Justification and Covenant

The next section is rather oddly titled “Reformed Catholicity.” The section is about justification. Why didn’t they just say that, I wonder? The section itself is not too objectionable. However, it is not specific enough to guard against certain errors. For instance, how are they defining “works of the law?” This is a huge debate today in NT circles, and it would be nice for them to give us a definition. The Reformed position is that all works, good or bad, moral law or ceremonial law or civil law, are excluded from having any place in justification.

The denial section is very curious to me. Are they saying that it is not necessary to have a correct understanding of justification? The charitable read of this would be to say that they are saying that a correct understanding of justification is necessary but not sufficient for true faith. I would certainly agree with that. I agree that merely stating the doctrine correctly does not a Christian make. One can state it correctly, but be a demon. But who or what is the target of this denial? Or is there a target?

The next section is on the covenant of life. It is quite revealing that they are not willing to call it a covenant of works as the confession does. There are several problems with this section.

The first problem is that Adam didn’t have faith. He could see God. Faith is by definition (Hebrews 11:1) in something unseen. But the clear indication is that God talked directly with Adam face to face. Adam could hear the sound of God walking in the Garden. Adam was not justified by faith. And he certainly would not have received the eschatological body (1 Corinthians 15) by faith alone. He would have received it upon condition of perfect and personal obedience, as the confession says. This statement of the FV is obviously out of accord with WCF 7. It is also out of accord with how the Westminster divines interpreted the law (see LC 99). First point: the Westminster divines clearly saw the moral law as having been given to Adam (WCF 19.1-2). Second point: the Westminster divines clearly saw that the interpretation of the command of Genesis 1:28, the implied command of 2:15 (God would not have put the man there for a specific purpose without telling the man what that purpose was), and the explicit command of 2:16 are all subject to the same interpretive principles that the Ten Commandments have. Third point: if the moral law was given to Adam, then the eschatological body would have been to Adam upon condition of his obeying the moral law perfectly. These two statements are identical: “upon condition of perfect and personal obedience,” and “payment for service rendered.” This is pactum merit, not any kind of absolute merit or condign merit. Jason Stellman makes a great point about WCF 11’s phrase “exact justice” with regard to the typological connection to Christ’s person and work. Adam’s work was not exact justice, but Christ’s was. This statement of the FV is therefore completely contrary to the WCF:

the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.

This is an explicit denial of WCF 7.2, which says “life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” This is a denial of the Covenant of Works.

We shall now speak of Adam as being in covenant with God–the covenant of works. Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, becasue they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace. A’Brakel on the Covenant of Works