We cannot begin to try and cover all teachings of Covenant Theology in this work, nor do we need to. What is commendable is the core teaching of this system, that God has a unifying theme throughout all of history, rooted in His eternal covenant of grace. Many have lost any understanding of the cohesiveness of God's Word and plan.
Regardless of the merits of this system of belief, which was begun by some of the prominent Reformers and fully framed in the generations that followed, there are a few logical inconsistencies in practice. And before we hear cries of "unfair," with claims that modern Covenant Theology has been around since the early church, we disagree. Though elements of it have existed from early times, the complete system as espoused today was not completed, or fully framed, until after the time of the Reformers.
There are differences in how some churches and denominations understand Covenant theology (especially Baptist versus Presbyterian). Do not take our criticism of aspects of Covenant Theology to be an endorsement of the other predominate position known as Dispensationalism. It has more than its' fair share of inconsistencies as well, but again this could be another volume in and of itself. Some Presbyterian theologians have actually, unfairly, accused all their reformed Baptist brethren of being closet Dispensationalists.
Wherein Covenant Theology attempts to bring all aspects of the Old Testament into the church, unless specifically abrogated in the New Testament, it sometimes does so without consistency. It is on this basis that, to some, Baptism is said to be the covenant sign equivalent to circumcision, yet now changed to include not only infants, but female infants as well. The Baptists, while believing that baptism is still a sign of the covenant, differ in its administration -- practicing only believer's baptism. This doesn't stop some Presbyterian theologians of accusing reformed Baptists of being inconsistent Covenantal Theologians, while reformed Baptists merely claim they are being more consistent in holding that the Covenant of Grace was extended only to the elect. We would agree with the latter.
Regardless of the Baptism debate, both camps are sometimes inconsistent in the area of tithing. One document in support of covenantal theology casually drops tithing into the mix...
For the record, Baptism and the Lord's Supper are taught by the New Testament in such a manner that they can stand alone, without appealing to any Old Testament practice (regardless of if they replace or supersede any earlier practice). Tithing is another matter.
It's one thing to believe that the church inherited all the promises and blessings of Israel, it's another to find a way to consistently define how that works for the church. Appeals to perceived divisions of moral, civil and ceremonial law, is actually a new innovation as the Law was clearly viewed as a unified and indivisible whole in Old Testament times and in the days of Jesus. They were either under the Law or not. It is not proper to pick through the Law and choose what aspects you want to pertain, while rejecting others. Worse still, altering a law, or aspect of the Law for continued use, without clear direction in Scriptures, is to be found making new law.
The new Law of Love, for all believers in Christ, clearly retains elements of the original Law as they are rooted in the Holiness and Perfection of God. This Law of Love is also called the Law of Christ (See Galatians 6:2). These moral laws cannot be abrogated since God himself cannot change. Lying is one great example: God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and we are called to be like Him (1 Peter 1:16). God has stated and restated, not to mention clarified, many of these absolutes throughout the New Testament. Before anyone hits us with a charge of antinomianism, we reaffirm our belief that the outworking of Christian faith will result in upholding this law. This in no way means that we are bound to all the intricacies, practices, and rules of the Old Law.
Faith enabled works -- made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers -- is a logical result of God working in our lives to make us holy (James 2:18). Wherein the heart of the law is a reflection of the Holiness of God, we will display this holiness in our lives as we grow in grace. It's not surprising that the Ten Commandments are restated all throughout the New Testament, specifically and in summary. Again, believing that Christians uphold the law cannot be construed to say that a believer is bound to follow all aspects of Mosaic Law. Inconsistency on this has enabled some denominations to variously continue Old Testament dietary laws, Saturday-only Sabbaths, and other arbitrary Old Testament practices. If you can randomly draw in one aspect, it becomes easy to do the same with additional.
Returning to a Covenantal view of the Law, and the need for specific abrogation, it should be easy to see that, at least, any aspect of the Law directly pertaining to temple worship no longer applies. Tithing was unquestionably a part of that ritual system, tied to the Levitical priesthood. With the temple's predicted destruction complete in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:1-2), God displayed the finality of the cessation of that form of worship for all time. The New Testament shows us that in Jesus all that Law centered on tabernacle/temple worship have been fulfilled - done away with in that fulfillment. Remember, laws that can be fulfilled and abrogated are not the universal moral law which permeates all of Scriptures, from Adam to us. This following excerpt, from an essay in support of Covenant theology, even tries to clarify just what Law is carried through from the Old Testament...
Again, tithing was inseparably attached to the temple system of worship, those temporary regulations introduced for Israel. If this element cannot be seen as being abrogated in Christ, how then can other elements of the sacrificial and mandated offering system be found as such? Merely because a practice is mentioned in the New Testament is insufficient grounds to continue it. Jesus, himself, worshipped at the temple with all that entailed including sacrifices, yet this does not place similar obligation on us. His acts of worship were that of one born under the Law, obligated to all of it, prior to its fulfillment in His death and resurrection.
If somehow, the Old Testament tithe of increase -- of only things grown, that was mostly consumed by the giver and family, or given to poor and those who by Law could own no property -- is brought into the New Covenant, how does its new form and practice have any foundation in the New Testament or the Old Testament? By definition it is a new law, in administration and substance, and without New Testament precedence or Scriptural authority for its institution. Does the principle of Sola Scriptura get thrown out for this one thing? At least those who hold baptism to be the covenantal replacement of circumcision have Scriptural evidence that Baptism was practiced in New Testament times and further evidence to the possible mode of such. Again, no such evidence exists for tithing.
History, too, condemns the view that tithing was a covenantal aspect of worship in the early church -- this is perhaps one of the most damming indictments on their modern inclusion of tithing. Not one example is found in support of tithing in the earliest church, while clear refutation of such an idea is extant. Perhaps the greatest condemnation of history is the casual explanation of the Roman Catholic Church that she developed and imposed this system, centuries after the church was founded by the apostles. To be fair, it is clear that the Protestant church of the modern era has done more than Rome to further develop and mandate the monetary tithe of today (...complete with its ever popular question "does the Bible teach we should tithe our gross or net income?"). Maybe it's time that all pro-tithing branches of covenantal theology need to get more consistent! Consistency, by definition, does not allow the church to invent new practices over time.
The new Law of Love, to which the Old Law pointed only in shadow, is not one of ritual, ceremony, mandatory services, offerings, or sacrifices. While our freedom -- displayed in gratitude and love -- is rooted in the standard of God's holiness and resultant demand of moral purity (1 Peter 1:15-16), we have been set free with only the admonition to not use our freedom to sin.