If the Mosaic Covenant Was So Gracious . . .

Why did the prophets bring so many lawsuits against God’s people? That was the thought I had after reading Peter Leithart:

Covenant lawsuits are embedded in Israel’s covenant-relation with Yahweh. The covenant sets up certain requirements for Israel, and positive and negative sanctions attach to these, blessings for faithfulness and curses for breaking covenant. When Israel goes astray, Yahweh sends his prophets as representatives of the divine court, and they read the charges against Israel, inform them the sentence, and urge them to repentance so that they can (cf. Judges 2:1ff; 6:8).

But then as a good flattener, Leithart portrays Paul as fulfilling the role of an OT prophet:

Paul’s letter is the lawsuit of Jesus against the Galatians, much like the letters to the seven churches in Rev 1-3. It has a structure similar to that of the prophetic lawsuits. Covenant lawsuits often begin with a historical recital of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel and the ways that they have fallen away. Paul begins Galatians with a long review of his relation to the Jerusalem church. Covenant lawsuits specify charges, and Paul brings specific complaints against the Galatians. Prophets warn of coming curses, and Paul pronounces curses against the troublers in Galatia.

Maybe. But where did the New Testament Christians assemble at a mountain and take an oath to do everything God commanded? Sure, the Ottomans’ conquest of the Christian cities in Asia minor could be construed as a form of Christians going into exile. But Turkey was not the promised land any more than Italy was.

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131 thoughts on “If the Mosaic Covenant Was So Gracious . . .

  1. If the New Covenant is so gracious (and it certainly is), why did Jesus walk among the seven churches threatening their extinction and promising salvation only to those who overcome? See Book of Revelation.

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  2. The “charge” that Paul brings against the Galatians is that they are letting themselves be saddled with old covenant laws rather than resting in Christ’s gracious fulfillment of all the reqs. of that old covenant (Gal. 3.2). Seems like an important discontinuity.

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  3. DGH,

    Can you expand on why Leithart would be used to represent a spokesman for the position in favor of the Mosaic Covenant as an unfolding of the Cov. of Grace?

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  4. DGH,

    I understand the critique of Leithart but I don’t understand using Leithart as a poster-child for the proponents of the graciousness of the Mosaic Covenant.

    I say this not meaning offense but rather a respectful challenge -given the issues surrounding Leithart, wouldn’t it be like someone using Jason Stellman quotes to lay the case against 2K and Republication?

    Thank you,

    B

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  5. Sometimes we get too captured by a model of thought or template that we begin to follow that instead of the Scriptures. Regardless of the model of thought or template, all of them have flaws and thus we must beware not to reduce what any particular section of what the Scriptures say to them.

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  6. But Shane… To be “in” the New covenant is to be “in Christ.”

    Romans 8: 1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And Rom. 8:31-38.

    Those who don’t believe are not those who are “in” the New covenant and therefore still under the law as a covenant of works and its curse. Curses under the law as a C of W continue in the N.T. for those who reject the gospel but not as curses “of” or “in” the New covenant. So there aren’t any curses to be born by the elect who are under grace and not under law, Gal. 3:13 – 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law [as a covenant of works], having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    cheers…

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  7. If you have the righteousness of Christ the only thing else you need for justification, is, well, nothing at all. But certainly you aren’t arguing that those who have Christ in a true faith don’t have “all other saving graces” or that they can have a “dead faith.” WCF 11.2

    So in that sense, the question ought not be “If you have the righteousness of Christ, what more do you NEED?” but instead, if you have Christ what more do you need? Because, to your original question I might answer with Hebrews 10:36, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

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  8. Shane, if you have Christ, will God always provide endurance? Or do you need to generate it in addition to what God has provided?

    Put another way: Does your justification make your perseverance a certain thing?

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  9. Shane,
    Nothing I wrote above excludes WCF 11.2. “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,” Likewise not all who are baptized are elect. The elect do have “all other saving graces” and thus show forth the evidence of their faith in their good works. Those who are hypocrites (outward profession but no inward faith) do not.

    Union with Christ Jesus is through a true and lively faith, not baptism (the FV error)… See the WCF.

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  10. Shane,

    Those who are baptized and yet only have an outward profession of faith (no real trusting by grace in Christ alone for salvation) are said to be “under” the gospel administration of the covenant of grace (inasmuch as they are in a church) and yet not “in” the new covenant” or “in” Christ which is only through faith. They are still under the sanctions of the law as a covenant of works and not under the grace of God in Christ as are all true recipients of the mercy of God in Christ through faith.

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  11. It is one thing to say that the elect need to persevere in the same sense that they need to be adopted, they need to be given the Spirit, they need to be glorified. All of these are true, and all of these are provided by grace: “If you do not have the Spirit of Christ, you do not belong to Christ.”

    It is quite another to suggest that the elect need perseverance and they might just not generate enough of it.

    And anyways, since when did we all agree that no-one can be saved without any good works? Do elect infants, dying in infancy, perform good works? Bah.

    That’s a confusing, contentious way of arguing, to say that “good works are necessary for salvation.” There are two kinds of necessity, and only one is true in that statement. Ambiguous theology is bad theology.

    Far better to say that “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” and “The fruit of the Spirit is obvious: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control … the Spirit wars against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit, so that you do not do what you want.”

    Then it becomes obvious that those who are saved, will necessarily perform good works, “with all their strength, yet not themselves, but Christ in them” (1 Cor 15). That is a clear way to express the necessity.

    I get that we don’t want to devolve into “let go and let God” passivism. OK, fine, take that off the table. What are we left with?

    “Sanctification is a work of God’s grace …”

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  12. “Ambiguous theology is bad theology.”

    Yes, and it is incumbent upon teachers of the Bible to be extremely clear when it comes to the gospel and the distinction between faith and works, clear enough so a six-year old can understand. There is nothing wrong with teaching obedience as the evidence and result of genuine faith; it is not that complicated.

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  13. Cranmer put it quite simply:

    Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

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  14. Faith may be more or less and imperfectly “known as a tree discerned by the fruit.” Circumstances, timeframes, personal factors, and our own fallibility mean we cannot say who has true faith and who doesn’t, but we can say infallibly that justification is by faith alone and that our works do not contribute to it at all. “Credible profession” assumes the infallible credulity of mere men.

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  15. Jeff,

    ““Sanctification is a work of God’s grace …”

    So is justification. But you don’t consider the operation of grace in justification in the same way as the operation of grace in progressive sanctification right?

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  16. Jeff–that God provides endurance and that we must endure are not contradictory. Nor is an appeal to the unbeliever to believe contradictory to faith being a sovereign gift. Also, yes eveyone who is in Christ by faith will certainly persevere since he intercedes for them and provides all they need.
    Jack, try restating your objection, so far it seems like you just reaffirmed what I’m saying.

