The Obedience of Faith

Bill Mounce has an article here, to which Lee Irons has responded in a part 1 (part 2 to follow). I wanted to point out a couple of things that I think are important here.

Lee says: “He did not discuss the context but merely appealed to a broader theological truth.”

Is not broader theological truth one of the very important contexts with which the interpretation of a given passage has to agree? There is meaning on every level: letter, word, phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, section of canon, testament, Bible. So perhaps it might be better for Lee to claim that Bill did not discuss the immediate context (probably paragraph level). However, Lee then proceeds to discuss something that is nowhere near the passage in question within Romans, but is on the (other) bookend side of it! Is such a passage irrelevant? Of course not. I just finished saying that there was qualifying meaning everywhere in Scripture, although such a statement must be qualified by saying that not every passage is immediately relevant. Indeed, some passages may be rather convolutedly related to others.

That being said, Lee needs to prove a bit better the envelope nature of chapter 1 and chapter 15. If he is going to claim that there is some sort of envelope structure (which certainly might well be), a simple assertion that it is so is not sufficient. After all, Lee’s entire argument rests on that claim, since, if the letter is not an envelope form, then 1:5 is not in the immedate context of 15.

This is not to say that Lee has not tried to do this. However, in my opinion, it is unsuccessful in the way he has framed it. The word “Gentiles,” for instance, does not necessarily mean “out of the covenant.” Given the fact that chapters 1-3 goes to great lengths to prove that Jew and Gentile are alike under sin, and are both covenant breakers, I think that Paul’s use of the word “Gentile” in 1:5 is most certainly ethnic, not moral.

Secondly, on a broader systematic level, Lee will have to prove that he is not mixing the categories of faith and works, which his interpretation seems to do. The exegetical work will have to fit the systematic Reformed confessional faith. I realize that most people in this world would think me unimaginably narrow-minded for saying such a thing, and that most exegetes would say that I am seriously contracting the Procrustean bed of ST on the feet of exegesis, but I cling to the old ways on this one. ST most certainly has a bearing on exegesis, as the message of the Bible as a whole is the ultimate context for any particular passage.

23 Comments

  1. August 14, 2008 at 2:44 am

    Isn’t “obedience of faith” analogous to “obey the gospel”, which occurs three times in the NT (Rom. 10:16, 2 Thess. 1:8, 1 Pet. 4:17)? And isn’t that just a (rarely-used) way to express trusting the Lord?

  2. Ron Henzel said,

    August 14, 2008 at 5:04 am

    Lane,

    You wrote:

    The word “Gentiles,” for instance, does not necessarily mean “out of the covenant.” Given the fact that chapters 1-3 goes to great lengths to prove that Jew and Gentile are alike under sin, and are both covenant breakers, I think that Paul’s use of the word “Gentile” in 1:5 is most certainly ethnic, not moral.

    Well, depending on what you mean by the word “mean,” I would offer tentative agreement with your first sentence here, and I would go so far as to say that the word “Gentiles” perhaps never denotes the idea of “out of the covenant.” However, in the broader canonical context in which we find Romans, I think it is quite difficult to avoid that connotation in most instances. And in Romans itself, I think it’s more difficult to avoid that connotation in light of 9:4, where Paul says of his “kinsmen according to the flesh”: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (ESV). And this, of course, is a reiteration and expansion of what he wrote in 3:1-2. I think Paul indicates that physical unbelieving Jews have a unique relationship to God’s covenants that unbelieving Gentiles do not, even though later he will make it clear that they are branches that have been broken off the vine (Rom. 11).

    Thus I think that for Paul, as for the other biblical writers (along with ancient Jewish writers in general), the word “Gentiles” assumed the lack of a special covenant relationship with God. The only exception that comes to mind is found among ancient Jews who held that Gentiles were covered under the terms of the Noahic covenant.

  3. David Gadbois said,

    August 15, 2008 at 3:07 am

    Lee has a good grasp of covenant theology and classical law/gospel distinction. I would be most interested to see how he would bring that together with his take on the passage. Hopefully he reads this blog and can elaborate on that. :)

  4. pduggie said,

    August 15, 2008 at 10:50 am

    “Secondly, on a broader systematic level, Lee will have to prove that he is not mixing the categories of faith and works”

    How do you figure that? Didn’t Lee say he considers “Obedience, that is: Faith” to be the interpretation? Noting that faith is submission to the Lord isn’t a “works” doctrine.

