alien righteousness

The Role of Law in the Covenant of Grace

Thomas Boston in his notes to the classic The Marrow of Modern Divinity Edward regarding the republication of the Covenant of works at Sinai,

The Role of Law in the Covenant of Works

“It was not set up by itself as an entire rule of righteousness, to which alone they were to look who desired righteousness and salvation, as it was in the case of upright Adam, ‘For no man, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law’ (WLC 94).  But it was added to the covenant of grace, that by looking at it men might see what of righteousness it is by which they can be justified in the sight of God; and that by means thereof, finding themselves destitute of that righteousness, they might be moved to embrace the covenant of grace, in which that righteousness is held forth to be received by Faith.”  (79)

Also see here.

There are strong connections between doctrines clearly found in Scripture: the covenant of works (law) and covenant of grace (gospel), the law and Gospel distinction, Adamic Covenant, and Active obedience of Christ to Justification.  The Marrow of Modern Divinity is a crucial book that is becoming, to me, a gem above all gems.

57 Responses to “The Role of Law in the Covenant of Grace”

  1. Nick

    Without properly defining the “Law,” one can easily fall into a fallacious argument via equivocation. The “Law” is none other than the Mosaic Law, given to Israel, it was not something given or applied to Adam.

    You said these were “doctrines clearly found in Scripture,” yet not once do I see Paul use such language. Nowhere is a “covenant of works” stated, nor is it identified as the “Law,” nor is any of this said to be “republished.”

    Reply
  2. Joshua Lim

    Nick,

    Based on your stringent requirements, I wonder if you can even see biblical warrant for the Trinity. No one said that the phrase “covenant of works” is stated in Scripture. The doctrines are claimed to be found in Scripture, not the precise terms. Now I know you don’t deny the Trinity, and I know that you’re not so naive as to think that particular doctrinal terms must be present in order for a doctrine to be biblically sustained, so I’m a little confused as to why you’d use such bad argumentation. And I thought Protestants were supposed to be the ‘biblicists,’ not Roman Catholics. These are strange times we live in. . .

    If you want to see some arguments for republication and for a pre-fall covenant of works I can recommend some books. Agree or disagree, but at least have some substantial arguments.

    Josh

    Reply
  3. Nick

    Josh,

    I can see Biblical warrant for the Trinity (Mat 28:19; 1 Cor 12:4-6, etc), though I’m aware the term itself doesn’t appear the concept surely does.

    I might have been unclear in my post, I wasn’t looking for exact terms for such things as “covenant of works.” The only specific term I was looking for is when it is identified as “the Law” (which I hold to be referring to the Mosaic Law or sometimes the Pentateuch in general).

    When someone speaks of the “law and gospel distinction,” they need to make sure their terms correspond to Biblical usage. The only Law I see Paul focused on is the Mosaic.

    I’d be happy if you recommended some books, I’m looking to buy The Law is Not of Faith soon.

    My point is simple: If someone wants to allege the law (as Paul speaks of it) applies to something other than Moses, they need to prove it from Scripture.

    Reply
  4. Joshua Lim

    Nick,

    Gotcha.

    Well, at least part of the argument links the Mosaic law (specifically, the decalogue) to natural law (Rom. 1:18-21; 2:15). In that sense, even if the “Law” sometimes refers specifically to the Mosaic law (and I see no reason why not), that Mosaic law is a republication, as it were, of the natural law of God that existed in the original covenant between God and Adam. In Romans, Paul exposes both the Jew and Gentile as being condemned under the law (the Jews by the more explicit Mosaic law, the Gentiles by the law “written in their hearts”).

    I don’t think every instance that Paul uses the term “law,” he’s necessarily referring to the Mosaic Law (again Rom. 2:15). It is not uncommon for same word to be used in manifold ways–in cases where the meaning of a term is unclear, context should be the judge.

    Anyway, “The Law is not of Faith” is a good place to start. David VanDrunen’s book on natural law is another place. And for exegetical arguments on republication you can go to Kline’s “Kingdom Prologue.”

    Peace.

    Reply
    • Nick

      Josh: Well, at least part of the argument links the Mosaic law (specifically, the decalogue) to natural law (Rom. 1:18-21; 2:15).

      Nick: I don’t see the notion of “natural law” linked to the Mosaic in a way relevant to the Mosaic Law focus Paul takes on. For example, see Romans 5:13, 20
      “for before the [Mosaic] law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses…”

      Josh: In that sense, even if the “Law” sometimes refers specifically to the Mosaic law (and I see no reason why not), that Mosaic law is a republication, as it were, of the natural law of God that existed in the original covenant between God and Adam.

      Nick: This is precisely what I don’t see taught in Scripture. So called “natural law” isn’t Paul’s focus, even if the Mosaic Law takes on parts of the “natural law,” that’s a side issue to Paul’s “law” arguments which are virtually always the Mosaic Law.

      Josh: In Romans, Paul exposes both the Jew and Gentile as being condemned under the law (the Jews by the more explicit Mosaic law, the Gentiles by the law “written in their hearts”).

      Nick: Paul does say both are sinners but only the Jews are under the Law. The Law “written in their hearts” can possibly refer to Christian Gentiles who had the Holy Spirit write the true expression of the Law on their hearts. In 2:14 it clearly says (twice) the Gentiles “do not have the law” meaning they don’t have the Mosaic Law.

      Josh: I don’t think every instance that Paul uses the term “law,” he’s necessarily referring to the Mosaic Law (again Rom. 2:15). It is not uncommon for same word to be used in manifold ways–in cases where the meaning of a term is unclear, context should be the judge.

      Nick: I agree that he doesn’t mean “Mosaic Law” each time, but that’s certainly what he means the great majority of the time, especially in the “faith versus works of the Law” and “righteousness of the law” texts. Case in point is Galatians 3.

      Reply
      • Joshua Lim

        Nick,

        You seem to be assuming that the argument for republication is based on texts that directly speak on the matter. Again, based on your method, I would have trouble seeing how the doctrine of the Trinity arises from Mat. 28:19 or 1 Cor. 12:4-6 since both Matthew and Paul are not “focusing” on the Trinity per se. Paul’s argument from Romans 2:15 does not directly argue for a republication of the covenant of works. So when you write that “natural law” isn’t Paul’s focus I simply shrug my shoulders. So what? No one said that “natural law” was Paul’s focus. The question is whether a certain understanding of natural law is implied or presupposed in his argument.

        I interpret Paul to be using the term “law” in at least two senses. First, he speaks of the Mosaic Law that the Jews have. Second, he speaks of the “law written on hearts” in terms of the Gentiles. With or without the Mosaic Law (which came later) there is still a law which indicates our sinfulness. The Mosaic law came to make our sins even more explicit. If I disagree with your interpretation of Romans 2:15, I can assume that Paul holds to a sort of “natural law.” I don’t think you can make a very strong case for it only applying to Christian gentiles (and you yourself seem to be aware of that).

  5. inwoolee

    Also, Covenant and Salvation: Union With Christ by Mike Horton hits the head. He also interacts with Pope Benedict XVI in his chapter Sinai and Zion: Two Covenants.

    Why I mention Benedict XVI because you write in your blog, quoting now:
    “Everything I write on this page is for the glory of God and the edification of all Christians. I profess complete fidelity to the Catholic Church and our Pope, Benedict XVI. I would never teach or profess anything I knew contrary to the Catholic Faith, and I welcome any feedback about my work.”

    Nick a response is coming later on the Boston post. I didn’t forget.

    Reply
  6. Nick

    Josh,

    I think a relatively strong argument can be made for “law written on their hearts” refers to Christian Gentiles, for the notion of ‘writing the law on the heart’ is expressly stated in Scripture as a defining distinction of Christians (Romans 2:29; 2 Cor 3:3; Heb 10:16; etc).

    However, for this discussion I can go with the notion it is a ‘natural law’ on their hearts (and I’d say ‘natural law’ for Jews and Gentiles is clearly implied in Rom 1:18ff).

    The problem still remains though about what Paul is concerned about in his ‘faith versus law’ comments. In those contexts, if Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law only, then the notion of Imputed Active Obedience and such makes no sense. If Paul’s real concern is some ‘universal and eternal law of God’ from Adam onward, then Paul’s focus on the Mosaic Law is of no concern for it’s an incidental issue.

    Take Galatians 2:21 – “for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
    If Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law (which he is), then the idea of imputed active obedience and other related issues don’t make sense. Further, one would be forced to equivocate with the term “law” here, for they’d have to be reading this as “if salvation came through the universal moral law, Christ died for nothing,” which is a very different reading and meaning.

    With this type of analysis, it becomes pretty difficult to establish the ‘universal law of God’ (which the Mosaic Law republished) in Paul’s writing and thought, because Paul is ‘objecting’ to a very different Law (of which ‘works’ and ‘works of the law’ derive and which are contrasted to faith).

    Reply
  7. Joshua Lim

    Nick,

    If the Mosaic Law is a republication of the original, now broken, covenant (i.e., the covenant through which death and sin came into the picture) and to that extent is fulfilled by the second Adam, then I don’t see how speaking of active obedience is problematic. Israel’s failure to keep the Mosaic law only highlights the need for a redeemer–though, from Adam onward, it is obvious that all men are sinful and need a savior.

    The way I understand Paul’s logic in Gal. 2:21 is that since Christ came and fulfilled the law (which is juxtaposed to both Adam and Israel’s failure to keep it–emphasizing the disparity between the first and second Adam), it is very apparent that righteousness cannot be gained through our own law-keeping–whether that be obedience to Mosaic law, or any other law written on our hearts. And coming back to Romans, both Gentiles and Jews evince that the only thing that happens under the law is condemnation. No one is righteous, neither Jew nor Gentile, because whether the law is written on the heart or on tablets of stone, no one is able to keep it. In this case, merely having the Mosaic law provides no advantage since “all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” (Rom. 3:9).

    Rom. 3:19-20 is notable: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world accountable to God. For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” Paul seems to suggest that the whole world is under the law and, therefore, silenced by it.

    You would probably take the above passage to be speaking hypothetically, though, that only Gentiles who place themselves under the Mosaic law will be silenced by it. I can’t disagree with such a reading. But I do think that in this case ‘law’ can and should be broadened to include the “law written on their hearts” because of the preceding verses, which find their climax at vv.19-20 and speak of both Jews and Greeks being under the power of sin.

    Am I addressing your point?

    Reply
    • Nick

      Josh: If the Mosaic Law is a republication of the original, now broken, covenant (i.e., the covenant through which death and sin came into the picture) and to that extent is fulfilled by the second Adam, then I don’t see how speaking of active obedience is problematic.

      Nick: The problem is you’ve not established a case that the ML is a republication of the ‘universal law of God’ (and at most it would be a partial-republication). And this is aside from the issue of demonstrating from Scripture that His Active Obedience was in fact imputed.

      Josh: Israel’s failure to keep the Mosaic law only highlights the need for a redeemer–though, from Adam onward, it is obvious that all men are sinful and need a savior.

      Nick: Sure, but that doesn’t automatically entail republication and/or vicarious law-keeping. Imagine a city where everyone drives out of control. The city council wants to curb this, so they establish traffic Law. The traffic Law convicts all those under it’s jurisdiction, subjecting them to punishment of some sort. However, nobody is ‘rewarded’ for keeping the traffic Law, nor was that the Law’s intent.

      Josh: The way I understand Paul’s logic in Gal. 2:21 is that since Christ came and fulfilled the law (which is juxtaposed to both Adam and Israel’s failure to keep it–emphasizing the disparity between the first and second Adam), it is very apparent that righteousness cannot be gained through our own law-keeping–whether that be obedience to Mosaic law, or any other law written on our hearts.

      Nick: But reading that passage in context, Paul is speaking about this only in terms of Christ’s death, not his perfect Law keeping. The issue isn’t about who could keep it perfectly versus who could not, but rather the function of the Law.
      Note the contrast in the verse (and its context):

      If (a) righteous came by Law,
      Then (b) Christ died for nothing.

      The point is that the Law stood in the way of the End goal (salvation), it was neither an end in itself, nor a (hypothetical) alternative. Since it stood in the way, Christ’s death was needed to remove the obstacle.

      Further, since the Mosaic Law didn’t offer eternal life, then we keeping it perfectly is a non-issue, and a vicarious keeping of a non-saving covenant would likewise still not save.

      Josh: And coming back to Romans, both Gentiles and Jews evince that the only thing that happens under the law is condemnation. No one is righteous, neither Jew nor Gentile, because whether the law is written on the heart or on tablets of stone, no one is able to keep it. In this case, merely having the Mosaic law provides no advantage since “all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” (Rom. 3:9).

      Nick: The point isn’t that no one is righteous because nobody can keep it, but rather no one is righteous due to sin and the Law serves to (better) expose this. The Law can’t save, even hypothetically, else it overthrows God’s original promise (Gal 3:15-18).

      Josh: Rom. 3:19-20 is notable: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world accountable to God. For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” Paul seems to suggest that the whole world is under the law and, therefore, silenced by it.

      Nick: He is not saying the whole world is under the Law, only the Jews are under the Law. Gentiles are condemned by virtue of the fact they are outside the covenant, they are not “God’s people” by definition; Gentiles are ‘sinners’ by this very fact that they live apart from God’s Revealed Law. What Paul is dealing with is that the Judaizers don’t realize they are not ‘innocent’ by virtue of being under the Law (and thus “God’s people” by definition). The mouths that are being silenced here are the Judaizers (Rom 2:17-24), the Gentiles never had a say.

      The key to properly understanding Paul is to realize that the MAIN problem wasn’t pelagianism, but racism. The Jews saw themselves as “God’s People” and thus entitled to all sorts of blessings, while the Gentiles were dogs who were third-class citizens. The Jews weren’t trying to work their way into Heaven, rather they believed God graciously made them born Jews and were thus entitled to His Blessings.

      Josh: I do think that in this case ‘law’ can and should be broadened to include the “law written on their hearts” because of the preceding verses, which find their climax at vv.19-20 and speak of both Jews and Greeks being under the power of sin.

      Nick: That’s not how Paul is using the term “law” though, as the context makes clear. He’d be equivocating between ‘law in general’ with ‘mosaic law’. I think some confusion can be cleared up if you distinguish between being “under sin” and “under the Law” – they are not the same thing. All are “under sin,” only Jews are “under the Law”. The ‘scandal’ is that the Judaizers don’t want to be identified as no better than Gentiles.

      Too often, people read Paul with ‘anti-pelagian’ glasses on, missing out on the real scandal of “God’s People” the Jews (Rom 2:17ff; 9:4f) not wanting to face the reality that they are not “God’s People” any more (Rom 9:25f).

      Reply
  8. Joshua Lim

    Nick,

    I don’t think you quite understand republication. It’s not another covenant of works whereby individuals who keep the mosaic covenant are “saved.” That’s not the point. The idea behind republication is that Israel is a type of Christ (as is Adam). Adam failed to keep the covenant stipulations–and because of fall/sin all of humankind are related to God in a broken covenant. We hold that the Mosaic covenant is a national covenant between Israel and God, and it highlights what was true since the fall of Adam. Namely, there is no way to God through the law.

    You’re right, there is no such thing as individual salvation through the Mosaic covenant. To understand the Mosaic covenant as saving even before Christ came would be to misunderstand the mosaic law. That said, no one in Reformed theology believes that the Law can save anyone post-lapsum. We’re fallen and we can’t get up. However, Adam was not like us. Adam was posse peccare, posse non peccare–while we are simply non posse non peccare. God’s original promise came after the fall. You can’t treat it as if it’s some timeless promise. It was addressed to Abraham after the fall, so to make a general rule out of a particular promise is just wrong-headed.

    I’m not following your comments on Rom. 3:19-20. Are you saying that only the Jews can be under the law because they are under the covenant? And since Gentiles are not in the covenant, they are not under the law? Both Jews and Gentiles are sinners not because they are in or out of the covenant. They are sinners because they transgress God’s law. Isn’t that Paul’s point? Having the law (for you this might = “being in the covenant”) doesn’t mean anything. Because Jews who have the Mosaic law still break it, and Gentiles transgress apart from the Mosaic law–according to the law written on their hearts.

    I don’t take pelagianism and racism to be mutually exclusive. Does it have to be one or the other? I think reducing the issue to either one is reductionistic and a little anachronistic as well.

    I’ll take off my ‘pelagian-glasses’ (didn’t realize I had them on) when you take off your NPP glasses. Oh wait, you don’t wear glasses–I forgot you had perfect vision.

    You have yet to show how Paul’s use of law can’t be extended to include more than the Mosaic law. Why don’t you cite a few passages and assume what needs to be proved again?

    Reply
  9. Nick

    Josh: I don’t think you quite understand republication. It’s not another covenant of works whereby individuals who keep the mosaic covenant are “saved.” That’s not the point.

    Nick: Hmm, maybe we’re talking past each other. I’m reading Paul’s teaching as precise as someone saying “obedience to the Mosaic Law to be saved” (which isn’t equivalent to salvation by works in general). I understood republication as teaching ‘salvation by obedience’ BUT ONLY as a subset of the Mosaic Law and not the primary function.

