Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Republication of the Covenant of Works

There is a sense in which the Mosaic law (or a portion thereof) is a republication of the covenant of works.  More could be said about that point, but it has recently come to my attention that there is an overture to create an OPC study committee (for a single presbytery, if I understand the overture) to study the issue of republication (link to page).  While I think it is a profitable study, and one that may help (when properly understood and explained) resolve the differences between Presbyterians and covenantal Reformed Baptists, I'm not sure whether the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest has sufficient manpower for the job.  I hope that others will rise to the occasion to assist in this task of studying this important issue.  Please pray that this study, if approved, will benefit both the particular presbytery but also the body of Christ at large.



Reyjacobs said...

The so-called 'covenant of works' wasn't even a covenant. It wasn't about 'salvation' or 'justification' or about 'getting to heaven.' It isn't even literal history but some sort of allegory. Unless a talking snake really was the minister of this covenant. Because Genesis 3:1 is very clear "the snake was the most cunning BEAST OF THE FIELD which the Lord God made." He wan't any fallen angel in disguise; he really was a snake. So here's this non-covenant convenant with a snake as its minister, a snake who tells the truth and points out that God is lying, which the people find is absolutely true, and God throws a temper tantrum and punishes everyone for His lie. Yeah, that must be literal history, since it presents God in such a great light. (I mean come on!)

Reyjacobs said...

BTW, since their link mentions the phrase "The Law is Not of Faith" allow me to make an observation. Paul says "The Law is Not of Faith, for it says, whoever does these commands shall live by them." It says that, it really does, but how does that make it not "of faith"? The Law commands faith in God, it constantly asserts that it comes from God, and who is going to keep its commands without believing in its divine origin? Of course the Law is of faith! How could it not be? But Paul's argument appears to be "the law is not of faith, because it has requirements" -- as if his own teaching doesn't have requirements. I could just as easily argue "Paul's doctrine is not of faith, because Paul says 'keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you'."

Ljdibiase said...

It's a reaction against the TLNF crowd. Venema's review of that book lays the issues out pretty clearly. Apparently you are on the Klinean side, but personally I hope that view is repudiated.

Eric Hettinger jr said...

I am pretty sure Tfan is no Klinean, it is one thing to say in a sense, Kline would (in my very limited understanding) make it primarily a republication.

turretinfan said...

I'm flabbergasted that you think I might be a Klinean.

Ljdibiase said...

You're right, what was I thinking?

turretinfan said...


Nick said...

The thing that gets me about the Covenant of Works is that it isn't mentioned in Scripture, yet it's assumed (under various dubious premises) that it "somehow, someway" was "republished". If Paul's objection is to the Mosaic Law as a whole, to assume or suggest there is a more fundamental element he's getting at is reading into the text.

turretinfan said...

The expression "covenant of works" may not be used. That's a far cry from saying that the covenant itself isn't mentioned.

Nick said...

That's just it though: the covenant that is mentioned plainly is the Mosaic (vs the New). There isn't even an allusion to a third covenant, much less one "republished" in some sense.

turretinfan said...

There are a lot more than three covenants, just so you know.

Nick said...

Soteriologically, the only two that Paul is concerned with are the Mosaic and Christian. I've never heard the covenants given to Phinehas and Noah being 'republished' or tied into salvation.

turretinfan said...

It's amusing, you know. You are able to recognize other covenants without the word "covenant" being used. It's just when something is theologically inconvenient that the word-concept fallacy rolls out.

Nick said...

I guess I don't follow your argument. Are you saying the word "covenant" doesn't appear with Noah (Gn 9:12-13) and Phinehas (Num 25:12-13)? Either way, I don't see how this permits one to project onto Scripture a covenant as significant as the "covenant of works," particularly a re-manifestation of it in the Mosaic Covenant.

turretinfan said...

I am confident I wasn't making an argument, just an observation.

I may have overestimated you, though.

Are you adopting essentially a solo scriptura position in which the only way we can call X a covenant is if the Scriptures explicitly call it a covenant using that word?

If not, then surely you agree that we can call X a covenant, even if Scripture does not use that term. In which case we are back to my prior observation.



ct said...

