Lee Irons, Republication, and the WCF

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Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
My question has to do with this statement: "The divines believed this was legitimate exegetically because they held, as did the majority of Reformed theologians of their day, that the Mosaic covenant included a republication of the pre-fall covenant of works."

The emboldened word demonstrates the equivocation which is made by those who teach the republication theory today. They say the Mosaic covenant was a republication of the covenant of works. When it comes to providing historical precedent for this theory, they point to divines who said that the Mosaic covenant included a republication of the covenant of works. As noted on previous threads, the modern theory teaches a co-ordination of the covenant of works with the covenant of grace whereas traditional covenant theology taught a subordination of the covenant of works to the covenant of grace. The modern theory makes the covenant of works an act of creation; the traditional theology taught that it was an act of providence. The modern theory equates the law of works with the law of nature and calls this the covenant of works; the traditional theology taught the moral law is written on man's heart by nature but the covenant of works was a positive enactment super-added to it. The modern theory equates works and merit; the traditional theology denied all merely human merit. There are numerous points of diversity which suffice to show that the modern theory is in fact a novelty which finds no precedent in traditional reformed theology.

Thank you, Rev. Wizner. An excellent summary.

And thanks, Mark and Louis, for answering my question about Irons.


The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
It was recommended to me to post a few quotes from a blog concerning St. Paul's use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5. So here it is.
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...

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.

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.

Paul’s Use of Lev. 18:5 in Rom. 10:5 | Patrick’s Pensees


Puritan Board Doctor
Rev Winzer
The modern theory makes the covenant of works an act of creation; the traditional theology taught that it was an act of providence.

I don't know if you could "flesh out" the significance of this for republicationists and non-republicationists for us, Matthew?


Puritanboard Amanuensis
I don't know if you could "flesh out" the significance of this for republicationists and non-republicationists for us, Matthew?

I don't know if I can in a short space of time.

We should remember that Kline inherited a mixed bag of theologies -- historic and neo Calvinist. Please see William Young's article on the subject for some insight on the fundamental differences. The "creation covenant" and "common grace covenant" is a neo Calvinist inheritance. The covenant of works/grace construct is an historic Calvinist teaching which had been modified or rejected by neo Calvinism. Kline came on the scene at a time when evangelicalism in general was leaning towards the law-gospel continuum -- Barth's fundamental idea that the law drips with grace. Many Calvinists had accepted the creation covenant and at least questioned the covenant of works. Kline saw the danger this presented to historic Calvinism, especially in the areas where grace and works are antithetical principles. He over-emphasised the antithesis, turned the creation covenant into the exegetical basis for the covenant of works, and made grace a post-fall principle.

As William Young notes, the creation covenant changes "covenant" into a metaphysical category. It becomes a law of human being. It is not a means serving an end but is an end in itself. In Kline, "covenant of works" becomes the law of man's being. "Justice" is the only principle at work in the pre-fall world. There is no grace in creation, which means there is an extreme grace-nature dualism. The two are set in metaphysical contrast in such a way as to be exclusive of one another.


Puritanboard Commissioner
I echo Tim's earlier post . . . wow!

Thanks for taking time to address the issue and draw our attention to relevant secondary literature.
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