    Josh: The idea behind republication is that Israel is a type of Christ (as is Adam). Adam failed to keep the covenant stipulations–and because of fall/sin all of humankind are related to God in a broken covenant. We hold that the Mosaic covenant is a national covenant between Israel and God, and it highlights what was true since the fall of Adam. Namely, there is no way to God through the law.

    Nick: So Israel stands as the ‘federal head’ for all human kind? If so, then the Mosaic Law is a sort of Tree of forbidden fruit?

    Josh: You’re right, there is no such thing as individual salvation through the Mosaic covenant. To understand the Mosaic covenant as saving even before Christ came would be to misunderstand the mosaic law.

    Nick: Are you saying it doesn’t save because nobody keeps it – OR – because it inherently can’t grant salvation even through perfect obedience?
    I’m saying the latter.

    Josh: That said, no one in Reformed theology believes that the Law can save anyone post-lapsum.

    Nick: As if it COULD save PRE-lapsum? It didn’t exist PRE-lapsum.

    Josh: We’re fallen and we can’t get up. However, Adam was not like us. Adam was posse peccare, posse non peccare–while we are simply non posse non peccare. God’s original promise came after the fall. You can’t treat it as if it’s some timeless promise. It was addressed to Abraham after the fall, so to make a general rule out of a particular promise is just wrong-headed.

    Nick: I’m not sure what you’re saying here. The promise to Abraham is the same promise as Gen 3:15.

    Josh: I’m not following your comments on Rom. 3:19-20. Are you saying that only the Jews can be under the law because they are under the covenant? And since Gentiles are not in the covenant, they are not under the law?

    Nick: Being under the Mosaic Law and under the covenant are the same thing. Only those under the Law are “God’s People,” as they were identified as in the OT. Gentiles are by *definition* those who are not under the Mosaic Law (aka Mosaic Covenant).

    Josh: Both Jews and Gentiles are sinners not because they are in or out of the covenant.

    Nick: Agreed both are sinners. The Jews are in a unique bind though in that along with being sinners, they’ve broken their duty to uphold the Mosaic Law. As an example, a Gentile isn’t condemned for breaking the Sabbath rules and regulations, while a Jew would be.

    Josh: They are sinners because they transgress God’s law. Isn’t that Paul’s point? Having the law (for you this might = “being in the covenant”) doesn’t mean anything. Because Jews who have the Mosaic law still break it, and Gentiles transgress apart from the Mosaic law–according to the law written on their hearts.

    Nick: Yes, ALL are sinners for transgressing “God’s Law” in the sense of Rom 1:18ff, BUT my point is that “Law” as used by Paul means the Mosaic Law specifically.
    But how can you say that ‘doesn’t mean anything’? Having the Law was a blessing and a big deal.

    Josh: I don’t take pelagianism and racism to be mutually exclusive. Does it have to be one or the other? I think reducing the issue to either one is reductionistic and a little anachronistic as well.

    Nick: They are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive, my point in saying what I did was because people tend to mischaracterize the situation as ‘works righteousness’ and misread ‘not of works of the law’ as meaning ‘not by anything we do’.

    Josh: I’ll take off my ‘pelagian-glasses’ (didn’t realize I had them on) when you take off your NPP glasses. Oh wait, you don’t wear glasses–I forgot you had perfect vision.

    Nick: Hahaha. Good one.

    Josh: You have yet to show how Paul’s use of law can’t be extended to include more than the Mosaic law. Why don’t you cite a few passages and assume what needs to be proved again?

    Nick: If it is used to ‘include more than’ the ML, then Paul would be equivocating with the term ‘law’. Galatians is a very good place to turn in this regard because given the context Paul can only mean Mosaic Law. Galatians 3 is especially significant for 3:10-13 and 3:15-18 can be referring to nothing else but the Mosaic Law. To make ‘law’ mean anything else would render Gal 3 unintelligible.

    Reply
  10. Joshua Lim

    Nick,

    The Mosaic covenant was for all of Israel. If they kept it they wouldn’t have gotten exiled. Was it possible that they would have kept their half of the bargain? Sure, why not. If they had kept it they would have stayed in the land and prospered.

    And, no, Israel is not a federal head for all of human kind (where’d that come from?).

    The law didn’t need to save pre-lapsum. There was nothing to be saved from–there was no sin, no death. Salvation and grace only became necessary after Adam sinned.

    The promise to Adam in Gen. 3:15 and God’s promise to Abraham are all promises that come after the fall of Adam. Again, the promise of grace, the promise of redemption are not necessary before the fall.

    You say that “only those under the law are ‘God’s People,’ as they were identified in the OT. Gentiles are by *definition* those who are not under the Mosaic Law.” I’m wondering where Abraham fits into all this. Would you consider him to be under the Mosaic covenant? Would he be a gentile?

    When I say that having the law “doesn’t mean anything” I don’t mean it’s completely irrelevant. It “doesn’t mean anything” when it comes to being righteous before God. Having the law makes no difference if you don’t keep it. Paul says as much in Rom. 2:17-32. Having the Mosaic law, being a Jew does mean something, though, I’ll freely admit that (Rom. 3:2).

    The term “law”: I don’t think it’s equivocation to allow “law” to mean more than the Mosaic Law. That “law” could mean nothing but the Mosaic law in Gal. 3 doesn’t make a rule for every instance that the term is used. That’s like saying that because ὁτι can only mean “that” in a certain context, it must always mean “that.”

    Where are you from, Nick? And what do you do? Tell us about yourself.

    Reply
    • Nick

      Josh: The Mosaic covenant was for all of Israel. If they kept it they wouldn’t have gotten exiled. Was it possible that they would have kept their half of the bargain? Sure, why not. If they had kept it they would have stayed in the land and prospered.

      Nick: Agreed. I would just emphasize the promises attached to the Mosaic Law were temporal blessings (family, land, health, wealth).

      J: And, no, Israel is not a federal head for all of human kind (where’d that come from?).

      N: I wasn’t sure what you meant when you said “Israel is a type of Christ (as is Adam).” The only thing I could envision was some type of federal headship.

      J: The law didn’t need to save pre-lapsum. There was nothing to be saved from–there was no sin, no death. Salvation and grace only became necessary after Adam sinned.

      N: The Law didn’t even exist pre-lapsum, so the point is moot. It’s anachronistic to say the Law applied to Adam.

      J: The promise to Adam in Gen. 3:15 and God’s promise to Abraham are all promises that come after the fall of Adam. Again, the promise of grace, the promise of redemption are not necessary before the fall.

      N: Agreed.

      J: You say that “only those under the law are ‘God’s People,’ as they were identified in the OT. Gentiles are by *definition* those who are not under the Mosaic Law.” I’m wondering where Abraham fits into all this. Would you consider him to be under the Mosaic covenant? Would he be a gentile?

      N: Abraham was not under the Law, and the fact he was saved as a Gentile (i.e. before being circumcised) is Paul’s killer argument against the Judaizers in Rom 4 and Gal 3. Abraham was saved ‘apart from the Law’ in the fullest sense, because it played no role in his salvation.

      J: When I say that having the law “doesn’t mean anything” I don’t mean it’s completely irrelevant. It “doesn’t mean anything” when it comes to being righteous before God.

      N: Ok.

      J: The term “law”: I don’t think it’s equivocation to allow “law” to mean more than the Mosaic Law.

      N: This would have to be demonstrated in the major justification contexts, because it’s not enough to merely assert Paul is using different definitions right along side it meaning the Mosaic Law.

      J: That “law” could mean nothing but the Mosaic law in Gal. 3 doesn’t make a rule for every instance that the term is used.

      N: Not ‘every instance,’ but certainly instances speaking on the same topic (i.e. justification contexts). For example, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Paul was teaching the same thing in Romans (esp 4) as he was teaching in Gal 3. If so, then given he was speaking of the Mosaic Law in Gal 3 means he is likewise speaking of it in Romans. The ‘alternative’ is that when Paul speaks of Abraham, faith, law, works, promise, etc in Gal 3 he means something else by those same terms used in Romans.

      J: Where are you from, Nick? And what do you do? Tell us about yourself.

      N: I’m from Portland, Oregon, USA. I do Electrical Engineering, though work has been slow due to the bad economic conditions. My free time is spent doing Young Adult Catholic activities, being with my girlfriend, and reading and talking theology (especially online). You?

      Reply
  11. Joshua Lim

    Nick,

    I think we’re both agreed that the Sinaitic covenant was a temporary covenant. It never promised eternal life as a reward for keeping it–if it was kept, Israel would be able to remain in the promised land.

    If you’re using law to refer exclusively to the Mosaic law, then sure, I’ll grant that there was no ‘law’ pre-lapsum (how could there be?). But if we understand law in a more general sense, there must have been a law. Otherwise how could Adam be considered a transgressor? Transgression implies someone who has been transgressed against, which equally implies something (a law perhaps?) which has been broken. This shouldn’t be problematic unless you have an extreme personal/relational-legal/juridical dichotomy that doesn’t allow for rules in personal relationships. Call it what you want: guideline, standard, rule, etc. It’s a law. Mothers have it with their kids, spouses with one another (e.g., don’t cheat), and so on.

    In terms of understanding what “law” means, I take passages like Romans 2:14 as pointers. “When, Gentiles who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.” They don’t possess the law (i.e., the Mosaic law–I’ll grant that that’s referring to the Mosaic law) but they still do what the law requires. Are you telling me that they are able to follow all the Levitical purity laws without having the laws written down? That can’t possibly be what Paul is saying.
    Or here: “Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law” (Romans 2:27) If we understand “law” to mean strictly Mosaic law, how does it play out here? How can the uncircumcised keep the Mosaic law when circumcision is such a huge part of it? Unless, of course, we’re not talking about the Mosaic Law on the surface, but some sort of moral law undergirding it?
    In order for Paul’s argument to make sense, he can’t possibly be referring strictly to the Mosaic law every time.

    I’m at Westminster Seminary California right now studying to get an M.Div. I like reading, don’t like talking theology much, especially online (as you could probably tell from our encounters thus far–haha). I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend as well, and I love tea.

    Who’s your favorite Roman Catholic theologian? And do you have any thoughts on Schillebeeckx and/or von Balthasar? Also, were you raised Roman Catholic? Something tells me you were brought up as a broad Evangelical–perhaps I’m wrong.

    Reply
    • Nick

      J: I think we’re both agreed that the Sinaitic covenant was a temporary covenant. It never promised eternal life as a reward for keeping it–if it was kept, Israel would be able to remain in the promised land.

      N: Agreed.

      J: But if we understand law in a more general sense, there must have been a law. Otherwise how could Adam be considered a transgressor?

      N: There have been various laws throughout history. But whether they were universal, perpetually binding, temporary, specific, etc, is where the real issue is. (e.g. The law Adam was under required him to not eat, though neither that command nor option was ever made available to others. Places like Genesis 26:4-5 says God blessed Abraham “because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.”)

      J: In terms of understanding what “law” means, I take passages like Romans 2:14 as pointers. “When, Gentiles who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.” They don’t possess the law (i.e., the Mosaic law–I’ll grant that that’s referring to the Mosaic law) but they still do what the law requires. Are you telling me that they are able to follow all the Levitical purity laws without knowing that they’re doing it? That can’t possibly be what Paul is saying.

      N: What you’re granting is that the normative meaning for Paul is Mosaic Law. The passage you quote means the Gentiles have a (greatly) stripped down ‘version’ written on their hearts, often popularly called ‘natural law’ (which is basic moral duty). The key to Paul’s thesis is that he’s not just talking about any law, nor ‘natural law’, but Mosaic Law.

      J: Or here: “Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law” (Romans 2:27) If we understand “law” to mean strictly Mosaic law, how does it play out here? How can the uncircumcised keep the Mosaic law when circumcision is such a huge part of it? Unless, of course, we’re not talking about the Mosaic Law on the surface, but some sort of moral law undergirding it?

      N: It can only mean Mosaic Law here, else ‘written code’ and ‘circumcision’ have no corresponding ‘law’ to be attached to. The key is Paul’s phrase “physically uncircumcised” and especially verse 29, “a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”

      So Paul is saying circumcision is required for salvation, but it’s the inner circumcision of the heart that’s where the true value rests, not the physical circumcision. Only Christians can have circumcision of the heart , so Paul is speaking about Christians here, fulfilling the Law by the power of the Holy Spirit working in their souls. Nobody is saved apart from circumcision of the heart. This is precisely what Paul is saying in Phil 3 (esp 3:2-3; 3:9-11).

      J: In order for Paul’s argument to make sense, he can’t possibly be referring strictly to the Mosaic law every time.

      N: In the case of Romans 2 he is certainly speaking of the Mosaic Law, else much of Rom 2 is unintelligible. The Mosaic Law is the plain reading of virtually all these passages. Further, if Paul was hinting at a more important law, we would expect that to come to view, not his repeated Jew-Gentile distinctions, comments on circumcision, Jewish rituals, quotes from the Torah, and references to Abraham all through Romans and Galatians.

      And as I said earlier, I believe Galatians 3 is the simplest and most elegant proof available in that it not only is explicitly speaking of the Mosaic Law, only the Mosaic Law fits. And once it’s realized what Paul is arguing here, you can carry this over to other chapters (esp Romans) and see it fits elsewhere as well.

      J: Who’s your favorite Roman Catholic theologian? And do you have any thoughts on Schillebeeckx and/or von Balthasar? Also, were you raised Roman Catholic? Something tells me you were brought up as a broad Evangelical–perhaps I’m wrong.

      N: I don’t really have a ‘favorite’ Catholic theologian. It’s hard to pick one, given that theology has a wide range of subjects and also that most modern ‘scholars’ are liberals. I try to learn the Catholic faith from ‘primary sources’ first (e.g. Catechisms, Councils, Encyclicals, Summa Theologica, etc), then classics written by famous saints (e.g. St Francis de Sales, Theresa of Avila, Augustine), and lastly to respected authors such as Fr Garrigou-Lagrange. At the same time, I strive to learn Protestant theology from ‘primary sources’ as well, followed by respected modern day authors such as White, Piper, Fesko, etc.

      I was born Catholic, but was raised mostly Protestant (various mainstream but conservative denominations). You guessed right, but that’s probably because most ‘cradle’ Catholics who are otherwise ‘well educated’ are grossly ignorant in theological matters.

      p.s. I finally got a copy of The Law is Not of Faith

      Reply
      • Joshua Lim

        So the problem with the Judaizers was that they only superficially fulfilled the Mosaic law, whereas Christians fulfill the law in toto. Am I reading you correctly?

        Also, can a “greatly stripped down ‘version'” of the Mosaic law still be called the Mosaic law? It seems to me that you’re equivocating here. If you admit that Paul is referring to something deeper than the Mosaic law (i.e., natural law), I don’t understand how you can say that the law ‘written on their hearts’ can be properly understood as the Mosaic law. You’re right, something deeper than mere physical circumcision is required, but that still doesn’t explain how Paul speaks of the “uncircumcised” hypothetically keeping the law–unless you think that physical circumcision was virtually meaningless in the Mosaic economy.

  12. inwoolee

    Nick,

    Covenant and Salvation: Union With Christ by Michael Horton is covering what you are conversing with Josh about especially from his chapter ‘Law and Gospel: Contrast or Continuity is a very helpful chapter on this subject.

    inwoo

    Reply
  13. Nick

    J: So the problem with the Judaizers was that they only superficially fulfilled the Mosaic law, whereas Christians fulfill the law in toto. Am I reading you correctly?

    N: It depends on how you’re using the term ‘fulfill’. Fulfill does not mean ‘keep perfectly’, but rather ‘keep ideally’. So physical circumcision which is good and required for Jews was not the ‘fulfilled’ sense of the Law – the ‘fulfilled’ sense was a circumcision of the Heart by the Spirit.

    J: Also, can a “greatly stripped down ‘version’” of the Mosaic law still be called the Mosaic law? It seems to me that you’re equivocating here. If you admit that Paul is referring to something deeper than the Mosaic law (i.e., natural law), I don’t understand how you can say that the law ‘written on their hearts’ can be properly understood as the Mosaic law.

    N: The Mosaic Law built on natural law. Natural law isn’t ‘deeper’, in fact it’s inferior to divinely revealed statutes (e.g. Mosaic Law). The ‘law written on heart’ can refer to ‘stripped down’ ML if one reads this as pagan-gentiles, or it can refer to ‘fulfilled ML’ if one reads it as Christian-Gentiles (Heb 8:10).

    J: You’re right, something deeper than mere physical circumcision is required, but that still doesn’t explain how Paul speaks of the “uncircumcised” hypothetically keeping the law–unless you think that physical circumcision was virtually meaningless in the Mosaic economy.

    N: It wasn’t meaningless in the Mosaic dispensation, it just didn’t ‘make all the difference’ (cf Mat 23:23). You’re not putting proper emphasis on the ‘physically’ part (nor the context), Paul says ‘uncircumcised physically’ – because ‘uncircumcised of the heart, spiritually’ very much is required.

