Israel and the Church: See the Difference?

This graphic has floated around social media:


Though perhaps written in response to dispensationalism, it is often posted in response to baptists in order to promote Westminster Federalism, which believes that Israel and the Church are one. However, a slightly closer inspection reveals that Israel and the Church, though very related, are not one. Rather, Israel according to the flesh is a type of Israel according to the Spirit.





Note, all of these quotes are from paedobaptists. See also Blood of bulls and goats : blood of Christ :: physical Israel : spiritual Israel

“Now this holiness cannot be meant of personal and inherent holiness, for it is not true in that sense. If the fathers and forefathers be truly sanctified and are believers, then are the branches and children sanctified and believers. But the contrary we see in wicked Absalom born of holy David, and many others. Therefore, this holiness must be the holiness of the nation, not of persons… For being born of the holy nation, they are holy with a federal and national holiness… and an external holiness of the covenant” Rutherford

“the Jews had been separated from the Gentiles, that they might be a peculiar people to the Lord… from them an heredity holiness had passed to all their posterity. But this conclusion would not have been right had he spoken of persons… There is here no difficulty if you understand by holiness the spiritual nobility of the nation… the Jews were naturally holy, for their adoption was hereditary.” Calvin

“That the holiness here mentioned is external and relative, and not personal and inward, is evident from the whole context. The children of Israel were denominated holy in all their wickedness and disobedience, because they had been consecrated to God, adopted as his people, and set apart for his service, and they enjoyed all the external privileges of the covenant which God had made with their fathers… ‘The holiness,” says Turrettin, “of the first-fruits and of the root was no other than an external, federal, and national consecration, such as could be transferred from parents to their children.’” Calvin’s Editor

“That such appellations as God’s people, God’s Israel, and some other like phrases, are used and applied in Scripture with considerable diversity of intention… And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being God’s people, from their being visible saints, visibly holy, or having those qualifications which are requisite in order to a due admission to the ecclesiastical privileges of such. That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that external and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people… On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation; even as Jerusalem was a chosen city, the city of God, a holy city, and a city that God had engaged by covenant to dwell in. Thus a sovereign and all-wise God was pleased to ordain things with respect to the nation of Israel…

That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant.” Jonathan Edwards

Let it then be observed, that men are said to be sanctified or made holy in very different senses. Sanctification, for the distinction, though an old, is not a bad one, is either real or relative.

…That separation from other nations, in which the holiness of the Jews chiefly consisted (r), was not spiritual, resulting from rectitude of heart and a correspondent behavior; but barely external, resulting from certain sacred rites and ceremonies different from or opposite to those of other nations, and confined to certain places and persons (d). The middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, was the ceremonial law (e), which was neither necessary nor fit to make a spiritual separation  In fact, it did not separate between good and bad men among the Jews: but between the house of Israel  and the fearers of God or devout persons in the heathen nations (f). For which reason, though Cornelius was one that feared God, gave much alms, and prayed to God always, Peter was afraid of being polluted by intercourse with him.

(a) Lev. xxi. (b) Exod. xix. 6. (c) Exod. xix. 5, 6. Num. xxiii. 9. Deut. xxvi. 18, 19. (d) Lev. xx. 24,—26. Deut. xiv. 21. (e) Eph. ii. 14, 15. (f) Pial. cxviii. 4. A6ls xiii. 16, 26. xvii. 4, 17.

…as things were termed unclean, which were types or emblems of moral impurity, so the Jews were termed holy, not only because they were separated from other nations, but because they typified real Christians, who are in the fullest and noblest sense a holy nation, and a peculiar people (a). Types are visible things, different in their nature, from the spiritual things which they typify. If then the Jewish dispensation was typical, we may safely conclude, that the holiness of the Jewish nation being intended to typify the holiness of the Christian church, was of a different nature from it. And it is for this reason, that the Jewish dispensation is called the flesh and the letter, because persons and things in that dispensation, typified and represented persons and things under a more spiritual dispensation. (a) 1 Pet. ii. 9.

