What is Covenant Theology?
圣约神学是认识圣经最主要故事情节的一个框架，它强调无论是神的救赎计划，或是祂和人类打交道，都是毫无例外地，按照祂以主权所设立的约来进行的。虽然早期教会的教父们，已经认识到神的圣约的重要性，但是圣约神学并没有得到全面的发展，也没有对圣经启示完整的范围进行思考。这种情形，一直到16-17世纪的改教家，例如Johannes Cocceius 和 Herman Witsius，才有了转变。威敏思特信仰告白是17世纪具有里程碑意义的文件，它从头到尾展示了健全的、完全发展的圣约神学。
Covenant Theology is a framework for understanding the overarching storyline of the bible, which emphasizes that God's redemptive plan and his dealings with mankind are without exception worked out in accordance with the covenants that he has sovereignly established. Although the importance of the divine covenants has been realized since the time of the earliest church fathers, Covenant Theology was not articulated as a thoroughly developed system, taking into account the entire extent of biblical revelation, until the days of the sixteenth and seventeenth century reformers, such as the influential Johannes Cocceius and Herman Witsius. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a landmark seventeenth century document that displays a robust, fully-developed Covenant Theology throughout.
基本上，圣约神学把圣经启示组织成三个统一但不同的圣约：1) 救赎之约（Covenant of Redemption）。这是在永恒的过去里，三一真神的三个位格间，彼此的圣约；在此约中，父神应许要把一群百姓赐给圣子作为产业，而圣子就担起救赎他们的工作；2) 工作之约（Covenant of Works）。神吩咐亚当，庄严地应许他，如果他在伊甸园里通过考验期的测验（probationary test），就会得到永恒的生命。（许多圣约神学家把神在西乃山所赐的圣约，视为在一定意义上，是工作之约的重新发布republication），最后是3) 恩典之约（Covenant of Grace）。在堕落之后，神马上与亚当立了此约，祂应许会差派一位女人的后裔，打败诱惑人的蛇（创3：15）。在恩典之约中，神应许一位凯旋者，要作为祂子民圣约的代表，完成被破坏了的工作之约，因此代表他们赢得圣约的祝福。圣经所有后来的约，例如神对挪亚，亚伯拉罕，大卫所确认的，以及新约（New Covenant）——在耶利米和以西结的先知预言中，应许要应验这些先前的圣约——都是有机地相连的。这些圣约基本上是同一个永恒的恩典之约，不同的安排（administrations，或譯為執行、照管）。這些不同的安排，都是建立在前一个安排的基础上，而且都要在基督以祂的血所立的新约中，得到实现。
Basically, Covenant Theology organizes biblical revelation around three unified but distinct covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, between the persons of the Trinity in eternity past, in which the Father promises to give a people to the Son as his inheritance, and the Son undertakes to redeem them; the Covenant of Works, which God enjoined upon Adam in the Garden, solemnly promising him eternal life if he passed the probationary test in the Garden of Eden (also, many covenant theologians see the covenant given on Mount Sinai as being in some sense a republication of the Covenant of Works); and finally, the Covenant of Grace, which God first entered into with Adam immediately after the Fall, when he promised to send a Seed of the woman, who would defeat the tempting serpent (Gen. 3:15). In the Covenant of Grace, God promises a champion to fulfill the broken Covenant of Works as a federal representative of his people, and so to earn its blessings in their behalf. All the later covenants of the bible, such as those which God confirmed to Noah, Abraham, David, and the New Covenant which promises to fulfill these prior covenants in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are all organically connected, essentially being different administrations of the one eternal Covenant of Grace, which build upon each other and are all brought to completion in the New Covenant which Christ inaugurated with his shed blood.
不同的神学家已经提出对圣经中的圣约不同的定义，不过，最好的一个也许是O. Palmer Robertson的句子：“一个全权施行的血的约定。”（A bond-in-blood sovereignly administered。）（The Christ of the Covenants, P&R Publishing, p. 15）（诚之按：可参考M. Kline 的定义-- an oath-bound, divinely sanctioned commitment, 见 http://www.upper-register.com/papers/what_is_covenant.html）。圣约的典型特色，就是有外在可见的记号和印记（a visible sign and seal），目的是要“提醒”神，不要忘记祂对与祂立约的子民所作的应许。举一些圣约记号的例子：赐给挪亚的彩虹，给亚伯拉罕的割礼；以及在基督降生后给信徒的洗礼和圣餐。
Different theologians, have proposed several different definitions of a biblical covenant; but perhaps the best is O. Palmer Robertson's phrase, “A bond-in-blood sovereignly administered” (The Christ of the Covenants, P&R Publishing, p. 15). Covenants are typically characterized by a visible sign and seal, which serves to “remind” God of his promises to those whom he has entered into covenant with. Some examples of these covenant signs are the rainbow, given to Noah; circumcision, given to Abraham; and baptism and the Lord's Supper, given to believers after the coming of Christ.