    Reply
    • Joshua Lim

      Yeah, I shouldn’t have said ‘deeper.’ I wanted to convey a difference between Mosaic law and natural law without implying that they were mutually exclusive.

      I don’t buy your argument that the ‘law written on the heart’ can refer to a ‘stripped down’ Mosaic law. It either is or isn’t the Mosaic law. According to what you’re saying wouldn’t we also have to say that Abraham was under the ‘stripped down’ Mosaic law, since, surely, he had to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and his neighbor as himself? I’m sure you’d say that Abraham wasn’t, but I don’t see any warrant not to if the Mosaic law could be stripped to some bare essentials and still be called “Mosaic.” If Abraham was under it and/or the gentiles have it written on their hearts, the Mosaic law qua Mosaic law loses its meaning altogether. By broadening the meaning of the Mosaic law so much you make it meaningless.

      Spiritual obedience does matter. I agree with that. But that alone is not enough. “Obedience is better than sacrifice,” no? It was better for Saul to do what God explicitly commanded than to do what he thought God wanted him to do. It was better for Uzzah to let the Ark hit the ground then to do what he thought was better and ‘rescue’ it. No one is questioning the spiritual requirement, but wasn’t the physical equally as important?

      Also, with your understanding of how “fulfillment’ of the law works, I’m curious to see how you understand a passage like Matthew 5:48. What does it even mean to “keep ideally”?

      Reply
      • Nick

        J: I don’t buy your argument that the ‘law written on the heart’ can refer to a ’stripped down’ Mosaic law. It either is or isn’t the Mosaic law.

        N: Do you understand what I’m saying about ‘stripped down’? (which might not be the best terminology) It’s the difference between what a child has a feeling they’re not supposed to do and a child being told explicitly by their parents what is or is not allowed.
        I don’t see any other good alternatives since it’s clear the ML is being spoken about in the text in certain spots “the gentiles who do-not-have the Law), so one is forced to link ‘law written on their hearts’ to the ML. And clearly it cannot be on the same level/status as the ML for that goes against Rom 2:17-18.

        J: According to what you’re saying wouldn’t we also have to say that Abraham was under the ’stripped down’ Mosaic law, since, surely, he had to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and his neighbor as himself?

        N: Abraham was under natural law plus whatever demands God revealed to him, in that way he fulfilled loving God and neighbor as Genesis 26:4-5 clearly attests. Commands such as circumcision and sacrifice of one’s son, etc, isn’t natural law.

        J: I’m sure you’d say that Abraham wasn’t, but I don’t see any warrant not to if the Mosaic law could be stripped to some bare essentials and still be called “Mosaic.” If Abraham was under it and/or the gentiles have it written on their hearts, the Mosaic law qua Mosaic law loses its meaning altogether. By broadening the meaning of the Mosaic law so much you make it meaningless.

        N: Only in a certain sense can it be called “Mosaic” because Mosaic would be the explicit manifestation of what is only implicit. You’d be comparing an inferior standard to the superior standard. IF not, then the Mosaic Law is of no advantage, God explicitly laying down rules is of no true value. If you’re lost in the woods without a map, all you can go by is by what you perceive as east, west, north, and south. Having the Law is akin to having a map of the area, which puts east, west, north, and south in more concrete terms.

        J: Spiritual obedience does matter. I agree with that. But that alone is not enough. “Obedience is better than sacrifice,” no? It was better for Saul to do what God explicitly commanded than to do what he thought God wanted him to do. It was better for Uzzah to let the Ark hit the ground then to do what he thought was better and ‘rescue’ it. No one is questioning the spiritual requirement, but wasn’t the physical equally as important?

        N: The physical was not “equally as important” because without one’s heart led by the Spirit they’re missing the bigger picture – that’s what “I desire obedience, not sacrifice means.” It doesn’t mean sacrifice is worthless, it’s not, but that a sacrifice without obedience isn’t of any avail. The ‘perfect’ Jew in the Mosaic dispensation was one who was both circumcised of the heart by the Spirit and of the flesh by human hands, but the former is unquestionably more important than the latter.

        J: Also, with your understanding of how “fulfillment’ of the law works, I’m curious to see how you understand a passage like Matthew 5:48.

        N: The text isn’t saying be literally as perfect as God, that’s not even hypothetically possible. To prove it isn’t literal perfection you just need to see how Jesus commanded all men to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses,” which is bogus if He’s setting up impossible standards elsewhere. To be perfect in this context is to strive to obey God to the best of your abilities. Jesus said this on the heels of what I consider the most difficult command: love your enemies.Jesus said to love only those who love you is no different than how the pagans operate, and that stings anyone who stops to think about it.

        J: What does it even mean to “keep ideally”?

        N: Keeping the law ideally means seeing it more than a set of rules and regulations but rather what is God really trying to covey. Mark 7:17-23 is a good example in that it shows the dietary laws weren’t so much about external cleanliness as they were supposed to hold a deeper meaning and get people thinking about spiritual uncleanliness. All the rules and regulations the Law promulgated were especially to get the Jews to not live as their neighbors do, the Jews were called to be ‘separate’ from the world. But this corresponds to the fact God really wants us to live ‘separate’ from how everyone around us is living, not about geographical territory or other such ‘external’ restrictions.

      • Joshua Lim

        So the Israelites already knew what they were supposed to do (i.e., the Mosaic law) without being told? That’s not the Mosaic law, my friend. Though the Mosaic Law encompasses the natural law, the latter does not exhaust the former. I think you’re posing a false situation by saying that there’s no other good alternative to viewing the ‘law written on their hearts’ as being Mosaic. I don’t see why not, and you don’t seem to have reason except pointing to other passages that refer to the Mosaic law as ‘law’. But that’s begging the question. If context dictates the meaning of the term and Paul says that they have the law “written on their hearts” without the Mosaic, there is no reason that the two laws are identical. I’m not denying that the text could be read that way, but it’s by no means a necessary, nor natural reading (no pun intended).

        Abraham was under natural law plus something else. Okay, let’s take that and apply it to Romans. You say that “commands such as circumcision and sacrifice . . . isn’t natural law” and I agree completely. That’s why you can’t equate the ‘law written on their hearts’ (I’m getting tired of typing that so we’ll call it LWTH from here) with the Mosaic (read: revealed) law.

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by Mosaic law, anymore. Are you including the Levitical purity law, the sacrificial laws, the civil laws, etc.? Or are you referring strictly to the Decalogue? If you’re only referring to the Decalogue then the burden of proof is on you to show that Paul was only referring to the Decalogue (which he clearly wasn’t since circumcision doesn’t occur there).

        Sacrifice & Obedience: Yes, I understand the spiritual is the sine qua non of obedience, but the physical is inextricably tied to the spiritual. I suppose some Israelites under the Mosaic administration who worked on the Sabbath meant well, but that doesn’t mean much—it’s still disobedience. They would still be stoned to death. I’m a little confused. We’re both talking about the Mosaic Covenant, right? You’re gonna have to show me a passage from the Pentateuch that indicates that the physical is not as important as the spiritual.

        Matthew 5:48: Right, no one is saying people should be perfect in a univocal sense, but there has been one person who was perfectly like his Father even though he himself was human (i.e., perfect creaturely obedience). I don’t understand your appeal to the Lord’s Prayer. If we need to pray for forgiveness, isn’t that because we’re not even able to be “ideally perfect”? If God is not demanding exacting perfection (in the creaturely sense), why would Christ command us to pray for forgiveness daily?–are you implying that there are some “ideally perfect” folk who don’t need to pray this part of the Lord’s prayer? (obviously not—I’m being facetious). I think your rendering of this passage is “bogus.” It fails to prove your point. In fact, it proves my point: we are really commanded to be perfect. Is it possible for creatures to be perfect like the Father? Sure, Christ was true man and was perfectly obedient. Will sinners (even Christian sinners) be able to be like that? Not according to Scripture (1 John 1:8). But nowhere in Scripture does perfection mean less than perfection.

        I don’t see how keeping the law ideally is different from keeping it perfectly. You seem to pointing out the distinction between the letter and the spirit, which I have little qualms with. I’m asking about the distinction between keeping the law ideally and keeping it perfectly.

      • Nick

        J: So the Israelites already knew what they were supposed to do (i.e., the Mosaic law) without being told? That’s not the Mosaic law, my friend.

        N: I’m not sure what this means. Of course it’s not the ML, the ML is an explicitly delivered/stated code of conduct. Nobody knew about how/when to celebrate the Sabbath apart from the ML.

        J: Though the Mosaic Law encompasses the natural law, the latter does not exhaust the former.

        N: The ML is a more explicit and precise standard to live by. While natural law could give one a general sense of ‘adultery’, the ML laid out clear guidelines of what was ‘adultery’.

        J: I think you’re posing a false situation by saying that there’s no other good alternative to viewing the ‘law written on their hearts’ as being Mosaic. I don’t see why not, and you don’t seem to have reason except pointing to other passages that refer to the Mosaic law as ‘law’. But that’s begging the question. If context dictates the meaning of the term and Paul says that they have the law “written on their hearts” without the Mosaic, there is no reason that the two laws are identical. I’m not denying that the text could be read that way, but it’s by no means a necessary, nor natural reading (no pun intended).

        N: I’m having a hard time following this paragraph. Here are the ‘options’ I see for “law written on heart”: (1) the Mosaic Law, (2) natural law, (3) Christ’s Law.
        Which of the above 3 are you suggesting is written on the heart? I say the ML is the least likely candidate, because the Torah repeatedly states it’s a special revelation to Israel and not to mankind in general. My main argument is that regardless of whether Paul uses the term ‘law’ to mean something besides ML, that none the less it’s the ML that’s where his primary focus is upon.

        J: Abraham was under natural law plus something else. Okay, let’s take that and apply it to Romans. You say that “commands such as circumcision and sacrifice . . . isn’t natural law” and I agree completely. That’s why you can’t equate the ‘law written on their hearts’ (I’m getting tired of typing that so we’ll call it LWTH from here) with the Mosaic (read: revealed) law.

        N: Agreed.

        J: I’m not entirely sure what you mean by Mosaic law, anymore. Are you including the Levitical purity law, the sacrificial laws, the civil laws, etc.? Or are you referring strictly to the Decalogue? If you’re only referring to the Decalogue then the burden of proof is on you to show that Paul was only referring to the Decalogue (which he clearly wasn’t since circumcision doesn’t occur there).

        N: Whenever I’ve used the term “Mosaic Law,” I mean *everything* the Torah lists as a statute to be obeyed by Israel (ALL civic, moral, and sacrificial requirements).

        J: Sacrifice & Obedience: Yes, I understand the spiritual is the sine qua non of obedience, but the physical is inextricably tied to the spiritual. I suppose some Israelites under the Mosaic administration who worked on the Sabbath meant well, but that doesn’t mean much—it’s still disobedience. They would still be stoned to death.

        N: We can only speculate on what their motives were. The Gospels give us pretty solid evidence that under the Mosaic Dispensation proper spiritual intention trumps a strict reading of a statute: John 7:21-24; Mat 12:11f.

        J: I’m a little confused. We’re both talking about the Mosaic Covenant, right? You’re gonna have to show me a passage from the Pentateuch that indicates that the physical is not as important as the spiritual.

        N: I just listed John 7:21-24 and Mat 12:11f, which is the correct interpretation of the Torah.

        J: Matthew 5:48: Right, no one is saying people should be perfect in a univocal sense, but there has been one person who was perfectly like his Father even though he himself was human (i.e., perfect creaturely obedience).

        N: Human nature cannot be ‘perfect’ in the sense the Divine Nature is ‘perfect’, thus there is no 1-to-1 comparison. The common reading of “be perfect as God the Father is perfect” is fallacious because that mistaken interpretation is akin to Jesus saying “be omnipotent as your Father is omnipotent.”

        J: I don’t understand your appeal to the Lord’s Prayer. If we need to pray for forgiveness, isn’t that because we’re not even able to be “ideally perfect”?

        N: You are misunderstanding what I mean by “ideally perfect”. Being “ideally perfect” is akin to “be all that you can be”, i.e. do the best of your abilities. It is not referring to a pass/fail system of one sin and you’re irrevocably failed and damned. Rather, it is strive to avoid sin, but if you slip up then repent and get back up. That’s what the Bible says when it speaks of the “righteous man falls seven times”.

        J: If God is not demanding exacting perfection (in the creaturely sense), why would Christ command us to pray for forgiveness daily?–

        N: It’s precisely because God isn’t demanding exacting perfection that He commands and allows forgiveness. If God allows forgiveness, it’s absurd to think He’s judging us on an exacting perfection basis.

        J: are you implying that there are some “ideally perfect” folk who don’t need to pray this part of the Lord’s prayer? (obviously not—I’m being facetious).

        N: Everyone needs to pray it.

        J: I think your rendering of this passage is “bogus.” It fails to prove your point. In fact, it proves my point: we are really commanded to be perfect.

        N: We might be talking past each other. Are you saying God demands perfection in the sense a teacher demands we score 100% on our test or we fail? If so, then that cannot be, for scoring 99% puts you in irrevocable failure and there is no sense whatsover in introducing forgiveness into the picture.

        J: Is it possible for creatures to be perfect like the Father? Sure, Christ was true man and was perfectly obedient.

        N: Your question doesn’t fit and almost Nestorian. God the Father isn’t “perfectly obedient” (as if He goes around obeying statues), nor was Jesus a creature. Jesus is a Divine Person, with a Divine Nature, and shares this Divine Nature with the Divine Person the Father. Christ had a created human nature, but He’s perfect aside from that. So there is no 1-to-1 comparison between human persons being perfect and God the Father being perfect.

        J: Will sinners (even Christian sinners) be able to be like that? Not according to Scripture (1 John 1:8). But nowhere in Scripture does perfection mean less than perfection.

        N: Your quote from 1 Jn 1:8 is about sinless. The Bible is written to sinnners, it never requires sinners to have a 100% sinless trackrecord.

        J: I don’t see how keeping the law ideally is different from keeping it perfectly. You seem to pointing out the distinction between the letter and the spirit, which I have little qualms with. I’m asking about the distinction between keeping the law ideally and keeping it perfectly.

        N: That’s just it, the distinction is about letter versus spirit. You’re reading the Bible as if 100% past, present, and future sinlessness is being demanded by the Law or Jesus, when that’s never been the case.

      • Joshua Lim

        “Which of the above 3 are you suggesting is written on the heart? I say the ML is the least likely candidate, because the Torah repeatedly states it’s a special revelation to Israel and not to mankind in general. My main argument is that regardless of whether Paul uses the term ‘law’ to mean something besides ML, that none the less it’s the ML that’s where his primary focus is upon.”
        So you’re conceding that when Paul uses the term ‘law’ he may not always be referring to the Mosaic Law? I really have no clue what you’re saying about the Mosaic law anymore. It seems like you’re going back and forth.

        Christ was true God and true man, and as a man he was obedient to the Father perfectly. Was Christ perfectly obedient to the Father in his true human nature? He was truly human wasn’t he? Did he endure temptations and sufferings as a true man? Yes. Was the obedience Christ offered divine or human? As Christ was true man, it was true creaturely obedience to the Father. Do you disagree with this? Are you suggesting that Christ’s divinity kept his obedience from being human obedience? Are you sure you’re not the one bordering on some docetic christology? You seem to be thinking of perfect obedience extremely mechanistically. Obviously obedience to God looks different in varying situations (they’re not formulas that you simply plug ‘X’ in here and ‘Y’ comes out). But there always is a way to obey God, and a way not to. Christ was always obedient in everything he did.

        I already said that “perfect” shouldn’t be taken univocally. Of course we can’t be perfect if that means to become infinite and cease being creatures. But if we take Christ’s command analogically, we should strive to be perfect creatures (Christ was true God and a true (and perfect) creature–you have to grant this if you’re going to grant that Jesus Christ actually became a true man). If God doesn’t require a 100% sinless track record, why did Adam get kicked out of the garden on account of one (in our eyes) small sin? You don’t seem to distinguish between pre-fall, post-fall, pre-Mosaic, Mosaic and post-Mosaic. Obviously, if we’re saved on account of Christ’s death and obedience (the obedience of the second Adam), then it makes sense that we are no longer under the curse of the law. We don’t have to keep the law perfectly (though we strive to), only because Christ, the second Adam, didn’t break the covenant as Adam did but kept it (“Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill”). What does James say? “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

        Yes, of course the Bible is written for sinners and you’re right, it doesn’t require them to have a 100% sinless track record. But that’s not because God has ‘lowered the bar’ to make things easier. The reason there’s a place for sinners is because of Christ pro nobis.

        I start spring semester tomorrow so this will be my last post. You seem to have your hands quite full with Inwoo and Peter, so I will leave you with them.

        Also, I read the sixth session. Very interesting stuff.