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  17. CW–can we all just agree that the office of “fruit inspector” and “regenerate membership keeper” is inherently Baptist. And oppressive. And judaising. Does that give me any Old Life cred?

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  18. Shane: Jeff–that God provides endurance and that we must endure are not contradictory. Nor is an appeal to the unbeliever to believe contradictory to faith being a sovereign gift.

    Exactly so. So it should be a slam-dunk that we could teach sanctification as resting in Christ and what He has done for us, and acting in faith thereupon. It should be clear that this teaching in no way contradicts the need to persevere.

    Yet somehow that is antinomian? And the antidote is to emphasize the need for good works and perseverance?

    Not saying that you are saying this. But when “antinomianism” is alleged, it is *never* (in my experience) because the accused *actually* taught “You don’t need to obey God’s Law.” It is always because the accused taught “We live the life of faith by resting in Christ’s finished work for us.” And this teaching “insinuated” that “we don’t need to do anything.”

    But it seems to me that if you are correct that there is no contradiction between “God provides endurance” and “we must endure”, and you certainly are correct, then those hollering “antinomian” have no case.

    Right? Where’s the fire?

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  19. Shane: can we all just agree that the office of “fruit inspector” and “regenerate membership keeper” is inherently Baptist. And oppressive. And judaising.

    YES, YES, YES!

    Shane: Does that give me any Old Life cred?

    Don’t spend it all in one place.

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  20. CvD: But you don’t consider the operation of grace in justification in the same way as the operation of grace in progressive sanctification right?

    Right: imputed v infused, both received by faith. Probably not what you were after, though.

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  21. I think there is a lot of room for emphases on resting in Christ AND following after Christ. Like Mark Jones has frequently noted.

    Unfortunately Jones’ critics have rallied around a very unfortunate example of actual antinomianism, oft mentioned by some on this blog, Tchividjian, and his Steve Brown-ish lutheran-ish views. And when you all rally around that, it sure makes it sound like you are defending something other than our standards teach, with their full throated endorsement of Law preaching, commandment keeping, and plain old “trust and obey.”

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  22. Shane,

    Jack, try restating your objection, so far it seems like you just reaffirmed what I’m saying.

    Maybe because I’m pointing out that your objection to what I originally wrote to you doesn’t hold up in that you wrote my reasoning was “that New Covenant membership always entails union with Christ.” I never made that assertion, which my further comments make clear. But it did seem that you were saying that the true believers (elect) could end up being being kicked out (extinction – Rev. reference) from Christ somehow… And that salvation was ultimately only to those who “overcame.” Now I would agree to that last sentence if all you mean is to those who hold fast their confession of faith until the end. The elect will persevere by God’s grace. The NC is a completely gracious covenant.

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  23. Shane,
    If Jones thinks TT is antinomian, which he apparently does, then he should do the responsible thing and take it to the PCA courts; if not then dial it back the accusations.

    So now are Lutherans antinomian?

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  24. Has anyone here actually ever been on a session or consistory that excommunicated someone? Seems like fruit inspection plays a role.

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  25. @ Terry: Yes. The difference between church discipline and pietism is vast.

    @ Shane: So that raises an important question: has TT taught actual antinomianism? Where? How did he make it through Presbytery?

    I haven’t read everything he’s written, so that’s an open question for me. But like Jack says: if someone *really* believes that TT is antinomian, where are the charges?

    So far, I didn’t see antinomianism in One Way Love (some loose Christology, IIRC, but no theological work is perfect). That’s all I’ve read.

    So what is your ground for believing that TT is antinomian?

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  26. Jack–

    It is clear from both the Scriptures and our secondary standards that experience of salvation is not just having faith, but it is accompanied by the other saving graces.

    One of those graces is sanctification, which is not simply “holding fast their confession of faith” but also being “more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” WCF 13.1

    And, no, most Lutherans are not antinomians, but Forde is, and many are. You may also recognize that many who come into Reformed traditions from evangelicalism bring a view of sanctification which may borrow our language (law/gospel, grace, sovereignty) but are really: revivalism, let-go-let-God, or Campus Crusade views. And they seem particularly attracted to the big churches with the nice band.

    Why do you think the Reformed luminaries who have been so quick to proclaim Tchividjian’s orthodoxy have been so slow getting their congregations listed on in his church network–all he asks is a simple affirmation of his law/gospel approach–not his congregation’s charismaticish worship practices, laser light show stage production, etc. If he is so sound on law/gospel, those who think so should show their colors.

    A closing quotation: “Forde rightly shows that when we stop narcissistically focusing on our need to get better, that is what it means to get better! When we stop obsessing over our need to improve, that is what it means to improve!” Tchvidjian http://www.pastortullian.com/2011/04/13/rethinking-progress/

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  27. When it comes to the graciousness of the Law, I think the real kicker is that Israel had absolutely no hope of keeping it according to Moses (Deut 31:26-29), and would therefore suffer all its curses. The curses include the rape of their wives, and the consumption of their children, by the most gentle women. These judgments actually happened, they were not hypothetical threats. However, none of these curses or judgments put a Hebrew out of the covenant, only death (being cut off) put someone out of the covenant. We are told explicitly that no person can be saved under this covenant, and whoever is under it is under a curse.

    The Gospel, on the other hand, gives eternal life, sonship, justification and holiness to people who do absolutely nothing to merit it. Beneficiaries of this covenant date back to Abraham and even before him. All are in the covenant if they believe that Jesus is who God says he is, apart from their own works. Whoever looks to Christ will be saved, so it seems. According to the Bible, a community without number will be saved under this covenant, and from every remote village and language. Even reprobates like Samson and Jephthah seem to get blessed through this covenant according to Hebrews 11.
    So can someone explain to me again how the Law is gracious and of the same spirit as the New Covenant?

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  28. Jeff–How does a lot of stuff make it through presbyteries? I think that is a great question. When I raised in on TGC’s website I was summarily blocked from commenting there and from TT’s twitter feed. I think David Murray’s series of spots on Tchividjian is a quick summary of the concerns I’ve had–which began as I listened to some of his sermons several years ago and then began reading Tchividjian’s blog. But, pretty much everything he does that’s eccentric theologically has been being done by Steve Brown for years.

    Why does that go on in the PCA? I have no idea. Why FV is tolerated–no clue. Why people speak in tongues during worship at one a church I know of and there are deacons with unbaptized children–who knows.

    David Murray:

    “Here’s the worrying pattern I see in Tullian’s theology.

    In Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Tullian worked hard to remove any moral or ethical link between our obedience and God’s blessing.

    In Glorious Ruin, Tullian labored to sever any moral or ethical link between our sin and our suffering.

    In this latest blog post, Tullian is endeavoring to sever any moral or ethical link between our works for others and our relationship with God.