Think of it simply. It is just Federal Theology. Jesus - the second Adam - came to accomplish what the first Adam failed to accomplish. So do you think Jesus came to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Obviously that command to the first Adam represented the law that Jesus was to be *born under*, and that law in obviously elaborated form was republished (*not re-established*) on Sinai. Israel - national Israel - as a prototype of the Messiah was given that law - typically - regarding the land. Of course it was only Jesus who could and who would follow the law 100% and thus accomplish what
Adam failed to accomplish. Jesus then of course also paid the penalty incurred by Adam and voluntarily suffered death on the cross. His sacrifice was enough for all the elect because Jesus was the only 100% *innocent* human being after the fall. He didn't have original sin (his father was the Holy Spirit), and he didn't have any active sin.

To understand this rather obvious doctrine (which isn't Klinean, by the way, any more than Trinitarianism is 'Klinean', i.e. it's the enemies of Kline, the Federal Visionists, who Alinsky-like called republication 'Klinean' because they can have any notion of the Covenant of Works to begin with because they attack justification by faith alone starting with attacking the Covenant of Works in the garden).

Again, to understand this rather obvious doctrine (obvious if you understand basic Federal Theology, know two things: there is one way to be saved: works. Yes, you heard that right. Works. Either your own (good luck with that), or Jesus', appropriated by faith. (Go with the latter.)

Second: there are really *three* unique players in God's plan of redemption: unfallen Adam in the Garden; national Israel; and Jesus Christ Himself. None of those three correlate to fallen man. Individual Israelites were saved by faith in the coming Messiah just as all fallen people are saved by faith in the already come Messiah, but *national Israel* is unique in God's plan. Their very history is the substance of special revelation. They were given the role to carry and protect the Oracles of God. They also were to be the cradle of the coming Messiah and had to keep the royal bloodline pure from Adam to Christ. *They, or national Israel as an entity - are a prototype of the Messiah Himself. No Gentile nations or people or individual shares these unique roles. (This is why Paul in Romans has a difficult time explaining just why his fellow Jews are just like anybody else regarding salvation, while at the same time they are unique in the plan of redemption.)

So this uniqueness of *national* Israel helps one to see just why the Mosaic Covenant can be a typical works covenant for them only. Not for salvation, but for them as the prototype of the coming Messiah who very well will and did follow the Law unto salvation.

Ljdibiase said...

2 Samuel 7 records God making a covenant with David, but nowhere in that chapter is it called a covenant. We see it called "covenant" in a later reference (e.g., Ps. 89), but clearly God doesn't have to say "I am now making a covenant with you" in order for it to be a covenant. The question is whether in substance it is a covenant.

We see the substance of a covenant with Adam in the garden. There is a possible later reference to this at Hosea 6:7, "like Adam they transgressed the covenant." This also underlies the covenantal framework concerning Adam and Christ in Romans 5.

Ljdibiase said...

"that law in obviously elaborated form was republished (*not re-established*) on Sinai."

Just to clarify, the law was "republished" at Sinai (WCF 19), not the covenant of works.

"which isn't Klinean, by the way"

Kline popularized the view that the covenant of works was republished and operates at the level of land and blessing for national Israel. That is not the historic Reformed position, and there are serious problems with it. Read Cornelius Venema's review of TLNF for starters.

ct said...

No, in this case the law is the Covenant of Works. Jesus came to fulfill what the first Adam failed to fulfill. The Covenant of Works never became defunct anyway. It lives on as a curse after the fall.

No, there is no reason to say merely the law was republished and not the Covenant of Works.

Jesus fulfilled the Covenant of Works. He did that by following the law - *all* of the law - 100%. He didn't do it by not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (do you follow that?).

This subject is made difficult because it is the stomping ground of numerous false teachers and groups of false teachers who despise what all false teachers ultimately despise which is the central doctrine of justification by faith alone. Because they come at that doctrine obliquely and from different angels, and from different points 'up stream', so to speak (some starting in the Garden by declaring the Covenant of Works to be non-existent) it confuses people endlessly (and they grin).

Ljdibiase said...

