Archive

Archive for July, 2015

Deuteronomy 6:25

July 29, 2015 4 comments

And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’ (Deuteronomy 6:25 ESV)

Someone asked my thoughts on Deut 6:25 and I thought it would be worth sharing this brief response. Obedience to the letter is not a perspective shared by all who hold to 1689 Federalism (for example, Owen explicitly mentions disagreeing with it), but I think it is generally correct.

Keeping in mind the distinction between the law as covenant for national Israel for life in the land (which required outward conformity to the letter of the law) and the law as covenant for Adam and his offspring for eternal life (which required inward, perfect obedience to the spirit of the law), I believe Deut 6:25 in its immediate context refers to the former, though as the whole covenant order of Israel speaks typologically, it has reference ultimately to each individual’s inability to obtain true everlasting righteousness by the law.
Cf. Deut 6:25 with 1 Sam 11:13; Phil 3:6; Matt 19:16-22
John Erskine (1765, Scottish Presbyterian) notes:

He who yielded an external obedience to the law of Moses, was termed righteous, and had a claim in virtue of this his obedience to the land of Canaan, so that doing these things he lived by them (s). Hence, says Moses (t), “It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all thefe commandments,” i. e. it shall be the cause and matter of our justification, it shall found our title to covenant blessings. But to Spiritual and heavenly blessings, we are entitled only by the obedience of the son of God, not by our own. The Israelites were put upon obedience as that which would found their claim to the blessings of the Sinai covenant. But they were never put upon seeking eternal life by a covenant of works. It is on this account, that the Mosaic precepts are termed, Heb. ix. 10, carnal ordinances, or, as it might be rendered, righteousnesses of the flesh, because by them men obtained a legal outward righteousness(s) Lev. xviii. 5. Deut. v. 33. (t) Deut. vi.25

…Deut 26:12-15

Would God have directed them, think you, to glory in their observance of that law, if, in fact, the sincerest among them had not obferved it. Yet doubtless that was the case, if its demands were the same as those of the law of nature. But indeed, the things mentioned in that form of glorying were only external performances, and one may see, with half an eye, many might truly boast they had done them all, who were strangers not with-standing to charity, flowing from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. Job, who probably reprefents the Jews after their return from the Babylonifh captivity, was perfect and upright {v). Zacharias and Elizabeth were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless(w). The young man, who came to Jesus, enquiring what he should do to inherit eternal life, professed that he had kept the commandments from his youth up, and our Lord does not charge him with falsehood in that profession (x). Paul was, touching the righteoufnefs which was of the law, blamelefs (y). Yet Job curses the day in which he was born (z) Zacharias is guilty of unbelief {a) ; the young man, in the gospel loves this world better than Christ (b) ; and Paul himself groans to be delivered from a body of sin and death (c), These seeming contradictions will vanish, if we take notice, that all of these though chargeable with manifold breaches of the law of nature, had kept the letter of the Mosaic law, and thus were entitled to the earthly happiness promised to its observers.

(v) Job i. i» xix. 20. (a) Luke i. ao. vii. 24. (w) Luke i. 6. (x) Matth. (y) Phil. iii. 6. (z) Job iii. i, 3. (Jb) Mat. xix, 22, 23. (c) Rom.

Guy Waters on Leviticus 18:5

July 25, 2015 9 comments

I recently had the pleasure of joining Pascal Denault to interview Guy Waters for the Confessing Baptist Podcast. We discussed his chapter in The Law is Not of Faith titled “Romans 10:5 and the Covenant of Works” which can also be found online here.

Waters’ goal is to demonstrate that in this crucial text, Paul is contrasting the Adamic Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. Waters concludes “Defining ‘law’ at Romans 10:5 as the decrees and commandments of the moral law operating within the covenant of works explains otherwise knotty questions in the passage… It is when one sees that Paul is engaging the moral law’s precepts as they function within the covenant of works that he can understand that Paul affirms the whole Scripture to bear univocal witness to Jesus Christ and his “righteousness” for sinners.” His burden is to demonstrate the grievous error of those who deny the existence of a Covenant of Works: “Some within the Reformed churches are gravitating toward monocovenantalism (often not without grave consequences for their doctrine of justification). To those interested in engaging that position biblically, the bicovenantalism of Romans 10:4-8 surely ought to play a central role in that engagement. At stake is nothing less than the ‘word of faith which we preach’ (10:8).”

Paul’s concern for the law, as Romans 10:5 indicates, is the commandments and precepts of the moral law.What does this mean for a definition of the word telos? While it is a thoroughly Pauline teaching that Christ is the goal of the law, or the one to whom the law points (whether considered as a covenantal administration or as commandments and precepts), that is not what Paul is claiming here. He is claiming that Christ is the “termination” of the law to the believer. Paul, however, is not affirming that the believer is thereby altogether free from the commandments and precepts of the law. Paul is no antinomian. The law as precept continues to bind believers. He is, however, claiming that the believer is free from the law’s commandments as they bring life to the one who perfectly performs them and condemnation to the one who fails to meet this standard. He is, in other words, freed from the law as it functions within the covenant of works.

But arriving at this biblical conclusion faces a serious challenge: Paul quotes from the Mosaic Covenant to establish both principles (faith and works). This raises three problems:

1) How can Paul apply the Mosaic Covenant to Gentiles?

2) Is the Mosaic Covenant therefore the Covenant of Works?

3) How can Paul legitimately appeal to the same covenant for both principles (faith and works)?

Waters answers the first question by demonstrating that there is overlap between the Mosaic law and the moral law that binds Gentiles as well.

While Paul concerns himself with the commandments found within the Mosaic law, he does not concern himself with commandments that are found only within the Mosaic law. This is evident from a few considerations. First, Paul’s argument in 10:4-13 is universal in scope. Paul affirms at 10:4 that Christ is the “end of the law to everyone who believes.” The righteousness of justification is not restricted to Jews only… Second, if the solution is universal, it stands to reason that what has occasioned that solution (the “problem”) is universal as well… The problem that Paul identifies, then, is one to which Moses gives expression, but is not one that Paul limits or restricts to the Jews, the recipients of the Torah…Paul, however, has affirmed that it is to the “law” that the problem of Jews and Gentiles has reference… Romans 1:18-3:20… Romans 2:12-15… What can be said of this “law” which is thus available to all men and women? This “law” can certainly be distinguished from the Mosaic law in its totality, since Gentiles are expressly said not to have the Mosaic law. Nevertheless, because Paul uses the term “law” to describe this standard available to the Gentiles, neither may one separate it from the Mosaic law…

How could Paul have derived a testimony regarding the moral law, revealed to Jews and Gentiles, from Leviticus 18:5? The answer is found in the overlap that exists between the moral law and the Mosaic law. Because of this overlap Paul can quote the Mosaic writings, deducing therefrom a principle that applies universally to Jews and Gentiles alike.

In answering the first question, Waters answers the second (“since Gentiles are expressly said not to have the Mosaic law”). In Romans 10:5, Paul is specifically making a point about the law as the universal Adamic Covenant of Works even though he is using an element of the Jewish Mosaic Covenant. He is not identifying the Mosaic Covenant with the Adamic Covenant of Works – they are two different covenants. But this raises a new question:

4) What is the relationship between the Adamic Covenant of Works and the Mosaic Covenant such that Paul can appeal to one to make a point about the other?

Answering this question requires Waters to answer question 3) first. Waters’ answer, as someone who holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith, is that Paul can appeal to the Mosaic Covenant to establish the principle of faith because the Mosaic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. Old Testament saints were saved through the Mosaic administration of the Covenant of Grace, which is the same in substance as the New Covenant (salvation by grace alone through faith alone). They differ only in their outward appearance.

John Murray observes that “[The problem that arises from this use of Lev. 18:5 is that the latter text does not appear in a context that deals with legal righteousness as opposed to that of faith.] Lev. 18:5 is in a context in which the claims of God upon his redeemed and covenant people are being asserted and urged upon Israel… [It] refers not to the life accruing from doing in a legalistic framework but to the blessing attendant upon obedience in a redemptive and covenant relationship to God.” If the Scripture teaches that the Mosaic administration is an administration of the covenant of grace, as the Westminster divines affirm (7.5), then how could Paul have interpreted Lev 18:5 as he has? How could he have taken a passage which, in context, appears to refer to the sanctificational works of a redeemed person within the covenant community, and apply this text to individuals seeking the righteousness of justification on the basis of their performance?… Has Paul misquoted Leviticus 18:5 at Romans 10:5?

Waters’ solution to this difficult question is that the moral law itself contains the works principle, and since both the Covenant of Works and the (Mosaic) Covenant of Grace contain the moral law, Paul can quote it from Moses to establish his point about Adam. In other words, in his quotation of Leviticus 18:5, Paul is “abstracting” the moral law from it’s context in the Covenant of Grace and thereby showing what the moral law by itself says.

Paul considers the moral demands of the law, in distinction from the gracious covenant in which they were formally promulgated, to set forth the standard of righteousness required by the covenant of works.* This is not to say that Paul believed that God placed Israel under a covenant of works at Mount Sinai. Nor is it to say that the apostle regarded the Mosaic covenant itself to have degenerated, by virtue of Israel’s unbelief and rebellion, into a covenant of works. Nor is it to say that Paul understood that God gave the Decalogue specifically or the Mosaic legal code generally as a covenant of works separate from a gracious Mosaic covenantal administration.

