Geerhardus Vos on Reformed theologians and republication

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Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
.... the older theologians did not always clearly distinguish between the covenant of works and the Sinaitic covenant. At Sinai it was not the "bare" law that was given, but a reflection of the covenant of works revived, as it were, in the interests of the covenant of grace continued at Sinai. ...

Geerhardus Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology (Kindle Locations 412-414). Monergism Books. Kindle Edition.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
.... the older theologians did not always clearly distinguish between the covenant of works and the Sinaitic covenant. At Sinai it was not the "bare" law that was given, but a reflection of the covenant of works revived, as it were, in the interests of the covenant of grace continued at Sinai. ...

Geerhardus Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology (Kindle Locations 412-414). Monergism Books. Kindle Edition.
So did he affirm republication or what?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
So did he affirm republication or what?
In that particular essay, I do not think that he did. I cannot remember off the top of my head what he says about the subject in his Reformed Dogmatics or in other writings. (I will try to check his RD later today if I get the time.) Still, regardless of his personal views, he had the historical honesty to admit that a form of republication was widely held by older Reformed divines.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
I cannot remember off the top of my head what he says about the subject in his Reformed Dogmatics
So I take it you remember Vos' Reformed Dogmatics on 'the top of your head' and his Biblical Theology on 'the bottom of your head'?? ;);)
I will try to check his RD later today if I get the time.
I would be interested if you still have the time. Did he affirm Republication here?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I would be interested if you still have the time. Did he affirm Republication here?
In volume 3 of the Reformed Dogmatics, Geerhardus Vos affirms a pedagogical republication of the covenant of works in subservience to the covenant of grace:

When the covenant of works was broken, God could have rescinded this promise [of eternal life]. He was no longer bound to honor it. Nevertheless, He allowed the promise and the condition to stand and repeatedly be published anew, especially by the proclamation of the Sinaitic law (Lev 18:5, "The one who does them will live by them"; cf. Rom 10:5, "For Moses describes the righteousness that is by the law," etc.; Gal 3:12). Fulfilment of this condition from man's side was no longer conceivable; thus the repetition must have had a different significance. This significance can only be that after the fall God gave His covenant of grace, in which the same demand and promise are fulfilled by the Mediator. (132; emphases added)
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
.... the older theologians did not always clearly distinguish between the covenant of works and the Sinaitic covenant. At Sinai it was not the "bare" law that was given, but a reflection of the covenant of works revived, as it were, in the interests of the covenant of grace continued at Sinai. ...

Geerhardus Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology (Kindle Locations 412-414). Monergism Books. Kindle Edition.
So views similar to Dr Klein was part of Reformed tradition for awhile, do he did not just invent them first?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
So views similar to Dr Klein was part of Reformed tradition for awhile, do he did not just invent them first?
Kline didn't invent the idea of a typological element republished in the Sinai Covenant. Some of Kline's other views, like Common Grace order and intrusion ethics, are radically opposed to the Reformed thought.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Kline didn't invent the idea of a typological element republished in the Sinai Covenant. Some of Kline's other views, like Common Grace order and intrusion ethics, are radically opposed to the Reformed thought.
How similar was his views regarding the Mossic Covenant as say held by some Reformed Baptists?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
How similar was his views regarding the Mossic Covenant as say held by some Reformed Baptists?
I think others have answered that question for you in other threads. In any case, I am not an expert on Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology, so I don't know.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
How similar was his views regarding the Mossic Covenant as say held by some Reformed Baptists?
We discussed this in another Thread David. Reformed Baptist are all over the spectrum. Dr. Barcellos wrote a very good book you might enjoy reading. I read it many years ago.

The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology

Subtitled Geerhardus Vos and John Owen–Their Methods of and Contributions to the Articulation of Redemptive History, this book is a comparative analysis of Vos and Owen in historical-theological context. The thesis is that Vos’ biblical-theological method should be viewed as a post-Enlightenment continuation of the pre-critical federal (i.e., covenant) theology of seventeenth-century Reformed orthodoxy.

https://www.rbap.net/our-books/the-family-tree-of-reformed-biblical-theology-by-richard-barcellos/
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
On a side note. I am not a fan of Vos in this area.

Here are some of my favorite authors on the subject.

https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/taken-frompract/

The Covenant of Works and the Mosaic Law / James Durham
God gave the Mosaic Covenant as an administration in the Covenant of Grace but the Israelite’s turned it into a Covenant of Works which wasn’t his intention. Therefore God rejected their sacrifices and services as not commanded. The Mosaic Covenant is not a mixed Covenant. It is an Administration of the Covenant of Grace.

Taken from

Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments
by
James Durham

Topic is
The Covenant of Works and the Law
pp. 52-55

Our purpose is not to aim at any great accuracy, nor to multiply questions and digressions, nor to insist in application and use, but plainly and shortly (as we are able) to give you the meaning of the law of God. 1. By holding forth the native duties required in every commandment. 2. The sins which properly oppose and contradict each commandment, that by these we may have some direction and help in duty, and some spur to repentance, at least a furtherance in the work of conviction, that so by it we may be led to Christ Jesus, who is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes (Rom. 10:4), which is the principal intent of this law, as it was given to Israel.

To make way for the exposition, we shall:

I. Lay down some conclusions, which arise from the preface.
II. Give you some ordinary distinctions.
III. Clear and confirm some rules or observations useful for understanding of the whole law.

1. The first conclusion that we take for granted is, that this law (as it is moral) ties even Christians and believers now, as well as of old. Which appears from this, that he who is God the Lawgiver here, Acts 7:38, is the Angel Christ, and it is his word, as is clear, vs. 30-31. As also, the matter of it being connatural to Adam, it did bind before the law was given, and that obligatory force cannot be separated from its nature (though the exercise of right reason in nature be much obliterated since the fall). Therefore Christ was so far from destroying this law in its authority, and Paul so far from making it void by the doctrine of faith, that our Lord tells, he came to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), and Paul shows that his preaching of faith was to establish it (Rom. 3:31). Which truth being confirmed by them both in their practice and doctrine shows that the breach of the holy law of God is no less sinful to us now, than it was to them before us.

The second conclusion is, that though this law (and obedience thereto) lie on Christians, and be called for from them, yet it is not laid on them as a Covenant of Works, or that by which they are to seek or expect justification. No, but on the contrary, to overturn self-righteousness, by this doctrine, which manifest sin, and of itself works wrath. Which is also clear, in that he is here called, Our God, which he cannot be to sinners but by his grace. And also it appears from the Lord’s owning of this sinful people as his, and his adjoining to this law so many ceremonies and sacrifices witch point out and lead to Christ; and from his adding the law on mount Sinai, as a help to the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 17 – which was a covenant of grace, and was never altered as to its substance), in which the people of Israel, as his seed, was comprehended. Therefore it appears that this was never the Lord’s intent in covenanting thus with his people, that they should expect righteousness and life by the adjoined law, but only that it should be useful in the hand of grace to make the former covenant with Abraham effectual. So then, though we are bound to obey the law, we are not to seek righteousness or life by the duties therein enjoined.

Skipping page 54 to section II on the bottom of the page.

II. These conclusions being laid down as necessary caveats, we shall propose these distinctions for clearing of them.

1. We would distinguish between a law and a covenant, or between this law considered as a law, and as a covenant. A law does necessarily imply no more than: (1) To direct. (2) To command, enforcing that obedience by authority. A covenant does further necessarily imply promises made upon some condition, or threatenings added, if such a condition is not performed. Now, this law may be considered without the consideration of a covenant, for it was free to God to have added or not to have added promises, and the threatenings (upon supposition that the law had been kept) might never have taken effect. But the first two are essential to the law; the last two are made void to believers through Christ. In which sense it is said, that by him we are freed from the law as a covenant, so that believers’ lives depend not on the promises annexed to the law, nor are they in danger by the threatenings adjoined to it. Hence we are to advert, when the covenant of works is spoken of, that by it is not meant this law simply, but the law propounded as the condition of obtaining life by the obedience of it, in which respect it was only so formally given to Adam. This then is the first distinction between the law and the Covenant of Works.

2. [We would] distinguish between these ten commandments simply and strictly taken in the matter of them, and more complexly in their full administration, with preface, promises, sacrifices, etc. In the first sense they are a law having the matter, but not the form of the covenant of works. So Moses by it is said to describe such righteousness as the covenant of works requires, yet he does not propound it as the righteousness they were to rely on, but his scope is to put them to a Mediator, by revealing sin through the law (Rom. 10:3). In the second sense it is a covenant of grace, that same in substance with the covenant made with Abraham, and with the covenant made with believers now, but differing in its administration.

