Review of "One Eternal Covenant"


Frank Jamerson

The basic position we are reviewing says: "Ezekiel and Jeremiah bind the Jewish and New Testament era under the same eternal covenant .. . that it is impossible to isolate a distinct `old covenant' from a `new covenant' (TEC 23).

Stanley Paher has written two books: The Eternal Covenant of Peace (hereafter referred to as TECP) and The Eternal Covenant - God's Invitation to Faith and Life (hereafter referred to as TEC). In the first book he acknowledges that his conclusions were "gained in the early 1980s through studies with James Puterbaugh" (286). I have several out-lines of lessons presented by Jim that will also be used in this review.

We will not spend a lot of time on the word "covenant." It is defined as a solemn mutual agreement, or an obligation imposed by a superior upon an inferior. "In general, the covenant of God with men is a divine ordinance, with signs and pledges on God's part, and with promises for human obedience and penalties for disobedience, which ordinance is accepted by men" (ISBE). Some covenants are conditional and some unconditional, some with individuals and some with groups or nations. Generally, when we speak of covenants we will be talking about the two laws or the Old and New Covenants (Jer. 31:31-34).

The basic position we are reviewing says: "Ezekiel and Jeremiah bind the Jewish and New Testament era under the same eternal covenant .. . that it is impossible to isolate a distinct `old covenant' from a `new covenant"' (TEC 23). "Countering these notions (that there is only one covenant) is the teaching that God has given to man two distinct covenants  an old and a new one  each of which applies to separate people of God: the first for Jews before the cross, the second for Christians since then. The theory sees contrast rather than continuity between God's faithful ones throughout the ages . . . Simply stated, no `Christian religion' was initiated on that Pentecost day or at any other time; in fact, no Bible statement shows that Jesus ever started a new religion. No new law replaced the moral precepts associated with Moses and the prophets. No `New Testament church' upstaged ancient Israel of Old Testament times, for Israel was the `church,' the people of God" (TECP 156,158). "In no sense, then, did the death of Christ destroy the law and the prophets" (TEC 115). (The assumption is that if God has always been merciful and man has been "in covenant relationship," then all were under the same covenant.)

"The Everlasting Covenant"

Jim Peterbaugh said: "Hebrews 6:13-17  The `purpose' or eternal plan of God for the salvation of man-kind is specifically related to His covenant or oath which He made with Abraham. Verse 17 states: `In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath (that is, with the covenant made with Abraham' - v. 13). Thus, the expression, `everlasting covenant' (cf. Gen. 17:1-7) is very similar to God's `eternal purpose' (cf. Eph. 1:3-5; 3:9-11). Both are expressions of His love (cf. Eph. 1:4-11) for man and His plans or promises that are 'unchangeable and therefore provide great encouragement to God's people  Heb. 6:17, 18" (Outlines published 11/ 13/96).

He equates "the everlasting covenant" here with the seed promise but the passage he uses  Genesis 17:1-7 is not talking about the seed promise. It is talking about the land promise. The "everlasting covenant" (v. 7) is connected with the "everlasting possession" (v. 8) and the "covenant" of circumcision (vv. 9, 10) which was a sign of God's agreement with Abraham and his descendants (v. 11).

Jim Puterbaugh then gives a list of passages which mention "covenant," but most of them refer to the covenant to give Israel the land  rather than the eternal purpose of God to save man in Christ.

1. Exodus 6:2-8  He says God's deliverance of Israel was related to his "remembering the covenant He made with Abraham." Yes, but it was the land promise the writer was discussing (vv. 4, 8).

2. Exodus 32:13  When Moses interceded for Israel asking God to re-member his covenant with Israel, he was talking about the nation/land promises.

3. Leviticus 26:42-45 "My covenant with Jacob" in this context is the land promise (v. 42)  not God's eternal purpose in Christ.

4. Psalm 51:1 Jim connects the word "loving kindness" with God's promise to be merciful and "remember His covenant." He uses Deuteronomy 7:9, 12 as evidence, but vv. 13-22 discuss God's promise to bless Israel as a nation and give them the land.

5. Psalm 105:6-11  Jim refers to the covenant in these verses as "an everlasting covenant" (v. 10). But what was the covenant in the context? See vv. 11-45: "Saying, To you I will give the land of Canaan . . . He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, And they inhabited the labor of the nations" (vv. 11, 44).

6. Psalm 106:44-46  Jim says God remembered his covenant and made Israel objects of compassion. Which covenant and who was showing compassion? Verse 46 says pitied "by all those who carried them away captive" (cf. Ezra 9:9).

