Mosaic Covenant: Law or Gospel?

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Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brothers,

It's one thing for somebody to disagree with the position, it's quite another to make charges against men like Boston, Owen, Witsius, Rollock, Ames, Turretin, etc. on down to men like Kline, Horton, Clark, etc. as not having a good grasp of covenant theology or as ignoring very popular passages of Scripture. I simply don't think those are fair assessments. You may not agree with their methodology or their conclusions, but at least recognize they are well-respected teachers within the Reformed faith. For example, I have the utmost respect for Rev. Winzer and while I disagree with him on this matter, I wouldn't dare say that he doesn't have a good understanding of covenant theology or that he is ignoring popular passages of Scripture...

By the way, I don't consider myself to be a "Klinean." I reject the framework hypothesis and while I appreciate the research that has gone into the study of the ANE suzerain treaties, I'm not yet sure about how much weight to give to these findings with regard to interpreting the covenants within Scripture. I say these things so that you all might know that there are people like me who hold to the republication view who are not die hard Klineans. I don't mind labels so long as they fit. So, feel free to call me a Calvinist, Covenanter, or Marrow Man, but the Klinean label doesn't fit. Okay, now back to the issue at hand.

(I might add, I would much rather have other more competent men take up and defend this position instead of me, but it seems they're all busy at the moment, so I'll do my best recognizing I may be in over my head :lol:)

In Galatians 4, Paul is contrasting two covenants, two mountains, and two mothers (to borrow from Horton). What is the basis of the contrast? Do we not see there a contrast of law to grace? Wasn't part of the Galatian heresy one where people had confused law with grace as the basis for salvation? Why does Paul bring up the two covenants, mountains, and women in this letter?

Now, recognizing not everybody agrees that the Mosaic covenant was a national and temporary covenant, I would ask this question: Why was Israel kicked out of the land of promise? Why did she ultimately lose her national status? Was it not due to her disobedience to the covenant stipulations as a nation?

Please note, I fully recognize the gracious elements of the overarching CoG. In fact, their disobedience did not nullify the eternal promises made to Abraham and his seed, 430 years earlier. By all means, that's gracious. Nevertheless, their disobedience led to the loss of a number of temporal blessings that were promised in the Mosaic covenant. They failed to stay true to their covenant oath:

Exodus 24:6-8 6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient." 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words."

I will try to interact with the comments of this thread as I have opportunity. Like the rest of you, I'm quite busy, but this thread and this topic are of great interest to me, so I will try to give as much attention to it as I'm able. I hope this discussion will prove helpful to all of us as we seek to bring glory to our Lord as we study His Word.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Now, recognizing not everybody agrees that the Mosaic covenant was a national and temporary covenant, I would ask this question: Why was Israel kicked out of the land of promise? Why did she ultimately lose her national status? Was it not due to her disobedience to the covenant stipulations as a nation?
According to the Westminster Standards, the Mosaic Covenant is one administration of the covenant of grace. The stipulation/condition/requirement of the covenant of grace is faith, since Adam down to today. The answer to your question is not disobedience per se. Read Hebrews 3. They died because they broke the covenant through unbelief. This is the same reason the exile took place. God covenanted with his people at Sinai and it was a covenant of grace. If they sinned, there was a solution to this. But if the people wouldn't believe, then they would be dealt with accordingly. Their lack of law-keeping was the result of unregenerate hearts. But the exile itself had nothing to do with their law-keeping, and everything to do with not believing.
 

Robbie Schmidtberger

Puritan Board Freshman
According to the Westminster Standards, the Mosaic Covenant is one administration of the covenant of grace. The stipulation/condition/requirement of the covenant of grace is faith, since Adam down to today. The answer to your question is not disobedience per se. Read Hebrews 3. They died because they broke the covenant through unbelief. This is the same reason the exile took place. God covenanted with his people at Sinai and it was a covenant of grace. If they sinned, there was a solution to this. But if the people wouldn't believe, then they would be dealt with accordingly. Their lack of law-keeping was the result of unregenerate hearts. But the exile itself had nothing to do with their law-keeping, and everything to do with not believing.

Is not disobedience a derivative of unbelief? When I sin it is from the fact that I do not trust in God's grace, the work of Christ in what he has done on my behalf. John Piper's book Battling Unbelief covers this well. I commend it to you.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Rev. Bradley,

Thank you for your gracious interaction, and reminders about making sure we use the correct labels!

In Galatians 4, Paul is contrasting two covenants, two mountains, and two mothers (to borrow from Horton). What is the basis of the contrast? Do we not see there a contrast of law to grace? Wasn't part of the Galatian heresy one where people had confused law with grace as the basis for salvation? Why does Paul bring up the two covenants, mountains, and women in this letter?

Good questions, indeed! Let us take as an indisputable principal of Scripture interpretation that all may be harmonized. With that in mind, the same Scriptures tell us that Moses preached the gospel, and not the law as our salvation:
Hebrews 4:1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 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.

If Moses preached the gospel, and as the gospel of John shows clearly, testified about Christ our savior, then what is Paul doing stating that Sinai (where Moses preached from) taught a false way of justification?

It appears to me that Moses and Christ both taught one way of salvation. Moses did not teach what the Judaizers taught, in other words. If Paul attacks Moses, he is a false prophet. If he attacks the Judaizers misunderstanding of Moses, he does the same thing that Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount (“you have heard that it was said” etc.). Paul does not argue against the Scriptural doctrine of justification as taught by Moses: HE ATTACKES THE PERVERSION OF IT BY THE JEWS.