3. [We would] distinguish between God’s intention in giving and the believers in Israel, their making use of this law; and the carnal multitude among that people, their way of receiving it, and corrupt abusing it contrary to the Lord’s mind. In the first sense, it was a covenant of grace. In the second it turned to be a covenant of works to them. And therefore it is that the Lord rejects (as we may see, Isa. 1:13; 66:2-3; Jer. 7:22) their sacrifices and services as not commanded, because rested on by them, to the prejudice of grace, and contrary to the strain and scope of this law complexly considered.
https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.c...t-and-republication-of-the-covenant-of-works/

Dr. Robert B. Strimple
I found Dr. Strimple’s thoughts on Republication of the Covenant of Works as portrayed in ‘The Law is Not of Faith’ very true. “Here in the WCF, it is claimed,one also finds the same legal characterization of the Mosaic covenant even in terms of the republication of the covenant of works…” (p. 43). And I wrote in the margin of my copy: “No, no, no!” That is precisely what is not found in the Confession!” RBS

I find it strange that David Van Drunen is the Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California, Dr. R. Scott Clark is the Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, J. V. Fesko is Acedemic Dean, Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and Bryan Estelle is Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California. It is strange that these men have taken up a position that is not confessional especially since one of Dr. Clark’s books is claiming the Recovery of Confessionalism.

Here is the conclusion of the paper by Dr. Strimple concerning Dr. Robert Scott Clark’s position concering WCF chapter 19.

The other relevant blog by Dr. Clark was published much earlier; it is dated July 16, 2007 (quoted here from footnote 87 on p. 356 of Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry. Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California). There he presented essentially the same argument that he presented in his more recent blog (which we considered above), but with the additional factor of following Thomas Boston in appealing “to the logic implied by the grammar of WCF 19:1 and 2,” and claiming that “the phrase ‘covenant of works’ in 19:1 is appositive to the noun ‘law'” (italics added). “Thus the ‘Law’ is reckoned here as a covenant of works. Thus when, 19:2 establishes ‘this law’ as the subject of the verb “was delivered,” the antecedent can be none other than the law defined as a covenant of works in 19:1.”

Thus, if I am following the “logic of the grammar” correctly, if (as we have shown above) then all the references to “this law” in this chapter, since they all have the same ultimate antecedent (namely the “law” referred to in sec. 1), must also be understood as referring to “none other than the ‘Law’ defined as a covenant of works in 19:1.” But that, of course, is impossible, for that would mean that “this law” spoken of there in sec. 2 as continuing for us is a covenant of works; as also the “law” spoken of in sec. 5 as “forever bind(ing) all, as well justified persons as others”; as well as the references to “the law” twice in sec. 6 as that which “true believers” are “not under…as a covenant of works”! I know Dr. Clark doesn’t believe that, but that is where the logic of his argument would lead him.

When Dr. Clark says in this blog that “the phrase ‘covenant of works,’ in 19:1 is appositive to the noun ‘Law’—”the second expression identifying or supplementing the first” The American College Dictionary—his argument is that therefore “this law” in sec. 2 “can be none other than the ‘Law’ defined as a covenant of works in 19:1.” But if all references to “law” or “this law” in this chapter must be references to law as a covenant of works, because that is the definition of law in this chapter, that would lead to the consequences noted in our previous paragraph, which cannot be true. The error in Dr. Clark’s argument is that the phrase “as a covenant of works” in sec. 1 is not appositive but restrictive. The little word “as” in the sec. 1 —”God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant or works—is a preposition here in the first sense listed in the Webster New World Dictionary: “as—preposition 1. in the role, function, capacity, or sense of “. The Confession says that God gave to Adam a law as a covenant of works, but it never says, or even suggests, that God ever so gave it to any person or nation after the fall.

In sec. 2 the important phrase “as such” appears, appears immediately after the reference to “this law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and…” The first usage of the word “such” as an adjective listed in the Webster New World Dictionary is: “such—adjective 1. of the same kind mentioned or implied.” Here in sec. 2 the phrase is “as such,” where “such” is a pronoun, meaning “as being what is indicated or suggested” Webster. And what is indicated in the sentence in sec. 2 is the purpose/function stated in the words immediately preceding “as such,” i.e., “to be a perfect rule of righteousness.” The words “as such” do not leap over all the words in the sentence in which it appears to go back to “as a covenant of works” at the beginning of sec. 1!

Note also that the two references to “covenant of works” with negative force in sec. 6—”not under the law as a covenant of works” and later “although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works”—must be read alongside the positive statement of sec. 2. Question: If true believers after the fall (including those who received the law on Mt. Sinai) be “not under the law, as a covenant of works” (sec. 6), how does the law relate to them? Answer: As “a perfect rule of righteousness.”

The meaning of 19:1-2 is so clear that I do not understand why any question concerning that meaning should ever have arisen. To state that meaning I can use no clearer words than the words the divines used: “God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works…This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai…”

Download the short document here.http://tinyurl.com/m26yecj

http://tinyurl.com/q7ftuq5
Samuel Rutherford
The Covenant of Life chapter XI by Samuel Rutherford
The Covenant of Life chapter XI by Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford
was a very prominent Scottish member of the Westminster Assembly, which sat in the 1640s. He published an extensive treatise on the covenant. It appeared in 1655, as was entitled The covenant of life opened, or, A treatise of the covenant of grace. In the eleventh chapter, Rutherford deals with several abberant views on the Mosaic covenant. First he deals with the Amyraldian view (espoused first by John Cameron, and later by Bolton), which argues that the Mosaic covenant is not a covenant of works or a covenant of grace, but rather a third “subservient” covenant. This view is rejected by the Standards, as well as the Formula Consensus Helvetica. Second, he deals with those who make the Mosaic covenant a covenant of works, completely different from the covenant of grace. This is the view of all Lutherans, as well as a very small minority of Reformed theologians. It is also rejected by the Standards (WCF 19:1-2, LC 101, etc, but we will deal with that issue elsewhere). Finally, he deals with the Arminian view. It is similar to the Amyraldian view, in that it also argues for three covenants entirely distinct in substance.

https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/the-covenant-of/
https://sites.google.com/site/themosaiccovenant/samuel-rutherford/the-covenant-of-life-opened
Anthony Burgess

Anthony Burgess’s Vindication of the Law and the Covenants

Anthony Burgess

Anthony Burgess’s Vindication of the Law and the Covenants (1647). Burgess was a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly. These lectures were internationally hailed as a solid defense of consensus Calvinism over against the more extreme views of the Calvinistic antinomians of the period, as well as those of the Papists, Socinians, and Arminians.

Burgess argues for the consensus position articulated in the Westminster Standards, that the Mosaic Law is a covenant of grace (cf. WCF 7:5-6; 19:1-2; LC #101). Over against this, he refutes three other aberrant minority views, who maintain that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works, a mixed covenant, or a subservient covenant. Note especially his insightful exegesis of the Ten Commandments towards the end: even the very form of the commandments presupposes that they are given in the context of a covenant of grace.

https://sites.google.com/site/themosaiccovenant/anthony-burgess
http://heritagebooktalk.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/burgess-vindiceae-text-complete.pdf
Robert Shaw
An exposition of the confession of faith of the Westminster Assembly of divines
Chapter 19
Robert Shaw states, Adam was created under this Law in a natural form but then was brought under it in the form of a Covenant.

Section 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.
Exposition

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. ….

Section 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.

Exposition

Upon the fall of man, the law, considered as a covenant of works, was annulled and set aside; but, considered as moral, it continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness. That fair copy of the law which had been inscribed on the heart of the first man in his creation, was, by the fall, greatly defaced, although not totally obliterated. Some faint impressions of it still remain on the minds of all reasonable creatures. Its general principles, such as, that God is to be worshipped, that parents ought to be honoured, that we should do to others what we would reasonably wish that they should do to us–such general principles as these are still, in some degree, engraved on the minds of all men. – Rom. ii. 14,15. But the original edition of the law being greatly obliterated, God was graciously pleased to give a new and complete copy of it. He delivered it to the Israelites from Mount Sinai, with awful solemnity. In this promulgation of the law, he summed it up in ten commandments; and, therefore, it is commonly styled the Law of the Ten Commandments.

