Typology in Psalm 18

This is a somewhat roundabout response to RINE, pp. 176 to the end of the chapter. Wilson is making his point with regard to Psalm 35 “Judge me, O Lord my God.” I am changing the text slightly to deal with something more sharp: Psalm 18.

Psalm 18 also has vindication language in verses 20ff. However, it would be a rare Christian who could pray this prayer comfortably. There are three main ways that people go with it. One is to downplay in an abstract sense the extent of the author’s righteousness, and say that he was as faithful as he could be, and that the text does not claim for David a perfect righteousness. The second way is (noting the historical background of this Psalm), to say that David’s righteousness is comparitive to Saul’s. In my opinion, this is better than the first interpretation, which does not take into account the historical background. However, there is a third interpretation, which is better yet, in my opinion. That is, that David is speaking typologically of being justified in Christ’s perfect righteousness. I believe that it is true that Christ is the ultimate Singer of the Psalms. The terms of the passage are fairly eye-opening: “my righteousness…kept the ways of the Lord…have not wickedly departed from my God…I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.” Two other signs point in a Messianic direction. The first is verse 43 “You made me the head of the nations.” The second is the last verse “to David and his offspring forever.” In other words, I interpret the language of vindication in the Psalms messianically. One could also say it is proleptic with regard to being justified by Christ before Christ came. The same argument can definitely be made regarding Psalm 26.

In other words, I am not necessarily saying that the thrust of page 176 is wrong. I am saying that it needs this additional nuance. The interpretation of the Psalms does not lead in a direct line to our own application, by-passing Christ. Wilson points in this direction, actually, when he mentions the key qualification introduced by Psalm 143:2 and 130:3.

Query: what does Wilson mean by “justifying vindications” on page 178, third full paragraph? Does this imply some sort of process justification?

I must take issue with his phrasing on page 179. The paragraph seems to indicate that since we do not have access to election in the mind of God, that therefore we should look at things through the lense of the here and now covenant. I was just reading in Turretin something very helpful indeed. He said that the secret decrees of God do not always remain secret. What God has ordained becomes visible when it actually happens. So, although we cannot know our election a priori, before the event, we can most certainly know it after conversion, a posteriori. This gets at what is a serious bone of contention between the FV and its critics: can we know that we are decretally elect? The answer is yes, as long as put the previous qualifications on it. This in no way hints at an uncertain assurance. Rather it hints at the way in which we can say that we know what God’s decree states after the fact. In the eschaton, we will know much more of the secret decree of God, since the finality of all things will have come to pass. I certainly do not want to say that we will know all the secret decree of God. But we will know more of it. God’s secret decree is called secret only before it has been revealed. God’s decree is revealed in God’s providence. Therefore, we can speak in terms of God’s decree, and not just covenantally.

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102 Comments

  1. Steven Carr said,

    March 3, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Lane,

    In practical terms, how should Christians pray and sing this psalm and others like it?

  2. greenbaggins said,

    March 3, 2008 at 11:56 am

    The Psalms apply to us as we are in Christ. We can pray such Psalms, but only clothed with the righteousness of Christ. In other words, we need to be mindful of our justification in Christ as we pray such Psalms.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    March 3, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    First of all, not everything on the type level has to apply to the antitype. Secondly, Jesus was delivered from death, which was temporarily the master over Jesus, although it is certainly true that Jesus laid down His life.

  4. R. F. White said,

    March 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Lane,

    In view of your interaction about Ps 18, you sound as if you believe typology is to be subordinated to the concerns, methods, and conclusions of systematic theology–in other words, that analogical reasoning must be subordinated to and consistent with reasoning from Scripture’s propositions and their implications. No?

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    It sounds right. I’ve never quite answered a question like that before. Typology definitely has ST as its boundary. So, I would agree.

  6. its.reed said,

    March 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Ref. 5:

    Dr. White, now that’s an iron sharpening point! Of course, you are expanding the foundational hermeneutical principle, Scripture-interprets-Scripture. As always, to the degree our ST is consistent with this foundation, it serves effectively as a fence for typology.

    It leads me to wonder to what degree the FV men have consciously allowed their typology to shape their ST. Its as if some key typologically related committments have driven them out of ST bounds – and now they’re scrambling to demonstrate that they are still in bounds, by either changing the ST boundary or sheer assertion.

    Lane, your interpretation here sits well with me . As I’ve worked through similar passages in the Psalms, the only way to understand what the writer is saying is to understand him to be speaking from the perspective of faith. David declares not what is inherently true of himself, but what is true of by faith.

  7. March 3, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I think Kline is helpful when it comes to the “my righteousness” passages in the OT. His argument is that there was a “relative national fidelity” that Israel had to maintain in order to stay in the land. It wasn’t perfect righteousness that was required by Moses, for if it was, they would have marched across the Jordan straight into exile.

    But when they started thinking that this “relative righteousness” was sufficient to secure the new heavens and earth, well, that’s when Paul got mad at them.

  8. R. F. White said,

    March 3, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Re: #1 — Tremper Longman’s book, How To Read the Psalms, has some helpful instruction on how Christians and the church pray and sing psalms generally and those like Ps 18 too. There’s also Bruce K. Waltke, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms,” Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg (ed. J. S. Feinberg and P. D. Feinberg; Chicago: Moody, 1981) 3-18. What Waltke and Longman helped me appreciate was that Israel’s king was the representative of the people during worship, and, more broadly, the nation’s life and death were tied to the king’s official conduct. Israel’s king had God’s charge to engage in holy warfare on the nation’s behalf to make it secure and pure for fellowship with God at Zion’s temple. So, the king was central to the nation’s worship: he sang with them in mind; they sang with him in mind. We pray and sing the psalms generally with Christ our King in mind, knowing that He succeeds where we fail. WLC Q. 45 (How doth Christ execute the office of a king?) brings His official royal conduct into focus.

  9. Matt Beatty said,

    March 3, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Jason,

    Thinking out loud, here. Go easy on a Gordon-Conwell grad…

    I’ve heard (but haven’t taken the time to read) that Lusk posits something like what you’re talking about (a “relative national fidelity”) with regards to how you and I – and our children – relate to the Lord post-resurrection. That is, God deals with us with a “fatherly” or “soft” justice. Christ’s righteousness is perfect, of course, and serves as the ground for our justification. But God deals with us (calling us “righteous” or “blameless,” etc.) IN CHRIST with a softer judgment. I’m just wondering… if Moses, the land, Israel, etc. are all types, why can’t this “relative national fidelity” be a type, too. That is, faithfulness to Sinai covenant doesn’t EARN anyone the promises made to Abraham (salvation), but it does keep them in the land, indicate their attitudes to YHWH, etc. Is there a parallel in the New Covenant?

    Thanks.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    March 3, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Rey, the reason it is usually used that way is that the decrees of God are not known to humanity until they are executed. We cannot know them beforehand. Therefore, they are secret to us in that respect.

  11. J.R. Polk said,

    March 3, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    #10

    Why do you guys insist on using the word decree incorrectly?

    Thus far Rey, the word “decree” has been used properly. The use employed here is a confessional one.

    Wesminster Shorter Catechism

    Q7: What are the decrees of God?

    A7: The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

  12. March 3, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Matt,

    Kline’s argument would be that the righteousness by which God accepts us now is the perfect righteounsess of Christ which is imputed to us through faith alone.

    The same was true of individual elect Israelites — they were accepted on the basis of the Abrahamic promises and were justified through faith alone just like we are.

    But in addition to this, the Old Covenant offered Israel the enjoyment of the land through a relative national fidelity to God’s covenant. This situation recapitulated the pre-fall arrangement in that you have God’s holy people living in God’s holy land obeying God’s holy law.

    Since both Israel and Adam failed, Jesus has come as the second Adam and true Israelite who secures the true land (new heavens and earth) by his perfect (not relative) obedience to God’s law.

    This is why the FV’ists need to argue for, rather than simply assume, that there is a “corporate election of the church.” Against them I would argue that the tenuous situation in which we must retain our covenant blessings by faith-plus-obedience was typological and applied only to the Jews in the land.

    Hope that helps.

  13. March 3, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    And that tenuous situation was meant to remain until Christ came (Gal 3:24ff) for the purpose of highlighting our hopelessness without a Savior. It was not to continue to plague us now that the work of salvation has been accomplished.

  14. pduggie said,

    March 4, 2008 at 12:47 am

    I don’t think that suits the letters to the Churches in Revelation. Those letters, if anything, describe Christ looking for relative ecclesiastical fidelity, and use Old Testament dispensations as analogies to each church’s situation in each case.

  15. Tom Wenger said,

    March 4, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Rey,

    A little more familiarity with Reformed theology would help you to see that you don’t have to demean us as those who “want to look as though you don’t know English.”

    In the future you could save some face by simply asking for some clarity on the meaning of certain terms which have been very well defined and understood by those who know Reformed theology.

  16. Matt Beatty said,

    March 4, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Jason,

    Thanks – your explanation helped to clarify some things, but I think the issue’s still a little fuzzy to me. I think (though I could be wrong) we all agree that Christ’s righteousness is the ground of our acceptance with the Father in the same way that it was the ground of all those individually elect Israelites (Rom. 4). I guess my question is (and maybe I’m missing this in your answer): Is there a lifestyle exhibited by the OT saint (as an individual or perhaps as a group/family/nation) that could be described as “faithful” or “righteous” or “blameless” (Phil. 3) where the standard by which the Israelite is judged is not the perfect standard of righteousness (required for justification and manifested only by Christ), but a ‘soft’ standard – one based on the requirements, say, of the OT law regarding sacrifice for sin.

    If there is, then might that standard be a type or perhaps have a corollary in the NT where saints can be/should be described as faithful, righteous, etc? And, to take it one step further, could we say – in this limited sense – that one’s faithfulness affects one’s standing in the kingdom? Or does that go too far?

    Thanks.

  17. Tom Wenger said,

    March 4, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Matt,

    Great questions. I agree with Kline and with Jason’s excellent summary of his view, but I think that it that while God did indeed demand strict perfection from them in the covenant stipulations (see Deu 28:1-29:1), He enforced them with a measure of grace and mercy as the sacrificial system so clearly shows.

    But nevertheless, the Jewish problem in the 1st century was that they thought that the “
    righteousness demanded of them by God’s merciful standard, actually permitted them to claim true righteousness. They though that beyond inhabiting the land this could bring them the pronouncement of “dikaios!” at the throne of God which is patently false.

    A measure of obedience and the blood of bulls and goats could keep you in the Land, but it could not get you behind the Curtain. This is why there is such distance described between the New and Old Covenants in Scripture, and why the kind of comparison that Lusk and Jordan draw does not work.

