Pink and NCT

In my last post, I mentioned how properly understanding the Mosaic covenant will help to resolve a number of current debates.  I think Pink has done a great job of articulating some crucial, and almost completely disregarded points about the Mosaic covenant and in this post I will be applying his thoughts to the issue of New Covenant Theology.  If you are unfamiliar with NCT, it is very briefly summed up in the belief that only the New Testament is normative today.  They are sympathetic to dispensationalism and covenant theology, but depart from both.  The crux of the disagreement between NCT and Covenantal Baptists has to do with the law of God.

Law of Christ

NCT argues that Christ abolished the 10 commandments and replaced them with “the law of Christ” (which happens to be 9 of the 10 commandments). They argue that the 10 commandments were only for Israel and they were only concerned with outward obedience. Christ’s law is more spiritual and is concerned with the inward. Therefore, we should only obey the commands that are explicitly commanded in the NT.

Problems with Reformed Baptist Responses

While there are a number of problems with NCT (imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the law written on the hearts of all men, Matt 5, Rom 7:22, knowledge of the inward, spiritual law in the OT, distinction between Decalogue and rest of the laws of Moses from the beginning, etc, etc), I do not feel that Covenantal Baptists have done the best possible job in refuting NCT.  Many of them have done a tremendous job of showing the new covenant spiritual understanding of the Decalogue, but in my opinion, they have not done a tremendous job of showing the Mosaic understanding of the Decalogue.  I feel that too many Covenantal Baptists are content to rest on the shoulders of paedobaptist covenant theologians and allow them to do the heavy lifting.  I do not think this is good for the baptist cause, or for critiquing NCT.

The paedobaptist understanding of the Mosaic covenant is completely at odds with the baptist understanding of the Mosaic covenant.  While the WCF sees the Mosaic covenant as simply an administration of the covenant of grace, the (most likely) editors of the LBC denied the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace and instead believed it was an entirely separate covenant. They agreed with John Owen:

This covenant [Sinai] thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as formally such. It did, indeed, revive the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works; and therein, as the apostle speaks, was ?the ministry of condemnation,? 2 Cor. iii. 9; for ?by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified.? And on the other hand, it directed also unto the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation unto all that did believe. But as unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal. Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works.

Owen, Works, 22:85-86. (Commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13)

(Richard Barcellos does an excellent job of explaining Owen’s view and refuting the NCT claim to Owen I.2 John Owen and NCT.htm )

That the Mosaic covenant was not part of the CoG, and that it was “confined unto things temporal” is essential to understand. It was a covenant of works (mixed with some ceremonial grace), the reward of which was healthy living in the promised land, the curse of which was war, plague, and exile.

Outward Obedience

One of the important contributions that Pink makes (Owen rejects it, or at least a Roman Catholic version of it), is that not only did the Decalogue in the Mosaic covenant serve a different end, the required obedience to it was also different. As part of their national covenant of works, God required an outward obedience to the letter of the Decalogue.

Here, finally, is how A. W. Pink expressed it (I apologize for the length, but it’s worth it):

“The national covenant with Israel was here (Ex. 19:5) meant; the charter upon which they were incorporated, as a people, under the government of Jehovah. It was an engagement of God, to give Israel possession of Canaan, and to protect them in it: to render the land fruitful, and the nation victorious and prosperous, and to perpetuate His oracles and ordinances among them; so long as they did not, as a people, reject His authority, apostatize to idolatry, and tolerate open wickedness. These things constitute a forfeiture of the covenant; as their national rejection of Christ did afterwards. True believers among them were personally dealt with according to the Covenant of Grace, even as true Christians now are; and unbelievers were under the Covenant of Works, and liable to condemnation by it, as at present: yet, the national covenant was not strictly either the one or the other, but had something in it of the nature of each.