Notice what Shaw states. He notes the Original Natural form of the Law that Adam was under. Then he notes that Adam was brought under a Covenant of Works when an express threatening of death, and a gracious promise of life, was annexed to the Law.
John Ball
Treatise on the Covenants

Under this Covenant, the natural seed of Abraham bore the face of the Church and state, and God had promised abundance of temporals, and of spiritual a scantling; But all under the outward administration of the Covenant, were not in like manner partakers of the blessings promised in Covenant. For some had their part in temporal blessings only, and the outward ordinances; others were partakers of the spiritual blessings promised. But whatever good thing any of them enjoyed either temporal or spiritual, it was conferred upon them freely according to the Covenant of Grace, and not for the dignity of their works. It is true, the promise is conditional, if they obey, they shall reap the good things of the Land: but obedience was not a causal condition, why they should inherit the Land…So that herein there appears no intexture of the Covenant of works with the Covenant of Grace, nor any moderation of the Law to the strength and power of nature for the obtaining of outward blessings. But rather that God out of his abundant goodness is pleased freely to confer outward blessings promised in the Covenant upon some that did not cleave to him unfainedly, that he might make good his promise unto the spiritual seed, which by word and oath he had confirmed unto the Fathers.

(John Ball, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace [1645], 142).
https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.c...apter-19-the-law-and-the-covenant-of-works-2/
https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/skirting-the-issue/
 

pressing_on

Puritan Board Freshman
It's best to read Vos's primary texts quietly and alone and come up with your own thoughts on the matter, not relying on people's viewpoints (which can be helpful as a third-level means of understanding).

'Tis a great advantage that the best thinkers of this faith were able to write meaningfully to most readers who are teachable.
 

pressing_on

Puritan Board Freshman
It has been a great privilege to be around to finally get Bavinck and Vos translated, see what they really said...
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
It has been a great privilege to be around to finally get Bavinck and Vos translated, see what they really said...
I agree. Along with other great Dutch guys.

Drs. J van Gunderen and W. H. Velema
Concise Reformed Dogmatics
The Covenant of Grace, The Sinaitic and the New
Drs. J van Gunderen and W. H. Velema
Concise Reformed Dogmatics pp. 548-550 P&R 2008

3. The Sinaitic Covenant. We can say with Bavinck that the covenant with the fathers is the foundation and core of the Sinaitic covenant (R. D., 3.220). God’s faithfulness toward the patriarchs is mentioned as the motive (Deut. 7:8). There is continuity so that also the covenant with Israel bears the character of a covenant of Grace. This is sufficiently clear from the words of Exodus 20:2, although in the phase of the history of the covenant there is a great emphasis on the observance of God’s commandments.

Sometimes the distinction between the covenant with Abraham and that with Israel at Sinai is almost turned into a contrast. Thus it is said that although the latter is indeed not a covenant of works, it is presented in a form that is strongly reminiscent of a covenant of works (Aalders, 1939. 179). We can object that the emphasis on what God demands from his people does not take us into the sphere of a covenant of works. In Deuteronomy the central idea is that the people will keep the covenant. Blessing and curse depend on this (Deut. 27-30), but it is the obligation to respond to God’s love that carries the covenant (see Deut. 6:4-5; 7:6-8; 30:19-20). The Law is the torah, which plays a role within the covenant. It provides the instruction that is required to make the people walk in the way of the covenant. Just as Abraham is called to walk before God’s face when the Lord allies himself with him (Gen17.1), so the law that is given to Israel serves the covenant as a further explanation of the statement, “Walk before me and be thou perfect” (cf. Bavinck, R. D. 3.222).

4. In connection with the prophesies concern a new covenant or an eternal covenant, which God is about to establish with his people (Jer. 31:31-34; 32:37-41; Ezek. 37:24-28), the question arises whether this is a covenant other than the covenant made with Israel or whether we must think in terms of a renewal of the covenant.

Some theologians contrast the Sinaitic covenant with the new covenant. The bond with the people of God in the covenant of Sinai is purely external and national, in the new covenant it is purely internal and spiritual. Today we deal with the new covenant. The members of the covenant are members of the invisible church , the living members of Christ (Aalders, 1939, 158f.). An important conclusion is that covenant and election are quantitatively identical. The number of covenant members is identical to the number of the elect. Incidentally, the covenant appears to include illegitimate members, to whom also God has said that he establishes his covenant with them to be their God, but who refuse to acknowledge him as their God. This can be interpreted as a breach of the covenant on their part (Aalders, 1939, 193,222).

According to Reiling, the prophecy of the new covenant implies that the old covenant no longer exists. It has been breached by the people and there is nothing left to be restored or renewed. The old covenant and the new covenant constitute the same covenant only to the extent that God remains himself. As far as the covenant people are concerned, however, we must speak of two fundamentally different covenants. (J. Reiling, Verbond, oud en nieuto, 1976.111)

While Aalders, Reiling, and others emphasisze the discontinuity of the covenant with Israel and the new covenant, others point to continuity. The distinction is not that the old covenant is only external and the new covenant internal. This would constitute an essential difference. It is disputed by L. H. Vander Meiden (1955.35). The difference lies entirely in the area of the history of redemption (Wiskerke, 1955.174).

Regarding the relationship between the old (Sinaitic) covenant and the new covenant (Jer.31), we must keep in mind both the similarities and the distinctions between them.

  1. It is in essence one covenant of God with his people. When the covenant first established with Abraham was subsequently ratified with Israel at Sinai, it retained the character of a covenant of grace. Jeremiah 31 implies in a surprisingly new manner that God commits himself to extend his grace and faithfulness toward people who do not at all deserve it (cf. in this regard Jer. 31:32). He renews his covenant with his people.
  2. The new covenant is none other than the old covenant. The Law that is to be written in the hearts is the same law that was given earlier. The all-encompassing promise (Jer. 31:33), “I…will be their God and they shall be my people,” is the same promise of Moses’ time (“I … will be your God, and ye shall be my people,” Lev. 26:12). One may not infer from Jeremiah 31:33-34 that in earlier days the law was not yet written in the hearts or that there was then no forgiveness of sin and knowledge of the Lord. This “internalization” (See F. Malaresta, Interiority and Covenant, 1978, 68-77) was already promised in the books of Moses (Deut. 30:6). The Law was indeed written in the hearts of the godly, and the saints of God stood in the right relationship to him.
  3. The manner in which God deals with his people has not changed in the new covenant. He grants promises such as those expressed in Jeremiah 31:31-34 not just to those who have been chosen to eternal life. Just as those in Genesis 17 and Exodus 19, they are promises that require a believing response.
  4. There is nevertheless a clear progression in the history of the covenant, which is at the same time redemptive history. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant” (Jer. 31:31). More blessings can be expected in the future. In essence, what was granted under the old covenant is given to a fuller and richer extent under the new covenant. Thus there is indeed a difference in degree (cf. Vander Meiden, 1955, 41).
  5. As far as the fulfillment of this prophecy is concerned, some place it after the exile, because the context refers to people returning (Jer. 31:23-25) and because they would then naturally be preoccupied with the law (cf. Neh. 9.38-10.31). In our view the prophesies concerning the new covenant refer more to a new, enduring dispensation the covenant. This new dispensation came when Christ completed his work as Mediator and when his Spirit was poured out (see Heb. 8:6-13; 2 Cor. 3:6). Believers from among the Jewish people and from the nations of the world are proof that God fulfils his promise (cf. Rom. 9:24-26; 2 Cor. 6:16-18). Thus the church of Christ represents the people of the new covenant.
Bavinck on the Covenant of Grace

Why would anyone want to read my thoughts when they could read Herman Bavinck? Enjoy this tidbit. It is very, very, very good.

In the Covenant of Grace

The universal reality of misery evokes in all people a need for deliverance, a deliverance from above. Pagans who construe misery as basically physical know neither the essential character of sin nor the deliverance of grace. Scripture, however, sees our misery as sin, as an ethical violation of communion with God, who alone can restore it. This requires grace, which in biblical revelation assumes the form of a covenant.

This covenant begins immediately after the fall as evidenced by Adam and Eve’s shame in their nakedness, a sign of lost innocence. Guilt and shame reveal both God’s wrath and his grace, but the latter is shown especially when God seeks out Adam and Eve and interrogates them. In his punishment on the serpent and on humanity, God’s mercy triumphs over judgment as he annuls the covenant made with evil and puts enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Now the path of glory must pass through suffering for man and woman. In the promise of Genesis 3, we find the gospel in a nutshell and, in principle, the entire history of the human race.

The word “covenant” is not found in Genesis 3, but the reality is. Modern critics judge that covenant ideas arose late in Israel’s history but need circular arguments for their case. A history of Israel is constructed by alleging that certain biblical sources are inauthentic, which history is then used to demonstrate the inauthenticity of documents that witness against it. It is better scholarship to see the latter prophets as standing on the foundation of a real covenant made with the patriarchs.