    I keep hoping it’s simply confusion”

    http://headhearthand.org/blog/2011/12/12/does-jesus-nothing-everything/
    http://headhearthand.org/blog/2012/10/24/glorious-ruin-appreciation-and-concerns/
    http://headhearthand.org/blog/2012/12/11/tullian-keeps-digging/

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  29. So you have two issues going on at once in sanctification. One is God’s work in changing us so that we love sin less. The other is God’s work in renewing the mind so that we understand His law better.

    As the second thing happens, our subjective view of ourselves and progress in holiness changes. Isaiah’s “I am a man of unclean lips” makes more sense when the Law makes more sense – when we understand God’s holiness for what it is. When that happens, we don’t see ourselves as going backwards exactly, but as further behind than we realized.

    For that reason, sanctification does not happen “by the Law” – that is, by our natural self taking stock of where we need to make progress, setting goals, and then providing the suitable reward/punishment structure to motivate meeting those goals. That’s the way natural processes work, but not so with sanctification … Because it is a work of God’s grace.

    My guess is that you agree with the above.

    Given agreement, then I say this: in your linked article, TT does not say “don’t strive” (he says the opposite). What he does say is, “give up on your natural notion of progress, because the Law reveals how far behind you are.”

    I would agree with him. Wouldn’t you?

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  30. Shane,

    Read what I wrote, The elect do have “all other saving graces” and thus show forth the evidence of their faith in their good works. So the one who holds fast his confession, i.e. the elect, have all the saving graces, yet they have been saved “by grace… through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The one that is justified will also be sanctified in this life, some more… some less. That is why it is Christ’s obedience alone upon which we, who are his, stand and will stand on That Day.

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  31. CW–amen brother–I’ve lived through some gnarly introspective (into others) discipline situations and it chastened me.

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  32. Terry, yes — how about a family member or an officer’s child to boot?. But that fruit is usually pretty easy to grade: absenting one’s self from worship, open and blatant sin, verbal repudiation of the faith. But it shows you the limits of discernment, front end and back end.

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  33. Shane,

    I sympathize with your concerns. I read one book by Steve Brown and have listened to a few TT sermons. What concerned me was not what was said, which I thought was generally true, but what was not said. I have no problems with their law-gospel distinctions, but would have liked to have heard more, such as Jesus warning people to count the cost, or the reality that God can love us unconditionally but at the same time be displeased with our behavior and discipline us, or that those in the church who reject God’s call for sexual purity, for example, and I’m thinking specifically of I Thess. 4:1-8, (which I just preached on), are warned of judgment. Maybe these men do teach these things but I didn’t hear it or read it. So we can be right in what we proclaim, but so one-sided that we end up preaching error, or at least confusion. On the other hand, the answer to such one-sidedness is not to play with or change the definition of the covenant of grace, or make obedience more than necessary evidence and fruit, as I see in some of the “obedience boys,” but simply to teach the whole counsel of God as it is revealed in the Scriptures, affirming clearly the distinction between law and gospel, faith and works, but not stopping there as if that is all the Bible reveals.

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  34. @Chortles W. – I agree with what you observe about TT. My wife and I both have made similar comments. I wish he’d shore things up a bit. Yet some take what is, perhaps, a lack in some of his more public teaching for the advocacy of antinomianism. I’ve read enough TT’s stuff and also Jones’ and others’ accusations of TT. The critics fall short of the mark as they keep nuancing the definition of antinomianism. So, to quote a very recent Jones’ blog post at Ref 21, I want to say to these guys – Stop it! Cue the Ref 21 laugh track…

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  35. B, I’m not sure how you’d construe the post as making Leithart the poster child for the grace of MC. At the same time, maybe if Leithart flattens out the covenants, you want to flatten in a different manner?

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  36. Shane, but what if you don’t endure enough? Will 20% endurance work? 70%? Can I get a 85%?

    Sold.

    Have you never read Luther’s biography? Have you never considered how far short your goodness falls?

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  37. Jeff (and Todd), so is verbose theology. If we want a thumbnail, why not just say that good works are inevitable to salvation, or that the Christian life can summed up in grateful obedience?

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  38. Shane, so you don’t like Forde (though I recall his contribution to “Five Views of Sanctification” being quite helpful as an emerging Calvinist). How about Matzat:

    Living in a theology of the Cross never makes you any “better” than anyone else. Every day in every way you are not getting better and better. In fact, the preaching of Law and Gospel will not lead you to an awareness of your holiness, but rather to greater awareness of the depth of your sin. As a result, you will develop an ever-increasing faith in and appreciation for the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

    An awareness of of the depth of sin is something that is not only far from antinomian but something those who put the T in total depravity should golf clap all day long.

    http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar51.htm

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  39. I don’t see progress in holiness as contrary to progress in humility. It seems to me, both from Scripture and experience that the more I grow the less I esteem even my sincere good works and know that they are accepted for Christ’s sake. My sincerity is pretty bad too. Faith, little. Repentance, incomplete. BTW–I see nothing but the same recognition in what Mark Jones writes. And I challenge his critics to a more charitable reading of his work.

    Zrim et al. –the problem is that the Scriptures say more about good works than that they are inevitable and the proof of real faith.

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  40. I meant by “experience of salvation” the “application of redemption.”

    I get you. To be saved you need to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That salvation is more than only faith in Christ and justification doesn’t remove the central place of faith in the Christian’s experience, errr “getting saved.” Nor does it mean that anything other than faith is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ for justification. And to have Christ by faith is to have everything he is. Yet that faith is not alone, there are other “saving” —not my word, the confession’s word– graces.

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  41. “there are other “saving” —not my word, the confession’s word– graces.”

    This is often quoted ignoring the rest, as we saw with Shepherd.

    “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone *in the person justified,* but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.”

    The new desire and power to obey, love, joy, etc., come after justification, they are now in the person already justified, they are not definitions or requirements of justifying faith, against the RC’s and some confused reformed people.

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  42. But there are significant distinctions. The apostle writes…

    7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
    8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
    9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
    10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
    12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
    13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

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  43. Another distinction?

    Heb. 9:15 “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first [old] covenant.”

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  44. But where did the New Testament Christians assemble at a mountain and take an oath to do everything God commanded? Sure, the Ottomans’ conquest of the Christian cities in Asia minor could be construed as a form of Christians going into exile. But Turkey was not the promised land any more than Italy was.

    Puritan New England. Whose Calvinism is it, anyway?

    Never mind. They’re gone and you seem to think you’re “in exile” in your own country. I guess it started when they signed the Constitution or something.

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  45. Terry M. Gray
    Posted September 22, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink
    Has anyone here actually ever been on a session or consistory that excommunicated someone? Seems like fruit inspection plays a role.