For a man to read Moses as if he said what Paul attacks is a gross mishandling of Scripture, and sets the Holy Ghost against Himself. The basis of the contrast Paul makes between law and gospel was the error of the Galatian heretics, NOT God’s inspired Word through Moses His servant.

Now, recognizing not everybody agrees that the Mosaic covenant was a national and temporary covenant, I would ask this question: Why was Israel kicked out of the land of promise? Why did she ultimately lose her national status? Was it not due to her disobedience to the covenant stipulations as a nation?

First, there are two issues happening at once. First, there is the civil issue; second, there is the soteriological issue. As far as civil states are concerned, they are to be holy, and to obey the law of God. Blessings and curses accrue according as they obey or disobey (see Calvin’s sermons on Deuteronomy 28 for more on this). As George Mason said, civil societies do not have souls that live on after this life; therefore their rewards are all meted out in this world. Israel was kicked out of the land for their rebellion and lawlessness. The same reason why the Amorites and Perezites were kicked out of the land. God judges nations by their works, and blesses or curses them accordingly. This is biblical politics, not the doctrine of justification. This is the same in the New Covenant era as it was in the Old.

Please note, I fully recognize the gracious elements of the overarching CoG. In fact, their disobedience did not nullify the eternal promises made to Abraham and his seed, 430 years earlier. By all means, that's gracious. Nevertheless, their disobedience led to the loss of a number of temporal blessings that were promised in the Mosaic covenant. They failed to stay true to their covenant oath:

Exodus 24:6-8 6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient." 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words."

Again, this confounds the civil with the soteriological. God also cursed the Canaanites for their wickedness, and curses America for her wickedness. This is a basic fact of how God set up the world to operate. This doesn’t mean that Moses taught a different view of justification, sanctification, adoption etc. Much to the contrary, it means that the God of Israel has established civil states, and holds them to the line.

Not sure if any of this totally on point, but I hope it helps.

Cheers,
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Is not disobedience a derivative of unbelief? When I sin it is from the fact that I do not trust in God's grace, the work of Christ in what he has done on my behalf. John Piper's book Battling Unbelief covers this well. I commend it to you.
Yes, disobedience is a derivative of unbelief. But the covenant of grace isn't broken by disobedience. It's broken by unbelief. Hence their expulsion from the land. Israel's greatest sin was their apostasy. King David committed some horrendous sin but was not expunged from the land -- he had faith and repented.
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Casey,

Nobody doubts the fact that those who died in the wilderness were an example to show the danger of unbelief. I fully agree with you there.

However, in Deut. 28, among other places, the threats of the Mosaic Covenant contain temporal judgments which include things like exile and loss of blessing in the land. The prophets are clear in their proclamation against Israel for her disobedience to the law contained in the Mosaic Covenant and they warned the people over and over again that God's judgment was about to come and it did when the Assyrians and the Babylonians overtook the people and the land... The Assyrians and Babylonians were used of the Lord to bring about the threats contained in that covenant. Were all the exiles unbelievers? No, but they all suffered the consequences of breaking the covenant that they swore to as a nation. As a national covenant, they suffered as a nation.
 

Robbie Schmidtberger

Puritan Board Freshman
It is important to remember that Sinai was not a covenant after the fashion of the covenant of grant, instead it was of the suzerain vassal treaties. The cov't of grant was unilateral (like Gen 15.) Suzerain Vassal was where one party protected the other, if they agreed to keep the terms. If not, punishment was ensured.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Casey,

Nobody doubts the fact that those who died in the wilderness were an example to show the danger of unbelief. I fully agree with you there.

However, in Deut. 28, among other places, the threats of the Mosaic Covenant contain temporal judgments which include things like exile and loss of blessing in the land. The prophets are clear in their proclamation against Israel for her disobedience to the law contained in the Mosaic Covenant and they warned the people over and over again that God's judgment was about to come and it did when the Assyrians and the Babylonians overtook the people and the land... The Assyrians and Babylonians were used of the Lord to bring about the threats contained in that covenant. Were all the exiles unbelievers? No, but they all suffered the consequences of breaking the covenant that they swore to as a nation. As a national covenant, they suffered as a nation.
Yeah, I agree with you in part -- I think Adam's post is a bit more accurate than what I've said. But let me try to give a little more depth to my answer.

I still think the republication doctrine is entirely erroneous on the basis that the Mosaic Covenant isn't two mixed-up covenants: both the covenant of works and the covenant of grace at the same time. If the Mosaic Covenant was in any sense a republication of the covenant of works (which must be understood to be unto eternal life), then God was giving his people a confused message.

The blessing accrues from a believing heart according to the promise. Otherwise, had they been externally obedient, God would have been obligated to bless them. But they could never have been so obedient because a good work is only the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, by saying that there were blessings promised on the basis of obedience in no way removes the need for faith, but only strengthens the need for faith. There is no need to push this obedience-blessing principle as though it were a covenant of works.

Is it any different today? Are believers today in the covenant of works if God would chastise them for their sin? (He chastises whom he loves.) If I sin and God providentially causes me to suffer for that sin, that doesn't mean I'm in the covenant of works. I believe the same was the case with Israel. If a country attacks America on the basis of bad diplomacy on America's part and I die in the attack, does that mean America is in a national covenant of works? Of course not. If I lay my treasures in heaven and live a life full of good works, I am promised rewards -- does that mean I am in the covenant of works? No, it doesn't.