    I don’t think either interpretation mixes faith and works, and I’m not sure why Irons thinks he needs to disagree with Mounce, since he himself says that faith is moving from Gentile to Saint, and that Saintliness involved rejection of idolatry (a form of disobedience rejected by those who come to faith, who thereby obey the first commandment)

  5. pduggie said,

    August 15, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Adn to merge this discussion with that of the Competeing Methologies one, wouldn’t the obvious solution be that Paul is clearly speaking of bringing the gentiles to the *imputed obedience* that is received by faith?

    Or does that do damage to Biblical Theology and exegesis? Seriously.

  6. pduggie said,

    August 15, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Checking the bookends is an incredibly valid method of hermeneutics because so frequently scripture uses chiastic forms or at the very least recalls the past when closing something up. Samuel is spoken to by God at night when the tabernacle is destroyed, and Solomon is spoken to by God when is called to at the outset of the new Temple. And that’s not even ins the same book by the same author.

  7. Roger Mann said,

    August 15, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    2. Ron H. wrote,

    I think Paul indicates that physical unbelieving Jews have a unique relationship to God’s covenants that unbelieving Gentiles do not, even though later he will make it clear that they are branches that have been broken off the vine (Rom. 11).

    It seems to me that Paul’s main argument in Romans 1-3 is that both Jews and Gentiles are “covenant breakers” in the sense of breaking God’s covenant law, viewed in its primary sense as a covenant of works:

    “For as many as have sinned without law [Gentiles] will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law [Jews] will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified).” (Rom. 2:12-13)

    “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law [again, viewed in it primary sense as a covenant of works]; but if you are a breaker of the law [i.e., a covenant breaker], your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” (Rom. 2:25)

    “What then? Are we [Jews] any better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin [and therefore covenant breakers]” (Rom. 3:9)

    The Jews may have had a “unique relationship” to God’s covenants in the sense that “to them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2), but this in no way implies that the Gentiles were not equally covenant breakers — “who show the work of the law written in their hearts” (Rom. 2:15) — and equally guilty in the sight of God:

    “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law [i.e., both Jews and Gentiles], that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom. 3:19)

    This may have been what Lane was referring to, but he will have to speak for himself.

  8. pduggie said,

    August 15, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    “but this in no way implies that the Gentiles were not equally covenant breakers — “who show the work of the law written in their hearts” (Rom. 2:15) — and equally guilty in the sight of God:”

    Why do we always assume that?. Can’t Paul be talking about believing gentiles there?

    The law written on the heart was always a sign of covenant blessing: when God *restored* people to himself, he writes the law on their heart.

    Is this not the case? Why doesn’t in factor in here?

    The gentiles in Genesis 1 have no conscience of sin, the Gentile of Gen 2:15 does. Those gentiles are “doing” the things of the law

  9. Vern Crisler said,

    August 15, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Hi Roger,

    I think Paul is saying the Jews violate the laws of the Mosaic covenant, whereas Gentiles violate natural law. The moral principles are the same. It is only by a generalization of the concept of covenant that Gentiles can be called covenant breakers.

    Vern

  10. Roger Mann said,

    August 15, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    8. pduggie wrote,

    Why do we always assume that?. Can’t Paul be talking about believing gentiles there?

    No, because Paul makes it crystal clear that “the doers of the law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13) in God’s sight, and that both Jews and Gentiles are “under the law” so that “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). Thus, neither the Jews nor the Gentiles are “doers of the law” within the context of Romans 1-3, which is why Paul concludes by saying:

    “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20)

    Rather than being “justified” by keeping the law, we are “condemned” by breaking God’s covenant law. Thus, we are all “covenant breakers” in God’s sight.

  11. Roger Mann said,

    August 15, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    9. Vern wrote,

    I think Paul is saying the Jews violate the laws of the Mosaic covenant, whereas Gentiles violate natural law. The moral principles are the same. It is only by a generalization of the concept of covenant that Gentiles can be called covenant breakers.

    The “natural law” and the moral law of the “Mosaic covenant” are one and the same in substance:

    I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

    II. This law, after his Fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables; the first four commandments containing our duty toward God, and the other six our duty to man.

    V. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation. (WCF 19.1-5)

    Thus, both Jews and Gentiles — those with the written law and those without — are “covenant breakers” and under God’s judgment apart from being “in Christ” in the Covenant of Grace.