    Under the Old Cov it as possible to be declared just in one instant, and yet not later on; to be within God’s favor at one point and then without later. This could be true even for one who was justified by faith under the promises of the Abrahamic covenant. Their sins could have been paid for, for all eternity, but yet their faithfulness to the Old Cov stipulations wanting enough that they were exiled from that Kingdom.

    And this is precisely what cannot be the case for the New Cov believer. Because the kingdom we inherit is spiritual and won for us, there is no sense in which we can be out of favor, or exiled from His kingdom.

    I have found Calvin’s explanation of this helpful in his comments on Gal 3:17-18,

    “He tells us that God made two covenants with men; one through Abraham, and another through Moses. THE FORMER, BEING FOUNDED ON CHRIST, WAS FREE; and therefore the law, which came after, could not enable men to obtain salvation otherwise than by grace, for then, “it would make the promise of none effect.” That this is the meaning appears clearly from what immediately follows….Let us carefully remember the reason why, in comparing the promise with the law, the establishment of the one overturns the other. The reason is, that the promise has respect to faith, and the law to works. Faith receives what is freely given, but to works a reward is paid. And he immediately adds, “God gave it to Abraham”, not by requiring some sort of compensation on his part, but by free promise; FOR IF YOU VIEW IT AS CONDITIONAL, THE WORD GAVE, WOULD BE UTTERLY INAPPLICABLE.”

    Thus the conditionality that Lusk and Jordan try to drag into justification in the New Covenant era is simply their refusal to see the Old Covenant as cancelled.

    Does that make any sense? Let me know if / where I have only muddied the waters.

  18. March 4, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Matt,

    You ask:

    “Is there a lifestyle exhibited by the OT saint (as an individual or perhaps as a group/family/nation) that could be described as “faithful” or “righteous” or “blameless” (Phil. 3) where the standard by which the Israelite is judged is not the perfect standard of righteousness (required for justification and manifested only by Christ), but a ’soft’ standard – one based on the requirements, say, of the OT law regarding sacrifice for sin.”

    I don’t know how others would respond, but I would say yes, there is. I may even be inclined to answer “yes” to your second question as well. Obviously when Paul says that an elder must be “blameless” he is speaking in a relative sense (for if he were speaking of blamelessness by imputed righteousness, then all believers could apply for the job).

    But as I’ve argued before, the degree of sanctification may affect the degree of heavenly reward on the last day, but it does not stand as the basis for “final justification.”

  19. pduggie said,

    March 4, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    “And this is precisely what cannot be the case for the New Cov believer. Because the kingdom we inherit is spiritual and won for us, there is no sense in which we can be out of favor, or exiled from His kingdom.”

    Jesus holds the bad churches in revelation in his favor? When he removes their lampstand, he’s not exiling them?

  20. David R. said,

    March 4, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Mark Karlberg discusses the issue Matt raises in chapter six of this online book: http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Covenant%20Theology%20in%20Reformed%20Perspective.pdf

  21. Ken said,

    March 4, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    I’m curious too about an additional, NT example which, as a laymen with admittedly limited scope, I’ve never seen addressed in discussions of the “righteous psalmist.” What of Luke’s account of Zacharias and Elizabeth as stated in Luke 1:6 where the two are described as “just”, “righteous” and “blameless” depending upon the English translation? The context of the label “righteous” here doesn’t appear to be based on a single instant (at the moment of completion of an atoning sacrifice) but rather a commentary on an exemplary life. It would appear to suggest as well that conceiving and bearing a child (John the Baptist no less) was a/the reward for a life well-lived and not tied to any “land of Israel” benefit.

    Ken

  22. Matt Beatty said,

    March 4, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Jason and Tom,

    I appreciate your comments. I’m going to have to do some more thinking. And thanks to you too, David R., for the Karlberg reference.

    I’m not sure I’m completely on-board, but I’m going to have to do some additional thinking. For starters, what does it mean to have “strict justice” in place, but to “enforce” it with mercy? Isn’t this a de facto different standard?

    Thanks.

    Thanks.

  23. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 4, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    “there is no sense in which we can be out of favor, or exiled from His kingdom.”

    Wrong: 1 Cor. 5:4-5 shows clearly that excommunication is indeed exile, being returned to the power of the prince of this age from whom we were delivered. This person in question may be elect–such in Paul’s hope in v. 5, but for the mean time he has been actually kicked out of the spiritual kingdom.

  24. March 4, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Matt,

    You ask:

    “… what does it mean to have “strict justice” in place, but to “enforce” it with mercy?”

    I would say that the Mosaic Covenant, narrowly understood, neither offers eternal life nor requires absolute perfection in its subjects. If it did the former, Israelites would have been saved through the law since some are called “blameless” or “righteous” (as you point out).

    If it did the latter (require absolute obedience), Israel would have marched across the Jordan straight into Babylon with no experience of blessing in the land whatsoever.

    The problem that Rom. 2 highlight, however, is that of Jews thinking that the standard needed to secure earthly Mosaic blessings is enough to earn them heavenly, Abrahamic ones.

  25. March 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Joshua,

    I’m glad you’re pressing this point as I think it is an important one.

    Is it possible that the tension is somewhat relieved by highlighting the particular covenant that is being transgressed in a particular case?

    So since the Mosaic Covenant is a works covenant (a premise I know not all will grant), its subjects can be exiled for their failure to obey the stipulated terms (or, for failure to perform the works required by the law).

    The New Covenant is a gracious covenant requiring faith, meaning that any excommunication only happens for a failure to repent and believe, and not for the sin committed.

    Now I know what you’re thinking…. Yes, the OC required FAITHFUL obedience, and yes, the NC requires good works. But at their respective cores, Moses says “Do this and live” while Jesus says “It is finished.”

  26. pduggie said,

    March 4, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    “So since the Mosaic Covenant is a works covenant (a premise I know not all will grant), its subjects can be exiled for their failure to obey the stipulated terms (or, for failure to perform the works required by the law).”

    But then that means that the Israelites when NOT exiled, had merited their continuance by works. They “lived” solely because they “did” with no “grace” required. Which is wrong.

  27. Tom Wenger said,

    March 4, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Josh,

    Obviously we can draw analogies that can say that just as Israel as disciplined, so the New Cov believer can also be disciplined to the point of excommunication. Additionally, we can even use analogies that describe that as being temporarily outside of the Kingdom. (Calvin even does so in 1 Cor 5).

    But that was never the issue being debated. Specifically it was the issue of our maintaining our place in the kingdom through obedience like in the Old Covenant, vs. that being done for us in the New. Because even though Calvin utilizes the analogy of being cast out, he immediately qualifies it to avoid the error that Lusk, Schlissel and Jordan fall into. And in that light, there is no sense in which a justified believer can lose their New Covenant membership.

    “My answer, then, is, (as I have already in part stated,) that the destruction of the flesh is opposed to the salvation of the spirit, simply because the former is temporal and the latter is eternal… The clause that follows, for the destruction of the flesh, is made use of for the purpose of softening; for Paul’s meaning is not that the person who is chastised is given over to Satan to be utterly ruined, or so as to be given up to the devil in perpetual bondage, but that it is a temporary condemnation, and not only so, but of such a nature as will be salutary. For as the salvation equally with the condemnation of the spirit is eternal, he takes the condemnation of the flesh as meaning temporal condemnation. “We will condemn him in this world for a time, THAT THE LORD MAY PRESERVE HIM IN HIS KINGDOM.” [Calvin, Commentary on 1 Cor 5:5)

    So if we simply draw analogies, fine. But if we carry over the conditionality of the Old Covenant into the New like Lusk, Schlissel and Jordan, then we completely miss the crux of Paul’s contrast in Gal 3.

  28. March 4, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Pduggie,

    No, because in order for the typology to work and for God to retell the Adamic story, this time with an already-fallen people, he had to both relax the terms of the covenant (which I mentioned above) and also to cover their sins through sacrifice.

    So Moses does graciously provide a way for Israel to retain their enjoyment of the land by their faithful obedience to the law. But where the analogy to us breaks down is when we say that that same “faithful obedience to the law” can secure the heavenly reward.

  29. Tom Wenger said,

    March 4, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    In reference to # 28, why is that wrong?

    This is specifically the way that Calvin describes the relationship between the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. When he is explaining Paul’s words in Galatians 3:17 he says,

    “He tells us that God made two covenants with men; one through Abraham, and another through Moses. THE FORMER, BEING FOUNDED ON CHRIST, WAS FREE; and therefore the law, which came after, could not enable men to obtain salvation otherwise than by grace, for then, ‘it would make the promise of none effect.’ That this is the meaning appears clearly from what immediately follows.”

    But contrary to your interpretation of that arrangement, Calvin then uses the very language that you claim is incorrect:

    “What, then, is meant by this disannulling of the promise, against which the apostle contends? The impostors denied that salvation is freely promised to men, and received by faith, and, as we shall presently see, urged the necessity of works in order to merit salvation. I return to Paul’s own language. “The law,” he says, ‘is later than the promise, and therefore does not revoke it; for a covenant once sanctioned must remain perpetually binding.’ I again repeat, if you do not understand that the promise is free, there will be no force in the statement; for the law and the promise are not at variance but on this single point, that THE LAW JUSTIFIES A MAN BY THE MERIT OF WORKS, and the promise bestows righteousness freely. This is made abundantly clear when he calls it [the Abrahamic] a covenant founded on Christ.”

    Elsewhere Calvin mentions that though gracious and merciful elements are present within the Mosaic administration, they are “accidental” to this question. In His comments on Gal 3:18 he says,

    “Many promises, no doubt, relating to the free mercy of God and to Christ, are to be found in his writings; and these promises belong to faith. BUT THIS MUST BE VIEWED AS ACCIDENTAL, AND ALTOGETHER FOREIGN TO THE INQUIRY, so far as a comparison is made between the law and the doctrine of grace. Let it be remembered, that the amount of the question is this: When a promise had been made, why did Moses afterwards ADD THAT NEW CONDITION, ‘IF A MAN DO, HE SHALL LIVE IN THEM’ and, ‘Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them?’ Was it to produce something better and more perfect?”

    Obviously you’re free to disagree with Calvin, but know that is what you are doing by rejecting this paradigm.

  30. Matt Beatty said,

    March 5, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Jason,

    Based on this comment:

    “So since the Mosaic Covenant is a works covenant (a premise I know not all will grant)…”

    Do you (and other PCA ministers with your understanding of things) take an exception to WCF 7:5 and 6 where the covenant with Moses is subsumed under the Covenant of Grace, i.e. one covenant with two administrations?

    If not, why not?

    Thanks.