The basic movement of the Mosaic Covenant is this: "I have saved you, now live according to my law, and if you do you will have blessings and if you don't you're going to be chastised." It's really no different today. Most of Paul's epistles follow this very same pattern. "You have been saved by grace, now walk in the Spirit." That's the nature of the covenant of grace. God saves us so that we may do good works, same with Moses. Chastisement and rewards based on obedience doesn't mean it's a covenant of works. And I think that Hebrews 4 makes it clear that it's a covenant of grace, otherwise belief and faith wouldn't have been mentioned there.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
It is important to remember that Sinai was not a covenant after the fashion of the covenant of grant, instead it was of the suzerain vassal treaties. The cov't of grant was unilateral (like Gen 15.) Suzerain Vassal was where one party protected the other, if they agreed to keep the terms. If not, punishment was ensured.
This, I believe, is an extra-biblical imposition on the text.
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Casey,

I appreciate the calm tenor with which you continue to dialog; thanks.

I noticed you stated that the CoW can only be a soteriological covenant and I think that's where we're speaking past one another (perhaps).

Again, those who uphold the republication view, are not saying that the Mosaic Covenant is a CoW in the exact same sense and way as the original CoW. We're simply acknowledging the legal foundation and principles of this covenant and noting the meritorious and penal nature of it. Wouldn't you agree that the Mosaic Covenant contains the overall message "do this and you will live in blessing; fail to do this and you will be cursed?" Furthermore, we can't help but to see that Israel suffered for breaking that particular covenant. It wasn't a lack of saving faith, but a lack of obedience to the covenant stipulations that brought God's temporal judgment...
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Q. 27. What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?

A. The fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion with God, his displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures of our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

Q. 30. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

Perhaps if we backup a bit, we might be able to make sense of this...

First, there is a covenant of works. All mankind, by virtue of being in Adam's family are relegated to this covenant. Even though Adam fell, this covenant is still in force because it was made to Adam and to all his posterity. This covenant has to be kept by all, but none can keep it. Christ must keep it on behalf of all those God elected to save. So there is no abrogation of the covenant of works. It is still in force though none can keep it.

Second, God's wrath is poured out against all those who are under this covenant. And though He may indeed prosper these and cause them to rise and fall according to His purpose, they are not in relationship with Him. He is their creator and their judge, but He does not know them nor their ways.

Third, God chose to extend another covenant in order to save some. In this covenant, saving grace is given to those whose faith (which is also a gift) is firmly fixed upon the promise of Messiah to the OT peoples, or the revealed Christ to the NT peoples.

In all of these categories, God's favor is either salvific or it isn't. There is no in between. The OT tells us that God set His love on the children of Israel and chose them to be a people for Himself. God did not choose them because of their prowess or promise or goodness within themselves. He chose them by His grace and according to the oath He swore to their fathers. He redeemed them from the house of bondage. What does this redemption entail? It is a foreshowing of the redemption from the bondage of sin.

He didn't do this for any other of Adam's sons. They are still relegated to the covenant of works, doomed to attempt perfect obedience, but never achieving and thus, they have been given their reward. They are eternally damned and will face the just penalty for their sins.

The questions remain. Why would God favor anyone (except His only Begotten) in exchange for their obedience? Without faith it is impossible to please God. A national covenant with completely physical and temporal blessings means that God, in fact, may be pleased by those who are without faith. Surely this means that God will reward those who diligently work and earn his favor, not by the merit of Christ, not by perfect obedience, but by the flesh and it's "righteousness". If God promises reward for obedience to a law, then it is a promise He never intends to keep, because no one can perfectly obey. The land flowing with milk and honey was never to be theirs, the cities they conquered were never to flourish, the children they bore would always be a byword, the bread they ate would always be like ash in their mouths, they would forever hope, but never see the reality of that hope, they would long for their Husband, but would never be requited, they would pronounce the blessings of the Lord's face shining upon them, but they would never feel its warmth. I could go on and on, but the truth is, there is no blessing, either spiritual or physical, that God will give based upon the flesh of Adam's sons. That time is over. What God demands is a clean heart and a contrite spirit. Who can ever accomplish that before a holy God?

So, any covenant extended to the national people of the Jews was not devoid of atonement, repentance, and faith. If this is not so, then why did the children of Israel ever reform and go through cycles of repentance? So they could keep the land!!!! Read the Psalms. Does this sound like a people seeking the Lord's favor for temporal blessings?

Psalm 85:1-7
1 LORD, You have been favorable to Your land;
You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
2 You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin. Selah
3 You have taken away all Your wrath;
You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.

4 Restore us, O God of our salvation,
And cause Your anger toward us to cease.
5 Will You be angry with us forever?
Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?
6 Will You not revive us again,
That Your people may rejoice in You?
7 Show us Your mercy, LORD,
And grant us Your salvation.

Psalm 80

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!
2 Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
Stir up Your strength,
And come and save us!

3 Restore us, O God;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

4 O LORD God of hosts,
How long will You be angry
Against the prayer of Your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears,
And given them tears to drink in great measure.
6 You have made us a strife to our neighbors,
And our enemies laugh among themselves.

7 Restore us, O God of hosts;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
You have cast out the nations, and planted it.
9 You prepared room for it,
And caused it to take deep root,
And it filled the land.
10 The hills were covered with its shadow,
And the mighty cedars with its boughs.
11 She sent out her boughs to the Sea,[c]
And her branches to the River.[d]

12 Why have You broken down her hedges,
So that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit?
13 The boar out of the woods uproots it,
And the wild beast of the field devours it.