7. Jeremiah 14:21  "Remember and do not annul Thy covenant with us." The context again is talking about the land promise (see vv. 2, 13, 15, 18).

8. Ezekiel 16:59-63  Jim simply quotes v. 60, "I will remember My covenant with you . . . and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you." Again, the context is talking about the land promise (v. 55).


1. Jim entitled this section in his outline: "God's constant knowledge of His covenant with mankind produces appropriate or important activity on the part of God for the benefit and blessings of His people." Then he used eight passages that refer to the land promise to only one nation.

2. The land promise is called an "everlasting covenant" (Gen. 17:7) and was to be an "everlasting possession" (v. 8). This is the "covenant" referred to in the passages above. That "ever-lasting covenant" coincided with the "everlasting possession." Do either, or both of these continue to today?

3. Jim did give two passages  Luke 1:71-73 and Hebrews 6:13-20 which refer to the Messiah, but he ties them in with the preceding verses with no distinction, as though they were all talking about God's plan in Christ.

There are Two Covenants

1. The threefold promise to Abraham pertained to two different groups of people under two different covenants. The nation/land promise was given to the descendants of Abraham (Israel) to whom was given the law of Moses (which contained both "moral" and "ceremonial" instructions). The seed promise pertained to all individuals who come to Christ, who are not under the law of Moses, but under the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:20, 21).

2. The covenant with Abraham was not the covenant God made with Moses. The law, which was made at Sinai (Deut. 5:1-3; Neh. 9:13, 14) required the keeping of the Sabbath. Abraham did not keep the Sabbath because it was part of "the everlasting covenant" with Israel (Lev. 24:8, 9).

3. The nation/land promise was with one nation  Israel. God said, "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (Gen. 17:7,8; cf. Gen. 15:18; 1 Chron. 16:13-22).

4. The seed promise was fulfilled in Christ with "all nations" (Jews and Gentiles). The Law of Moses (the first covenant) was different from the promise to Abraham and the Law of Christ (the second covenant) is different from the Law of Moses. Abraham did not keep the Sabbath, nor did he have to be "baptized into the death of Christ."

The Blood of the Covenant

Stanley Paher said: "The blood of the covenant was poured out for the remission of sins, and not to initiate a new in-kind covenant or a new will and testament" (TECP 67). Jim argues that "the blood of the covenant" (Heb. 9:20; Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24) refers only to his death "for those who violated the covenant," not to dedicate a covenant (Notes 11/13/96).

1. Is this what Exodus 24:6-8 and Hebrews 9:18-23 teach?

2. The Hebrew writer said, "Not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood" (Heb. 9:18). Then he goes on to show that the "copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these," but "the heavenly things with better sacrifices." (Were "sins" the "heavenly things" dedicated with better sacrifices?!) No, Moses was not sacrificing for an earlier broken covenant (but for one being "dedicated"), and Christ's blood was dedicating "the heavenly things" (the new covenant), not simply forgiving sins that were past, present and future  though that was also accomplished.

3. Christ "took away the first that He may establish the second. By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:9, 10). Verses 28, 29 contrast those who rejected "Moses' law" (which was dedicated with the blood of animals) and those who "count the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing." We were "sanctified" by the second "will," or by the "blood of the covenant." Which covenant? The second!

4. Hebrews 9:16 says, "where a covenant is" (referring to all covenants, not just broken ones) "there must of necessity be death." Christ was not dying to establish the covenant with Abraham, nor the one given through Moses. Stanley and Jim do not like the expression "last will and testament." The word "covenant" is perfectly agreeable with me (though "testament" does fit with the idea of "inheritance" in Heb. 9:15, 16). After objecting to the word "testament," Stanley said: "Hebrews 9:16 explains the covenantal significance of Jesus, who had to die to ratify (my emphasis) His Father's covenant, to confirm the agreement ... In verse 17 these assertions are amplified, explaining how covenant is ratified: `A covenant is firm over dead sacrifices (when somebody has died), so it never has force while the appointed sacrifice lives" (TECP 62). So the first covenant was in effect by the death of appointed sacrifices (animals), but the second was in effect by the appointed sacrifice of Christ! That is two covenants dedicated by two kinds of blood!