John Erskine’s “The Nature of the Sinai Covenant” (17-21)

The whole nation of the Jews. They were a typical people; their Church-state being very ceremonial and peculiar to those legal times, (Therefore now ceased and abolished) did adumbrate and shadow forth two things.

  1. Christ himself; hence Christ is called Israel, Isa. 49.3. By Israel is meant Christ, and all the faithful, as members of him their head.
  2. They were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament. Hence the Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16 and Rev 7. The twelve tribes of Israel are numbered up by name, to shew forth the Lord’s particular care of every one of his people in particular. That place is not meant properly of Old Israel, because it relates to the times of the Antichristian locusts; compare cap 7. with cap. 9.4.The analogy lies in this, that they were a peculiar people to the Lord, chosen and singled out by him from all the world: So is Christ the Lord’s chosen, Behold my servant whom I have chosen, mine elect in whom my Soul delighteth: So are all the Saints, 1 Pet 2.9. A royal nation, a peculiar people, gathered from among all nations, Rev 5.9. Hence the enemies of Israel were typical enemies; as Egypt and Babylon under the Old Testament, types of Antichristian enemies under the New: And the providences of God towards that people of Old, types and shadows of his intended future dispensations towards his people under the New; as you will see further when we come to speak of typical providences.

Samuel Mather on Israel as a type of the Church

The persons with whom this covenant is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.”… Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways:
[1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham.

[2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.

Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them…

In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the Mace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.

Owen on Hebrews 8:8

It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one, his natural descendants through Isaac were constituted a commonwealth, an external, visible community. By the other, his spiritual descendants were constituted a Church. The parties to the former covenant were God and the nation; to the other, God and his true people. The promises of the national covenant were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant, (i.e. of the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant were circumcision and obedience to the law; the condition of the latter was, is, and ever has been, faith in the Messiah as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, and the commonwealth founded on the one with the Church founded on the other.

When Christ came “the commonwealth” was abolished, and there was nothing put in its place. The Church remained. There was no external covenant, nor promises of external blessings, on condition of external rites and subjection. There was a spiritual society with spiritual promises, on the condition of faith in Christ. In no part of the New Testament is any other condition of membership in the Church prescribed than that contained in the answer of Philip to the eunuch who desired baptism: “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts viii. 37)

Hodge on the Visibility of the Church

Answerably unto this twofold end of the separation of Abraham, there was a double seed allotted unto him; — a seed according to the flesh, separated to the bringing forth of the Messiah according unto the flesh; and a seed according to the promise, that is, such as by faith should have interest in the promise, or all the elect of God… It is true, the former carnal privilege of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereunto did necessarily cease also. And this cast the Jews into great perplexities, and proved the last trial that God made of them; for whereas both these, — namely, the carnal and spiritual privileges of Abraham’s covenant, — had been carried on together in a mixed way for many generations, coming now to be separated, and a trial to be made (Malachi 3) who of the Jews had interest in both, who in one only, those who had only the carnal privilege, of being children of Abraham according to the flesh, contended for a share on that single account in the other also, — that is, in all the promises annexed unto the covenant. But the foundation of their plea was taken away, and the church, unto which the promises belong, remained with them that were heirs of Abraham’s faith only.

Owen, The Oneness of the Church

God disinherited his adopted, temporary, national “son” Israel as a national people precisely because God never intended to have a permanent earthly, national people… their chief function was to serve as a type and shadow of God’s natural Son, Jesus the Messiah (Heb 10.1-4). It is the argument of this essay that Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God and that everyone who is united to him by grace alone, through faith alone becomes, by virtue of that union, the true Israel of God.