Covenant (ברית) is characterized by three factors: an oath or promise including stipulations, a curse for violation, and a cultic ceremony that represents the curse symbolically. Covenant making is a religious and social act. The covenant of grace is unilateral, indissolubly grounded in the merciful promises of the sovereign God. God cannot break his promise; he has sworn himself to uphold it. The unilateral divine origin and character attributed to the covenant in Hebrew is likely the reason why the Septuagint translates ברית by διαθηκη, or “testament,” rather than συνθηκη.

The doctrine of the covenant achieved dogmatic significance in the Christian church because the Christian religion had to understand its relation to and distinction from Judaism. Over against Gnosticism and Marcion, the church had to maintain the unity of and, over against Judaism, the distinction between the two covenants. Law and gospel, Old Testament and New Testament, are to be distinguished but never separated. During the Reformation this issue became crucial as Anabaptists and others (Arminians, Socinians) devalued the Old Testament. Key differences also arose between the Lutheran and Reformed traditions. It is in the latter, beginning with Zwingli and Calvin, that the doctrine of the covenant is most fully developed, notably in the German Reformed theology of Olevianus and Ursinus, English Puritanism, and the Westminster Confession.

Among the Dutch Reformed, Cloppenburg and Cocceius made the covenant the fundamental premise and controlling principle of dogmatics as a whole. Cocceius had an eccentric view of the covenant, notably the notion of successive covenantal abrogations, which in fact undermined the key element of grace, making it uncertain. After Cocceius, a more general disparagement of the Old Testament took place among modern thinkers such as Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, and Schleiermacher. Judaism was then seen as no better than paganism as preparation for Christianity.

In the Reformed church and theology, covenant became a very important practical encouragement for Christian living. Here the basis of all covenants was found in the eternal counsel of God, in a covenant between the very persons of the Trinity, the pactum salutis (counsel of peace). The work of salvation is an undertaking of the one God in three persons in which all cooperate and each one performs a special task. It is the triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—who together conceive, determine, carry out, and complete the entire work of salvation. The benefit to the believer is in knowing that the covenant of grace executed and revealed in time and history nevertheless rests on an eternal, unchanging foundation, the counsel of the triune God. The Father is the eternal Father, the Son the eternal Mediator, the Holy Spirit the eternal Paraclete.

Care must be taken in considering the execution of the pact of salvation in time and history. Though God elects Abraham and Israel as his chosen people, his salvific purpose is universal, with all peoples. In the fullness of time, humanity as a whole, Jew and Gentile, is reconciled in the one man, Jesus Christ, at the cross. After the fall, grace and judgment alike are extended to the whole human race. In the beginnings of human history, we see great blessing in remarkable longevity and the great judgment of the flood. After the flood, God makes a covenant with nature not to destroy the world with water again, reduces human life span, and spreads humanity across the world, preventing humans from reaching heaven itself with their ambition. Despite letting the Gentiles walk in their own ways, God providentially grants them significant cultural and social development. He did not leave them without witnesses to himself through the works of his hands. In this way God is present to all people, and they are in some sense “prepared” for the message of salvation.

The universal scope of God’s intention for all peoples—Jew and Gentile—must never obscure the special favor of God to Israel. While Israel is drawn from the nations and there are analogies between Israel’s religious practices and those of the nations, the essential difference is that special grace is reserved for Israel and is not known among the pagans. Pagan religion is self-willed and legalistic. The covenant made with Abraham is new and comes from God alone. Through his covenant with Abraham and Israel, the Creator proves himself to also be the Re-creator and Savior. Elohim, Creator of heaven and earth, is Yahweh, the God of the covenant.

The old covenant with Israel is the necessary preparation for the new covenant in Christ. Though the covenant is one, there are two dispensations. In God’s own time, the promise of the old covenant was fulfilled in the new. The shadow and particularity of the letter became the substance, universality, and freedom of the Spirit. Nothing of the Old Testament is lost in the New, but everything is fulfilled, matured, has reached its full growth, and now, out of the temporary husk, produces the eternal core.

The covenant of grace, fulfilled in the New Testament, was and is surrounded and sustained by God’s covenant with nature, with all creatures. Unlike what Cocceius taught, the covenant of grace is not the successive abolition of the covenant of works but its fulfillment and restoration. “Grace repairs and perfects nature.” God’s demand of obedience remains as the only way to eternal life. The difference between the covenant of works and grace is that God now approaches us not in Adam but in Christ, who fulfilled all the obedience required of Adam. Christ is the second and last Adam who restores what the first Adam had corrupted; he is the head of a new humanity.

The covenant of grace is also integrally united with the counsel of peace, though it should be distinguished from it. In the counsel of peace, Christ is the guarantor and head; in the covenant of grace, he is the mediator. In this way the doctrine of the covenant maintains God’s sovereignty in the entire work of salvation. It is the Father who conceives, plans, and wills the work of salvation; it is the Son who guarantees it and effectively acquires it; it is the Spirit who implements and applies it.

At the same time, the covenant of grace also allows the rational and moral nature of human beings to come into their own. Here it differs from election, in which humans are strictly passive. The covenant of grace describes the road by which elect people attain their destiny; it is the channel by which the stream of election flows toward eternity. Christ sends his Spirit to instruct and enable his own so that they consciously and voluntarily consent to this covenant. The covenant of grace comes with the demand of faith and repentance, which may in some sense be said to be its “conditions.” Yet, this must not be misunderstood. God himself supplies what he demands; the covenant of grace is thus truly unilateral—it comes from God, who designed, defines, maintains, and implements it. It is, however, designed to become bilateral, to be consciously and voluntarily accepted by believers in the power of God. In the covenant of grace, God’s honor is not at the expense of but for the benefit of human persons by renewing the whole person and restoring personal freedom and dignity.

The covenant of grace, with Christ as the new head of humanity, reminds us of the organic unity of the church. The covenant of grace reminds us that election is about not only individual persons but also organic wholes, including families and generations. Therefore, some who remain inwardly unbelieving will for a time, in the earthly administration and dispensation of the covenant of grace, be part of the covenant people. The final judgment belongs to God alone, and in this life the church must regard such with the judgment of charity.(a)

This (Abrahamic) covenant with the ancestors continues, even when later at Sinai it assumes another form. It is the foundation and core also of the Sinaitic covenant (Exod. 2:24; Deut. 7:8). The promise was not nullified by the law that came later (Gal. 3:17). The covenant with Israel was essentially no other than that with Abraham. Just as God first freely and graciously gave himself as shield and reward to Abraham, apart from merits of his, to be a God to him and his descendants after him, and on that basis called Abraham to a blameless walk before his face, so also it is God who chose the people of Israel, saved it out of Egypt, united himself with that people, and obligated it to be holy and his own people. The covenant on Mount sinai is and remains a covenant of grace. “I am The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the ouse of slavery” (Exod. 20:2) is the opening statement and foundation of the law, the essence of the covenant of grace. Yahweh is and perpetually remains Israel’s God before and aside from any dignity or worth that Israel may have. It is an everlasting covenant that cannot be broken even by any sins and iniquities on the part of Israel (Deut. 4:31; 32:26f; Judg. 2:1; Pss. 89:1-5; 105:8; 111:5; Isa. 54:10; Rom. 11:1-2; 2 Cor. 1:20).

The benefits granted to Israel by God in this covenant are the same as those granted to Abraham, but more detailed and specialized. Genesis 3:15 already contains the entire covenant in a nutshell and all the benefits of grace. God breaks the covenant made by the first humans with Satan, puts enmity between them, brings the first humans over to his side, and promises them victory over the power of the enemy. The one great promise to Abraham is “I will be your God, and you and your descendants will be my people” (Genesis 17:1 paraphrase). And this is the principle content of God’s covenant with Israel as well. God is Israel’s God, and Israel is his people (Exod. 19:6; 29:46; etc.) Israel, accordingly, receives a wide assortment of blessings, not only temporal blessings, such as the land of Canaan, fruitfulness in marriage, a long life, prosperity, plus victory over its enemies, but also spiritual and eternal blessings, such as God’s dwelling among them (Exod. 29:45; Lev. 26:12), the forgiveness of sins (Exod. 20:6; 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 4:31; Pss. 32; 103; etc.), sonship (Exod. 4:22; 19:5-6; 20:2; Deut. 14:1; Isa. 63:16; Amos 3:1-2; etc.), sanctification (Exod. 19:6; Lev. 11:44; 19:2), and so on… (b)