That Paul is here engaging the Mosaic Law as it articulates the standard of righteousness set forth by the covenant of works is a venerable interpretation. It is also one enshrined by the proof-texts of the Westminster Standards. The Assembly cited Rom 10:5 as proof for the following confessional declarations: “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity…” (WCF 7.2); “God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it” (WCF 19.1). Tellingly, the Assembly does not cite Rom 10:5 as proof for the covenant of works simpliciter. Rom 10:5 is proof, rather, for the moral law which lies at the heart of the covenant of works. The identification in view, then, is not between the Mosaic Covenant and the Covenant of Works as covenantal administrations. The identification is twofold. First, the moral law set forth in the covenant of works is substantially identical with the moral law set forth in the Mosaic Covenant. Second, the connection between “obedience” and “life” expressed by the moral law in the covenant of works is an abiding one. The moral law set forth in the Mosaic Covenant continues to express that connection.

If this historical proposal is tenable, then it goes a long distance towards resolving a number of exegetical and theological difficulties that have attended recent study of the apostle Paul. The question before us, then, is this – is this proposal exegetically tenable? In other words, is this what the apostle Paul is arguing at Rom 10:5?

*This position set forth in this chapter is essentially that argued by Anthony Burgess: “The law (as to this purpose) may be considered more largely, as that whole doctrine delivered on Mount Sinai, with the preface and promises adjoined, and all things that may be reduced to it; or more strictly, as it is an abstracted rule of righteousnesse, holding forth life upon no termes, but perfect obedience. Now take it in the former sense, it was a Covenant of grace; take it in the latter sense, as abstracted from Moses and his administration of it, and so it was not of grace, but workes”

So, is this proposal exegetically tenable? No, I do not believe it is. It contradicts a foundational aspect of the system of theology presented in the Westminster Confession. The Confession teaches a distinction between the moral law and the moral law as a covenant of works. 7.1 teaches that man has a natural obligation to obey God’s commands (the law). However, he cannot expect anything in return for that obedience. He is merely doing what is expected as a servant/slave (read the proof texts). This is expected of all image bearers (WCF 19.5). But God condescended to offer man a reward for that same obedience. This condescended reward, which was added to the moral law, was expressed by way of covenant. Adam was changed from a servant/slave to a wage earner (Rom 4:4) who could now earn a reward by his obedience. That reward was “life” – that is, eternal life without the possibility of sinning; an eternal sabbath rest. That is the covenant of works. That is the “works principle”: earning a reward by one’s works. WCF 19.1 says “God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works…” (For more on this, see here and here.)

But because the works principle is something added to the moral law by covenant, the same moral law can be applied in a different way in a different covenant (the covenant of grace). Thus the Westminster Confession teaches that “This law, after [Adam’s] fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai…” (19.2). Though the Covenant of Works was broken, the moral law itself continued to lay forth the requirement for all image bearers (19.5). It “continued to be a perfect rule (guide) of righteousness” and that is how it was delivered on Mount Sinai – not as a covenant of works, but as a perfect rule of righteousness. As a result, “Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly…” (19.6) which is not “contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do[es] sweetly comply with it” (19.7).

To summarize, the law says “Do this.” The covenant of works (works principle) says “Do this, and live!

As we just saw, the Westminster Confession views the Mosaic Covenant as the Covenant of Grace and says the moral law functioned in the Mosaic Covenant as a perfect rule of righteousness, and not as a covenant of works. Waters’ argument is that Paul is quoting the moral law in the Mosaic Covenant and then abstracting it from it’s Mosaic context and applying it to the Adamic Covenant of Works to make a point about justification. But is Leviticus 18:5 simply the moral law (command)? No, it’s not.

You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 18:5 ESV)

From a simple grammatical standpoint, the first part of the verse is a command while the second part is a proposition commenting on that command.

Do this: You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules

and liveif a person does them, he shall live by them

From a theological standpoint, Lev. 18:5 is a statement of the law given as a covenant of works. It is not simply the moral law itself. Furthermore, Paul is only quoting the latter half of the verse – the works principle – not a command. Thus, according to Westminster’s system of theology concerning the law (which is shared by the LBCF and I believe is biblical), Paul must not be abstracting the moral law from its covenantal context but must be specifically appealing to its covenantal context. And because Leviticus 18:5 is not simply a command that can be applied in a covenant of works or a covenant of grace (“You shall not steal”), but is a statement of the works principle (“If you do not steal you will live” cf. Gal 3:12), the only conclusion we can come to is that the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant of works. And thus Westminster’s system of theology is self-contradictory.

And thus Paul is not misquoting Leviticus 18:5. He is correctly contrasting a covenant of works (righteousness based on the law) with the covenant of grace (righteousness based on faith). Which brings us to our final unanswered question 2) Is the Mosaic Covenant therefore the Covenant of Works? No, it is not. It is a covenant of works but it is not the Covenant of Works. The two covenants differ in their contracting parties and in their reward. The Adamic Covenant of Works was made with Adam as the federal head of all mankind. The Mosaic covenant of works was made with Abraham’s physical offspring. The Adamic Covenant of Works offered eternal life upon the doing of the law (perfectly). The Mosaic covenant of works offered temporal life and blessing in the land of Canaan upon the doing of the law (outwardly). For more on this distinction, see here and here.

Finally, if Paul correctly appeals to Moses to establish the works principle, how can he also appeal to Moses to establish the faith principle? Well, quite simply, in the words of Scottish Presbyterian John Erskine (1765) “We must not imagine that everything in Moses’ writings relates to the Sinai covenant.” Paul’s appeal to the faith principle comes from Deuteronomy 30:12-14. Another chapter in The Law is Not of Faith by Bryan Estelle titled “Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 30:1-14 in Biblical Theological Development” argues precisely what we have said thus far:

In a word, the life promised upon condition of performing the statues and judgments in its immediate context in Leviticus here [referring to Lev. 18:5] is “the covenantal blessing of abundant (and long) life in the land of Israel.” (Sprinkle)… There is a real connection that exists between the obedience/disobedience of Israel and tenure in the land… the biblical evidence is incontrovertible…

The Bible asserts and scholars have recognized that pollution and defilement of the land could build up and reach intolerable states, triggering the sanctions and leading to banishment. Not only exile is in view, but also ultimate extirpation symbolized in the destruction of the Herodian temple in AD 70 and the potential rejection of the chosen people.

Estelle then contrasts this with the solution to such a dire situation:

Leviticus 18:5’s influence on Ezekiel is of paramount importance. The purpose of these echoic allusions in Ezekiel is to show that what Israel has failed to do, God will do… Leviticus 18 allusions are seen throughout the entire book of Ezekiel and not merely restricted (as often) to chapter 20 of Ezekiel where three citations of Lev 18:5 have frequently been noted…

[In Ezekiel there is a] reversal of fortunes based on divine initiative… In short, there is a “composition connection between the unfulfilled ‘statutes and ordinances’ in chapters 18 and 20 with their fulfillment in 36.27 and 37.24; likewise, there is a connection with the ‘life’ unattained by Israel in chapters 18, 20, and 33 and Israel’s ‘life’ in 37.1-14″ (Sprinkle) Whereas Israel’s failure to fulfill the stipulations is highlighted repeatedly in Ezekiel 1-24, there is a dramatic reversal of this failure through divine initiative and fulfillment in Ezekiel 36-37… In short, divine causation replaces the conditions incumbent upon the people. What they are unable to perform in and of themselves, Yahweh will accomplish through his own divinely appointed agency.

Like Waters, Estelle recognizes that there is overlap between the Jewish Mosaic law and the universal moral law, and thus while Leviticus 18:5 in its immediate context refers to life in the land of Canaan, it alludes to the eternal life offered in the Adamic Covenant of Works, and thus the problem all mankind faces. Bringing all of this together, Estelle writes about Deuteronomy 30:1-14 (the section Paul quotes):

[T]his amazing passage anticipates ahead of time the plight of which the Israelite nation will find itself, destitute and unable to fulfill the stipulations of the covenant on its own. It also describes the new measure of obedience – accomplished by divine initiative – in which they will satisfy the conditions hanging over them. Finally, when Paul creatively brings these two significant passages (i.e., Lev 18:5 and Deut. 30) into closer proximity to one another (Rom 10:1-12), the mystery of the divine plan for fulfillment emerges from the shadows and into the light…

In Deut 10:16, the people are commanded to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts and not stiffen their necks any longer. Verse 6 of Deut 30, however, is no mere allusion to that passage! On the contrary, new covenant language and imagery permeate this Deuteronomy passage because it is clear that divine initiative will supersede human impotence… Verse 8 declares that when God himself circumcises hearts, “you [fronted in the Hebrew] will repent and you will obey the voice of the LORD and you will do all his commandments.” This will happen with the coming of the Spirit in the gospel age…

Just as Leviticus 18:5 is taken up in later biblical allusions and echoes, so also is this Deuteronomy passage. In Jeremiah 31:31-34, the language of the new covenant that was cloaked in the circumcision of heart metaphor is unveiled in this classic passage. I argued above that Deuteronomy 30:1-14 is a predictive prophecy of the new covenant, and, therefore, all that was implicit there becomes explicit in Jeremiah 31. In verse 31, Jeremiah says this will happen “in the coming days” and in verse 33 he says “after these days”; both refer to the new covenant, messianic days.