        Take care,

        Josh

      • Nick

        J: So you’re conceding that when Paul uses the term ‘law’ he may not always be referring to the Mosaic Law?

        N: I never said Paul only used the term “law” to mean *only” ML. Paul uses the term “law” at least 3 ways.
        What I’ve said is that when he uses the term “law” he means ML the super-majority of the time, and more importantly, it is the ML he is contrasting to faith (e.g. Rom 3:28).

        J: I really have no clue what you’re saying about the Mosaic law anymore. It seems like you’re going back and forth.

        N: To my knowledge, I’ve maintained the ML means one thing: the Torah’s statues, delivered to Israel by Moses.

        J: Christ was true God and true man, and as a man he was obedient to the Father perfectly. Was Christ perfectly obedient to the Father in his true human nature? He was truly human wasn’t he?
        Did he endure temptations and sufferings as a true man? Yes. Was the obedience Christ offered divine or human? As Christ was true man, it was true creaturely obedience to the Father. Do you disagree with this? Are you suggesting that Christ’s divinity kept his obedience from being human obedience?

        N: Because Jesus had a human nature, He could offer (human) obedience to the Father. But it’s the way you phrased your original question that is the problem:
        Quote: “Is it possible for creatures to be perfect like the Father?”

        Taken in the univocal sense (as you agree), the answer is no: created nature can never be perfect in the sense the Divine Nature is. If one is substituting ‘perfect’ for ‘perfectly obedient’, the Father never was ‘perfectly obedient’ because that notion doesn’t apply to Him.

        J: But if we take Christ’s command analogically, we should strive to be perfect creatures (Christ was true God and a true (and perfect) creature–you have to grant this if you’re going to grant that Jesus Christ actually became a true man).

        N: We are to take it analogically, but that in itself refutes the notion it’s speaking of any absolute perfection. Jesus was using hyperbole (cf 5:29f, 41), and His comment had nothing to do with ‘perfect obedience’.

        J: If God doesn’t require a 100% sinless track record, why did Adam get kicked out of the garden on account of one (in our eyes) small sin?

        N: That’s just it, it wasn’t “one small sin,” but rather one monstrous sin, second only in history to murdering Christ. The very notion of God requiring a “100% sinless track record” be it pre- or post-lapsarian is a purely Western legal notion and not Biblical. It’s not to say sinless isn’t important, only that it never was Paul’s framework or fixation.

        J: You don’t seem to distinguish between pre-fall, post-fall, pre-Mosaic, Mosaic and post-Mosaic.

        N: I distinguish those as Paul does in Romans 5:13-14 (among other places).

        J: Obviously, if we’re saved on account of Christ’s death and obedience (the obedience of the second Adam), then it makes sense that we are no longer under the curse of the law.

        N: Sure. I would add the “curse of the Law” is that of the Mosaic Law, which was subsequently abolished by His Death.

        J: We don’t have to keep the law perfectly (though we strive to), only because Christ, the second Adam, didn’t break the covenant as Adam did but kept it (“Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill”).

        N: Which “law” are you speaking of when you say “we don’t have to keep the law perfectly (though strive to)”?? You seem to be mixing law/covenant here such that it reads “we dont have to keep the Covenant of Works only because Christ didn’t break the CoW as Adam did but kept the CoW.” Is *that* what you’re saying? If so, I’d say there are serious problems, most notably that this scenario isn’t taught in Scripture.

        You quoting “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets” really doesn’t make sense in this context. The “law & prophets” here signifies the Old Testament prophecy coming to light. It is about Christ establishing the new and perfect standards to live by, surpassing the Mosaic Law standards (e.g. 5:21ff).

        J: What does James say? “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

        N: Read in the proper context, James is saying the law isn’t a pick and choose system (keeping only what is convenient), but stands as a whole, and his example is one keeping the law as far as adultery goes is of no avail if one is breaking other commandments like murder.

        J: Yes, of course the Bible is written for sinners and you’re right, it doesn’t require them to have a 100% sinless track record. But that’s not because God has ‘lowered the bar’ to make things easier. The reason there’s a place for sinners is because of Christ pro nobis.

        N: And I’m saying I don’t see salvation framed like that in the first place (i.e. a standard imposed by God on all, not kept by all, and yet kept vicariously by Christ).

        J: I start spring semester tomorrow so this will be my last post. You seem to have your hands quite full with Inwoo and Peter, so I will leave you with them.

        N: Thank you for your time, I ask you only respond to one thing, your comment that began with “We don’t have to keep the law perfectly (though we strive to)”.

        J: Also, I read the sixth session. Very interesting stuff.

        N: Cool.

      • Joshua Lim

        Alright, Nick. I couldn’t resist.

        You say: “I would add the “curse of the Law” is that of the Mosaic Law, which was subsequently abolished by His Death.”

        If we’re agreed that the Mosaic Covenant was a national covenant that promised Israel prosperity in the land, why does Christ need to take on the curse of the Mosaic law? If Christ does take the curse of the Mosaic law, what is the result? That Israel is no longer expelled from the promised land? Death didn’t enter through the Mosaic covenant, so I’m wondering what “curse” (except for Israel’s exile from the promised land) you’re speaking of. This is what happens when you always identify ‘law’ with Mosaic law: the curse that Christ endured ends up being the curse of the Mosaic covenant (a covenant limited to Israel).

        You’re just wrong here, Nick. Christ suffered under the curses of the Adamic administration. It’s Adam’s one trespass that’s juxtaposed with Christ’s one act of righteousness. Ultimately, it’s the curse of death of that Adamic “covenant of works”—yes, I said covenant of works (don’t shoot!) that Christ takes upon himself. Obviously, this is not unrelated to the Mosaic covenant inasmuch as the latter is tied to the former, but we cannot limit Christ’s death to the Mosaic covenant lest we restrict his sacrifice only to the Mosaic curse (which would have little to do with us, Gentiles—I’m assuming you’re a Gentile).

        With regard to keeping the law perfectly. I don’t think you’re quite ‘getting it.’ I’m not saying we need to be divine. That’s impossible and blasphemous. I’m saying that we need to be analogically perfect. If it were possible for us to be divine then I could understand what you’re saying—namely, that we can’t be perfect, but that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that there is a creaturely perfection (i.e., living as God first created us: without any sin, loving him perfectly and relying completely on him). How do I know that it’s possible for creatures to live without sin? Because Christ became a true man and lived without sin. As a man was he finite? Yes, he was. Was he tempted? Yes, he was. Did he ever sin? No, he didn’t. Man was not created bad, God created Adam and saw that he was good (a pronouncement that was also repeated on the Son of Man in whom the Father was well-pleased). Although, you probably have issues with what I’m saying since you don’t believe that man was created in such a way so as to be able to be obedient without the donum superadditum. But, hold on, where’s that in Scripture, again?
        You’re only applying the analogy half-way and saying that it’s impossible to be sinless (by which you mean divine), but that’s to misunderstand the issue altogether. Should we, as Christians, strive to be obedient (read: perfectly obedient creatures) like Christ as man was? Of course we should strive after it! Not because we earn anything by it, or we are justified through it, but only because we are adopted as God’s children now having been freely justified by grace. We are God’s children! That’s our motivation to be obedient.

        I’m sure you’ll have much to say against what I’m saying, but you’ve already acknowledged that the Mosaic covenant promised no salvation, being a physical, temporary covenant. I don’t know where you’re gonna go from here. Looks to me like you’ve cornered yourself.

        Check-mate.

      • Nick

        J: Alright, Nick. I couldn’t resist.

        N: Haha!

        J: If we’re agreed that the Mosaic Covenant was a national covenant that promised Israel prosperity in the land, why does Christ need to take on the curse of the Mosaic law?

        N: Because the Law carried a curse for transgressing it, and satisfaction (i.e. redemption) had to be made.

        J: If Christ does take the curse of the Mosaic law, what is the result? That Israel is no longer expelled from the promised land?

        N: The result is that the Law no longer stands in the way to God’s promises being fulfilled:
        “Gal3:14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”
        The Law is abolished, so there is no temporal promises to bring them back to the promise land.

        J: Death didn’t enter through the Mosaic covenant, so I’m wondering what “curse” (except for Israel’s exile from the promised land) you’re speaking of. This is what happens when you always identify ‘law’ with Mosaic law: the curse that Christ endured ends up being the curse of the Mosaic covenant (a covenant limited to Israel).

        N: The context of Gal 3:13 is plainly the Mosaic Covenant (directly quoting texts such as Deut), not some ‘curse in general’. The “curses” the Torah listed off were all sorts of terrible stuff (e.g. Deut 28:15ff), especially humiliating ways to die. To die via crucifixion is the most humiliating, especially for a king (cf Joshua 8:28f; 10:26f).

        J: You’re just wrong here, Nick. Christ suffered under the curses of the Adamic administration.

        N: I’m not aware of where the Bible speaks along these lines (i.e. ‘curses of the adamic administration’). The only place I see curse mentioned in regards to Christ is in Gal 3:13 in a explicit reference to the Mosaic Law. All men die because of Adam, and men continue to die physically because of Adam. You’re in a pretty serious bind if you think Christ took death in your place yet Christians still die. If you’re saying that Christ took on spiritual-death then that’s a form of Nestorianism.

        J: It’s Adam’s one trespass that’s juxtaposed with Christ’s one act of righteousness.

        N: Juxtaposing a sin to an act of righteousness is the opposite of taking on curses. Performing and being commended for an act of righteousness isn’t what I’d call a curse.

        J: Ultimately, it’s the curse of death of that Adamic “covenant of works”—yes, I said covenant of works (don’t shoot!) that Christ takes upon himself.

        N: Two significant problems: Where does the Bible speak like this? And why do Christians still die? This doesn’t fit the ‘covenant of works’ scenario you’re proposing.

        J: Obviously, this is not unrelated to the Mosaic covenant inasmuch as the latter is tied to the former, but we cannot limit Christ’s death to the Mosaic covenant lest we restrict his sacrifice only to the Mosaic curse (which would have little to do with us, Gentiles—I’m assuming you’re a Gentile).

        N: It has to do with us Gentiles in so far as we were already aliens to God’s covenant, while the Jews were direct transgressors. The Mosaic curse stood in the way of fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham, which Paul clearly says in Gal 3:14 is reconciling the Gentiles into one Family. Now, Jesus did deal with Adam’s sin in so far as He destroyed death and restored spiritual life, but this is not to be confused with the Mosaic curse due to the Law.

        J: With regard to keeping the law perfectly. I don’t think you’re quite ‘getting it.’ I’m not saying we need to be divine. That’s impossible and blasphemous. I’m saying that we need to be analogically perfect. If it were possible for us to be divine then I could understand what you’re saying—namely, that we can’t be perfect, but that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that there is a creaturely perfection (i.e., living as God first created us: without any sin, loving him perfectly and relying completely on him).

        N: My point was that you’re reading too much into the verse and relying too much on it for your case. Taking strictly, it’s blasphemy and error as you rightly recognize. Thus the statement is figurative/hyperbolic and need not indicate an absolute perfection even analogically. Further, contextually, the passage isn’t about man’s original state in the Garden.

        J: How do I know that it’s possible for creatures to live without sin? Because Christ became a true man and lived without sin. As a man was he finite? Yes, he was. Was he tempted? Yes, he was. Did he ever sin? No, he didn’t. Man was not created bad, God created Adam and saw that he was good (a pronouncement that was also repeated on the Son of Man in whom the Father was well-pleased).

        N: I don’t deny the possibility to live without sin, and Adam was able to do so.

        J: Although, you probably have issues with what I’m saying since you don’t believe that man was created in such a way so as to be able to be obedient without the donum superadditum. But, hold on, where’s that in Scripture, again?

        N: You’ve got to be careful here. Jesus was a Divine Person with a Divine Nature, thus He sure had a sort of donum-superadditum. Further, the donum-superadditum stems from consistent systematic theology.

        Sin isn’t a ‘thing’, thus there is no such thing as an ‘evil nature’. Nature is always good, else you have Manicheanism. Grace builds on nature, granting it super-natural (ie above nature) ‘powers’ it doesn’t have due to it being created. Given this, we can look at a few things indicating the truth of the donum-superadditum:

        1) Man is spiritual dead by definition when he is out of communion with God, not sharing in God’s life. Spiritual life only comes by the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul says man is a temple of the Holy Spirit. A ‘hole’ didn’t form after Adam sinned suddenly requiring the Holy Spirit to fill.

        2) There is an infinite bridge between God (uncreated) and creature. Created nature offers no such ‘power’ to bridge this gap, that power must be super-natural. Faith is one such gift, and without it man (whether fallen or not) is incapable of believing in the super-natural. Adam could not have believed in God without the divine gift of faith.

        3) Adam was created immortal. A creature cannot be immortal by nature, that’s a divine power. When Adam sinned, he lost this grace, causing his natural body to begin to decay and die away.

        J: I’m sure you’ll have much to say against what I’m saying, but you’ve already acknowledged that the Mosaic covenant promised no salvation, being a physical, temporary covenant. I don’t know where you’re gonna go from here. Looks to me like you’ve cornered yourself.

        N: I don’t see where I’ve cornered myself, especially considering I’m appealing to Scripture while you’re not (at least for key things like the ‘curse’, where Galatians 3:10-14 is clearly speaking Mosaic).

        J: Check-mate.

        N: Not so fast.

      • Joshua Lim

        Nick,

        This is going to be my last response.

        Not “curse in general,” but the curse that came about through Adam’s sin. That’s the problem. Saying that it was only the curse of the Mosaic covenant (a Mosaic covenant abstracted from its situated-ness post-fall) is to restrict Christ’s work to merely helping the people of Israel. The promise came to Abraham after the curse fell upon Adam. Even before the Mosaic covenant there was a curse and promise that needed solving.

        In terms of Christians physically dying: Did I say that Christians don’t physically die? I don’t even need to respond to that.

        Donum superadditum: so was Adam created in communion with God? He was created good, right? If you say that he was created in communion with God, I see no warrant for a superadded gift, since it was not “superadded.” If you say that he was created out of communion, then you’re saying that he was created bad. I don’t know where you’re getting this “hole” business, but that’s fine.

        No Reformed theologian would say that the gap between God and creature can be bridged. Even with faith, we’re still creatures, and we will never behold God except as he reveals himself in his Son, not God in his essence. No one can see God and live, period.

        Where does it say in Scripture that a creature cannot be immortal? So will we be immortal in heaven? Will we be divine in heaven?

        As far as I know you still haven’t answered the issue of Christ taking on only the curse of the Mosaic covenant—and I don’t think you will. Also, your rationalistic defense of the donum supperadditum is found wanting. I thought you disliked Calvinism for imposing mechanistic logical standards on Scripture. hmm..

        Respond how you will. The general public (or the 2-3 people who end up reading this dialogue) will be able to decide for themselves which view is more biblical.

        Good talking.

        Oh, and, in case I forget: Check-mate. (you can move your king wherever you’d like, but I don’t think things will change much from here).

      • Nick

        Hi Josh,

        This has been a good talk, but will be my last response on this thread as well.

        My main objection to your argument is that you’re saying Jesus took the Adamic curse, but as I’ve said you’re not showing this from Scripture. The only time ‘curse’ is mentioned that I know of is Gal 3:13, with the context and OT reference explicitly speaking of Mosaic curses.

        As for the comment about Christian’s dying physically, I wasn’t saying you denied that, my argument was that the Adamic ‘curse’ of death manifested itself physically and spiritually. If Jesus was vicariously punished in either form of death, then serious problems would ensue. Thus the Christian physical death dilemma, because *IF* Christ took the punishment in their place they could not justly die as well.

        As for the Donum superadditum, it is what enabled Adam as a creature to be in communion with God. Adam was created good, but a good nature isn’t the same as a nature transformed by grace. Case in point is a Glorified Body versus Adam’s good but purely natural body – human nature didn’t change (else we’d resurrect to something other than humans, defeating the notion of resurrection), rather grace was added.

        What I said about the notion of ‘hole’ is that to be in communion with God one must have the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This must be a superadded gift by definition, else it’s pantheism.

        I’d say the deciding factor here is that I’ve shown clearly from Scripture the curse applied to Mosaic Law, and not about merely claiming it was ‘covenant of works’ related.

  14. Peter

    So, this is where you guys are. Very busy talking.

    Nick: …or it can refer to ‘fulfilled ML’ if one reads it as Christian-Gentiles (Heb 8:10).

    I don’ think your reference is at all talking about what you claim it does. Note the fuller context of Heb 8:

    7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8But God found fault with the people and said:
    “The time is coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
    with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah.
    9It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their forefathers
    when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
    because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
    and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
    10This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
    I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
    I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
    11No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
    or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
    because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
    12For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

    13By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

    I think Paul here says a lot about what you guys are talking about. According to Paul:

    1. There was something wrong with the Mosaic Covenant–The people did not live it out. They where unfaithful in keeping their part of the Covenant. i.e. Being holy.

