Covenant of Grace and the Mosaic Law

You will here some say in the Reformed world that the Mosaic Administration is a republication of the Covenant of Works, citing most effectively Leviticus 18:5 (“So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.”) and other places where it seems that obedience to the Law as given by Moses is the requirement for the Lord’s blessing and therefore life. However I believe that one can cite the same verses and make the opposite notation, that the Law being an administration of the Second Covenant, the Covenant of Grace, is not a Covenant of Works because most strikingly that which a Covenant of Works is cannot be fulfilled by the Mosaic Covenant. So there is I think a definitional mistake by categorizing the Mosaic administration in any part of a Covenant of Works because in doing so it presupposes that one can follow the Law to receive salvation like Adam (even if such a thing were possible, which it is not), who was first under the Covenant of Works for salvation and failed. Since Adam failed the probationary test we cannot now fulfill the requirements of this covenant and since according to Romans 5 the curse of this failure continues in us since Adam was our covenantal head it would therefore not make sense that God would put is again under a covenant which had been broken by Adam’s disobedience (and our disobedience in Adam). Especially since we continue under its curse. The Covenant of Works had already been abrogated, why would/should it be instituted again by the Mosaic administration since we who are descendants of Adam were already condemned? It seems to be unnecessary to put us again under condemnation a second time.

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 7, sections III, IV, & V makes clear that the Law (or Mosaic covenant) is an administration of the Covenant of Grace.

Chapter 7 –

Of God’s Covenant with Man.

III. Man by [Adam’s] 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 offered 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 life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

IV. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the 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.

V. 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 fore-signifying 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.

You see in section V that the Divines at least believed the Law (thereby meaning the Mosaic Covenant) is just a special administration of the Covenant of Grace. While administered differently than “in the time of the gospel” it still is part of the Second Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace.

The Impiety of the 5-Day Work Week and Exodus 20:9

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

I have written and posted much on the 4th Commandment on this bog and have done some extensive reading on its application and misapplication in modern contexts. However in all my reading I do not know if I just plain old missed it in the 4th Commandment or just read over it since the Sabbath rest was my “proof point” but today during my Sabbath reading I have been reading John Murray’s Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics and in chapter IV entitled “The Ordinance of Labour” Murray begins to speak of the difference made between the context of Labor in Adam’s time before and after the Fall.  Before the Fall labor was not cursed but a blessed thing man did and it came with no adversity or distress. However after the Fall Labor became a hardship and was done now by the sweat of the brow and the thorns and brush would cause pain for the man (Gen 3::17-19) as punished for Adam’s sin. From dust he came and to dust he would return.

What does this have to do with the 4th Commandment?

Well Murray moves from this point to show in the history of Israel the establishment of the institution of Labor and its force has brought forth a class of people that are not only hard workers but have become proficient in what they do. He gives the example of Noah’s building the ark to prove this point. How could Noah have built such a large structure if he did not have the time or the know how to do so? This for Murray:

…places proper perspective more than one of the precepts of the Decalogue. If we think, for example, of the fourth commandment, it should not be forgotten that it is the commandment of labor as well as rest. ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all of thy work’ (Ex. 20:9). If we will, we may call this an incidental feature of the commandment. But it is an integral part of it. The day of rest has no meaning except as rest from labor; and only as the day of rest upon the completion of six days labor can the weekly sabbath be understood.

John Murray means here that the stress upon labor here in Exodus 20:9 is not on labor in and of itself but upon a certain consistency of labor. It says man shall work for 6 days then rest, not 5 and take two off. Now one may say here that the 6th day is for labor around the home etc. and that is certainly permissible given the text and the impetus of the command. However one thing that is not allowable given this construct is taking two-days off and not working at all on the 6th day treating it as more of a Sabbath than the actual Sabbath day which is often the case today. God has blessed us with a day off as rest from labor which he has commanded us to perform for 6 days of the week not 7 or 5 but 6. The fourth, like its sister the 2nd, has taken a seat in the way back of the Christian car in the last 100 years. Being pushed to the rear in favor of worldly employments and various sporting endeavors the Christian Sabbath and the 6-day work week that Scripture commands for us.

The Mosaic Covenant; Works, Grace, or Both?

