Is "Made Under Law" Gracious?

So my catechetical thought for the day is to wonder why those who insist that the Covenant of Works with Adam was a gracious arrangement don’t extend the logic to Christ’s humiliation and regard his submission to the law also as gracious. Sure, the overarching purpose of the incarnation was gracious. But was Christ’s being “made under the law” specifically a gracious reality? Or was it humiliating, as the Larger and Shorter Catechisms classify it?

Q. 27. Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.

For those, again, who want to say that the Covenant of Works was gracious in character, why is it uplifting and such a swell deal for Adam to follow God’s law but for Christ it was a burden and a form of humiliation? I don’t think that simply distinguishing between Christ’s divine and human natures will resolve this.

Here is how Calvin renders Galatians 4:4 (“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,”):

God sent forth his Son. These few words contain much instruction. The Son, who was sent, must have existed before he was sent; and this proves his eternal Godhead. Christ therefore is the Son of God, sent from heaven. Yet this same person was made of a woman, because he assumed our nature, which shews that he has two natures. Some copies read natum instead of filium; but the latter reading is more generally followed, and, in my opinion, is preferable. But the language was also expressly intended to distinguish Christ from other men, as having been formed of the substance of his mother, and not by ordinary generation. In any other sense, it would have been trifling, and foreign to the subject. The word woman is here put generally for the female sex.

Subjected under the law. The literal rendering is, Made under the law; but in my version I have preferred another word, which expresses more plainly the fact that he was placed in subjection to the law. Christ the Son of God, who might have claimed to be exempt from every kind of subjection, became subject to the law. Why? He did so in our room, that he might obtain freedom for us. A man who was free, by constituting himself a surety, redeems a slave: by putting on himself the chains, he takes them off from the other. So Christ chose to become liable to keep the law, that exemption from it might be obtained for us; otherwise it would have been to no purpose that he should come under the yoke of the law, for it certainly was not on his own account that he did so.

If the covenant with Adam was a covenant of works whereby “life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience” (Confession 7.2), it makes sense to describe Christ’s submission to the law as a form of humiliation. But if the covenant with Adam was gracious, as in God offering freely “salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe” (7.3) then how was Christ “made low” by submitting to it?

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45 thoughts on “Is "Made Under Law" Gracious?

  1. Well one clue is that Christ wasn’t created whereas Adam was. The key difference is ontological. It’s all there in Calvin’s exposition. God was under no obligation to even create Man, let alone offer him eternal salvation; for Christ, very God of very God, to be placed in the position of Man was a humiliation.

    Not to mention the conditions of both covenants are the same: personal, perfect, perpetual obedience; a perfect righteousness must be offered. In the former it’s our own, which after the Fall we cannot offer; in the latter it’s Christ’s.

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  2. MG, does that mean you don’t have to pay him? I’m trying something similar with my daughter but it’s not working…

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  3. Q. 33. What is justification?
    A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

    So, having associated “grace” with mowing the lawn, this is how I get him to mow the church lawn.

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  4. So, “Justification is an act of God’s free YOU MOW THE LAWN, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”

    I know a few people here are slow – I’m just lifting your burden for you.

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  5. MG: I tell my son that his requirement to mow the lawn is a gracious covenant between us.

    He mows the lawn and gets to stay in one piece?

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  6. But, Mud, the grace of law-yers would say that it’s gracious that the little ungrateful twerp: 1) has a father, 2) has a lawn, 3) has someone to discipline him, 4) has a lawmower, 5) has note been stoned for prior disobedience, etc. ad nauseum.

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  7. Just something to think on. Think of the learning of obedience through suffering. Clearly after the fall being obedient included suffering which the Eternal Son before the incarnation after the fall would not have experienced and Adam before the fall would also not have known and had to endure. Adam would have been created to not have suffering in the beginning, while Christ was created to learn and show obedience through His suffering. Afam’s obedience required no suffering and pain; Christ’s required the cross.

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  8. CW, he is fortunate and that’s why all my interactions with him are gracious.

    ________

    Of course, the point is that when you stretch “grace” far enough to cover the covenant in the garden you have damaged the word. Then if you plug in that idea of “grace” throughout our standards you make a shambles of them. “Grace” is too important a word to muddle like that.

