Before Faith Came: Being Alive During the New Covenant Dispensation Will Not Justify You

Josh Moody, pastor of College Church , No Other Gospel, Crossway, p 170

“Living as a godly Israelite in Old Testament times was not legalistic; salvation was always by faith because the promise came first. But trying to live under Moses, when Christ has arrived, is legalism….

p171–” Justification was always by faith…But now that Christ has arrived, the operation of this justification by Christ HAS BEEN REVEALED…Christ now says, ‘with me you can’ and we find that by His Spirit we do and we want to do.”

This is Josh Moody manipulating language to ignore the discontinuity of the covenants. Instead of pointing to a change of covenants, he writes about “the revelation” of what supposedly always there. And more importantly, instead of explaining a change of covenants, he describes a change in “us”, so that we now can and want to do the law.

Part of the problem here is using a word like “legalism” which can mean almost anything . Moody’s claim is that in the Old Covenant there were godly folks who did not live “legalistically”, even though “the operation of” justification by faith had not been revealed.

So let me see. 1. Some were justified by grace through faith in the righteousness of Christ in the Old Testament. I certainly agree with that. But 2. He says that some of the godly were not “legalistic” during the old covenant despite the lack of new covenant revelation.

How this is possible, he does not explain. If he simply means that no true Christian is ever a legalist, that is certainly not what he argues elsewhere in his book. But if he wants to say that the revelation has now released the justified elect from “legalism”, how can he think that the justified elect in the old covenant were also free from this “legalism”? Moody is ignoring the change of covenants.

Perhaps it was not “legalistic” for the justified elect under the Mosaic covenant to do what the Mosaic law told them to do. It was not for them a means of justification. So when Moody speaks of “trying to live under Moses when Christ has arrived”, he is not thinking of “legalism” as trying to be justified by the law.

Moody needs to define “legalism”, and state his different definitions when he changes his meanings.

But there is still a problem. In Galatians 3, when Paul is writing about “before faith came, the law was our cop”, he was not only revealing a change in covenants and in redemptive history. In these same verses, Paul is concerned with individuals “getting justified” by Christ, concerned about individuals being baptized by God into Christ

Even though I don’t think it’s right for Moody to ignore the difference between the old and new covenants (thus only stressing that now people can do the law and want to), the solution is not only to see that the old covenant law is not the same as the new covenant law.

The solution is to remind us that, even during the time of the new covenant, there are many non-elect folks for whom Christ never died and who have never been baptized into Christ by legal justification.

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7 Comments on “Before Faith Came: Being Alive During the New Covenant Dispensation Will Not Justify You”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    J I Packer warns us : “There have been mystical antinomians who have affirmed that the indwelling Christ is the personal subject who obeys the law in our identity and there have been pneumatic antinomians who have affirmed that the Holy Spirit within us directly prompts us to discern and do the will of God, without our needing to look to the law of Christ to either prescribe or define in any way our performance. The common ground is that those who live in Christ are thought to be wholly separated from every aspect of the pedagogy of any law. . So now we live, they say. not by being forgiven our constant sins, but by mystical knowledge that Christ himself actually is doing in us all that our Father wanted us to do.”

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Augustine—The happy persons who even in that early age were by the grace of God taught to understand the gospel were thereby made the children of promise, and were accounted in the secret purpose of God as heirs of the New Testament, although they continued with perfect fitness to administer the Old Testament to the ancient people of God, in God’s distribution of the times and seasons.

    John Calvin—The Law here and there contains promises of mercy; but as these promises are adventitious to the law, they do not enter into the account of the Law as considered only in its own nature. All which is attributed to the law is that it commands what is right, prohibits crimes, holds forth rewards to the cultivators of righteousness, and threatens transgressors with punishment, while at the same time the neither changes nor amends that depravity of heart which is naturally inherent in all. Institutes, 2.11.7

  3. markmcculley Says:

    so is there any written commandment during the new covenant that defines the sin of Christians as sin?

    is there any written commandment during the new covenant that defines the sin of non-Christians as sin?

    Hebrews, the change of covenant brings change of law

    the change of covenant does not eliminate all law

    even though it must be said, that the elect during the old covenants are only justified by the promise of the new covenant

    we are not justified by our keeping the law of Christ
    they were not justified by our keeping the law of Moses or Abraham

    Unless you are a hyper-dispensationalist teaching justification by some other object of faith, you need to ask——when the law of Moses WAS IN EFFECT, were there elect people being justified before God then (apart from their law-keeping)?

