Mosaic Covenant: Law or Gospel?

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Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Rev. Bradley,

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

No problem, my pleasure... Thank you for your patience and for taking the time to interact with me on this.

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."

Wouldn't the basis for baptism be the same as it was for Abraham with circumcision since Abraham was given the sign prior to the giving of the Law at Sinai?

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 think they denied that the Sinai covenant was a formal renewal of the CoW in the exact same sense as it was given in the Garden, but held that it was republished in the sense they speak about. For instance, what was said here and quoted previously (underlining mine):

He [Witsius] 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.”

With Berkhof, I think the same thing could be said. Namely, that he didn't hold to a formal renewal of the CoW in the exact same manner as with Adam, but rather a republication in this 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.

and going on to then say:

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 .

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.

In light of his commentary on 2 Cor., I'm not sure what to do with this either, except to note that he did hold that the Mosaic covenant was a national and temporary covenant as it pertained to the earthly promises and threats. What he states in his systematics seems to be dealing with the matter of the CoW more narrowly.

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?

I believe this can be maintained by affirming that the older (law) shall serve the younger (grace/gospel). The elements of the law in the Mosaic covenant are indeed subservient to the CoG. And at the same time, the conditional earthly promises of blessing (conditioned upon obedience, which Israel ultimately failed to secure) point us again to fulfillment by Jesus as the last Adam.
 

David Reese

Puritan Board Freshman
The Older Shall Serve the Younger

Probably not a good idea to begin commenting on a thread that I have not read all the way through...

...but, throwing caution to the wind...

I wonder if the idea of the older (Law) serving the younger (Gospel) is helpful in sorting out the Mosaic Covenant? We are definitely dealing with the CoG, but the prominence of Law is so explicit that it throws us for a loop. Along with that are the facts that like Adam, Israel was formed first, and then placed into the Land (Garden), with a condition to "obey and stay" or "disobey and be cast out". Israel disobeyed, and like Adam, was cast out of the Garden-Land...plus, Christ is not explicitly called "the 2nd Adam" (although, based on Rom. 5, I think this is thoroughly biblical), but the "Last Adam", seeming to leave the door open to more than 2...

...thus, that there are "echoes" of the CoW in the Sinai Covenant, seems undeniable.

But, we also have a sacrificial system given, calls for repentence, and offers of forgiveness. We have types and shadows of a coming Savior (e.g. Deut. 18, etc.), which move us beyond the CoW, and underscore that there is mercy and grace herein.

So what gives?

The Law, which was originally given to Adam as a CoW, is now being republished and used in service to the Gospel to drive sinners to Christ (cf. Gal. 3). Law, as it did in the CoW, always holds out a promise of life (Rom. 7:10) for obedience, but since the party it was being re-imposed upon (National Israel) was already in breach of the CoW (in their federal head Adam), it could not be given to them again as a CoW, although it surely "echoed" (pedagogically) that first historical covenant.

Petto says that Sinai was ultimately not about Israel, but Christ. For Him, and Him alone, the republication of the Law at Sinai was the terms of the CoW that He would fulfill on behalf of His people. It gave concrete and historical context for His obedience (like the prohibition to Adam in the Garden did). He was, therefore, "born under the Law" (Gal. 4:4), which is the same Law given to Adam and Israel.

Since the Law at Sinai was to explicate the terms of the CoW for Christ, it is no wonder that we see the shadow of it in the Mosaic Covenant. But since the second covenant...a CoG...has been made (thanks be to God!), we cannot say that Israel was again under the CoW in the way that Adam and Christ were.

But, on the national scale, there seems to me to clearly be a pedagogical replaying of Adam under the CoW in Israel under the Sinai Covenant. Not a true CoW, but a teaching tool to continue to remind them of their need for a Savior, etc.

Thus, again, we have the Older (Law Covenant), serving the Younger (Gospel Covenant), teaching and driving Israel out of herself and unto her only hope...the Savior Jesus Christ.

Hope that is helpful and not redundant,

David Reese
 

David Reese

Puritan Board Freshman
Participants,

I realize now that the discussion has moved a bit deeper (e.g. on what basis the blessings were obtained in the Sinai Covenant, etc.). Sorry if my previous post is a distraction from what you are particularly discussing...

David Reese
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Rev. Bradley,

You asked, "Wouldn't the basis for baptism be the same as it was for Abraham with circumcision since Abraham was given the sign prior to the giving of the Law at Sinai?"

Wasn't circumcision a "national" covenant marker, and therefore done away in the NT? Didn't the "nation" fail with respect to circumcision as equally as with respect to the land? It would appear that the rationale for making the typical land an institution of the covenant of works also applies to circumcision, and in fact to all the types. If the "nation" had have been under the covenant of works, then the "physical seed" element would be done away under the "new covenant." Thankfully neither is the case, but the connection is one which needs explanation from the co-ordinate covenant point of view.

Concerning Witsius and Berkhof, please note that only a constituent element of the covenant of works was enacted at Sinai, not the covenant of works per se. I will embolden the relevant underlined sections of your quotations. Witsius: "undoubtedly contained the sanction of the covenant of works." Berkhof: "that contained a positive reminder of the strict demands of the covenant of works." When these are taken in connection with their clear statements that God did not enter into a covenant of works with the nation, it effectively rules out the co-ordinate covenant theory.

Hodge was using simplistic language and did not fully explain himself. I pass him by since I think we have brought him to an impasse.

Concerning WCF 7:5, you write,

I believe this can be maintained by affirming that the older (law) shall serve the younger (grace/gospel). The elements of the law in the Mosaic covenant are indeed subservient to the CoG. And at the same time, the conditional earthly promises of blessing (conditioned upon obedience, which Israel ultimately failed to secure) point us again to fulfillment by Jesus as the last Adam.