“The national covenant did not refer to the final salvation of individuals: nor was it broken by the disobedience, or even idolatry, of any number of them, provided this was not sanctioned or tolerated by public authority. It was indeed a type of the covenant made with true believers in Christ Jesus, as were all the transactions with Israel; but, like other types, it ‘had not the very image,’ but only ‘a shadow of good things to come.’ When, therefore, as a nation, they had broken this covenant, the Lord declared that He would make ‘a new covenant with Israel, putting His law,’ not only in their hands, but ‘in their inward parts’; and ‘writing it,’ not upon tables of stone, ‘but in their hearts; forgiving their iniquity and remembering their sin no more’ (Jer. 31:32-34; Heb. 8:7-12; 10:16, 17). The Israelites were under a dispensation of mercy, and had outward privileges and great advantages in various ways for salvation: yet, like professing Christians, the most of them rested in these, and looked no further. The outward covenant was made with the Nation, entitling them to outward advantages, upon the condition of outward national obedience; and the covenant of Grace was ratified personally with true believers, and sealed and secured spiritual blessings to them, by producing a holy disposition of heart, and spiritual obedience to the Divine law. In case Israel kept the covenant, the Lord promised that they should be to Him ‘a peculiar treasure.’ ‘All the earth’ (Ex. 19:5) being the Lord’s, He might have chosen any other people instead of Israel: and this implied that, as His choice of them was gratuitous, so if they rejected His covenant, He would reject them, and communicate their privileges to others; as indeed He hath done, since the introduction of the Christian dispensation” (Thomas Scott).

The above quotation contains the most lucid, comprehensive, and yet simple analysis of the Sinaitic covenant which we have met with in all our reading. It draws a clear line of distinction between God’s dealings with Israel as a nation, and with individuals in it. It shows the correct position of the everlasting covenant of grace and the Adamic covenant of works in relation to the Mosaic dispensation. All were born under the condemnation of their federal head (Adam), and while they continued unregenerate and in unbelief, were under the wrath of God; whereas God’s elect, upon believing, were treated by Him then, as individuals, in precisely the same way as they are now. Scott brings out clearly the character, the scope, the design, and the limitation of the Sinaitic covenant: its character was a supplementary combination of law and mercy; its scope was national; its design was to regulate the temporal affairs of Israel under the divine government; its limitation was determined by Israel’s obedience or disobedience. The typical nature of it—the hardest point to elucidate—is also allowed. We advise the interested student to reread the last four paragraphs.

Much confusion will be avoided and much help obtained if the Sinaitic economy be contemplated separately under its two leading aspects, namely, as a system of religion and government designed for the immediate use of the Jews during the continuance of that dispensation; and then as a scheme of preparation for another and better economy, by which it was to be superseded when its temporal purpose had been fulfilled. The first design and the immediate end of what God revealed through Moses was to instruct and order the life of Israel, now formed into a nation. The second and ultimate intention of God was to prepare the people, by a lengthy course of discipline, for the coming of Christ. The character of the Sinaitic covenant was, in itself, neither purely evangelical nor exclusively legal: divine wisdom devised a wondrous and blessed comingling of righteousness and grace, justice and mercy. The requirements of the high and unchanging holiness of God were clearly revealed; while His goodness, kindness, and long-suffering were also as definitely manifested. The moral and the ceremonial law, running together side by side, presented and maintained a perfect balance, which only the corruption of fallen human nature failed to reap the full advantage of.

The covenant which God made with Israel at Sinai required outward obedience to the letter of the law. It contained promises of national blessing if they, as a people, kept the law; and it also announced national calamities if they were disobedient. This is unmistakably clear from such a passage as the following: “Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers: And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee. And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee” (Deut. 7:12-16).

In connection with the above passage notice, first, the definite reference made to God’s “mercy,” which proves that He did not deal with Israel on the bare ground of exacting and relentless law, as some have erroneously supposed. Second, observe the reference which the Lord here made unto His oath to their fathers, that is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; which shows that the Sinaitic covenant was based upon, and not divorced from, the Abrahamic—Israel’s occupation of Canaan being the “letter” fulfillment of it. Third, if, as a nation, Israel rendered unto their God the obedience to which He was entitled as their King and Governor, then He would love and bless them—under the Christian economy there is no promise that He will love and bless any who live in defiance of His claims upon them! Fourth, the specific blessings here enumerated were all of a temporal and material kind. In other passages God threatened to bring upon them plagues and judgments (Deut. 28:15-65) for disobedience. The whole was a compact promising to Israel certain outward and national blessings on the condition of their rendering to God a general outward obedience to His law.

The tenor of the covenant made with them was, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine, and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5, 6). “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries” (Ex. 23:20-22). Nevertheless, a provision of mercy was made where true repentance for failure was evidenced: “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies: if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham. . . . These are the statutes and judgments and laws which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses” (Lev. 26:40-42, 46).