    2. God made a NEW Covenant, in which God is the only worker.

    3. God will place the New Covenant in the mind and heart of his people.

    4. Thus, they will all know God.

    5. God will forgive their sins, and not hold their sins against them. (Again Nick, wouldn’t you like to be this person whom God would not hold your sins against you? Sadly, this is not found in the Roman Catholic way of salvation, where God continues to hold the sin of the sinner against the sinner even after dieing “in Christ.”)

    6. The New Covenant has made the Old Covenant “obsolete”; the Old Covenant will “soon disappear”.

    Reply
    • Nick

      I don’t see how this contradicts my claim at all regarding the law written on man’s hearts being the fulfilled ML. Hebrews is all about how the ML was fulfilled and found it’s true meaning in the Christian dispensation.

      Reply
      • inwoolee

        Nick, it seems you have a monocovenantalism-you do not distinguish between the covenant of works and grace. What was the Abrahamic covenant all about? Therefore, correct me where you stand, There is no Gospel in your system, but a new law. So I would be assuming that you hold to a new law correct? Then what is your Gospel?

      • Nick

        Inwoolee: Nick, it seems you have a monocovenantalism-you do not distinguish between the covenant of works and grace.

        Nick: I don’t distinguish between the two in that I don’t consider them true, or at least not Paul’s focus. I don’t see anywhere where Paul is concerned about Jesus keeping the covenant of works in our place. I believe salvation has always been through one way, union with the Trinity. Not even Adam could be saved apart from the Indwelling of the Spirit.

        Adam wasn’t an adopted child of God by nature, that’s impossible. The Bible is clear one is an adopted child of God through the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Adam lost that for himself and us, losing adoption for all of us. That’s the real tragedy of the fall.

        Inwoolee: What was the Abrahamic covenant all about?

        Nick: The Abrahamic covenant was about salvation through belief in the “Seed” (i.e. Christ), which is the grounds for adoption as children of God (salvation). What was unique/special about Abraham is that it was through his lineage that Christ would come.

        Inwoolee: Therefore, correct me where you stand, There is no Gospel in your system, but a new law. So I would be assuming that you hold to a new law correct? Then what is your Gospel?

        Nick: There is no “gospel” as you define it, but there is a Gospel. And yes, it does rest on being incorporated under a new law, which is the plain teaching of Scripture:
        1 Cor 9: 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
        21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

        Paul, as a Christian, is under “Christ’s law” (which is distinct from the Mosaic Law as the context shows).

      • Peter

        Nick,

        I think you are being very selective in what you are willing to respond to. It would be meaningful to address what I did write, not what you think I did not address.

        Heb 8:10

        point 1. you quoted the verse out of context.

        2. the new covenant is instituted by God and the work is done by God alone.

        3. Thus, the people under the new covenant are forgiven of their sins by God.

        4. This is contrary to the Romanist system of God and man working towards salvation.

        5. The Romanist system has the people of the new covenent dying “in Christ” and yet their sins are not forgiven, and must suffer purgatory to have their sins purged.

        6. Nick, wouldn’t you wish to be a member of the new covenant of all your sins forgiven by God, despite your life time of sinning?

  15. inwoolee

    Hey guys, lately I’ve been reading a lot on the Mosaic Covenant. I found this below to be very helpful to this vital topic on the law. I typed it up, took a long time. I asked Horton for permission, but has not responded, but I did it anyway. I asked some other authors in the past and they said, “Go right ahead.” Well, I included all the footnotes in parentheses. If there are any typos let me know.

    This is taken directly from Michael Horton’s work titled, Covenant and Salvation: Union With Christ in his chapter “Paul’s Polemic against “Works of the Law” that run from pages 80-101. This excerpt from the book is from pages 87-101. Let me know if there are any typos.
    DISTINGUISHING LAW-AS-HISTORY FROM LAW-AS-COVENANTAL PRINCIPLE
    As Heikki Raisanen, Stephen Westerholm, and others have argued recently, nomos can be translated “principle” (as it has been in some translations). (HGF-Horton gives a footnote) This is precisely the nature of a covenant: a principle ordering the individual and community, the canon or constitution that makes a community what it is. If this is so, then Paul would seem to be working with more systematic-theological categories as representing “two covenants” Galatians 4, can we conclude that these are for Paul equivalent to the covenant of works (law) and the covenant of grace? (HGF).
    Law as Covenental Principle
    The mere presence of law does not create a law-covenant, since the writing of the law upon hearts is part of what is promised in the covenant of grace. The question is how law functions: either as the principle or basis for punishment and reward (as in a law-covenant) or as a normative guide that is no longer able to condemn (as in a promise-covenant). Justification by the works of the law, for example, would represent the law not only as something to be followed but also as the basis or at least the means of attaining it. What makes something a law-covenant is how law functions in the economy.
    Crucial for this chapter, then, is a distinction between law in the broader redemptive-historical sense (i.e., Old Testament promise and New Testament fulfillment) and law in the more precise, technical sense (in terms of principles), identifying the specific terms and bases of inheritance (i.e., law-covenant versus promise-covenant). The first accounts for continuity, whole the latter underscores discontinuity. Bearing in mind these different sense in which “law” is meant in Paul and elsewhere in the New Testament enables us to avoid some of the exegetical reductionism that forces a choice between them.
    Ever since the fall, the law can only condemn those who are under it, and to be “under the law” is to be under the terms of the law as the condition for receiving blessing and avoiding the curse-sanctions. Obedience to the law was, of course, a condition of “long life” in the land of Canaan, but it could not–and cannot–bring eschatological life (Gal. 3:21).
    Yet Paul us hardly an innovator on this point. Deuteronomy itself moves from the command to the Israelites to circumcise their own hearts (10:16) to the promise that, given what God knows will happen in this unfolding drama, he will himself accomplish this since they cannot (30:6). Unlike the Second Temple literature we have reviewed. Deuteronomy–the archive of the Sinai covenant itself–displays a full awareness of the differences between these covenant and, we can even infer, the weakness of the law itself due to human sin.
    The prophets not only approve of the Sinai covenant but also prosecute its claims. However, they too hold out hope in the future only on the basis of the new covenant, as the realization of the Abrahamic promise. Bad news is announced on the basis of Sinai and good news on the basis of Zion. Assimilating these two covenants, Paul’s agitators expected good news from Sinai, and that was their crucial blunder. So here his opponents stood, on this side of the cross and resurrection, reswearing the Sinai oath, “All this we will do.” Whatever Jesus adds to Judaism, he does not fundamentally alter their attempt (like other Second Temple groups) at renewing the Sinai covenant.
    The Law as Covenant History
    Brining these exegetical insights together for theological formulation, I suggest, requires exactly the sort of nuance that one finds in the Reformers, especially in Calvin, although he never formalized his practice into a theory. Like Paul, Calvin moves back and forth between what I have elsewhere identified as two hermeneutical gears: the redemptive-historical and the more technical sense of “law.” (HGF). One moment, the law is equivalent to the Old Testament or, more narrowly, the old covenant (specifically identified with the Sinaitic economy), both of which evidence continuity redemptive-historically, that is, in terms of promise and fulfillment. The sacrifices are pointers to Christ. The righteousness required in the law is the same righteousness given in the new covenant. In these respects, there is perfect agreement between law (old covenant) and gospel (new covenant). Subsequent Reformed interpretation especially highlighted this redemptive-historical aspect in a covenant theology that is nothing like the “timeless principles of salvation” that Wright seems to attribute to this tradition. (HGF). When Wright seems to identify with timeless principles is what I have been calling the technical use ofnomos. While it is hardly timeless, it does reflect God’s unchanging moral character and it engraved on the human conscience in creation, as Jewish theology also well attests. (HGF).
    However, there is also the redemptive-historical use of the law as the old covenant history leading to Christ. In this redemptive-historical sense, law and promise are entirely in agreement: Christ as the telos of the law in the sense of fulfillment. This became a major emphasis particularly in Calvin’s responses to Anabaptists challenges to the unity of the covenant of grace in both Testaments. One might call this, anachronistically, his historia salutis (redemptive-historical) approach. By contrast, when the question was justification and the way a sinner can obtain salvation law was regarded as a principle or method of salvation in antithesis to the promise or gospel–a question ofordo salutis. Such gear-shifting, far from arbitrary.is simply a way of interpreting the same term (nomos) in different tests and different texts and different contexts.
    When the laws are set before the people as a covenant to personally fulfilled (Josh. 8:34), with attendant sanctions (Deut. 30:15-20), it is clear that we are dealing with law as command (the principle law) and, specifically, the covenant mediated by Moses at Sinai. We encounter here not simply free-floating laws (nomoi), but stipulations that are part of a specific covenant canon.
    However, “the Law” can also refer to a body of writings as a whole, especially the Pentateuch, which of course also includes the promise of the gospel apart from “law” (Pss. 19, 119). Similarly, when we read in the New Testament, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), or that the law itself “made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19) but was “only a shadow of the good things to come” (10:1), it is obvious that although the law of Moses/Sinai (i.e., the old covenant) is in view, it is considered in its redemptive-historical (historia salutis) relation of promise and fulfillment. The old covenant is glorious, but the new covenant more radiant still. There is a continuum rather than a sharp antithesis. In this sense, the contrast is from bright to brighter, not with an inherent tension.
    Yet when law/commandment and gospel/promise are strictly set in opposition, the issue in question is how one obtains the promise (ordo salutis). Commenting on Galatians 3:10-12, Calvin writes,
    The argument is drawn from the contradictory nature of the two schemes…The law justifies him who fulfils all its precepts, while faith justifies those who are destitute of the merit of works and who rely on Christ alone…The law evidently is not contrary to faith; otherwise, God would be unlike himself; but we must return to a principle already noticed, that Paul’s language is modified by the present aspect of the case. The contradiction between the law and faith lies in the matter of justification. You more easily unite fire and water, than reconcile these two statements, that men are justified by faith, and that they are justified by the law. “The law is not of faith” ; that is, it has a method of justifying a man which is wholly at variance with faith. (John Calvin, Commentary on Galatians, trans. John King (repr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), on Gal. 3:10-12.
    Paul can even switch hermeneutical gears in the same sentence, as in Romans 3: 21-22, as we have seen above: the law and the prophets (Old Testament) testify to a justification apart from law (as covenantal principle). We have already seen an example of this in Deuteronomy itself, where the law-as-covenant commands what the law-as-Scripture says the people will not accomplish but will be freely given sometime in the future, when God circumcises their hearts. To use a crude analogy, the redemptive-historical sense of law and gospel is like a dimmer switch (darker to brighter by degrees), which the principial sense is more binary, like an off/on switch. The difference between the Old and New Testaments (i.e., “the law and prophets”) is quantitative, while the difference between a law-covenant and a promise-covenant as the means of our attaining the inheritance is qualitative and antithetical.
    It may even be the case that such a hermeneutical distinction was already part of Paul’s Jewish milieu, as in Judaism’s familiar distinction between haggadah (story) and halakah (command). While the Sinai covenant transforms “history in morality, or in rabbinic language, haggadah into halaka, lore into law,” notes Levenson, “In the case of the Davidic covenant, history and morality are no longer the focus, for any claim that God might make peculiarly upon the house of David has already been satisfied by its founder. Rather, the Davidic covenant, a covenant of grace, looks beyond the vicissitudes of history, since they cease to be critical.” The Davidic covenant “fixes our attention” on “the constancy of God rather than the changeability of man, it brings to light what is secure and inviolable, whereas the Sinaitic texts tend to emphasize the precariousness of life and the consequent need for a continuously reinvigorated obedience.” (HGF).
    Not only Paul but also the writer to the Hebrews especially emphasizes the contrast between Sinai and Zion in terms of that which is earthly, temporary, anticipatory, and conditional on one hand and that which is heavenly, eternal, consummate, and unconditional on the other. This is because whereas the Sinai covenant was mediated through Moses in history, the covenant of grace is grounded in god’s eternal decree–the covenant of redemption (Gal. 3:20). (HGF). The entire gospel is always the announcement of this unfolding redemptive plot. As in the covenant of grace (as it was in the Davidic covenant, where God’s unconditional promise does not void the potential for temporal discipline), it is not the convenantal principle for obtaining justification and life.
    With respect to the principle of inheritance (law in the principial sense), Sinai and Zion are related by contrast rather than by continuum (Gal. 4; Heb 13; etc.). Nevertheless, the story (haggadah) is never absorbed into law and morality; even the law (in the redemptive-historical sense), as the Old Testament, witnesses to the gospel. Identified with the typological service it renders in pointing forward to Christ, it is not only a story of death and condemnation, but also of life through him as the true Israel who fulfilled the law and bore its sanctions for us.
    Identified with the principle of attaining the Abrahamic promise, however, the law ends up recapitulating the story of Adam. Paul appeals to a principle of law (ergon nomou) and a redemptive-historical drama (paidagogos, or as in Rom. 3:21, martyroumene hpo nomou kai ton propheton). Even with respect to the former sense, pace Bultmann and Betz, law and gospel (as principles of inheritance) are not inherently opposed. In fact, the comparison and contrast of the two Adams in Romans 5 requires the fulfillment of the law as the condition for the eschatological blessing of those whom they represent. Thus, believers are justified by the works of the law, but by Christ’s work rather than their own personal performance.
    Law and gospel only become sharply opposed when the question is raised as to how we, being found covenant-breakers in Adam, are to be reconciled to God and to receive the everlasting blessing.
    The Reference Range of Nomos in Paul
    Since these categories at best can only illumine the background of Paul’s usage, we are left with the context to determine in any given case what Paul by law. It has been persuasively demonstrated that the apostle refers to “law” both in terms of specific stipulations of the Sinai covenant (things that need “doing”), as the terms of covenantal blessing, and in terms of the history of Israel. In the first (principial) sense, Paul can only “see ‘law’ and ‘gospel’ as standing in contrast with each other.” (Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith,106). Westerholm even employs the categories widely used by Reformation theology here: law in the broader and narrower sense. (Ibid., 107-9). There is the Law, which is the Pentateuch generally, and “the law which can be ‘kept,’ ‘done,’ ‘fulfilled,’ or ‘transgressed'” –clearly ‘the legal parts’ of the Pentateuch.” (Ibid., 109). The Sinaitic legislation was accompanied by sanctions, and Paul includes these when he speaks of the ‘law.’ Thus the law promises life to those who perform its commands (Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12; cf. Rom. 2:13, 25; 7:10).” (Ibid). So “under the law” means “bound by demands of the Mosaic law code and subject to its sanctions.” (Ibid). It seems clear enough that for Paul law and promise are two different ways of securing this inheritance. “Of Paul’s 119 uses of nomos,” notes Douglas Moo, “none occurs in the plural,” and the occurrence in the LXX citations by him account for this in part, though it also suggests that “Paul discusses the law as a single entity rather than as a series of commands.” (Douglas Moo, “‘Law, ‘Works of the law,’ and Legalism in Paul.” Westminster Theological Journal 45 (1983): 75. Further, “nomos” appears to possess the root meaning ‘something laid down, ordered, or assigned and hence the system of customs or rules governing equitable and/or just distribution if things and duties. In a formal sense, then, the tern can be used generally of an ‘order,’ ‘system,’ or even ‘authority.'” (Ibid., 77) Law in this sense refers not simply the specific laws but to the whole system or covenant according to which both promise and threat depend on our personal performance of the stipulations. According to Moo, Romans 7:21 is an instance of what I am calling law in a principial sense:
    I would maintain that Paul distinguished promise and law by definition (see Gal 3:15-25 and Rom 4:14-16), so that the denial that justification can come through the law (e.g., Gal 3:11) is not a denial that man could ever be justified by means of the law (see Gal 2:21; 3:21) (Ibid., 88).
    “In other words, Paul appears to criticize ‘works of the law’ not because they are nomou (‘of the law’) but because they are erga (‘works’).” (Ibid., 100). Human beings, “according to Paul, required redemption from ‘the curse of the law’ (Gal 3:13), not better teaching about the meaning and use of the law.” (Ibid).
    It is striking how the prophets typically invoke the covenant sanctions for injustice, oppression, immorality, and idolatry. Notably absent are references to the failure to be circumcised or to observe the dietary laws. In fact, they routinely upbraid Israel for its confidence in the temple and the outward rites while their hearts remain uncircumcised. Paul’s alleged pessimism is already expressed in Deuteronomy and in the prophets, as Israel’s fall and exile are predicted and confirmed. (Whatever the dating of the final edition of Deuteronomy, I am assuming here that these later chapter are also preexilic.) It is also found in 4 Ezra (2 Esd.) 9:36: “We who have received the law must nevertheless perish on account of our sins.” (Cited by Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend. vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 497; from F. Loofs, Leitfaden zum Studium der Dog mengeschichte, 4th ed. (Halle a. S.: M. Niemeyer, 1906), 59.) It is unto this void that Paul announces the justification of the ungodly apart from law.
    It is difficult to see the logic in Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-3:20 apart from this interpretation. After all everyone’s mouth is stopped and held accountable precisely because (as is also taught in the Jewish doctrine of the Noachin laws) the moral core of the Sinai law is engraved on the conscience of every person. (David Novak, Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 20-25. See also idem, Jewish-Christian Dialogue: A Jewish Justification (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), esp. 27.) Gentiles are thus, indirectly, under the law by virtue of the covenant of creation (also a law-covenant), just as the Jews are also under the law in a more fully delineated sense in the Sinai covenant.
    Westerholm’s point is more specific, however, and more directly targets the NPP claim that in Paul’s usage “kaw” is something other than a body of commands: “But, as we have seen, ‘law’ in Paul most often means the Sinaitic legislation; and it is not legitimate to apply what Paul says of the scriptures in gneral to the Sinaitic laws without further ado” (emphasis original). (Footnote: Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith, 109. He add on 111, “To repeat according to Paul’s most frequent usage of nomos, the term refers to the sum of specific divine requirements given to Israel through Moses. They are intended to be ‘done’ (poiein, prassein) or ‘kept’ (phylassein, telein), through the placing of concrete demands of course makes possible the ‘transgression’ (parabasis) of the law as well.”) Therefore, Paul’s argument is that “since the law requires ‘doing,’ it ‘does not rest on faith.'” (Ibid). It is not any particular law or set of laws, but doing as opposed tobelieving, that marks Paul’s polemical contrast of law and gospel, works and faith.
    [Horton quoting Westerholm] ‘The law requires that its subjects comply with its commands. God’s promise to Abraham, however, cannot be made conditional upon what humans do. Therefore, if adherence to the law is required of Abraham’s descendants, “the promise is void” (Rom. 4:14). The same point is made in Gal. 3:18: “If the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise. (Ibid., 114). ‘ [End quote]
    In Paul’s view (see Phil. 3) it is possible to be righteous in a first-century-Jewish or even Sinaitic sort of way and yet remain unrighteous in relation to the teal demands of the law, which reverberate in the consciences even of Gentiles as the law of our very being as covenant creatures.
    Even if one could keep the Decalogue externally, this does not mean that the spirit of the law (unreserved love for God and neighbor) has been fulfilled. In fact, it is conceivable that the sense in which Paul regarded himself as “blameless” was that external conformity to the law that Jesus identified as “the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” that one must surpass in order to inherit the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20). With the rich young man whom Jesus encountered, Paul could well have said, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack? (19:20), yet both are found guilty of vilating the whole law by failing to fulfill the deepest intentions of the law on any specific point. “I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness” (Rom. 7:7-8).
    It is clear enough that Paul no less than Jesus made such statements within the context of Jewish exclusivism but as Westerholm notes, “in rejecting ‘works of the law,’ Paul moves the discussion onto another level.” (Ibid., 117). Crucially, and devastatingly for the NPP, Westerholm points out, “The works of the law,’ which do not justify are the demands of the law that are not met, not those observed for the wrong reasons by Jews.” (Ibid., 118). One might add that if Romans 2 the Jews are condemned for fulfilling the works of the law, this can hardly fit circumcision and dietary laws, which they did in fact keep scrupulously.
    [Quoting Westerholm] That Paul supports his rejection of the “works of the law” in Rom. 3:20, 28 by showing that Abraham was justified by faith, not works (4:1-5), is positively fatal to Dunn’s proposal, as it was to that of Gaston, For the “works” by which Abraham could conceivably have been justified, and of which he might have boasted (4:2), were certainly not observances of the peculiarly Jewish parts of the Mosaic code. Paul is here demonstrating that the broad category of “works” cannot be a factor in salvation in order to exclude the subcategory, “works of law.” Not particular works which set Jews apart, but works in general–anything “done” that might deserve recompense (misthos, 4:4) or justify price (kauchema, v. 2)–are meant, and that in contrast with the “faith” of one who “does not work” nit benefits by divine grace without any consideration of personal merit. (Ibid., 199) [End quote]
    Thus, Westerholm concludes, Luther’s “contrast between ‘law’ and ‘gospel,’ though never explicit in the epistles, does not distort Paul’s point.” (Ibid., 122). If, however, “gospel” is synonymous with “promise” –and the Reformers in fact used these terms interchangeably–then we can god one step further to recognize that Luther’s contrast (which Calvin and the Reformed tradition shared) is in fact explicitly found in Paul (Rom. 4:14-16; Gal 3:18; cf. Heb. 4:1-9).
    The interpretation I am arguing for on this point is also close to that of Richard Hays’s conclusions concerning Romans 4. If, according to Paul, the gospel upholds the law, then in what sense? His discussion of Abraham in chapter 4 seeks to show that νόμου πίστεως [3:27] is consistent with the Law–now understood to mean, however, not the Mosaic Covenant, but Scripture taken as a narrative whole. This is the hermeneutical transmutation that allows Paul to claim continuity between law and gospel.” (Richard B. Hays, “Three Dramatic Roles: The Law in Romans 3-4.” in Dunn, Paul and the Mosaic Law, 155.) Hays adds:
    [Horton quoting Hays] Either way, the Law, being associated with wrath and condemnation, is set in juxtaposition to faith and to the promise given to Abraham (4:13-17). Against the common Jewish view that the Law is a secure foundation, a source of life and hope for the elect community, Paul highlights its negative functions, its power to curse and condemn. [End quote]
    In Romans Paul has chosen “to focus on its awesome capacity to pronounce judgement and to bring condemnation by demanding a righteousness that it has no power to produce (cf. 8:3-4).” (Ibid., 157.) that through faith ‘we uphold the Law’ (3:31)” –and that the Law and Prophets testify to this gospel (3:21), “and then supports that claim by appealing to the story of Abraham, the ‘Law’ that is being upheld seems to be not only the Shema gospel.” (Ibid., 158). So concerning Romans 3:21, at least, Hays thinks–correctly, in my estimation–that J.A. Sanders is closer to the mark: Paul reads Torah in this place not as halakah, but as haggadah. And this is the basis for Paul’s narrative unity of their own historical prologue and mediator (a covenant mad exclusively between Yahweh and Israel) and basis (law rather than promise).
    Paul is therefore not being contradictory, as Raisanen and others suggest, nor must we force a unity by recourse to covenant nomism. Rather, Paul speaks of law in two distinct senses. The law as haggadah—the history of redemption—is and the Law of Sinai are assigned a temporary supporting role, not the lead, in the drama of God’s redemptive purpose. Thus, the torah is neither superseded nor nullified but transformed into a witness to the gospel.” Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 157.) In another sense (law as the basis of salvation: this latter confusion evidenced by this antagonists), Paul could not be more emphatic on the antithesis between law and gospel. This I would suggest, is the law as halakah, or the law as the principial means of securing the promise. And as Hays reminds us, “We see within Romans Paul’s movement from one hermeneutical perspective to another.” As commandment, the law could only condemn; as historical narrative (Old Testament Scripture), it leads to Christ and therefore to redemption apart from the law. (Hays, “Three Dramatic Roles: The Law in Romans 3-4,” 164.).
    In one sense, of course, Paul does not think that law and gospel are opposed even in the technical sense (i.e., as the terms in a covenant that serve as the basis for blessing or curse). Christ is the end of the law both as redemptive-historical telos and as the termination of its condemning sentence because he offers to the Father, in the Spirit, that perfect internal and external conformity to the law in our place. Therefore, the law is not set aside but upheld—fulfilled. We are justified apart from out personal perforamance only because his fulfillment of the law-covenant counts as our own.
    Thus the distinction between two covenants within the Old Testament itself becomes the crucial prerequisite for integrating a host of passages that are otherwise so susceptible to false dilemmas. As M.G. Kline reminds us, “Paul found the difference between two of the Old Testament covenants to be so radical that he felt obliged to defend the thesis that the one did not annul the other (Gal. 3:15ff).” (M.G. Kline, By Oath Consigned (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 22. Moises Silva adds, “We could hardly be accused of falling into speculation, for instance, if we should argue that the Judaizers insisted on the compatibility between the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants. This rather obvious point, however, has seldom affected our reading of Galatians 3 the way it ought to.” Oauk;s critics were probably saying that he was basically annulling God’s covenant with Israel, so in Galatians 3 “Paul is on the defensive.” The agitators were raising the “law keeping to a level that it was never intended to occupy.” (Moises Silva, “Is the Law Against the Promises? The Significance of Galatians 3:21 for Covenant Continuity,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, ed. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1990 (1:750).) So it is Paul’s opponents who are setting law and promise in antithesis (law over promise, Sinai over Abraham, the nation over the nations) and when this occurs, Paul has no choice but to take up their challenge by emphasizing the opposite conclusion.