"Jesus came to fulfill what the first Adam failed to fulfill. The Covenant of Works never became defunct anyway. It lives on as a curse after the fall."

Yes, but this has nothing to do with republication at Sinai. The covenant of works underlies all the administrations of the covenant of grace, in the sense that it is always the case that only perfect obedience results in blessedness. With Adam it was his own personal, perfect obedience that was required -- as that is a covenant of works. After Adam it is the obedience of Christ, imputed to us by faith -- even during the time of Moses, looking ahead to Christ -- as that is the covenant of grace.

The law for believers -- OT and NT alike -- remains as a rule of life, not as a covenant of works.

ct said...

What do you think Christ was obedient to? Christ is *called* the *second Adam*, the last Adam.

You have to understand Federal Theology to see this doctrine in question. People seem to be easily confused regarding it, and then get fervently pious regarding it ("We're not saved by our works!") as if Witsius and Boston and Bavinck didn't grasp this.

Read my comments above again. Your response suggests you skimmed them, if that.

Nick said...

The fact is though, the term "covenant" is used in your Psalm 89 example. The Hosea 6:7 is only a "possible" reference, with various interpretations, and thus is insufficient. Is that the best we should go by when something as critical as the Covenant of Works is in question? I don't believe so.

Nick said...

One is not free to say any given X is a covenant in Scripture; especially not something as significant as the "covenant of works". The fact Scripture uses the term "covenant" quite often, particularly for Moses and Jesus, indicates we should be even more cautious of 'sneaking in' a third, unnamed covenant onto the text. In that regard, the charge of "solO scriptura" doesn't stick.

Ljdibiase said...

Friend, the issue is not Christ's role as the second Adam. We all understand that. The question is what did God require of the Israelites themselves as a condition of their blessing in the land. Witsius offers you no support:

"The old testament is nothing but the testament of grace, as proposed under the vail of types... the inheritance cannot be one thing under the Old and another under the New economy... the same inheritance is held forth different ways....

"...the quiet possession of the land of Canaan... was a type of the spiritual rest.... The land of Canaan was given to Israel in virtue of the testament of grace, not for any merit or worth of theirs..." (Economy of the Covenants, 4.11.6-11).

ct said...

National Israel was a prototype of the Jesus Christ. Frankly, this is not difficult to grasp. The unique nature of national Israel is not difficult to grasp. And when the land aspect is brought up to denigrate Kline what is happening is false teachers are smearing the notion itself that the Covenant of Works was republished on Sinai because they despise any notion of Jesus fulfilling that Covenant and of God's elect appropriating that obedience through faith alone. The false teachers love darkness and hate the light. They love bondage to the Kingdom of Satan and want you in it with them and everybody else they can pull into that bondage and darkness and death.

ct said...

I'm not going to dig up the context of the Witsius quote, but you need to understand that this:

"the inheritance cannot be one thing under the Old and another under the New economy..."

does not refer to salvation. I an others can seemingly write that individual Israelites were saved by faith in the coming Messiah just as post-incarnation we are saved by faith in the already come Messiah an infinite amount of times and we'll get the same pious exclamations that Israelites could not save themselves by their works. At some point it becomes an I.Q. issue.

ct said...

By the way, why was Israel expelled from the land? Because they didn't have faith in the coming Messiah? Or because they violated and ignored every command God gave them for condition of staying in the land?

ct said...

I.e, do you really think all Israelites who were expelled from the land were unsaved in that they didn't have faith in the coming Messiah?

Do you see how the false teachers twist those who agree with them into believing what you think you are protecting from?

Ljdibiase said...

"I'm not going to dig up the context of the Witsius quote, but you need to understand that this:

'the inheritance cannot be one thing under the Old and another under the New economy...'

does not refer to salvation."

Yes it does. Here is the fuller context for you: "As the old testament is nothing but the covenant of grace, as it was dispensed before Christ came in the flesh, it is necessary, that all the blessings of good things which were promised by the covenant of grace, as such, have like-wise a place in the Old Testament. But the benefits of the covenant of grace are eternal salvation, and whatever has a necessary connection therewith; such as, regeneration... faith, justification, spiritual peace, adoption..."