This new covenant, however, is going to be unlike the old covenant with respect to breaking. The old covenant was a breakable covenant, it was made obsolete… The reader is obliged to say that a works principle in the old covenant was operative in some sense because the text clearly states that it was a fracturable covenant, “not like the one they broke.” Here indeed was a covenant that was susceptible to fracture and breakable! They broke it at Sinai (Ex. 32), and they did it time and again until that old covenant had served its purposes. For the one who holds a high view of God directing history, there must be something going on here…

…the point is that the whole old covenant order will be annihilatedit will be wiped out, and it will go down in judgment as a modus operandi.  The new covenant is not like that: it is not subject to breaking because it is built upon God’s initiative to complete it and Christ’s satisfaction in his penalty-paying substitution and his probation keeping. His merit is the surety of the new covenant promises, and therefore it cannot fail. The old Sinaitic covenant by way of contrast is built upon a very fallible hope, and therefore is destined to fail since Israel individually and corporately could not fulfill its stipulations.

Thus Paul can quote Deuteronomy 30:12-14 to establish the faith principle of the Covenant of Grace in opposition to the works principle in the Mosaic and Adamic covenants of works because Deuteronomy 30 is a prophecy of the New Covenant, and the New Covenant alone is the Covenant of Grace, by which all saints from all time, OT and NT, have been saved.

“The greatest and utmost mercies that God ever intended to communicate unto the church, and to bless it withal, were enclosed in the new covenant. Nor doth the efficacy of the mediation of Christ extend itself beyond the verge and compass thereof; for he is only the mediator and surety of this covenant.”
-Owen
I greatly appreciate Waters’ work in this essay and his other writings. He rightly understands the necessity of properly understanding the Covenant of Works if we are to properly understand the gospel, and he defends that as best he can. But he is crippled by a self-contradictory covenant theology. A more consistent covenant theology, 1689 Federalism, provides a more robust and biblical defense of “the word of faith which we preach.”

Berkhof on Jer. 31:31-34

July 25, 2015 1 comment

The idea that the covenant is fully realized only in the elect is a perfectly Scriptural idea, as appears, for instance, from Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-12.

-Louis Berkhof. “Systematic Theology.” iBooks.

Throughout his systematic theology, Berkhof is very candid in his discussion of the covenant of grace. He admits many things that paedobaptists today would not admit – most likely because Berkhof did not have any reformed baptists to argue with. It wasn’t on his radar. Paedobaptists today insist that baptists have misread Jer. 31:31-34 and have ignored its context. Berkhof said our observation from the text is a “perfectly Scriptural idea.” However, he goes on to explain that the covenant of grace must be understood in another sense because of Genesis 17:7.

They [reformed theologians] were fully aware of the fact that, according to God’s special revelation in both the Old and the New Testament, the covenant as a historical phenomenon is perpetuated in successive generations and includes many in whom the covenant life is never realized. And whenever they desired to include this aspect of the covenant in their definition, they would say that it was established with believers and their seed.

Thus Jer. 31:31-34 does describe the substance of the covenant of grace made with the elect alone, but Genesis 17:7 says the Abrahamic Covenant is made with Abraham and his physical offspring. The paedobaptist conclusion is that there are two levels or sides or aspects to the covenant of grace: inward/outward, etc (see Berkhof “The Dual Aspect of the Covenant”). The biblical conclusion is that the Abrahamic Covenant is not the New Covenant.

I Will Be God to You

July 24, 2015 4 comments

I know very little of T. David Gordon beyond his essays in “By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification” and “The Law is Not of Faith”. From these essays I gather that he is someone who speaks his mind, and perhaps bombastic (he carelessly compares John Murray to the drunk uncle no one wants to talk about). The main thrust of his essays is that Murray departed from the reformed tradition by not acknowledging great discontinuity between the Mosaic and New covenants. He makes several good points, but he tends not to realize that he is not arguing against Murray so much as the WCF tradition. I enjoyed his response to the oft-used argument that paedobaptists use: For God to say he will be God to someone necessarily implies a soteriological relationship.

Murray (and his followers) implicitly believe that the only relation God sustains to people is that of Redeemer (which, by my light, is not a relation but an office). I would argue, by contrast, that God was just as surely Israel’s God when He cursed the nation as when He blessed it. His pledge to be Israel’s God, via the terms of the Sinai administration, committed him to curse Israel for disobedience just as much as to bless her for obedience. In being Israel’s God, he sustained the relation of covenant suzerain to her; he did not bless or curse any other nation for its covenant fidelity or infidelity. In this sense, he was not the God of other nations as he was the God of Israel. (p 120 “By Faith Alone”)

Of course, such an admission undermines the paedobaptist claim that “I will be God to you and your offspring after you” (Gen 17:7) means “the promise of salvation is to your offspring.” Compare Gordon’s comments with Jonathan Edwards’.

Pentecostal Jazz

Whatever glossolalists may believe to the contrary, glossolalia is not language in the ordinary sense, though it is both self-expression and communication; and whatever Freudian theorists may have suspected or feared, it is not a product of the kind of disassociation of mind and bodily function which argues stress, repression or mental sickness. It is, rather, a willed and welcomed vocal event in which, in a context of attention to religious realities, the tongue operates within one’s mood but apart from one’s mind in a way comparable to the fantasy-languages of children and the scat-singing of the late Louis Armstrong. It is not the prerogative of one psychological type rather than another, nor is it the product of any particular set of external circumstances or pressures.

-J.I. Packer, Theological Reflections on the Charismatic Movement – Part 2

Categories: theology Tags:

1689 Federalism Response to Wellum’s “Progressive Covenantalism and the Doing of Ethics”

July 24, 2015 28 comments

A 20 page paper by Stephen J. Wellum titled “Progressive Covenantalism and the Doing of Ethics” was posted in the New Covenant Theology Facebook group recently [Note: it has since been removed as it was not supposed to be posted publicly – it will be available in this volume]. It presents a good opportunity to bring to attention some of the important areas where 1689 Federalism (a particular version of covenant theology) disagrees with Westminster Federalism (what Wellum simply refers to as “covenant theology”), as well as highlight where 1689 Federalism believes Progressive Covenantalism errs. My comments will be brief, and I won’t be summarizing his argument, so make sure to read it first.

Covenant theology has sought to do ethics and establish the basis for moral law by following the venerable tradition of dividing the Mosaic law into three parts: moral, civil, and ceremonial… A direct equation is made between the Decalogue and eternal moral law and a general hermeneutical rule is followed: unless the NT explicitly modifies or abrogates the Mosaic law (as in the ceremonial and civil parts), it is still in force today. This rule becomes the principle by which moral law is established across the canon.

This is an important point. This is how modern RB and paedobaptist covenant theology answers the question, but it is not how 1689 Federalism answers the question. Unlike the other groups, we do not believe the Old and New are two administrations of the same covenant, therefore we do not believe the Mosaic covenant continues to be in force today aside from specific laws (or categories of laws) that have been repealed. Progressive Covenantalism is simply unaware of our position (I don’t blame them for that). We believe the entire Mosaic covenant, and thus the Mosaic law, is abrogated. Therefore we do not follow Westminster Federalism (“covenant theology”) in arguing that all Mosaic law is still in force today unless abrogated (because it was all abrogated).

Wherefore the whole law of Moses, as given unto the Jews, whether as used or abused by them, was repugnant unto and inconsistent with the gospel, and the mediation of Christ, especially his priestly office, therein declared; neither did God either design, appoint, or direct that they should be co-existent…It is not, therefore, the peculiar command for the institution of the legal priesthood that is intended, but the whole system of Mosaical institutions. For the apostle having already proved that the priesthood was to be abolished, he proceeds on that ground and from thence to prove that the whole law was also to be in like manner abolished and removed. And indeed it was of such a nature and constitution, that pull one pin out of the fabric, and the whole must fall unto the ground; for the sanction of it being, that “he was cursed who continued not in all things written in the law to do them,” the change of any one thing must needs overthrow the whole law…

And the whole of this system of laws is called a “command,” because it consisted in “arbitrary commands” and precepts, regulated by that maxim, “The man that doeth these things shall live by them,” Romans 10:5. And therefore the law, as a command, is opposed unto the gospel, as a promise of righteousness by Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:11, 12. Nor is it the whole ceremonial law only that is intended by “the command” in this place, but the moral law also, so far as it was compacted with the other into one body of precepts for the same end; for with respect unto the efficacy of the whole law of Moses, as unto our drawing nigh unto God, it is here considered…

By all these ways was the church of the Hebrews forewarned that the time would come when the whole Mosaical law, as to its legal or covenant efficacy, should be disannulled, unto the unspeakable advantage of the church…

It is therefore plainly declared, that the law is “abrogated,” “abolished… disannulled.”

-John Owen, Exposition of Hebrews 7:12, 18-19

What is important to understand is that the law, including the moral law, was abrogated “so far as it was compacted with the other into one body of precepts for the same end.” That is, the law as a unit is abrogated as a covenant of works for life in the land of Canaan (operating upon the maxim of Lev 18:5/Rom 10:5).

Continuing with Wellum:

First, Scripture views the old covenant as a unit or package and it does not appeal to the tripartite distinction as the means by which the continuity and discontinuity of moral law is established for Christians today.