    Restricting “works of the law” to ethnic distinctives is not a new exegetical proposal. In fact, the Reformers repeatedly encountered this view. Acknowledging that sometimes Paul has the ethnic markers in mind, Calvin nevertheless offers examples that confirms a wider intention. “Therefore no cavils of theirs can prevent us from holding the exclusive expression [“apart from works”] as a general principle.” In Romans 4:6 Paul contrasts debit and gift, not simply sometime works and other works, Calvin adds. (Calvin Institutes 3.11.20 (1:750). When Paul speaks of the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles being torn down by the abolition of the law (Eph. 2:14-15; Col. 2:13-14), Calvin recognizes:

    [Horton quoting Calvin] There is no doubt that this statement concerns the ceremonies, for he speaks of them as a wall that divides the Jews from the Gentiles. Hence, I admire that the second group of expositors rightly criticizes the first. But the second group also still does not seem to explain the meaning of the apostle very well. For I am not at all happy about comparing the two passages in every detail. When Paul would assure the Ephesians of their adoption into the fellowship of Israel, he teaches that the hindrance which once held them back has now been removed. That was in the ceremonies….Now who cannot see that a loftier mystery is referred to in the letter to the Colossians? The question there concerns the Mosaic observances, to which the false apostles were trying to drive the Christian people. But as in the letter to the Galatians he carries that discussion deeper—reverting , so to speak, to its starting point—so he does in this passage. For if you consider nothing else in the rites than the necessity of performing them, what is the point in calling them the written bond against us” [Col/ 2:14)? Moreover, why lodge nearly the whole of our redemption in the fact that they are “blotted out”? (Calvin Institutes 2.7.17.) [End quote]

    After defending a similar point in relation to Philippians 3, Kim notes:

    [Horton quotes Kim] To oppose this interpretation, Dunn dutifully starts with a citation of his dogma: “the need to attain one’s own righteousness was no part of traditional Jewish teaching.” This dogma does not allow him to take “my own righteousness” in verse 9 in its natural grammatical sense of Paul’s personal righteousness, the righteousness that he attained through his faithful observance of the law. (Seyoon Kim, Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 76)

    So these are not “personal achievements,” Dunn insists. Then, Kim wonders, whose achievements? “If they were not what he could claim as his personal achievement, what was the basis on which he could have greater ‘confidence in the flesh’ than his Jewish opponents (v. 4b)?” (Ibid.) If it was merely a national righteousness, he would have said “our righteousness.” (Ibid., 77; cf Reginald Fuller, “Here We Stand,” in By Faith Alone: Essays on Justification in Honor of Gerhard O. Forde, ed. Joseph A. Burgress and Marc Kolden (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 89.

    The NPP challenges any qualitative distinction between law and gospel (much less a covenant of works and a covenant of grace). Even each a seminal architect of the new perspective as Dunn recognizes, “The more obvious line of reasoning is that Paul was so remembered [as Judaism’s chief heretic] because he was in fact the one who brought the tension between law and gospel (already present in Jesus’ own ministry—Mark 7:1-23//Matt. 15: 1-20) to it sharpest and indeed antithetical expression.” (Dunn, “Paul and Justification by Faith,” 93.) However, as we have seen, he restricts this to the question of corporate identity (“a redefinition of the people of God”) rather than the way one is justified. (Ibid., 95) In this way he defuses the very tension that he concedes as crucial to Paul’s polemics.

    Even Wright makes a distinction between commands and promises. (Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 23.) In fact, although e would not wish to be seen aiding and abetting a confessional dogmatic system, throughout Climax of the Covenant especially, Wright repeatedly strengthens the exegetical case for the Mosaic theocracy as a law-covenant distinguishing from the Abrahamic promise-covenant. (Ibid., 146: For example, Paul’s point, then is that Israel as a nation has failed to keep Torah and is thus as a nation under its curse, so that Torah can hardly be the means of returning after exile and retaining membership and becoming a blessing to the world in accordance with the promise to Abraham” ; cf. 197.) Just at this point, however, Wright introduces us again to a false choice: “In [Gal. 3] vv. 15-18, then, Paul is not merely contrasting ‘law’ and ‘promise’ as mutually incompatible types of religious systems.” (Ibid., 166) Once more, “not merely” really seems to mean “not at all.” It is not clear who he has in mind as asserting “merely,” but the dominant view of the Reformed covenant of works simpliciter, but that is contained a works-principle (the Sinai covenant) alongside the promise-principle of Abrahamic covenant. (This view is articulated, for example, Herman Witsius, through his work The Economy of the Covenants, and by federal theologians from the early period (e.g. Olevianus) all the way up to Charles Hodge and Louis Berkof.)

    M.G. Kline has offered an insightful summary of this point. (Meredith Kline, “Gospel until the Law: Rom 5:13-14 and the Old Covenant,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34/4 (December 1991): 433-46.) He contrasts on “the cryptic parenthesis that appears in Rom 5:13-14, following the anacoluthon at the end of v. 12. (Ibid., 433.)

    [Horton quoting Kline] Classical covenantalism recognizes that the old Mosaic order (as its foundational level—that is, as a program of individual salvation in Christ) was in continuity with previous and subsequent administration of the overarching covenant of grae. But it also sees and takes a face value the massive Biblical evidence for a peculiar discontinuity present in the old covenant in the form of a principle of meritorious works, operating not as a way of eternal salvation but as the principle governing Israel’s retention of its provisional, typological inheritance. (Ibid., 434.) [End quote]

    Therefore Kline adds, “Paul does repeatedly oppose a Judaistic misinterpretation of the law, but their error was not the assertion that there was a works principle operating in the old covenant. Rather, it was the application of that principle to eternal salvation instead of to the typological level of national Israel’s history. (Ibid., 434 n. 5.) Those who regard “covenant” as a univocal concept that is always gracious in principle have to somehow reduce, relativize, or explain away the obvious biblical references to the works-principle, treating them as merely hypothetical. Yet, Kline concludes:

    [Horton quoting Kline] The law’s principle of works was not just something hypothetical. IT was actually applied—and with a vengeance. It was the judicial principle that governed the corporate life of Israel as recipient of the nation election and controlled Israel’s tenure in the typological kingdom of Canaan. Termination of the typological order and Israel’s loss of the nation election in the divine execution of the covenant curse in the Babylonian exile and again in A.D. 70 exactly as threatened in the Torah treaty, emphatically contradict the notion that the law’s stipulations and sanctions were mere hypothetical formulations….On the classic covenantal understanding, the law that came 430 years later did not annul the promise (Gal. 3:17)—not because the old covenant did not really introduce an operative works-principle, but because works and faith were operating on two different levels in the Mosaic economy. (Ibid., 435.) [End quote]

    We have a concrete historical example of what happens when the sanctions of the law-covenant governing the temporary theocracy are actually carried out, so why would anyone think that the everlasting blessing promised to Abraham might be fulfilled on similar terms?

    On election in Galatians 3, Wright says that Paul modifies the Jewish doctrine of covenant (Ibid., 171.) However, the New Testament does not treat Jesus as modifying a Jewish doctrine of election, covenant, and justification, but as the one in whom all of the elect (Jew and Gentile) were chosen before creation, and the one by whom the law-covenant is fulfilled so that justification can be obtained in a covenant of grace. As the writer to the Hebrews asserts, the Sinai covenant is “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13). Though thoroughly violated by the nation servant, it has been fulfilled b the true Israel, to whomo its ceremonies, institutions, and ethnic distinctions merely pointed. Partly because he adheres exclusively to a redemptive-historical meaning of law, Wright can conclude (interpreting 2 Cor. 3:18), “Torah and gospel are not the same, ‘but nor are they here antithetical.” (Ibid., 182.)

    Working within the narrow confines of the NPP presuppositions, with a univocal view of “covenant.” “law,” and “works of the law,” Wright’s conclusions on this question are far less nuanced than those of the Reformers and classic covenant theology, as well as those of many contemporary Pauline scholars. (Even Luther displayed remarkable different attitudes toward the law depending on the exegetical context and his own disputes with both Rom and Protestant antinomians. Despite a few examples of rhetorical overstatement, Luther’s How Christians Should Regard Moses indicates continuities as well as discontinuities between Moses and Christ (in LW, 35: 161-74). He is even more affirmative in his revised edition of his Preface to the Old Testament (in LW, 35:235-51). On Melachthon’s dispute with Agricola, see Timothy Wengert, Law and Gospel: Philip Melanchton’s Debate with John Agricola of Eisleben over Poenitentia (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977). I still think that Calvin was more nuanced, however, in formulating a hermeneutical approach to these questions in his commentaries and in his brief but illuminating summary of continuities and discontinuities in the Institutes (3:17). In his disputes with Anabaptists, Calvin underscored the unity of the covenant of grace and therefore the redemptive-historical continuity of promise and fulfillment. However, he stands squarely with Luther when the question is how one is made right with God (law versus gospel as the principle for obtaining the inheritance): “Removing, then, mention of law, and laying aside all consideration of works, we should, when justification is being discussed, embrace God’s mercy alone, turn our attention from ourselves, and look only to Christ….If consciences wish to attain any certainty in this matter, they ought to give no place to the law.” (Calvin Institutes 3.19.2.)