  12. Vern Crisler said,

    August 16, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Roger,

    I just think you are extending the range of the covenant concept beyond what Paul was talking about. I disagree that the Mosaic covenant and natural law are the same in substance. The Mosaic covenant involved a lot more than moral law.

    Vern

  13. pduggie said,

    August 16, 2008 at 12:28 am

    “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves”

    After having said the doers of the law will be justified, Paul says the gentiles do what the law requires. Since we can only have any possibility of pleasing God by faith, Christian Gentiles are likely in view.

  14. pduggie said,

    August 16, 2008 at 12:29 am

    And what of Paul using the language of Law written on the heart, a promise of the indefectible *new covenant*

  15. Vern Crisler said,

    August 16, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Paul, that’s ridiculous. The context indicates that the reason natural law is mentioned is to convict Gentiles of sin. The Mosaic covenant already convicted Jews. There is nothing in Paul’s thought that restricts the condemnation to Gentile Christians, so no restriction of the natural law to Gentile Christians. Moreover, the concept of being justified by doing the law is a key part of the argument as to why faith is the only way to be justified — because both Jew and Gentile have violated the law. The option of doing the law to be justified is off the table for sinners.

    Vern

  16. Roger Mann said,

    August 16, 2008 at 11:15 am

    12. Vern wrote,

    I disagree that the Mosaic covenant and natural law are the same in substance. The Mosaic covenant involved a lot more than moral law.

    Well, I didn’t say that “the Mosaic covenant and natural law are the same in substance.” What I said was:

    The “natural law” and the moral law of the “Mosaic covenant” are one and the same in substance.

    There’s a big difference there. Obviously the “Mosaic covenant” as a whole involved a lot more than moral law. But I’m not sure how you can argue that the natural law and the moral law are not the same in substance, when WCF 19 clearly states that they are (unless you reject the Confession on this point):

    I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

    II. This law [which constitutes a “covenant of works”]…continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables; the first four commandments containing our duty toward God, and the other six our duty to man.

    Therefore, if the natural law/moral law constitutes a “covenant of works,” as the WCF (and Scripture) clearly teaches, then I’m hardly “extending the range of the covenant concept beyond what Paul was talking about.”

  17. Vern Crisler said,

    August 16, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Sorry Roger, I just misunderstood.

    However, regarding the Confession, I can’t agree that the covenant of works involved the 10 commandments. That just seems anachronistic. The only “law” involved in the covenant of works was the requirement not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    If you have time, what is the theological reason why the Confession is adopting its view? Just curious, as I’m not sure as to the motivation for this “republication” concept.

    However, I think you’re right in saying that natural law and the moral laws of the Mosaic covenant are one and the same in substance.

    Vern

  18. Roger Mann said,

    August 16, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    17. Vern wrote,

    However, regarding the Confession, I can’t agree that the covenant of works involved the 10 commandments. That just seems anachronistic. The only “law” involved in the covenant of works was the requirement not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    Sorry, but I don’t have the time to get into this too deeply right now, but Robert Shaw does a good job of summarizing the Confessional position below (which I agree with):

    “God having formed man an intelligent creature, and a subject of moral government, he gave him a law for the rule of his conduct. This law was founded in the infinitely righteous nature of God, and the moral relations necessarily subsisting between him and man. It was originally written on the heart of man, as he was endowed with such a perfect knowledge of his Maker’s will as was sufficient to inform him concerning the whole extent of his duty, in the circumstances in which he was placed, and was also furnished with power and ability to yield all that obedience which was required of him. This is included in the moral image of God, after which man was created.–Gen. i. 27. The law, as thus inscribed on the heart of the first man, is often styled the law of creation, because it was the will of the sovereign Creator, revealed to the reasonable creature, by impressing it upon his mind and heart at his creation. It is also called the moral law, because it was a revelation of the will of God, as his moral governor, and was the standard and rule of man’s moral actions. Adam was originally placed under this law in its natural form, as merely directing and obliging him to perfect obedience. He was brought under it in a covenant form, when an express threatening of death, and a gracious promise of life, was annexed to it; and then a positive precept was added, enjoining him not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, as the test of his obedience to the whole law.–Gen. ii. 16, 17. That this covenant was made with the first man, not as a single person, but as the federal representative of all his natural posterity, has been formerly shown. The law, as invested with a covenant form, is called, by the Apostle Paul, “The law of works” (Rom. iii. 27); that is, the law as a covenant of works. In this form, the law is to be viewed as not only prescribing duty, but as promising life as the reward of obedience, and denouncing death as the punishment of transgression [e.g., Rom. 10:5 and Gal. 3:10-12]. This law “which was ordained to life,” is now become “weak through the flesh,” or through the corruption of our fallen nature. It prescribes terms which we are incapable of performing; and instead of being encouraged to seek life by our own obedience to the law as a covenant, we are required to renounce all hopes of salvation in that way, and to seek it by faith in Christ. But all men are naturally under the law as a broken covenant, obnoxious to its penalty, and bound to yield obedience to its commands. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but also for all his posterity, when he violated it, he left them all under it as a broken covenant. Most miserable, therefore is the condition of all men by nature; for “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.”–Gal. iii. 10. Truly infatuated are they who seek for righteousness by the works of the law; for “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.”–Rom. iii. 20.” (Robert Shaw, Exposition of WCF 19.1)