In this third post on the Covenant of Works I want to begin looking at the different “administrations” of the Covenant. We have already looked at the Adamic Covenant and I want to for right now skip Noah and go on to Moses (we’ll come back to Noah later). There has been some debate as to how we should look at the Covenant given to Moses at Sinai within Reformed circles so this post is more a of an intramural debate then a proof text either way for how we should look at the Mosaic Covenant since Covenant Theology imparticular is a Reformed thing nearly explicitly. So with this in mind I want to post a few Scripture texts that will be our main focus in this post. Firstly God has already made a little “c” covenant with Moses way back in chapters 3 and 4 in the Book of Exodus. God through the burning bush told Moses that he would free his people from bondage in Egypt and bring them first to Sinai to worship Him then on to the Promised Land they will go. So here in the beginning of Exodus we have God promising to Moses deliverance from Egypt for the people of God from bondage to freedom. Now we ask at this point what has Israel done to deserve deliverance? Some say we must be careful how we read into the text the “glory story” but here in Chapter 3 we see the type of the salvation that we are to receive. In other words those of us in the Covenant of Grace have been saved from bondage to sin (cf: Rom 8:15, 21) just as the Israelites were saved from bondage in Egypt, through no work of their own but by being the chosen people of God (Ezek 36:28, John 6:65). Back to Exodus 24 we go for now.

Exodus 24 is chock full of all kinds of scrumptious morsels for us to chew on but we must limit ourselves to the question at hand. However I exhort you to take a look at verses 4 and 16 especially in depth at another time. This chapter begins with Moses, along with Aaron and his sons Nadab and Abihu (who are to feature prominently in the book of Leviticus) being called to go up to the LORD and then Moses is to worship and then go back and recount these things to the people. This he does. In verse 3 Moses goes to the people and in verses 3 and 7, “Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!'”, “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’.” This sounds like the Covenant of Works we all know and love. God presents to Moses the Law and the “ordinances” and the people say with one voice “I Will”. The people have promised to obey and live by God’s Law. Now what is their motivation for doing so? What shall they gain by following the words of God? Well here in Exodus 24 the people, moving off Moses promise that they shall receive the promised land, believe that by following the Law to its completeness they will be given entrance to Canaan, the land of their ancestors. We know from the rest of the story that Israel fails and are punished by not being allowed to enter the promised land, they are punished for their failure to live up to the Covenant. So as we can see in this short and somewhat stilted look at the Mosaic Covenant there are elements of both the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace in this particular Covenant.

I could go on for days just in this chapter but this being a blog it does not lend itself to long drawn out explanations so we will stop here for right now and pick this up later.

The Covenant of Works, Part One

This post will begin a series on the Covenant of Works that will look at the different administrations and “dispensations” (used in a different manner than how our dispensational arminian brothers use it) of the Covenant. This series will lead into a discussion of how this Covenant reacts and interacts with the Covenant of Grace and how they both look and work with the Covenant of Redemption. As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I have a tendency to “skip around” so if we go a couple of days without a post just look for the COW posts on the left hand side numbered accordingly.

In my mind the chief mark of Reformed theology is the way in which we understand the various “covenants” in the Scriptures and how those Covenants work in history. While all Christians believe that there are differences between the way the Jews of the Older Testament are judged and how the Christians of the New Testament are judged exactly how that is exegeted from Scripture is hotly contested. In the following post I will define the Covenant of Works. Then in coming posts I will show how it is false to understand the CoW as “ending” in the Older Testament and as the Covenant of Grace “beginning” in the New Testament.

The  Covenant of Works is best defined as the agreement between God and Adam in the Garden that as long as Adam followed the Law that had been given to him he  would attain eternal life and live accordingly in the Garden for eternity (cf: Gen 2:16-17). As long as Adam did as God asked by fulfilling the Law then Adam would be rewarded with his eternal existence in the Garden. However we all know what happened next.

Romans 5:12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Which will lead us to tomorrow’s post.

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 6

(I had a much better and longer post but I somehow deleted it so this is the cliff notes version as I do not have time to rewrite the 1500 words I had finished)

We have moved from the 16th to 17th to the 19th centuries and have watched how the unanimous voices of Reformed orthodoxy in the past have spoken against the construction (or injection-molding, chipb) of images of the entire Godhead. In this part we will look at the modern effects on how we view not just the Decalogue but the Mosaic Law in general. How is it that now one cannot go 10 feet without seeing the Scandinavian-“Jesus” plastered on everything from T-shirts to Billboards? Well Greg Bahnsen in his work on Post-Millennialism entitled Victory in Jesus (published post-mortem) has a very good short section on the three things plaguing not just the rampant violation of the second commandment but other problems encroaching on orthodox Reformed Christianity in the West. While his focus is presenting a case for Post-Millennialism and why it has fallen out of favor he is correct in identifying the three major issues confronting orthodoxy in general. Two of these three movements would not even consider the Second commandments words on imagery binding today but it is their influence in the minds of those who may that bring them into this discussion.