Just as Abraham, when God allied himself with him, was obligated to “Walk before his face,” so Israel as a people was similarly admonished by God’s covenant to a new obedience. The entire law, which the covenant of grace at Mount Sinai took into its service, is intended to prompt Israel as a people to “walk” in the way of the covenant. It is but an explication of the one statement to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” [Gen. 17:1], and therefore nor more a cancelation of the covenant of grace and the foundation of a covenant of works than this word spoken to Abraham. The law of Moses, accordingly, is not antithetical to grace but subservient to it and was also thus understood and praised in every age by Israel’s pious men and women. But detached from the covenant of grace, it indeed became a letter that kills, a ministry of condemnation. Another reason why in the time of the Old Testament the covenant of grace took the law into its service was that it might arouse the consciousness of sin, increase the felt need for salvation, and reinforce the expectation of an even richer revelation of God’s grace. He writes that Israel as a minor, placed under the care of the law, had to be led to Christ (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:23f. 4:1f.) and that in that connection sin would be increased and the uselessness of works for justification and the necessity of faith would be understood (Rom. 4:15; 5:20; 7:7f; 8:3; Gal. 3:19). On the one hand, therefore, the law was subservient to the covenant of grace; it was not a covenant of works in disguise and did not intend that humans would obtain justification by their own works. On the other hand, its purpose was to lay the ground work for a higher and better dispensation of that same covenant of grace to come in the fullness of time. The impossibility of keeping the Sinaitic covenant of the meeting of demands of the law made another and better dispensation of the covenant of grace necessary. The eternal covenant of grace was provoked to a higher revelation off itself by the imperfection of the temporary form it has assumed in Israel. Sin increased that grace might abound. Christ could not immediately become human after the fall, and grace could not immediately reveal itself in all its riches. There was a needed for preparation and nurture. “It was not fitting for God to become incarnate at the beginning of the human race before sin. For medicine is given only to the sick. Nor was it fitting that God should become incarnate immediately after sin that man, having been humbled by sin, might see his own need of a deliverer. But what has been decreed from eternity occurred in the fullness of time. (c)

Bavinck, H., Bolt, J., & Vriend, J. (2006). Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ ((a) 193–196, (b) 220-221, (c) 222). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Bavinck on Law and Gospel

520. The first and primary means of grace is the Word of God. Lutheran and Reformed agree with each other here. Nevertheless, the latter do not discuss the Word of God under the heading of the means of grace, since in their dogmatics they have usually treated it by this time in a separate chapter [reference to Calvin, Institutes 2.7-9, and others], or also concerning the law in connection with the covenant of works, and concerning the Gospel in connection with the covenant of grace [reference to Marck,Med. Theol. and ‘many others’].

This peculiar method of treatment does not warrant the claim that the Reformed did not acknowledge the Word of God as means of grace, for they repeatedly declare the very opposite [reference to BC 24, HC qu. 65). But one may indeed conclude from this fact that for the Reformed, the Word of God possessed a far richer meaning than that it served as means of grace only in the narrower sense of the word. The Word of God is to be distinguished from the sacrament in part by the fact that the latter serves to strengthen faith and thus has a role only within the church. But the Word of God, both as law and as Gospel, is revelation of the will of God, is the promulgation of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, addresses all people and every creature, and has a universal meaning. The sacrament can be administered only by a lawfully called minister in the gathering of believers, but the Word of God has an existence and a place beyond that gathering, and performs there too its manifold functions. As means of grace in the proper sense alongside the sacrament, the Word of God is discussed insofar as it is preached openly by the teacher; all the emphasis falls on the Word preached in God’s name and by virtue of His commission. But as a rule, people will likely have been in contact with that Word in the home, at school, by means of conversation and reading material, long before they hear it openly proclaimed in the church. So the public administration of the Word hardly contains all the power proceeding from the Word; it serves also to bring about faith in those who do not yet have it, but still more to strengthen faith among believers in their gathering. In a Christian society the Word of God reaches people in various ways, from various quarters, and it reaches a person from the time of infancy. Yes, God brings that Word often to the hearts of children in the internal calling already before consciousness is awakened, in order to regenerate and to sanctify them, even as God writes the work of the law in the heart of each person from the very beginning of his existence. Therefore we must distinguish between the Word of God and Scripture. Not in the sense that the Word of God is merely to be found in Scripture and Scripture itself is not the Word of God; but in this other sense, that the Word of God most frequently, even in most instances, does not reach us as Scripture, in the form of the Scripture, but in such a way that it is taken up from the Scripture into the consciousness of the church, from there in turn radiating outward to the various people, to accomplish its working, in the form of admonition and address, nurture and instruction, book and writing, tract and summons. And God always stands behind that Word; He is the one who makes it move in those various forms to people and thus calls them to conversion and life. In Scripture, then, the expression “word of God” is never identical to Scripture, even though Scripture may without a doubt be called God’s Word. A few passages come to mind where the expression “word of God” is applied to a part of Holy Scripture, for example, to the written law. But for the rest, the phrase “word of God” when used in Scripture is never the same as the Scripture, something that is impossible, after all, since at that point Scripture was not yet finished. The phrase “word of God” has various meanings in Scripture, and can refer to the power of God whereby He creates and upholds, or His revelation to the prophets, or the content of revelation, or the Gospel proclaimed by the apostles. Nevertheless, it is always a word of God, which means: never simply a sound, but a power, no mere information but also an accomplishment of His will, Isa. 55:11. By the word God creates and upholds the world, Gen. 1:3, Ps. 33:6, 148:5, Isa. 48:13, Rom. 4:17, 2 Cor. 4:6, Heb. 1:3, 11:3, Jesus quiets the sea, Mk. 4:38, heals the sick, Mt. 8:16, casts out demons, 9:6, raised the dead, Luke 7:14, 8:54, John 5:25,28; 11:43, etc. By the word He also works in the moral and spiritual arenas.

The word which God employs to make known and to fulfill His will in moral and spiritual areas is to be distinguished as law and Gospel. When Jesus appeared on earth to proclaim the coming of the kingdom promised in the OT (Mk.1:15), to bring the Gospel of forgiveness and salvation to tax collectors and sinners, to poor and imprisoned (Mt.5:1f.; 11:5,28-30; Lk.4:18-19; 19:10; etc.), He came into conflict as a matter of course with the pharisaical, nomistic view of religion that dominated His time.

Yet, though He rejected the human inventions of the ancients (Mt.5:21f.; 15:9), and though He had another conception [opvatting] of murder (Mt.5:16), adultery (5:27), oaths (5:33), fasting (6:16), divorce (Mt.19:9), sabbath (Mk.2:27), He maintains the entire law, also in its ceremonial particulars (Mt.5:23,24; 17:24-27; 23:2,3,23; Mk.1:44; 11:16); He explains it in its spiritual meaning (Mt.5-7), emphasizes its ethical content, defines love toward God and neighbor as its core (Mt.7:12; 9:13; 12:7; Mk.7:15; 12:28-34), and desires an other, overflowing righteousness than that of the Pharisees (Mt.5.20). Though greater than the temple (Mt.12:6), He even placed Himself under the law (Mt.3:15), and came to fulfill the law and the prophets (Mt.5:17). And though He never sought to annul the law, He knew that His disciples are inwardly free from the law (Mt.17:26); that His church is based not on the law but on the confession of His Messiahship (Mt.16:18); that in His blood a new covenant is established (Mt.26:28); in a word, that the new wine demands new wineskins (Mt.9:17), and that the days of the temple, the nation and the law were numbered (Mk.13:2). Jesus desired no revolutionary overthrow of the legislative dispensation of the old covenant, but a reformation and renewal that would be born out of its complete fulfillment.

And so, in fact, it went. The church in Jerusalem at first still held to the temple and law (Acts 2: 46; 3:1; 10:14; 21:20; 22:12). But a new conception surfaced. With the conversion of the Gentiles the question arose as to the significance of the Mosaic law. And Paul was the first to fully understand that in the death of Christ the handwriting of ordinances was blotted out (Col.2:14).

Paul always understood by nomos (except where further qualification pointed elsewhere, e.g., Rom.3:27; Gal.6:2) the Mosaic law, the entire Torah, including the ceremonial commandments (Rom.9:4; Gal.2:12; 4:10; 5:3; Phil.3:5-6). And he described this law not as the letter to the Hebrews does — as imperfect, preparatory, Old Testamental dispensation of the covenant of grace, which then disappeared when the high priest and surety of the better covenant arrived — but as the revelation of God’s will, as a religious-ethical demand and obligation, as a God-willed regulation of the relationship between Himself and man. And concerning this law, so understood, Paul taught that it is holy and good, and bestowed by God (Rom.2:18; 7:22,25; 9:4; 2 Cor.3:3,7); but instead of being able, as the Pharisees argued, to grant righteousness, the law is powerless through the flesh (Rom.8:3); stimulates desire (Rom.7:7-8); increases the trespass (Rom.5:20; Gal.3:19); arouses wrath, curse and death (Rom.4:15; 2 Cor.3:6; Gal.3:10); and was merely a temporary insertion, for pedagogical reasons (Rom.5:20; Gal.3:19,24; 4:2-3).

