Mosaic Covenant – What is it?

Status
Not open for further replies.

S. Spence

Puritan Board Freshman
I’ve already asked questions about the Mosaic Covenant but I’m still not sure if I completely get it.

Horton says that the Mosaic Covenant is really a republication of the CoW and backs that up with the, ‘this do and live,’ language used.
Others, such as O. Palmer Robertson see the Mosaic Covenant as part of the CoG.
Witsius seems to take a mediating view, in Book 4 of, ‘The Economy of the Covenants,’ he makes the point that the Mosaic Covenant was not formally a CoW because among other things a Cow cannot be made with a sinner. He then goes on to say that the Mosaic Covenant was not formally a CoG because a CoG requires not only obedience but also provides the strength to obey.

My problem is I can see arguments for all the positions laid out above and so I have kind of got myself confused. I would probably lean towards the Mosaic Covenant being administration of the CoG as that makes sense to me. If God were progressively revealing a plan of redemption that would point towards the mediator of the Covenant why would He suddenly introduce a covenant that was not of Grace?

So what is the Mosaic Covenant, CoW, CoG or something else? …..Help please.
 
Last edited:

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Mosaic Covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace -- it says nothing about it being a republication of the covenant of works:
CHAPTER 7
Of God's Covenant with Man

2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
However, there is an element of the CoW being republished when you look at WCF 19.1-2, where the law is spoken of as the moral law given to Adam as a covenant of works. The covenant of works was broken, but that does not mean it is not still in effect. Yes, fundamentally, the Mosaic covenant is part of the CoG. However, for those who did not trust proleptically in Jesus, they were still under the terms of the CoW, which was always a hypothetical way to eternal life (though made impossible by human sin). The reason this is important is that Christ fulfilled all the terms of the CoW so that it might be a CoG to us. Imputation of Christ's merit hinges on this point.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Rev. Keister, the issue is that the Confession doesn't say that there is an element of the CoW in the Mosaic covenant. All it says is that the law was given. Was not the law also given by Christ and his apostles? In the new covenant, is there not an element of law (i.e., the law has a place in regard to good works/sanctification)? If so, then following your logic, there's an element of the CoW in the new covenant (if wherever law is there is also an element of CoW). I agree, though, that those outside of faith are still under the penalty of the broken CoW, and I agree that the law serves a prominent role in the Mosaic covenant, but I don't see the Confession anywhere saying that the Mosaic covenant is an republication of the CoW (I think that's reading into the Confession something that isn't there, In my humble opinion).
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
I’ve already asked questions about the Mosaic Covenant but I’m still not sure if I completely get it.

Horton says that the Mosaic Covenant is really a republication of the CoW and backs that up with the, ‘this do and live,’ language used.
Others, such as O. Palmer Robertson see the Mosaic Covenant as part of the CoG.
Witsius seems to take mediating view, in Book 4 of, ‘The Economy of the Covenants,’ he make the point that the Mosaic Covenant was not formally a CoW because among other things a Cow cannot be made with a sinner. He then goes on to say that the Mosaic Covenant was not formally a CoG because a CoG requires not only obedience but also provides the strength to obey.

My problem is I can see arguments for all the positions laid out above and so I have kind of got myself confused. I would probably lean towards the Mosaic Covenant being administration of the CoG as that makes sense to me. If God were progressively revealing a plan of redemption that would point towards the mediator of the Covenant why would He suddenly introduce a covenant that was not of Grace?

So what is the Mosaic Covenant, CoW, CoG or something else? …..Help please.

Stephen,

The covenant of works is still in force for all who are not in Christ; the covenant of grace is in force for all who are in Christ. Moses forsook the riches of Egypt for the reproach of Christ. This makes him a Christian.

The giving of the Law is not contrary to the promise of the gospel (see Paul's argument in Galatians 3, I believe).

IF, however, I am a wicked man, I will interpret the Law as a covenant of works, and will be judged by it (see Romans 2 - 3). However, IF, I see the Law as part of the administration of God's gracious covenant, then I will not misapply it as leading to "do this and live".