The Sinaitic covenant in no way interfered with the divine administration of either the everlasting covenant of grace (toward the elect) nor the Adamic covenant of works (which all by nature lie under); it being in quite another region. Whether the individual Israelites were heirs of blessing under the former, or under the curse of the latter, in no wise hindered or affected Israel’s being as a people under this national regime, which respected not inward and eternal blessings, but only outward and temporal interests. Nor did God in entering into this arrangement with Israel mock their impotency or tantalize them with vain hopes, any more than He does so now, when it still holds good that “righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to nations” (Prov. 14:34). Though it be true that Israel miserably failed to keep their national engagements and brought down upon themselves the penalties which God had threatened, nevertheless, the obedience which He required of them was not obviously and hopelessly impracticable: nay, there were bright periods in their history when it was fairly rendered, and the fruits of it were manifestly enjoyed by them.

The Sinaitic covenant, then, was a compact promising to Israel as a people certain material and national blessings on the condition of their rendering to God a general obedience to His laws. But at this point it may be objected that God, who is infinitely holy and whose prerogative it is to search the heart, could never be satisfied with an outward and general obedience, which in the case of many would be hollow and insincere. The objection is pertinent and presents a real difficulty: how can we meet it? Very simply: this would be true of individuals as such, but not necessarily so where nations are concerned. And why not, it may be asked? For this reason: because nations as such have only a temporary existence; therefore they must be rewarded or punished in this present world, or not at all! This being so, the kind of obedience required from them is lower than from individuals, whose rewards and punishments shall be eternal.

But again it may be objected, Did not the Lord declare, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God” (Ex. 6:7)? Is there not something far more spiritual implied there than a national covenant, something in its terms which could not be exhausted by merely outward and temporal blessings? Once more we must insist upon drawing a broad line between what pertains to individuals and what is applicable to nations. This objection would be quite valid if that promise described the relation of God to the individual soul, but the case is quite different when we remember the relation in which God stands to a nation as such! To ascertain the exact purport and scope of the divine promises to Israel as a people we must take note of the actual engagements which we find He entered into with them as a nation. This is quite obvious, yet few theologians have followed it out consistently when dealing with what is now before us.

Running parallel with God’s suffering all nations (the Gentiles) to walk in their own ways, was another experiment (speaking from the human side of things, for from the divine side “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world”: Acts 15:18), conducted on a smaller scale, yet quite as decisive in its outcome. The Jews were placed under a covenant of law to supply an answer to this further question, “Can fallen man, when placed in most favorable circumstances, win eternal life by any doings of his own? Can he, even when separated from the heathen, taken into outward covenant with God, supplied with a complete divine code for the regulation of his conduct, conquer indwelling sin and act so as to secure his acceptance with the thrice holy God?” The answer furnished by the history of Israel is an emphatic negative. The lesson supplied thereby for all succeeding generations of the human race is written in unmistakable language: If Israel failed under the national covenant of outward and general obedience, how impossible it is for any member of Adam’s depraved offspring to render spiritual and perfect obedience!

In the spirit of it, the Sinaitic covenant contained the same moral law as the law of nature under which Adam was created and placed in Eden—the tenth commandment giving warning that something more than outward things were required by God. Yet only those who were divinely illumined could perceive this—it was not until the Holy Spirit applied that tenth commandment in power to the conscience of Saul of Tarsus that he first realized that he was an inward transgressor of the law (Rom. 7:7, etc.). The great bulk of the nation, blinded by their self-sufficiency and self-righteousness, turned the Sinaitic compact into the covenant of works, elevating the handmaid into the position of the married wife—as Abraham did with Hagar. Galatians 4 reveals that, while the Sinaitic covenant was regarded as subservient to the covenant of grace, it served important practical ends; but when Israel perversely elevated it to the place which the better covenant was designed to hold, it became a hindrance and the fruitful mother of bondage.

The Decalogue written in stone contained the most extreme outward violations of the law of God, which is a spiritual law written on the hearts of all men from the beginning of creation.  As a national covenant, Israelites were required to refrain from these most extreme outward violations of the Decalogue.

Israelites and Image Bearers

However, it’s important to understand that Israelites, under a national covenant with God, were also still descendants of Adam. Thus God did not only relate to them as Israelites, but also as image bearers. As such, they were all by birth under the Adamic Covenant. As Israelites, their required obedience to the Decalogue was outward. But as image bearers, their required obedience was inward. One obedience determined their temporal blessing and cursing as part of the Mosaic covenant, the other obedience determined their eternal blessing or cursing as part of the Adamic Covenant.

This best fits Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 5.  There Jesus contrasts not just the outward and inward obedience to the law, but also the temporal and eternal cursings of the law.  “Liable to judgment” at the hands of the courts of Israel, vs “liable to the hell of fire.” This also makes the best sense of 5:38-42. The contrast here is between a legitimate use of the law by a national ruler and the illegitimate application of that law to the individual.