    If you have time, what is the theological reason why the Confession is adopting its view? Just curious, as I’m not sure as to the motivation for this “republication” concept.

    Again, I believe Robert Shaw explains this quite adequately as well:

    “It may be remarked, that the law of the ten commandments was promulgated to Israel from Sinai in the form of a covenant of works. Not that it was the design of God to renew a covenant of works with Israel, or to put them upon seeking life by their own obedience to the law; but the law was published to them as a covenant of works, to show them that without a perfect righteousness, answering to all the demands of the law, they could not be justified before God; and that, finding themselves wholly destitute of that righteousness, they might be excited to take hold of the covenant of grace, in which a perfect righteousness for their justification is graciously provided. The Sinai transaction was a mixed dispensation. In it the covenant of grace was published, as appears from these words in the preface standing before the commandments: “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage;” and from the promulgation of the ceremonial law at the same time. But the moral law, as a covenant of works, was also displayed, to convince the Israelites of their sinfulness and misery, to teach them the necessity of an atonement, and lead them to embrace by faith the blessed Mediator, the Seed promised to Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. The law, therefore, was published at Sinai as a covenant of works, in subservience to the covenant of grace. And the law is still published in subservience to the gospel, as “a schoolmaster to bring sinners to Christ, that they may be justified by faith.”–Gal. iii. 24.” (Robert Shaw, Exposition of WCF 19.2)

  19. Vern Crisler said,

    August 16, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Final note: I think Robert Shaw is a good example of the excesses of so-called “covenant theology.” Adam was not literally under a covenant, or covenant form. A covenant is an agreement between two parties, each giving up something for something in return. God gave Adam a command, not a covenant.

    The term “covenant of works” is not because there was some formal or even informal covenant involved, and FVists are right about that. But the term covenant of WORKS points to conditionality, which is what absolutely distinguishes the covenant of works idea from the covenant of grace (which is unconditional). What the FVists are guilty of is introducing conditionality into the covenant of grace.

    The test of Adam was not moral in nature but “ceremonial” — a mere food law. It’s sheer triviality was a test of Adam’s loyalty, and that’s what makes his betrayal so awful.

    Adam and Eve owned everything together so couldn’t steal. They were the only two who existed and so could not commit adultery. There was no Sabbath law to break, and even if there were, they didn’t work anyway. No, I don’t see any 10 commandments in the “covenant of works.”

    The Mosaic covenant has nothing to do with the covenant of grace, subservient or otherwise. It was a conditional covenant with the nation of Israel. I thought St. Paul made that pretty clear. I’m afraid this mixing of the covenant of grace with the covenant of works has led to the execesses of theonomy and FVism, a flattening out of the history of redemption.

    Personally, I think it may be a good idea for Reformed people to return a little bit to Luther and Lutheranism (without its mistakes). Emphasis on covenant and union with Christ rather than justification may end up involving a subtle distortion of the gospel.

    Just some thoughts,

    Vern

  20. pduggie said,

    August 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I hardly think its ridiculous.

    At the least I’d think you’d need to offer an explanation of why the language of writing the law on the heart, an EXPLICIT promise of the new covenant, is predicated of gentiles with no reference to the new covenant promise intended.