That’s a false dichotomy. We agree with PC, in contrast to Westminster Federalism, that the old covenant is a unit, and it expires as a unit. But that does not mean there is not overlap between a transcendent moral law that pre-dated the Mosaic law and the Mosaic law itself. One can affirm that the old covenant is a unit, and expires as a unit, and at the same time affirm that Scripture teaches a tripartite distinction as a means of determining the continuity and discontinuity of the moral law. To clarify even further, the tripartite distinction can sometimes be distracting. What we really recognize in Scripture is a two-fold distinction between moral law (unchanging) and positive law (changing). Here is how Calvin and Owen explained it:

We must attend to the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law, and we must attend to each of these parts, in order to understand how far they do, or do not, pertain to us. Meanwhile, let no one be moved by the thought that the judicial and ceremonial laws relate to morals. For the ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes had to do with morals, did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals. They give this name specially to the first class, without which, true holiness of life and an immutable rule of conduct cannot exist.-Calvin http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.vi.xxi.html

Positive laws are taken to be such as have no reason for them in themselves – nothing of the matter of them is taken from the things themselves commanded – but do depend merely and solely on the sovereign will and pleasure of God. Such were the laws and institutions of the sacrifices of old and such are those which concern the sacraments and other things of the like nature under the new testament. Moral laws are such as have the reasons of them taken from the nature of the things themselves required in them for they are good from their respect to the nature of God himself and from that nature and order of all things which he hath placed in the creation. So that this sort of law is but declarative of the absolute goodness of what they do require the other is constitutive of it as unto some certain ends. Laws positive, as they are occasionally given, so they are esteemed alterable at pleasure. Being fixed by mere will and prerogative without respect to any thing that should make them necessary antecedent to their giving, they may by the same authority at any time be taken away and abolished. Such I say are they in their own nature and as to any firmitude that they have from their own subject matter. But with respect unto God’s determination, positive divine laws may become eventually unalterable. And this difference is there between legal and evangelical institutions. The laws of both are positive only, equally proceeding from sovereign will and pleasure and in their own natures equally alterable; but to the former God had in his purpose fixed a determinate time and season wherein they should expire or be altered by his authority; the latter he hath fixed a perpetuity and unchangeableness unto during the state and condition of his church in this world. The other sort of laws are perpetual and unalterable in themselves so far as they are of that sort, – that is moral. For although a law of that kind may have an especial injunction with such circumstances as may be changed and varied (as had the whole decalogue in the commonwealth of Israel), yet so far as it is moral – that is, as its commands or prohibitions are necessary emergencies or expressions of the good or evil of the things it commands or forbids – it is invariable. And in these things there is an agreement unless sometimes through mutual oppositions men are chafed into some exceptions or distinctions.Unto these two sorts do all divine laws belong and unto these heads they may be all reduced. And it is pleaded by some that these kinds of laws are contradistinct, so that a law of one kind can in no sense be a law of the other. And this doubtless is true reduplicatively because they have a special formal reasons. As far and wherein any laws are positive they are not moral; and as far as they are purely moral they are not formally positive, though given after the manner of positive commands. Howbeit this hinders not but that some do judge that there may be and are divine laws of a mixed nature; for there may be in a divine law a foundation in and respect unto somewhat that is moral, which yet may stand in need of the superaddition of a positive command for its due observation unto its proper end.

-Owen, A Treatise on the Sabbath

Wellum continues:

Texts such as Gal 5:3 and James 2:8-13 point in this direction. Keeping or breaking one part of the law assumes the keeping or breaking of the whole law.

This is an interesting citation from Wellum. Yes, Galatians 5:3 clearly establishes the Old Covenant as a unit. The law was given as a covenant of works to Abraham’s physical offspring, which is symbolized by circumcision. Thus, one who insists on circumcision becomes a debtor to the whole covenant that corresponds to circumcision. In this context, as in many others, Paul is using the term “law” to refer to the law as a covenant of works, specifically, the Old Covenant of works for life in the land of Canaan. This is where Progressive Covenantalism and New Covenant Theology tends to falter. They think “the law” can only mean “the Mosaic law.” But “the law” clearly has many more meanings and nuances that are determined by context. Just as one brief example among many, does Jeremiah 31:33 mean that God will write the Old Covenant of works on the hearts of members of the New Covenant? Does it mean that God will write the laws of the Levitical priesthood on the hearts of believers in the New Covenant, thereby making it an integral part of the New Covenant? That would clearly contradict the argument of the book of Hebrews. So “law” here must mean something other than “the Mosaic law.”

James is clearly not referring to the Mosaic law. His argument is entirely different from Paul’s in Galatians. Whereas Paul is telling Judiazers that if they want to be under the Old Covenant, they are bound to keep all of it, James is telling Christians that they are not free from sin if they just keep part of the law. If they keep part of it, but do not keep another part of it, they are “committing sin.” If Christians are not under the Old Covenant and thus not under “the law,” and James is not arguing against Judiazers but instructing Christians, why does James tell them they are “committing sin” and are “convicted by [the Old Covenant]”? They’re not under the Old Covenant. Is James a Judiazer? No, James clearly has a different meaning in mind when he says “the law.” He does not mean “the Old Covenant.” He means the unchanging commands that bind all image bearers, including Christians. He says that unchanging law is a unit. The moral law (the decalogue) is a unit.

Wellum continues:

Or, as the author of Hebrews argues, the law-covenant is an integrated whole grounded in the priesthood (Heb 7:11), and with a change in priesthood (Ps 110; Heb 7), there is necessarily an entire covenantal change, not merely parts of it (Heb 7:12; 8:7-13).

1689 Federalism agrees (re-read Owen’s exposition of those same verses above). But note again the problem this creates for Wellum if this is the only meaning of “the law.” If “the law” only means “the Mosaic law covenant” then the entire Mosaic law covenant, including the priesthood, is written on the heart of believers in the New Covenant. Again, law is often used as a euphemism for the law given as a covenant of works.” But that is not the only meaning of “the law.” Context must determine its meaning.

Second, Scripture teaches that the entire law-covenant was temporary in God’s plan, serving a number of purposes, but ultimately pointing forward to its fulfillment, telos, and terminus in Christ (Rom 10:4; Gal 3:15-4:7; Heb 7:11-12).

We agree in general, but Wellum’s appeal to Rom 10:4 is deeply flawed – again because of his rigid definition of “law.” 10:4 is not referring to the Mosaic covenant. It is referring to the Adamic Covenant of Works. See my interview with Guy Waters on a recent Confessing Baptist podcast about this. We discuss his excellent chapter in The Law is Not of Faith about this exact passage. 10:4 is not referring to Christ as the goal of the law. Christ is the termination of the law unto righteousness, for all who believe. Christ is the end of the law as a means of obtaining righteousness. Christ is the termination of the law as a covenant of works, for all who believe. Unlike the Old Covenant, which has been abrogated, the law as the Adamic Covenant of Works continues for all those who do not believe.

This context, moreover, defines the meaning of the word “nomos” at Romans 10:4. Paul’s concern for the law here is not as it establishes boundary markers between Jew and Gentile. Nor is his concern for the law here as an economy or covenantal administration [Old Covenant]. Paul’s concern for the law, as Romans 10:5 indicates, is the commandments and precepts of the moral law.What does this mean for a definition of the word telos? While it is a thoroughly Pauline teaching that Christ is the goal of the law, or the one to whom the law points (whether considered as a covenantal administration or as commandments and precepts), that is not what Paul is claiming here. He is claiming that Christ is the “termination” of the law to the believer. Paul, however, is not affirming that the believer is thereby altogether free from the commandments and precepts of the law. Paul is no antinomian. The law as precept continues to bind believers. He is, however, claiming that the believer is free from the law’s commandments as they bring life to the one who perfectly performs them and condemnation to the one who fails to meet this standard. He is, in other words, freed from the law as it functions within the covenant of works.

-Guy Waters, “Romans 10:5 and the Covenant of Works” in The Law is Not of Faith

Earlier he established that Paul is not referring to the Old Covenant, but to the law that binds all image bearers, Jew and Gentile:

While Paul concerns himself with the commandments found within the Mosaic law, he does not concern himself with commandments that are found only within the Mosaic law. This is evident from a few considerations. First, Paul’s argument in 10:4-13 is universal in scope. Paul affirms at 10:4 that Christ is the “end of the law to everyone who believes.” The righteousness of justification is not restricted to Jews only… Second, if the solution is universal, it stands to reason that what has occasioned that solution (the “problem”) is universal as well… The problem that Paul identifies, then, is one to which Moses gives expression, but is not one that Paul limits or restricts to the Jews, the recipients of the Torah…Paul, however, has affirmed that it is to the “law” that the problem of Jews and Gentiles has reference… Romans 1:18-3:20… Romans 2:12-15… What can be said of this “law” which is thus available to all men and women? This “law” can certainly be distinguished from the Mosaic law in its totality, since Gentiles are expressly said not to have the Mosaic law. Nevertheless, because Paul uses the term “law” to describe this standard available to the Gentiles, neither may one separate it from the Mosaic law…

How could Paul have derived a testimony regarding the moral law, revealed to Jews and Gentiles, from Leviticus 18:5? The answer is found in the overlap that exists between the moral law and the Mosaic law. Because of this overlap Paul can quote the Mosaic writings, deducing therefrom a principle that applies universally to Jews and Gentiles alike.

Waters’ entire chapter is worth quoting, so please read it. He continues this explanation of the universal nature of this law as a covenant of works by discussing Matthew 19:16-18 as well as Romans 5:12-21.

Wellum:

This entails, as Moo suggests, “The ‘law’ under which Christians live is continuous with the Mosaic law in that God’s eternal moral norms, which never change, are clearly expressed in both.

