Archive for February 16, 2018

But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—witnessed by the law

February 16, 2018

I deny that Adam was “under a covenant of works”. I don’t even say that Christ was “under a covenant of works”? For many Reformed Baptists, my denials are equivalent to saying that justified sinners are to be saved by their own works. At the least, they think denial of “the covenant of works” amounts to saying that God saves sinners without satisfying God’s law.

But here’s the problem with that “either/or” approach to those who deny “the covenant of works”. I do agree that Adam was under law. But I do not think Adam “could have earned life” from the law. I do think that Adam did earn death for all sinners. And I do think that Christ did earn life for all elect sinners. Many who teach “the covenant of works” argue that I can’t say that Christ earned life unless I agree that Adam “could have” earned life.

But here’s the thing I say that people on both sides of the “could Adam merit” question won’t say. I say that Christ earned life for the elect by Christ’s death. On one side, many like Norman Shepherd and John Murray deny that Adam could merit from the law, because they say Adam was under grace even before Adam’s sin. On the other side, many like Meredith Kline and Mark Karlberg deny that Christ could merit life from His death, because they insist that Christ only merited life “by keeping the law”

I do think that Christ kept the Mosaic law. As the person who is now both God and human, Christ keeping the Mosaic law was not optional for Christ. I am not saying that keeping the Mosaic law “qualified” Christ to save. But I am saying that Christ’s death (as the one who has now become also human) is what satisfied God’s law and earned all the blessings of salvation for all those in the new covenant (all those ever in the new covenant are elect).

I am not saying that Christ’s death satisfied “the covenant of works”. I am saying that Christ’s death satisfied God’s law. I don’t equate God’s law with “the covenant of works”. As a matter of fact, those who affirm “the covenant of works” also are not saying that Christ’s death satisfied “the covenant of works”. What they end up saying is that Christ keeping the Mosaic law is what satisfied “the covenant of works”. They say it was not Christ’s death but His acts of obedience (like circumcision) which satisfied “the covenant of works”. Throw in Christ’s water baptism and some other things Christ did (not commanded perhaps in the Mosaic law) and they think that’s the part that gets us to where we are saved not by our law-keeping but by Christ’s law-keeping. In any case, they keep telling us that Christ’s death was not enough to satisfy the “covenant of works” without Christ’s going back to do what Adam should have done. (Strange to say, what Adam should have done sounds like “Adam should have kept the Mosaic law”. But in this process, “the law” gets divided up into “substance and administration accident”, or into “moral vs ceremonial”)

if all this sounds way too complicated for you, ask yourselves what you think the “righteousness” is that God justifies to the elect. Is that righteousness Christ’s death or is that righteousness Christ’s law-keeping? If you don’t want to bother to answer that question, why go on so long about Christ’s righteousness imputed being the gospel?

Romans 1: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed

Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Romans 3:31 is often used to support “use of the moral substance of the Mosaic law” as the standard of conduct for justified Christians. But in context, Romans 3:21-31 is the clearest foundation possible for the doctrine of a definite (not only sovereign but also just) atonement, because Romans 3:31 teaches that Christ’s death was a law-work, a satisfaction of law for the sins of the elect. Christ’s death was a penal substitution, a propitiation. Propitiation means that the law must be faced. Paul’s gospel does not substitute one kind of righteousness for another kind of righteousness. The gospel is not about an “end-run” around the law. The righteousness of the gospel comes by Christ taking the law head-on, satisfying its curse by His death. But folks on both side of “the covenant of works” question don’t think Christ’s death is enough, and mostly on both sides they don’t talk about Christ having only died for the sins of the elect.

Romans 3: 21 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—witnessed by the law

Paul cannot let the fact that the gospel is “apart from the law” as regards sinners and the law obscure the equally important truth that Christ’s death is a righteousness that satisfies law. Many Calvinists only talk about election and regeneration and not about Christ’s death as specific only for the elect. And even when most Calvinist talk about the extent of Christ’s death (for whom?), these Calvinists still explain Christ’s death only in terms of God’s sovereignty and NOT in terms of God’s justice. But the nature of Christ’s death under law is such that all for whom Christ DIED must in time be placed under grace and not under law. It would be UNJUST if any for whom Christ be in the end left under condemnation. But most Calvinists either deny or never teach that God imputed the specific sins of the elect to Christ.

