Getting the Garden Right

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(2 customer reviews)

This is an important book. The Bible tells the story of God’s salvation of sinners in Christ. But that story does not begin in Bethlehem. It begins, well, at the beginning, in the garden. Adam’s work and God’s rest set the stage for the rest of history.


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Listen to a podcast interview on The Sword & The Trowel with the author here.


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Getting the Garden Right
Adam’s Work and God’s Rest in Light of Christ

By Richard C. Barcellos

©2017 Founders Press
Printed in the United States of America
ISBN: 978-1-943539-08-6

320 pages (soft cover)

Additional information

Weight 1.3 lbs
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 1 in


“Nothing shapes how we interpret and apply the Bible as much as our understanding of covenant. Richard Barcellos offers us a helpful blend of biblical exegesis and theological reflection on the implications of covenant theology for God’s relationship with Adam and for the Lord’s Day. Though this book’s discussion is framed by debates among Baptist brethren, the issues are of great consequence to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. It serves as an effective antidote to New Covenant Theology, which, though saying many good things, can still do considerable damage to the church with regard to living out the Christian life practically and experientially. This is a welcome book written in an irenic spirit, and I pray that it will do much good in our day of great need to remain faithful to the biblically and carefully constructed covenant theology of our Puritan forebears. I am grateful that Dr. Barcellos underscores with clarity the vital importance of getting right the scriptural teaching on the covenant of works and on the Lord’s Day.”

Dr. Joel R. Beeke
President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics
Puritan Reformed Theology Seminary
and a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation
Grand Rapids, Michigan

“Richard Barcellos presents a compelling critique of New Covenant Theology. His work integrates biblical, historical, and systematic theology. His arguments are irenic but nevertheless potent as he demonstrates the important links between the covenant of works, the Sabbath, and eschatology. His research is deep, his exegetical spadework is thorough, and his arguments cogent. Anyone interested in uncovering the deficiencies in New Covenant Theology should definitely read this book.”

J. V. Fesko
Academic Dean
Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology
Westminster Seminary California

“If exegesis is the queen of our biblically-birthed theology and practice, then biblically-formed hermeneutics is the king. There is a crisis in biblical hermeneutics today, both of ignorance and consistent application, which hinders agreement and unity among all evangelicals, but especially among reforming Baptists. What is needed is a clear voice to explain sound hermeneutics and irenically to examine the hermeneutical errors of New Covenant Theology, which hinders the full reformation of grace-based Baptist churches. I find a loss of words to advocate the importance of Dr. Barcellos’ work, Getting the Garden Right, concerning the present status of biblical and historical reformation today among reforming Baptist students, pastors, and churches. It should be required reading in every Baptist seminary. The ‘Doctrines of Grace’ doth not a full reformation make. The rise of New Covenant Theology from the 1970s to the present day has challenged the biblical and confessional tenets of the Reformed faith, both for credobaptists and paedobaptists (e.g., covenant theology, the law and the gospel, the Sabbath, sanctification, etc.). Having dealt with the spreading teachings of New Covenant Theology since the late 1970s to the present day, I believe that its faulty hermeneutic has truncated the full Baptist reformation of a return to the more biblical faith and practice of our forefathers which so many of us had hoped for in the 70s. Dr. Barcellos has given us an irenic and thorough examination of New Covenant Theology’s hermeneutical errors, clear exegetical answers to most of its errors, and a robust defense of our historical Baptist faith. Therefore, first, I commend Dr. Barcellos himself for the highest level of Reformed hermeneutics, accurate biblical exegesis of texts involved, and an irenic theological correction to New Covenant Theology and some of its leaders. Second, I recommend Dr. Barcellos’ work with the highest commendation I can give: (1) I wish that I possessed the gifts and energy to have written it; (2) I believe every Baptist student and pastor should read it in light of today’s theological differences and confusion; and (3) I believe that it brings glory to our triune God for the cause of His revealed Truth. Dr. Barcellos’ thorough research and composition has given Reformed Baptists (and all evangelicals) a convincing apologetic for the faith of our Reformed Baptist forefathers which would advance a robust unity and reformation in our Baptist churches today. We have needed this work for a long time.”