  31. R. F. White said,

    March 5, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Here’s the way I see it. Taking the Mosaic Covenant was a republication of the Covenant of Works does not entail an exception to WCF 7 because the Mosaic Covenant was modified to be compatible with the Covenant of Grace. Specifically, the modification is in the fact that the Mosaic Covenant limited the application of the principle of personal (including corporate/national) merit to the retention of earthly and temporal (i.e., typological) blessings. Granted the failure of Israel and Adam, they ought thereby to learn the common lesson from their respective (pedagogical) probations. That lesson is, if they were ever both to receive and to retain the heavenly and eternal blessings, they must find those blessings in that one Seed of the woman and Abraham, born under the Law, who had proven to be non posse peccare according to the Covenant of Works first published in Eden and then republished (with modifications) in the Mosaic Covenant at Sinai.

  32. R. F. White said,

    March 5, 2008 at 9:53 am

    In #33, the words “Taking the Mosaic Covenant WAS” should have been “Taking the Mosaic covenant AS.” Sorry.

  33. Tom Wenger said,

    March 5, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Matt,

    Since I agree with Jason on this issue, I hope you don’t mind if I give my two cents on that topic. Notice that WCF 7.5 says “This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel”. It does not say that Moses itself was a covenant of grace, but that the covenant of grace as administered differently during the mosaic era than in the New Covenant era. So it is not saying that the Mosaic as in and of itself a covenant of grace, but that The Covenant of Grace did not cease to exist during the Mosaic era.

    I do not take exception to the confession on this issue because I thoroughly believe that Moses serves the Covenant of Grace by functioning as a covenant of law. This is I believe exactly what Paul had in mind when he said that “the law as put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”

    Additionally, this is exactly what the rich history of Reformed Covenant theology has affirmed. You can’t do better than Herman Witsius’ “The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man.” I really apologize for how long this is, but it is just too rich to trim don any more.

    4.4.47. Now concerning this covenant made upon the Ten Commandments, it is queried, Whether it was a covenant of works or a covenant of grace? We judge proper to premise some things previous to the determination of this question. AND FIRST, WE OBSERVE THAT, IN THE MINISTRY OF MOSES THERE WAS A REPETITION OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE LAW OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS. For both the very precepts are inculcated on which the covenant of works was founded, and which constituted the condition of that covenant; and that sentence is repeated, “which if a man do he shall live in them,” Lev. xviii.5, Ezek. Xx.11,13, … NOW THE APOSTLE DECLARES THAT THIS IS THE CURSE OF THE LAW, AS THE LAW IS OPPOSED TO FAITH, OR THE COVENANT OF GRACE. NAY AS THE REQUIREMENT OF OBEDIENCE WAS RIGID UNDER THE MINISTRY OF MOSES, THE PROMISES OF SPIRITUAL AND SAVING GRACE WERE MORE RARE AND OBSCURE, THE MEASURE OF THE SPIRIT GRANTED TO THE ISRAELITES, SCANTY AND SHORT, Deut.xxix.4, and on the contrary, the denunciations of the curse frequent and express; hence the ministry of Moses is called, “the ministration of death and condemnation, 2 Cor. iii.7,9, doubtless because it mentioned the condemnation of the sinner, and obliged the Israelites to subscribe to it.

    4.4.48. Secondly we more especially remark that, when the law was given from Mt. Sinai or Horeb, THERE WAS A REPETITION OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS. For, those tremendous signs of thunders and lightings, of an earthquake, a thick smoke and black darkness, were adapted to strike Israel with great terror….AND THE APOSTLE IN THIS MATTER, Heb xii.18-22, SETS MOUNT SINAI IN OPPOSITION TO MT. ZION, THE TERRORS OF THE LAW TO THE SWEETNESS OF THE GOSPEL.

    4.4.49. Thirdly, we are not, however, to imagine that the doctrine of the Covenant of Works was repeated in order to set up again that such a covenant with the Israelites, in which they were to seek for righteousness and salvation…Besides if the Israelites were taught to seek salvation by the works of the law, then the law had been contrary to the promise, made to the fathers many ages before. But now says the Apostle, Gal. iii.17 “the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was 430 years after, cannot disannul, that is should make the promise of none effect.” THE ISRAELITES WERE, THEREFORE, THUS PUT IN THE MIND OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS, IN ORDER TO CONVINCE THEM OF THEIR SIN AND MISERY, TO DRIVE THEM OUT OF THEMSELVES, TO SHEW THEM THE NECESSITY OF A SATISFACTION, AND TO COMPEL THEM TO CHRIST. And so their being thus brought to a REMEMBRANCE OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS TENDED TO PROMOTE THE COVENANT OF GRACE.

    4.4.53. Nor was it formally a Covenant of Grace: because that requires not only obedience but also promises and bestows the strength to obey. For, thus the Covenant of Grace is made known, Jer. xxxii.39, “I will give them one heart, and one way that they may fear me forever.” But such a promise appears not in the covenant made at Mt. Sinai. NAY; GOD ON THIS VERY ACCOUNT DISTINGUISHES THE NEW COVENANT OF GRACE FROM THE SINAITIC, Jer. xxx.31-33. And Moses loudly proclaims, Deut. xxix.4, “yet the Lord hath no given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” Certainly the chosen among Israel had obtained this. YET NOT IN VIRTUE OF THIS COVENANT, WHICH STIPULATED OBEDIENCE BUT GAVE NO POWER FOR IT: BUT IN THE VIRTUE OF THE COVENANT OF GRACE, WHICH ALSO BELONGED TO THEM.

    4.4.54. What was [the Mosaic Covenant] then? It was a national covenant between God and Israel, whereby Israel promised to God a sincere obedience to all His precepts, especially ot the ten words; God, on the other hand, promised to Israel, that such an observance would be acceptable to Him, nor want its reward, both in this life, and in that which is to come, both to soul and body. THIS RECIPROCAL PROMISE SUPPOSED A COVENANT OF GRACE…IT ALSO SUPPOSED THE DOCTRINE OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS, THE TERROR OF WHICH BEING INCREASED BY THOSE TREMENDOUS SIGNS THAT ATTENDED IT, THEY OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN EXCITED TO EMBRACE THAT COVENANT OF GOD. This agreement therefore is a consequent of the Covenant of Grace and of the covenant of works, but was formally neither the one nor the other….IF ANYONE SHOULD ASK ME, OF WHAT KIND, WHETHER OF WORKS OR GRACE? I SHALL ANSWER, IT WAS FORMALLY NEITHER: BUT A COVENANT OF SINCERE PIETY, WHICH SUPPOSES BOTH. (vol. 2, p 182-186)

  34. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Ref. #27: Jason, you write

    The New Covenant is a gracious covenant requiring faith, meaning that any excommunication only happens for a failure to repent and believe, and not for the sin committed.

    I’m not quite sure I understand the distinction you seem to be making. How is failing to repent and believe not a sin committed? Or to say it another way, wouldn’t continuing in high-handed sin under any covenant be nothing more than a longterm failure to repent and believe?

    I’ve probably misunderstood. Thanks for providing more light, if you get time.

  35. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Question for everyone with Kline-like leanings: How does your particular paradigm account for warnings like the ones found in Rev. 2-3? What does it mean for a church to have it’s lampstand removed for disobedience to Christ?

  36. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Stupid typo in #37. “It’s” should be “its”. Sorry gents.

  37. R. F. White said,

    March 5, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    37 — Ken Christian,

    As I understand it, for a church to have its lampstand removed for disobedience to Christ means that it is one of those particular churches in the catholic visible church who have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.

  38. March 5, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Ken,

    You ask:

    “I’m not quite sure I understand the distinction you seem to be making. How is failing to repent and believe not a sin committed? Or to say it another way, wouldn’t continuing in high-handed sin under any covenant be nothing more than a longterm failure to repent and believe?”

    Since the Mosaic Covenant required obeying the works of the law, Israel could be exiled (and was) for not “obeying all things written in the book of the law, to do them.”

    To whatever degree church discipline today is an application of the same exile principle (and I’m not fully convinced it is, I was just adopting that view to answer Joshua), we must admit that people are not brought under church disciplin for their actual sin itself, but for their failure to repent of it.

    My point is simply that just because both the Old and New Covenants may result in discipline doesn’t change the fact that the former was a legal covenant while the latter is a gracious one.

  39. Mike said,

    March 5, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Re #35
    Tom

    For the New Covenant believer, don’t we promise to God a sincere obedience to His precepts as well as embrace the warnings and terrors as members of the body of Christ? Doesn’t Scripture use these warnings/exhortations as a means for our preservation in the Covenant of Grace.(with Fatherly blessings/rewards being bestowed both temporally and eternally according to these acts of piety). This is how I understand the relationship b/w progressive sanctification and the rewards according to our acts of piety, or our good works in Christ. Can’t we avoid the errors of legalism and antinomianism by speaking this way? I guess I see in the CoG a covenant of piety…am I misunderstanding Witsius on 4.4.54?

  40. March 5, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I think it is useful to think of excommunication as being the result of failing to meet the terms of the CoG. Namely, the requirement of faith (WCF 7.3). And, notice, the only condition is faith. We are not excommunicated on account of our sin, but rather because a failure to repent of that sin demonstrates that we don’t have faith and therefore do not meet the condition of the CoG.

  41. March 5, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    David,

    You’re exactly right, which is why we cannot simply draw a line straight from the Mosaic Covenant to the New, saying that we are in every bit as precarious and tenuous a situation as they were.

  42. March 5, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    This is clearly where the neat and tidy of this particular theology seems to be overly precise (imo). Hebrews 3-4 make plain that the requirement under Moses was “faith” since, according to Scripture, they were kept from rest in the land “because of unbelief”. And yet the author is also able to say, without being in error, they were kept out “because of disobedience”.

    It is hard to say on one hand folks are excommunicated today because of “no faith” and that has nothing to do with disobedience. Or to say, it’s not the sins that get them excommunicated by the lack of repentance. Is that a distinction we want to make? The author of Hebrews can at the same time say it was “unbelief” and “disobedience”. I don’t believe he is equating the two or collapsing them to mean the same thing, but at the same time he is not positing them against one another as seems to be happening above.

    So what am I missing (and I don’t say that sarcastically)?

  43. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks, Jason, for answering my question. I’m still not sure if I see a difference. Didn’t Israel go into exile for failing to repent of her idolatry (and various other high-handed sins)? See below:

    Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.” (they didn’t repent, of course)

  44. Tom Wenger said,

    March 5, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Hey, Ken,

    In reference to #37, I think that this simply comes down to the essence of the visible vs. invisible church. Thus I concur with Dr. White, David and Jason here.