Bahnsen begins by identifying firstly Liberalism. By Liberalism Bahnsen means to direct his words to the movement that began under the influence of men like Hermann Samuel Reimarus and Heinrich Paulus who were the forerunners of and greatly influenced 19th century Historical Jesus research. Also understood in this section is the work by Immanuel Kant whose philosophy continues to undergird nearly all persons in the West. Included in this is the work of higher critics like Julius Wellhausen and David Strauss. However for Americans the greatest influence was brought forth by Friedrich Schleiermacher whose thoughts and ideas are still taught in every mainline seminary. The effect these men had on the subject of this essay is in the way we now approach the Scriptures in the West. Out of all of their criticisms of the Biblical text the most divisive has been the hatchet job done on the Pentateuch especially on the Mosaic Law. If the law was not received by Moses in toto (as Scripture testifies it did, Ex. 20-23) then what bearing does it have on us today? How can a collection of separate instructions hold any weight for today’s Christian? These are serious questions that cannot be answered by simply dismissing these ungodly men and their followers away by wrote. They must be challenged and confronted in a manner that does not cause their descendants to shun orthodoxy.

The Second influence recognized by Bahnsen is the work of Evolutionary Progressivism. One may look at the title and wonder “How does that differ from Liberalism?” Well to answer the question a person needs to understand that their is a difference between what most people refer to in contemporary times as Liberalism and what academically should be referred to as Liberalism. This second part is what we would identify with the modern usage of the word. This movement led by men such as Charles Darwin and Walter Rauschenbusch delivered a focus that moved Christianity away from its foundation in the Older Testament to a purely New Testament focus, a recurrence of Marcionism. Also another thing that distinguishes it from Liberalism as defined above is its belief that man is is generally good and has evolved past the Mosaic prohibitions to a new era of life that looks not upon the strictures but upon the liberty brought by Christ. Hence the term “Evolutionary”. In other words Christianity no longer needs to worry about offending God by their actions as long as they do so with a kind heart and a loving mind. Therefore in regards to the Second Commandment the Evolutionary Progressivist has moved on from the old covenant completely and any attempt to use it in discussion is Pharisaical.

Thirdly in Bahnsen’s hypothesis is the effect of Dispensationalism on the mind of today’s Evangelical. Mostly brought to the forefront of Christianity in America by the work of Cyrus Scofield and his reference Bible and the writings of John Nelson Darby. The greatest effect Dispensationalism has had for this discussion is its emphasis on the distinctions between the New Testament Church and ancient Israel of the Old Testament. Scofield believed that between creation and the final judgment there were seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with man and that these eras were a framework around which the message of the Bible could be explained. Therefore the words of the second commandment can be properly explained as belonging to a prior dispensation and no longer applicable in there literal sense to today’s Christian.

Cumulatively these three positions have effected the way in which most in the Reformed camp come to the Decalogue and the Case Law of Moses imparticular. With a Hermeneutic of Suspicion the Second commandment (and its spiritual brother, the 4th commandment as we saw here in J.C. Ryle’s thought) is cast in a light of a “Canon within a Canon” as it passed over, with rest of the first table, in our times for all the reasons the three positions of Liberalism, Evolutionary Progressivism, and Dispensationalism have provided.

In the final part of this 7 part series on the Second Commandment I will present a Biblical and Systematic argument showing why it is not only unlawful according to the Older Testament but also in the New Covenant to picture the Godhead in physical form.

Continuing my Walk

For the second installment of my walk of discernment I would like to highlight two past posts I have made on “Adam”. They are not that old so some of you have already read them, but they serve our purpose well.


I thought a nice meaty topic would be in order so I want to discuss an issue that is bearing its head among colleagues and friends here at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. That issue, as one can tell from the title, is whether or not Adam and Eve were actual beings, the Garden ever actually existed, and does “Original Sin” necessitate an “Original Sinner”? These are of course not new topics and though at first glance may seem to be third order worries I however take the position that without an actual Adam there would be no need for an actual Christ. So one could say that I hold this argument to be much more than a simple third order concern.