14 Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine
15 And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted,
And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.
16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
18 Then we will not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.

19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

This doesn't sound like a people who were extended merely physical and temporal promises. They called upon the Lord to be saved, to be forgiven.

In Christ,

KC
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Rev. Bradley, sorry about the tenor of my posts -- I don't want anything but a charitable and God-glorifying conversation. If you think anything I've said (or that I say in the future) is anything but this, please let me know. :)

Hmm . . is there any confessional basis in the Westminster Standards to understand a CoWs in any other sense than soteriological? There are two federal heads: Adam (covenant of works) and Christ (covenant of grace), and I don't see how that fits with the Mosaic covenant being a type of covenant of works if Christ is the head of it, since it's an administration of the covenant of grace. I understand that Christ paid the penalty for the broken covenant of works on behalf of his people, but he didn't pay the penalty for a broken Mosaic Covenant . . . ahh, I'm rambling now.

I'm having a hard time seeing how the rewards and punishments mean it's a covenant of works, as per my post #40. :think:
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
It is important to remember that Sinai was not a covenant after the fashion of the covenant of grant, instead it was of the suzerain vassal treaties. The cov't of grant was unilateral (like Gen 15.) Suzerain Vassal was where one party protected the other, if they agreed to keep the terms. If not, punishment was ensured.

This is the biggest danger of Klinean formulations. While we may notice similarities with other surrounding nations, it is a huge mistake to equate these treaties with any covenants God made. WHY?

WHO MADE THE COVENANT IN THE FIRST PLACE? In what book is it written? And by whose authority will make it stand?

Besides, the Holy Spirit will not lead us into all truth regarding suzerain treaties.

In Christ,

KC
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I believe the Mosaic was a combination of revealing the death that the Covenant of Works placed upon man. It revealed the sinfulness of sin and instructed men about their sin. It also pronounced death based upon works. It is called a ministration of death. So it has some connection to the Covenant of Works. That is undeniable. The Law (The Mosaic) is said to be added because of transgressions until Christ comes.

The Law works death in us as Paul wrote. It is an active work I believe. I agree it is a tutor to keep us until Christ. So I also believe the Mosaic is also a means of Grace. It is condemning to the condemned and a means of grace to the Elect. I believe as an individual covenant it administers both the CofW and the CofG.

(2Co 3:6) Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

(2Co 3:7) But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

(Gal 3:17) And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

(Gal 3:18) For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

(Gal 3:19) Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

(Rom 7:12) Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

(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.
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Casey, no apology needed at all. I meant what I said about your kind tenor in this thread. It makes the discussion pleasant and focused.

Also, please feel free to call me Steve if you'd like.

I have to give some more thought to your last post... :think: :book2:
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
This is the biggest danger of Klinean formulations. While we may notice similarities with other surrounding nations, it is a huge mistake to equate these treaties with any covenants God made. WHY?

WHO MADE THE COVENANT IN THE FIRST PLACE? In what book is it written? And by whose authority will make it stand?

Besides, the Holy Spirit will not lead us into all truth regarding suzerain treaties.

In Christ,

KC

Hi KC, as stated previously, I'm still undecided about how much weight to give to the findings of the ANE suzerain treaties.

That said, to see common elements between the ANE treaties and the covenants in Scripture does not mean one must believe that the human versions came first. For all we know, the covenants of Scripture may have been the model that the others followed? And learning more about the secular covenants of that period may help us to understand the manner in which the people of that period understood covenants generally, which can aid us as we apply the grammatico-historical principle of hermeneutics to the subject.
 

Robbie Schmidtberger

Puritan Board Freshman
Since I brought up the ANE treaties, I should respond. By bringing them up I do not equate them with Scripture, they are not inspired, not the word of God, they have no special value. They are man made contraptions.

I brought them up because Scripture does seem to adopt them as a pattern. Allbeit with differences, thus making them unique. It is helpful to remember that in discussing a covenants nature.

Scripture was written in a historical context.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
The Law works death in us as Paul wrote. It is an active work I believe. I agree it is a tutor to keep us until Christ. So I also believe the Mosaic is also a means of Grace. It is condemning to the condemned and a means of grace to the Elect. I believe as an individual covenant it administers both the CofW and the CofG.

Mr. Snyder,

Do you believe that this use of the law is different in the New Covenant? Isn't it also true that there is still an evangelistic use of the Law to convict us of our sins and show us our need of Christ?

If we still use the law in this way, wouldn't we be required to speak of the CoW aspect as part of the gospel message as well?

In the Corinthian passage, isn't Paul making clear that the Jews had blinders on their hearts, so that Christ was not known to them, rather than that the Mosaic covenant itself was the problem?

2 Cor 3: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

The glory and light of the New Covenant are much greater, but even in the reading of the Law of Moses, the Jews would discern Christ if the veil were removed. Thus, in the same way that Moses preached death because of sin, so does Christ. In the same way Paul preached righteousness by the Messiah, so did Moses.

Just some thoughts,

Adam
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Robbie, I understand the value in studying the historical context in which the Scriptures were written and don't want to underestimate that aspect of interpreting the Scriptures. It seems inappropriate to fit the biblical covenants into the ANE treaty/covenant boxes -- the Scriptures should be interpreted on its own first. What you said in your post ("It is important to remember that Sinai was not a covenant after the fashion of the covenant of grant, instead it was of the suzerain vassal treaties") presupposes your own interpretation (republication of the covenant of works), instead of substantiating that the Bible teaches it -- in other words, you're begging the question. Besides, it still remains to be seen (in my opinion) whether this view is in any way compatible with the Westminster Standards which state that the Mosaic Covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace (wherein faith alone is required as a condition of the covenant).
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Robbie,

I think what may be the point of disagreement is more of a philosophical issue.