    The visible, whether at the level of merely external members, or entire congregations and even denominations, can indeed fall away, never to be recovered. But invisible, or internal members of the New Covenant cannot lose their status as such.

    This is Turretin’s take on the specific situation of Rev 2:5 and the loss of the lampstand:

    “It is one thing that the visible and external church of the called can fail and has often failed in its various parts, which we grant , as it appears from the example of the Jewish church and various Christian churches. Here belongs the taking away of the kingdom and the removal of the candlestick, of which Christ speaks in Mt. 21:43 and Rev. 2:5. However it is another thing that the invisible church of the elect can fail, which we deny. It is evident by the perpetual consent of Scripture and of experience that always, even in the most disturbed and corrupt times, some reservation of the church according to gratuitous election was made.” (Institutes, vol. 3, Q. 8.7.XV).

    Does that make sense?

  45. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Hey Tom. Yeah, that makes sense. I totally agree. Is there anything uniquely “Klinean” about what you wrote? That’s where I’m still a bit confused, I think.

  46. pduggie said,

    March 5, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    The old covenant wasn’t a precarious situation. Read Kings. God gave them hundreds of years to repent and do works, and scandalously accepts the repentence of people like Ahab and Jereboam.

    It took alot of ACTIVE EVIL for God to get to the point of taking them into exile. It wasn’t just a few missed sacrifices or failure to unmuzzle their oxen

  47. March 5, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Jesse,

    I addressed your question in #27 above, the gist of which is to say that no one is positing a six-foot-thick wall separating repentance/faith on the one side and obedience on the other.

    But it should be pretty clear from the Bible, from Calvin, and from the Reformed tradtion more broadly that the Mosaic Covenant demanded works primarily, while the New Covenant requires faith in Christ and his work. Calvin went so far as to say that the gracious aspects of the Old Covenant were “incidental” to its core, which is a demand for law-keeping.

    So my argument is simply that we approach cases of “disinheritance” covenantally (by which I mean letting the terms be spelled out by the actual covenant that is being broken). Covenant curse for Israel happened due primarily to disobedience, it happens now due to failure to repent, and to receive and rest upon Christ.

  48. March 5, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Ken (#47),

    “Klinean” is a convenient label used by people who think that covenant theology started with John Murray.

  49. pduggie said,

    March 5, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    if the OC was a covenant of works, then the Israelites could have prevented the exile by being very good Roman Catholics, instead of protestants, trusting in God alone.

    Which makes no sense.

  50. March 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Paul (may I call you “Paul”?),

    Exile was a typological judgment in a typological theocracy. In that typological situation, Israel was supposed to secure earthly, land-blessings by their (faithful) obedience to God’s law.

    Hence Horton’s position that “covenantal nomism” is a valid description of the pattern of OT religion.

    Do you see it differently?

  51. Tom Wenger said,

    March 5, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Paul,

    In ref to this discussion so far, are going to try to interact with the Reformed tradition on this, or just continue to shoot from the hip?

    I’m not really sure what you comment here even proves. No one is saying that God as not merciful and gracious in His administration of the Mosaic Covenant. It’s just that the stipulations, were not merciful. Read Deu 28-29:1. Those are the terms of the covenant, and they do not permit ANY deviation . However, that situation then actually highlights how merciful God is during that era because He DOES forgive so much despite what He has a right to punish under that Covenant’s demands.

    Israel’s sins would not be very heinous if they hadn’t been required to obey all that much. But the height of God’s demands highlighted their sin (just like our tradition says) and thus it made them and all who read their story thirst for Christ.

  52. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Jason, you would, of course, say that faithless works done under the OC would not meet the OC’s demands, right?

  53. Tom Wenger said,

    March 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Ken,

    I don’t see anything particularly “Klinean” in what I wrote in the sense that it is an innovation or an insight that he pioneered.

    I think that some of Kline’s detractors are not that well versed in traditional Reformed covenant theology, and thus they see some things that he says as new when they are merely things mined from the 16th and 17th centuries.

    I do not endorse Kline across the board, but I do see him as faithful to the tradition at large.

  54. March 5, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Ken,

    Right, “faithless works” may have been done in conformity to the outward demand of the law, but without faith, they are ultimately profitless.

  55. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks Tom. Question about #53 regarding Deut 28:

    Does keeping all of God’s commandments include running to him for mercy (in the form of the sacrificial system) when one sins? Did he not command this? Isn’t mercy built into the stipulations?

  56. March 5, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Jason,

    I understand the basic argument. It just seems that extra-biblical constraints are put on when we are told that when approaching “disinheritance” in the NC we not use the OC as our standard of analogy when that is precisely where the NT makes the analogy.

    Mind you it does so within the same book that states plainly the OC has been replaced and was “weak” and “insufficient” since it could not bring one to glory/perfection etc. So dont hear this as a plea for utter continuity but rather seeking to wrestle where we find the continuity/discountinuity.

  57. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Jason #56 – Would God bless those “faithless works” done in “outward conformity to the law” with temporal blessing? In other words, do those type of works meet the temporal aspects of the OC? Again, I’m just trying to get some clarity.

  58. March 5, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Jesse,

    Tom has addressed that already in #29 above.

  59. March 5, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Tom said

    I think that some of Kline’s detractors are not that well versed in traditional Reformed covenant theology, and thus they see some things that he says as new when they are merely things mined from the 16th and 17th centuries.

    Right. It is discouraging to see that most FVers, for example, can’t get a handle on the republication doctrine, especially when this should be old hat by now. I guess you’d see RoCoW as a newfangled Klinean novelty if all you’d ever read was Jordan and Leithart. But the Reformed should not care to be lectured by this sort who are barely familiar or newly familiar with the doctrine.

  60. March 5, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    David,

    While I can appreciate the historicity of the RoCW, lets not overstate the case as “if” this were the unified “Reformed” position throughout history. Is it one view that was acceptable, yes. Is it the “one and only” view in the history of the Reformed tradition, no.

  61. Ken Christian said,

    March 5, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    And David – let’s not automatically credit a person’s struggle to “get a handle on the republication doctrine” to either their ignorance or lack of broad reading. Proponents of the view should be willing to at least consider that the difficulty others have with the whole scheme might also come from the doctrine itself.

  62. March 5, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Jason,

    I see #29, but my question is how is it the NT authors dont just use the “fact” of disinheritance as analogous but the “actions” that get one there as “analogous”? Idolatry, unbelief, disobedience etc. You would think that if the covenant cores were as opposed as stated that the “actions” that get one ousted from said covenant would have to be just as “opposed” to one another? No? This is the one spot that still troubles me.

  63. March 5, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Jesse,

    These are good questions.

    When we look at I Cor. 10, we see the overthrow of Israel in the wilderness used as an “example for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (v. 6). Upon first glance it does appear that the two situations are completely analogous and even identitcal.

    But I would argue that the key to the discontinuity is found in vv. 11-13. “Upon us,” Paul says, “the end of the ages has come.” Why does he say that? It appears to be connected to what he says two verse later about our always being provided “a way of escape” that we may bear up under temptation, nor be tempted “beyond our ability.”

    Now depending on your view of Romans 7 (insert sound of a can of worms opening here), it would certainly seem to make sense that the law, under which Israel labored, commanded but failed to give the necessary strength to obey. But to us who have received the resurrection power of the eschatological Spirit, we no longer walk in weakness, being “sold as a slave to sin” (Rom. 7) but “the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk… according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8).

    So yes, we are instructed like Israel was to shun idolatry. But we also have every reason to believe that we, much more than they, will be sustained throughout our wilderness wandering. We are not marching to a land we will have to retain through our own works, but toward one which has been won for us by the work of another.

    So when we move from type to antitype we see that “the woman and the rest of her offspring will be noursihed in the wilderness for a time, times, and half a time.” We cannot fall, not as long as we “take heed,” for we look to Another to secure the blessing for us, and not to ourselves or our law-keeping.

    Similarities? Yes, but also some pretty important differences.

  64. March 5, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    JJS,

    What you state as differences I agree with 100%, Hebrews often functions in the same manner. There is a vast difference concerning the the positive aspect of the NC. This is surely due to the turning of the ages and the impotence of the law to propel one forward.

  65. March 5, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Jesse,

    Right, which means that we cannot fall in the wilderness like Israel did. Obviously, then, just because Israel’s failure is used as a means to spur the elect on to holiness doesn’t mean that the Mosaic and New Covenants are equally gracious.

  66. Xon said,

    March 5, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    We cannot fall, not as long as we “take heed,” for we look to Another to secure the blessing for us, and not to ourselves or our law-keeping.

    As long as the Israelites “took heed,” they couldn’t fall either. Whether or not they took heed, on an individual person-by-person level, was a matter of God’s grace and nothing else, right? Salvation has always been (at least post Fall) by grace, not works. Right?

    So the difference between type and antitype seems to me to be an issue of how ‘widespread’ the “heeding” is going to be. In Exodus an entire generation died in the desert and did not enter God’s promised rest. In the New Covenant we know that God is truly working to save the entire world: [Postmillennialism warning–incoming!] not every last perosn, but the general structure of the cosmos and LOTS of people within it. If that’s too postmil for us, then we can also try it this way: In Exodus an entire generation died in the desert, but in the New Covenant we can have confidence that–within the Church–apostasy is not going to be that rampant.

    But the main point is this: the difference between new and old covenant here doesn’t seem to be–from anything in the text itself–that old cov people could die after being brought into the kingdom but new cov people can’t (they are simply motivated to work out their already-secure status in fear and trembling via the remembrance of the example of those old cov ppl who died). Rather, why can’t we just say that the difference is that in the old cov dying after blessing was much more common, while in the new cov it’s much less common? That seems a cogent construal to me, and it doesn’t require us to take the similarity that the text seems to post b/w old co ppl needing to “take heed” and new cov ppl needing to take heed as only “apparent.” It is a real similarity: we need to take heed, lest we fall, because new cov ppl DO fall from the cov. But by His grace God sustains many more than He did in the old cov order. Or something like that?

    I am not “back.” Just a question.

  67. Todd Bordow said,

    March 5, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    It becomes clearer and clearer over time that the fundamental flaw of both FV, theonomic post-mil, and modern fundamentalism is a failure to rightly distinguish between Old Covenant and New Covenant, type and anti-type, i.e., Law and Gospel. Mess this up and everything else is skewered.