    That one stings.

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  46. Jack Miller
    Posted September 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink
    Cranmer put it quite simply:

    Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

    Good works may be irrelevant, but at least they’re good.

    I think of Cyrus the Great occasionally. Good dude. Unfortunately, he was not a Calvinist.

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  47. Doesn’t the assembly gather weekly before the Lord? And don’t we in Christ say we have done all that God has commanded? And not only “have done” but “will do”. Christ did all that was required at Sinai and in Him I have done it too. There’s some freedom that flows out of that reality.

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  48. Jack Miller
    Posted September 23, 2014 at 12:45 am | Permalink
    TVD-
    I think of Cyrus the Great occasionally. Good dude. Unfortunately, he was not a Calvinist.

    Neither was Cranmer… nor Calvin for that matter.

    The witness is clever but unresponsive here. Hey, I’m enjoying your stuff. I do wonder where Cyrus fits into all this.

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  49. Terry M. Gray
    Posted September 23, 2014 at 12:37 am | Permalink
    Doesn’t the assembly gather weekly before the Lord? And don’t we in Christ say we have done all that God has commanded? And not only “have done” but “will do”. Christ did all that was required at Sinai and in Him I have done it too. There’s some freedom that flows out of that reality.

    I don’t know what “freedom” means in the context of this blog, Terry. Freedom means nothing if you’re not able to exercise it, and you can’t exercise it until somebody gets your back.

    Anybody get your back?

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  50. Shane, how do you interpret Mark Jones’ taglines charitably?

    Pastor Mark Jones plans to get back to writing “Knowing Jesus,” because he needs a big contract to pay for a new pair of soccer boots, skinny jeans, and Lagavulin (all to be enjoyed at once, somehow).

    Pastor Mark Jones needs to pray more for his congregation.

    Pastor Mark Jones believes if you give up republication then justification will falter.

    Pastor Mark Jones hopes he’ll never bore and confuse his congregation by speaking about ANE treaties.

    Pastor Mark Jones once preached in an exclusive Psalmody church for a year. But he got fired after singing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” in the middle of a sermon to illustrate how children can only sing these words if they are baptized Christians. A Baptist church called him shortly thereafter. He was fired again.

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  51. Terry, you’re playing the coy boy on this one. You know that the “O” boys have a whole inventory that far exceeds what I’ve outlined above. If you don’t know that I suggest you have your doctor check for ear wax buildup.

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  52. …the problem is that the Scriptures say more about good works than that they are inevitable and the proof of real faith.

    Shane, you mean like Isaiah 64: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

    So agreed, but what they say about good works isn’t exactly inspiring but deflating. Unless you’re talking about Jesus good works, in which case selah.

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  53. DGH, my comment was not directed towards Paul (I agree with him!) but to his Klinean (and others) interpreters who place a Mount Everest in redemptive history by viewing the MC as a works covenant, that is, as a covenant in direct contrast and opposition to the NC. I happen to believe that makes a mountain out of a mole hill because I happen to believe that the OC and NC are not substantially different. Yes, there is a (wonderful) difference, but it is not a difference between a works covenant and a gracious covenant, which of course would be a substantially difference. I know that is shocking to some and that appears legalistic to them but you can expect that kind of reaction today when you hold to the Reformed doctrine of the covenants 😉

    Stephen Marshall (a Westminster divine): “…neither did the Lord promise them entrance into, or continuance in that Land, but upon the same conditions upon which hee promiseth eternall life, as true Faith in the Gospel, with the love and feare of God, and obedience of his Commandments: Godliness having then, as it hath now and alwayes, the promise of good things for this life, and the life to come, of earthly things, then more distinctly, and fully, and typically, but of heavenly things more generally and sparingly; whereas now on the contrary, there is a more cleare and full revelation and promise of heavenly things but the promise of things earthly, more generall and sparing.”

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  54. DGH–Shane, how do you interpret Mark Jones’ taglines charitably?

    Shane–that he is trying to be funny and humble. Trying. All the sarcasm and inside jokes on Ref21 (and here!) I don’t get. But I’m dense sometimes.

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  55. Patrick, well, if you agree with Paul do you identify Sinai with Hagar, since we’re speaking of mountains?

    Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

    “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
    For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”

    Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.

    (Galatians 4:24-28 ESV)

    If you read Deut 26-28 as the same kind of promises to Abraham, you may need to see an optometrist.

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  56. Patrick– exactly.

    I keep hearing people in our circles say, “what’s the big deal, we believe that good works will evidence our faith, they just aren’t really good, and well, can’t really be seen. And if we talk about them people will be discouraged. And if people start ‘trying’ instead of ‘trusting’ they’ve confused Law and Gospel.” And stuff like that.

    Unfortunately for that position, the NT, not just the OT, but the NT in particular, consistently states that it is the one who is putting to death the deeds of the flesh who will enter the kingdom of heaven, and outside the gates are those who continue in sin. And we are called, as new men not bound by Satan, to take up our own crosses, to follow Jesus, to be lights, to fulfill the law of Christ, to overcome, to put to death the deeds of the flesh. This is the message of Jesus, Luke, Paul, John, James, Peter, Jude, and whoever wrote Hebrews (did I miss anyone?)… And this doctrine doesn’t set faith against repentance, grace against law, the new birth against sanctification. Instead, in the NT doctrine, union with the person of Christ is the fountain of a double-grace: justification and renovation. There is a sanctification (not just a justification) without which no one will see the Lord, and that thought is not there as a mere fact, but as a motivation to actively pursue holiness.

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  57. Shane, repeatedly calling attention to yourself in a tagline is not an indication of humility.

    As for the humor, doesn’t that sort of undercut the seriousness of the topic at hand — like, the gospel?

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  58. DGH,

    True and true. But, when guys like him are only serious they are called puritanical legalists–so maybe they are overcompensating? I know what it is like to have people pick apart your every word and misrepresent you–maybe he’s just trying to be likable.

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  59. Shane — the Reformation was at its core a rebellion against RC’s fusion of justification and sanctification. Thus, the Reformed (and Lutherans) were concerned to make a clear distinction between justification and sanctification, between the law and the gospel.

    Sanctification follows justification and as such the two are distinct. The law and the gospel are both good and necessary, but they are distinct. It was the RC error of merging and confusing the two that largely provided the theological impetus for the Reformation.

    Therefore, it is important to consider in what context the MC and the law are discussed. The law will not justify us nor will it sanctify us — both of these are accomplished by the grace of God in Christ. The law does, however, point out our sin and teaches us how to respond to God’s grace by living in obedience.

    In conclusion, Reformed doctrine does not set the law against the gospel, but neither does it confuse or conflate the two. It distinguishes between them. The law and the gospel have different purposes. Republication does not denigrate nor deny the law or the MC, rather, it distinguishes the MC from the Abrahamic Covenant (as Paul did in Galatians).