Why may you ask are people even doubting Adam’s reality? Does not Paul in Romans 5:12 say that all sin came into the world through one man? Jesus himself refers to Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:4,5 not to mention Luke 3 records Adam as being in his geneology. Calvin in his commentary on the Pentateuch recalls that:

So God created man The reiterated mention of the image of God is not a vain repetition. For it is a remarkable instance of the Divine goodness which can never be sufficiently proclaimed. And, at the same time, he admonishes us from what excellence we have fallen, that he may excite in us the desire of its recovery.*

Or Abraham Kuyper:

Like Job, we ought to feel and to acknowledge that in Adam you and I are created; when God created Adam He created us; in Adam’s nature He called forth the nature wherein we now live. Gen. i. and ii. is not the record of aliens, but of ourselves—concerning the flesh and blood which we carry with us, the human nature in which we sit down to read the Word of God.

Or A.W. Pink:

Now, strictly speaking, there are only two men who have ever walked this earth which were endowed with full and unimpaired responsibility, and they were the first and last Adam’s. The responsibility of each of the rational descendants of Adam, while real, and sufficient to establish them accountable to their Creator is, nevertheless, limited in degree, limited because impaired through the effects of the Fall.

Or Charles Hodge:

We are inherently depraved, and therefore we are involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin.

So here we have Scripture, greats of the Reformation, and contemporary scholars all pointing to a real Adam. So why do Orthodox people seem inclined to accept that Adam was a real being but we of 2007 seem not to think it either necessary or true? Is it because these old white men did not have access to “knowledge” that we have today and if they just knew about textual criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism, grammatical criticism, and J, E, P, and D then they would also see the “mythical” properties of the creation text? Well would Calvin change his mind on the necessity of Adam’s fall for the reality of Christ’s death if he knew of the Yahwist? The easy answer is to say that proponents of the allegory hypothesis are so taken by accommodation with the sciences that their theistic evolutionary stance forces them to concede that no “Adam” ever existed, regardless of what this position does to their theology, because science has proved Homo Sapiens developed independently. But is this answer sufficient? Is it just simple to say that those who hold there is no Adam because of the supposed inconsistencies in the Hebrew and the alleged “two creations” are “wrong” without delving deeper into the questions behind this stance?

What do you think? Does a Christ automatically support an Adam? Or do we think that the story of Creation, without an actual Adam, is a proper myth that helps us and the early Israelites, Jesus, and the Apostles understand our current predicament and that an actual Adam is not required for the Cross?

*-All quotes taken from http://www.ccel.org

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To continue the conversation about a literal Adam a little further let us examine how not having a “real” Adam destroys the need for an actual Christ. Those of you who do not believe in a physical Adam as expressed in the beginning chapters of Genesis need to reconcile how Christ, who Paul explicitly says in 1st Corinthians 15:42-49 is the second Adam, can be the so-called second of something that did not previously exist? Or put in other words how Adam being a metaphor calls for a Christ to die for a fake rebellion.

I think those of you who deny Adam’s reality do not truly comprehend how much the idea of there being no Adam affects the rest of Scripture. It would be like taking away the opening chapter of a novel and expecting to be able to understand the rest of the story. Someone who describes the creation text as myth or folklore must analyze what this does not only to the history of God’s relationship to Israel but to their Christology. Because not only does the non-existence of Adam necessitate that God created the world sinful and evil but it requires that Jesus’ death on the cross is an action that resolves God’s mistake in making an already fallen creation to himself. Not that Jesus was reconciling us, who share in Adam’s rebellion, to God but that God was reconciling his own blunder with himself. Michal Horton in his work Putting Amazing Back Into Grace quotes John Calvin who says,”The depravity and malice both of men and of the devil, or the sins that arise therefrom, do not spring from nature, but rather from the corruption of nature.” In other words it is not that nature itself was created evil but that nature had to of its own accord fall from the perfection in which it was formed to begin with. This has to mean that at some point in the past an “Adam” was given the free will to sin or as the Second Chapter of the Scots Confession defines it:

“We confess and acknowledge that our God has created man, i.e., our first father, Adam, after his own image and likeness, to whom he gave wisdom, lordship, justice, free will, and self-consciousness, so that in the whole nature of man no imperfection could be found. From this dignity and perfection man and woman both fell; the woman being deceived by the serpent and man obeying the voice of the woman, both conspiring against the sovereign majesty of God, who in clear words had previously threatened death if they presumed to eat of the forbidden tree.”