Each view you mentioned has some merit: one recognizing the ongoing validity of the covenant of works. One recognizing that God's intention and end in view in giving the Law is not to teach us justification by our works, but rather to slay our pride, humble us in the dust, and drive us to Christ alone for our justification.

The Law, in a civil sense, is to be administered impartially, and under the "lex taliones" principle: eye for an eye, etc. There is NO mercy in the civil administration of the law. God commands this to be so. No mercy in administering civil sanctions of the Law. BUT, thank God for His marvelous mercy in our salvation from the curse of the Law in HIS court room, by our Surety, Jesus Christ!

By the by, this is the beauty of our Confession: it balances the Moral Law's use in justification, sanctification, civil application, etc.

Cheers,

Adam
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
The Westminster Standards teach that the Covenant given at Sinai was indeed a republication of the Covenant of Works:

"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. 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 four first commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six our duty to man."​
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
But again, that's not what the Confession says. It says the "law . . . continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness"; it doesn't say that the CoW was "republished." Following your logic, the New Covenant (in which the same "law" continues) is also a republication of the CoW.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
But again, that's not what the Confession says. It says the "law . . . continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness"; it doesn't say that the CoW was "republished." Following your logic, the New Covenant (in which the same "law" continues) is also a republication of the CoW.

Dealing with the issue of the NC; the law given to Adam which was made known again to Israel is written on our hearts.

As for republication. What law did Jesus keep on your behalf?

I am in the middle of an essay so will return later but try this:

Reformed Interpretation of the Mosaic Covenant

and these:

The Sinaitic/Mosaic Covenant: Works or Grace? Turretin Explains… « The Reformed Reader

pilgrim people-Christ urc-reformed - the latest post - Owen on the Mosaic Covenant
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Friends, I was merely commenting on the teaching of the Confession. In the chapter on the covenants, it gives no nod to the notion that the Mosaic covenant is a republication of the CoW. In the chapter on the law, it says the same law (not "covenant") was given again at Sinai. Of course other authors should be consulted. ;)
 
Last edited:

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I have only one problem with referring to the Mosaic economy as a "republication of the CoW" (but its significant).

Confessionally speaking, we have to see Moses principally as an administration of the CoG. The Law comes along as an "overlay". I think this is borne out by Gal 3:19.

And, as I've stated elsewhere, so far as the CoW aspect is made more prominent (which is how I read Kline), so far does that reading render the CoG aspect into an "overlay" or "attachment".

I would argue that the whole Pentateuch argues against such a reading. Buried in the heart of the Law is the whole sacrificial/priestly system, Leviticus, right in the middle. To say Grace is attached I think misses the point entirely. The "foundation" isn't Law; rather, one must burrow down into and through the Law in order to properly arrive at the essence of the CoG. Again, the Law is what was "added".

So, I say go ahead and use "republication of the CoW," just understand how it comes in the schema.
:2cents:
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Friends, I was merely commenting on the teaching of the Confession. In the chapter on the covenants, it gives no nod to the notion that the Mosaic covenant is a republication of the CoW. In the chapter on the law, it says the same law (not "covenant") was given again at Sinai. Of course other authors should be consulted. ;)

But Casey, it equates the law with the covenant when it says "as a covenant." Furthermore, the next section emphasizes the continuity between Adam and Moses, and mentions no discontinuity. Taken altogether, therefore, we can say that the Mosaic economy was part of the CoG, with an overlay (I like Bruce's word here) of the CoW.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
But Casey, it equates the law with the covenant when it says "as a covenant." Furthermore, the next section emphasizes the continuity between Adam and Moses, and mentions no discontinuity. Taken altogether, therefore, we can say that the Mosaic economy was part of the CoG, with an overlay (I like Bruce's word here) of the CoW.
Friend, I don't see the Confession equating law with covenant. The law always existed; the covenant didn't always exist -- right? WCF 7.1 makes it clear that the covenant is a condescension. Hypothetically, God could have created Adam and not entered into a covenant with him (though Adam would still be required to obey the law, only without any promise of reward). The law always just is, as an expression of God's character; but the covenant just doesn't exist, God must will it and reveal it -- and in the case of the CoW, the law forms the stipulation of the first covenant.

