The name of my blog is contrast. If you take a look on the about page, you will see why I chose that name. I believe that contrast is essential to learning. We learn what something is by learning what it is not. Now, a lot of what I have been thinking about regarding the covenants has to do with types and antitypes. Isaac was a type. Christ was the antitype. There were many similarities between Isaac and Christ and certainly we can see much of God’s plan of Redemption foreshadowed in Isaac. Yet Isaac is not Christ.
This seems clear enough, but when we begin to talk about the nation of Israel, suddenly the blender gets switched on.
A good example of this is the discussion I have read regarding Law and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant. This post from Mark Jones is a good example of the problem (IMO): Law and Grace at Sinai. Give it a read if you’re not familiar with what I am referring to, or this Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works from R. Scott Clark.
Basically, proponents of Re-Publication see the obvious conditional statements in the Mosaic Covenant and thus argue that it is a Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works. Opponents of this rightly say Sinai cannot possibly be a Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works for various reasons. But they then conclude that the Mosaic Covenant is entirely gracious!
The way they do so is they compare Israel with the church. Or, rather, they say Israel is the church. They then say that our salvation in Jesus Christ does not exempt us from work. Though we are justified, our sanctification involves us working and bearing the fruit of our justification. The same thing is true of Israel, they say. Israel was saved out of slavery in Egypt and brought to the Promised Land. Thus the Mosaic Covenant is a law given to an already redeemed people, not as a requirement for them, but rather as a means of sanctification.
An example from Mark Jones:
I think we also need to recognize that there are unconditional promises and conditional promises in Scripture. A promise doesn’t somehow lose its promissory value because there are conditions attached. And this principle is not limited to the OT. Just read 1 Peter 1 (esp. 1:8; 1:9; 1:17; 2:2; 2:19-20; 3:1-2; 3:7; 4:14; 5:7; 5:9-10). Right conduct in Peter leads to blessing. Peter hasn’t somehow becomes a Judaizer!
Notice what he is doing. He is attempting to view everything in Scripture through the lens of the New Covenant. In the New Covenant, members are justified and eternally saved by grace apart from works, and the law is a response and a means of blessing – therefore it must be the same in the Old Covenant!
His reasoning goes something like this:
The Mosaic covenant includes Exodus 17-24, not just chapter 20. In chapter 19 the call for obedience to God’s commands is based on redemption. In fact, imperatives in Scripture are based on the indicative (see Ex. 20; Deut. 26; Eph. 1-6; 1 Peter 1; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Rom 6). Israel, in chapter 19 of Exodus are God’s people!
Note what he is referring to: Ex. 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God “redeemed” Israel from slavery in Egypt. They no longer belonged to Israel, but now they are “God’s people.” This is a beautiful type of our salvation in Christ. But it is a type. It is not actual eternal salvation through faith. The nation of Israel was not “God’s people” in the same way that members of the New Covenant are “God’s people” (though certainly individual true believers existed within Israel).
Continuing in his defense for viewing the Mosaic Covenant as pure grace, Mark notes:
These verses speak of the glorious privileges of being bondservants to the Lord. What a perversion to treat the law as a burden when we are talking in the realm of having been redeemed. Notice the rewards: prosperity, life, and righteousness! This might be offensive but we clearly read that Moses is assuming belief and thus they are in a position to be righteous as they keep his commands.
Woah, wait a minute. I thought we were talking about how God “redeemed” Israel out of Egypt. Now we’re supposed to understand redeemed to mean that God gave the entire nation of Israel new hearts and justified them by the blood of Christ, producing in them true faith? What happened to Israel’s redemption being a type? Do you see the jump that was made from type to antitype?
The issue here is that the Mosaic Covenant is clearly works based. In order to get around this, Mark and others say that the Old Covenant is essentially the same as the New Covenant. And thus they interpret the Old Covenant along New Covenant lines.
In the end, I’m happy with the WCF; I’m happy to vigorously separate law and grace in justification, but in sanctification (obedience) I see a basic pattern in Scripture that allows me to posit a single covenant of grace in the history of redemption.
So Mark solves the dilemma by claiming that the Mosaic Covenant is concerned only with sanctification for a redeemed people. But this is quite absurd. I would not call exile and famine sanctification. I would call it a curse.
In bringing the issue into the New Testament and trying to understand Paul’s commentary on the Mosaic Covenant in Galatians, Mark notes that “The Judaizers had abused Moses.” This is true, but how exactly? Mark would seem to be saying that the Judaizers abused Moses by thinking that obedience to the Mosaic Covenant earned them something, when in reality they should have viewed it as a proper response to already being redeemed, and that it did not earn them anything.
I disagree. I believe that the Judaizers’ abuse of Moses was their belief that the Mosaic Covenant was about eternal life. It never was. It was about temporal life and temporal blessings. And they had to work for those temporal blessings, or they would be physically cursed and/or physically killed. The error of the Judaizers was not their proper understanding of the merit basis of the Mosaic Covenant. Their error was a misunderstanding of the blessings promised by the Mosaic Covenant. Eternal life was never offered as a reward for adherence to the law of Moses.
And thus I would close by paralleling Mark. I am not happy with the WCF. I am not happy to conflate the type with the antitype. I do not see the Mosaic Covenant as “an administration” of the New Covenant of Grace.
There is no doubt in my mind that many have been led astray when considering the typical teaching of Israel’s history and the antitype in the experience of Christians, by failing to duly note the contrasts as well as the comparisons between them. It is true that God’s deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt blessedly foreshadowed the redemption of His elect form sin and Satan; yet let it not be forgotten that the majority of those who were emancipated from Pharaoh’s slavery perished in the wilderness, not being suffered to enter the promised land.
Nor are we left to mere reasoning at this point: it is placed upon inspired record that “behold, the days come saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord” (Heb. 8:8,9).
Thus we have divine authority for saying that God’s dealings with Israel at Sinai were not a parallel with His dealings with His people under the gospel, but a contrast!
-Mr. Pink, The Divine Covenants