Which Covenant Did Christ Keep? The Old or the New? Or are Both ” The Covenant of Grace”?
For Richard Baxter, the ground of justification was NOT the imputed obedience of Christ, He held that Christ’s righteousness caused a change in the demands of the law. Packer — “Where orthodox Calvinism taught that Christ satisfied the law in the sinner’s place, Baxter held that Christ satisfied the Lawgiver and so procured a change in the law. Here Baxter aligns himself with Arminian thought rather than with orthodox Calvinism.”
Baxter suggested a scheme similar to Rome’s old law/new law distinction: Christ’s work makes the terms of the new covenant more lenient than the old, procuring a change in the law that makes obedience possible.
In Baxter’s doctrine of justification, he has a notion of a twofold righteousness. “As there are two Covenants, with their distinct Conditions: so there is a twofold Righteousness, and both of them absolutely necessary to Salvation.” The first of these two is what Baxter called legal righteousness, that is, the righteousness earned under the law of works. This righteousness is not personal to the believer, “for we never personally satisfied the law,” but is “wholly without us in Christ.” Baxter claimed this to be the type of righteousness of which Paul spoke in Philippians 3, juxtaposing it to the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ.
The second type of righteousness, however, is evangelical righteousness, which, according to Baxter, does belong to the believer, and consists of the believer’s faith. Baxter: “faith is imputed for Righteousness…because it is an Act of Obedience to God…it is the performance of the Condition of the Justifying Covenant. Allison: “Justifying faith, for Baxter, is that which is imputed and reckoned for righteousness as a condition of the new covenant.”
Baxter takes the position that Christ himself fulfilled the conditions of the old covenant, and thereby purchased for us easier terms within the new covenant. On account of Christ’s righteousness, our own righteousness (faith and repentance) is accounted, or imputed, as acceptable righteousness. We are, in other words, justified by our own righteousness on account of the righteousness of Christ. Baxter thinks that Christ’s righteousness makes justification by a believer’s righteousness (i.e. his faith) possible.
That the Reformed orthodox found this formulation upsetting comes as no surprise, for their confessional standards taught the very opposite about faith, namely, that it was not the ground of justification,(i.e. HC 60–61; BC 22; WCF 11.1–2; WLC 70–73). What they found even more provocative in Baxter’s position was his insistence that justifying faith contained works, which is the third point we must consider in Baxter’s doctrine of justification.
For Baxter, faith itself is not the sole ground of a believer’s justification; rather, faith must be joined to works. “Both justifie in the same kinde of causality, viz. as Causae sine quibus non…Faith as the principal part; Obedience as the less principall. The like may be said of Love, which at least is a secondary part of the Condition.”
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….
p 171–” 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 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.