So, yes, the Confession says that the law was given "as a covenant of works" to Adam, but it doesn't say that the law was given "as a covenant of works" to Moses. The chapter is on the law, not on the covenants. It seems more to suggest that it was given to Moses because God's people had gradually lost an understanding of what God requires (as a rule of gratitude, hence, "I have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of bondage, therefore live in this way . . ."). If the Confession wished to communicate the idea of "republication of CoW," then it would have done so in its chapter on the covenants, no? It seems miguided to develop foundational views of the covenants from the chapter on the law (instead of the chapter on the covenants!).

Again, following this logic that you are employing, there is no way to deny that the CoW also "overlays" the new covenant (because in the new covenant, just as in the Mosaic covenant, we are told to love God and neighbor). WCF 19.5 says that the "moral law doth forever bind all" -- if law = CoW, then even Christians remain in the CoW. But that seems to me to just cloud things up, just as it clouds things up to say the Mosaic covenant is both CoW and CoG.

But perhaps I am misunderstanding you? :detective: Please correct me if I am, brother!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Casey,
If I might suggest reading 2 Cor 3, with attention to vv13-16, and the beginning of ch4, in order to see something of how the Law given to Moses hid the CoG from many of those to whom it was formally given.

The CoW is first; and it is superseded by the CoG. But in Moses a veil is added. Now, there is no more "law" covering or hiding the CoG. There is no more national covenant, no more such types and shadows.

We do deny there is a CoW "overlay" anymore. The binding moral law is that which is being reinscribed upon the hearts of believers through sanctification. So it comes not over or above grace, blinding us (unless one uses it "unlawfully"); but rather from the very renewed soul within, a true "work of God" (Phil 2:13).

Our perception of the law comes from inside out (even as the Israelites should have learned to view it, but most did not). They should have found the CoG, and looked outward to the Law (back and forth, Ex. and Deut.). Instead they looked into and upon the law from outside.

We simply look back through the Cross (grace) and see the moral standard (law), even as we recognize that we are "new creations" in Christ. Grace produces works in keeping with God's law. Grace has come entirely after the law for us.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for the post, Rev. Buchanan. I think I share your concern: It seems that those who speak of the Mosaic covenant as a republication of the CoW are not very quick to speak of it as an administration of the CoG. I still don't see the republication idea (as a "covenant of works") in the Confession, though I do see a republication of the law as law per se. The Israelites were prone to misunderstand (e.g., Nicodemus!).
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for the post, Rev. Buchanan. I think I share your concern: It seems that those who speak of the Mosaic covenant as a republication of the CoW are not very quick to speak of it as an administration of the CoG. I still don't see the republication idea (as a "covenant of works") in the Confession, though I do see a republication of the law as law per se. The Israelites were prone to misunderstand (e.g., Nicodemus!).

I, for one, have been very quick to say that it is part of the administration of the CoG. How could it be otherwise when it happened after the Fall? However, advocates of the position that the Mosaic economy is *only* part of the CoG have not been very quick to see that such is a simplistic position that does not take into account the place of the law as a "Do this and live" pedagogical-use-of-the-law overlay of the CoW. Casey, the aspects of WCF19.1-2 emphasize the continuity of the Adamic administration with the Mosaic. That aspect regards the very terms of the CoW itself. Plus, we all hold that the CoW is still in effect. This leads inevitably to the conclusion that there is an aspect of republication of the CoW in the Mosaic economy in addition to its being part of the CoG.
 

Jim Johnston

Puritan Board Sophomore
It seems that those who speak of the Mosaic covenant as a republication of the CoW are not very quick to speak of it as an administration of the CoG.

I've seen many who whish to speak that way quick to point out that it is an admin. of the CoG.

I think many who hear the language "repub. of CoW" are too quick to think it is a denial of the Mosaic economy's status as admin. of CoG.

So, maybe the reverse is true . . .

:2cents:
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Hello All,

I've been reading a tretise by John Flavel on this very issue recently. I think it may be a blessing in explaining some of the points discuss.