For Jesus’ death on the cross to be as Scripture says it to be necessitates a literal Adam who fell from God’s grace. A fake Adam creates a Christ who has failed and is a liar. For what need do we have of a Savior that saves us from a death that was his fault to begin with? What do we say when we know that Christ did not die because of our own rebellion but because of his own mistake? How can we say that the literally hundreds of times Adam’s sin is called upon by the writers of the Old Testament to show forth the sin of Israel is mere allegory? How can we say Christ died for an allegory or a metaphor and be taken seriously? Adam’s reality is VITAL for the gospel to be real. Without an actual Adam our faith is in vain because Christ’s atonement is nothing more than a big “sorry about that”. This is not the message of the gospel.

Working through Discernment

Working through Discernment

By Benjamin P. Glaser

As anyone who reads this blog semi-regularly knows I am in a period of discernment and prayer as to what my future in the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be for me and my family. As part of this discernment process I have decided to work out some central passages in which I differ from the majority of my colleagues in seminary and the general view of the PC (USA). It is important to remember when reading this that these writings are not intended to be full treatises for publication and may seem not to be fully exegeted, that is not my goal. My goal is to test my beliefs against a subjective audience and see if what I believe is so outside the denominational witness that a move is necessary both for the health of my own conscience and my ability to give an honest witness to what Scripture is teaching.

My plan is to do this bi-weekly and in a systematic and chronological way. Therefore the first question I will begin with is Adam and Eve and the majority belief in the Old Testament scholarship of the PC (USA) that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are separate accounts and are disconnected explanations of the creation of man. (cf: documentary hypothesis).*

*- It should be noted here that not all positions will be covered but just the main position of the PC (USA)

1) Man and Woman created in Genesis 1:26-27

2) “Adam” and “Eve” (Man and Woman) created in Genesis 2:7,18,21-22

Now modern PC (USA) (and all mainline) Old Testament scholarship gives the following explanation for this supposed “double creation” event.

1) Gen. 1:26-27 was written by the Priestly Source and Gen. 2:7,18, 21-22 by the Yahwist

2) Both accounts arise out of other near east creation texts. Therefore the text is not meant to be “complimentary” but necessarily conflicting. In other words Genesis 1 is the view from God’s perspective and Ch. 2 is Man’s perspective.

Here is where I disagree with this hypothesis. The mention of the creation of humans in 1:27 in no way makes the second mention in chapter two “contradictory” or even competing. While it has been the recent tradition of OT scholarship since Wellhausen (and to a lesser degree Spinoza) to make these two statements I believe the second statement to be easily refuted. Not only throughout Jewish tradition have these two chapters been treated as one narrative but Christ in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9 quotes both from Gen 1:27 and 2:24 in one thought (as well as attributing Mosaic authorship to the whole of the Torah in Matt 8:4, 19:7, 22:24, Mark 1:44, 7:10, 12:19, 12:26, Luke 2:22, 5:14, 16:19, 20:28, 20:37, 24:27, 24:44, John 1:17, 1:45, 5:45, 5:46, and 7:23). Now one may say here that Jesus is just following his ritual, not necessarily giving credence to the view of chapters 1 and 2 being of the same tradition. In other words the critique says that Christ’s use of both chapters; giving equal voice to both 1 & 2 as if they are telling the same story, does not necessarily mean that both speak with the same voice or having the same author. Christ, since he had voluntarily emptied himself of divine knowledge (as seen in his not knowing the Day of Judgment), and had “forgotten” or even more implausibly Jesus chose not to share with the apostles the truth he knew about the writing of Genesis 1 and 2 thereby quoting from both honestly outside of the truth we now hold.

I cannot begin to describe how this view does damage to Chalcedonian Christology. However in the interest of giving a more thorough understanding of how dangerous this last statement is to historical orthodoxy let us look at one example of how this critique breaks down orthodox foundations of how we see Christ.

Chalcedon says:

The distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved

Now if according to the last critique that by emptying himself Christ necessarily gave away his knowledge of past events-which is what is being said by those who deny the Mosaic (or singular if you will) authorship of Genesis 1 and 2-it is then illogical to say then that the divine nature is not affected by the bodily nature, which in and of itself denies historical Christology.