    Todd

  68. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 5, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Okay, so this conversation has moved on quite a bit from my last “contribution.” I’ll just give some various observations:

    1. “The Mosaic law is summarized by ‘Do this and live.'” This is often claimed to the the “core” of the Mosaic covenant, but Rom. 10:6ff. quotes Deut. 30–a much more central text to the nature of the Mosaic cov’t than Lev. 18:15–as an accurate summary of the righteousness which is by faith. How does this work? Is Paul contradicting himself? No, rather there is a law-gospel hermeneutic in the Mosaic cov’t itself: cf. Rom. 9:31-32. Israel looked at the wrong part of the law; as Wilson has said, they were law-readers: everywhere they looked they saw what they had to do, which was the wrong way to look at the cov’t.

    2. This whole “keeping the land by works” thing runs counter to Gen 15: the self-maledictory oath was taken to confirm that Abraham and his descendants would possess the land (Gen 15:8-21). And these promises were made chiefly to Christ–all of the texts that promise an inheritance to Abraham and his seed (which is Christ, Gal. 3:16) include a reference to the land…

    3. Jason said: “we must admit that people are not brought under church disciplin for their actual sin itself, but for their failure to repent of it.” Presumably this is supposed to be contrary to the state of Israel in the OC, but, um, have you read the prophets? The whole point was that they were repeatedly called to repentance, in order to avert the punishment of exile. So, Israel was finally cast out of the land for a repeated refusal to repent, which makes them parallel again to NC believers…

    4. In 19 and 29, Tom, you seem to be saying that the NC is in fact unconditional. What? Repent and believe are not conditions? Election is unconditional, but initial participation in the NC is conditional upon repentance and faith, and participation in the consummation is conditional upon continuing repentance and faith, demonstrated by obedience, all of which come only from the work of the Holy Spirit. These are absolutely conditions: which does not mean *causes.* The NC is not the same thing as the CoG, which is eternal, made with Christ and the elect, but the NC is one of the historical administrations of that cov’t (as is the OC–see my point #1).

  69. March 5, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    JJS,

    You wrote, “which means we cannot fall in the wilderness like Israel did.”

    So are the warnings merely hypothetical? Are you saying the warnings are only given to spur (but can’t actually be affected in anyone’s life?)? Can NC branches be broken off?

  70. R. F. White said,

    March 5, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    #40 — It looks to me that 1 Cor 5, in its entirety, suggests that church discipline is the equivalent of individual exile, as the OT citations indicate. “Lampstand removal” is tantamount to corporate exile back into the world.

    #45 thru #57 — Here’s how I see it: Israel, as a nation of slaves to sin, was effectively disqualified from being the righteous seed who would render to God the perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience, active and passive, required by the Law. Thus the Law proved to be a covenant of condemnation, bondage, and death (2 Cor 3:6-14; Rom 7:10-11) that shut the nation up under sin (Gal 3:22) and curse (Gal 3:10). In other words,
    in the face of Israel’s sin, the Mosaic Covenant functioned as God’s pedagogue to reveal the people’s spiritual inability, though it could not relieve it (Gal 3:21-24). The Law, however, also did something else as God’s pedagogue: it shut the people up to faith (Gal 3:22-24) in the redemptive work (Gal 3:13) of the one true Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:19) from the tribe of Judah and the order of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20; 49:10; Ps 110:4; Heb 7:4-14). The grace/mercy of justification and pardon came to the believing and repentant remnant as it did to Abraham, that is, through the Promise, not through the Law.

    #64 thru #69 — How about this? The Law of God and the Promise of God are ultimately compatible because, but only because, both words anticipate Christ or, better, because Christ, as the archetypal Man wounded and the archetypal Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, anticipates both the Law and the Promise. To be sure, considered apart from Christ and the typological revelation of His person and work before His incarnation, even the best of a sinner’s works are but filthy rags and so merit not reward but punishment, while the worst of a sinner’s works merit punishment far beyond that meted out for them in this world (see, e.g., Calvin, Institutes, 3.17.3). But that is just the point: apart from Christ, even our works of faith are of no merit — unless God condescends to our weakness and dispenses temporal blessings and curses to selected believers and their seeds, all with an eye to their administration in eternal, antitypical fullness through Christ’s mediation. Now that Christ has fulfilled the Law as a covenant of works, believers are no longer under the yoke of the Law (Gal 5:1, 18), but under the yoke of grace (Matt 11:28-30; Rom 6:14-15; Gal 5:18). This yoke of grace is not antinomian, however. Instead, it uses the Law lawfully according to the Gospel (Promise) (1 Tim 1:8), namely, for instruction in righteous character and conduct (e.g., Gal 6:7-8; Matt 6:33) but not for justification inasmuch as Christ has fulfilled the principle of personal merit and thereby made it obsolete. The imputation of Christ’s own righteousness through faith renders the heavenly and eternal inheritance irrevocable for believers, though their own obedience is inseparable from that gracious conferral as an evidence and fruit of justifying faith. In addition, having Himself persevered in righteousness and holiness during His humiliation, Christ the Last Adam also secured irrevocably the gift of perseverance for believers.

  71. March 5, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Jesse,

    You write:

    “So are the warnings merely hypothetical? Are you saying the warnings are only given to spur (but can’t actually be affected in anyone’s life?)? Can NC branches be broken off?”

    The elect people of God will be nurtured and sustained throughout our wilderness wanderings (Rev. 12:6, 14-17). Israel, obviously, was not since they all died before they got to the promised land.

    The difference between Israel and us — which accounts for their dying in the wilderness and our living through it — is found in the respective covenants we serve under. To return to Paul’s example from I Cor. 10, so often used by FVists to prove that the OC and NC are virtually the same, Paul says that the end of the ages has come upon us, resulting in our having the power to withstand temptation and avoid Israel’s fate.

    The warning(s), then, serve to spur us on to faithfulness. No elect believer can suffer disinheritance under the New Covenant.

    The key to all this, of course, is realizing that the OC order was typological. On THAT level, an individually elect person could be carted off to exile (like Daniel) because of the nation’s failure to keep the law. We today, on the other hand, do not need to fear the covenant curse, because it has already been borne on the cross (to which exile pointed).

    Since our inheritance is heavenly and secure, reserved in heaven for us who are kept by God’s power (I Pet. 1), we have no reason to fear that our failure to obey the law will result in our losing it.

    What was the cross for if not for this?

  72. Ron Henzel said,

    March 5, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Jason,

    You wrote:

    We today, on the other hand, do not need to fear the covenant curse, because it has already been borne on the cross (to which exile pointed).

    To that excellent observation I would only add that, contra the Federal Vision, not only are New Covenant members redeemed from all biblical curses, but also there are no curses unique to the New Covenant specified in Scripture. To reject the New Covenant is to leave one exposed to the curses of the Old Covenant—especially to the curse specifically indicated in Deuteronomy 18:18-19.

  73. Tom Wenger said,

    March 5, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Josh, in #70 you said,

    “This whole “keeping the land by works” thing runs counter to Gen 15: the self-maledictory oath was taken to confirm that Abraham and his descendants would possess the land (Gen 15:8-21). And these promises were made chiefly to Christ–all of the texts that promise an inheritance to Abraham and his seed (which is Christ, Gal. 3:16) include a reference to the land…”

    I am shocked how many times in these kinds of discussions I have to continue to remind people what the stipulations of the Old Covenant are. Read Deu 28-29:1. THESE are the terms, NOT Gen 15. Gen 15 is a DIFFERENT COVENANT and that is the crux of Paul’s argument in Gal 3. How can you not see this?

    So you’re right; keeping the land by work does run counter to Gen 15 because Gen 15 promises something different, and it promises it to the to the entire world through Christ (Rom 4:13).

    Deu 28 clearly states throughout the entire chapter that unless they do everything they are told “all these curses will come upon them.” The Old covenant was NOT founded upon Christ, while the Abrahamic was. Those are Paul’s premises, and they are what Calvin elaborated on concerning the conditionality of the Old vs. the New. I nowhere said that there are no conditions in the New Covenant; clearly one must have faith. Rather, I argued that the KIND of conditionality the Lusk, Schlissel and Jordan drag over the Old to the New is unacceptable.

    It was CALVIN, not me, who said above,

    “He tells us that God made two covenants with men; one through Abraham, and another through Moses. THE FORMER, BEING FOUNDED ON CHRIST, WAS FREE; and therefore the law, which came after, could not enable men to obtain salvation otherwise than by grace, for then, “it would make the promise of none effect.” That this is the meaning appears clearly from what immediately follows….Let us carefully remember the reason why, in comparing the promise with the law, the establishment of the one overturns the other. The reason is, that the promise has respect to faith, and the law to works. Faith receives what is freely given, but to works a reward is paid. And he immediately adds, “God gave it to Abraham”, not by requiring some sort of compensation on his part, but by free promise; FOR IF YOU VIEW IT AS CONDITIONAL, THE WORD GAVE, WOULD BE UTTERLY INAPPLICABLE.”

    Did you read the quotations above from Calvin and Witsius? You are free to disagree with them, but realize that what you have rejected from my arguments are simply quotations from them. So it is their view, not Kline’s or mine that you are ultimately disagreeing with.

  74. pduggie said,

    March 5, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    The terms of Deut 28 run through to Deut 30, where god says that the blessings and curses will be called to mind in exile, they will repent and give new obedience, and God will restore them. God will circumcise their hearts and cause them to obey him.

    Deuteronomy 30 is explicit that restoration after exile (which we have in the NC) is also dependent on repentance and new obedience.

    Genesis 15 promises THE LAND. You can argue that its typical of Christ, but it still promises the land. I’m sure the readers of Deuteronomy were glad that they would be returned to the LAND because of the faith of Abraham and God’s mercy after exile.

  75. Tom Wenger said,

    March 5, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Paul,

    Who are you arguing against? It’s hard to see what point you’re even trying to make.

    The terms of Deu 28-29:1 are a complete section of the covenant documents and are formally Israel’s stipulations. The fact that God then prophesies the outcome of this arrangement and then reality of the New Covenant does not change the fact that Israel was required to keep exactly what those stipulations demanded. And it does not change the fact that the Old Covenant itself was the ministration that brought death.

    What does Paul mean by that phrase?

    It seems as though you think that if you can find anything at all gracious that God does during the Mosaic era then you can just make assertions that don’t have to take into account the NT descriptions of the Old Covenant of the Reformed view of it.

    Do you disagree with Calvin and Witsius or are they going to remain the elephant in the room that you just continue to ignore? You won’t be alone in doing that, so you’ll at least have some company. But it gets hard to have a decent conversation when you don’t acknowledge the obvious.

  76. David Gadbois said,

    March 5, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Jesse, regarding #62

    I never said that RoCoW is *the* Reformed position, I said that it is old hat. We have, in this very thread (and not the only place) not only folks who misunderstand the doctrine, but also thought that it constitutes an exception to WCF.