Christ came to fulfill, not abolish, the law as an individual. And yet He also corrected and seemed to have changed that law for individuals. Properly understanding the Mosaic covenant helps us to clearly see that Jesus was correcting their misunderstanding of both the Mosaic covenant and the Adamic covenant.

A proper understanding of the Mosaic covenant, as Jesus shows, is crucial!

Abraham Booth

Writing “The Kingdom of Christ” in 1788 against the idea of National Churches, Abraham Booth notes:

Now, as the immunities, grants, and honours, bestowed by the King Messiah, are all of a spiritual nature, his faithful subjects have no reason to wonder, or to be discouraged, at any persecutions, afflictions, or poverty which may befall them. Were his empire “of this world” then indeed it might be expected, from the goodness of his heart and the power of his arm, that those who are submissive to his authority, zealous for his honour, and eon- formed to his image, would commonly find themselves easy and prosperous in their temporal circumstances. Yes, were his dominion of a secular kind, it might be supposed that an habitually conscientious regard to his laws would secure from the oppression of ungodly men, and from the distresses of temporal want. Thus it was with Israel under their Theocracy. When the rulers and the people in general were punctual in observing Jehovah’s appointments, the stipulations of the Sinai Covenant secured them from being op pressed by their enemies, and from any re markable affliction by the immediate hand of God. Performing the conditions of their National Confederation, they were, as a people, warranted to expect every species of temporal prosperity. Health and long life, riches, honours, and victory over their enemies, were prom ised by Jehovah to their external obedience. (Ex 25:25,26; 28:25-28; Lev 26:3-14; Deut 7:12-24; 8:7-9; 11:13-17; 28:3-13) The punishments also, that were denounced against flagrant breaches of the Covenant made at Horeb, were of a temporal kind.*

In this respect, however, as well as in other tilings, there is a vast difference between the Jewish and the Christian Economy. This disparity was plainly in timated, if I mistake not, by the opposite modes of divine proceeding, in establishing Jehovah’s kingdom among the Jews, and in founding the empire of Jesus Christ.

*Lev. xxvi. 14—39. Deut. iv. 25, 26, 27* xi. 9.7. xxviii. 15— 68. xxix. 22— 28, See Dr. Erskine’s Theological Dissert. p. 22– 29. External obedience. — Punishments of a temporal kind. These and similar expressions in this essay are to be underwood, as referring to the Sinai Covenant strictly considered, and to Jehovah’s requisitions as the king of Israel. They are quite consistent, therefore, with its being the duly of Abraham’s natural seed to perform internal obedience to that sublime Sovereign, considered as the God of the whole earth; and with everlasting punishment being inflicted by him, as the righteous desert of sin.

p. 98

Note specifically Booth’s reference to Dr. Erskine’s Theological Dissertation “External obedience”. That is precisely the paper that New Covenant Theology (I think maybe John Reisinger) has referenced to demonstrate there was an external obedience even for the 10th commandment.

22 thoughts on “Pink and NCT

  1. Brandon: “Christ came to fulfill, not abolish, the law as an individual.”

    Greg: Hi Brandon, I’m curious, how do you harmonize the law is NOT abolished (Mt. 5:17-18; Rom. 3:31) with the law IS abolished (Eph. 2:15; 2 Cor. 3:7)?


    1. Hi Greg,

      Matt 5:17-18

      I mentioned at the end some comments on Matt 5. I do think that understanding the Mosaic covenant as a national covenant that in part (the Decalogue) revived/recalled the law of creation (hence written in stone by the finger of God, unlike all the others), and thus served dual purposes, is important.

      I don’t think the kind of interpretation of Matt 5:17-18 offered by Carson and others is exegetically viable. I think Welty has done a good job of showing this (even if I don’t agree with all of Welty’s particulars).

      I think Jesus communicates two things in the passage:
      1) Both the Law and the Prophets (the OT – more than just Mosaic covenant) point to Him

      2) The Law will not pass away until all is accomplished: I think here we should understand the dual purpose of the Decalogue (and the Mosaic covenant):

      a) The Mosaic covenant itself, the national covenant regarding temporal things, pointed to Christ and prepared the people for Christ. Thus Christ coming to earth and accomplishing His mission is the fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant. He did what Israel typologically could not.

      b) However, the law of creation, which the Decalogue summarized and clarified (because sin had obscured the innate revelation), will continue until heaven and earth pass away (at this point I’m not certain if He’s just saying it will never pass away or if He’s saying that the law of creation will pass away at the new creation). And thus anyone who relaxes this law of creation or tells others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, not just Israel (I think NCT needs to very prayerfully consider that).