Enjoy:

Vindiciæ Legis et Fœderis* - Rev. John Flavel

Cheers,

In case anyone is wondering, this treatise is located in volume 6 of the Banner of Truth edition of his works. Thanks for directing me to this treatise. It looks wonderful.

I've enjoyed the contents so far.

Happy reading!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
For the biblical record, it is not said the Israelites failed to enter into God's rest because of law-breaking, but because of unbelief. There was abundant provision for the pardon of sins committed against the law. There was no provision for unbelief. The law could not have been given as a covenant of works to Israel for the simple fact that every time Israel sinned against the law, and repented, she was forgiven and the promise renewed.

For the confessional record, the law was "natural" to Adam, written on his heart. The covenant of life was an act of providence, not of creation. It was therefore superadded to the law. One may not read WCF 19 as if the divines intended to equate law and covenant. Law exists independent of covenant, and only by a super-added stipulation and promise is it given a covenant form.
 

S. Spence

Puritan Board Freshman
For the biblical record, it is not said the Israelites failed to enter into God's rest because of law-breaking, but because of unbelief. There was abundant provision for the pardon of sins committed against the law. There was no provision for unbelief. The law could not have been given as a covenant of works to Israel for the simple fact that every time Israel sinned against the law, and repented, she was forgiven and the promise renewed.

For the confessional record, the law was "natural" to Adam, written on his heart. The covenant of life was an act of providence, not of creation. It was therefore superadded to the law. One may not read WCF 19 as if the divines intended to equate law and covenant. Law exists independent of covenant, and only by a super-added stipulation and promise is it given a covenant form.

Rev. Winzer,

Would you therefore say that in your estimation Horton is off the mark when he says that the Israelites were carried off into captivity, not necessarily because they had broken the covenant given to Abraham but because they had broken the Mosaic covenant as a CoW?

Could you also possibly clarify for me what you mean by the covenant of life was not an act of creation - do you mean that the law and the CoW are separate and so it is best to keep the Mosaic covenant separate from the idea of a CoW?
Sorry if I'm being a bit slow, I would just like to get this straight in my head.

Thanks.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Would you therefore say that in your estimation Horton is off the mark when he says that the Israelites were carried off into captivity, not necessarily because they had broken the covenant given to Abraham but because they had broken the Mosaic covenant as a CoW?

I don't believe the Scriptures present such a sharp dichotomy between God's promises to Abrahamic and Israel. Redemption and obedience were key elements of both. Israel was brought out of Egypt and carried on eagle's wings to the Lord in fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 3). Abraham must walk before the Lord and be perfect just as Israel must obey the voice of the Lord.

It is certainly true that the prophets framed their message of exilic judgment on Israel in terms of the blessings and curses of the Mosaic covenant; but the prophetic message of restoration was also dependent on the Mosaic promise that God would be merciful to His land and to His people. A covenant of works does not operate on the level of grace, forgiveness, and restoration, but exacts what justice requires on individual obedience and disobedience.

Could you also possibly clarify for me what you mean by the covenant of life was not an act of creation - do you mean that the law and the CoW are separate and so it is best to keep the Mosaic covenant separate from the idea of a CoW?

If the covenant of life were to be equated with the law written on the heart at creation, it would follow that the covenant was made WITH each and every man for himself, because the law of God is written on the heart of all men. But we say the covenant was made WITH Adam FOR his posterity. So the covenant must be seen as a super-added element to man, not something which was created with him. Adam and Eve both had the law written on their hearts with power to fulfil it; both fell from the estate wherein they were created by sinning against God; but it was Adam's transgression against the positive prohibition of God which was federally imputed to posterity for condemnation (Rom. 5:12-21). For this reason we must keep the concepts of law and covenant distinct.
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Would you therefore say that in your estimation Horton is off the mark when he says that the Israelites were carried off into captivity, not necessarily because they had broken the covenant given to Abraham but because they had broken the Mosaic covenant as a CoW?

I don't believe the Scriptures present such a sharp dichotomy between God's promises to Abrahamic and Israel. Redemption and obedience were key elements of both. Israel was brought out of Egypt and carried on eagle's wings to the Lord in fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 3). Abraham must walk before the Lord and be perfect just as Israel must obey the voice of the Lord.