    In spite of his polemics against any principial antithesis between law and gospel, Wright concedes, “The Lutheran wants to maintain the sharp antithesis between law and gospel; so does Paul, but within the context of a single plan of God, and with no suggestion that the Torah itself is a bad thing.” (Wright, The Climax of the Covenant, 241.) Further, “the text,” namely, seeing the relation as “contained within the sense of climax, of ‘goal.’ When I read my goal I stop traveling; not because my journey was a silly idea but because it was a good idea now fully worked out.” (Ibid., 244.) Since there are no citations, and neither Luther nor the other Reformers ever said that the was a silly idea, it is once again unclear whom Wright has in mind as holding this view. At least with respect to the covenant theology that emerged within the Reformed tradition, the “wider context” is indeed provided for talking about the law in its redemptive-historical sense as the climax of the covenant without downplaying or eliminating talk of the law as a principle of inheritance opposed to gospel.

    Neither Paul nor the Reformers though that the law was itself the problem, as Bultmann, Betz, and other have (i.e., the law simply equals “curse”). (Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1979), 145-46.) But as Seyoon Kim keenly observes, “Deuteronomy 27:26 condemns not those who try to keep the law faithfully, but on the contrary, those who do not do that!” (Kim, Paul and the New Perspective, 130.) Similarly, as we have seen above, Jesus, Stephen, and Paul do not criticize their hearers for being keepers of the law, but for being lawbreakers. Neither as a covenant of life nor as the Old Testament is the law itself considered silly, much less bad. It is because of our ethical condition as a fallen race and individuals that places us in an adversarial relationship to the law, resulting in death and condemnation.

    In addition to Wright, Scott Hafemann suggests that Paul’s problem is not with the law but with the law without the Spirit. (Scott Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel (Tubingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1995), 438-51.) But as Raisanen observes, “Was not the absence of the Spirit in the law or the inability of the lawa to change the hearts of Israel an inherent weakness of the law itself (cf. Gal. 3:21)? (Raisanen, “Faith, Works and Election in Romans 9,” 158 n. 112.) At least that seems to be Paul’s argument, says Raisanen, although he judges that it is the result of the apostle’s misunderstanding of Judaism as a religion of “works-righteousness.” (Ibid.)

    More important, Hafemann’s contention weakens both the gravity of the situation “under the law” and the blessings realized in the new covenant. The problem is the same: working with a single covenant that simply requires modification (in this case, the law with the Spirit), Hafemann does not recognize the principal antithesis between law and gospel. While the Abrahamic covenant is purely promissory, the Sinatic is certainly represented as conditioning Israel’s national status by the works of the law (viz., Lev. 18:5; Deut. 4:1; 5:33; 6:24-25; 8:1; 30:15-18; Neh. 9:29; Ezek. 18:19; cf. 18:9, 21; 20:11, 13, 21). As Westerholm comments, “If Paul is wrong in considering the law a path to salvation, it is an error he shares with Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Ezekiel.” (Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith, 147.) Furthermore, if the law requires compliance with all of its stipulations, then even with the Spirit, believers remain under its curse. If we fail to locate Paul’s treatment of law within the total order of any particular covenant, we miss critical nuances by an abstract principle of law-plus-the Spirit. As the prophets announced (as in Jer. 31), the new covenant, in contrast to the Sinaitic, includes the gift of the Spirit on the premise that sins are forgiven and the transgressors are justified apart from their own covenant faithfulness.

    SUMMARY

    If the major condition that Paul’s gospel addresses is ethnic rather than ethical and ecclesiological rather than soteriological, it makes little sense that he would spend his first three chapters of Romans (and chapter 5) developing the argument that all people—Jew and Gentile alike—are in Adam, under judgment according to the principle or covenant of works. This way law—any imperative—cannot bring life. Justification and new life depend on a divine indicative and not just any such indicative, but God’s deed in Christ as offered in the covenant of grace.

    Interestingly, Michael Wyschogrod sees from a contemporary Jewish perspective the way in which Christology changes everything for Paul gives rise to his classic emphasis on justification and the law-gospel contrast. In Judaism, says Wyschogrod, merit is still a live category, and it is hoped that human beings will come to deserve their redemption. If not, however, “only God justifies and he justifies far more on the basis of mercy than on the basis of rewards earned by good deed.”

    [Horton quoting Westerholm] This being so, how could Paul have so misunderstood things? Part of the answer is his fixation on Jesus. The Jesus event so absorbed his theological attention that nothing could be permitted to compete with Jesus including the Torah, which had the deep loyalty of most Jews. Reverence for the Torah was so great that, in the mind of Paul, it was a threat to the proper appreciation of Jesus. (Ibid., 232). [End quote]

    Whatever it was that Paul learned on the Damascus road itself, the even of Christ does not merely provide a supplement to his inherited faith but initiates a paradigm shift that makes all things new.

    Reply
  16. inwoolee

    Nick,

    I know that this might be a A and B conversation, or to say a N and J conversation, so I apologize if I intrude on Josh’s incoming thoughts.

    I am not buying your stripped down Mosaic law. It does not go with the earlier chapters of Romans where Paul is clearly making a case for the “wrath of God.”

    Considering Romans ‘1:18 seems to set up the problem of wrath as that to be answered by the rest of the book. Chapter 2 talks about storing up wrath for the day of God’s wrath. Chapter 3 goes on to say that all men are under sin. The problem is that men–both Jew and Gentile–are under sin and therefore under wrath.’ How do you interpret the “the wrath of God?” Or is it again, the reply, “you just can’t see it” therefore it is not Biblical.

    Horton observes the following regarding the Mosaic law, “It is difficult to see the logic in Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-3:20 apart from this interpretation. After all everyone’s mouth is stopped and held accountable precisely because (as is also taught in the Jewish doctrine of the Noachin laws) the moral core of the Sinai law is engraved on the conscience of every person. (David Novak, Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 20-25. See also idem, Jewish-Christian Dialogue: A Jewish Justification (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), esp. 27.) Gentiles are thus, indirectly, under the law by virtue of the covenant of creation (also a law-covenant), just as the Jews are also under the law in a more fully delineated sense in the Sinai covenant.” (Horton’s Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ)

    Nick your last statement in your response to Josh seems to be a New law? The Mosaic law was to point to Christ who would fulfill all of it for the sinner. Christ either did it all, or nothing. Why did God send his son?

    Reply
    • Nick

      I: Considering Romans ‘1:18 seems to set up the problem of wrath as that to be answered by the rest of the book. Chapter 2 talks about storing up wrath for the day of God’s wrath. Chapter 3 goes on to say that all men are under sin. The problem is that men–both Jew and Gentile–are under sin and therefore under wrath.’ How do you interpret the “the wrath of God?”

      N: The wrath of God arises in response to sin, and is manifested temporally (earthly punishments) and escatologically (eternal punishments). This issue is addressed by Paul in Romans at various points. I basically agree with your analysis thus far.

      I: Horton observes the following regarding the Mosaic law, “It is difficult to see the logic in Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-3:20 apart from this interpretation. After all everyone’s mouth is stopped and held accountable precisely because the moral core of the Sinai law is engraved on the conscience of every person.

      N: I would basically agree, but with some qualifications. The Jews are held to a higher standard since they hold a more explicit manifestation of God’s commands, and thus are actually under greater condemnation.

      I: Gentiles are thus, indirectly, under the law by virtue of the covenant of creation (also a law-covenant), just as the Jews are also under the law in a more fully delineated sense in the Sinai covenant.”

      N: Agreed, but the Gentiles are in one sense automatically condemned by default since they are outside the Law and thus not “God’s People” by definition.

      I: Nick your last statement in your response to Josh seems to be a New law?

      N: Yes, a new law, Christ’s Law (1 Cor 9:20f; Gal 6:2).

      I: The Mosaic law was to point to Christ who would fulfill all of it for the sinner. Christ either did it all, or nothing. Why did God send his son?

      N: Nowhere does the Bible say Christ would fulfill the ML for the sinner, this can be shown in two ways:
      (a) Christ fulfilled the law in that only he was supposed to, such as being the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7b), we weren’t called to do that.
      (b) Christ is said to have abolished the Law by His death, it makes no sense to say He kept a standard that we’ve been dispensed from.

      Reply
  17. inwoolee

    Nick you say quoting now in response to Josh “Spiritual obedience does matter. I agree with that. But that alone is not enough. “Obedience is better than sacrifice,” no? It was better for Saul to do what God explicitly commanded than to do what he thought God wanted him to do. It was better for Uzzah to let the Ark hit the ground then to do what he thought was better and ‘rescue’ it. No one is questioning the spiritual requirement, but wasn’t the physical equally as important?” [end quote]

    Love your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. Do you do that Nick? Can you do that perfectly? No, that is why we need a Savior to do it for us. Can the Rich Young ruler do that Nick?

    The answer is here https://iustitiaaliena.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/jesus-called-the-mans-bluff-and-the-man-folded-the-rich-young-ruler/

    and here
    https://iustitiaaliena.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/from-hortons-covenant-and-salvation-union-with-christ/

    and in our wretched hearts and minds. The law is directly connected to the Holiness of God, your touching upon that doctrine.

    Reply
    • Nick

      I: Love your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. Do you do that Nick? Can you do that perfectly? No, that is why we need a Savior to do it for us. Can the Rich Young ruler do that Nick?

      N: No, I don’t do that perpetually, but the kicker is the Bible never speaks of us having to do that perpetually (hence the Bible’s teaching on being able to ask forgiveness when we fall) nor that we need a Savior “to do it for us” nor that Jesus did it for us. You need to step back and realize the Bible doesn’t speak that way, and for a proposition as critical as that for your position we would expect it to be clearly and repeatedly delineated. Without any offense to you, I believe that “we needed a Savior to do it for us” is a construct of an unbiblical framework, even if it is logically consistent on its own.

      On top of that, the Final Judgment passages always speak of us judged according to how we lived, never on “Christ did it for us.” Matt 25b is the prime example: those who did good works FOR Christ are saved, those who didn’t do good works FOR Christ were damned.

      I: The answer is here https://iustitiaaliena.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/jesus-called-the-mans-bluff-and-the-man-folded-the-rich-young-ruler/

      N: I read over that and responded over there.

      I: and here
      https://iustitiaaliena.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/from-hortons-covenant-and-salvation-union-with-christ/

      N: I’d respond very similar to how I did in the above link, though Horton is more professional about his presentation.

      Reply
      • inwoolee

        Nick,

        Can you please define for me what a “covenant” is?

      • inwoolee

        Nick you state to the question:

        I: Love your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. Do you do that Nick? Can you do that perfectly? No, that is why we need a Savior to do it for us. Can the Rich Young ruler do that Nick?

        N: No, I don’t do that perpetually, but the kicker is the Bible never speaks of us having to do that perpetually (hence the Bible’s teaching on being able to ask forgiveness when we fall) nor that we need a Savior “to do it for us” nor that Jesus did it for us. You need to step back and realize the Bible doesn’t speak that way, and for a proposition as critical as that for your position we would expect it to be clearly and repeatedly delineated. Without any offense to you, I believe that “we needed a Savior to do it for us” is a construct of an unbiblical framework, even if it is logically consistent on its own.

        —-
        Wow. Nick, your touching on the Justice and Holiness of God. Your reduction of God’s justice and holiness leads to your theological conclusion which has huge theological consequences, one of them being the active and passive obedience of Christ (where Christ was active in his passive and passive in his active obedience) and regarding God’s Holiness, Our Sin, God’s Wrath, and God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.

        When you reduce God’s justice and requirement for perfect obedience, your looking at things with wrong prescription glasses that do not see the perfect work of Christ for the sinner. ‘That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race; in order that by His passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, He has redeemed our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.’ (This is what I mean that Christ was passive in his active and active in his passive). You cannot separate the active and passive there two sides of the same coin, hence, Christ finished work.

        By obliterating the active obedience of Christ with your own theological constructs you reduce the finished work of Christ on the sinners behalf, and do not do justice to the Adamic covenant of works clearly in Genesis, Romans 5, and 1 Corinthians 15.

        The Adamic covenant of works is crucial to seeing Christ finished work for the sinner. God commanded Adam did he not? “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the three of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ).

        Romans 5 talks of the second Adam correct? Christ was that second Adam. Where Adam failed, Christ accomplished by his life and death. And on that third day he rose again from the dead for our Justification.

        You are holding hands with the NPP or the NPP is holding hands with you.

        I do not buy your interpretation of “Be Perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Remember Nick your righteousness has to surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

        Luke 18:
        9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10″Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
        13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

        14″I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  18. inwoolee

    Nick also this is very helpful. I love reading about this kind of stuff. update: It makes me dig deeper in the Gospel truth of Christ’s finished work (active and passive obedience) for the sinner. This introduction is from Horton on a White Horse Inn broadcast.

    ““Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of the best places to see the unity of God’s redemptive plan in the Covenant of Grace. Although the Gospel was already announced to Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:15); it’s more clearly revealed in the covenant that God made with Abraham. In Genesis 12, God promises two things: (1) An earthly inheritance and (2) a heavenly inheritance. First there’s the promise of an earthly seed, Isaac and earthy nation, Israel, and an earthly land, Canaan. But second God promises something far greater and wider; an everlasting seed and spiritual nation so vast that it cannot even be numbered and an everlasting homeland. This is an unilateral oath, confirmed again in Genesis 15 by God’s covenantal speech, and ratified by His passing through the halves of the severed animals as a way of calling down judgment on himself should he fail to fulfill this promise. Then in chapter 17 Isaac’s birth through Sarah is again promised along with the command to circumcise him and his heirs as the sign and seal of the covenant through all generations. Finally, in chapter 21 Isaac is born.

    Now, in fulfillment of His promise of an earthly nation and land, God brought his chosen people out of Egypt with a mighty hand through the Red Sea and led them through Mount Sinai where He gave Israel His law. Although Israel was to inherit the land by God’s gracious promise it could only remain in the land by obedience to the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws God commanded at Sinai. At Sinai it’s not God but the people who swear, “All this we will do.” And we read Moses response, “In accordance with all the words you have spoken, ‘All this we will do,’ he then splashed animal blood on the people, in other words, whereas in the covenant with Abraham God was the oath maker and He assumed the responsibilities by passing through the halves. In the covenant at Sinai the people are the oath makers and they assume personal responsibility for its blessings and curses.

    The earthly promises were but a type or shadow of the heavenly reality. Israel was created by God as a scale picture of the everlasting Sabbath that God would bring to the nations in Abraham’s great son, the child of Sarah rather than Hagar, namely Jesus Christ.

    So there is one unfolding plan of redemption and one unfolding covenant of grace with a covenant at Sinai and the theocracy of Israel as the typological “parenthesis” of that plan. The covenant of grace is everlasting, but the national covenant sworn at Sinai is a temporary kingdom. We know how things turned out, of course, as God says in Hosea 6:7 “Like Adam, Israel broke my covenant.” Yet along with the covenant curses for having broken the Sinai covenant, the prophets bring the Good News of an everlasting covenant that God swore to Abraham and would fulfill in the great day of the Lord.

    Jesus Christ is that greater son of Abraham. The promise Seed of the woman promised to Eve and to Sarah, in Him all the nations of the earth are blessed. He [Christ] is the last Adam and the true and faithful Israel who has fulfilled the law and born its curses for us in our place. He has been raised as the first fruits of the whole harvest, and we inherit the everlasting city that cannot be shaken, just as Abraham did by Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ alone to the Glory of God alone. That is the unfolding drama that Paul unpacks in his letter to the Galatians.” (Audio: 1:40 – 5:26 )”

    Reply
    • Nick

      I: Nick also this is very helpful. I love reading about this kind of stuff. It makes me dig deeper. This introduction is from Horton on a White Horse Inn broadcast.

      N: It helps me dig deeper as well. Thank you.

      Horton: Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of the best places to see the unity of God’s redemptive plan in the Covenant of Grace. Although the Gospel was already announced to Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:15); it’s more clearly revealed in the covenant that God made with Abraham. In Genesis 12, God promises two things: (1) An earthly inheritance and (2) a heavenly inheritance.

      Nick: This first paragraph (including the rest I didn’t quote) is simply amazing, very well put. I couldn’t agree more with the main points. I’m glad he pointed to Genesis 12, because it proves Abraham was obeying God long before Gen 15:6 came around. I would also add that Abraham certainly had a responsibility to obey God at all times, this was not “God did it all”, and this is confirmed clearly in Gen 26:4-5.