This is a crucial admission. By this Wellum admits that even though the Mosaic law is a unit, certain parts of it that are eternal do not expire. This is precisely our position. While Wellum attempts to create a rubric for determining what exactly these moral norms are, we believe God has testified clearly throughout Scripture that these eternal moral norms are summarized in the decalogue. When we look to the Mosaic law, this distinction was abundantly clear from the very first giving of the law where we see a very clear distinction in the text between the law written in stone by the finger of God (Ex 24:12; 32:16; 34:1, 28) and spoken by God (Ex 20:1), and the rest of the laws written by (Ex 24:4;34:27) and spoken by (Ex 21:1; 24:3) Moses. Only the 10 Commandments/tablets of stone were placed in the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:16; 40:20; Deut 10:1-6; 1 Kings 8:9; Heb 9:4). Thus there is a distinction inherent within the Mosaic law of a division within the Mosaic law.

Yet, in the end, God’s righteousness comes apart from the old covenant (Rom 3:21), and it is only found in the new covenant—that to which the law pointed (Rom 3:21-31; 8:2-4; Gal 3:13-14; 4:4-7).

Strongly agree. And it’s important to point out the agreements, since Progressive Covenantalism is largely unfamiliar with how we differ from Westminster Federalism.

Wellum dances around Matthew 5 and alludes to Carson’s treatment of it. Carson is wrong in his claim that Christ fulfills the law by establishing a new law. Greg Welty has a good, detailed analysis of Carson’s argument.

What is needed is a “whole Bible” hermeneutic, unpacking the Bible’s own internal categories, placing texts in the Bible’s unfolding storyline according to their covenantal location, and then thinking through their relation to Christ.

I believe Wellum has ignored “the Bible’s own internal categories” by ignoring how God very clearly distinguished the decalogue from the rest of the Mosaic law, as explained above, though he has done a better job than Westminster of placing texts in the Bible’s unfolding storyline according to their covenantal location.

Also, even if the new covenant does not explicitly forbid bestiality, this does not entail that the Mosaic law is still in force unless the NT explicitly modifies/abrogates it, or that we are only bound to that which is clearly repeated in the NT. Both of these approaches fail to do justice to a “whole Bible” reading, grounded in the Bible’s own biblical-theological framework, and which moves across the covenants from creation to the consummation.

We can agree with this, though come to different conclusions.

Yet, in the new age, the full intent of how we are to love as God’s people is now realized in a greater way. This is why Jesus stresses that it is not merely the absence of the act of murder, adultery, or lying which is forbidden, but our very heart-attitude toward one another (Matt 5:21-48). What God demands of his people is love. In the old era, the law-covenant demanded it, but it also anticipated something more. Now, in Christ, what the old anticipated is now here.

That is incorrect. Christ was not teaching a new requirement of the law nor a new law. He was unpacking the full spiritual significance and requirements of the moral law that have always existed from creation. The difference is that the Mosaic law only regulated the outward behavior of the nation (because the entire Old Covenant was about outward and temporal, not eternal, blessings and curses). The Mosaic law did not regulate the full spiritual requirements of the moral law. However, the moral law, from creation, continued to require full spiritual obedience from the heart form every individual Israelite. A.W. Pink unpacks this well, as does John Erskine.

However, as Scripture, the law-covenant is for our instruction. As we apply these commands, what this entails is that we must think through whether old covenant commands are tied to creation, whether they are tied solely to the old era, and how they are fulfilled in the NT.

Again, 1689 Federalism can agree with this, yet come to different conclusions because we don’t feel Wellum has correctly observed and interpreted everything in that process.

We also agree with his comments regarding Mosaic civil law and its application typologically to the church and excommunication.

This difference [between progressive covenantalism and (westminster) covenant theology] is also illustrated in the ongoing debate over the present-day application of the Sabbath command—a debate which functions as a crucial test case for how the biblical covenants are “put together” and moral law is established… As we approach the Sabbath command (Exod 20:8-12), once again, we apply it in exactly the same way. In thinking through the Sabbath’s covenantal location—that which looks back to the covenantal rest at creation (Gen 2:1-3), a day to be obeyed by Israel under the law, and a day which typologically pointed forward to a greater rest to come (Psalm 95; cf. Matt 11:28-30; Heb 3:7-5:13)—it is now applied to us in light of its fulfillment, namely Christ who has achieved for us salvation rest. All of the other commandments (Exod 20:12-17) are applied in the same way.

Wellum falters here in applying his hermeneutic. He previously said “Just as it is crucial to begin the Bible’s storyline and covenantal unfolding in creation in order to grasp God’s plan; it is also necessary to ground ethics in the norm of creation. As Hill rightly insists, it is the original creation with its revealed goals or purposes which “provides us with the basis for determining what is morally good.”” If the Sabbath is grounded in creation, then it is not a command unique to Israel, but instead falls in the category of moral law that applies to all image bearers. If the bible’s own “internal categories” places the 4th commandment within the decalogue, which is distinguished from the rest of the Mosaic law, then it is not a command unique to Israel, but instead falls into the category of moral law that applies to all image bearers. If we understand the Bible’s storyline and covenantal unfolding we see that Adam did not enter this rest in the garden. We see that he was created in a covenant of works with the goal of earning that rest, and he universally represented all of humanity in that law covenant (as our discussion of Romans 10:4 above shows). Adam’s observation of the weekly sabbath rest at the end of the week reminded him of the glorification that lie ahead. This sabbath principle took on a typological level as it was expanded to include additional Sabbaths, new moons, and festivals for Israel – all directly related to their temporal life in the land of Canaan, which was a shadow of the substance, Christ. Now that Christ has come and established a new creation and earned that eternal sabbath rest for his people, we enter into that rest. But we do so already and not-yet. We rest with Christ spiritually, ceasing from our works unto righteousness, knowing that Christ has secured our righteousness. But we do not-yet rest with Christ physically in our glorified bodies in the new heavens and the new earth. We still groan for that day. And thus we still have need of that reminder each week in the abiding moral law, with the day changed to the first day of the week to remind us that we do not enter after our labor is done, but after Christ’s labor was done and He rose again.

And Wellum does not apply all of the other commandments the same way. Does he apply the 7th commandment in that way? Marriage is rooted in creation, but has it’s full meaning in Christ, to whom we are wed, and the new creation. Do we therefore nullify our marriages here on earth? No, we apply the same already/not-yet paradigm. The marriage is not yet consummated we have not yet celebrated the marriage feast. When we do, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Until then, the 7th commandment and our earthly marriages continue as a creation ordinance – just like the weekly Sabbath.

Related resources:

London Baptist Confession, Chapter 19

Paragraph 1. God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil;1 by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience;2 promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.3
1 Gen. 1:27; Eccles. 7:29
2 Rom. 10:5
3 Gal. 3:10,12

Paragraph 2. The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall,4 and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.5
4 Rom. 2:14,15
5 Deut. 10:4

Paragraph 3. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;6 and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties,7 all which ceremonial laws being appointed only to the time of reformation, are, by Jesus Christ the true Messiah and only law-giver, who was furnished with power from the Father for that end abrogated and taken away.8
6 Heb. 10:1; Col. 2:17
7 1 Cor. 5:7
8 Col. 2:14,16,17; Eph. 2:14,16

Paragraph 4. To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of modern use.9
9 1 Cor. 9:8-10

Paragraph 5. The moral law does for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof,10 and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it;11 neither does Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.12
10 Rom. 13:8-10; James 2:8,10-12
11 James 2:10,11
12 Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31

Paragraph 6. Although true believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned,13 yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin;14 together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience; it is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse and unallayed rigour thereof. The promises of it likewise show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.15
13 Rom. 6:14; Gal. 2:16; Rom. 8:1, 10:4
14 Rom. 3:20, 7:7, etc.
15 Rom. 6:12-14; 1 Pet. 3:8-13

Paragraph 7. Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it,16 the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.17
16 Gal. 3:21
17 Ezek. 36:27

Did Spurgeon hold to 1689 Federalism?

July 17, 2015 2 comments

spurgeon1a2

Benjamin Keach pastored a fellowship at Horse-lie-down, Southwark for 36 years (1668-1704). He was succeeded by Benjamin Stinton from 1704-1718 (14 yrs), who was succeeded by Joh Gill from 1720-1771 (51 yrs). In 1833 the congregation moved to New Park Street where Spuregon began preaching in 1854 (20 years old).

Keach held to 1689 Federalism while Gill held to a more Westminster-style baptist covenant theology (what has been dubbed “modern reformed baptist covenant theology”).

Which view of covenant theology did Spurgeon hold to?

It’s Important

 

First, note how important Spurgeon believes this issue is:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” — Hebrews 8:10.

THE doctrine of the divine covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and of grace. May God grant us now the power to instruct, and you the grace to receive instruction on this vital subject.

The human race in the order of history, so far as this world is concerned, first stood in subjection to God under the covenant of works. Adam was the representative man. A certain law was given him. If he kept it, he and all his posterity would be blessed as the result of obedience. If he broke it, he would incur the curse himself, and entail it on all represented by him. That covenant our first father broke. He fell; he failed to fulfil his obligations; in his fall he involved us all, for we were all in his loins, and he represented us before God. Our ruin, then, was complete before we were born; we were ruined by him who stood as our first representative. To be saved by the works of the law is impossible, far under that covenant we are already lost. If saved at all it must be all quite a different plan, not on the plan of doing and being rewarded for it, for that has been tried, and the representative man upon whom it was tried has failed for us all. We have all failed in his failure; it is hopeless, therefore, to expect to win divine favour by anything that we can do, or merit divine blessing by way of reward.