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  60. Here is what the author of Hebrews says and he is not speaking allegorically: “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just they [Israel] did…”

    As to Abraham, didn’t he have to merit the Promised Land which God had promised to give him and his descendants? And I guess he must have obeyed God perfectly since a works covenant requires perfection.

    “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.” Gen. 26:4-5

    Looks like the Abrahamic covenant, like the Mosaic Covenant, wasn’t so gracious after all. The mountain keeps getting higher and higher.

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  61. Patrick, Ishmael.

    Looks like Abraham didn’t obey God (or trust him).

    So again, how much obedience is necessary for assurance. 40%, 55%, 85%?

    Or maybe Paul is right — someone you still don’t interpret. Just move along, nothing to see in Galatians or Romans.

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  62. For what reason does John set the Old and New Covenants in antithesis in John 1:17? It seems that most Old Lifers would say that what is meant is that the moral law, abstracted from its gracious context, ought to be viewed in antithesis to the gospel. (I leave aside the specifics of how the theocracy plays into this for a moment.)

    For the rest of you, why are the Old and New Covenants seemingly held in antithesis to each other? I get that most others want to point out the continuity (the gracious context that Israelites were always saved by faith and not by works, just like us), but what are we to make of John 1:17 and Galatians 3-4 where Old and New are seemingly held in antithesis?

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  63. Joel,

    But don’t we have to avoid too sharp an antithesis between Moses and Abraham, lest we become dispensationalists?

    It seems to me that the only place where Paul opposes Moses and Abraham is in the matter of justification. And even then, it is not opposing the whole covenant to Abraham but rather the attempt to justify oneself by keeping the law and the justification that comes by faith alone.

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  64. Can’t we all just agree that the Mosaic law was a reminder of the covenant of works and a way of salvation that existed in theory only? That is, if one could keep the law perfectly one can be justified by it, but God never really intended for sinners to be justified that way because he knew sinners cannot be justified that way. Thus the institution of the sacrifices that in themselves show keeping the law is impossible.

    Some of the republication talk to me seems to make the Mosaic covenant not a part of the one covenant of grace. Whether this is purposeful or not, that’s what a lot of the “obedience boys” seem to be responding to. Whatever else we say, if we don’t affirm that the Mosaic administration is part of the one covenant of grace, we aren’t being true to Westminster.

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  65. So then if Abraham wasn’t perfect (he was a sinner after all) then how could he have merited the Land? How much obedience was necessary?

    If Abraham was under a typological works covenant then why doesn’t Paul mention that we have been set free from it? Or do we have to obey like Abraham (Gen. 22 and 26)? How much obedience is necessary?

    See here for my answer to the how much question: http://patrickspensees.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/obedience-as-a-condition-of-the-covenant-of-grace/

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  66. Patrick,

    Where does Kline or others state that the MC was strictly or only a covenant of works?

    Calvin, Gen. 26:5 – “Moses does not mean that Abraham’s obedience was the reason why the promise of God was confirmed and ratified to him…”

    In other words the promise was not dependent upon a works principle of the law – “For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise’ (Gal. 3:18).

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  67. Robert,

    I think I asked a question about some particular passages. I don’t think you’re insinuating that Paul or John were at risk of being Dispensationalists. I think your point about justification is exactly what is up for debate. If you minimize the antithesis in a way that doesn’t sound as strong as John or Paul in these passages, we will likely hear that as a mixing of law (strictly defined) and gospel, works and faith. Why would we hear things that way? Because, we agree, Paul is talking about justification.

    My problem with not taking the MC as a formal republication of the CoW is that I believe that the curses pronounced at Sinai really fell on the reprobate that were party to the MC. National Israel included reprobate people, and they were really party to the MC. The Abrahamic Covenant was made with Christ and to His elect, not the reprobate.

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  68. Some further thoughts on Galatians – Paul contrasts the Promise (Abrahamic covenant) with the Law (Sinai covenant) in order to point of two ways to salvation – of which one, under the Law covenant, all are under a curse unless one perform all of the Law (He who does them shall live in them). Why would Paul make this contrast? Was he mistaken about the purpose of the Law in the Sinai covenant? Does that mean that the MC is inconsistent with or not an administration of the C of G? He seems to argue as one who is stating something true about the Law’s purpose in the MC, not a mistaken interpretation.

    Why the Law [Sinai] then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Gal.3:19-22)

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  69. Jack, But the so-called republicationists tell us that the Mosaic Covenant was not about salvation but about temporal life in the land of Canaan. I guess Paul didn’t get the memo.

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  70. Horton/Kline make it clear that this “constituting of merit” is typological, pointing to Christ. And that it is God who was the One “pleased to constitute [i.e. establish] Abraham’s exemplary works as the meritorious ground for granting to Israel after the flesh the distinctive role of being formed as the typological kingdom fro which Christ should come.” It was God’s gracious framing of that obedience, not that it was intrinsically holy or meritorious in and of itself and they don’t make that claim. Abraham obeyed. God accepted his obedience as the ground of that which is given and explained in verse 4. This is consistent with Calvin as he continues from the above quote on Gen 26:5 -:

    but from what has been said before, (Genesis 22:18,) where we have a similar expression, we learn, that what God freely bestows upon the faithful is sometimes, beyond their desert, ascribed to themselves; that they, knowing their intention to be approved by the Lord, may the more ardently addict and devote themselves entirely to his service: so he now commends the obedience of Abraham…

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  71. Patrick,

    Jack, But the so-called republicationists tell us that the Mosaic Covenant was not about salvation but about temporal life in the land of Canaan. I guess Paul didn’t get the memo.

    No, they tell us that it was about both… two levels. Can you do two things at once? God can.

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  72. Jack, the works principle was not about salvation. So how can Paul be referring to the MC as the works way of salvation when it wasn’t about works salvation?

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  73. Patrick, So Jack, how much obedience was necessary for Abraham who kept God’s requirements imperfectly to merit the land?

    Calvin, Gen. 26:5 – “Moses does not mean that Abraham’s obedience was the reason why the promise of God was confirmed and ratified to him…”

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  74. Patrick, you wrote:

    First, God accepts, blesses and rewards sincere imperfect obedience. In the covenant of works God required perfect obedience and the penalty for sin was death. There was no promised mercy or second chances. One sin and you die. The situation is radically different in the covenant of grace because it is a covenant designed for sinners in daily need of mercy and grace. Hence the condition of obedience is one that is suited for redeemed sinners who continue to sin. Paul teaches that Christians, even mature Christians, will struggle with sin (Rom. 7; Gal. 5). Indeed, John says that if we say that we do not sin then we are self-deceived (1 John 1:8). So sin is a continuing reality for Christians. And yet Paul also says that if we live according to the flesh we will die and that we need to put sin to death in order to live. Similarly, John says that “no one who abides in him keeps on sinning (1 John 3:6).” How are we to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory statements? The answer is that though God continues to require perfection—how could he not without condoning sin?—he acknowledges and blesses sincere imperfect obedience. This means that not living according to the flesh and not keeping on sinning do not entail perfection.