    Re: #70

    I notice that Romans 10:6 is brought up but, conveniently, not Romans 10:5:

    For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

    In these debates I oftentimes feel like I am doing battle with dispensationalists, who insist on piling up Old Testament prooftexts and refusing to let the Apostles interpret the Old Testament. The question here is – which scheme will allow for both the works principle AND the grace principle we find the Apostles applying to the Mosaic economy? Which scheme accounts for the works principle *and* the grace principle that weave in and out of the Old Testament? Why do we need FV “improvements” on our old, vanilla Reformed bi-covenantal theology to account for this?

  77. R. F. White said,

    March 5, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    The NC is a better covenant, enacted on better promises, than the OC. The Old Covenant was enacted on the violable oath of Israel to the LORD (Exodus 20:18-21; Deuteronomy 5:2-5). The New Covenant is a covenant enacted on an inviolable oath of the LORD to Jesus, the One who kept what the many violated (Hebrews 7:20-22, 28; 8:6). Little wonder, then, that the Scriptures say of Jesus that He “has become the guarantee of a better covenant” and “has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 7:20, 22; 8:6).

  78. R. F. White said,

    March 5, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Adding to David Gadbois’s line of thought …

    “The Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘He who practices them shall live by them’” (Gal 3:12). “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, that the man who does those things shall live by them” (Rom 10:5).

    Isn’t Paul’s point that the one Seed of Abraham to whom the heavenly and eternal inheritance was promised was the Man who would satisfy the Law’s demands?

    Until such a Man was sent by God, the Law justified no one according to his own works, and so the many seed of Abraham came under the Law’s curse and forfeited the earthly and temporal inheritance (Gal 3:10-11). Yet, while waiting for God’s Man to come, none needed to despair of either justification or inheritance. They needed only to follow in the footsteps of father Abraham to find a righteousness better than their own and an inheritance better than Canaan.

  79. March 6, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Joshua,

    There is a dual fulfillment of all God’s promises to Abraham. He promised a people, a land, and a king. Initially (and typologically) these were fulfilled in Israel (a people), Canaan (a land), and David/Solomon (a king).

    But this initial fulfillment was not ultimate, but typological of Christ, and the nation’s inability to gain these promises without him.

    So while the first-stage fulfillments of these promises were administered legally, the true fulfillment was administered graciously. Jesus is the Head of a new people, the procurer of the true land, and the King of all kings.

    This means that we, upon whom the end of the ages has come, do not cling to types and shadows which can be lost due to law-breaking. Rather, we receive the Savior to whom all these initial fulfillments point, and consequently, we don’t have to fear disinheritance like Israel of old did.

  80. March 6, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Jason,

    No one doubts whether the elect will be sustained.

    I don’t doubt that the only thing that threatens the NC believer is an unwillingness to repent and believe. (I would never preach the warnings as a way to clean up your act but rather to believe and repent anew).

    And I don’t believe that “works” keep one in the covenant but rather faith.

    But these were never at issue in my mind. The issue was whether the NT uses the analogy of the OC as “if” it were a typological “works” covenant. I was arguing the difficulty with seeing it this way since it warns the NC people of the same consequences if the SAME actions are taken (namely, unbelief being borne out in disobedience and rebellion). It is the issue of the OC under question, but that is the part you assume in all of your arguments. This then forces you to do two things. One it seems to have you remove the force from of the warnings to the NC member by making them merely “spurs” to goad on the elect as if they don’t have genuine threat to the covenant member who does not heed them. And two it forces you to view those who do take them as genuine as believing “works” keeps one in favor with God. But if one doesn’t view the NT authors viewing the OC in this way (works) during these particular analogies your critique doesn’t fit (or it assumes the very issue in question).

    You say FV uses 1 Cor 10 to speak of continuity of the covenants and are fairly dismissive of the idea. But it is not only the FV that sees great continuity here (not everywhere mind you, but on this issue) so does Gaffin and plenty of others, not least the likes of Calvin.

    Calvin says concerning this section, “As, however, on examples being adduced, ANY point of difference destroys the force of the comparison, Paul premises, that there is NO such DISSIMILARITY between us and the Israelites as to make our condition different from theirs. Having it, therefore in view to threaten the Corinthians with the same vengeance as had overtaken them…For they were favoured with the SAME benefits as we at this day enjoy…Be afraid therefore; for the SAME thing is impending over you.” (emphasis mine, don’t know how to do italics).

    It would seem from your answers you would not preach this section the way Calvin lays out. And am I right that you would answer “no” to the question of whether NC branches could be cut off?

    Your arguments deal with what will happen at a corporate level and I agree. The NC assembly will not find itself outside the land of promise nor will the covenant be revoked. But that doesn’t speak to the issue of the individual covenant member which seems to be the issue in 1Cor 10 (begins with Paul’s own self critique).

  81. March 6, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Jesse,

    You write: “[My] issue was whether the NT uses the analogy of the OC as “if” it were a typological “works” covenant.”

    Well, I never said that since Paul teaches that the OC was a typological works covenant he therefore has to insist on that fact each and every time he mentiones the Old Covenant. I agree with you that this particular passage highlights more continuity than dis-.

    You say that the passage “warns the NC people of the same consequences if the SAME actions are taken…. the individual covenant member which seems to be the issue in 1Cor 10.”

    Well, if the passage is about individually elect believers, then that is certainly problematic since the Israelites in the wilderness were “overthrown” and failed to gain their inheritance. But if it’s about individual covenant members, then I would agree that there is a strong similarity between their need to be warned and our own.

    But is it not possible that Paul is speaking corporately rather than individually? Why does he move seamlessly into a discussion of the body and, more specifically, the Lord’s Supper? If he is speaking corporately then I assume you would agree about the discontinuity–that “we” cannot lose our inheritance they way they did (and the reason is not because we work harder, but because Jesus worked harder for us).

    And on this score, why does Paul mention the fact that the eschatological age has dawned “upon us” (which was obviously not true of them)?

    And to answer your last question, I don’t think I would preach this text the way Calvin did, but I’d have to think more about it before I answered for sure. I will say, though, that having imbibed healthy draughts of Vos, Ridderbos, and Kline, I am inclined to highlight redemptive-historical contours more than was usually done in the sixteenth century.

  82. Tom Wenger said,

    March 6, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Jesse,

    One other aspect to keep in mind is that the Israelites were all at least outward members of the Abrahamic covenant as well. Thus, Calvin is not here saying that the Mosaic Covenant itself is identical to our scenario today but that the refusal to obey in the face of multiple chastisement from God, met with punishment; as we would say is the case for anyone being excommunicated in our era.

  83. RubeRad said,

    March 6, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    So are the warnings merely hypothetical? Are you saying the warnings are only given to spur (but can’t actually be affected in anyone’s life?)? Can NC branches be broken off?

    Dead branches (branches which do not have a “real and vital union” with the vine) are always cut off, and living branches (which DO have a “real and vital union” with the vine) are never cut off.

  84. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Jason (#83):

    If he is speaking corporately then I assume you would agree about the discontinuity–that “we” cannot lose our inheritance they way they did (and the reason is not because we work harder, but because Jesus worked harder for us).

    So am I reading you correctly that one difference you see between Old and New Covenants is that corporately, the Church as a whole is not in danger of entire apostasy, whereas Israel as a whole was? (Perhaps with WCoF 25.5b in mind?)

    That’s an interesting thought.

    Jeff Cagle

  85. Ken Christian said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Jason writes in #83:

    And on this score, why does Paul mention the fact that the eschatological age has dawned “upon us” (which was obviously not true of them)?

    Not to answer for Jesse, but isn’t it possible (and even plausible) that Paul’s mentioning of the new age in 1 Cor. 10 is a key part of his overall warning. Here’s what I mean: throughout the letter, it seems that many of the Corinthians’ problems (immorality and adultery in particular) come from what some have called an “over-realized eschatology”. It seemed they believed they lived in age (or state) where the older concerns (about idolatry and immorality) no longer applied to them. With that in mind, what Paul is saying to the Corinthians in ch. 10 is that they shouldn’t think they’ll avoid penalties for such sinful behavior just because they live in the new age. As a matter of fact, Paul’s point seems to be that what happened to faithless covenant rebels in the OC is exactly what one should expect to happen to faithless covenant rebels in the NC.

    None of this at all takes away from the fact that the NC guarantees God’s people as a whole will never fall into mass, corporate apostasy. Does it?

  86. March 6, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Jeff,

    Yes, the NT teaches that the Church, like Israel, is in the midst of wilderness wandering. But unlike Israel, the Church will be sustained throughout her pilgrimage for (what Revelation calls) 1,260 days, or, the entire period between the two advents. Not even the dragon’s opening his mouth and pouring out a flood of lies can drown out her witness (Rev. 12).

  87. March 6, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Ken,

    Interesting point. I had always thought of the Corinthians as having an under-realized eschatology (which is why Paul called them “carnal” and rebuked them for behaving “as mere men”). I mean, some denied the resurrection for Pete’s sake (that is the first time I have ever used that expression).

    In keeping with his NC ethic everywhere else, it seems like Paul is telling the Corinthians in ch. 10 that they have no excuse for falling into Israel’s sin since they have the power of the Spirit in a way that Israel did not.

    So I would maintain that their eschatology wasn’t realized enough (and neither is ours lots of the time).

  88. March 6, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    And in conjunction with my second paragraph above, what does Paul mean when he says to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you will judge angels? How can you not therefore decide these petty matters?”?

    It seems to me like he is chiding them for their failure to live in due accord with their heavenly citizenship.

  89. J. P. said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Jason,

    I think Ken is referring to 4.8
    “Already you are filled! Already you have become
    rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign,
    so that we might share the rule with you!”

    The went overboard on the “already” aspect.

  90. Ken Christian said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Ref. 89: Yet Paul chides them for acting like kings who are already reigning in 4:8. Again and again they are rebuked for their arrogance, for their thinking they’ve arrived. I think Paul reminds them so vigoursly of the yet-future things because the Corinthians thought they were already experiencing the eschaton in its fullness (hence, there was no need for some of them to be concerned about a bodily resurrection).

  91. Tom Wenger said,

    March 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Hey, Ken.

    Sorry, I just realized that I missed your question way back in # 57.

    There’s no question that there are commands to confess and partake of the types that foreshadowed the work of Christ, and that by doing so they could remain longer in the land. But what is crucial is what the author of Hebrews says about those types in 10:3-4, “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” When Calvin explains this passage he says,

    He confirms the former sentiment with the same reason which he had adduced before, that the blood of beasts could not cleanse souls from sin. The Jews, indeed, had in this a symbol and a pledge of the real cleansing; but it was with reference to another, even as the blood of the calf represented the blood of Christ. But the Apostle is speaking here of the efficacy of the blood of beasts in itself. He therefore justly takes away from it the power of cleansing. There is also to be understood a contrast which is not expressed, as though he had said, “It is no wonder that the ancient sacrifices were insufficient, so that they were to be offered continually, for they had nothing in them but the blood of beasts, which could not reach the conscience; but far otherwise is the power of Christ’s blood: It is not then right to measure the offering which he has made by the former sacrifices.”