It is certainly true that the prophets framed their message of exilic judgment on Israel in terms of the blessings and curses of the Mosaic covenant; but the prophetic message of restoration was also dependent on the Mosaic promise that God would be merciful to His land and to His people. A covenant of works does not operate on the level of grace, forgiveness, and restoration, but exacts what justice requires on individual obedience and disobedience.

Could you also possibly clarify for me what you mean by the covenant of life was not an act of creation - do you mean that the law and the CoW are separate and so it is best to keep the Mosaic covenant separate from the idea of a CoW?

If the covenant of life were to be equated with the law written on the heart at creation, it would follow that the covenant was made WITH each and every man for himself, because the law of God is written on the heart of all men. But we say the covenant was made WITH Adam FOR his posterity. So the covenant must be seen as a super-added element to man, not something which was created with him. Adam and Eve both had the law written on their hearts with power to fulfil it; both fell from the estate wherein they were created by sinning against God; but it was Adam's transgression against the positive prohibition of God which was federally imputed to posterity for condemnation (Rom. 5:12-21). For this reason we must keep the concepts of law and covenant distinct.


1. The problem with the first answer is that is too closely melds works and faith as a ground of justification (which is the issue involved with walking rightly before God) in the Abrahamic covenant in order to try and make a lesser disjunction between it and the Mosaic Covenant. Abraham was most certainly not required to walk in perfection, as was Israel, in the obtaining of the promises of that covenant. Abraham certainly was imperfect in his walk, and Scripture nowhere speaks of him in these terms. What Scripture constantly reaffirms is God's initiation, God's promise, and God's work in the life of Abraham. There are no curses analogous to those of Sinai that were given to Abraham, but rather, God took the curses upon himself unilaterally in the symbolism of the covenant. Any assertion that Abraham had to walk in perfect obedience to obtain the promises contradicts everything of which Paul speaks in Galatians 3-4, and Romans 4. The only thing that Abraham had to do was to wait in patience (Hebrews 6:15). The statement in James' epistle has had plenty of press time from good Lutheran and Reformed authors, and so cannot find place as a counter argument here.

2. Matthew is right to observe that the element of cursing and blessing tied to the land is prominent in the Mosaic covenant, and is also correct in noting that a CofW does not operate on the level of grace forgiveness and reconciliation. Where the answer gets off track is then asserting that Israel as a land and a people ever received those promises of restoration of land and self from within the boundaries of the Mosaic economy. It is clear that not only were they destroyed as a nation due to their breaking of the Mosaic law, but that they were never really restored as a people or a nation in the theocratic sense that they had operated prior to the exile. What we do see is the curses of the Mosaic administration taking effect, and the grace, restoration, and forgiveness coming then not to that nation and people in the flesh, but in the restored spiritual kingdom and true priesthood of the New Covenant. If the theocracy had been restored then, yes, his assertions would hold, but it was permanently laid waste, and a New Covenant was made to form a spiritual nation and people. That was what the promise had always been about, and the fallen kingdom of Israel was a typological entity which pointed toward that in various ways.

I believe that Horton's view is sound, and that Witsius is far more on the same page than some would like him to read. It makes a lot of sense out of what went on with Israel at the theocratic level, and should of course not be confused with the salvation of the individual Israelite, which often becomes the sadly mistaken issue with some in this discussion.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
1. "Perfect" is "sincere" or "upright," not sinless perfection. Whether they fulfilled the perfection required is not at issue. The fact is it was required of Abraham and Israel, not as an antecedent condition but as a consequential condition of being in covenant with God.

In Galatians the apostle Paul specifically says that Israel was an HEIR under age, and it was for that reason the law was given until the fulness of time. Possessing the grace of adoption she must have been under the covenant of grace. One might argue that the law possessed an outward aspect which resembled the covenant of works, but there is no basis for saying the nation as such was brought under the covenant of works. This contradicts Israel's status as firstborn son.