R. Scott Clark, Israel of God

References to the two-level nature of the promises have been unavoidable in various connections in our analysis of the Abrahamic Covenant up to this point but now it is time to focus on this more particularly. In doing so we will sum up the promises under the concept of kingdom, tracing the two-level structure with respect to the kingdom components of king, people, and land. As the kingdom promises come to fulfillment in two successive stages, each is identified as a divine remembrance of Abraham or of the covenant made with him…

Two levels of kingship were present in this prophetic blessing. Judah assumed the royal supremacy in Israel in the appointment of David as king. He, with his successors under the old covenant, were level one. Then David’s dynasty reached a distinctive second level of kingship in the coming of Jesus Christ, Shiloh, the universal Lord, and his inauguration of the new covenant in his blood…

We have found that in the course of biblical revelation two distinct levels of fulfillment, one provisional and prototypal, the other messianic and eternal, are clearly distinguishable in the king promise given to Abraham. What is true of the promise of the king must inevitably also be true of the promise of the kingdom, both kingdom-people and kingdom-land… the promised seed in this corporate sense is interpreted by the Scriptures as being realized on two levels… Development of the twelve sons of Jacob into the twelve-tribe nation of Israel of course constituted a fulfillment of the promise of the kingdom people at one level… Equally obvious is the Bible’s identification of a realization of the promise of the Abrahamic seed at another level. As we have seen, when Paul, in Romans 9-11, defends God’s covenantal faithfulness in the face of Israel’s fall, he bases his case on the identification of the
promised seed as the individual election, a remnant-fullness of Jews and Gentiles, spiritual children of Abraham, all like him justified by faith (Rom 9:7,8; cf. Rom 4:16; Gal 3:7)… That is, the promise of the seed is thereby lifted into the messianic, or new covenant, level where Gentile and Jewish believers are gathered together in the united assembly of the heavenly altar…

Step by step what was included in the promised kingdom land at the first level of meaning was more precisely defined… That the territory eventually occupied by Israel fully corresponded with the geographical bounds defined in the promise is explicitly recorded in Joshua 21:43-45 and 1 Kings 4:20,21 (cf. Num 34:2ff.; 1 Chr 18:3; Ezek 47:13-20)…  in the New Testament there are clear indications of a positive kind of the shift to the second level of meaning of the land promise. Indeed, with surprising abruptness the New Testament disregards the first level meaning and simply takes for granted that the second level, cosmic fulfillment is the true intention of the promise…

The issue between covenantal and dispensational hermeneutics is not one of spiritualizing versus nonspiritualizing interpretations of the second level kingdom. For, contrary to a common allegation, the covenantal system as well as the dispensational allows for the geophysical dimension of that kingdom. The basic question at issue is rather how to construe the relation of the two levels of the promised kingdom of the Abrahamic Covenant to one another. This amounts to the question of the relationship of the old covenant with Israel to the new covenant with the church, particularly as that comes into focus in the typological connection which the Scripture posits between them.

Meredith Kline, Typology, Two-Level Fulfillment, and Kline’s Critique of Dispensationalism

There was indeed on earth, so long as it was needed, a symbol and foreshadowing image of this city, which served the purpose of reminding men that such a city was to be rather than of making it present; and this image was itself called the holy city, as a symbol of the future city, though not itself the reality.  Of this city which served as an image, and of that free city it typified, Paul writes to the Galatians in these terms:  [Gal 4:21-31] This interpretation of the passage, handed down to us with apostolic authority, shows how we ought to understand the Scriptures of the two covenants—the old and the new.  One portion of the earthly city became an image of the heavenly city, not having a significance of its own, but signifying another city, and therefore serving, or “being in bondage.”  For it was founded not for its own sake, but to prefigure another city; and this shadow of a city was also itself foreshadowed by another preceding figure…

Wherefore just as that divine oracle to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the other prophetic signs or sayings which are given in the earlier sacred writings, so also the other prophecies from this time of the kings pertain partly to the nation of Abraham’s flesh, and partly to that seed of his in which all nations are blessed as fellow-heirs of Christ by the New Testament, to the possessing of eternal life and the kingdom of the heavens.  Therefore they pertain partly to the bond maid who gendereth to bondage, that is, the earthly Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children; but partly to the free city of God, that is, the true Jerusalem eternal in the heavens, whose children are all those that live according to God in the earth:  but there are some things among them which are understood to pertain to both,—to the bond maid properly, to the free woman figuratively. (Gal 4:22-31)…

For example, what we read of historically as predicted and fulfilled in the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, we must also inquire the allegorical meaning of, as it is to be fulfilled in the seed of Abraham according to faith…