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  9. MTX, agreed, but doing this particular hokey-pokey is best left to the Reformed.

    Sit back with the popcorn and hope one of the usual suspects shows up to defend the other side….

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  10. Thank you very much for the “butt out”, Kent, but was my initial thought ignorant or thought worthy to the topic at hand? Was it not a difference in the original plan God had for Adam in the Garden to obey with no pain or death and the plan of Christ to obey with suffering and death? Isn’t this the question, Hart has posed? Why the huff and puff?

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  11. MTX, we can’t service all of your tendencious arrangements to make a point on every topic.

    Your view has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    That’s just the way it is.

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  12. Oh the gratitude we all should give for Alexander solving the entire 500 years of argument and discussion with a few simple sentences.

    Bless you, Alexander….

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  13. Kent, is I even possible you are stepping over the line? It seems to me your comments to me are the ones wasting time being argumentative and trying to shut up a point of view that Hart doesn’t seem to mind having on his blog. It was a simple comment and I said it was just for thought. I did not attack anybody or provoke an argument.

    Hart, would you have me withhold my first comment? I do feel this commenting with Kent has been destracting to discussing your topic though. Do you agree?

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  14. Kent,
    I have never minded reading your comments. What is up with the attack on me dropping a little something to think about?

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  15. Yeah, they not bring the Scripture. They also call it the covenant of life. These are terms theologians have come up with.

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  16. @mtx
    You wrote,
    “Adam would have been created to not have suffering in the beginning, while Christ was created to learn and show obedience through His suffering. Afam’s obedience required no suffering and pain; Christ’s required the cross.”

    I have to confess that I haven’t thought about this much, so maybe the answer is obvious. Is it clear from the Genesis narrative that had Adam not fallen he wouldn’t suffer? For example, could Cain still have killed Abel? Would that loss grieve Adam? I know the curse includes pain, futility, etc… but does that necessarily mean no suffering pre-fall at all? Or maybe suffering is an existential state so that in his state of innocence he wouldn’t have recognized negative occurrences around him as suffering?

    I’m not sure what difference any of this makes, but your comment got me thinking. I will second Kent and say that I find some of these intramural reformed debates about covenants pretty opaque. Same with some of the debates over sanctification. I guess I’m just a bit too dense to get what all the fuss is about.

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  17. Sdb,
    You may find this interesting from John Paul IIs letter on human suffering:

    IV

    JESUS CHRIST
    SUFFERING CONQUERED BY
    LOVE

    14. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”(27). These words, spoken by Christ in his conversation with Nicodemus, introduce us into the very heart of God’s salvific work. They also express the very essence of Christian soteriology, that is, of the theology of salvation. Salvation means liberation from evil, and for this reason it is closely bound up with the problem of suffering. According to the words spoken to Nicodemus, God gives his Son to “the world” to free man from evil, which bears within itself the definitive and absolute perspective on suffering. At the same time, the very word “gives” (“gave”) indicates that this liberation must be achieved by the only-begotten Son through his own suffering. And in this, love is manifested, the infinite love both of that only-begotten Son and of the Father who for this reason “gives” his Son. This is love for man, love for the “world”: it is salvific love.

    We here find ourselves—and we must clearly realize this in our shared reflection on this problem—faced with a completely new dimension of our theme. It is a different dimension from the one which was determined and, in a certain sense, concluded the search for the meaning of suffering within the limit of justice. This is the dimension of Redemption, to which in the Old Testament, at least in the Vulgate text, the words of the just man Job already seem to refer: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last… I shall see God…”(28). Whereas our consideration has so far concentrated primarily and in a certain sense exclusively on suffering in its multiple temporal dimension (as also the sufferings of the just man Job), the words quoted above from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus refer to suffering in its fundamental and definitive meaning. God gives his only-begotten Son so that man “should not perish” and the meaning of these words ” should not perish” is precisely specified by the words that follow: “but have eternal life”.

    Man ” perishes” when he loses “eternal life”. The opposite of salvation is not, therefore, only temporal suffering, any kind of suffering, but the definitive suffering: the loss of eternal life, being rejected by God, damnation. The only-begotten Son was given to humanity primarily to protect man against this definitive evil and against definitive suffering. In his salvific mission, the Son must therefore strike evil right at its transcendental roots from which it develops in human history. These transcendental roots of evil are grounded in sin and death: for they are at the basis of the loss of eternal life. The mission of the only-begotten Son consists in conquering sin and death. He conquers sin by his obedience unto death, and he overcomes death by his Resurrection.