2. Deut 32:43, "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people." This is referenced by the apostle Paul as being fulfilled in the ministry of Christ to Israel, and the extension of the gospel from Israel to the Gentiles, Rom. 15:8-10. Both promise and fulfilment were clearly an economy of grace. The promise was given by Moses in the covenant song which testified of Israel's apostasy, punishment and restoration. Therefore the Mosaic covenant was one of promise and under the economy of grace.

The idea of an individual covenant of grace running parallel with a national covenant of works is fantasy. The individual's status as being in covenant with God depended upon his national incorporation. It was to the people as "Israelites" that the privilege of adoption and the coming of Jesus Christ was given, Rom. 9:4, and it is as elect Israelites that the word of the gospel effects their salvation, verse 6. The church in the wilderness is specifically said to have enjoyed the typical administration of the covenant of grace, 1 Cor. 10:1-4, and it was with individuals that God was not pleased and subsequently punished them in the wilderness, ver. 5-10.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
I’ve already asked questions about the Mosaic Covenant but I’m still not sure if I completely get it.

snip...

My problem is I can see arguments for all the positions laid out above and so I have kind of got myself confused. I would probably lean towards the Mosaic Covenant being administration of the CoG as that makes sense to me. If God were progressively revealing a plan of redemption that would point towards the mediator of the Covenant why would He suddenly introduce a covenant that was not of Grace?

So what is the Mosaic Covenant, CoW, CoG or something else? …..Help please.

The Apostle Paul is explicit: whatever God intended the Mosaic covenant to be, it was not given as a CofW even though Israel so misunderstood it. "Israel who pursued a law of righteousness...pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They have stumbled over the 'stumbling stone'" (Rom. 9:30-32.)

Today, however, the situation has changed. The Mosic Covenant is now a CofW for Israelites (and others) who reject Jesus, something made clear in Matt. 5:18. If one denies that "everything is accomplished" is referring to Jesus' death on the cross instituting the New Covenant, but instead believes that it refers to the end of life on earth, then one must live with the consequence that not the least change to the Mosaic law is possible in the interim. Which consequence, in turn, is the ground for Jesus' charge in the following verse that the Pharisees who, for all practical purposes, altered the law (Matt. 15:3-7) were outside the kingdom of heaven.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Today, however, the situation has changed. The Mosic Covenant is now a CofW for Israelites (and others) who reject Jesus, something made clear in Matt. 5:18. If one denies that "everything is accomplished" is referring to Jesus' death on the cross instituting the New Covenant, but instead believes that it refers to the end of life on earth, then one must live with the consequence that not the least change to the Mosaic law is possible in the interim. Which consequence, in turn, is the ground for Jesus' charge in the following verse that the Pharisees who, for all practical purposes, altered the law (Matt. 15:3-7) were outside the kingdom of heaven.

Hello Tim,

Caveat Lector: Although this may be slightly off topic on my part, yet I believe it to be related to this discusstion in general.

This is a very interesting interpretation about Matthew 5:18. Context is as follows:

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

First, your assertion that "the situation has changed" seems to be out of accord with v.17. Christ didn't come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill (more on that below). However, if I'm reading you correctly, you would have Christ say "think not that I came to destroy the law, but to fulfill; I'll destroy the law and the prophets in a few years." A rather novel interpretation.

Further, if you argue that v. 17's "to fulfill" clause refers to the crucifiction / resurrection, this does not fit with the context (it may be true, but this passage doesn't support it). The fulfilling of the law and the prophets, in this context, must be understood by what immediately follows. What DOES NOT immediately follow is a prediction of His crucifiction and resurrection. What DOES follow is a discourse on practical holy living:

v.19: "whosoever shall do and teach them" (God's least commands)
v. 20: "your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees"
vv. 21 - 26: 6th commandment expounded and applied
vv. 27 - 32: 7th commandment expounded and applied
etc.