The New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34

Those who deny that the first covenant passed away and the second was established take great pains to get around Jeremiah 31. Stanley said: "Indeed, Jeremiah's famous new (renewed) covenant of 31:31-34, first prophesied in about 593 B.C., was realized about 60 years later when God's people in the houses of Judah and Israel, to whom the covenant oracle was specifically addressed, returned from Babylonian exile" (TEC 78). Jim said: "The New Covenant in Jer. 31:31-34 refers to God renewing his covenant first when the Jews came out of Babylonian captivity. To put the law in their hearts refers to Jer. 17:1. God's law would re-place the sin in their heart. There is no reference to the Old Law and the New Law" (Tape on the Covenant, 2-6-95).

1. "Jeremiah . . . devoted the first 29 chapters of his book to the history of the period: apostasy, judgment to come, and the Babylonian captivity. This was followed by four chapters (30-34) pointing to the future hope, some-times called `The Book of Consolation.' . . . In this section Jeremiah speaks of a `new covenant' (31:31-34) and `an everlasting covenant' (32:40)....In 30:8, 9 he said they would serve the Lord their God and David their king .. . Jehovah said `And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God' (30:22), which also existed between Jehovah and His people under the Mosaic covenant (Exod. 6:7; 19:5,6).. . Some advocates of the one eternal covenant theory argue that this looked to the return from Babylon; or, at least began to be fulfilled at that time. Another argument made is that there is nothing new in this that is not found in the Mosaic covenant. If one should grant that this is correct, Jehovah is not making the point that everything  or any-thing  in the New Covenant is new. The point is that the covenant would be a new covenant, a new contract . . . not every term of the covenant would be new, but it would be a different covenant . . . Three differences are outstanding. First, the Mosaic covenant was made with a nation; the `new' was made with individuals  `he that believeth.' A second difference is, the first was dedicated or sealed with the blood of animals, and the `new' with the blood of Jesus: `This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you' (Luke 22:20). Third, Moses is the mediator of the old, Jesus, the God/man, is the mediator of the new and better covenant (Heb. 8:6-9:1; 12:24)" (Unpublished manuscript  "God's Eternal Purpose," Homer Hailey, 232-234).

2. No post-exile prophet referred to the law as "a new covenant" or the "second covenant." Nehemiah said they read the "Book of the Law of Moses/God" (Neh. 9:1, 8)  not a "renewed law." Haggai said "according to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt ..." (Hag. 2:5)  not "when you came out of Babylonian captivity. Malachi said: "My covenant with Levi," a covenant "of life and peace," "the covenant of Levi," or "the covenant of the fathers" (Mal. 2:4, 5, 8, 10). Paul said Jesus was "born under the law" (Gal. 4:4)  not a "renewed law, or second covenant. Did the first covenant "become old" (Heb. 8:13) when the Jews returned from Babylon? If it did, the Hebrew writer should have said: "He took away the second that He may establish the second."

3. Hebrews 10:16-18 totally demolishes the theory that the new covenant was established after Babylonian captivity. After quoting Jeremiah 31, the writer said: "Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." Did animal sacrifices cease when the Jews returned from captivity, or when Jesus died on the cross?

Hebrews 10:1-10  The First and

Second Covenants

Stanley said: "The two-covenant view assumes that the writer is discussing the subject of covenants, first (Moses) and second (Christ), an old one and a new one. But the word `covenant' does not once appear anywhere in Hebrews 10:1-10! The subject under consideration is sacrifice, contrasting its frequency during the time of the Jewish nation with the once-for-all-time, all-fulfilling sacrifice of Jesus Christ" (TEC 104).

1. Verse 1 says "the law having a shadow of the good things to come" and v. 8 says sacrifices "which are offered according to the law." Verses 16-18 (within the context) say that when the new covenant/law was given "their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Then he said "where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." Did the sacrifices end, but not the law that taught them?

2. "He takes away the first that He may establish the second" (v. 9), and "by that will we have been sanctified" (v. 10). Verses 28, 29 contrast Moses' law with "the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified." Note that we were not sanctified by the "first" but by the second covenant.

2 Corinthians 3:6-18: The Passing of the Glory and the Law

Stanley said the apostle was describing "his adversaries: legalistic Judaizers whose minds and hearts showed that they had not turned to Jesus Christ and thus were blind to God's ways . . . Further, if the ministry that brought death and condemned men in vv. 7-9 refers to the ministry of Moses, does not this view contradict the `holy, just and good ... spiritual' description of the law, as written by Paul (Rom. 7:12-14)?" (TEC 100).

1. First, his supposed contradiction is a misunderstanding of Paul's point in Romans 7. He was placing the blame for his sins on himself  not the law, though he had just said we are "dead to the law through the body (death) of Christ" (v. 4).

2. The passage says the "ministry of death written and engraven on stones" (v. 7). That could not be "legalistic Judaizers."