This is the subordinate theory. As noted earlier, I don't think this is ruled out by WCF 7:5. As long as the types are regarded as primarily an institution of the covenant of grace then the spirit of WCF 7:5 is maintained. However, the co-ordinate theory does not teach that the Sinai covenant was essentially a covenant of grace under which the covenant of works was subordinated. It teaches that two covenant were effectively operating side by side -- the gracious covenant made with Abraham and the Mosaic covenant of works. It is this particular point which I believe is contrary to Scripture and the Confession.

Blessings!
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Sorry guys I have not been able to participate. I have been getting ready for a race I am going to tomorrow. I just got on for the first time today. And I just logged on to get a quick look. I will respond later. Sorry for my absence in this discussion. I will try to participate by Monday.

Be Encouraged,
Randy
 

Cotton Mather

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for all the discussion friends. I had no idea that this post would generate so much discussion and disagreement. Nevertheless I really feel I've learned more from it. Grace and Peace.
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Participants,

I realize now that the discussion has moved a bit deeper (e.g. on what basis the blessings were obtained in the Sinai Covenant, etc.). Sorry if my previous post is a distraction from what you are particularly discussing...

David Reese

Dave,

No distraction at all. I appreciate your input and would love to hear more of your thoughts on this subject.

Come on in, the water is fine :)
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
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.


I am not sure I understand your question. But I will just quote a passage for you showing the superiority of the New over the Mosaic.

(Heb 8:7) For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

(Heb 8:8) For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

(Heb 8:9) Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

(Heb 8:10) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

(Heb 8:11) And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

(Heb 8:12) For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

(Heb 8:13) In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

The blinding of the mind was upon the non elect. The veil mentioned is a blinding that is spiritual. But the Elect were still justified before God even under the promises of the Mosaic. That is why I still hold that the Mosaic held an active part in condemning (as I mentioned before in a prior post) and it still pointed to an atoning sacrifice for sin which reveals the Covenant of Grace for the Elect. The promises which are fulfilled in Christ are of the Covenant of Grace. The ministration of death is from the Covenant of Works. The law was added because of offences as I showed.

(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.


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

The only thing I would add is that Christ came not to condemn but to save. The world was already condemned because of the CofW. There is forgiveness found in the New Covenant. It is a ministry of reconciliation as 2 Corinthians 5 states. It isn't a ministration of death. It is a New Covenant that can't be broken as the Old was and everyone who is in it has their sins forgiven as Jeremiah and the book of Hebrews mentions.

(Joh 3:17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

(Joh 3:18) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

(Joh 3:19) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

(Joh 3:20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

(Joh 3:21) But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Mr. Snyder,

The point I was seeking to make in my previous post is that, just as under the Mosaic Covenant, the gospel was preached, with the law subserving the purpose of the gospel, this is the same in the New Covenant. When we preach the gospel, we must preach the Law. When we preach the Law, we must preach the gospel. No gospel, no law. No law, no gospel.

There are three uses of the law, one of which is to convict the sinner, and drive him to Christ. This was the same in the Old Covenant as in the New:

2 Cor 14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

The gospel of Christ in the New Covenant brings death to the wicked.

Hebrews 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven....28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

The new covenant is much more severe on those who reject it. We preach the God Who is a flaming fire.

By this, I'm not seeking to undermine the superiority of the NC over the OC. It's the difference between a picture of my wife that I enjoy, and holding her in my arms. I prefer the latter.

Cheers,

Adam
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I disagree with this.

The gospel of Christ in the New Covenant brings death to the wicked.

They are already Dead. The law might reveal death and the need to repent to a regenerate soul but Christ brings Salvation for the Elect. The New Covenant is a Covenant of salvation. Those found in the Covenant are eternally saved. The non elect can not believe because they are dead and condemned already.

I understand the three uses of the law.
 

RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
Mr. Snyder,

It's the difference between a picture of my wife that I enjoy, and holding her in my arms. I prefer the latter.

A fitting analogy Adam, I like it. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:32
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Mr. Snyder,

my basic point is that the law is subservient to the gospel in both the old and new covenants. Do you agree with this? Both covenants use the killing law:

Romans 7:8-10 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

This is a NC experience, is it not?

Adam



I disagree with this.

The gospel of Christ in the New Covenant brings death to the wicked.

They are already Dead. The law might reveal death and the need to repent to a regenerate soul but Christ brings Salvation for the Elect. The New Covenant is a Covenant of salvation. Those found in the Covenant are eternally saved. The non elect can not believe because they are dead and condemned already.

I understand the three uses of the law.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Mr. Snyder,

my basic point is that the law is subservient to the gospel in both the old and new covenants. Do you agree with this? Both covenants use the killing law:

Romans 7:8-10 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

This is a NC experience, is it not?

Adam

I am not so sure it is subservient. As a Covenant it stands on its own. It kills because of the sin and death that Adam passed unto us all. The Gospel redeems the elect who are subject to the law or ministration of death. It brings the Elect out from the ministration of death and reconciles them to God. I am speaking of the CofW when I am referring to the ministration of death.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Just an FYI.... I have changed my view of the Mosaic since we had this discussion four years ago after much prayer and reading the scriptures.

You can read my thoughts here. Both the Old and New Covenant are the same in substance as I know them to be an Administration of the Covenant of Grace.

The Mosaic Covenant, same in substance as the New? - Blogs - The PuritanBoard

Thread will remain closed since it took place four years ago. If you want you can start a new thread on this topic.
 
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