    15. When one says that Christ by his mission strikes at evil at its very roots, we have in mind not only evil and definitive, eschatological suffering (so that man “should not perish, but have eternal life”), but also—at least indirectly toil and suffering in their temporal and historical dimension. For evil remains bound to sin and death. And even if we must use great caution in judging man’s suffering as a consequence of concrete sins (this is shown precisely by the example of the just man Job), nevertheless suffering cannot be divorced from the sin of the beginnings, from what Saint John calls “the sin of the world”(29), from the sinful background of the personal actions and social processes in human history. Though it is not licit to apply here the narrow criterion of direct dependance (as Job’s three friends did), it is equally true that one cannot reject the criterion that, at the basis of human suffering, there is a complex involvement with sin.
    http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html

    Really worth reading the whole thing.

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  18. “But was Christ’s being “made under the law” specifically a gracious reality?”

    Who cares? I do. Law is not grace. Grace is not law. Romans 9: 11 For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand— not from works…. Romans 9: 5 there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. 6 Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace. Galatians 3: 12 But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them. 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed

    Christ was not justified by grace. Christ was justified by justice without grace. Christ’s elect are justified by justice AND grace, because Christ’s elect are born ungodly and need Christ’s death legally imputed to them by God’s grace before Christ’s elect can be justified by justice.

    God justified Christ not because of His resurrection, but because of Christ’s satisfaction of divine law by His death.I Timothy 3:16 He was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit.

    How was Christ justified? Certainly NOT by the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ was NOT justified after becoming born again. Christ was justified by satisfying the righteous requirement of the law for the sins imputed to Christ. Christ was justified by His death. Christ needed to be justified because Christ legally shared the guilt of His elect, and this guilt demanded His death.

    Romans 6:9–”We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

    Christ was justified by His own righteousness. Christ was declared to be just, not simply by who He was as an incarnate person, but by His death in satisfaction of the law. No righteousness was imputed or shared from somebody else to Christ, because Christ had earned His own righteousness by His own death.

    Romans 4:24-25 –Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.

    The justification of the elect sinner is different from the justification of Christ. The legal merit of Christ’s death is shared by God with the elect sinner, as Romans 6 says, when they are joined to His death. This is NOT the Holy Spirit baptizing us into Christ. Nor is it Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit.

    So only one righteousness. In Christ’s case, no legal sharing. In the case of the justified elect, that same one death is legally shared, and this one death is enough, because counted to them it completely satisfies the law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4)

    So yes I care. The Norman Shepherd (“federal vision”) problem creeps in when people begin to think that since Christ was justified by what Christ did, then the elect also must be justified by what they are enabled to do. But elect sinners are ONLY justified by what Christ did, and NOT by what Christ is now doing in us. Only Christ could be (and was) justified by producing righteousness.

    Lee Irons p 17—The covenant becomes a way, therefore, of circumventing strict justice, making possible the arbitrary acceptance as meritorious of that which is not actually meritorious….. Casting about for some way of bridging the awesome metaphysical gap between God and the creature, the voluntarist seizes on the notion of a condescension expressed by way of covenant… The voluntarist definition of merit must be qualified as a lesser merit that cannot even exist apart from God’s GRACIOUS ACCEPTATION.”

    Lee Irons— “God’s justice must be defined and judged in terms of what he stipulates in his covenants”….Covenant is not a voluntary condescension of divine grace but a revelation of divine justice. …God’s freedom must be maintained, but not at the expense of the divine perfections (i.e., wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, truth, and rationality). God does not act arbitrarily, for all his actions are expressive of and delimited by his attributes.

    http://www.upper-register.com/papers/redefining_merit.pdf

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  19. The OPC Report on Justification rejects any idea that Christ was under grace. (lines 796 ff)–”James Jordan argued that Philippians 2 actually rules out the notion of merit in regard to Christ’s obedience, because in 2:9 Paul uses the word echarisato, which etymologically derives from the word for “grace,” (charis) to describe God’s giving the name above every name to Christ. This indicates, he claims, that the Father exalted the Son not meritoriously but graciously.This argument fails however”…read the report!