But divine mercy has interposed, and provided a plan of salvation from the fall. That plan is another covenant, a covenant made with Christ Jesus the Son of God, who is fitly called by the apostle, “the Second Adam,” because he stood again as the representative of man. Now, the second covenant, so far as Christ was concerned, was a covenant of works quite as much as the other. It was an this wise. Christ shall come into the world and perfectly obey the divine law. He shall also, inasmuch as the first Adam has broken the law, suffer the penalty of sin. If he shall do both of these, then all whom he represents shall be blessed in his blessedness, and saved because of his merit. You see, then, that until our Lord came into this world it was a covenant of works towards him. He had certain works to perform, upon condition of which certain blessings should be given to us. Our Lord has kept that covenant. His part in it has been fulfilled to the last letter. There is no commandment which he has not honoured; there is no penalty of the broken law which he has not endured. He became a servant and obedient, yea, obedient to death, even the death of the cross. He has thus done what the first Adam could not accomplish, and he has retrieved what the first Adam forfeited by his transgression. He has established the covenant, and now it ceases to be a covenant of works, for the works are all done. “Jesus did them, did them all, Long, long ago.”

And now what remaineth of the covenant? God on his part has solemnly pledged himself to give undeserved favour to as many as were represented in Christ Jesus. For as many as the Saviour died for, there is stored up a boundless mass of blessing which shall be given to them, not through their works, but as the sovereign gift of the grace of God, according to his covenant promise by which they shall be saved.

The Wondrous Covenant (Hebrews 8:10)

[H]ave a joyful respect for it [the covenant of grace]. Awake your harps and join in praise with David—“Although my house is not so with God, yet has He made with me an Everlasting Covenant.” Here is enough to make a Heaven in our hearts while yet we are below—the Lord has entered into a Covenant of Grace and peace with us and He will bless us forever! Then have a jealous respect for it. Never suffer the Covenant of Works to be mixed with it. Hate that preaching—I say not less than that—hate that preaching which does not discriminate between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace, for it is deadly preaching and damning preaching!

The Covenant Pleaded (Psalm 74:20)

 

Remember that there was a Covenant of old, which men broke—the Covenant of works, “This do, and you shall live.” Keep such and such commands, and you shall be rewarded. That Covenant failed because man did not keep God’s commands and so did not earn the promised reward. We broke the terms of that contract and it is no longer valid, except that we come under penalty for the breach of it, and that penalty is that we are to be cast away from God’s Presence and to perish without hope, so far as that broken Covenant is concerned.

Now, rolling up that old Covenant as a useless thing out of which no salvation can ever come, God comes to us in another way and He says, “I will make a new Covenant with you, not like the old one at all.” It is a Covenant of Grace— a Covenant made, not with the worthy, but with the unworthy! A Covenant not made upon conditions, but unconditionally, every supposed condition having been fulfilled by our great Representative and Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ! A Covenant without an, “if,” or a, “but,” in it, “ordered in all things, and sure.” A Covenant of shalls and wills in which God says, “I will, and you shall!” A Covenant just suited to our broken-down and helpless condition. A Covenant which will land everyone who is interested in it in Heaven! No other Covenant will ever do this.

Twelve Covenant Mercies (Isaiah 55:3)

 

This renewing work has been in our Lord’s hands from of old. We were under the old covenant, and our first father and federal head, Adam, had broken that covenant, and we were ruined by his fatal breach. The substance of the old covenant was on this wise,—”If thou wilt keep my command thou shalt live, and thy posterity shall live; but if thou shalt eat of the tree which I have forbidden thee, dying, thou shalt die, and all thy posterity in thee.” This is where we were found, broken in pieces, sore wounded, and even slain by the tremendous fall which destroyed both our Paradise and ourselves. We died in Adam as to spiritual life, and our death revealed itself in an inward tendency to evil which reigned in our members. We were like Ezekiel’s deserted infant unswaddled and unwashed, left in our pollution to die; but the Son of God passed by and saw us in the greatness of our ruin. In his wondrous love our Lord Jesus put us under a new covenant, a covenant of which he became the second Adam, a covenant which ran on this wise,—”If thou shalt render perfect obedience and vindicate my justice, then those who are in thee shall not perish, but they shall live because thou livest.” Now, our Lord Jesus, our Surety and Covenant Head, has fulfilled his portion of the covenant engagement, and the compact stands as a bond of pure promise without condition or risk. Those who are participants in that covenant cannot invalidate it, for it never did depend upon them, but only upon him who was and is their federal head and representative before God. Of Jesus the demand was made and he met it. By him man’s side of the covenant was undertaken and fulfilled, and now no condition remains; it is solely made up of promises which are unconditional and sure to all the seed. To-day believers are not under the covenant of “If thou doest this thou shalt live,” but under that new covenant which says, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” It is not now “Do and live,” but “Live and do;” we think not of merit and reward, but of free grace producing holy practice as the result of gratitude. What law could not do, grace has accomplished.

Sermon for New Year’s-Day (Revelation 21:5)

Mosaic Covenant

 

Spurgeon clearly understood the importance of distinguishing between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. But did he follow Calvin and Westminster? Did he believe that all of the post-fall covenants were renewals of the same covenant? Did he believe the Mosaic Covenant was the Covenant of Grace?

This Epistle to the Hebrews is full of distinctions between the old covenant and the new, the gist of it being to show that the former covenant was only typical of that abiding dispensation which followed it; for it had only the shadow, and not the very image of heavenly things.

The Blood of the Covenant (Hebrews 13:20-21)

 

“I will be their God.”—Jeremiah 31:33.

WHAT A glorious covenant the second covenant is! Well might it be called “a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” Heb. viii. 6. It is so glorious that the very thought of it is enough to overwhelm the soul, when it discerns the amazing condescension and infinite love of God, in having framed a covenant for such unworthy creatures, for such glorious purposes, with such disinterested motives. It is better than the other covenant, the covenant of works, which was made with Adam; or that covenant which is said to have been made with Israel, on the day when they came out of Egypt. It is better, for it is founded upon a better principle. The old covenant was founded on the principle of merit; it was, “Serve God and thou shalt be rewarded for it; if thou walkest perfectly in the fear of the Lord, God will walk well towards thee, and all the blessings of Mount Gerizim shall come upon thee, and thou shalt be exceedingly blessed in this world, and the world which is to come.” But that covenant fell to the ground, because, although it was just that man should be rewarded for his good works, or punished for his evil ones, yet man being sure to sin, and since the fall infallibly tending towards iniquity, the covenant was not suitable for his happiness, nor could it promote his eternal welfare. But the new covenant, is not founded on works at all, it is a covenant of pure unmingled grace; you may read it from its first word to its last, and there is not a solitary syllable as to anything to be done by us.

God in the Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33)

 

The old covenant said, “There are the tables of stone, mind that you obey every word that is written thereon: if you do you shall live, and if you do not you shall die.” Man never did obey, and consequently no one ever entered heaven or found peace by the law. The new covenant speaketh on this wise, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. I will write my law in their hearts, and on their minds will I write them. I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me.” The prophets enlarge most instructively upon this new covenant. It is not a covenant of “if you will I will,” but it runs thus, “I will and you shall.”

The Blood of the Covenant (Hebrews 13:20-21)

 

Christ is the messenger of the covenant, in the next place, as the messenger of the Father to us. Moses was messenger of the covenant of works, and his face shone, for the ministration of death was glorious; but Christ is the messenger of the covenant of grace.

The Messenger of the Covenant (Malachi 3:1)

 

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.”—Hebrews 8:10.

WHEN God gave to Israel his law,—the law of the first covenant,—it was such a holy law that it ought to have been kept by the people. It was a just and righteous law, concerning which God said, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.” The law of the ten commandments is strictly just; it is such a law as a man might make for himself if he studied his own best interests, and had wisdom enough to frame it aright. It is a perfect law, in which the interests of God and man are both studied; it is not a partial law, but impartial, complete, and covering all the circumstances of life. You could not take away one command out of the ten without spoiling both tables of the law, and you could not add another command without being guilty of making a superfluity. The law is holy, and just, and good; it is like the God who made it, it is a perfect law. Then, surely, it ought to have been kept. When men revolt against unjust laws, they are to be commended; but when a law is admitted to be perfect, then disobedience to it is an act of exceeding guilt.

Further, God not only gave a law which ought to have been kept, because of its own intrinsic excellence, but he also gave it in a very wonderful way, which ought to have ensured its observance by the people. The Lord came down upon Mount Sinai in fire, and the mountain was altogether on a smoke, and the smoke thereof ascended “as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount Quaked greatly;” and the sight that was then seen on Sinai, and the sounds that were there heard, and all the pomp and awful grandeur were so terrible that even Moses,—that boldest, calmest, quietest of men said, “I do exceedingly fear and quake.” The children of Israel, as they heard that law proclaimed, were so amazed and overwhelmed with God’s display of his majesty and might, that they were ready enough to promise to keep his commandments. The law of God could not have Been made known to mankind in grander or more sublime style than was displayed in the giving of that covenant on Mount Sinai.

And, dear friends, after the giving of the law, did not God affix to it those terrible penalties which should have prevented men from disobeying his commands? “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” It was the capital sentence that was to be pronounced upon the disobedient; there could be no heavier punishment than that. God had, as it were, drawn his sword against sin; and if man had been a reasonable being, he ought at once to have started back from committing an act which he might be sure would make God his foe.