But I'm not sure why you would dispute that portion. Even Kline acknowledges that Israel was under a covenant of grace as it pertains to salvation. Here he is in Kingdom Prologue:

"The old covenant order was composed of two strata and the works principle.... only applied to one of these, a secondary stratum. There was a foundational stratum having to do with the personal attainment of the eternal kingdom of salvation and this underlying stratum, continuous with all preceding and succeeding administrations of the Lord's Covenant of Grace with the church, was informed by the principle of grace..." (p.321).

The issue with Kline is that he sees this "secondary stratum" of national Israel's presence in Canaan as operating according to a works principle. But this is where the other part of the Witsius quote comes in. Witsius directly rejects this view:

"The quiet possession of the land of Canaan... was a type of the spiritual rest [that is, salvation]... the land of Canaan was given to Israel in virtue of the testament of grace [and not works]."

Kline has an odd view that Canaan is a type of eternal salvation, and yet it operates under a principle opposed to that for eternal salvation. Venema notes in his review that this turns typology on its head:

"Biblical typology assumes the essential similarity in meaning and symbolism between the Old Testament type and the New Testament reality.... From the vantage point of [Kline's] understanding, it is difficult to make sense of the claim that the Mosaic administration functioned typologically as a kind of covenant of works.... In order for this to be the case, a disjunction has to be posited between Israel's inheritance of temporal blessings and her inheritance of spiritual blessings...." (p.90).

Ljdibiase said...

"when the land aspect is brought up to denigrate Kline what is happening is false teachers are smearing the notion itself that the Covenant of Works was republished on Sinai.... The false teachers love darkness and hate the light."

Frankly, equating a rejection of Kline's view of the Mosaic covenant with false teaching is simply bizarre, especially as one major criticism of that view is that in fact it is contrary to the traditional Reformed understanding. I've pointed you to Venema's review. Here are a couple of other sources for you:



ct said...

I don't think you've grasped one single thing I've written, to be honest.

Ljdibiase said...

Under a works principal, one does not have to violate and ignore "every command God gave them." One only need violate and ignore a single command. That is because works requires "perfect and personal obedience." (WCF 7.2). Which brings us to yet another quirk of the Klinean view -- that is, their redefinition of "works" for Israel -- which I don't have time to get into right now.

Ljdibiase said...

"do you really think all Israelites who were expelled from the land were unsaved"

No, and I don't see how you could get that from anything I said.

"Do you see how the false teachers twist..."

The debate between Kline's followers and those who oppose them is in-house. While we disagree, we generally don't accuse each other of being "false teachers" in the sense that you seem to mean.

At this point I have to bow out, as I just don't have any more time.

ct said...

Notice that Witsius regarded the
Mosaic Covenant as “not formally the covenant of grace.” It was a “national covenant,”
in which “God promised the people, that, if they performed the obedience, he would
accept and reward it,” although in the end, “they broke the covenant by their apostacy
[sic] … and God refused to be called their God.” However, this pertained only to the
typological level, for “the elect among Israel … besides their engagements by the Sinaitic
covenant, were joined to God by the covenant of grace which he had solemnly renewed
with Abraham.”


Nick said...

When disputes like this arise, it amazes me how rather than question the premise (i.e. the "Covenant of Works"), folks would rather go in circles of arguing whether the Mosaic law is essentially a dispensation of the Covenant of works versus a dispensation of the Covenant of Grace.

Constantine said...

Hey Tfan,

Just a note on function here. This Disqus thing is difficult to read. The later comments are squished into the right margin. Any solution?


Mark Van Der Molen said...

Tfan, for clarification, the overture is not asking for a study committee for a single presbytery, but rather as the Introduction explains, "{t}he overture calls for the help of a General Assembly Study Committee of the OPC to study the doctrine of republication." This would be a denominational level committee similar to other such committees that have been appointed by the OPC on other issues.

Natamllc said...


having noted the same issue, what I have done to remedy is to cut and paste comments into a separate box and then comment on them.

Also I found that does not happen, "squished into the right margin." when I go to my IPhone and look at the comments.

There are limitations to that though, as well.

When in Heaven we will have more time and patience to deal with each and every comment directly! :)