Fred A. Malone, Ph. D.
Pastor of First Baptist Church, Clinton, Louisiana
Author of The Baptism of Disciples Alone

“Pastors and theologians have been called ‘God’s water treatment specialists,’ protecting the churches from bad water and subsequent bad health. In the history of Christianity, faithful pastors and theologians who have engaged and critiqued bad theology were doing ‘polemical theology.’ All pastors and theologians are called to serve the churches in this way and protect them from both bad doctrine and wrong teachers. Sadly, in our postmodern culture, few pastor-theologians engage in polemics and even fewer still do it well. Dr. Richard Barcellos is a welcome exception. He puts the churches in his debt in this tour de force examination of how God’s revelation in the garden of Eden plays itself out through the rest of the Bible. Irenically, and yet firmly, the author examines New Covenant Theology and finds it wanting in regards to the biblical revelation and the history of Reformed theology. I find this a great example of Christian scholarship in service to the churches. It is methodologically sound, respectful to those with whom it disagrees, and clearly written. The chapter on hermeneutics alone is worth the price of the book. I highly commend this book to all Reformed pastors and theologians, especially Baptist and ‘New Covenant’ pastors and theologians. I pastored for over 30 years in Reformed churches and this book would have helped the people of my church wanting to know why we were different from the church down the road and it would have been great to give to my New Covenant brethren with whom I dialogued for over 25 years. If all works of polemics were done like this, there would be more light on problematic doctrinal issues and greater unity and joy in the churches.”

Steve Martin
Coordinator of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA)

Getting the Garden Right is no garden-variety theology book. More fruitful than fault-finding, it produces the biblical testimony lushly, apprehended best in the tradition of Reformed orthodoxy, that God is blessing His creation toward a redemptive end which is indeed better than the beginning. The seeds of His purpose were all sown in Eden. The light of all Scripture helps us see them now. They bud, flourish, and flower in the Promised Seed, even our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the abundant fruition of God’s righteousness, gracious presence, and Sabbath rest. Even without a special interest in New Covenant Theology, reverent readers will appreciate this meditation on the paradise God has prepared for those who love Him. Were more dialogue about doctrinal differences conducted this way, more light would illumine our hearts, the breaches among brothers would decrease, and God would be more glorified. I would especially urge pastors to plow through these verdant fields of theological insight and to reap a harvest of enrichment for their own ministries of the Word.”

D. Scott Meadows
Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire

“This book will serve the reader well from several vantage points. It provides a clean window into present discussion concerning New Covenant Theology and Covenant Theology. This issue has deeply important implications for understanding aspects of coherence, continuity, and discontinuity over the whole biblical corpus. Barcellos speaks to friends, not to enemies, and makes a transparently honest attempt to present the New Covenant view according to its own best arguments. He then seeks to focus the discussion around places where he discerns missteps or inconsistencies in interpretation or theological development. Although there is agreement on a multitude of doctrines—very important Reformation doctrines—among the adherents of both parties in the discussion, Barcellos isolates the issues of the covenant in the garden of Eden and the theme of Sabbath rest, Christologically perceived, as keys to sorting out differences, with the hope that greater agreement can be attained. Barcellos provides a model of how to integrate tight contextual issues, broadly conceived hermeneutics, biblical theology, and systematic theology into a covenantal framework, an important issue for both groups participating in this discussion. I believe this is a great step forward in defining Covenant Theology vis a vis New Covenant Theology and will help establish a foundation for more focused and edifying interaction.”

Tom Nettles
Retired Professor of Historical Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

“Polemical writings frequently are like well-honed blades. An author enters the fray with his sword honed to a fine sharp edge and wields it seeking to destroy his opponent. But occasionally, one finds a writer who seeks to win his battle with kind and gracious words. In this polemical work, Dr. Richard Barcellos does just this. Examining some of the key tenets of a recently proposed system called ‘New Covenant Theology,’ he presents a well-considered, carefully constructed, and thoughtful engagement with several of the proponents of that system. Barcellos carefully exegetes Scripture in conversation with the past and present, presenting an evaluation and refutation, along with an exhortation to its adherents, of several central ideas of New Covenant Theology. Both friend and foe will profit from this book.”

James M. Renihan, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor of Historical Theology
Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
Westminster Seminary California
Escondido, California

“In Getting the Garden Right, Richard Barcellos not only draws a clear line of hermeneutical differences between New Covenant Theology and Covenant Theology, but so thoroughly dismantles the former while defining and defending the latter that the reader is left with one direction in which to move—toward a more biblical understanding of the garden of Eden, and therefore of the Christian faith. Careful exegesis, precise theology, and a kind spirit make this book a challenging and joyful read.”