Moreover, the blessings that were appended to the keeping of the law ought to have induced men to keep it; look again at those words I quoted just now: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.” This did not mean that the man who kept God’s law should merely exist; there are some in these degenerate days who seek to make out life to be existence, and death to be annihilation, but there is little likeness between the words, or between what those words mean. “He shall live in them,” said the Lord concerning the man who kept his law; and there is a fullness of blessedness couched in that word, “live.” If men had kept the covenant of the Lord,—if Adam, for instance, had kept it in the garden of Eden, the rose would have been without a thorn to tear his flesh, and the enjoyment of life would never have been marred by the bitterness of toil or grief.

But, alas! notwithstanding all these solemn sanctions of the ancient covenant, men did not keep it. The promise, “This do, and thou shalt live,” never produced any doing that was worthy to be rewarded with life; and the threatening, “Do this, and thou shalt die,” never kept any man back from daringly venturing into the wrong road which leadeth unto death. The fact is, that the covenant of works, if it be looked upon as a way of safety, is a total failure. No man ever persevered in it unto the end, and no man ever attained unto life by keeping it. Nor can we, now that we are fallen, ever hope to be better than our unfallen covenant-head, Adam; nor may we, who are already lost and condemned by our sinful works, dream for a moment that we shall be able to save ourselves by our works. You see, dear friends, the first covenant was in these terms,—”You do right, and God will reward you for it. If you deserve life, God will give it to you.” Now, as you all know right well, that covenant was broken all to pieces; it was unable to stand by reason of the weakness of our flesh and the corruptness of our nature. So God set aside that first covenant, he put it away as an outworn and useless thing; and he brought in a new covenant,—the covenant of grace; and in our text we see what is the tenor of it: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.” This is one of the most glorious promises that ever fell from the lips of infinite love. God said not, “I will come again, as I came on Sinai, and thunder at them.” No, but, “I will come in gentleness and mercy, and find a way into their hearts.” He said not, “I will take two great tables of stone, and with my finger write out my law before their eyes.” No, but, “I will put my finger upon their hearts, and there will I write my law.” He said not, “I will give promises and threatenings that shall be the safeguard of this new covenant;” but, “I will with my Spirit graciously operate upon their minds and their hearts, and so I will sweetly influence them to serve me,—not for reward, nor from any servile motive, but because they know me, and they love me, and they feel it to be their delight to walk in the way of my commandments.” O dear sirs may you all be shares in the blessings of that new covenant! May God say this of you, and do this to you; and if so, we shall meet in the glory-land, to sing unto the grace of that eternal God who has wrought so wondrously with us, and in us, and for us!

God’s Law in Man’s Heart (Hebrews 8:10)

 

“He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second,” is illustrated… in the case of the covenants made with the literal and the spiritual Israel. There was a first covenant to which the Israelites gave their consent soon after they came out of Egypt. That was a covenant of works, and when Moses rehearsed in the ears of the people the terms of that covenant, “All the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” Yet they soon forgot their solemn promise. You remember how the commandments were “written with the finger of God” upon “two tables of testimony, tables of stone;” but when the people turned aside to worship the golden calf which Aaron had made, we read concerning Moses, “it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses anger ’waxed hot,’ and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.” In God’s great longsuffering, the commandments were given a second time, though Moses, and not God, wrote on the second tables of stone, and they were put away for safety into the golden ark, above which was placed the mercy seat of pure gold. This was another symbolical illustration of our text: “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” The law in the hand of Moses is broken that we may have the law in the heart of Christ hidden away under the sacred covering of divine mercy in the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. The first covenant of “This do, and thou shalt live,” is taken away, that God may establish the second, which is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The first covenant, because it waxed old, has passed away; and now God has established a second covenant, the covenant of grace: “They shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall lot depart from me.’

The First and the Second (Hebrews 10:9)

 

First, we invite you to notice THE TWO WOMEN—Hagar and Sarah. It is said that they are the types of the two covenants; and before we start we must not forget to tell you what the covenants are. The first covenant for which Hagar stands, is the covenant of works, which is this: “There is my law, O man; if thou on thy side wilt engage to keep it, I on my side will engage that thou shalt live by keeping it. If thou wilt promise to obey my commands perfectly, wholly, fully, without a single flaw, I will carry thee to heaven. But mark me, if thou violatest one command, if thou dost rebel against a single ordinance, I will destroy thee for ever.” That is the Hagar covenant—the covenant propounded on Sinai, amidst tempests, fire and smokeor rather, propounded, first of all, in the garden of Eden, where God said to Adam, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” As long as he did not eat of the tree, but remained spotless and sinless, he was most assuredly to live. That is the covenant of the law, the Hagar covenant. The Sarah covenant is the covenant of grace, not made with God and man, but made with God and Christ Jesus, which covenant is this: “Christ Jesus on his part engages to bear the penalty of all his people’s sins, to die, to pay their debts, to take their iniquities upon his shoulders; and the Father promises on his part that all for whom the Son doth die shall most assuredly be saved; that seeing they have evil hearts, he will put his law in their hearts, that they shall not depart from it, and that seeing they have sins, he will pass them by and not remember them any more for ever.” The covenant of works was, “Do this and live, O man!” but the covenant of grace is, “Do this, O Christ, and thou shalt live, O man!” The difference of covenants rests here. The one was made with man, the other with Christ; the one was a conditional covenant, conditional on Adam’s standing, the other is a conditional covenant with Christ, but as perfectly unconditional with us.

The Allegories of Sarah and Hagar (Galatians 4:24)

 

While Spurgeon did clearly separate the Mosaic Covenant from the Covenant of Grace, he did not clearly separate the Mosaic Covenant of Works from the Adamic Covenant of Works. He did not follow John Owen and Nehemiah Coxe (among others) in limiting the Mosaic Covenant to temporal life in the land of Canaan. Nor did he make the careful qualifications that Keach made (that the Adamic Covenant of Works was revealed in the Covenant of Works with Israel, while being separate from it). Of course, these quotes are taken from sermons, not treatises or polemical tracts like the earlier Particular Baptists wrote, so we can’t expect the same level of nuance (and some did articulate it similarly to Spurgeon – see links).

The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace

 

Spurgeon frequently preached on the New Covenant and identified it as the Covenant of Grace, the “Everlasting Covenant.”

This is the central truth of all Scripture, it is the basis of all Scripture. When Paul desires to set forth the covenant of grace, he appeals to this passage [Jer 31:27-37]. Twice, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, he bases an argument upon it, and after quoting it, adds, “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us.” Brethren and sisters in Christ, under the first covenant we are ruined; there is no salvation for us but under this new covenant, wherefore let us read to our joy and comfort what the promises and provisions of that new covenant are.

Exposition of Jeremiah 31:27-37

 

The first Covenant was the Covenant of Works—”Do this and you shall live.” That Covenant, as I have shown you, was broken, but the new Covenant is a Covenant of pure Grace. Christ has fulfilled all its conditions on His people’s behalf and, therefore, all its privileges are theirs… Yet once more, let me remind you that the ensign of this Covenant is faith. Under the old Covenant it was and always would have been, works. But, under the new Covenant, it is faith. Do you believe? Then you are in Christ and all the blessings of the Covenant of Grace are yours.

Taking Hold of God’s Covenant (Isaiah 56:4, 6)

He followed both Keach and Gill’s minority view in that he did not separate or distinguish the Covenant of Redemption from the Covenant of Grace.

Now, in this covenant of grace, we must first of all observe the high contracting parties between whom it was made. The covenant of grace was made before the foundation of the world between God the Father, and God the Son; or to put it in a yet more scriptural light, it was made mutually between the three divine persons of the adorable Trinity. This covenant was not made mutually between God and man. Man did not at that time exist; but Christ stood in the covenant as man’s representative. In that sense we will allow that it was a covenant between God and man, but not a covenant between God and any man personally and individually. It was a covenant between God with Christ, and through Christ indirectly with all the blood-bought seed who were loved of Christ from the foundation of the world…