    I think we need to see how antinomian some of the “obedience boys” are—by factoring into the not yet aspect of a future justification our continuing faith, and by redefining this faith as our works of obedience to the law, they lower the perfect standard involved being under law. The law is satisfied by nothing less (or more) than Christ’s being under the CURSE of the law. The law does not give life or blessing on account of imperfect obedience.

    Many today have not bothered to even define the word “merit”. But they are against it. When they reject the idea of Christ’s meritorious death before law, then they begin to suggest that even Christ Himself was saved by grace. And then they also include the works we are enabled to do into the faith by which we receive grace.

    Gaffin, lectures on Romans, on 2:13:—-As that judgement decides, in its way, we’re going to want to qualify that deciding, but it decides the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. That is, death or life. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.

    Mark Jones—Returning, then, to Mastricht: his point about good works having “in a certain sense” an “efficacy” is immediately explained: “in so far as God, whose law we attain just now through the MERIT alone of Christ, does not want to grant possession of eternal life, unless [it is] beyond faith with good works performed. We received once before the right unto eternal life through the merit of Christ alone. But God does not want to grant the possession of eternal life, unless there are, next to faith, also good works which precede this possession, Heb. 12:14; Matt. 7:21; 25:34-36; Rom. 2:7, 10
    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/06/an-apologie.php

    Romans 6:14 For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

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  20. DG:

    Think of it this way: was there anything inherently burdensome in Adam’s being made under the law? Clearly, the answer is “no, for he was in a state of blessedness.” To be sure, such state was to be confirmed and brought to glorification upon a successful completion of his probation. But there was no sense of burden, humiliation or the like in Adam being made under the law. The burdensome aspect appeared only after the introduction of sin. The law, in and of itself, is simply an expression of the perfect character of God, a delight, and not a burden.

    For Christ, however, as Calvin notes in his treatment of “God sent forth his Son,” it was humiliation to be born of a woman and to be subject to the law. That Christ the lawgiver should be also born of a woman and be called to be Christ the law-keeper (and that in a sinful world, as the rest of the LC and SC make clear) is a remarkable humiliation: for God who gives the law to subject himself to that same law is a humbling act of the first order, not because it is inherently humiliating for a man to be subject to the law, but because it is humiliating for one who is God to be subject to the law that He has given to man as his rule.

    Adam was, of course, not a recipient of grace, in the sense of “demerited favor,” as long as he remained in his state of innocency and uprightness. God’s grace in this sense was not necessary for man in his original estate and only came into view after the Fall. This is not to say, however, that God was not kind and benevolent to man in his first estate: to give him the law and the ability to keep it, that is to say, to enter covenant with man before the Fall was a marvelous “voluntary condescension on God’s part” (WCF 7.1).

    In this sense, the covenant of works with Adam, which was in keeping with both God’s goodness and His justice, was different for Christ, who came to fulfill the covenant that Adam failed to keep and to pay for Adam’s having violated it. In other words, everything that Christ did was to fulfill all righteousness so that offended justice might be satisfied, as the hymn-writer put it–“justice smiles and asks no more.” He willingly undertook in the whole of His life to become a curse for us, to bear the awful load of sin that none in heaven and earth could bear but God. Everything, as our surety, was a burden for Him in a way that the law was not a burden for Adam before he fell.

    It seems to me a better way to get at what you are asking is “was the law a burden to Adam before the Fall?” No, it was his delight, day and night. After the Fall, however, it became something that he could no longer keep, something to condemn him, and it is that which our Savior took up and bore both in His active and passive obedience in His state of humiliation. Adam was not in a state of humiliation, however, before the Fall. He was in a provisional, probationary state, to be confirmed in righteousness and glorified upon obedience. Sadly, by eating the forbidden fruit, he fell into an estate of sin and misery, which, thankfully, Christ assumed and from which He redeemed us.

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  21. Alan Strange—Adam was, of course, not a recipient of grace, in the sense of “demerited favor,” as long as he remained in his state of innocency and uprightness. God’s grace in this sense was not necessary for man in his original estate and only came into view after the Fall.

    mark mcculley—Where is the grace in God’s death threat to Adam? Was Adam supposed to keep “the covenant of works” by faith or by works? If “grace” gave Adam the ability to never sin (against the one law), did “grace” fail?