As you can see, the context does not warrant making "fulfilling" the law and the prophets a matter of predicting His own shameful death, and glorious resurrection. It refers to whether or not His followers understand this:

15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Timothy was raised on the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) since his mother was a Jewess. Paul is not arguing for an abrogated Old Testament. The ceremonies are abrogated, since Christ was the substance of which they were mere representations. However, nowhere do we find the least of God's commandments done away with. Nor is he arguing for God's covenant of grace being transformed into a covenant of works for the Jews. The Jews transformed the CoG into a CoW by their own hardness of heart. As many today turn the CoG into a CoW by their false teachings about the gospel. I think of the altar call system, or the papacy's "gospel works", or the "faithful obedience" of some so-called reformed folk. They follow the same error as the Jews: seeking to establish their own righteousness.

Sorry for waxing prolix.

Godspeed,
 
Last edited:

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Today, however, the situation has changed. The Mosic Covenant is now a CofW for Israelites (and others) who reject Jesus, something made clear in Matt. 5:18. If one denies that "everything is accomplished" is referring to Jesus' death on the cross instituting the New Covenant, but instead believes that it refers to the end of life on earth, then one must live with the consequence that not the least change to the Mosaic law is possible in the interim. Which consequence, in turn, is the ground for Jesus' charge in the following verse that the Pharisees who, for all practical purposes, altered the law (Matt. 15:3-7) were outside the kingdom of heaven.

Hello Tim,

Caveat Lector: Although this may be slightly off topic on my part, yet I believe it to be related to this discusstion in general.

This is a very interesting interpretation about Matthew 5:18. Context is as follows:

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

First, your assertion that "the situation has changed" seems to be out of accord with v.17. Christ didn't come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill (more on that below). However, if I'm reading you correctly, you would have Christ say "think not that I came to destroy the law, but to fulfill; I'll destroy the law and the prophets in a few years." A rather novel interpretation.

Further, if you argue that v. 17's "to fulfill" clause refers to the crucifiction / resurrection, this does not fit with the context (it may be true, but this passage doesn't support it).

Actually it does. You may not know that pleroo the Gk word translated "fulfill" has a number of meanings. One of which is the idea of "complete a period of time" or complete a time limited condition used in this latter sense in the LXX in Gen. 25,24; 29:21 or the sense of "bringing something to completion" a sense Paul used in Rom. 15:19. (see the BAGD lexicon on pleroo.)
Thus, in v. 17, Christ is saying he is not come to destroy the law but to bring it to its promised completion, something for which all Israel had been longing for centuries. And if you deny that "until all is accomplished" is a reference to the institution of the new covenant, how will you justify not living by ALL the Mosaic law today when Christ has said that not the least change will be made to it until "all is accomplished?

The fulfilling of the law and the prophets, in this context, must be understood by what immediately follows.What DOES NOT immediately follow is a prediction of His crucifiction and resurrection. What DOES follow is a discourse on practical holy living:v.19: "whosoever shall do and teach them" (God's least commands)v. 20: "your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees"

Indeed so. For the crowd the crowd needed to hear those exhortations. The disciples, hearing that Christ would shortly be fulfilling the law, would be either tempted to abandon the law forthwith or would need to know how to answer Pharisaic accusations that they were doing so. They needed to hear that the time of the change had not yet come about. The Pharisees and those who followed them needed to hear that their emendations to the law were not permitted by God and they would be outside the kingdom if they both continued in their errors and rejected Jesus.

vv. 21 - 26: 6th commandment expounded and applied
vv. 27 - 32: 7th commandment expounded and applied
etc.

As you can see, the context does not warrant making "fulfilling" the law and the prophets a matter of predicting His own shameful death, and glorious resurrection. It refers to whether or not His followers understand this:

With these comments Christ is doing two things. He first is teaching his disciples some ethical principles that remain valid in his kingdom and by contrasting them with Pharisaical misunderstandings He provides additional evidence as to why the Pharisees are outside the kingdom of heaven.

15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Timothy was raised on the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) since his mother was a Jewess. Paul is not arguing for an abrogated Old Testament. The ceremonies are abrogated, since Christ was the substance of which they were mere representations. However, nowhere do we find the least of God's commandments done away with. Nor is he arguing for God's covenant of grace being transformed into a covenant of works for the Jews. The Jews transformed the CoG into a CoW by their own hardness of heart. As many today turn the CoG into a CoW by their false teachings about the gospel. I think of the altar call system, or the papacy's "gospel works", or the "faithful obedience" of some so-called reformed folk. They follow the same error as the Jews: seeking to establish their own righteousness.