The Realist position (or Augustinian, if you like) would tend to say that the covenants made by man are dim reflections of the real covenants, made by God. Thus, Scripture should not be read in the light of the ANE covs, but the ANE covs should be read in the light of the Scriptural teaching.

I would tend to think that, although historical context is valuable, its value pales in comparison to the theological context of Scripture; which Scripture itself establishes. This method of interpreteting Scripture is made a matter of faith by the WCF:

Chapter 1, IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

Cheers,

Adam


Since I brought up the ANE treaties, I should respond. By bringing them up I do not equate them with Scripture, they are not inspired, not the word of God, they have no special value. They are man made contraptions.

I brought them up because Scripture does seem to adopt them as a pattern. Allbeit with differences, thus making them unique. It is helpful to remember that in discussing a covenants nature.

Scripture was written in a historical context.
 

Robbie Schmidtberger

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you to Casey and Adam.
Yes, the Westminster Confession and Catechism allows for such a view. The Assembly never said anything on the lines that could be used to support salvation by works (that I know of). The WCF is not meant to be an elaborate discussion on Cov't theology, instead a succinct summary of it.

The most relevant chapter of the confession (ch. 7) says (7.2) the first cov't made with man was a cov't of works... upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. (7.3) Man, by his fall, made himself incapable of that cov't. And God made a second. Genesis 3:15 sets this forth.

Christ fulfilled the cov't of works by his active obedience. The Cov't of works condemns us for this reason, but God put our pollution from sin upon Christ at Calvary. Jesus' righteousness God imputed onto us, the elect.

7.4 tells us how this worked out, or was administered.
"This Cov't (of grace) 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 foreseeing Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious"

The confession draws a sharp distinction between the Old Cov't and the New Cov't. It also mentions the idea of administrations. This is where the debate will begin. Does it allow for a Abrahamic administration (Gen. 15), a Noahic administration, Davidic, or Mosaic? Clearly it allows for a Mosaic one through the language, "in the time of the law and in the time of the gospel" Also in 7.4 we are given a brief list that is by no means exhaustive. It is not intended to be. {also pertinent is WLC # 37}

Concluding ch. 7 it says, "There are not therefore two Cov'ts of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations." I said in my first post that Sinai was founded on grace, not law. I do not believe it to be a replication of the Cov't of works. Instead a type and sign of the kingdom of heaven. It is a continuation of the Cov't of Grace set forth in Gen 3:15 and Gen. 12.

It says nothing of Abraham or David here. But there is a firm believer present that Christ is King, which is based off the davidic cov't (WLC). The priestly role is based off the Mosaic Cov't.

Is there grace at Sinai? Yes, I never said otherwise. I mentioned that it is distinct and unique in comparison to the other biblical cov'ts in the fact that there is a conditional element. That cannot be denied. But I also must admit that the Confession never says anything about the other administrations of the Old Cov't. In the period of "innocence" when Adam walked with God, he enjoyed great intimacy with the Father and Creator. However when he sinned he fell and took us with him. He fell because he broke the conditions of that Cov't. But there was not grace as we know it there and then. God then, out of his goodness and grace, cov'ts to send a redeemer. He promises to built a people, and when that people come along 400 years after Abraham, he tells them out to live. And if they forsake his cov't, through unbelief and disobedience, they go into exile. God redeems them. The Mosaic Cov't, or administration, is not a replication of the CoW as there was not grace as we know it, or Israel knew it. Instead its entirely different, a brand new paradigm that we must follow. "You will be my people, I will be your God. Obey Me and live. Disobey me and die." We do disobey. Yet Christ comes.
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brothers and sisters,

Might I recommend a couple of works? I believe the following articles should prove quite helpful to this discussion:

Here is a work by Lee Irons in which he shows how a number of the Reformers held to the republication view:

http://www.upper-register.com/papers/works_in_mosaic_cov.pdf

Here is a great work by Mark Karlberg which includes a number of helpful quotes from Reformed theologians throughout the ages as to how they viewed the Mosaic Covenant:

Reformed Interpretation of the Mosaic Covenant


Also see these:
http://www.upper-register.com/papers/subservient_cov.pdf
http://www.upper-register.com/papers/redefining_merit.pdf

And this helpful article on the Law/Gospel contrast wherein Irons refutes Rich Lusk (FV):
http://www.upper-register.com/papers/law_gospel_10args.pdf
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Might I recommend a couple of works?

Dear Rev. Bradley,

Do any of these works substantiate a republication theory in which God enters into a covenant of works with the nation of Israel concerning the typological land of promise? It is this assertion of a co-ordinate covenant of works existing alongside of the covenant of grace which appears to me to be contrary to the Confession, not the assertion by some divines in the reformed tradition that the covenant of works was republished in subordination to the covenant of grace. The Confession explicitly states that the typological element in the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace (WCF 7:5). How does one maintain this distinctive of the Confession and still assert that the land was typological and promised under the covenant of works?
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Might I recommend a couple of works?

Dear Rev. Bradley,

Do any of these works substantiate a republication theory in which God enters into a covenant of works with the nation of Israel concerning the typological land of promise? It is this assertion of a co-ordinate covenant of works existing alongside of the covenant of grace which appears to me to be contrary to the Confession, not the assertion by some divines in the reformed tradition that the covenant of works was republished in subordination to the covenant of grace. The Confession explicitly states that the typological element in the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace (WCF 7:5). How does one maintain this distinctive of the Confession and still assert that the land was typological and promised under the covenant of works?