      Right in line with this understanding, Jesus then says the requirement for entering heaven (as opposed to Canaan) is obedience to the inward, spiritual law of creation, not merely the outward law of Moses (which the Pharisees obeyed).

      I think Jesus’ whole discourse anticipates the fact that the Mosaic covenant (and thus law of Moses) will “grow old and vanish away” (Heb 8:13), and thus may cause confusion regarding the law of creation.

      Rom 3:31

      In Romans, Paul casually slips between using law to refer to the law of Moses and the law of creation, as well as using “law” to refer to a “principle,” so obviously context has to determine which. I think 3:31 could refer to a couple of things. I’m not certain it is in and of itself clear enough to determine apart from reading what else the book of Romans lays out.

      I would say he is either referring to:
      a) the fact that the law (of creation) was fulfilled and satisfied in the life and death of Christ, and thus God’s work of redemption does not abandon, ignore, or set aside the law but rather upholds it because its demand for justice is satisfied
      b) we do not cease to obey God’s commands after we have been justified

      Of course, those are not mutually exclusive, so it could mean both, but I would lean towards a).

      Ephesians 2:15

      I think this passage is rather clearly speaking about the Mosaic covenant (note the mention of commonwealth, or nation), which is what separated Jew from Gentile. The Decalogue does not and did not separate Jew from Gentile. (I do not mean to suggest we can divide up the Mosaic covenant and then abolish some, but not all of it. I think the Mosaic covenant must be taken as a whole and thus the obedience to the Decalogue required by the Mosaic covenant is abolished. But Mt. Sinai was not the first revelation of the Decalogue, thus it continues as it always has, as the law of creation.)

      Therefore the Mosaic covenant is abolished and Jews are no longer required to be separate from the Gentiles.

      2 Cor 3:7

      Take a look at the quote from Owen above where he explains this passage.

      Expanding upon Owen: The “ministry of death” is the Mosaic covenant, and in particular it’s publication of the Decalogue. This was a ministry of death because the demands of the law were ever before the Israelites, both elect and nonelect. This “ministry of death” continues today in the sense that the Holy Spirit works conviction and repentance through the law of creation, but today it works differently because those who are born again are relieved from the burden and fear of the law, whereas the regenerate members of the Mosaic covenant, though free from the burden and fear of the law of creation (inward & eternal), were still under the fear and burden of the law of Moses (outward & temporal). This is what Pink (and his quote from Scott) articulate so well above.

      I would also clarify my view by noting that the New Covenant was in effect at the same time as the Mosaic covenant, though not as fully as it is now. Any Israelite who was saved was saved by the New Covenant. See Augustine here for a good general statement of my view in this regard:

      I hope that helps. Let me know if I can clarify anything.


  2. njmackison

    “NCT argues that Christ abolished the 10 commandments and replaced them with “the law of Christ” (which happens to be 9 of the 10 commandments).”

    Yes and no. That is too simplistic a statement. There is continuity and discontinuity. So from one angle, the law never passes away. From another the law is crucified and abolished.

    Basically, NCT sees the Decalogue as God’s law in caterpillar form and the NT teachings of Christ as God’s law fulfilled in butterfly form. NCT holds that the Decalogue is eternal and will never pass away, but only as it is passed down through the teachings of Christ.

    Furthermore, I don’t see how any of what you’ve said (including the Pink quote) about the Decalogue actually does a job in refuting NCT.

    For instance, no NC theologian worth his salt who would disagree that the law was a covenant of works (e.g. see Doug Moo in Five Views on Law and Gospel). Seeing the works principle relating to Israel’s status in the land is not at odds with NCT either.

    You’ve accused me of not understanding the Reformed Baptist position. I could accuse you of the same with respect to NCT.


    1. That is too simplistic a statement.

      I suppose it depends who you talk to. I should have prefaced the post by noting that NCT is far from unified and you’ll find different views from different people. What I articulated has been the dominant view of those I have interacted with. Yes, I understand that they argue Christ enhanced the Decalogue, but those I have spoken to do so by arguing He introduced a new set of laws and abolished the Decalogue. Thanks for clarifying your position though.

      Furthermore, I don’t see how any of what you’ve said (including the Pink quote) about the Decalogue actually does a job in refuting NCT.