    Is there another sense of “grace” in which works and faith can be combined, and the antithesis between law and gospel overcome?

    Galatians 3:12 the law is not of faith

    Adam was given life by God apart from Adam believing the gospel . Genesis 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul

    The comparison between Adam and Christ is that the guilt of Adam’s one act of disobedience is imputed to the elect and that the righteousness of Christ’s one act of obedience is imputed to the elect. Adam and Christ were NOT born under the same law. Christ was born under the Mosaic law, but Adam was not. Christ came to die to win immortality for the elect. Adam was threatened with death for disobedience to the command about the one tree.

    Lee Irons–Note the fundamentally voluntarist reasoning of the Westminster Confession’s opening statement on the covenants: The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant (WCF VII.1).

    Lee Irons warns that “we must reject the distinction between condign and congruous merit. The problem with this distinction is that congruous ex pacto merit BECOMES GRACIOUS when it is placed by way of contrast beneath condign merit as something less than full and real merit. Thus, “grace” inevitably enters the definition of congruous merit. We must begin by questioning the doctrine of the the absolute power of God as it was formulated by the nominalists. God’s freedom must be maintained, but not at the expense of the divine law and justice. God does not
    act arbitrarily….”

    Mark Karlberg—“The Shorter Catechism includes the same sort of nature/grace dichotomy and therefore introduces the same sort of confusion to the doctrine of the covenant. The Shorter Catechism describes the covenant as a “special act of providence,” suggestive of the view that posits a distinction between the natural order and the covenant order. The nature/grace dichotomy as employed by the Westminster divines in their doctrine of the covenant introduces a speculative element within the confessional formulation.”

    http://theologicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/adam_karlberg.pdf

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  22. Mark Karlberg—-According to the view of Gaffin and Strimple (summarized in their endorsement of Merit and Moses), there is no works-principle functioning in the covenant God made with Israel through Moses. This means that the sole principle governing the old covenant is the principle of (saving) grace, identical to what is the case in the new covenant.

    MK—What the Murray school of interpretation must conclude, to be theologically consistent (what is the aim of the systematician), is to say that believers under the new covenant are likewise subject to both the blessings and the curses of redemptive covenant in accordance with (non-meritorious) good works.

    Karlberg–This point is crucial: In this school of thought there is no genuine difference between the two economies of redemption, wherein reward is bestowed “on the basis of” or “in accordance with” the believer’s works of obedience. This is precisely the doctrine Shepherd and Gaffin have been eagerly advancing; and they have taken the argument one step further by eviscerating the law/grace antithesis entirely in their doctrine of the covenants . This is the heart of the current dispute, one that has immediate ramifications for the biblical doctrine of justification by faith (apart from good works).

    http://theaquilareport.com/republication-a-doctrinal-controversy-four-decades-in-the-making/

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  23. Muddy,

    Should your son fall short of being obedient to your grace, please consider my landscaping services. I take a hardline anti-antinomian approach to all yard-work. My Landscaping firm’s motto is “Thank you Sir, may I have another.”

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  24. Mr. Mcculley:

    I am glad that you liked the OPC Report: I was one of the primary authors. That Report comes from a perspective that believes that the Westminster Standards correctly interpret Scriptures. I see that you do not agree with this stance in your criticism of “voluntary condescension.” Very well. But that’s a different argument altogether that I am not able to engage at this point.

    Our host raised a question stemming for our secondary standards and I was responding on that basis. I do not allege that your contra-confessional stance does not raise interesting and provocative points–it does–just ones that time does not permit me currently to engage.

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  25. Alan, I think that works, especially that Adam was not in a state of humiliation before the fall. But those who liken God’s voluntary condescension to grace always seem to regard Adam in a state that looks a lot like a humiliated one and they seem to forget part of Ps. 8:

    Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
    You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
    all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
    the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:5-8 ESV)

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  26. Are you saying that all readings of “voluntary condescension” that do not agree that there is “grace before the fall” are contra-confessional? My point was not to engage in a discussion about Karlberg or Irons and their subscription to the confession. As you perhaps know, I myself am not paedobaptist and clearly not “Reformed”.

    If people don’t agree that the giving of law is “grace”, that makes them Lutherans?

