is repeated” and neither is ours. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of Christ, we believe that the Apostles avoided being arbitrary by carefully studying the Old Testament and recognizing that some laws were distinguished from other laws from the beginning. Some laws were written in stone by the finger of God (Ex 24:12; 32:16; 34:1, 28) and spoken by God (Ex 20:1), and the rest of the laws written by (Ex 24:4;34:27) and spoken by (Ex 21:1; 24:3) Moses. Only the 10 Commandments/tablets of stone were placed in the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:16; 40:20; Deut 10:1-6; 1 Kings 8:9; Heb 9:4). We believe this was the hermeneutical tool or filter that the Apostles used to determine which Old Covenant laws were absolute.

For more on this “filtering” concept, see

See also


Also, a clarification regarding the Sabbath. Jason seemed to suggest that some who hold to the 1689 Confession deny there are any changing aspects of the 4th commandment. He said “I don’t think the Sabbath’s application in the OT fits that, otherwise God would have been resting every 7th day from all eternity.” The comments were a bit ambiguous and likely involve some misunderstanding on either Jason or Dustin’s part, or both. To clarify, the 1689 Confession teaches that the Sabbath was a moral-positive law. 22.7 says “in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment…” Positive refers to a law that is not eternal and not necessitated by God’s nature. Thus the Sabbath reflects an unchanging principle: that man is to set aside time to worship God. Which day is a matter of God’s choice via positive law. For an explanation, see Positive law and covenantal canon. See also Owen’s lengthy discussion of how positive law relates to the 10 commandments.

13 thoughts on “CFTP Podcast: NCT & 1689 Federalism

  1. Thanks for the link and helpful comments, Brandon. I enjoyed listening to the discussion. I think the dialogue was very irenic and it gave me a lot to think about. I wish the guys would get together again to discuss other areas of agreement/disagreement. In particular, the discussion concerning how Old Testament believers were saved by the promise of the Covenant of Grace was not very precise. I’d like to hear some more on that. Justin almost seemed to indicate that the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant) was “in force” during the Old Covenant.


      1. Sorry, Brandon… I was referring to Jason (not Justin)… I understand 1689 Federalists as saying that Old Testament believers were saved by virtue of the promises of the coming New Covenant. They didn’t delve into it very deeply, but I thought Jason was stating that OT believers were taking part (in some way) in the CoG. I guess I need to give it another listen…


        1. Thanks for the clarification, Brandon. I think we need to sharpen the language on this one a bit. It’s just a bit confusing to say that we disagree with the Paedobaptist’s belief that the old covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace; while we hold that the new covenant is the covenant of grace and that old covenant believers were “in” the new covenant.


        2. Can you elaborate on what your confusion is (just so I can better understand)?

          When we say we deny that the old covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace, what we are denying is that the old covenant is the covenant of grace. That is what paedobaptists mean when they say the old covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace. Yes, this can cause some initial confusion when we affirm that

          LBCF 8.6._____ Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever.

          We do not deny that aspects of the old covenant revealed the gospel and were thereby means of bringing elect individuals into the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace. In that sense it “administered” the covenant of grace even though it was not the covenant of grace. Communicating this point is difficult to paedobaptists because they have developed a very convoluted thought process based upon equivocation of the word “substance.” See

          I was planning on writing a shorter post on this point, so thank you for your thoughts.


        3. Brandon – I agree that the old covenant is NOT the covenant of grace. I also agree that the new covenant is the covenant of grace. I agree that the efficacy of the new covenant was communicated to believers who lived under the old covenant. I *think* I can go along with your statement that the old covenant “administered” the covenant of grace – in that it conveyed the grace of the new covenant (which was revealed in promise and shadow) to believers.

          My confusion is where we say that old covenant believers were “members” of the new covenant. That sounds like we are saying that old covenant believers were “in” the old covenant and new covenant at the same time.

          We seem to be saying that 1) the o.c. was not an administration of the covenant of grace, buy yet it administered the covenant of grace; and that 2) oc believers were members of both covenants at the same time.

          I wish I could be a little more clear here, Brandon. I guess I’m just more comfortable with the language the confession uses (virtue, efficacy, benefit … communicated) than I am stating that oc believers were members of the nc. The later just seems a little confused (to me).


        4. (I avoid talking about “administer” simply because of the baggage and confusion it causes, FYI. I thought that was the issue you were asking about, which is why I brought it up. Otherwise I wouldn’t use that language).

          Old Covenant believers were in the Old Covenant and the New Covenant at the same time. The New Covenant is made with any believer when they are effectually called. The New Covenant is union with Christ. You can’t be saved without being in the New Covenant. That’s the whole idea. Owen spends a lot of time explaining how the covenant of grace could be operative while the Old Covenant was operative. His explanation is the promised/inaugurated New Covenant distinction. It is not that OT saints were not members of the New Covenant.

          Note Augustine:

          These pertain to the new testament [covenant], are the children of promise, and are regenerated by God the Father and a free mother. Of this kind were all the righteous men of old, and Moses himself, the minister of the old testament, the heir of the new,—because of the faith whereby we live, of one and the same they lived, believing the incarnation, passion, and resurrection of Christ as future, which we believe as already accomplished.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Brandon – I guess I just need to study and think on this a bit more. I am perfectly fine with saying that the benefit and blessings were communicated to old covenant saints. I am good with all the statements I’ve read (so far) from the confession, Augustine, and Owen. I just have difficulty with the statement that those believers were “in” the promised (but not yet inaugurated) new covenant at the same time they were “in” the old covenant. They did not have the fuller revelation of Christ and they did not partake of the signs and seals of the new covenant. They participated only in the types and shadows of those good things to come.

          And yet, I must confess that I agree with your statement that there is no salvation apart from union with Christ, and this could not be effected by the old covenant administration.

          I still haven’t read the Cox/Owen book – perhaps I need to read that and re-read Pink…

          Thanks for the help. You’ve given me much to think on…


  2. Pingback: CFTP Podcast: NCT & 1689 Federalism | Abraham's Seed

  3. Matt Hendren

    So, for clarification, moral-positive law is not the same as positive law?

    I struggle to see how Adam and/or Eve would have known that a particular day was set apart for them to do nothing but worship God and rest *without* observing it, and thus gaining the knowledge, or being directly told. This may be my only objection to the LBCF.


    1. Moral-positive law refers to a law that is partially moral (rest 1 day in 7) and partially positive (rest on Saturday).

      I don’t quite understand your comment about Adam and Eve. Can you please clarify?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s