Ligon Duncan on Romans 6:14 and Romans 8:4
Gospel Clarity, by William Barclay and Ligon Duncan, Evangelical Press, 2010
These two reformed writers attempt to challenge “the new perspective on Paul.” But they too want to say that “the law is filled with grace” because they want (with their confession) to include the Mosaic covenant as part of “the covenant of grace”. (p24) Even though they accuse the new perspective of “flattening the covenants” (p87), as paedobaptists they do the same thing in the interest of maintaining infant initiation in “the covenant”.
Of course, like their southern Presbyterian forbears, Barclay and Duncan avoid going all the way to Luther’s notion of water regeneration. They quote Dabney: “the transaction of God with Israel was twofold. The corporate, theocratic, political nation was the shell; the elect seed were the kernel.” In this way they keep their infants in “the covenant” but make a distinction between covenant and election, and thus do not presume the regeneration of their infants.
But as long as they remain paedobaptist, it will be difficult for them to dissent from NT Wright’s dream of a single worldwide family in which no dissent will be tolerated (even Constantine has to be welcomed by means of water baptism).
Barclay and Duncan agree with NT Wright that “we’re not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith.” (p111) But they do disagree with Wright’s definition of salvation. I quote from p 138:” Galatians demonstrates the error of equating the proclamation of Christ’s lordship with the gospel.”
Of interest (to me) is their exegesis of Romans 6:14 and Romans 8:4. On “since you are not under the law but under grace”, they rightly explain: “The meaning here cannot simply be ‘under the Mosaic covenant’, unless we want to argue that all old covenant believers were ruled by sin and did not experience grace.” So then what do they think “under grace” means? They don’t think it means “not under condemnation”. They think grace means in 6:14 what they think it means in Romans 8:4, that “those under grace are able to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law.” (p79)
I would argue that Barclay and Duncan are wrong about both verses. They are wrong about Romans 8:4 because the context of that verse is not what God enables the elect to do but what God did in Christ (he condemned sin in the flesh). They are wrong about Romans 6:14 because Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, sin and death.
Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. But Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. The death of the justified elect is that same legal death. The resurrection of the justified elect in Romans 6 is that same justification from being under law.