      I’m sorry if I led you to believe I was attempting to refute NCT in this post. I was simply bringing an important and often ignored element to the discussion: the fact that the Israelite’s obedience to the Decalogue demanded by the Mosaic covenant was different from the obedience demanded of Israelites by the law of creation. Same laws, just different degrees of obedience: inward and outward – as Jesus articulates.

      I have heard NCT proponents argue at length that the only obedience required by the Decalogue was outward. I think they have one side of the truth in what they say, but it is incomplete. That was my purpose here.

      You’ve accused me of not understanding the Reformed Baptist position.  I could accuse you of the same with respect to NCT.

      Apparently there’s quite a bit of misunderstanding going around, because you’ve misunderstood my post 😉 The issue of republication or the works principle in the Mosaic covenant is not the point of this post or its relevance to NCT.


    2. Sorry, to clarify, the issue of republication or the works principle in the Mosaic covenant is relevant to my comments about NCT, but only insofar as my point was to demonstrate that these works were not for eternal life, but for remaining in the land.


  3. Very good read. Thanks for posting. Pink’s clarity here is very helpful to me.

    As I’ve followed your blog and RBDL discussions, I’ve seen that I’m a little behind you in my studies of the covenants. This is probably because up to this point I’ve mainly read padeobaptist writings on the issue.

    But one area where I struggle is rightly identifying the implications of the different positions. I’m sure it will come with time, but for now bear with me in some foolishness: Could you briefly outline what the implications are for the following?

    -Taking the Mosaic CT as a republication of COW.
    -Taking the Mosaic CT as an administration of COG.

    On the other hand, considering your last two paragraphs where you discuss Matt 5 and what Jesus had to say about Law/fulfillment, how does your view on the Covenants answer the NCT position (really, Carson’s position) that the Law was an OT shadow in which the new law (love) is it’s fulfillment (of course, abolishment and replacement actually)? Is Carson’s view affected by an errant view of the covenants, or more generally, an errant view of the Law/and or specific NT revelation about the Law?

    Sorry for all the questions my friend; I enjoy discussing this stuff and working through the issues.


    1. Hey Nathan,

      No need to be sorry. This discussion is why I post in the first place.

      I would recommend picking up the Coxe/Owen volume as well as Pink’s work to give you a baptist look at these issues.

      The only reason I’ve been able to identify some of the implications is because I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading the arguments back and forth among WCF’ers regarding republication. Here’s a good place to start:
      Take a look at some of my bookmarks on republication for more stuff to read (in particular some of the puritanboard links where you really see the back and forth, including Matthew Winzer’s argument that affirming republication will destroy the ground for paedobaptism )

      If you say that the Mosaic covenant is an administration of the CoG, then I think you are bound to wind up with some odd views about the obedience required of Christians today (as evidenced by Patrick Ramsey’s view, linked just above and further expanded on his blog). I also think you are going to wind up with some odd views of who is in the covenant. The classic distinction on this point is that there is a distinction between outward and inward membership in the CoG. The most careful proponents of this view argue that outward membership is not really membership at all – but clearly an Israelite was a member of the Mosaic covenant regardless of whether or not he was regenerate.

      If you take a look at the WTJ article above, you’ll see that Ramsey argues that Kline’s (republication) view of the Mosaic covenant is out of line with WCF (meaning that Kline’s view denies it is an administration of the CoG). Ramsey argues that Kline’s view is the “subservient covenant” view that was rejected by the assembly. This view makes the Mosaic covenant separate from the CoG. What is interesting is that Brenton Ferry (who wrote the chapter in the new book The Law is Not of Faith giving a taxonomy of the different views of the Mosaic covenant (at least 13!)) responded to Ramsey in WTJ and argued that Kline’s view is within WCF. How he did so is what is interesting. He said Kline’s view still maintains the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the CoG because he maintains that the same essence of both blessing and cursing is present in the New Covenant. He defends Kline by quoting Kline as saying that one can apostatize from the New Covenant – that a cursing remains in the NC, just like there was in the Mosaic. (Apparently Kline later changed his position on this, but that’s beside the point here).

      Kline: “To interpret Jeremiah’s prophetic concept of the NC as excluding curse sanctions is, therefore, to condemn it as fallacious.”