Thus, I say, run the covenant, in ones like these: “I, the Most High Jehovah, do hereby give unto my only begotten and well-beloved Son, a people, countless beyond the number of stars, who shall be by him washed from sin, by him preserved, and kept, and led, and by him, at last, presented before my throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. I covenant by oath, and swear by myself, because I can swear by no greater, that these whom I now give to Christ shall be for ever the objects of my eternal love. Them I will forgive through the merit of the blood. To these will I give a perfect righteousness; these will I adopt and make my sons and daughters, and these shall reign with me through Christ eternally.” Thus run that glorious side of the covenant. The Holy Spirit also, as one of the high contracting parties on this side of the covenant, gave his declaration, “I hereby covenant,” saith he, “that all whom the Father giveth to the Son, I will in due time quicken. I will show them their need of redemption; I will cut off from them all groundless hope, and destroy their refuges of lies. I will bring them to the blood of sprinkling; I will give them faith whereby this blood shall be applied to them, I will work in them every grace; I will keep their faith alive; I will cleanse them and drive out all depravity from them, and they shall be presented at last spotless and faultless.” This was the one side of the covenant, which is at this very day being fulfilled and scrupulously kept. As for the other side of the covenant this was the part of it, engaged and covenanted by Christ. He thus declared, and covenanted with his Father: “My Father, on my part I covenant that in the fullness of time I will become man. I will take upon myself the form and nature of the fallen race. I will live in their wretched world, and for my people I will keep the law perfectly. I will work out a spotless righteousness, which shall be acceptable to the demands of thy just and holy law. In due time I will bear the sins of all my people. Thou shalt exact their debts on me; the chastisement of their peace I will endure, and by my stripes they shall be healed. My Father, I covenant and promise that I will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. I will magnify thy law, and make it honourable. I will suffer all they ought to have suffered. I will endure the curse of thy law, and all the vials of thy wrath shall be emptied and spent upon my head. I will then rise again; I will ascend into heaven; I will intercede for them at thy right hand; and I will make myself responsible for every one of them, that not one of those whom thou hast given me shall ever be lost, but I will bring all my sheep of whom, by thy blood, thou hast constituted me the shepherd—I will bring every one safe to thee at last.” Thus ran the covenant; and now, I think, you have a clear idea of what it was and how it stands—the covenant between God and Christ, between God the Father and God the Spirit, and God the Son as the covenant head and representative of all Gods elect. I have told you, as briefly as I could what were the stipulations of it. You will please to remark, my dear friends, that the covenant is, on one side, perfectly fulfilled. God the Son has paid the debts of all the elect. He has, for us men and for our redemption, suffered the whole of wrath divine. Nothing remaineth now on this side of the question except that he shall continue to intercede, that he may safely bring all his redeemed to glory.

The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant (Hebrews 13:20)

 

The covenant—to come at once straight to the matter, however offensive the doctrine may be—the covenant has relationship to the elect and none besides. Does this offend you? Be ye offended ever more. What said Christ? “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me: for they are thine.” If Christ prayeth for none but for the chosen, why should ye be angry that ye are also taught from the Word of God that in the covenant there was provision made for the like persons, that they might receive eternal life. As many as shall believe, as many as shall trust in Christ, as many as shall persevere unto the end, as many as shall enter into the eternal rest, so many and no more are interested in the covenant of divine grace.

The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant (Hebrews 13:20)

 

Through His substitutionary Sacrifice, they were even then “accepted in the Beloved” and, in the fullness of time, they become Believers in Him and so enter consciously into the enjoyment of the Covenant privileges which had been conferred upon them from eternity! The Covenant is not made with them when they believe in Jesus—it was made on their behalf by the Father and the Son in the eternal council chamber long before the daystar knew its place or planets ran their round!

The Blood of Christ’s Covenant (Zechariah 9:11)

OT Saints Members of the New Covenant

 

In 1867, Spurgeon wrote against a new teaching called Dispensationalism in his Sword and Trowel publication.

An earnest study of those Scriptures which disclose “the everlasting covenant” as it was gradually but distinctly revealed, will do more than any arguments of ours to dissipate the mist of those strange doctrines we have referred to. That Covenant was declared to Noah; it was still further opened to Abraham and Isaac, it was confirmed to David; Isaiah rejoiced in its sure mercies, Jeremiah was privileged to relate many of its special provisions; and Paul avers in his epistle to the Hebrews that this is the Covenant under the provisions of which the precious blood of Christ was shed; it is the blood of the new Covenant… According to the terms of the everlasting Covenant, and not according to the law, nor yet according to the tenor of any transient dispensations, the Old Testament saints were justified and accepted of God.

There Be Some Who Trouble You (Sword and Trowel essay against Dispensationalism)

 

Further, the blood of Jesus is also the Seal of the Covenant Speaking after the manner of men, until the blood of Jesus had been shed, the Covenant was not signed, sealed and ratified. It was like a will that could only become valid by the death of the testator. It is true that there was such perfect unity of heart between the Father and the Son, and such mutual foreknowledge that the Covenant would be ratified in due time—that multitudes of the chosen ones were welcomed to Heaven in anticipation of the redemption which would actually be accomplished by Christ upon the Cross. But when Jesus took upon Himself the likeness of men and in our human nature suffered and died upon the accursed tree, He did, as it were, write His name in crimson characters upon the Eternal Covenant and thus sealed it with His blood. It is because the blood of Jesus is the Seal of this Covenant that it has such power to bless us and is the means of lifting us up out of the prison-pit wherein is no water.

The Blood of Christ’s Covenant (Zechariah 9:11)

What about the Noahic, Abrahamic, and Davidic Covenants?

 

ALL GOD’S dealings with men have had a covenant character. It hath so pleased Him to arrange it, that he will not deal with us except through a covenant, nor can we deal with Him except in the same manner. Adam in the garden was under a covenant with God and God was in covenant with Him. That covenant he speedily brake. There is a covenant still existing in all its terrible power—terrible I say, because it has been broken on man’s part, and therefore God will most surely fulfill its solemn threatenings and sanctions. That is the covenant of works. By this he dealt with Moses, and in this doth he deal with the whole race of men as represented in the first Adam. Afterwards when God would deal with Noah, it was by a covenant; and when in succeeding ages he dealt with Abraham, he was still pleased to bind himself to him by a covenant. That covenant he preserved and kept, and it was renewed continually to many of his seed. God dealt not even with David, the man after his own heart, except with a covenant. He made a covenant with his anointed and beloved; he dealeth with you and me this day still by covenant. When he shall come in all his terrors to condemn, he shall smite by covenant—namely, by the sword of the covenant of Sinai; and if he comes in the splendors of his grace to save, he still comes to us by covenant—namely, the covenant of Zion; the covenant which he has made with the Lord Jesus Christ, the head and representative of his people…

It is important, then, since the covenant is the only ladder which reaches from earth to heaven—since it is the only way in which God has intercourse with us, and by which we can deal with him, that we should know how to discriminate between covenant and covenant; and should not be in any darkness or error with regard to what is the covenant of grace, and what is not…

The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant (Hebrews 13:20)

This passage is somewhat vague. It could potentially be read as saying the the Noahic, Abrahamic, and Davidic covenants were renewals of the Covenant of Grace. If you re-read the paragraph, you will see that Spurgeon very clearly addresses each covenant on its own. He does not refer to them as the same covenant. The renewal he speaks of is the Abrahamic Covenant renewal to Issac, Jacob, etc. Separate from these covenants that God made with Noah, Abraham, and David, God also made a covenant with Jesus – the Covenant of Grace.

Spurgeon clarifies the Abrahamic Covenant as it relates to the Covenant of Grace:

“As for you, also, by the blood of your Covenant I have sent forth your prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” Zechariah 9:11.

THE LORD is here speaking to His ancient people, Israel. That nation had always been preserved, although other nations had been destroyed—and the reason was that God had entered into a Covenant with Abraham on their behalf. Circumcision was the sign and seal of the Covenant, so that God could truly speak of “the blood of your Covenant.” The Jews have never ceased to be a nation, though they have been scattered, peeled and delivered over into the hand of their adversaries because of their sins. They may enjoy various rights and privileges in the different countries where they sojourn for a while, but they cannot be absorbed into the nationalities by which they are surrounded. They must always be a separate and distinct people—but the day shall yet come when the branches of the olive tree, which have been so long cut off, shall be grafted in again. Then shall they, as a nation, again behold the Messiah, the true and only King of the Jews—and their fullness shall be the fullness of the Gentiles, also!

All Believers have some share in that Covenant made with Abraham, for he is the father of the faithful. We who believe in Jesus are of the seed of Abraham, not according to the flesh, but according to the promise, and we are pressed by a Covenant which like that made with Abraham, is signed and sealed with blood even “the blood of the Everlasting Covenant.” We, too, are saved and kept as a separate and distinct people, not because of any natural goodness in us, or because of our superiority over others, but solely and entirely because the Lord has made an Eternal Covenant concerning us, which is “ordered in all things and sure,” because Jesus Christ is, Himself, the Surety on our behalf that its guarantees and pledges shall all be carried into effect.

The Blood of Christ’s Covenant (Zechariah 9:11)

Here Spurgeon is articulating the dichotomous nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham had a two-fold seed with different promises made to each. Furthermore, he clearly distinguishes between the Abrahamic Covenant and the Everlasting Covenant of Grace (which was “like that made with Abraham”). The Abrahamic is signed and sealed by circumcision while the Covenant of Grace is signed and sealed by the blood of Christ.

As an instance of the expulsive power of a new delight, we all know how the memory of the old dispensation is gone from us. Brethren, did any one of you ever weep because you did not sit at the Passover? Did you ever regret the Paschal lamb? Oh, never, because you have fed on Christ! Was there ever man that knows his Lord that ever did lament that he had not the sign of the old Abrahamic covenant in his flesh? Nay, he gladly dispenses with the rites of the old covenant, since he has the fullness of their meaning in his Lord.

God Rejoicing in the New Creation (Isaiah 65:17-19)

 

Does the covenant say, “A new heart will I give thee, and a right spirit will I put within thee?” It must be done, for Jesus died, and Jesus’ death is the seal of the covenant… The blood is the symbol, the token, the earnest, the surety, the seal of the covenant of grace to thee… May God take away the enmity out of your heart to his own precious truth, and reconcile you to himself through THE BLOOD of his Son, which is the bond and seal of the everlasting covenant.

The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant (Hebrews 13:20)

Covenant theology is a very difficult subject of systematic theology and while Spurgeon did not write systematic treatises (thus we don’t have comments from him in detail on this) when he preached on covenant theology, it was consistent with (at least one strand of) 1689 Federalism, not modern baptist covenant theology.