    So if I’m getting your question (and please tell me if I’m missing it) I don’t think that the command to partake of the shadows necessarily renders the Old Covenant now essentially a gracious covenant. Again, it serves a gracious function in pointing all to their need for Christ, and thus is an administration of the Cov of Grace, but it does so even in these shadows, by pointing to our need for the reality.

    Am I anywhere near the mark?

  92. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 6, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Again, some miscellaneous comments:

    Re #75. In Gal. 3, Paul specifically says that the inheritance promised to Abraham, i.e., the land (considered sacramentally and proleptically), DOES NOT COME BY THE LAW. So, how am I the one contradicting Gal. 3? And where does Paul say in Gal. 3 that there were different covenants? Not in v. 19: the Westminster take on the meaning of prostithemi is wrong. They say it just means “added on top of” and say that this word supports Kline’s diagram of the Law simply sitting on top of the line of the Abrahamic faith. However, in the context of covenants, treaties, and similar agreements, prostithemi actually means “to add into the substance of the document.” See BAGD and LSJ, which give Polybius 21.43 (actually with syntheke!), Thucydides 5.23, 29, & 47., Num. 36:3-4 (adding to an inheritance), Deut. 4:2 & 5:22, and Jer. 36:32. So, when it says that the Law was added, it means that the Law was added to the body of the standing covenant. If there were two separate covenants, both of which had the inheritance of the land as their object, but one of which was based on promise and one based on law, that would contradict Gal. 3.

    Re #78. David, I was essentially saying the same thing: Tom and Jason brought up Rom. 10:5, but conveniently didn’t bring up Rom. 10:6ff. So, when they assert that the Mosaic covenant was “do this and live,” they don’t seem to take account of the fact that Paul says that Deuteronomy was all about the righteousness that is by faith (since Deut 30 is a summary description of the entire covenant document). My point is actually that a certain perspective on the traditional law/gospel hermeneutic is what accounts for this–only it’s Wilson’s, who talks about the law/gospel division being in the heart of the reader: those who live by faith see Christ in all the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:27; John 5:39; Rom. 10:6ff.), while those who live by works see only lists of things to do (e.g., John 6:28-29). This is summarized by Paul in Rom. 9:32–Israel pursued in *as though* it were by works, which it isn’t.

    Re #79: But notice that the author of Hebrews argues from the superiority of the NC not only to greater security, but also to greater curses: Heb. 10:28-31

    Re #81: If we cannot fear disinheritance, then why does the NT apply the same warnings and injunctions to us that were applied to Israel? See Heb. 10:30, which quotes the curses of Deut. 32, or Heb. 3:7-11, where the threat of disinheritance (or, not obtaining the inheritance) is applied to the NC. This relates to my comment on #79: because we have been given the greater promises and the great covenant, the obligations upon us are greater and the potential curses are greater, which we avoid by faith, not by our own works (notice that Heb. 11 comes after those warnings in Heb. 10, culminating in Heb. 12:2).

    Re #88: God did sustain Israel during her wilderness wandering–Deut. 8:4, Numbers 21:16-18 & 34, the whole Balaam episode. As for the issue from #83 etc., the issue in the wilderness was the generation, so it has to do with both corporate and individual elements. The casting away of all Israel is not in view, but rather of the sinful generation–which is typologically fulfilled in Jesus’ own day (the sinful generation upon whom the destruction of the temple came, cf. Jer. 7). Sin and righteousness are always both individual and corporate: there is the possibility of entire generations falling away in particular bodies (cf. Romans 11:17-21, which I think Wilson rightly applies to the RCC). And the true Israel did receive the promise: they graduated from having a little portion of the inheritance to having the whole thing (Matt. 28:19-20, the book of Acts).

    Re #89: Actually, Paul is telling them that they have no excuse for presumption (v. 12), since the wilderness generation of Israel had just as much as the Corinthians and yet was still destroyed. He’s not telling them that they have more than Israel, but rather that they don’t have much more than Israel (baptism? Israel had that. Communion? Israel had that.)–so again, their eschatology is over-realized, since they think that they don’t really have to do anything more. This, oddly enough, is what makes them carnal, since they think that everything is already set right and so they don’t have to guard against the ongoing effects of sin (since they think they are already perfected, so any desires they have must be holy).

  93. Ken Christian said,

    March 7, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Hey Tom – Thanks for the reply. Let me take some time and chew on that for a bit. I’ll try and reply ASAP (though probably not until after the weekend). I’d really like to continue this discussion, even if this thread dies in near future.

  94. R. F. White said,

    March 7, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Re #94 — Joshua W. D. Smith, I agree with you that in Hebrews the author sees the NC as involving more severe curses than the OC. He makes his point perhaps most clearly in the warning of ch. 10, where he says that the punishment to be meted out to apostates under the NC is to be even more severe than the “death without mercy” meted out under the OC.

  95. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Joshua (#94):

    In Gal. 3, Paul specifically says that the inheritance promised to Abraham, i.e., the land (considered sacramentally and proleptically), DOES NOT COME BY THE LAW. So, how am I the one contradicting Gal. 3? And where does Paul say in Gal. 3 that there were different covenants? … So, when it says that the Law was added, it means that the Law was added to the body of the standing covenant. If there were two separate covenants, both of which had the inheritance of the land as their object, but one of which was based on promise and one based on law, that would contradict Gal. 3.

    I’m fairly Kline-friendly myself, but you make a good point, also made by Robertson. OPR observes that the Old Covenant was made “to fulfill the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (cf. Ex. 2, 3 and compare to the first commandment). This one observation makes it impossible that the Abrahamic covenant and the Old Covenant are entirely disentangled.

    In fact, I would observe that there are several points of entanglement between the Old Covenant and the Abrahamic.

    (1) Suppose for a moment that we take the Law as a typological republication of the CoW. That fact alone ties the two together via the work of Christ (who fulfills the righteous requirements of the Law and thus makes it possible for … Gentiles to be children of Abraham!).

    (2) We implicitly acknowledge entanglement when we categorize the Law as consisting of moral, civil, and ceremonial components (which nevertheless are not marked as such in the text!), and when we further allow that the moral component carries forward through all ages as a reflection of the character of God. The continuity of the moral law in both, especially as restated in the New Testament, shows that we are not entirely “free” from the Old Covenant in all senses. In other words, any argument that proceeds from “not under the law” to “don’t have to worry about the Ten Commandments” is already wrong.

    (3) The ceremony of circumcision belonged to both and carried similar meaning in both. In fact, it carried a meaning of the purity of the heart by faith (although I know David won’t agree with me :) ), in accord with Deut. 30.

    BUT

    There are also clear points at which the Old Covenant is disentangled from the Abrahamic.

    (1) We cannot escape the fact that the Law *required* external, outward obedience. It is certainly the case that this was misinterpreted by many as pure externalism, but external obedience was also built into the Law.

    People who gathered wood on the Sabbath were stoned to death; people who offered proper but meaningless sacrifices on the Sabbath were not. Yes, they stored up judgment for themselves later (as in Amos), but we cannot gloss over the external punishments meted out to the externally disobedient.

    Cf. Gal. 4.1-7. The exaggerated, typological, and outward nature of the required obedience was never intended to bring salvation per se, but rather it was intended for the spiritually childish, to tutor them into Christ.

    We have to admit that this situation is changed under the New Covenant, and there isn’t much hint of it during the time of the patriarchs, either. A small amount of punishment for the externally disobedient is evident (Acts 5, 1 Cor 11), but it is carried out directly by God rather than by the community.

    (2) I would agree with you (and thus Doug, I guess?) that the “problem” with Israel is that they pursued righteousness as if by works. You cite Romans 9; I would add 2 Cor 3. However, one of the reasons that they did so was the difference between the ministry of the Law and the ministry of the Spirit. The former brought condemnation. It didn’t just provide the occasion for it, it actively brought it (Rom 5, “the law was added so that the trespass might increase” — I take the latter phrase to approximately mean “so that violations of the law might be clearly condemned”). The latter brings sonship through adoption.

    Here’s an important pastoral application. Why are we not slaves to sin? Because we have died to sin *and are no longer under the law.* Whether we take Romans 7 to be historical-redemptive or individual, we nevertheless end up concluding that our situation is different from those under the Law.

    Put this another way: suppose we agreed that the entire weakness in the Old Covenant was simply that Israel wrongly adopted externalism — that is, they pursued a righteousness by Law instead of faith.

    Would that not lead to an argument that Israel should have *rejected* the Law and stuck to the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant? That God was tempting them to sin?

    (3) More debateably, I think Kline wins the argument on the civil component of the Law. That is to say, the aspect of the Law that governed Israel as a corporate entity was limited to Israel *both* geographically (even believing Gentiles in foreign lands did not have to obey the law) and temporally (neither Abraham nor the 1st c. had to obey the law as a corporate institution).

    (4) I just thought of this, so it might be half-baked. It seems significant to me that Melchizedek was not a priest according to the Law, and that it was necessary in fact that he be outside the Law system. That points to a further disentanglement between the New Covenant and Old.

    I’m not sure that we’ve managed to find a theology that solves all the issues yet. But I’m quite persuaded that “the law is the gospel” slogan is a clumsy oversimplification.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  96. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Re #97 — That’s David Weiner, not David Gadbois, who would disagree about circumcision being a sign of purity of the heart.

  97. R. F. White said,

    March 8, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Re: #97 — Jeff Cagle,

    I believe your fourth point is right on target. The OC and the NC are two administrations of the Abrahamic Covenant: the old via the Levitical (Mosaic)order, the new administration via the Melchizedekal (Judahite, Messianic) order. Though the Levitical order, of which Moses was a member (Exodus 2:1-10; 6:16-27), was instituted as an administration of the Promise in shadow and type, it was not intended to produce the true Heir of the Promise. Instead, the Heir was to be from the tribe of Judah as well as from the Melchizedekal order (Hebrews 7), and the Abrahamic Covenant was instituted to anticipate the true Melchizedekal (Genesis 14) and Judahite (Genesis 49) administration of the Promise.