    Sounds like mortal and venial sins. Okay, if you want to go there. But you don’t give me the hope of purgatory.

    No thanks.

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  75. Patrick, by the way, interesting support your post provides from John Kinnaird:

    Yes, obedience is a condition of the Covenant of Grace – a condition of necessity to the Covenant that God has lain on Himself and not a condition of demand for your obedience in order to enter or remain in the covenant. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13 – Ramsey nailed this one also)) in order to fulfill His promise of Ezekiel 36 and 37. And as Ezekiel says, “It is not for your sake…but for the sake of [God’s] holy name.”

    Shouldn’t it give you pause that you receive support from someone who was not allowed to write or teach any more about this?

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  76. Patrick, Jack, the works principle was not about salvation. So how can Paul be referring to the MC as the works way of salvation when it wasn’t about works salvation?

    It both is and it isn’t. Two levels, two principles… both at work in the MC. I refer you to Jeff Cagle in the voluminous back and forth on this topic in recent threads (Why Republication Matters for one) here at OL.

    But how do you reconcile Paul in Galatians with the MC is only a gracious covenant?

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  77. CW, how about a few examples? In my IVCF days it was fashionable to ask people “How’s your quiet time?” Not to put down the value of consistent QT (praying and reading scripture), but I liked to ask people about their faith. Are you trusting Christ or your consistent QT to be right with God? Of course, true faith in Christ produces a desire for God’s word and a prayerful heart/life, eh?

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  78. CW, I’ve come to see it as somewhat ironic that in some circles piety is demonstrated by one’s “anti-piety.” Perhaps we’re slipping from trusting Christ into trusting in our not trusting in our works. A good dose of Romans 14 is perhaps good medicine for all.

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  79. Patrick,

    So if this is a pass/fail class exactly where is the “pass” line? 60%? I don’t want to have to show up for class any more than necessary.

    Sounds very RC. Have you met Jason & Bryan?

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  80. Eric, the bar is 100% (no curve) but Christ took the class for us.

    Your comment does seem to have an antinomian ring to it.

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  81. Jack, I am not disputing the two levels. The point is that the works principle for Israel did not pertain to both levels. They were saved by faith. But their continuance in the land was by works. It therefore doesn’t make sense for Paul to treat the MC as if it taught a salvation by works. It taught life in the land by works, not salvation by works.

    Moreover, since the works principle only pertained to temporal life and not salvation, why is it so bad to be circumcised and come under the law? Why is it so bad if you believe in Christ and come under the law with respect to temporal life as was the case for the elect under Moses? Sure, your temporal life might be hard, but at least you would be saved by faith and so inherit eternal life.

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  82. No one who publishes on a blog that doesn’t take comments (Ref 21), overly moderates comments (Called to Communion), or bans commenters at the drop of a hat (Baylyblog) is “funny”. Those men are a lot of things, but funny is not one of them. The cast of mind to be funny is not there…

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  83. No one who publishes on a blog that doesn’t take comments (Ref 21), overly moderates comments (Called to Communion), or bans commenters at the drop of a hat (Baylyblog) is “funny”. Those men are a lot of things, but funny is not one of them. The cast of mind to be funny is not there, trust me.

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  84. Patrick,
    Why is it so bad if you believe in Christ and come under the law with respect to temporal life as was the case for the elect under Moses? Sure, your temporal life might be hard, but at least you would be saved by faith and so inherit eternal life.

    Really? Your question both concedes and minimizes the burden and yoke of the MC, a burden not found in the New covenant. What was so hard? Believer’s exiled with the nation due to national disobedience, not believer disobedience… believers not judicially forgiven if they didn’t bring their sacrifices, which sacrifices had to be done continually and they had to supply themselves (whereas God gave his son for us as the one perfect sacrifice in the NC – that’s gracious)… adultery? – death by stoning for believer and unbeliever alike…

    Peter -Acts 15:10 “Now therefore why make ye trial of God, that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”

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  85. Joel,

    My problem with not taking the MC as a formal republication of the CoW is that I believe that the curses pronounced at Sinai really fell on the reprobate that were party to the MC. National Israel included reprobate people, and they were really party to the MC. The Abrahamic Covenant was made with Christ and to His elect, not the reprobate.

    As long as we keep the strong law-gospel antithesis to justification, I think we’re fine. I’m not sure where the “obedience boys” deny that.

    In any case, the problem with a formal republication if it means what you just said runs immediately into problems. The curses of the Mosaic covenant fell also on believers—not in some ultimate sense of course—but Jeremiah and Daniel went into exile no less than the rank apostates In Judah. And certain blessings of the Abrahamic covenant fell on those who were presumably not elect. Ishmael, after all, had many descendants.

    IOW, the division between the Mosaic covenant and the Abrahamic covenant isn’t so simple. Law and gospel are utterly opposed in the matter of justification, but nowhere else. The only people I see denying that are Roman Catholics, the Federal Vision guys, and others. I just don’t see where the “obedience boys” that everybody harps on here do that.

    BTW, I think talking about grace in the context of the Adamic covenant is very confusing.

    When I was in seminary, I recall that distinction in John (law through Moses, grace and truth through Christ) was presented not as one as a distinction in degree, not in kind. The new covenant is so much more abundant in grace, that it can be hardly be compared with Moses, but it is not as if the Mosaic law or the Mosaic covenant is devoid of grace. This was RTS Orlando, for what it’s worth.

    It seems to me that we have see the gift of the Mosaic law as an act of grace. If it is given to drive us to Christ, that is, to grace, then God’s giving it to us is an act of grace to further grace. That’s a far cry from saying we are justified by keeping it, however, or that we can merit more grace by doing it. Those are Romanist positions, but again, I don’t see where the “obedience boys” are advocating either position.

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  86. Robert,

    It is good to hear you agree with a strong (strict) law/gospel antithesis. Many here express concern that the “obedience boys” are speaking in line with Shepherd and point out that this undermines the antithesis. I think a lot of this plays out in sermons, I’ve recently heard someone in a sermon stating that helping the poor is a part of the gospel and another talking about sinners within the church aren’t hearing enough moral law preaching because of how much sin was occurring. Also, the reluctance to speak the way that Paul does in Galatians about this antithesis is concerning. I’d feel a lot better if I heard a lot people prefacing comments the way you did here, for instance. I don’t know that everyone could, however.