      So basically the only way to maintain the symmetry is to maintain the dual sanctions of blessing and cursing, and the ability to break the NC. Such a position is untenable for a baptist. Ramsey has a good, short post arguing for the incompatibility of maintaining the Mosaic cov as a works covenant and as an administration of the CoG

      In Ferry’s response article, he gave a helpful summary of the different views:

      Calvin for one, believing in a Mosaic works principle, said it functioned hypothetically, like a fat chance offer of salvation by works. This has been a recurring explanation among Covenant Theologians as to how a works principle can coexist within a Covenant of Grace. The subservients, on the other hand, explain that the Mosaic Covenant is not an organic part of the Covenant of Grace and resolve the problem of compatibility by removal (Bolton, [Owen]). A third solution has been to deny the existence of a Mosaic works principle altogether, in favor of more recumbent continuity between the Testaments (Dabney). This appears to be Ramsey’s view. A fourth option has been to emphasize the typological value of the works principle (Kline).

      So, in my opinion, it seems rather clear that if you affirm that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works (which is basically what republication argues, though republication is not necessarily the most accurate term), then you must take the logical step that Owen (and Coxe and Pink) did and remove it from the CoG. Doing so creates a number of problems for paedobaptists and it also clarifies what exactly was going on in Israel.

      Regarding Matt 5, see my comments above to Greg. I think Welty has shown the exegetical problems with Carson. In short: Jesus was separating the Mosaic obedience to the Decalogue (outward) from the Adamic obedience to the Decalogue (inward). He was not introducing anything new. Yes, I believe Carson’s view would be the result of an errant view of the Mosaic covenant, though I would need to go back and read him in light of this understanding.

      That’s a pretty rough summary. Let me know what I can clarify.


  4. “Yes and no. That is too simplistic a statement…”

    “see Doug Moo in Five Views on Law and Gospel…”


    “You’ve accused me of not understanding the Reformed Baptist position. I could accuse you of the same with respect to NCT.”

    To which Brandon responds:
    “I should have prefaced the post by noting that NCT is far from unified and you’ll find different views from different people.”

    I agree with Brandon, and it’s one thing I appreciate about Greg Gibson’s work. He says very clearly and without batting an eyelash, “All OT Commands Canceled”. Though it may be overly simplistic, all NCT roads do indeed lead back to an abolishment of the 4th commandment and a redefining of the Law of God into something ‘new’ after Christ.

    Unfortunately, having studied Moo’s argument in ‘5 views’ at length, he seems to enjoy hiding behind ambiguity. I doubt it is just me because of others I know who’ve experienced the same thing, but Moo makes many unclear, obscure, and seemingly contradictory statements. To outsiders this is seen as evidence that his position is not based upon actual exegesis. Which, IMO, is the lynchpin which undermines NCT. It’s got great theological framework in regards to logic and consistency, but it cannot withstand the crucial exegetical tests of Matt 5, Rom 3, Rom 8, Rom 13, James 2, etc, etc. Dispensationalism and Arminianism have the same characteristics (not to relate the three in any way other than how they can be defended well if precise exegesis is not taken into account).

    (Though, as Brandon said, this post isn’t about NCT in particular, so sorry if I ‘fed the trolls’ here, as they say. I’m not trying to take things off course.)


  5. I also want to add that I think Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler makes a little more sense in light of this understanding.

    I have read NCT advocates arguing that this interaction was just Jesus showing the ineffectiveness of using the law in evangelism. I think Chantry’s “Today’s Gospel” is a goldmine on this point.

    However, what interests me is that the rich young ruler had to ask Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. If eternal life was offered in the Mosaic covenant, then the young ruler’s question seems entirely out of place and could have been answered by any Jew walking down the street.


  6. Brandon, thanks for taking the time to answer. How do you define the word “law” in Mt. 5:17-18 and Rom. 3:31?

    Brandon: I do not mean to suggest we can divide up the Mosaic covenant and then abolish some, but not all of it. I think the Mosaic covenant must be taken as a whole and thus the obedience to the Decalogue required by the Mosaic covenant is abolished. But Mt. Sinai was not the first revelation of the Decalogue, thus it continues as it always has, as the law of creation

    Greg: I’m glad you agree with the indivisible unity of the Mosaic covenant. So then, do you agree that Christians today sin by breaking the commands in Gen., not Ex. 20?

    P.S. The NCT view that Nick is advocating is that of Wells and Zaspel, whose herm. has never convinced me. It’s questionable whether that is a majority view in NCT.


    1. Law in Matt 5 has more than one meaning. See my comments above. Let me know if I can clarify something, because I feel like I answered that already. Jesus is expounding upon the law of creation, the law written on the heart, which is the 10 commandments applied inwardly and He is doing so by contrasting it with the law of Moses, which is the 10 commandments applied outwardly. I assume law in Rom 3:31 refers to the law of creation.

      do you agree that Christians today sin by breaking the commands in Gen., not Ex. 20?