I agree with John Owen—“No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith.”. 10:26

Galatians 3: 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— (Deuteronomy 21:23)

Christ is not only God but also human (and Jewish) The Sins of the elect were counted to Christ, then Christ paid the debt owed to the justice of God’s law, and Christ even paid to purchase faith and all other blessings for these elect

I hate to be put on either side of “the covenant of works” debate. Most of those now denying “the covenant of works” are saying that Christ was under grace so they can confuse law and grace for Christians. John Murray and Norman Shepherd have been followed up by Banner of Truth puritans like Mark Jones who tell us we need to pick a side—agree to the covenant of works, or say Christ was under grace. And then Jones (with others) says that Christ being under grace means being under both law and grace because law and grace are not opposites. And then Jones (with others) says that Christ being under both law and grace means that we also are under law and grace.

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/can-humans-merit-before-god-2.php

https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/is-the-sanctification-of-a-christian-like-the-justification-of-christ/

Jones, p 21— “If Christ is our mediator, our union with him means not only that we must be holy (i.e., necessity), but also that we will be able to be like him (i.e., motive)… “Whatever grace we receive for our holiness first belonged to the Savior (John 1:16). There was a perfect synergy involved in Jesus’ human obedience and the Holy Spirit’s influence…Following this pattern, although man is completely passive at the moment of regeneration, he cooperates with God in sanctification.”

Mark Jones–Man exercises faith in order to receive the saving benefits of Christ’s works of impetration… Good works a necessary part of our perseverance in the faith in order to receive eternal life. Good works are consequent conditions of having been saved.

Nathan J. Langerak –What Mark Jones means by “consequent conditions” is that they are new conditions of salvation imposed on the saved person because the person is now saved. No benefits applied before faith is exercised? Is not faith itself applied before it is exercised? What about regeneration?”

https://rfpa.org/blogs/news/the-charge-of-antinomianism-3-against-an-unconditional-covenant

Mark Jones– Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2). Does this mean “favor” as many English translations suggest? Or should we translate the Greek as “grace”? God may be “gracious” to Jesus – not as though Jesus sinned – because God is gracious to his creatures. How much more to his beloved Son? God showed favor to his favorite Christ’s human nature was sanctified and filled with graces (Gal. 5:22).

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/merit-could-adam-merit-anythin.php

Bavinck: “If humans in general cannot have communion with God except by the Holy Spirit, then this applies even more powerfully to Christ’s human nature” (RD, 3:292).

Mark Jones explains that people like me (who deny Christ’s law-keeping imputed) are like

“Gataker and Vines, who used Anselm’s argument to reject the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. Christ’s death was supererogatory and therefore his death merited eternal life. They argued Anselm’s point that Christ’s obedience is required, but his death is not required. But Goodwin argued that the Assembly must grant the assumption of the Anselmians that Christ, in his humanity, was obliged to fulfill the law. However, for Goodwin, Christ, as the God-man, had a unique dignity and so was not obliged to keep the law in the same way a creature is, especially since his law-keeping was voluntary.

Mark Jones—Daniel Featley also held that Christ’s hypostatical union meant that he was freed from the obligation of the law. True, Christ had a human nature, but he was not a human person. The dignity of the person, which in the case of Christ is infinite, alters his relationship to the law. As a result, Goodwin and Featley argued that since Christ was not obliged to obey the law but did so anyway, he must have been doing so on behalf of his people. Goodwin’s position was that Christ’s obedience to the law was not an ontological necessity but rather a functional necessity by virtue of Christ’s pretemporal agreement with the Father to fulfill the law on behalf of sinners. [“a non-indebted work”] Adam did not come freely, hence his obedience was “indebted,” unlike Christ’s, which was not indebted. Therefore the parallel breaks down at that point concerning merit between the two Adams.