    As for the curses, I’m not denying a typological, temporal element to the curses, which helps to explain the examples you gave. I’ve got further study to do on the point, yet I do think that there is an element of actual curse for the reprobate in the MC. The MC was received by the reprobate in Israel to demonstrate that those that desire to be under the law will strive in judgment. If the believer considers his actions outside of Christ, he can feel the threatening that came with the law of Moses. Christ was born under the MC as well, yet he fulfilled all the works (not faith) required. All of that to say, I think there is a personal element to the MC that is not limited to a typological national level. The Judaizers will be judged by their obedience to the Mosaic Law (which displays to all their actual sins, not just original sin), if they did not repent and believe.

    I realize that most here probably do not have the same approach on this aspect of the MC.

    As for your view of John 1:17, I hope you can appreciate why people who interpret this as an antithesis between the law (strictly considered) and the gospel find that concerning. I think this is a big source of the problem. I am under the impression that you are firmly within traditional Presbyterian views for interpreting it that way. I would be curious what you think is going on with the apparent antithesis in Gal. 3-4 as well.

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  87. Definition of George Orwell’s doublespeak: “Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs, “servicing the target” for bombing) in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.

    I will quote McMark as follows, hoping he wil not mind:

    “I John 4:17 explains that God’s election (love) is “perfected with us, so that we have confidence in the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in the world.”

    Legal justification is the only way the elect can be as He is in the world. (Check out your commentaries on this: even commentators who deny that the “fine linen” of the saints (John’s Revelation) is by imputation, even most of these commentators agree that I John 4 is about God’s love resulting in legal union with Christ and His obedience.) .

    I John 3 is about the difference between a Nicodemus and a prodigal publican, about the difference between a religious Cain and a religious Abel. Think of the context. This is not about Abel having a better inside than another person! The religion of Cain is nothing but evil deeds.

    The reason Cain hated Abel was that Cain wanted to glory in/ rejoice in (Phil 3:3) the deeds done by his false god IN himself. Cain refused to put to death (not count) those deeds (Rom 8:13) but instead wanted to worship a god who would accept Cain’s credit for producing life in Cain.

    To pass over from death to life is to be put into the new man, to be given a new legal state, in which one’s confidence is not in what God does in you but rather in what God has done in Christ outside you. Only in this way can we be in the world as Christ was in the world.

    The Cains of this world are ready for a self-examination and contrast in terms of their morality. They are Pharisees who contrast well with alcoholics and people who watch the Simpsons on TV. But these Cains “do not practice righteousness” (I John 3;10). These Cains will not come to the light, because they love darkness and the light of the gospel (God forgives sinners by Christ’s death) keeps telling these Cains that their deeds are evil. All their deeds, both moral and religious. (John 3:19).

    These Cains want to thank their god not only for the deeds they do but also for putting “life in their souls”. But the true God won’t accept their thanks. And those like Abel who worship in truth won’t fellowship with that self-righteous religion. That’s why Cain hated Abel.”

    My modest proposal- let the Cain’s, ie., those who distort the Gospel, go through a disciplinary process where they have to live in shelters and amongst the homeless and try to deal with the system apart from their privledged positions. Don’t just slap their hands and let them go pastor churches somewhere else. Let them live like those whom they have “disciplined” themselves.

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  88. In some ways I marvel at the extreme comments by some here, who apparent believe you are defending the gospel against Jones and nearly everyone else (except Tullian?) It seems that any talk of the necessity of obedience after a Dortian formulation will receive a rather Ryrie-esque rebuke.

    Just for fun, to which church tradition do your views more closely align regarding perseverance:

    Dort: http://www.creeds.net/reformed/dordt/mp5.htm
    or
    Free Grace: http://www.faithalone.org/about/beliefs.html

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  89. Patrick, “It therefore doesn’t make sense for Paul to treat the MC as if it taught a salvation by works. It taught life in the land by works, not salvation by works.”

    Then why does Paul even bother to write against the law? Only because the Judaizers misunderstand it? You mean, sort of like you who regards Deut. 26-28 as basically what is required of Christians?

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  90. Robert, “Law and gospel are utterly opposed in the matter of justification, but nowhere else. The only people I see denying that are Roman Catholics, the Federal Vision guys, and others. I just don’t see where the “obedience boys” that everybody harps on here do that.”

    I’ll believe you when the Obedience Boys distinguish themselves from Shepherd and Kinnaird.

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  91. Shane, I have no problem with Dort:

    Accordingly, this assurance does not derive from some private revelation beyond or outside the Word, but from faith in the promises of God which he has very plentifully revealed in his Word for our comfort, from the testimony of the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God’s children and heirs (Rom. 8:16-17), and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works. And if God’s chosen ones in this world did not have this well-founded comfort that the victory will be theirs and this reliable guarantee of eternal glory, they would be of all people most miserable.

    It’s the obedience boys, though, who want no order in that string of grounds — faith in the promises, testimony of the spirit, pursuit of a clear conscience. I keep hearing from them, no need to put faith first. That’s so Lutheran.

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  92. I don’t know who these “obedience boys” are, but I have yet to hear or read anyone in our churches (OPC) who don’t teach that order, with the priority (though not exclusivity) for assurance being based in “faith in the promises of God.” Without which, we do all become nothing more than Romanists denying the practical application of the doctrine of justification. . . but pushing my earlier comments farther: are the advocates of the CoW in the MC willing to affirm the pervasive teaching of Dort that Christians are to

    ” humble themselves before God,
    to flee for refuge to Christ crucified,
    to put the flesh to death more and more
    by the Spirit of supplication
    and by holy exercises of godliness,
    and to strain toward the goal of perfection,
    until they are freed from this body of death
    and reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.”

    I’m sure all are fine with the “fleeing for refuge to Christ” part, but what of “holy exercises of godliness” and “straining toward the goal of perfection”? Sounds like that Dort synod was overrun with “obedience boys.”

    They even go further, and point out that the elect always repent of this sins they fall into, being graciously renewed to repentance before death: “So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God’s undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. ”

    This is the Reformed faith, holding all the parts together beautifully–a full salvation.

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  93. If the Mosaic Covenant was so gracious, why is there Lamentations chapter 5? With a gracious covenant like that, who needs enemies?

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  94. Geoff– May as well ask the same about our Savior, who is full of grace. Remember it was he who said:
    “18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
    These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

    20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

    24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’”

    Appears that that whole Lamentations-level-suffering isn’t over for the church.