3. The passing of that which was written on stones (as well as the rest of the Old Testament) was indicated by the passing of the glory on Moses' face (vv. 13, 14). That was long before there were any "legalistic Judaizers."

4. Ashley S. Johnson, in The Two Covenants, showed that most, if not all the Ten Commandments carried the death penalty for violation. First and Second (Deut. 13:6-17), Third (Lev. 24:10-16), Fourth (Num. 15:32-36), Fifth (Exod. 21:15), Sixth (Exod. 21:12-14), Seventh (Lev. 20:10), Eighth (Exod. 22:2 not always death for stealing), Ninth (Deut. 19:16-20  death for false witness if his testimony caused death), and Tenth (Josh. 7:20-26). Question: If the first covenant is still in effect with the Ten Commandments (Deut. 4:12, 13), is the penalty for violation still in effect? Were the commandments "moral," but the penalties "ceremonial"?

5. Johnson continued: "Its glory was abolished. It can-not mean anything else. If you confront any of the teachers of our times with the statement like that the answer will be that it is not a fact the Ten Commandments were done away  that Paul had in mind only the carnal ordinances, the ceremonial law, the ritualistic service at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. But he does not say that. He does not intimate that . . . What was written and engraven on stones? Was it the ceremonial law?" (124). Commenting on Hebrews 7:12, he said: "If my friend will show that there never has been but one unbroken priesthood from the be-ginning until now I will admit that there never has been but one covenant or law" (227).

6. Jim says the Ten Commandments are still binding, but the Sabbath has been changed to refer to Christ. If one of the ten has changed, then the law changed! You cannot have an unchanged law and change parts you do not want to keep! The fourth commandment did not mean Christ to the Jews. In their covenant it meant the seventh day of the week. Yes, nine of the ten are repeated in the N.T. just as many other principles of the O.T. are found in the New, but that does not prove that there is not an Old/First Covenant and a New/Second Covenant.

Galatians 4:21-31  The Two Covenants

Stanley states: "As Paul emphatically rebuked entrenched legalism in Galatians 4:21-31, he equated the `covenant' of Sinai/bondage/Hagar/present Jerusalem with the Christ-rejecting, first-century Judaistic parties whom he and his Master continually encountered.... Here is a stinging, emphatic rejection of legalistic Judaism. . . . Paul is exhorting the Galatians not to entangle themselves in any party-centered Judaistic legal system" (TEC, 109, 111).

1. Paul said, "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?" (v. 21). Then he quotes what was written about Abraham having two sons (vv. 22, 23). That was not "legalistic Judaism."

2. He said "these are two covenants  one from Mount Sinai  not "legalistic Judaism" (which did not go from Mt. Sinai!).

3. The Scripture said: "Cast out the bondwoman and her son . . . so then, brethren we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free" (vv. 30, 31). The "bondwoman" was the covenant from Mount Sinai  not "legalistic Judaism."

4. The law that was given 430 years after the promise (Gal. 3:27) is the one that was a tutor to bring the Jews to Christ. It was intended to last "till the seed should come" (v. 19). After "the faith" came "we are no longer under a tutor" (vv. 23, 24). When was anyone "under" legalistic Judaism? (That was never a tutor.)

5. A person could be under "the yoke of bondage" by keeping one of the laws of Moses circumcision (Gal. 5:1-3). To explain away Galatians 3 and 4 by calling it "legalistic Judaism" is an interpretation born of necessity to defend a preconceived theory, rather than exegesis of the text.

Colossians 2:14-17  What Was

Nailed to The Cross?

Stanley said: "These verses do not say that the law itself was nailed to the cross; it was rather the bond, which is the curse or the debt it placed upon the Jews ... Jesus did not blot out any law on the cross but removed its damning evidence  the curse and debt it created because of sin" (TEC 112, 113).

1. In his first book (TECP), Stanley said: "The eternal new covenant in the Christian era (he couldn't say "age") is also `better' because it abolished the well-used Jewish ceremonial and sacrificial orders (Heb. 8:13, 19-22) which were God's types and foreshadows of Christ's one-time unrepeatable sacrifice" (208). He was careful not to say the ceremonial law was "nailed to the cross," but he did admit that it was abolished. The question is when? Was it when Jesus was nailed to the cross? If so, was "sin" the only thing nailed to the cross?

2. The context of Colossians 2:14 is debatable, but I believe a strong argument can be made for "the handwriting of requirements (ordinances)" referring to the law.