    The OC and the NC are both administrations of the everlasting law of God (Jeremiah 31:31-33). That is, the old commandment of love for God and neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18) is the new commandment as well (Matthew 22:34-40; John 13:34; 14:15; 15:10). The law taught at the beginning of the ages in Eden and thereafter at Sinai is the same law taught now at the end of the ages from Zion (1 John 2:7; 3:11-12 with Hebrews 12:18, 22). The ten words of Sinai are the ten words of Zion.

    The OC and the NC also are both administrations of the everlasting gospel of God. The ministries of word and deed under each covenant made known the gospel of God’s sovereign saving grace. Israel’s exodus and conquest are two examples of this continuity. The redemption of Israel-according-to-the-flesh from physical slavery in Pharaoh’s kingdom was a typological revelation of the redemption of Israel-according-to-the-Spirit from spiritual slavery in Satan’s kingdom of sin and death. When Israel under Moses offered the Passover lamb, a lamb without fleshly spot or blemish, for their deliverance from Egypt, that event was exemplifying the gospel of Christ, who, as the true Israel and the greater Passover Lamb without spiritual spot or blemish (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; John 1:29), poured Himself out in death for His people (Isaiah 53:12; Hebrews 2:10-13; Revelation 5:6-9) and thereby brought about the new and true exodus (Luke 9:31; Matthew 1:21). The entry of the first Israel into the earthly land of promise was also a typological revelation of the entry of the true Israel into their heavenly land of promise (Hebrews 11:16; 12:18-24). Israel’s exodus generation had the gospel of God’s promise of rest in earthly Canaan preached to them. Even so the church has had the gospel of God’s promise of rest in the New Canaan (new earth) preached to them (see Hebrews 4:1-13; 12:25-29). What we see in the exodus and the conquest can be generalized throughout the revelation and redemption associated with the OC and the NC, and we can see that they both declare the same gospel of God.

    The Old Covenant administered the promised earthly and temporal typological inheritance according to “the righteousness of the Law,” that is, according to the personal (including corporate) righteous works of the seed of Abraham (Exodus 19:4-6; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 6:25; 30:15-20).

    Though the Law justified no one according to his own works, no one needed to despair of either justification or inheritance under the OC. They needed only to follow in the footsteps of father Abraham. Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness (Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:9-12), so that he became an heir of the promised heavenly and eternal antitypical inheritance (Hebrews 11:16) according to “the righteousness of faith” (Romans 10:5; Philippians 3:9; cf. Hebrews 11:7), that is, according to the imputed righteousness of his one righteous Seed.

    The NC continued and brought to culmination the historical administration of the Promise according to the Abrahamic/Melchizedekal principle of imputed righteousness, even as it brought to conclusion (obsolescence) the historical administration of the Promise according to the Mosaic/Levitical principle of personal (including national) righteousness.

    When we say that the OC was an administration of the Promise, albeit Levitical, not Melchizedekal, we are affirming that the OC was an administration of the Covenant of Grace—but only in shadow and type. Thus, “[t]here are not … two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations” (WCF 7.6).

  98. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Thank you for the comments, Dr. White. So with regard to Joshua’s point in #94, would you agree or disagree that the promised land did not come by the Law?

    If I’m reading you right, you seem to entangle the two covenants here by saying that they entered the land through promise, but were allowed to continue in it by the administration of the Law.

    Would you then go as far as Joshua and say that the Law/Gospel distinction existed only in the hearts of the reader of the Law?

    Or, would you hold to a Law/Gospel distinction that is inherent in the two dispensations?

    Jeff Cagle

  99. David Gadbois said,

    March 8, 2008 at 3:15 am

    Josh said:so, when they assert that the Mosaic covenant was “do this and live,” they don’t seem to take account of the fact that Paul says that Deuteronomy was all about the righteousness that is by faith (since Deut 30 is a summary description of the entire covenant document).

    No, the traditional view *does* take that into account – our scheme understands both a principle of law and of grace coexisting (grace on the level of individual salvation and law/works in respect to national, earthly blessing). That is precisely what your scheme does not do, and that is what makes it unconvincing. The strength that classical covenant theology has here is in its ability to synthesize *all* of the relevant data here.

    My point is actually that a certain perspective on the traditional law/gospel hermeneutic is what accounts for this–only it’s Wilson’s, who talks about the law/gospel division being in the heart of the reader

    And this sort of “out” to nullify the law principle is precisely the move we can’t make because of Romans 10:5 – Paul says that the law principle was taught by Moses.

    those who live by works see only lists of things to do (e.g., John 6:28-29). This is summarized by Paul in Rom. 9:32–Israel pursued in *as though* it were by works, which it isn’t.”

    Yes, and that is true on the level of individual salvation. They saw the works principle of the Mosaic law and misappropriated it, thinking that since national Israel was to inherit the earthly land by works that this was how they were to be made right before God. They didn’t understand that the Law was a harsh taskmaster and a pedagogue to teach them about their inability to be justified this way, and they weren’t driven to Christ as this national drama (dealing with earthly and temporal blessings to national Israel governed by the works principle) should have demonstrated.

    In Gal. 3, Paul specifically says that the inheritance promised to Abraham, i.e., the land (considered sacramentally and proleptically), DOES NOT COME BY THE LAW. So, how am I the one contradicting Gal. 3? And where does Paul say in Gal. 3 that there were different covenants? Not in v. 19
    ….If there were two separate covenants, both of which had the inheritance of the land as their object, but one of which was based on promise and one based on law, that would contradict Gal. 3.

    First, you seem to be confusing the “land” that was promised to Abraham, the heavenly blessings of eternal salvation that the earthly land typified (what Paul has in mind here in Galatians 3, which is a context dealing with soteriology), with the earthly land that was promised to national Israel under the law.

    Setting aside your idiosyncratic interpretation of v. 19 – first look at 15-18 before you go there. Notice – Paul says that principles of law and principle of promise are incompatible (v. 18). And Paul says that Abraham was promised blessing on the basis of the promise principle. Last, Paul says that the law came centuries later and did not nullify this previous covenant given to Abraham. Josh, you are a seminary-educated man. Connect the dots here – those are two separate covenants.

  100. R. F. White said,

    March 8, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Re: #100 — Jeff,

    I appreciate your questions. Here is my take.

    The Promised Land was not given to Israel through the Law, but through the Promise–which is to say that the nation’s reception of the land was based on the works of another, not their own works. Let me go back and pick up this strand of argument in context.

    Abraham was one of those ancient believers whom God fashioned as a shadow of Christ (the lesson: by the obedience of one, the many were blessed). Noah and David are two other believers whom God so fashioned. As such, their exemplary obedience brought earthly and temporal (not heavenly and eternal) blessings to them and to their posterity. So, by Abraham’s exemplary obedience, God brought earthly and temporal (not heavenly and eternal) blessings to him and to his seed.

    I believe that we have to distinguish between the seed’s reception of blessings and their retention of them. It is the same distinction that we make in the case of Adam: he received blessings at creation; he would have retained (and eternalized) those blessings by standing his probation.

    On the one hand, Israel received the earthly and temporal blessings of residence in the land according to the exemplary obedience of Abraham, not according to an obedience of their own (see Gen 22:16-18; 26:5 with Deut 4:37-38; 7:6-8; 9:4-6; 10:14-15).

    On the other hand, to drive home the message that the justification of sinners was, from beginning to end, by grace alone through faith alone, Israel would keep or lose the earthly and temporal blessings of residence in the land according to their own obedience (see Lev 18:5 with Deut 6:25; 30:15-20).

    The lesson of these contrasting but compatible principles of reception and retention was driven home by the fact that God treated the nation (the many) according to the conduct of their (one) representative (the king) (e.g., 2 Sam 12-24; 1 Chron 21; Neh 9:34-36; Isa 43:27-28).

    Granted the consistent failure of both the many and the one, they ought to learn that, if they were ever to receive and retain the heavenly and eternal blessings of rest in Abraham’s promised homeland (Heb 11:10, 14-16), they must find the obedience that satisfied the Law in that one Seed from the tribe of Judah and from the order of Melchizedek who was greater than Abraham and could stand in their place, even to the point of becoming sin for them that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).

    I differ, then, with Joshua and Wilson on the point of whether the Law/Gospel distinction existed only in the minds of the nation. Two observations occur to me in this connection.

    First, though the OC and the NC administered the land according to two contrasting principles, the two principles were compatible in that they both bore witness to the one true Heir of Abraham. The OC bore witness to Him as the Man who is justified by the works of the Law, and the NC bears witness to Him as the One whose works of the Law will justify those who have faith in Him.

    Second, the error of Paul’s opponents was not that they misinterpreted Moses by mistakenly believing that he had written of the righteousness of the Law. No, in fact, Moses had taught the people the lessons both of the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith. The error of Paul’s opponents was that they did not listen to Moses when he contrasted the righteousness of the law with the righteousness of faith. They misapplied the righteousness of the law to the heavenly and eternal land, when that righteousness applied only to the earthly and temporal land. In other words, the error of Paul’s opponents was that they sought the heavenly and eternal land by the righteousness of the law, but neglected the lesson of Abraham, namely, that that land was only attainable by the righteousness of faith (cf. Rom 9:30-10:11).

  101. R. F. White said,

    March 8, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Re: #101 — David G,

    You and I agree essentially in responding to Joshua. The only tweak I would suggest is to recognize that the contrasting principles of law and promise are incompatible only if they are applied to sinners. The two principles are compatible in the one righteous Man who is justified by the works of the law and whose works of the law will justify those who have faith in Him.

  102. Tom Wenger said,

    March 8, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Josh,

    I’d like to echo what David said here, but also ask again: do you not see that you are at odds with the traditional reformed view? If you are, fine. Call out the tradition as faulty and let us know, then what paradigm you are approaching it from. It would be helpful for us to know what presuppositions you are bringing to the table since they are different from the tradition’s.

    Your take on prostithemi is a classic example of your refusal to admit hat you are doing. You said “the Westminster take on the meaning of prostithemi is wrong” and argued that this cannot refer to two separate covenants. But again, that is Calvin’s terminology, and Witsius’ terminology; it’s the way that Riisen, Turretin , Polanus and Heidegger speak as well as Vos.

    Additionally, Heb 8 makes no sense when he distinguishes the New Covenant from the it calls the Old, obsolete covenant, by saying, “It will not be like the COVENANT I made with their forefathers WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF EGYPT, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.”

    Just because prostithemi can mean what you described, does not mean that your definition is the only option by any stretch of the imagination. Comparing scripture with scripture shows that indeed another covenant was sworn at Sinai. And don’t forget, Calvin and Witsius choose the option you claim is merely Westminster’s.

    It is telling, Josh, that you refuse to acknowledge what you’re rejecting, and it is just as telling that I’m quoting Calvin and Witsius to illustrate the traditional view and you’re quoting Wilson for yours.


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