Hello Brother Winzer,

Before I go on, I want to say that I do believe the republication of the CoW at Sinai IS subservient to the CoG concerning salvation. The first use of the Law is found within it, which is a tutor to lead us to Christ. So, there's no disagreement there (at least, I don't think there is...).

That said, I do believe there's also a typological aspect of the CoW as it relates to the nation of Israel and the earthly inheritance. If I understood your question correctly (and I may not have), then this is the area in which we disagree; am I following you correctly?

A number of the quotes that follow are taken from some of the works I listed previously. Allow me to apologize beforehand about the lack of footnotes since they don't come through with the cut and paste feature. I'll cite which document they come from and if anybody would like the references, they can find them by going back to the source I'm quoting from. These articles aren't that long, so it should be fairly easy to retrieve the sources.

From Lee Iron's work: "Works in the Mosaic Covenant"

John Owen (1616-1683)

In John Owen’s magisterial seven volume commentary on Hebrews we see a significant new development in covenant theology – the application of the works principle in the Mosaic economy to the typological, temporal level of Israel’s retention of the land.

Commenting on Hebrews 8:6, which speaks of “a better covenant enacted on better promises,” Owen explained in what sense the New Covenant is better than the Old. In so doing, he affirmed that “the covenant on Sinai” contained “a revival and representation of the covenant of works, with its sanction and curse.” The purpose of this was “to shut up unbelievers, and such as would not seek for righteousness, life, and salvation by the promise, under the power of the covenant of works, and curse attending it.”

However, the Mosaic Covenant “did not constitute a new way or means of righteousness, life, and salvation,” since these soteric blessings could only be attained by Christ alone, and by faith in him (p. 82). Although the Mosaic Covenant was a “renovation” (p. 91) of the “the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works,” and thus became, as Paul teaches, “a ministry of condemnation” (pp. 85, 92), yet no one was saved or condemned by virtue of it. “Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works” (pp. 85-86).

To what, then, did the republished covenant of works apply? “As unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal” (p. 85). “Having granted unto this people those great privileges of the land of Canaan … he moreover prescribed unto them laws, rules, and terms of obedience, whereon they should hold and enjoy the land” (p. 83). In other words, the covenant of works aspect of the Mosaic Covenant only operated on the temporal level of Israel’s retention of the land, not on the antitypical level of eternal salvation. Owen’s thinking here points the way to Kline’s distinction between the two levels – the level of the theocratic, typal kingdom, and the level of personal attainment of the eternal kingdom of salvation (see below).

Herman Witsius (1636-1708)

Witsius was an important Continental systematizer of covenant theology in the late seventeenth century, whose thought had affinities with that of Owen. He argued that the curse of the covenant, stated in a passage like Deut. 27:26 (and quoted by Paul in Gal. 3:10) “undoubtedly contained the sanction of the covenant of works.”16 Witsius regarded the Old Covenant as “typical or shadowy.” When the New Testament asserts the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, “a better covenant is opposed to that Israelitish covenant, which is not formally the covenant of grace, but is only considered with respect to typical or shadowy pomp” (p. 336). Notice that Witsius regarded the Mosaic Covenant as “not formally the covenant of grace.” It was a “national covenant,” in which “God promised the people, that, if they performed the obedience, he would accept and reward it,” although in the end, “they broke the covenant by their apostacy [sic] … and God refused to be called their God.” However, this pertained only to the typological level, for “the elect among Israel … besides their engagements by the Sinaitic covenant, were joined to God by the covenant of grace which he had solemnly renewed with Abraham.”

Witsius distinguished, but did not separate, the Mosaic Covenant (“the typical covenant”) from the Abrahamic Covenant (“a pure covenant of grace”):

As the covenant of grace, under which the ancients were, is not to be confounded with, so neither is it to be separated from, the Sinaitic covenant: neither are we to think that believers were without all those things which were not promised by the Sinaitic covenant, and which the typical covenant, because of its weakness and unprofitableness, could not bestow; as they were likewise partakers of the Abrahamic covenant, which was a pure covenant of grace: and hence were derived the spiritual and saving benefits of the Israelites (pp. 336-37).

A salient feature of the Mosaic Covenant making it “the typical covenant” may be seen in the fact that “long life in the land of Canaan was a pledge of eternal life in heaven” (pp. 354-55).

From Karlberg's work: "Reformed Interpretation of the Mosaic Covenant"

Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) and Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949) were important links between Dutch and American Calvinism. Berkhof upholds the dominant Reformed view of the Mosaic Covenant, which sees it as a covenant of works in some restricted sense.

The Sinaitic covenant included a service that contained a positive reminder of the strict demands of the covenant of works. The law was placed very much in the foreground, giving prominence once more to the earlier legal element. But the covenant of Sinai was not a renewal of the covenant of works; in it the law was made subservient to the covenant of grace…. It is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant, but it was not the salvation of the Israelite but his theocratic standing in the nation, and the enjoyment of external blessings that was made dependent on the keeping of the law, Deut 28:1–14 .

Charles Hodge (1797–1878) teaches that the Mosaic Covenant is evangelical (that is to say, a covenant of grace), yet with the addition of the legal element, making it at the same time a legal covenant (a covenant of works). This law-feature is evident in the promise of national security and prosperity of Israel in the land of Canaan, and in the renewed proclamation of the works-principle (hypothetical), as found in the New Covenant as well ( e.g ., Rom 2:6 and Luke 10:25ff .).