    Perhaps the same “grace” that helped Adam to obey in the garden is the “grace” which helped Christ to believe the law for us.

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/09/republication-debates.php

    Mark Jones–After all, the law is written on our hearts, which is (in some sense!) a return to Eden. And, as the WCF (19.6) makes clear, believers may expect “blessings” upon “performing”/keeping the moral law, as long as it is “sincere” obedience

    Mark Jones—I cannot affirm that there is a works-principle at the typological level (that is devoid of ASSISTING GRACE) and thus functions as the meritorious grounds for Israel’s continuance in the land. The existential crisis this would have created for those who lived by grace through faith in Christ needs to be reckoned with. Imagine being a pastor in that context!

    Mark Jones—If many of our finest Reformed theologians are to be believed, God provided ASSISTING GRACE to Adam in the Garden (JUST AS God provided ASSISTING GRACE to Jesus during his ministry). And, to me, that doesn’t sound like the type of covenant that some people think was “republished” at Sinai.

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  27. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/a-gracious-response-to-rick-ph.php

    Mark Jones—-According to Geerhardus Vos, who comments on Philippians 2:9, “Echarisato means that God bestowed it as a gracious gift, not, of course, in the specific sense of the word ‘grace,’ implying that there was any unworthiness in Christ which God had to overlook, but in the more general sense implying that this was an act in which the graciousness, the kindness of God manifested itself. We have the example of Philippians 2:9. Paul uses the Greek word, “echarisato.” The same Greek word appears earlier in Philippians 1:29, where believers are “freely/graciously given” the privilege of both believing in and suffering for Christ. Was Paul sowing confusion into the minds of the Philippians by using the same word in different senses? Of course not…”

    The OPC Report Philippians 2 (lines 796 ff)
    “Federal Vision proponents have argued that Philippians 2 rules out the notion of merit in regard to Christ’s obedience, because in 2:9 Paul uses the word echarisato, which etymologically derives from the word for “grace,” charis, to describe God’s giving the name above every name to Christ. This indicates, they claim, that the Father exalted the Son not meritoriously but graciously.This argument as it stands fails, however. One reason it fails is its fallacious reasoning that etymological derivation determines the meaning of a word apart from context. The context of Phil 2:5- 11 shows that MERIT CANNOT BE ELIMINATED from Paul’s teaching here….”

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  28. Mark Jones—“Divine grace is not merely God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, and thus a characteristic of how he relates to finite creatures, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam; in the “wilderness,” the grace of God is upon his Son, the second Adam. God’s graciousness may be summarized simply as what he is in and of himself.”

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

    Mark McCulley—In our post-Barth/Torrance world, it is more and more common to think of all sin as sin against grace. This tends to remove the antithesis between law and grace But only Christians sin against grace.. And when a Christian sins against grace, that Christian is still sinning against law, even though the Christian is no longer under the condemnation of law.

    And this is why Hart’s question is important—“Is Christ’s being “made under the law” specifically a gracious reality?” The justified elect are no longer under the condemnation of law ONLY BECAUSE Christ was under the condemnation of law. Romans 6:9–”We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him.

    Law did have dominion over Christ, because God imputed the sins of the elect to Christ.

    William Lane Craig, In Pinnock, the Grace of god and the Will of Man, p 157—-“God desires and has given sufficient grace for all people to be saved. If some believe and others do not, it is not because some received prevenient grace and some did not.”

    Wesley, Working Out Our Own Salvation—“Allowing that all persons are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man in a state of nature only. There is no man, unless he has quenched the Holy Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”

    For advocates of universal “grace”, God did accomplish all that he intended. But God did not intend to effectually to redeem anyone. God simply intended to offer and provide “grace” for everyone. And in this, they claim, God was perfectly successful, even if all sinners were to fail to use this “grace”.

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  29. Mr. Mcculley:

    I meant by contra-confessional what I read to be your rejection of voluntary condescension, bolstered by quotes from others who find it problematic. I do think that it includes kindness and benevolence, which is to say, something more than strict justice.

    I’ve heard some argue that because Adam was in a covenant of works, only the justice of God was in view before the Fall. I agree that demerited favor was not in view, it not being needed, but I think that it’s patently absurd to think that God’s attributes of goodness, kindness, and benevolence were not in view (as I’ve heard some amateur theologians argue, not Kline or other competent theologians) in the original creation of Adam. Of course they were.

