The American Presbyterian Church seeks to be faithful to its Reformed roots especially as it believes that the Reformed faith is that faith which is according to the scriptures. However our primary loyalty is not to any Reformed creed but to the Holy Scriptures which alone can make us wise unto salvation. We believe in covenant theology. We believe that all God’s mercy is covenanted mercy and that we are his people because we are in covenant with him. Nonetheless we believe that there are sore inadequacies in the traditional approach of presenting God’s covenant with man.
Traditional Reformed covenant theology, as presented in Chapter 7 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, is basically a two covenant system. The two covenants set forth and compared are the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. The scriptures however set forth a number of divine covenants. These include the Trinitarian Covenant, The Covenant of Works, The Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Sinaitic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. The Westminster divines were obviously using the term the Covenant of Grace as an umbrella concept to cover all of God’s gracious covenants with man. However they never clearly defined the concept and this has left most people in the pew sadly confused about, and awash in misunderstanding with respect to God’s covenants. The American Presbyterian Church felt that this needed to be rectified and that the full scriptural testimony of all of God’s covenants with man should be set forth in its standards and clearly taught to the people.
The scriptures make a number of covenant comparisons. In Galatians 3 Paul compares the Abrahamic Covenant, called “the promise” with the Sinaitic Covenant called “the law”. He asserts that the Galatian Christians are under the Abrahamic Covenant but not under the Sinaitc. However these distinctions are all lost in traditional covenant theology. And in Galatians 4 Paul again compares these two covenants in his covenant allegory. And again, without distinguishing the various covenants subsumed under the concept of the Covenant of Grace, how can people logically understand these covenant comparisons? And in the Book of Hebrews Paul is constantly comparing the Old Covenant, that is the Sinaitic, with the New Covenant. He is constantly setting forth the superiority of the New. And again the Westminster Confession of Faith, although recognizing the distinction between them, calls them various dispensations of the Covenant of Grace using the terms “the law” and “the gospel.” But the actual covenants are never identified and defined. All this makes a more thorough, clarified, and scriptural presentation of God’s covenants a necessity. This is what the American Presbyterian Church has sought to do in its standards (See Chapter 7, Confession of Faith of the American Presbyterian Church) and its teaching.
(Note: For more information on this issue see Links: American Presbyterian Press, and look under Books for “The Divine Covenants”, a thorough and detailed scriptural exposition of all the divine covenants)