Hodge said the following in his commentary on 2 Corinthians.

I hope you all appreciate this one as I had to type it out by hand :)

...it must be remembered that the Mosaic economy was designed to accomplish different objects, and is therefore presented in Scripture under different aspects. What, therefore, is true of it under one aspect, is not true under another.

1. The law of Moses was, in the first place, a re-enactment of the covenant of works. A covenant is simply a promise suspended upon a condition. The covenant of works, therefore, is nothing more than the promise of life suspended on the condition of perfect obedience. The phrase is used as a concise and convenient expression of the eternal principles of justice on which God deals with rational creatures, and which underlie all dispensations, the Adamic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Christian. Our Lord said to the lawyer who asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, "What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right, this do and thou shalt live" Luke 10:26-28. This is the covenant of works. It is an immutable principle that where there is no sin there is no condemnation, and where there is sin there is death. This is all that those who reject the gospel have to fall back upon. It is this principle which is rendered so prominent in the Mosaic economy as to give it its character of law. Viewed under this aspect it is the ministration of condemnation and death.

2. The Mosaic economy was also a national covenant; that is, it presented national promises on the condition of national obedience. Under this aspect also it was purely legal.

But 3, as the gospel contains a renewed revelation of the law, so the law of Moses contained a revelation of the gospel. It presented in its priesthood and sacrifices, as types of the office and work of Christ, the gratuitous method of salvation through a Redeemer. This necessarily supposes that faith and not works was the condition of salvation. It was those who trusted, not those free from sin, who were saved. Thus Moses wrote of Christ, John 5:46; and thus the law and the prophets witnessed of a righteousness of faith, Rom. 3:21. When therefore the apostle spoke of the old covenant under its legal aspect, and especially when speaking to those who rejected the gospel and clung to the law of Moses as law, then he says, it kills, or is the ministration of condemnation. But when viewing it, and especially when speaking of those who viewed it as setting forth the great doctrine of redemption through the blood of Christ, he represented it as teaching his own doctrine. The law, in every form, moral or Mosaic, natural or revealed, kills. In demanding works as the condition of salvation, it must condemn all sinners. But the gospel, whether as revealed in the promise to Adam after his fall, or in the promise to Abraham, or in the writings of Moses, or in its full clearness in the New Testament, gives life. As the old covenant revealed both the law and the gospel, it either killed or gave life, according to the light in which it was viewed...

From Lee Irons: "The Subservient Covenant"

According to Thomas [G. Michael Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus 1536-1675)], the view of the Mosaic covenant as a “subservient covenant” was first proposed by John Cameron (1579-1625), a Scottish Presbyterian who immigrated to France and became the founder of the Saumur school of Reformed theology. Cameron was the first Reformed theologian to depart from the traditional “two covenant scheme.” That is, he rejected the Ramist view that all covenants must be classified under one of two categories: either the foedus operum (covenant of works) or the foedus gratiae (covenant of grace). In his treatise on the covenants, De Triplici Dei cum Homine Foedere Theses (Theses on the Threefold Covenant of God with Man), Cameron argued that there are actually three covenants in Scripture: the covenant of nature (with Adam), the subservient covenant (with Israel), and the covenant of grace (which was revealed in the promises before the Mosaic Law, but ultimately fulfilled in the new covenant).

Thomas describes Cameron’s view of the Mosaic covenant as follows:

The subservient covenant, introduced by Moses, was a repetition of the covenant of nature, in that it also required perfect obedience to the moral law, but it added ceremonial and civil regulations. The promise of this covenant was a happy life in Canaan, but its main purpose was to expose more fully human sinfulness and so prepare the way for the Saviour. Cameron explained that the subservient covenant was that after which the first part of the Bible was named in being called the Old Testament. The adjective ‘old’ did not imply that it was chronologically prior, for the covenant of nature fully and the covenant of grace partly had been revealedbefore it. Rather it was old because defunct, since the coming of Christ (p. 168).

...

Cameron’s De Triplici Dei cum Homine Foedere Theses was published posthumously in 1642. The English Puritan Samuel Bolton, who was nominated as a commissioner to the Westminster Assembly,4 translated Cameron’s theses into English and included them as an appendix to his True Bounds of Christian Freedom (1645).

Thomas writes:

Bolton listed a number of ways the Reformed had tried to fit the Mosaic law into their covenant theology, noting the difficulties of subsuming it simply under either nature or grace. His introduction to the ‘Theses’ claims that ‘in the ensuing discourse, this doubt is resolved.’ Clearly [Bolton] regarded Cameron’s ‘Theses’ not so much as a new departure but as essentially a statement of what the best theologians had been trying to say all along. Indeed, in all the posthumous criticisms of Cameron’s ‘novelties,’ there was little complaint about his use of three covenants (pp. 168-69).

As far as I can tell, the Puritan Paperbacks edition of Bolton’s work leaves this appendix out. However, in chapter three (see below), Bolton describes Cameron’s view in detail and concludes: “This is the opinion which I myself desire modestly to propound, for I have not been convinced that it is injurious to holiness or disagreeable to the mind of God in Scripture.”