Therefore, that law has reached its end in Christ, the seed of promise (Rom.10:4); the believer is free from the law (Gal.4:26f.; 5:1), since he is redeemed through Christ from the curse of the law (Gal.3:13; 4:5), and shares in the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of freedom (Rom.8:15; 2 Cor.3:16-17; Gal.5:18).

This freedom of faith, however, does not invalidate the law, but establishes it (Rom.3:31), since its legal requirement is fulfilled precisely in those who walk according to the Spirit (Rom.8:4). After all, that Spirit renews believers so that they delight in God’s law according to the inner man and inquire as to what God’s holy will is (Rom.7:22; 12:2; Eph.5:10; Phil.1:10), while they are spurred on through various impulses — the great mercy of God, the example of Christ, the costly price with which they have been purchased, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, etc. — to the doing of God’s will.

521. This antithesis between law and Gospel was further intensified and brought into irreconcilable conflict in the Christian church, on the one hand, by antinomianism in its various forms of Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Paulicianism, Anabaptism, Hattemism, etc. The entire OT derived from a lower God, from an angry, jealous, vengeful God, and was replaced with an entirely different revelation from the God of love, from the Father of Christ.

On the other hand, the antithesis between law and Gospel was weakened and obliterated by nomism in its various forms of Pelagianism, Semi-pelagianism, Romanism, Socinianism, Rationalism, etc. Already by the church fathers, and later by scholastic and Roman Catholic theologians, law and Gospel were identified with Old and New Testaments, and then not placed antithetically against one another, but viewed as a lower and higher revelation of God’s will. Law and Gospel differed not in that the former only demands and the latter only promises, for both contained commands, threats and promises; musteria, promissiones, praecepta; res credendae, sperandae et faciendae; not only Moses, but also Christ was legislator. But in all of this the Gospel of the NT, or the lex nova, significantly transcended the law of the OT or the lex vetus; the mysteries (trinity, incarnation, atonement, etc.) are revealed much more clearly in the NT, the promises are much richer in content and embrace especially spiritual and eternal goods, the laws are much more glorious and bearable, since ceremonial and civil laws were annulled and replaced with just a few rites. Furthermore, the law was given by Moses, grace and truth came in Jesus Christ. The law was temporary and designed for one nation; the Gospel is eternal and must be brought to every nation. The law was imperfect, a shadow and figure; the Gospel is perfect and the substance of the [promised] goods themselves. The law aroused fear and slavery, the Gospel arouses love and freedom. The law could not justify in the full sense of the word; it provided no richness of grace; it bestowed no eternal salvation; but the Gospel bestows in the sacrament the power of grace, which enables one to fulfill God’s commands and obtain eternal life. In one word: the law is the incomplete Gospel, the Gospel is the completed law; the Gospel was contained in the law as the tree is in the seed, as the full head of grain is in the seed [at this point Bavinck refers to vol. 3, 213f., and to a number of theologians, such as Augustine, Lombard, Aquinas, the Council of Trent, and Bellarmine].

Now, to the degree that the Old and New Testament dispensations of the covenant of grace could be described according to their form which came into view with the progress of Holy Scripture, by the terms law and Gospel, to that degree the distinction between both of them that was made by Rome (indeed not in every respect, yet in the main) is to be approved. Still, Rome identified Old and New covenant entirely with law and Gospel. She misperceived the Gospel in the Old Testament and the law in the New Testament. Rome summarized the entire doctrine proclaimed by Christ and the apostles as Gospel, in which they included not only promises but also laws and threats. In this way, Rome made the Gospel into a second law. The Pauline antithesis between law and Gospel was eliminated.

For though it is true that Paul understood by the law the entire OT dispensation, he viewed it then precisely in its legislative [wettischen, “lawish”; italics original] form and in this way places it in direct contrast it to the Gospel. And when he did that, he acknowledged that the legislative dispensation in no way invalidated the promise that had already been given to Abraham (Gal.3:17,21). Moreover, Paul acknowledged that in the days of the old covenant too the Gospel was proclaimed (Gal.3:8), and that then, too, righteousness was obtained from and through faith (Rom.4:11,12; 11:32; Gal.3:6-7).

Concerning the law as law, apart from the promise to which it was made serviceable in the OT, Paul argued that it could not justify; that it increased sin; that it was an administration of condemnation which precisely in that way prepared for the fulfillment of the promise and necessitated an other righteousness, namely, the righteousness of God in Christ through faith.

And this antithesis of law and Gospel was again understood by the Reformation. Indeed, the church fathers did make statements that testified to clearer insight. But no clarity resulted, because they always confused the distinction between law and Gospel with that between Old and New Testaments.

But the Reformers, while on the one hand maintaining against the Anabaptists the unity of the covenant of grace in both of its administrations, on the other hand kept in view the sharp contrast between law and Gospel, and thereby restored the unique character of the Christian religion as a religion of grace.

Although law and Gospel can still be employed in a broader sense for the old and new dispensations of the covenant of grace, in their proper meaning they refer nonetheless to two revelations of God’s will that differ essentially from one another.

The law, too, is God’s will (Rom.2:18,20), holy and wise and good, spiritual (Rom.7:12,14; 12:10), giving life to whomever keeps it (Rom.2:13; 3:12). But through sin it has become impotent, and does not justify, but through sin the law stimulates desire, increases the trespass, effects wrath, kills, curses and damns (Rom.3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 7:5,8-9,13; 2 Cor.3:6f.; Gal.3:10,13,19).

And over against the law stands the Gospel of Christ, the euangelion, containing nothing less than the fulfillment of the OT epangelia (Mk.1:15; Acts 13:32; Eph.3:6), coming to us from God (Rom.1:1-2; 2 Cor.11:7), having Christ as its content (Rom.1:3; Eph.3:6), and bringing nothing else than grace (Acts 20:24), reconciliation (2 Cor.5:18), forgiveness (Rom.4:3-8), righteousness (Rom.3:21-22), peace (Eph.6:15), freedom (Gal.5:13), life (Rom.1:17; Phil.2:16; etc.). Like demand and gift, like command and promise, like sin and grace, like sickness and healing, like death and life, so here, too, law and Gospel stand over against one another. [Here Bavinck has a footnote: From the Protestant side as well the distinction between law and Gospel is often weakened or obliterated, e.g., by Stange, Die Heilsbedeutung des Gesetzes, Leipzig 1904; Bruining, already cited in vol. 3, p. 631. Earlier already by Zwingli,, according to Loofs, Dogmengeschichte, 4th ed., 799.] Although they overlap to the extent that they both have God as author, both speak of one and the same perfect righteousness, both are directed to man, to bring him to eternal life, yet they differ in that the law proceeds from God’s holiness, the Gospel from His grace; the [works of the] law [are] known from nature, the Gospel only by special revelation; the law demands perfect righteousness, the Gospel bestows it; the law leads to eternal life through works, the Gospel makes works proceed from eternal life bestowed through faith; the law currently condemns man, the Gospel acquits him; the law is directed to all men, the Gospel only to those who live under it; etc.

It was in terms of this distinction that differences arose as to whether preaching for faith and conversion which presented a condition and demand really should be considered as belonging to the Gospel, or rather (according to Flacius, Gerhard, Quenstedt, Voetius, Witsius, Coccejus, De Moor, et al.) to the law. And indeed, in the strictest sense there are in the Gospel no demands and conditions, but only promises and gifts; faith and conversion are, just as justification, etc., benefits of the covenant of grace. Still, the Gospel never appears concretely this way; in practice it is always joined to the law and in Scripture it was then always woven together with the law. The Gospel always presupposes the law, and needs it also in its administration. For it is brought to rational and moral people who before God are responsible for themselves and therefore must be called to faith and conversion. The demanding, summoning shape in which the Gospel appears is borrowed from the law; every person is obliged to take God at His word not first by the Gospel, but by nature through the law, and thus also to accept the Gospel in which He speaks to the person. Therefore the Gospel from the very beginning lays claim to all people, binds them in their consciences, since that God who speaks in the Gospel is none other than He who in His law has made Himself known to them. Faith and conversion are therefore demanded of the person in the name of God’s law, by virtue of the relationship in which the person as a rational creature stands with respect to God; and that demand is directed not only to the elect and regenerate, but to all men without distinction.