Mark Jones–Merit must be something that is not owed: Christ freely came to obey in our place, hence it was not owed. Adam did not freely make the decision to place himself under the law of the covenant of works. Adam was upheld by the Spirit in the Garden, but it was not his Spirit. Merit should proceed from the powers of the one who deserves it: Christ relied upon his Father’s grace – the grace of the Holy Spirit – but, ontologically speaking, the will and essence of God are one, and therefore Christ’s merit proceeded “from the powers of the one who deserves it.” The rewards given to Christ for his meritorious obedience were of use to him because of the glory that would come to his name. God is jealous for his glory, so when Christ merited glory there was no threat of God sharing his glory. Finally, the rewards given to Christ are proportionate to the work he performed. Adam’s reward would have been far greater, assuming we say that Adam would have been granted heavenly life, than what he “worked for”.

Mark Jones—Adam’s obedience WAS MADE POSSIBLE not because he obeyed simply in his own strength, but also because Adam had assisting grace from God. William Ames argues that Adam persisted in the garden by grace and that “grace was not taken from him before he had sinned.” The acts were Adam’s, but that does not mean that he did not receive power from God

Mark McCulley asks—So Adam did not sin because God took away grace, because God took away grace because Adam sinned? This sounds like Arminius and Amyraut, like Wesley and Andrew Fuller.

Amyraut—“Sin seems to have changed not only the whole face of the universe, but even the entire design of the first creation, and if one may speak this way, seems to have induced to adopt new councels”

Mark Jones– Some Puritans were not altogether keen on the use of “works” and “grace” as the principal designations of these two covenants for the simple reason that “there was very much of Grace and Favor in both.” Personally, I don’t have a problem with the two-covenant schema described as a covenant of works and a covenant of grace, but we shouldn’t assume that the covenant of works was devoid of grace. Patrick Gillespie –Even though in the covenant of works the condition was obedience and the reward resulted from works, even that Covenant was a Covenant of Grace. God freely endued man with all the habits of Grace in perfection”
.
Mark Jones– What does Bryan Estelle mean by meritorious grounds”and how can fallen sinners merit anything, even corporately in relation to temporal blessings? Those who want to affirm “ex pacto merit” should, if they wish to maintain agreement with the Reformed orthodox of the seventeenth century, also be comfortable with (and perhaps insist upon) pre-Fall grace.

Mark Jones– “The definition of grace as God’s favor in the place of demerit is, I believe, wrong-headed because Christ received God’s grace. Christ was also endowed with the habits of grace in order to keep the terms of the covenant. In order to keep the Adam-Christ parallels, we must not abandon the concept of GRACE GIVEN THEM BOTH but actually affirm it. It has been a peculiar oddity that some assume that the parallels between the two Adams means that Adam could not have received the grace of God because Christ did not. But this view is based on the fatal assumption that God was not gracious to Christ in any sense.”

Mark McCulley—Mark Jones is saying that Christ was under grace, therefore it was not strict justice that satisfied God’s law by Christ’s death. Mark Jones is also saying that Adam was under grace, therefore grace failed Adam. I don’t know which one of these two statements is worse!

The gospel is not about an “end-run” around the law. The righteousness of the gospel comes by Christ taking the law head-on, satisfying its curse by His death. But folks on both sides of “the covenant of works” debate don’t think Christ’s death is enough, and mostly on both sides they don’t talk about Christ having only died for the sins of the elect.

Romans 3: 21 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—witnessed by the law

Paul cannot let the fact that the gospel is “apart from the law” cancel out the equally important truth that Christ’s death is a righteousness that satisfies law. Romans 3:31 We uphold the law. Many Calvinists only talk about election and regeneration and not about Christ’s death as specific only for the elect. Most Calvinist talk who ever dare talk about the extent for whom Christ died still explain Christ’s death only in terms of God’s sovereignty and NOT in terms of God’s justice. But the nature of Christ’s death under law is such that all for whom Christ DIED must in time be placed under grace and not under law. it would be UNJUST if any for whom Christ be in the end left under condemnation. But most Calvinists either deny or never teach that God imputed the specific sins of the elect to Christ.

Romans 6:7 a person who has died is justified from sin… we died with Christ… we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

https://jamesward.bandcamp.com/track/isaiah-53-he-shall-be-satisfied

Advertisements