      Horton goes onto make some other pretty good points, but since this was only a short clip he didn’t get to the main ‘meat’ of Galatians.

      Reply
      • inwoolee

        Nick,

        Did you mention Horton referring to Hosea 6:7 “Like Adam, Israel broke my covenant.” Byron Curtis has a chapter on Hosea 6:7 in Law is Not of Faith. This one of the many ways the punster Hosea shows that there was a covenant of works in the Garden.

        If you go here the folks at the White Horse Inn goes more into this statement. It is the most current broadcast titled “Galatians part 3.”

        The promise was not based on Abraham’s obedience, God did it all in the covenant of promise, “God was the oath maker and He assumed the responsibilities by passing through the halves.” Abraham did not go through the halves of the animals, again, “God assumed the responsibilities by passing
        “alone” through the halves. What happened when Abraham took Hagar? (Genesis 16:4) Abraham a sinner who tried to take matters into his own hands. Yet in this covenant of grace, God kept his promise. (Genesis 17:3-8). Here are verses 7 and 8:

        “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

        The folks at the White Horse inn has a broadcast titled “Galatians 3” (the most recent broadcast), and they provide the “meat” in the broadcast.

        http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/The_White_Horse_Inn/archives.asp

        Can you answer the question, of how you define a covenant?

  19. Nick

    Thank you for this long quote. There is actually a lot of it I strongly agree with. Here are my thoughts:

    Quote: Obedience to the law was, of course, a condition of “long life” in the land of Canaan, but it could not–and cannot–bring eschatological life (Gal. 3:21).

    N: Great! It is good that such details were clearly stated, many don’t recognize this. This premise is key because it shows it never was about ‘works righteousness’ or ‘perfect obedience’ because it never promised eternal life in the first place.

    Quote: One moment, the law is equivalent to the Old Testament or, more narrowly, the old covenant (specifically identified with the Sinaitic economy), both of which evidence continuity redemptive-historically, that is, in terms of promise and fulfillment. The sacrifices are pointers to Christ. The righteousness required in the law is the same righteousness given in the new covenant.

    N: I fully agree with everything except the last sentence here, which seems totally out of place. It is not the same righteousness in both the law as in the new covenant – not only does that directly conflict with Paul’s explicit statements contrasting the two, it also contradicts Horton’s above admission the law never promised escatological life when here he says the law gives the same righteousness the new covenant gives.

    Quote: When the laws are set before the people as a covenant to personally fulfilled (Josh. 8:34), with attendant sanctions (Deut. 30:15-20), it is clear that we are dealing with law as command (the principle law) and, specifically, the covenant mediated by Moses at Sinai. We encounter here not simply free-floating laws (nomoi), but stipulations that are part of a specific covenant canon.

    N: Agreed!

    Quote: However, “the Law” can also refer to a body of writings as a whole, especially the Pentateuch, which of course also includes the promise of the gospel apart from “law” (Pss. 19, 119). Similarly, when we read in the New Testament, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), or that the law itself “made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19) but was “only a shadow of the good things to come” (10:1), it is obvious that although the law of Moses/Sinai (i.e., the old covenant) is in view, it is considered in its redemptive-historical (historia salutis) relation of promise and fulfillment. The old covenant is glorious, but the new covenant more radiant still. There is a continuum rather than a sharp antithesis. In this sense, the contrast is from bright to brighter, not with an inherent tension.

    N: Agreed!

    Quote: Commenting on Galatians 3:10-12, Calvin writes,
    The argument is drawn from the contradictory nature of the two schemes…The law justifies him who fulfils all its precepts, while faith justifies those who are destitute of the merit of works and who rely on Christ alone…

    N: The law does not justify, not in the salvific sense. Horton already admitted this above. So Calvin’s comments/thesis is flawed.

    Quote: Hebrews especially emphasizes the contrast between Sinai and Zion in terms of that which is earthly, temporary, anticipatory, and conditional on one hand and that which is heavenly, eternal, consummate, and unconditional on the other.

    N: Yes. This is why ‘perfect obedience’ under Sinai makes no sense, because it was earthly and temporary.

    Quote: Thus, believers are justified by the works of the law, but by Christ’s work rather than their own personal performance.
    Law and gospel only become sharply opposed when the question is raised as to how we, being found covenant-breakers in Adam, are to be reconciled to God and to receive the everlasting blessing.

    N: This is in direct conflict with the previous passage I quoted. The Law didn’t promise eternal life, so even if Christ kept it for us the blessing would not be eternal life.

    Quote: Since these categories at best can only illumine the background of Paul’s usage, we are left with the context to determine in any given case what Paul by law. It has been persuasively demonstrated that the apostle refers to “law” both in terms of specific stipulations of the Sinai covenant (things that need “doing”), as the terms of covenantal blessing, and in terms of the history of Israel.

    N: Yes. That is virtually what it means in the super-majority of the times ‘law’ is mentioned. Since it can be clearly shown the “law” Paul is opposing is Sinai in all the major contexts, we need to focus on that first and foremost.

    Quote: Thus the law promises life to those who perform its commands (Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12; cf. Rom. 2:13, 25; 7:10).” (Ibid). So “under the law” means “bound by demands of the Mosaic law code and subject to its sanctions.” (Ibid). It seems clear enough that for Paul law and promise are two different ways of securing this inheritance.

    N: This, I believe, is the crux of the argument. Is Paul speaking of:
    (A) ONE type of righteousness, attained by works (under the law) either by us or Christ.
    (B) TWO types of righteousness, a non-saving righteousness the Law grants, and a saving righteousness that comes only from God.

    Historic Protestantism seems to be siding with (A), while I believe Paul is really speaking of (B).

    Quote: “In other words, Paul appears to criticize ‘works of the law’ not because they are nomou (‘of the law’) but because they are erga (‘works’).”

    N: This thesis fails for the plain fact Paul focuses on the problems of the Law, not works in general. Of the law Paul says it brings wrath, makes men slaves, never promised eternal life, etc, etc. And, furthermore, Paul is continually contrasting Jews to Gentiles, which (again) is one of Mosaic covenant and not ‘works in general’.

    Quote: “To repeat according to Paul’s most frequent usage of nomos, the term refers to the sum of specific divine requirements given to Israel through Moses.

    N: Agreed. This should serve to curb the attempts to make Paul’s main focus about some other law.

    Quote: It is not any particular law or set of laws, but doing as opposed to believing, that marks Paul’s polemical contrast of law and gospel, works and faith.

    Nick: This is precisely where the train goes off the tracks. How can he jump from saying Paul’s most frequent use of nomos is Mosaic Law to “it’s not about any particular law”? That’s not a logical development from the established evidence.
    Rather, Paul’s argument most certainly *IS* about a particular law, and not about “doing versus believing.”

    Quote: Moises Silva adds, “We could hardly be accused of falling into speculation, for instance, if we should argue that the Judaizers insisted on the compatibility between the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants. This rather obvious point, however, has seldom affected our reading of Galatians 3 the way it ought to.” Paul’s critics were probably saying that he was basically annulling God’s covenant with Israel, so in Galatians 3 “Paul is on the defensive.” The agitators were raising the “law keeping to a level that it was never intended to occupy.”

    N: Bingo. That’s Paul’s thesis. Why/How this becomes “not about any particular law or set of laws, but doing as opposed to believing” is the real mystery.

    Reply
  20. inwoolee

    Nick, your talking over Horton to affirm your own theological position.

    Quoting again from Horton’s Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ
    However, “the Law” can also refer to a body of writings as a whole, especially the Pentateuch, which of course also includes the promise of the gospel apart from “law” (Pss. 19, 119). Similarly, when we read in the New Testament, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), or that the law itself “made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19) but was “only a shadow of the good things to come” (10:1), it is obvious that although the law of Moses/Sinai (i.e., the old covenant) is in view, it is considered in its redemptive-historical (historia salutis) relation of promise and fulfillment. The old covenant is glorious, but the new covenant more radiant still. There is a continuum rather than a sharp antithesis. In this sense, the contrast is from bright to brighter, not with an inherent tension.
    Yet when law/commandment and gospel/promise are strictly set in opposition, the issue in question is how one obtains the promise (ordo salutis).

    Would you agree with Horton’s summary from the same chapter?

    SUMMARY

    If the major condition that Paul’s gospel addresses is ethnic rather than ethical and ecclesiological rather than soteriological, it makes little sense that he would spend his first three chapters of Romans (and chapter 5) developing the argument that all people—Jew and Gentile alike—are in Adam, under judgment according to the principle or covenant of works. This way law—any imperative—cannot bring life. Justification and new life depend on a divine indicative and not just any such indicative, but God’s deed in Christ as offered in the covenant of grace.

    Interestingly, Michael Wyschogrod sees from a contemporary Jewish perspective the way in which Christology changes everything for Paul gives rise to his classic emphasis on justification and the law-gospel contrast. In Judaism, says Wyschogrod, merit is still a live category, and it is hoped that human beings will come to deserve their redemption. If not, however, “only God justifies and he justifies far more on the basis of mercy than on the basis of rewards earned by good deed.”

    [Horton quoting Westerholm] This being so, how could Paul have so misunderstood things? Part of the answer is his fixation on Jesus. The Jesus event so absorbed his theological attention that nothing could be permitted to compete with Jesus including the Torah, which had the deep loyalty of most Jews. Reverence for the Torah was so great that, in the mind of Paul, it was a threat to the proper appreciation of Jesus. (Ibid., 232). [End quote]

    Whatever it was that Paul learned on the Damascus road itself, the even of Christ does not merely provide a supplement to his inherited faith but initiates a paradigm shift that makes all things new.

    Reply
    • Nick

      I: Nick, your talking over Horton to affirm your own theological position.

      N: The ‘difficulty’ I see is that while we agree on much of the same foundational points, we are not drawing the same conclusions.

      I: Would you agree with Horton’s summary from the same chapter?
      SUMMARY
      If the major condition that Paul’s gospel addresses is ethnic rather than ethical and ecclesiological rather than soteriological, it makes little sense that he would spend his first three chapters of Romans (and chapter 5) developing the argument that all people—Jew and Gentile alike—are in Adam, under judgment according to the principle or covenant of works.

      N: I believe the problem was ethnic, but not in the NPP sense of ‘ethnic markers’. The Torah had to be kept as a whole (esp 10 Commandments), so the NPP is wrong to reduce it to ‘ethnic markers’. I believe the core issue was ethnic-soteriological: the Judaizers saw God’s favor attached to lineage.
      I do *not* agree with Horton’s analysis that all men are (quote) “under judgment according to the principle or covenant of works” because I don’t see the “covenant of works” being taught in word or concept in Rom 1-5 (or anywhere else).

      I think one of the big problems here is that we are dividing up Romans differently. Here is how I see people typically dividing up Romans:
      Ch1-3, Paul setting up an indictment against all mankind.
      Ch1, Gentiles under sin, condemned.
      Ch2, Jews under sin, condemned.
      Ch3, recap, all men under sin, condemned.
      Ch3b-4, salvation through Christ.

      I don’t think that’s fully accurate. Paul is not really focused on building a ‘legal indictment’ from Ch1-3.
      Ch1A (esp 1:1-4, 16-17), Christ manifested in salvation history, God’s promise comes to light.
      Ch1:18-Ch2:16, ALL men under sin in general, judged by their works.
      Ch2:17-3:8, Judaizer hypocrisy exposed.
      Ch3:9-20, more on Judaizers or sin in general
      Ch3:21ff, God’s promises to solve sin problem revealed, apart from the law.

      I think 2:1-3:8 isn’t adequately dealt with in the traditional Protestant reading.

      Reply
  21. inwoolee

    Inwoolee: Therefore, correct me where you stand, There is no Gospel in your system, but a new law. So I would be assuming that you hold to a new law correct? Then what is your Gospel?

    Nick: There is no “gospel” as you define it, but there is a Gospel. And yes, it does rest on being incorporated under a new law, which is the plain teaching of Scripture:
    1 Cor 9: 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
    21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

    Paul, as a Christian, is under “Christ’s law” (which is distinct from the Mosaic Law as the context shows).

    ———-
    Nick what I meant by the question is your Gospel a new law?

    What do you mean by [quoting Nick] “being incorporated under a new law”?

    Clearly tell me what the Gospel is?

    Reply
    • Nick

      The term “Gospel” takes on range of meaning in the Bible, starting with Christ’s birth. It takes on it’s fullest meaning after the Resurrection. The Gospel encompasses all the life and teachings of Jesus. To embrace the Gospel is to embrace and obey all the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. It is a ‘new law’ so to speak, because we’re living under Christ’s standards of what makes someone righteous.

      Reply
      • inwoolee

        Let me clarify the question, how then is one Justified in the sight of a Holy God?

      • inwoolee

        So the Gospel in your definition is to “embrace and obey all the teaching and Jesus and the Apostles,” and you call this the new law. So the Gospel would be a new law which makes us righteous before a righteous and Holy God.

        Nick this is not good news, this is bad news, one that the Scriptures do not teach when they speak of the Gospel and/or Justification.

        Rather ‘The Gospel is the announcement that the righteousness of Christ provided by his faithful life, death, and continued intercession for us is made yours by faith alone, not your faithfulness, just you’re trusting in the one who was faithful for you. This is Gospel and it is so central to the Christian faith.’ (From White Horse Inn Broadcast, “Why You Should Care About Justification”)

        Galatians 2:21 is clear,
        ““I do not make void the grace of God; for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died in vain”

        Take the words from J. Gresham Machen, New Testament scholar in his commentary on Galatians comments on this verse,

        I do not make void the grace of God,” says Paul in concluding the report of his speech to Peter; “for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died in vain.” The “for” here gives a reason for the use of the harsh word “make void”–” ‘make void,’ I say; for that is just the right word, since if Judaizers say, justification comes even in part through our obedience to the law, then Christ died in vain.”

        This verse is the key verse of the Epistle to the Galatians; it expresses the central thought of the Epistle. The Judiazers attempted to supplement the saving work of Christ by the merit of their own obedience to the law. “That,” says Paul, “is impossible; Christ will do everything or nothing: earn your salvation if your obedience to the law is perfect, or else trust wholly to Christ completed work; you cannot do both; you cannot combined merit and grace; if justification even in slightest measure is through human merit, then Christ died in vain.”

        J.Gresham Machen, Notes on Galatians. Edited by John H. Skilton, Solid Ground Classic Reprints, page 161.

        Three books I would recommend on this crucial subject:
        J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism
        Michael Horton’s Gospel-Driven Life
        Petrus Dathenus’ The Pearl of Christian Comfort

  22. Inwoo

    Hey Nick this has been a fruitful conversation although via blog is not always the ideal way to converse. Probably this will not be the last comment here. I learned through a prof. that the Gospel is not a gun fight, but one should always speak the truth in love. Forgive me if my words have been contrary to that, and they have I’m sure, I am a sinner (a justified one) These topics are crucial to the Gospel; they touch on the heart of the matter of Justification by Grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. There is a lot of published, scholarly work, you might be aware of, on these topics that you should dip into (two of them are orthodox presbyterian church’s statement/ report on Justification [which is free online check some past posts on this blog, it’s there in PDF] and Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry-which has clear chapters on the Adamic covenant of works and the active obedience of Christ, among the other helpful chapters). I think Josh who you have been dialoguing with publicly and privately has some good things to say and to think about. The Gospel is the power of salvation. The law is good and holy (the problem is not with the law, but with my sinful self), again the law is good and holy, BUT it is not the power of salvation. The Gospel is the power of salvation. I
    pray that you may not trust in your doing/working, righteousness (which are as filthy rags) but trust only in the finished work of Christ alone in his perfect law fulfilling life for the sinner (imputed righteousness), and his sacrificial death on behalf of the sinner. As Kim Riddlebarger announced in a sermon, “He [Christ] lived for us, died for us, and was raised for us.”

    Reply
  23. inwoolee

    Nick, I have been following the conversation. You haven’t made your case. Please explain Hosea 6:7.

    The mosaic covenant is a republication of the covenant of works.

    Reply
    • Nick

      I am looking into the Hos 6:7 thing, but the problem now is your posts are getting buried in a thread that is too long and at it’s end (as Josh and I have said enough for one thread).

      The short and only answer I will give (on this thread, that is) is that Hos 6:7 can be taken various ways, non of which demand a ‘covenant of works’ interpretation.

      1) The term “Adam” here can simply mean men/man/etc.

      2) If Adam, the ‘covenant’ here need not be the same, but rather means ‘each has transgressed the respective covenants I gave them’. The ‘covenant’ here as far as Israel goes is first to be understood as the Mosaic, as that is what they are repeatedly said to have transgressed.

      3) The ‘covenant’ with Adam is largely undefined, and with the extents, conditions, and promises lacking cannot be of any value in appealing to it.

      Reply
  24. inwoolee

    Nick,

    Your reducing Hoses 6:7 to fit your theological system.

    What is your definition of the covenant?

    Reply

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