But faith and conversion are themselves still the content of the Gospel, not effects or fruits of the law. For the law does demand faith in God in general, but not that special faith directed to Christ, and the law can effectmetameleia, poenitentia, but not metanoia, resipiscentia, which is rather a fruit of faith. And though by nature a person is obliged to faith and conversion through the law, precisely because they are the content of the Gospel one can speak of a law, a command, an obedience of faith (Rom.1:5; 3:27; 1 Jn.3:23), of a being obedient to and judged by the Gospel (Rom.2:16; 10:16), etc.

Viewed concretely, law and Gospel differ not so much in that the law always meets us in the form of command and the Gospel in the form of promise, for the law too has promises and the Gospel too has warnings and obligations. But they differ especially in content: the law demands that man work out his own righteousness, while the Gospel invites him to renounce all self-righteousness and to receive the righteousness of Christ, to which end it even bestows the gift of faith.

Law and Gospel stand in that relationship not just before and at the point of conversion; but they continue standing in that relationship throughout the whole of the Christian life, all the way to the grave. The Lutherans have an eye almost exclusively for the accusing, condemning work of the law and therefore know of no greater salvation than liberation from the law. The law is necessary only on account of sin. According to Lutheran theology, in the state of perfection there is no law. God is free from the law; Christ was not subject to the law for Himself at all; the believer no longer stands under the law. Naturally, the Lutherans speak of a threefold use of the law, not only of a usus politicus (civilis), to restrain sin, and a usus paedagogicus, to arouse the knowledge of sin, but also of a usus didacticus, to function for the believer as a rule of living. But this last usus is nonetheless necessary simply and only because and insofar as believers are still sinners, and must still be tamed by the law, and must still be led to a continuing knowledge of sin. In itself the law ceases with the coming of faith and grace, and loses all its significance.

The Reformed, however, have thought about this in an entirely different way. The usus politicus and the usus paedagogicus of the law became necessary only accidentally because of sin; even with these uses aside, the most important usus remains, the usus didacticus or normativus. After all, the law is an expression of God’s being. As a human being Christ was subject to the law for Himself. Before the fall Adam had the law written upon his heart. With the believer it is again written upon the tablets of his heart by the Holy Spirit. And all those in heaven will walk according to the law of the Lord.

The Gospel is temporary, but the law is eternal and is restored precisely through the Gospel. Freedom from the law consists, then, not in the fact that the Christian has nothing more to do with the law, but lies in the fact that the law demands nothing more from the Christian as a condition of salvation. The law can no longer judge and condemn him. Instead he delights in the law of God according to the inner man and yearns for it day and night.

Therefore, that law must always be preached to the congregation in connection with the Gospel. Law and Gospel, the whole Word, the full counsel of God, is the content of preaching. Among Reformed people, therefore, the law occupies a much larger place than in the teaching of sin, since it is also part of the teaching of gratitude.
[Here Bavinck has a footnote providing bibliographical references relating to the views of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Zanchius, Witsius, De Moor, Vitringa, Schneckenburger, Frank, and Gottschick.]

(from paragraph 521 of Herman Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, 3rd unaltered edition, vol. 4 (Kampen, J. H. Kok, 1918), emphases in bold added, and taken from this translation from the Dutch)
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
We discussed this in another Thread David. Reformed Baptist are all over the spectrum. Dr. Barcellos wrote a very good book you might enjoy reading. I read it many years ago.

The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology

Subtitled Geerhardus Vos and John Owen–Their Methods of and Contributions to the Articulation of Redemptive History, this book is a comparative analysis of Vos and Owen in historical-theological context. The thesis is that Vos’ biblical-theological method should be viewed as a post-Enlightenment continuation of the pre-critical federal (i.e., covenant) theology of seventeenth-century Reformed orthodoxy.

https://www.rbap.net/our-books/the-family-tree-of-reformed-biblical-theology-by-richard-barcellos/
Seens to be disagreement over if COG was in OT, and in just how really new the NC was.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
On a side note. I am not a fan of Vos in this area.

Here are some of my favorite authors on the subject.

https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/taken-frompract/



https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.c...t-and-republication-of-the-covenant-of-works/



Samuel Rutherford
The Covenant of Life chapter XI by Samuel Rutherford

Anthony Burgess

Anthony Burgess’s Vindication of the Law and the Covenants



Robert Shaw
An exposition of the confession of faith of the Westminster Assembly of divines
Chapter 19

John Ball
Treatise on the Covenants


https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.c...apter-19-the-law-and-the-covenant-of-works-2/
https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/skirting-the-issue/
You should put your posts here in my thread for convenience. :)
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Daniel,

I did a blog on Vos in 2014 you may get something from. The last three paragraphs of the blog are quotes from Michael Lynch's Blog saying, "Vos’s understanding of the Mosaic covenant is in line with confessional Reformed theology when he argues that the Mosaic administration and the law in particular, is grounded in the covenant of grace. The Mosaic economy is not a republication of the covenant of works where Israel merited the blessings or merited the continuation of the blessings."

https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.c...-vos-thoughts-concerning-the-mosaic-covenant/

Just some thoughts I am untangling in relationship to a blog Nick Batzig wrote on the Feeding on Christ blog.

Geerhardus Vos on the Mosaic Covenant and the Covenant of Grace

http://feedingonchrist.com/geerhardus-vos-mosaic-covenant-covenant-grace/

Here is the Vos quote that puzzles me a bit because of how I have come to understand the passages referenced in the quote.

“it also contains expressions that had reference specifically to Israel, and thus are not totally applicable to us (e.g., “that it may be well with you in the land that the Lord your God gives you”). But also, beyond the Decalogue, there is reference to the law as a demand of the covenant of works (e.g., Lev 18:5; Deut 27:26; 2 Cor 3:7, 9). It is for this reason that in the last cited passage, Paul calls the ministry of Moses a ministry of condemnation. This simply shows how the demand of the law comes more to the fore in this dispensation of the covenant of grace.” GV

For one thing Paul references the application of “be well with you in the land” and specifically brings this passage into the New Testament.

Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Eph 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
Eph 6:3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (in the land)

Concerning the Faith and Leviticus 18:5 passage, I believe Patrick Ramsey speaks well to that issue as I have referenced it many times before..
http://patrickspensees.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/pauls-use-of-lev-185-in-rom-105/

Paul’s Use of Lev. 18:5 in Rom. 10:5
Pastor Patrick Ramsey

The following is (I trust) a simple but not simplistic explanation of Paul’s use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5.

In 9:30-10:5 Paul explained the reason the Jews did not attain righteousness even though they pursued it. They mistakenly pursued it by works (9:32). Hence, they stumbled over the stumbling stone (9:33). They sought to establish their own righteousness (10:3). Ignorant of the right way to righteousness, although they should have known better, they zealously pursued life on the basis of their own obedience to the law.

In Rom. 10:5 Paul describes this wrong way of pursuing life (righteousness) from the OT, namely Leviticus 18:5 (see also Neh. 9:29; Eze. 20:11, 13, 21): “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.” Now the fact that Paul appeals to Moses to describe the wrong way, or if you will, the Pharisaical way of pursuing righteousness, is somewhat perplexing. As a result, this verse, along with its counterpart in Gal. 3, is quite controversial among commentators and theologians.

Here is the difficulty from three different perspectives. First, in 9:32, Paul had said that the law itself did not teach that righteousness was based on works or obedience to the law. The Jews pursued the law as if it led to righteousness. The Jews, as the NT says elsewhere, misread the OT. And yet Paul seems to be saying in vs. 5 that the OT did in fact teach and exhort the people to pursue life/righteousness by keeping the law. How then can Paul (or the rest of the NT) condemn the Pharisees for seeking righteousness by works if that is what Moses told them to do?

Second, in vs. 8 Paul will quote Deut. 30 and later on he will cite Isaiah and Joel in direct contrast to Lev. 18:5 to describe the right way to find life and righteousness. So then it would seem that Paul pits Moses against Moses and the OT against the OT.

Third, the context of Lev. 18:5 doesn’t seem to support the way Paul uses it in Rom. 10:5. Moses exhorts Israel to keep God’s commandments in the context of redemption and covenant. Verses 1-3 highlight the point that Israel already belongs to God as his redeemed people. These verses are very similar to the prologue to the Ten Commandments, which teaches that salvation precedes obedience. God didn’t give Israel the law so that they might be saved. He saves them so that they might keep the law. In short, the context of Lev. 18:5 speaks against the idea that it teaches legalism or a work-based righteousness. Yet, that is how Paul is using this verse!

Now some have sought to solve this difficulty by saying that there is no actual contrast between verses 5 and 6. The “but” of vs. 6 should be translated “and.” The problem with this, however, is that it doesn’t fit the context of Paul’s argument. The apostle, beginning in 9:30 is contrasting two ways of seeking righteousness—works and faith—and this contrast clearly continues in vs. 5. This is confirmed by the fact that Paul speaks of works righteousness or righteousness based on law elsewhere (Gal. 3; Phil. 3:9) in a negative way.