    And the context is NOT just condemnatory: Paul has spoken of how “glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (which has to be believers) and Paul has said the doers of the law will be justified. The he says the Gentiles do the law. Seems like a pretty simple syllogism

    1. Doers of the law will be justified
    2. Gentiles are doing the law
    Therefore
    3. Gentiles will be justified

    Now, what does Paul mean by “doing the law” in this case? Probably the “obedience of faith”: They have come to faith, and then show forth the fruits (doing the law) of their justification, and they will receive glory at the last day.

    Paul uses this argument to slap the face of Jews who think their mere possession of the law privileges them: no, he says: you have the law but don’t keep it, and these gentiles you despise are actually keeping it now, that they keep it in Christ. I’m taking Romans 2 as previewing what Paul will say later in Romans.

    The anomaly of the law written on the heart of gentiles really needs more explication to be accepted as some kind of merely “everybody knows right from wrong” natural law theory. The Law Written on the Heart is the promise of the New Covalent.

  21. Roger Mann said,

    August 18, 2008 at 2:35 am

    19. Vern wrote,

    Adam was not literally under a covenant, or covenant form. A covenant is an agreement between two parties, each giving up something for something in return. God gave Adam a command, not a covenant.

    First, a covenant is not always “an agreement between two parties,” so you are just factually incorrect here. Sometimes the term “covenant” refers to an immutable ordinance made about a thing: “My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night” (Jer 33:20) — that is, the uninterrupted succession of day and night. It sometimes refers to a testament or irrevocable last will (Num 18:19; Heb 8:15-22). It sometimes refers to a sure and stable promise, though not mutual (Ge 9:11; Ex 34:10; Isa 59:21). And the term “covenant” can sometimes refer simply to a command (Jer 34:13-14).

    Moreover, God’s “covenant” (Ex 19:5) with Israel on Mount Sinai consisted of ten commandments (Ex 20:1-17), and was “agreed” upon being obeyed by the Israelites (Ex 19:8). Therefore, the fact that “God gave Adam a command” in no way conflicts with the notion that He established a “covenant” with him, nor the fact that Adam “agreed” to the terms of the covenant.

    The term “covenant of works” is not because there was some formal or even informal covenant involved, and FVists are right about that.

    No, the FVists are wrong here as usual. It is described as a “covenant of works” because it was a covenant, as both Scripture and the Confession make clear:

    “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” (Hosea 6:7)

    “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” (WCF 7.2)

    But the term covenant of WORKS points to conditionality, which is what absolutely distinguishes the covenant of works idea from the covenant of grace (which is unconditional). What the FVists are guilty of is introducing conditionality into the covenant of grace.

    The covenant of grace was just as “conditional” as the covenant of works was:

    “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” (Jn 17:4)

    “For as by one man’s disobedience [to the law, in the covenant of works] many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience [to the law, in the covenant of grace] many will be made righteous.” (Rom 5:19)

    “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Php 2:8)

    The Lord Jesus fulfilled all the conditions of the covenant of grace by perfectly obeying the law in our stead, submitting to the penalty due our sin, and fully satisfying the wrath and justice of God. What the FVists are guilty of is transferring the conditionality of the covenant of grace from Christ onto us, thereby corrupting the gospel and surreptitiously injecting works into the definition of justifying faith.

    Adam and Eve owned everything together so couldn’t steal. They were the only two who existed and so could not commit adultery. There was no Sabbath law to break, and even if there were, they didn’t work anyway. No, I don’t see any 10 commandments in the “covenant of works.”

    You are sadly mistaken. Scripture declares:

    “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law [which would have included Adam], that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5)

    If Adam was not “under the law” in the covenant of works (the same moral “law” that Jesus was under and fulfilled), then he was not redeemed by Christ and is lost forever in hell! The fact that some commands in the moral law (such as those against stealing and adultery) did not directly apply to Adam and Eve until after their sons and daughters began populating the earth in no way implies that they were not subject to the moral law.

    Moreover, Jesus Himself answered the question, “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life,” by saying, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt 19:16-17). Therefore, if Adam was to enter into “eternal life” he would have had to perfectly “keep the commandments” of the moral law, just as the Lord Jesus did when He earned eternal life for His people by perfectly obeying the moral law in their stead (see Lev 18:5; Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12). That is the clear and consistent testimony of Scripture.

    The Mosaic covenant has nothing to do with the covenant of grace, subservient or otherwise. It was a conditional covenant with the nation of Israel. I thought St. Paul made that pretty clear.