Joe Thorn
Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship
St. Charles, Illinois

“Richard Barcellos has given us a real gem in his Getting the Garden Right. I know of no contemporary book like it. It is worth its weight in gold. Barcellos defends the confessional understanding of the covenant of works and the Sabbath rest through hermeneutics, exegesis, biblical theology, historical theology, and systematics. While the context for the book is discussion of these central doctrines with theologians within the New Covenant Theology movement, the book should be of interest to the wider Reformed community beyond Baptist circles. Barcellos has written theology as it ought to be written. Getting the Garden Right is polemical theology at its gentle best. I heartily recommend this volume for its depth of theological argumentation seasoned with grace, for its delineation and vindication of the doctrine of the covenant of works and the continuing validity of a Sabbath rest in this age, and for its clear example of theological method. You must not only read the cover of this book. Get the book, consume it, digest it, and then return to it annually and as often as you need.”

Rev. Jeffrey C. Waddington, Ph.D.
Stated Clerk & Archivist—Presbytery of Philadelphia
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Stated Supply & Ministerial Adviser—Knox OPC
Lansdowne, Pennsylvania

“Contentions about issues like covenant theology and the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, are too often bitter and negative, not to mention complex and confusing. Rich Barcellos’ newest offering on these topics is careful without being pedantic, thorough without being exhausting, thoughtful without being speculative, academic without being abstruse, fair without being soft, and pointed without being nasty. Rich builds gradual momentum through his book, digging ever deeper through the various strata of biblical, historical, and systematic theology to develop his case. Those who more or less agree with him will find this a helpful confirmation and a useful prompt to further careful study. Those who more or less disagree will find that this is no casual contribution, but a significant effort and a serious challenge to any who overlook, neglect or even carelessly dismiss the patterns, purposes, and privileges of the Lord’s Day as it is understood in the context of creation, fall, redemption, and coming glory.”

Jeremy Walker
Pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church
Crawley, England


  1. What is New Covenant Theology
  2. The Importance of Hermeneutics in Theological Formulation

Part 1: Adam’s Work in Light of Christ

  1. A Covenant of Works in the Garden: The New Covenant Theology Perspective
  2. A Covenant of Works in the Garden: The Confessional Formulation
  3. A Covenant of Works in the Garden: The Scriptural Arguments

Part 2: God’s Rest in Light of Christ

  1. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: The New Covenant Theology Perspective
  2. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: The Confessional Formulation
  3. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: Adam’s Identity and Vocation
  4. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: The Beginning and the End
  5. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: Genesis 2:1–3
  6. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: Exodus and the Prophets
  7. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: New Testament Fulfillment
  8. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: Hebrews 4:9–10
  9. The Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath: Revelation 1:10


Appendix: A review of New Covenant Theology: Description, Definition. Defense by Tom Wells and Fred Zapel

Index of Scripture References

Index of Names and Subjects


2 reviews for Getting the Garden Right

  1. karabeth (verified owner)

    This is a seminal, succinct, sensitive presentation of the crucial nexus of covenant theology and biblical hermeneutics. Exalting Christ and His grace through the gospel while filtering through the scope and sequence of all the Scriptures, this book will edify believers, educate scholars and engage critics. This volume demands an honest reading and deserves a wide distribution.

  2. nicholasjames (verified owner)

    Barcellos communicates in slightly repetitive but always rich and sensitive language. His pastoral nature is embedded in every page of the text, especially in his interactions with his theological opponents; always gracious and never condescending, he delivers sharp theological insight and corrections with authority and grace. Reformed theologians of all ages would be proud to see the fruit of their tradition in his ministry. His assertion of the plain and clear language of Scripture establishing a covenant with Adam and creation in Eden is poignant and effective. It should leave any informed reader without grounds for asserting the “word-concept fallacy”, as Barcellos very astutely points out, That NCT proponents are fond of using. Unfortunately, his work falls short on its second main point regarding the Christian Sabbath. His interaction with the key texts is limited by his purpose in writing and the space in which he interacts with the texts. I would love to interact with him in person, though I think that might be a bit unrealistic. After reading his work, I remain convinced that the Christian Sabbath is not an eschatological but current reality for those who have received the yoke of Christ and are justified by faith, having rested from their work in this life in hope of inheriting, not an Edenic state or Sabbath rest or promised land, but perfect unification with Christ that encompasses much more than the Sabbath that is currently enjoyed daily by those in Christ.

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