I wasn't saying that Paul argued that the CofG was transformed into a CofW "for" the Jews by but "by" the Jews who had tried to seek righteousness by the law or without Christ.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
But again, that's not what the Confession says. It says the "law . . . continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness"; it doesn't say that the CoW was "republished." Following your logic, the New Covenant (in which the same "law" continues) is also a republication of the CoW.

Two things:

1. "This law" suggests a closer relation to "the covenant of works" than you seem to allow. The word "this" is a demonstrative pronoun. It stands in place of a previous express noun. The prior noun for "this" is "the covenant of works." This is how Thomas Boston took this language.

2. It is not entirely accurate to say that Mike Horton thinks that the Mosaic covenant was only a covenant of works. He recognizes that there were both works and grace elements in the covenant of works. This is the view that Turretin and Witsius took, e.g.

The trick is to get their relations right. Of course all those sinners who were saved and justified under Moses were saved and justified sola gratia et sola fide.

How then was the Mosaic covenant a works covenant? Not relative to salvation but relative to their status as the temporary, typological national people. It is with this theme in view that Paul speaks of Moses as the "old covenant." It isn't just that Moses was typological. Abraham and Noah were typological too but they aren't described as the "old covenant." What is distinct about the Mosaic covenant? It is their status of Israel as God's temporary, typological, theocratic-cultic people.

There are complications to this aspect since Israel broke the national covenant before the treaty documents were delivered at Sinai! Nevertheless, this aspect seems to account best for the legal-national language under Moses.

Relative to salvation, national Israel, under the Mosaic covenant, was in a covenant of grace. There is genuine spiritual continuity between national Israel and the NT church. We don't have to set the two against one another on every point. This is why Paul appeals to the Mosaic covenant as a type of the church in 1 Cor 10.

We don't have to choose absolutely between the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of works and the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace. It was both, depending upon which aspect one has in mind.

rsc
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Further, if you argue that v. 17's "to fulfill" clause refers to the crucifiction / resurrection, this does not fit with the context (it may be true, but this passage doesn't support it).

Actually it does. You may not know that pleroo the Gk word translated "fulfill" has a number of meanings. One of which is the idea of "complete a period of time" or complete a time limited condition used in this latter sense in the LXX in Gen. 25,24; 29:21 or the sense of "bringing something to completion" a sense Paul used in Rom. 15:19. (see the BAGD lexicon on pleroo.)
Thus, in v. 17, Christ is saying he is not come to destroy the law but to bring it to its promised completion, something for which all Israel had been longing for centuries. And if you deny that "until all is accomplished" is a reference to the institution of the new covenant, how will you justify not living by ALL the Mosaic law today when Christ has said that not the least change will be made to it until "all is accomplished?

Tim,

Indeed I am aware that plae-ra-oe may have several different meanings, depending on context. The context of Matthew 5 dictates that fulfilling the law and the prophets has to do with how to obey the law and the prophets, vs. the pharisaical misconceptions of the law.

Christ's introductory remarks are framed in such a way that it would prevent the misunderstanding which people would have of His teachings. The following discourse might lead them to misunderstand Christ's purpose in teaching on the law. They might think (as, I believe, you do) that He came to get rid of the law. He didn't. The only logical alternative is that Christ got rid of the Law and the Prophets when He died (all of the jots and tittles are gone). In other words, all of the OT is non-binding. This is Marcion's doctrine, and hard-core dispensationalism. The choice is between theonomy and anti-nomianism. Your view represents the antinomian view, mine the theonomic. There really isn't a middle ground. If every jot and tittle passes away when Christ is crucified, then THE WHOLE OT SCRIPTURE is done away with, fulfilled, destroyed, etc. Choose you this day whom you will serve.

The NT's teaching, however, is that we are to obey every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, and that all Scripture is profitable to teaching and practice.

Godspeed,
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top