    David Van Drunnen: “Justification is indeed ultimately not about whether a person is under the Mosaic law as a member of corporate Israel, but about whether a person is under the federal headship of the first Adam or the last Adam. But insofar as one of the chief divine purposes for the Mosaic law was to cause OT Israel to recapitulate Adam’s probation and fall, being under the Mosaic law was a profound illustration of the plight of humanity under the first Adam.” “Israel’s Recapitulation of Adam’s Probation”

    Donaldson—” Israel serves as a representative sample for the whole of humankind. within Israel’s experience, the nature of the universal human plight–bondage to sin and to the powers of this age– is thrown into sharp relief through the functioning of the law. The law, therefore, cannot accomplish the promise, but by creating a representative sample in which the human plight is clarified and concentrated, it sets the stage for redemption. Christ identifies not only with the human situation in general, but also with Israel in particular….”

    “The Curse of the Law and the Inclusion of the Gentiles”, NT Studies 1986, p 105

    cited in S.M. Baugh in Galatians 5:1-6 and Personal Obligation, p 268, in The Law Is Not Of Faith, P and R, 2009

    Godfrey– In Romans 6:14 Paul writes: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” For Paul, being “under the law” means being condemned by the law see Rom. 3:19; and also Gal. 4:21 and surrounding context). Because of justification a Christian is no longer condemned and hence is not under the law but under grace. In Romans 6:14, then, Paul makes justification, the state of being no longer under the law, the reason and explanation why sin no longer has dominion over us. Sin has no dominion over us because we are not under the law. Romans 7:6 is similar: “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Benjamin Cox—That notion (which is often supposed in this discourse) that the Old Covenant and the New do differ in substance, and not in the manner of their administration only, doth indeed require a more large and particular handling to free it from those prejudices and difficulties that have been cast upon it by many worthy persons, who are otherwise minded. I designed to have given a further account of it in a discourse of the covenant made with Israel in the Wilderness, and the state of the church under the Law. But when I had finished this, and provided some materials also for what was to follow, I found my labour for the clearing and asserting of that point, happily prevented, by the coming for of Dr. Owen’s 3d vol. upon the Hebrews. There it is discussed at length and the objections that seem to lie against it are fully answered, especially in the exposition of the eighth chapter

    Bryan D. Estelle Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 30:1-14 in Biblical Theological Development: Entitlement to Heaven Foreclosed and Proffered (P & R Publishing, 2009), 128-130. “If one does not recognize this as a prophecy of the new covenant, then a host of unconvincing exegetical conclusions follow… Just as Leviticus 18:5 is taken up in later biblical allusions and echoes, so also is this Deuteronomy [30:6] passage. In Jeremiah 31:31-34, the language of the new covenant that was cloaked in the circumcision of heart metaphor is unveiled in this classic passage. Deuteronomy 30:1-14 is a predictive prophecy of the new covenant, and, therefore, all that was implicit there becomes explicit in Jeremiah 31. In verse 31, Jeremiah says this will happen ‘in the coming days’ and in verse 33 he says ‘after these days’; both refer to the new covenant, messianic days.”
    Moon “The necessary equivocations … show the incompatibility of Calvin’s approach.” he struggle to read Jeremiah 31:31-34 as Christian Scripture has a long and divided history, cutting across nearly every major locus of Christian theology. Yet little has been done either to examine closely the varieties of interpretation in the Christian tradition from the post-Nicene period to the modern era, or to make use of such interpretations as helpful interlocutors. This work begins with Augustine’s interpretation of Jer 31:31-34 as an absolute contrast between unbelief and faith, rather than the now-standard reading (found in Jerome) of a contrast between two successive religio-historical eras – one that governed Israel (the old covenant ) and a new era and its covenant inaugurated in the coming of Christ. Augustine s absolute contrast loosened the strict temporal concern, so that the faithful of any era were members of the new covenant.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    which law are unbelievers under? those not in the covenant of grace

    how can new life be eternal life, if it’s new?

    how can the new covenant be the everlasting if it’s new?

    how can the new covenant be new if it’s part of the covenant of grace God made with Adam after Adam broke the covenant of works?

    how can the new covenant be if it’s the Abrahamic covenant?

    even if the new covenant is not the same as the Mosaic covenant, how can the new covenant be new if it’s the covenant God made with Abraham?

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  6. markmcculley Says:

    John Owen, comments on Hebrews 8:6-13—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect. The Sinai covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. The old covenants were confined unto things temporal. Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants

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