Mark Karlberg has a helpful description of Bolton’s “subservient covenant” view. Karlberg sees this view as distinct from the “hypothetical covenant” view. The “hypothetical covenant” view is the view that Leviticus 18:5 was a hypothetical offer of eternal life to the Israelites. Karlberg argues that this view would indeed create tension with the underlying covenant of grace. He writes:

Positively, Bolton distinguishes within the Covenant of Grace the typical, subservient covenant under Moses. That is to say, the law-feature of the Mosaic Covenant has relevance only to the unique typical covenant which is of temporary duration ... Bolton regards the subservient, typical covenant as an integral aspect of the Mosaic administration of the Covenant of Grace.

Good night; I'm spent! :)
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Dear Rev. Bradley,

Thankyou for taking the time to paste and type the quotations you regard as relevant to this issue.

I don't know what to make of Owen's covenant structure seeing as he allows for substantial and not merely circumstantial changes between the old and new covenants; on that basis I pass him by as something of an anomaly. If one adheres to this peculiar position he certainly has the great theological genius of Owen to support him, but I doubt seriously if Owen was exercising great theological genius in defending this peculiar position. If the new covenant is substantially different because it is made only with the spiritual children of Abraham, or believers, then one wonders on what basis baptism can be administered as a sign of the new covenant to any but "believers."

Herman Witsius and Louis Berkhof explicitly deny the Sinai covenant was a covenant of works. Witsius: "The covenant made with Israel at mount Sinai was not formally the covenant of works." Berkhof: "But the covenant of Sinai was not a renewal of the covenant of works; in it the law was made subservient to the covenant of grace."

I'm not sure how to evaluate Hodge's simplistic explanation. In his Systematic Theology (2:122), he states the matter with more precision: "In the obvious sense of the terms, to say that men are still under that covenant, is to say that they are still on probation; that the race did not fall when Adam fell." He proceeds to state that all men stood their probation in Adam, and do not stand each man for himself.

Personally, I think this idea of making typological elements pertain to the covenant of works effectively destroys the nature of a "type." The type fails in each and every instance because it looks forward to the antitype for its fulfilment. On this basis it might be argued that all types are institutions of the covenant of works, seeing as they all look forward to Jesus Christ as the one who was made under the type to fulfil it on the elect's behalf. But this obscures the fact that the believer under the OT also looked forward to the type's fulfilment in Christ and thereby partook of the benefit of the covenant of grace.

I am still left asking the question as to how one can maintain the distinctive teaching of WCF 7:5, that the types are an administration of the covenant of grace, whilst asserting that the land was a type instituted under a covenant of works made with the nation of Israel?
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
I'm obviously dense. What does this mean?

Lee Irons: It would appear that the viewpoint dominant in Reformed circles today, that the Mosaic Covenant is merely an administration of the covenant of pure grace, devoid of any works element, is a modern reaction against dispensationalism, and can claim very few advocates within the ranks of the covenant theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Does this mean that Presbyterian and Reformed theologians holding to the WCF prior to this, and the last two centuries did NOT advocate the Mosaic covenant as an administration of the CoG? The Westminster divines did not hold to this?

How about this one.

Lee Irons: It is true, as Karlberg points out, that there were a few Puritan theologians, like David Dickson, who held that the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of pure grace, and that Paul in Galatians 3 was merely refuting a Jewish misinterpretation of the Law. But this viewpoint was not dominant until recently. John Murray, for example, recognized that his gracious construction of the Mosaic Covenant represented a departure from classic covenant theology: “The view that in the Mosaic covenant there was a repetition of the so-called covenant of works, current among covenant theologians, is a grave misconception and involves an erroneous construction of the Mosaic covenant.”

Using John Murray here... Isn't this quote directly pointing at Kline? It isn't saying what he wants it to say. Murray would have to have said, "The view that the Mosaic covenant is purely gracious, current among covenant theologians, is a grave misconception and involves an erroneous construction of the Mosaic covenant."

I should say that I've never been a Lee Irons fan. But it would seem to me that he's presupposing a lot and misunderstanding all that a person had to say on the matter.

I think the whole reason for departure here is that when Kline or others like him read things like republication or promulgation, they believe that God is using a covenant to bestow or revoke blessings upon the children of Israel. However, this is a misconception. When the classic theologians use these words, they are not associating, by and large, a covenant of works with the attendant blessings and cursings as a way in which God will mete out His relationship to the people. In other words, God is not using the economy of the covenant of works in relationship to His people.

But where these words exist in the writings of classic theologians, they are merely pointing out that the language of the covenant of works is an effective REMINDER of what God requires. It is not a reinstatement attendant to blessings. It is a reminder of what sin accomplishes in the life of the church. Sin brings with it curses, just as it did our first parents. But righteousness through shadow or through reality in Christ brings blessings. There is no reason for us today not to rehearse the covenant of works for the church. We should point out everything about it so that the law can do its job of tutor. But that does not mean that the covenant at Sinai was a departure or even dilineation of God's covenant with His people. It was simply used as a reminder, just as the large stones on either mountain, of the blessings and cursings of righteousness and lawlessness.

If this is what Kline and others are referring to, then I agree with them. However, if they truly believe that God made a covenant apart from the one covenant of grace, in which He would reward the work of the flesh with temporal and physical blessings, then I must vehemently disagree. The promises made to the people in the desert are ours as well. And no one would say that they come to us as a result of the work of our own hands. They come to us in Christ. Surely everyone would agree with that. Yet, if what Kline and others say is true, then these promises were procured by the work of their own hands according to a subservient covenant made by God to His people.

I can't see that, nor can I agree with it. And I really believe that they misunderstand earlier writers and forebears if they believe this is what they're saying.

In Christ,

KC
 
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