    Paul made it crystal clear that the Mosaic law was “subservient” to the covenant of grace:

    “And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Gal 3:17-18)

    Therefore, Robert Shaw was absolutely correct when he wrote:

    “The law, therefore, was published at Sinai as a covenant of works, in subservience to the covenant of grace [which was given to Abraham “by promise”]. And the law is still published in subservience to the gospel, as ‘a schoolmaster to bring sinners to Christ, that they may be justified by faith.’–Gal. iii. 24.”

    I’m afraid this mixing of the covenant of grace with the covenant of works has led to the execesses of theonomy and FVism, a flattening out of the history of redemption.

    There’s no “mixing of the covenant of grace with the covenant of works” in classic Reformed theology. The covenant of works is based upon works of the law, while the covenant of grace is based upon God’s free promise of grace through faith alone in Christ alone. One is of works; the other is of grace. Two distinct covenants; two distinct ways of being justified before God.

  22. Ron Henzel said,

    August 18, 2008 at 4:00 am

    Vern,

    You wrote:

    A covenant is an agreement between two parties, each giving up something for something in return.

    I don’t think I’ve ever come across this definition of a biblical covenant. In which standard reference work did you find it?

  23. Roger Mann said,

    August 18, 2008 at 4:22 am

    20. pduggie wrote,

    At the least I’d think you’d need to offer an explanation of why the language of writing the law on the heart, an EXPLICIT promise of the new covenant, is predicated of gentiles with no reference to the new covenant promise intended.

    Paul doesn’t use the “EXPLICIT promise of the new covenant” language in Romans 2:15. He says that the Gentiles “show the work of the law written in their hearts,” while the promise of the new covenant is “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:33). They don’t mean the same thing as you assume. By “the work of the law” is simply meant “what the law requires,” just as “the work of God” in John 6:29 means “what God requires” for the justification of sinners — “that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Calvin is quite clear on this point:

    Who show the work of the law written, etc.; that is, they prove that there is imprinted on their hearts a discrimination and judgment by which they distinguish between what is just and unjust, between what is honest and dishonest. He means not that it was so engraven on their will, that they sought and diligently pursued it, but that they were so mastered by the power of truth, that they could not disapprove of it. For why did they institute religious rites, except that they were convinced that God ought to be worshipped? Why were they ashamed of adultery and theft, except that they deemed them evils?

    Without reason then is the power of the will deduced from this passage, as though Paul had said, that the keeping of the law is within our power; for he speaks not of the power to fulfill the law, but of the knowledge of it. Nor is the word heart to be taken for the seat of the affections, but only for the understanding, as it is found in Deuteronomy 29:4, “The Lord hath not given thee a heart to understand;” and in Luke 24:25, “O foolish men, and slow in heart to believe.

    Nor can we conclude from this passage, that there is in men a full knowledge of the law, but that there are only some seeds of what is right implanted in their nature, evidenced by such acts as these — All the Gentiles alike instituted religious rites, they made laws to punish adultery, and theft, and murder, they commended good faith in bargains and contracts. They have thus indeed proved, that God ought to be worshipped, that adultery, and theft, and murder are evils, that honesty is commendable. It is not to our purpose to inquire what sort of God they imagined him to be, or how many gods they devised; it is enough to know, that they thought that there is a God, and that honor and worship are due to him. It matters not whether they permitted the coveting of another man’s wife, or of his possessions, or of any thing which was his, — whether they connived at wrath and hatred; inasmuch as it was not right for them to covet what they knew to be evil when done. (John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 2:15)

    The promise of the new covenant, on the other hand, is that God will empower us to obey His law that is written upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

    Seems like a pretty simple syllogism
    1. Doers of the law will be justified
    2. Gentiles are doing the law
    Therefore
    3. Gentiles will be justified

    When Paul says that the Gentiles “by nature do the things in the law” (Rom 2:14), he is not saying that they are “doers of the law” in the same sense as Romans 2:13 (those who are “justified” by their obedience to the law). In addition to what Calvin said above, this can be easily demonstrated from Scripture:

    “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them.’” (Rom 10:5)

    “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are in the book of the law, to do them.” (Gal 3:10)

    “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (Jas 2:10)

    Therefore, if perfect obedience to the law is required in order to be “justified” by the law, then it’s patently obvious that the Gentiles are not “doers of the law” in the sense that Paul meant it in Romans 2:13. Why? Because “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).


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