      It’s not either/or. The point of this post has been to stress the dual nature of the Decalogue in Ex 20. It was introduced for the first time as a covenant of works for the nation of Israel in order for them to remain in the land. In this sense they had to refrain from the outward, most extreme forms of breaking the 10 commandments. However, the Israelites also related to God as image bearers, and in that sense the 10 commandments in Exodus 20 were simply republishing, inscripturating, and clarifying (because of the corruption of sin) the law that was written on the hearts of all men at creation.

      Israelites were under the 10 commandments as the law of creation before Sinai, as was the rest of mankind. Thus while the law of Moses was a legitimate covenant of works for the land, the Decalogue also served the pedagogical function of reminding the Israelites of their responsibilities as image bearers – that they must obey the Decalogue inwardly. Of course this was ignored by the reprobate.

      So Christians can look at Ex 20 today and see the most extreme violations of the law of creation. Thus we are taught that the standard required of all men as image bearers is much higher and never less than what we see in Ex 20.

      I hope that makes sense. Please let me know if it doesn’t.


  7. Brandon, whenever the NT speaks positively of the law, CT says it means the Decalogue alone (or in your case the Decalogue given at creation). CT fails to consider that the word “law” has multiple meanings other than “commands”, such as “revelation” (teaching/doctrine).

    In Mt. 5, law clearly means “the whole Pentateuch” (Gen.-Deut.), not the law of creation alone, law written on the heart alone, or the Decalogue alone. Law and/or Prophets always means the Pentateuch and/or the Prophets (both parts of the whole O.T.)

    Have you read my chapter on the Sermon on the Mount (free on my website)?

    In Rom. 3:31, the context is that the law (OT, not the Decalogue alone) is not abolished for teaching just. by faith (not for obeying its commands)…

    But now a righteousness from God, apart from law (commands), has been made known, to which the Law (Pent.) and Prophets (whole OT) testify…

    On that of observing the law (commands)…a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law (commands)…

    Do we then nullify the law by this faith? Not at all. Rather, we uphold the law (for revelation since it teaches just. by faith, not obeying its commands)…

    What does the Scripture (Law) say? Abraham was just. by faith. And David was just. by faith.

    Please see p. 72 here:


    1. Greg, I already affirmed “Law and Prophets” in Matt 5 refers to the Pentateuch. Yet in what follows Jesus is not using law to refer to “Pentateuch” but to specific laws. I think your handling of “law” is forced, especially in Rom 3:31. I’ll take a look at your chapter as soon as I get a chance though.

      Do you affirm what I have laid out in this post? That Israelites had to obey outwardly in order to remain in the land, but that the Mosaic covenant never offered eternal life, or do you reject that?


    1. Ok, well I want to make sure you understand what I am saying here. None of my comments will make sense and there is no point in continuing to discuss what particular NT texts mean if you don’t grant that initial understanding about the Mosaic covenant (that it was only ever about temporal things and that it never offered eternal life, not even hypothetically).

      So if you agree with that, I’d be happy to continue talking about how that applies to NT texts. And if you disagree, I’d be happy to argue for why it’s true. But if you don’t agree, I don’t see the point in arguing about NT texts since you will necessarily reject my interpretation because you reject my view of Moses.


  8. “However, what interests me is that the rich young ruler had to ask Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. If eternal life was offered in the Mosaic covenant, then the young ruler’s question seems entirely out of place and could have been answered by any Jew walking down the street.”

    I never thought of that before! I’m going to bring that up to my Pastor at lunch tomorrow and see what he thinks!


  9. Pingback: The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology | Contrast

  10. Pingback: A.W. Pink on the Mosaic Covenant | 1689reformed baptist/1689bautista reformada

  11. Pingback: Pink & NCT, Circumcision, the Mosaic Covenant, Republication + Owen & other posts related to our last two podcasts [Brandon Adams] | The Confessing Baptist

  12. markmcculley

    Luther–“Here Paul speaks about the law of Moses proper, not about the Decalogue, since the latter pertained to all nations. For the nations did not hate the Jews because of the Decalogue, but because the Jews separated themselves from the remaining nations by way of unique worship and cer­emonies, and called themselves alone the people of God, all the others they called atheists and unbelievers. The quarrel was about the temple and the ceremonies. Yet finally Christ came and destroyed this obstruction. But if the Decalogue is referred to, it is only destroyed insofar as it is damnation.”


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