    God loved Adam from the beginning and granted him the gift of righteousness. He would have been confirmed in that and all that pertained to it upon a successful completion of the probation. But it’s not the case that only justice was in view and not the goodness and kindness of God in that voluntary condescension. I understand the desire to retain the use of grace as that which moves man from wrath to restored favor and have sympathy with it, though I also strongly affirm common grace, which has a bit of a different connotation in a fallen world.

    I don’t know your position on baptism or anything else, sir. My interest in this blog pertains mostly to the host and I must confess myself to be only a spotty and occasional reader of those who comment here. I’ve seen your long posts here, before, but have read only a bit of them. Sorry.

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  30. Thank you for your posts Dr. Strange – as always carefully stated and clear.

    MM, I appreciate that you, Dr. Hart and others take Dr. Jones and the Obedience Boys to task for their own problematic statements. Dr. Strange states it well. Re-read his first post, he is clear and makes distinctions without conflating or being vague like the OB’s do.

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  31. Strange—I’ve heard some argue that because Adam was in a covenant of works, only the justice of God was in view before the Fall…..I think that it’s patently absurd to think that God’s attributes of goodness, kindness, and benevolence were not in view (as I’ve heard some amateur theologians argue, not Kline or other competent theologians),,,,But it’s not the case that only justice was in view.

    Mark Mcculley– I would like to hear opinions from those who have time about the view of Mark Jones that DENIES that “only justice was in view” in the success of Christ. I for one certainly am willing to grant that there are “competent theologians” who disagree with me.

    In the comments above, I have quoted two very competent students of Kline who teach that “only covenant justice” was in view with Adam before the Fall. God does not have to be gracious to be good, and Karlberg and Lee Irons both show how Kline rejected the equation of “covenant” with “grace”

    Lee Irons— “Kline clearly rejects the voluntarist position that all merit is based upon God’s free and gracious condescension to make himself a debtor to man’s finite works. The voluntarist definition of merit presupposes that “a distinction is to be made between the inherent value of a moral act and its ascribed value under the terms of the covenant.” The covenant becomes a way, therefore, of CIRCUMVENTING STRICT JUSTICE, making possible the arbitrary acceptance as meritorious of that which is not actually meritorious.”

    Irons—“The voluntarist seizes on the notion of a voluntary condescension expressed by way of covenant. Precisely because of this tacit capitulation to the intellectualist definition of merit as true merit, the voluntarist definition of merit, by contrast, must be qualified as a lesser merit that cannot
    even exist apart from God’s gracious acceptation. Declaring a pox on both houses, Kline teaches that “God’s justice must be defined and judged in terms of what he stipulates in his covenants.” The covenant is the revelation of God’s JUSTICE. ”

    Irons—Kline’s insight is not altogether new. For although the Westminster Confession’s
    opening statement on the covenant employs the language of the via moderna, we believe
    that the Confession’s overall system of doctrine supports the covenantal nature of creation.
    The Confession speaks of “the holy nature and will of God,” as a covenant (WCF XIX.1-3; WLC # 93, 95). Furthermore, the Confession, when dealing with the imago Dei, states that Adam and Eve had “the law of God written in their hearts” (WCF IV.2), thus strongly suggesting that man was constituted n a covenantal relationship with God as he was created….the covenant of works cannot be viewed as a superadded, voluntary condescension in addition to creation, but must be inherent in the very fact that man was made in the divine image. When WCF VII.1 is read in this broader
    context, it begins to appear more and more like a vestigial organ whose surgical removal
    would not jeopardize the continued vitality of the larger organism….”

    http://www.upper-register.com/papers/redefining_merit.pdf

    Mark Karlberg—-According to the view of Gaffin and Strimple (summarized in their endorsement of Merit and Moses), there is no works-principle functioning in the covenant God made with Israel through Moses. This means that the sole principle governing the old covenant is the principle of (saving) grace, identical to what is the case in the new covenant. What the Murray school of interpretation must conclude, to be theologically consistent is to say that believers under the new covenant are likewise subject to both the blessings and the curses of redemptive covenant in accordance with (non-meritorious) good works…..

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