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  95. Shane: If that whole Lamentations-level-suffering isn’t over for the church, then what is this NEW Covenant that the NT keeps talking about?  What is so new?  If you’re going to draw a line from Lamentations to Revelation, don’t stop at chapters 3 and 4. Stop at chapters 21-22, where the city-land-temple are described.  Will there ever be a mass deportation from New Jerusalem?  Will it ever be trodden under the gentiles’ feet?  Will Christ lose his throne?  Will God evacuate His temple?  Don’t confuse branches being cut off or lamp stands being removed with the loss of the land itself; there is a huge gap between the two.  Otherwise the prophets’ restoration promises are meaningless.  Really, what is so new about the New Covenant if Lamentations can happen all over again?

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  96. Geoff– I can talk about what is new about the new covenant. And the answer to your rhetorical questions is no–but lets not change the topic: how are the judgments of Revelation less severe than that of Lamentations. Hebrews says “how much more severe!” Your real beef seems to be with what Christ said, not what I said. Does Jesus judge the church or not? If what he threatens happens at your church or mine ought we sing Lamentations 5 again?

    And wait, I thought your view loss of the land was just typological. If that is so, then Jesus killing the children of those who make babies with false teachers is certainly even worse in your paradigm than in mine.

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  97. You may be missing the point being made by Lamentations.  It is not about individuals feeling pain and distress in just any context.  It is “Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners,” with all that represents in the context of the covenant people in their entirety, with all their institutions and offices, being removed from Judah/Zion to go and live among the pagans.  The land was left desolate, a haunting place for jackals.  The temple was destroyed, but only after Yahweh’s glory departed from it.  The full measure of covenant curses came upon the land where God would be His people’s God and dwell among them.  That ceased to be–threatening the Promises made to Abraham.

    During the course of its earthly existence, the church passes through the wilderness as it moves toward its land inheritance.  It is a dangerous time for the church, with many of the same dangers that faved Israel in its wilderness.  It is wheat a chaff, with the final separation waiting for the last judgment.  Branches that bear no fruit are lopped off and cast into the fire.  Lamp stands are removed.  Sexually immoral people are excommunicated.  Faith is tested through various trials to be proven genuine. Judgment begins at God’s house (temple?). And so on.

    But cleaning and purifying the church, painful as that may be, is simply not the same in quality or quality or severity, with expulsion from the land, where God resides in His temple and the Davidic King on his throne.  There will be purgings and purifyings and warnings to the church through the duration of the present age, but the church’s inheritance is forever safe and inviolable because its permanence depends exclusively on the righteousness of its Lord, Jesus Christ.  It and everything in it is and will forever be Holy to the Lord.

    The conquerors’ incentive to persevere requires the permenance of the land, city, and temple with its King and priests.  That is their achievement, which is diminished by the possibility that the whole thing ends badly.

    The New Covenant secures all this–the dark powers themselves cannot pry the territory loose from its covenant Lord.

    There were, under the OC, plenty of cases that required the accused to be cut off from his people.  The Law called for death–often as way to maintain the land’s holy character.  But it was thing for offenders to get cut off from the land and its residents from time to time.  That was a far cry from all Israel being dragged away into exile, leaving the land behind with no one to tnd it or worship in it.  The restoration promises include declarations that the exile–and what led up to it–would be changed under the New Covenant.  So what’s so new?

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  98. Shane, Dort usually comes with Heidelberg, which includes QA114, which asks whether those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments and answers that “No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God,” which seems to at once endorse the pursuit of obedience but also temper it against any tendency to get too carried away with what to expect in this life. Unless you consider yourself among the holiest, where obedience is but a small beginning in this life, for the rest of us it’s barely noticeable. That’s not antinomianism, it’s more like humility.

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  99. On the other hand, the terrible and memorable punishments, which are everywhere recounted, instruct us in reverence towards God, and inspire our hearts with awe, lest we should falsely boast ourselves to be his children, whilst indulging in the liberty of sin. For, since God so severely punished idolatry, evil affections and lusts, rebellion and other crimes, we may learn that he nowhere more evidently inflicts his judgments than upon his Church, and thus we may appropriate to the deceivers of our own day whatever happened to the hypocritical Jews. (John Calvin, Preface to Harmony of the Law)

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  100. Zrim–no doubt! (Though Dort says the same thing maybe even more plainly.) is there anyone who lives or advocates for something different than this in the Reformed churches? I don’t see it. I see it in fundamentalist churches, Catholics, and others. But maybe I’m missing where those labeled “obedience boys” are not growing in their confession of sin and open admission of their need for forgiveness.

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  101. Darryl,

    I’ll believe you when the Obedience Boys distinguish themselves from Shepherd and Kinnaird.

    Pardon my ignorance, but who is embracing Frame and Kinnaird? Frame has said some confusing things about Shepherd, but other than him, who is pointing to Shepherd and Kinnaird as men we should follow on justification? (And even Frame, as far as I have seen, isn’t saying we should follow Shepherd on justification.)

    It’s an honest question. I may have missed something.

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  102. Robert, well one obedience boy did include at his blog a long section from Kinnaird.

    I can name others but won’t out of intimidation at what come my way if I utter hallowed names in our circles.

    But even if they aren’t citing Kinnaird and Shepherd — why did Frame’s name come up? — why aren’t they distinguishing themselves from Shepherd (if not Kinnaird who is mainly unknown)? The Shepherd controversy is still largely unsettled and continues to afflict the confessional Reformed world in my estimate.

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  103. Shane, what I don’t tend to see from the O-boys is the kind of humility and reticence to draw attention to progress in holiness that an older Protestantism does, or being content to let sanctification be a mysterious work of the Spirit that is more imperceptible than perceptible. I’m having a hard time envisioning these fellows writing anything like HC 114.

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  104. Shane: I still want to know what is new about the new covenant. You said that you’d be willing to talk about it. I explained why the severity of the judgment (as measured by actual human pain and suffering) was not the issue. At stake, according to the Prophets, is the permanent restoration of God’s Israel. So if there is no essential difference between Jeremiah’s Jerusalem and Saint John’s Thyatira, what distinguishes the new from the old? Where is its grace located? We know it’s not justification by faith alone–David had that. So what is it?

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  105. Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are men today who encourage their congregations to tear out the page between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But I wonder if it is a foundation that is able to support the scandal of grace. If we care about the distinction between law and gospel…then we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on “the continuity of the covenants” may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel. Where there is a merging of the old and new covenants, it will never be the law diminished by gospel. It will always be the gospel fatally diminished by the law.”

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  106. The circumcision covenant of Genesis 17 not only refers to physical promises to Abraham but also to “spiritual” promises conditioned on what God enables the children of Abraham do. But the new covenant is not conditioned on what God enables sinners to do, but on what God has already done in Christ. .It is not only the sign which has been replaced but the old covenants. Abraham had two different sons.

    http://www.rbap.net/conclusion-to-james-whites-the-newness-of-the-new-covenant-better-covenant-better-mediator-better-sacrifice-better-ministry-better-hope-better-promises-part-1/

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