3. The theme is introduced in Colossians 2:10: "You are complete in Him." Now notice: v. 11: You were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (in contrast to the everlasting covenant that was made with Abraham [Gen. 17:13] and later incorporated in the Old Law [Lev. 12:3]). You are complete in Christ without this. Verse 12  You were buried and raised by faith in the working of God (when you were baptized into Christ, you are made complete in him). Verse 13  He has "forgiven you all trespasses" (Jews and Gentiles are fully forgiven and complete in Christ). Verse 14  "Having wiped out the handwriting or requirements that was against us" (complete in Christ without the old law). Verse 15  He triumphed over the "principalities and powers" (in Christ we are complete in the overcomer of the devil). The five statements are not saying the same thing, but they expand on the statement "You are complete in Him."

4. "Therefore" is a conclusion (v. 16). Whatever was nailed to the cross resulted in you not being judged about "food or drink, a festival, new moon or sabbath." (If sin was the thing nailed to the cross, does that make these things a part of sin? If the law was nailed to the cross, would it make these things part of the law?)

5. The word "requirements" (v. 14) is translated "regulations" (v. 20). The same word is used in Ephesians 2:15: "the law of commandments contained in ordinances."

6. Ephesians 2:14, 15 (a parallel passage to Col. 2:14) says: "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace." Regardless of what Colossians 2:14 means, this passage certainly refers to the law and not to sin. Sin was not a "middle wall of division" between Jew and Gentile. They had that in common, but the law was given to the Jew and not the Gentile (Rom. 2:14; 3:1, 2), and Christ "abolished" that in his flesh (Rom. 7:4).


1. Stanley says that his one covenant theory emphasizes the mercy of God, "salvation by grace only," and is a "confidence-builder." First, the book of Romans, which emphasizes the difference between the Old and New Covenants, gives assurance without perfection. Second, there is a difference between saying "salvation is only by grace" (a true statement) and "by grace only" (a false theory). There is more to salvation than grace, but it is only by God's grace that we can be saved.

2. Jim uses the theory to teach his doctrine on divorce and remarriage. (He says that the two are not connected.) Several years ago he believed that those who were unbelievers were not subject to God's marriage law, but in recent years he has decided that anyone who is unmarried, believer as well as unbeliever, can marry (regardless of why they were divorced). He uses the "one covenant" theory in presenting his position on divorce and remarriage. Deuteronomy 24 is part of God's moral law (which does not change), so what God permitted because of hard hearts (Matt. 19:8) becomes God's law from the beginning. Jim does not know whether God still permits polygamy and concubinage. His position would require him to prove that these were "ceremonial" rather than "moral," or they are still God's moral law! (The truth is that many of God's moral laws are the same in the Old and New Testaments, but that does not prove that the covenants are the same.)

3. Stanley said that those who teach two distinct covenants assume "that everyone, whether in or out of covenant, is accountable to this new law" (TECP 156). This sounds like the "not under bondage" position. In his second book, Stanley left out this argument.

4. Stanley said: "After AD 33, messianic Jews who worshiped in the Jerusalem temple (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:21,42; see also 2:42), very likely praised God and prophesied taught) with lyres, harps and cymbals (1 Chron. 25:1, 6; 6:310, as people `zealous for the law' (Acts 21:20)" (TECP 162). He left this out of his second book, but if only the "ceremonial law" passed away  is instrumental music "moral" or "ceremonial"? This doctrine demands the impossible task of deciding this about every O.T. practice!

5. Stanley said: "In earlier times God, as the Rock of Israel, had ruled a covenant assembly of people who followed Him even in the wilderness (see Acts 7:38). These same faithful abide in the eternal kingdom which, according to prophecy (Dan. 2:44), would be `set up' forever, without end, during the period of time surrounding that same Pentecost, with Jesus the new foundation stone or corner stone. "The phrase `set up' does not necessarily mean establish as a beginning point, any more than Jesus' statement `upon this rock I will build my church' (Matt. 16:18) announced that this church-body would be some future institution to appear as something entirely new" (TECP 102). In The Eternal Covenant he said, "So the kingdom of Luke  Acts is a renewed kingdom, fully consummated with the crowning of Jesus as King of kings upon His ascension into heaven" (91, see also quote on p. 1).

So "will build" did not mean it was future and the kingdom existed without a King! (See Matt. 6:10; 11:11; Mark 9:1 and many other passages that show the church/kingdom began on Pentecost.)

"For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (Heb. 7:12). If they will convince me that there has been one continuing priesthood, I will accept the doctrine of one continuing law!

Guardian of Truth XLI: 9 p. 18-23
April May 1, 1997