So then how are we to understand what Paul is saying in vs. 5 (and in Gal. 3)? Well, Paul is citing Lev. 18:5 according to how it was understood by the Jews of his day; and no doubt how he understood it before his conversion. The Jews of Paul’s day saw obedience to the law (which included laws pertaining to the atonement of sins) as the source of life and as the basis of salvation. Keeping the law was the stairway to heaven. The way to have your sins forgiven and to be accepted by God was to observe the law. Lev. 18:5 provided biblical support for this Pharisaical position. And it is not hard to see why they would appeal to this verse since it says that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

In Rom. 10:6ff Paul refutes this works-based righteousness position including the Jewish appeal to Lev. 18:5. Now he doesn’t do it in the way you or I might think of doing it. We might tend to respond to the Pharisee and say: “Look, you have completely misunderstood what Moses is saying in Lev. 18:5. The specific and general context of that verse indicates that your interpretation is incorrect…” Instead, Paul uses a technique that was quite common in his day. He counters their interpretation of Lev. 18:5 by citing another passage: Deut. 30:12-14. In other words, Paul is saying that Deut. 30 demonstrates that the Jewish understanding of Lev. 18:5 is incorrect. We of course sometimes use this type of argument today. For example, some people today appeal to James 2 to prove that we need to obey the law in order to be justified. One way to disprove that interpretation would be to cite Paul in Romans or Galatians. So Paul is not pitting Moses against Moses in vv. 5-6 or saying that Moses taught salvation by works. Rather the apostle is using one Mosaic passage to prove that the legalistic interpretation of another Mosaic passage is wrong.

Patrick Ramsey

Concerning the 2 Corinthians 3 passage I wrote this.

In light of the passage mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3, which calls the Old an administration of Death, one must also read the prior passages to understand in what context St. Paul is referring to the Mosaic Covenant.

(2Co 2:14) Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
(2Co 2:15) For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
(2Co 2:16) To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
(2Co 2:17) For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

Christ and the Gospel were Preached in Moses and the Old Testament. In fact Jesus said as much as did the author of Hebrews.

(Luk 24:27) And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

(Joh 5:46) For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
(Joh 5:47) But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

(Heb 4:2) For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
(Heb 4:3) For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

The Mosaic was an administration of death the same way the New Covenant is to those who seek to turn the New Covenant into a Covenant of Works. We are so inclined to stumble because we will not believe Moses or Christ. We naturally tend to corrupt the Word of God and the Covenant of Grace by wanting to add our works into our justification before God. In doing so we are refusing the Cornerstone and Saviour. We become like those that Paul is speaking about, “to one they [Paul and the Apostles] are a savour of death unto death.” And how is to be considered that Paul and the Church is a savour unto death? They are because the corrupters of the word of God do what St. Paul says he doesn’t do in the proceeding verse, “For we are not as those who corrupt the Word of God.” Those who corrupt the word are rejecting the Chief Cornerstone and depending upon their works or acts that contribute to their justification. The book of Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews have warnings and correctives for those who corrupt the word. But when they reject the truth they fall deeper into death. Even St. Paul acknowledged that the Law didn’t kill him. He was already dead and discovered it. That is one of the purposes of the Law. That purpose is to reveal sin and death. .As Paul noted earlier in the letter to the Romans death came upon all men by sin and Adam.

Rom 7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Note James Durham here on the Mosaic Covenant and how God intended the reception to be in light of how it was turned into something God didn’t intend. https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/taken-frompract/

“3. [We would] distinguish between God’s intention in giving and the believers in Israel, their making use of this law; and the carnal multitude among that people, their way of receiving it, and corrupt abusing it contrary to the Lord’s mind. In the first sense, it was a covenant of grace. In the second it turned to be a covenant of works to them. And therefore it is that the Lord rejects (as we may see, Isa. 1:13; 66:2-3; Jer. 7:22) their sacrifices and services as not commanded, because rested on by them, to the prejudice of grace, and contrary to the strain and scope of this law complexly considered.”
James Durham Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments p. 55

Most of this has been taken from this blog I wrote in Sept of 2012.
https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/the-mosaic-covenant-same-in-substance-as-the-new/

As far as the Deuteronomy 27:26 passage I leave you with these examples. The man in 1 Cor 5 who was delivered to Satan and the removal of the Candlestick in Revelation 2. There are various New Testament passages also that contain strong warnings such as in 1 Cor. 10, 11; Hebrews 2-4, 6, 10, 12; 2 Peter 2; Jude; and Revelation 2-3.

Vos can’t be right about everything. I do appreciate a lot what I have seen of Vos as others have written about him. I loved Rich Barcellos’ bookThe Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology‘ so much I read it two times in a row. I admit that I haven’t read much of Vos. I will be getting his Biblical Theology book as it is now being published in hardcover by Banner of Truth. Nick Batzig asked me if I had the Logos edition of Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics. I can’t afford much of anything from Logos. I am still using E-Sword. It is more fitting to my wallet. Nick told me through a message I need to read the fuller context. He admonished me to read Vos on the Mosaic Covenant in his section on the Covenant of Grace.

One thing that I wonder is why these guys who want to teach the new paradigm of Republication of the Covenant of Works in the Mosaic Covenant, why they don’t want to reference or deal with the Divines who spoke clearly on this subject and contended that the Mosaic Covenant was purely an Administration of the Covenant of Grace as is stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith and as is proven by a lot of the following site’s references. (https://sites.google.com/site/themosaiccovenant/). I believe Vos holds to the view of the majority of the old Divines but this section’s nuances seem a bit confusing to me. It won’t be the last time something written is confusing to me. I probably just don’t understand the nuances myself. But I am trying.

Just my humble opinion.

I actually found this blog by Michael Lynch (PhD student with Richard Muller) to be encouraging in light of what is going on in today’s atmosphere

Vos, Republication, and the Mosaic Covenant. by Michael Lynch

Here are three paragraphs from it.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, of which I am a member, just approved to form a study committee to investigate the role of the Mosaic covenant in the economy of the covenants. The particular view at question is the republication of the covenant of works in the Mosaic covenant. It should be noted that the Westminster confession of faith itself teaches (cf. WCFXIX, 1 and 2) material republication–i.e., that God republished the law, which God gave Adam under the covenant of life or works, in the Mosaic economy. However, the question at hand is not whether the law was republished in the Mosaic economy (or under the new covenant!), but whether the Mosaic covenant, as a covenant, was established or given as a covenant of works (even if, under the broader context of the covenant of grace). In light of this discussion, I want to revisit Geerhardus Vos and his discussion of the Mosaic economy as expressed in his Biblical Theology….

…This typology is crucial to understanding the role of the law in the Mosaic administration. Vos argues that from “the function of the theocracy” in its typological significance, “we may learn what was the function of the law.”[9] At the outset of his section on “the function of the law” in Biblical Theology, Vos states that it is of “utmost importance” to distinguish between the law’s original function and the subsequent interpretations of the function of the law in later periods.[10] So, one must not impute the “pharisaical philosophy” found for instance in Paul’s opponents. This interpretation of the law asserted “that the law was intended, on the principle of merit, to enable Israel to earn the blessedness of the world to come.”[11] Vos recognizes that Paul, and even the Pentateuch itself, sometimes appear to be teaching such a “pharisaical philosophy.”[12] However, in fact they do not, for “the law was given after the redemption of Israel from Egypt had been accomplished, and the people had already entered upon the enjoyment of many of the blessings of the berith.”[13]http://theiconoclastic.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/vos-republication-and-the-mosaic-covenant/

…In summary, Vos’s understanding of the Mosaic covenant is in line with confessional Reformed theology when he argues that the Mosaic administration and the law in particular, is grounded in the covenant of grace. The Mosaic economy is not a republication of the covenant of works where Israel merited the blessings or merited the continuation of the blessings. Rather, Israel typifying the NT church and the promised land typifying the New Heavens-New Earth, demanded an “appropriateness of expression” that Israel should “trust and obey” and meet the condition of the covenant of grace. As soon as the nation as whole apostatized, Israel was sent into exile. Although the Mosaic covenant (and thus the covenant of grace) was broken by Israel, God did not break his ratified promise to be a God to his people. Because the Mosaic covenant, like all OT covenants, was grounded upon God’s immutable ratification, God could not forget his covenant. For Vos, this is why the Mosaic covenant, though broken by Israel, is not the end of redemptive history. The old covenant, the Mosaic administration, awaited the full-flowering of God’s dealing with his people, which finds its telos in the new covenant.
 
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