Of which thing I do not doubt what follows is to be understood, “And will divide Israel in twain,” to wit, into Israel pertaining to the bond woman, and Israel pertaining to the free. For these two kinds were at first together, as Abraham still clave to the bond woman, until the barren, made fruitful by the grace of God, cried, “Cast out the bond woman and her son.” (Gen 21:10)…

In that testament, however, which is properly called the Old, and was given on Mount Sinai, only earthly happiness is expressly promised. Accordingly that land, into which the nation, after being led through the wilderness, was conducted, is called the land of promise, wherein peace and royal power, and the gaining of victories over enemies, and an abundance of children and of fruits of the ground, and gifts of a similar kind are the promises of the Old Testament. And these, indeed, are figures of the spiritual blessings which appertain to the New Testament; but yet the man who lives under God’s law with those earthly blessings for his sanction, is precisely the heir of the Old Testament, for just such rewards are promised and given to him, according to the terms of the Old Testament, as are the objects of his desire according to the condition of the old man. But whatever blessings are there figuratively set forth as appertaining to the New Testament require the new man to give them effect. And no doubt the great apostle understood perfectly well what he was saying, when he described the two testaments as capable of the allegorical distinction of the bond-woman and the free,—attributing the children of the flesh to the Old, and to the New the children of the promise: “They,” says he, “which are the children of the flesh, are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Rom 9:8) The children of the flesh, then, belong to the earthly Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children; whereas the children of the promise belong to the Jerusalem above, the free, the mother of us all, eternal in the heavens. (Gal 4:25, 26) Whence we can easily see who they are that appertain to the earthly, and who to the heavenly kingdom. But then the happy persons, who even in that early age were by the grace of God taught to understand the distinction now set forth, were thereby made the children of promise, and were accounted in the secret purpose of God as heirs of the New Testament; although they continued with perfect fitness to administer the Old Testament to the ancient people of God, because it was divinely appropriated to that people in God’s distribution of the times and seasons…

“They shall all know me,” (Jer 31:34) He says,—“All,” the house of Israel and house of Judah. “All,” however, “are not Israel which are of Israel,” (Rom 9:6) but they only to whom it is said in “the psalm concerning the morning aid” (Ps 22) (that is, concerning the new refreshing light, meaning that of the new testament [covenant]), “All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel.” (Ps 22:23) All the seed, without exception, even the entire seed of the promise and of the called, but only of those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28) “For whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Rom 8:30) “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed: not to that only which is of the law,”—that is, which comes from the Old Testament into the New,—“but to that also which is of faith,” which was indeed prior to the law, even “the faith of Abraham,”—meaning those who imitate the faith of Abraham,—“who is the father of us all; as it is written, I have made thee the father of many nations.” (Rom 4:16-17) Now all these predestinated, called, justified, glorified ones, shall know God by the grace of the new testament [covenant], from the least to the greatest of them…

As then the law of works, which was written on the tables of stone, and its reward, the land of promise, which the house of the carnal Israel after their liberation from Egypt received, belonged to the old testament [covenant], so the law of faith, written on the heart, and its reward, the beatific vision which the house of the spiritual Israel, when delivered from the present world, shall perceive, belong to the new testament [covenant]…



1. Consecrated by the blood of calves and goats (Heb 9; Lev 11:44-45) 1. Consecrated by the blood of Christ (Heb 9; Titus 2:14)
2. Chosen in Abraham (Deut 7:8; 6:10; 4:37; Ex 33:1) 2. Chosen in Christ (Eph 1:4; John 17:6)
3. Conditional love (Ex 19:5; Deut 28:9; Amos 3:2; Lev 26:41-42; Heb 8:9) 3. Unconditional love (1 John 3:16; 4:9-10; Romans 5:8; 8:35; Eph 2:8; Titus 3:4-5)
4. Called to bring forth Jesus Christ (Gen 12:3; Rom 9:5)
4. Called to belong to Jesus Christ (Rom 1:6,7; 8:30; 1 Cor 1:2)
5. Assembly of Israel (Ex 12:6; Num 14:5; Lev 16:33)
5. Assembly of Christ (Heb 12:23; Acts 20:28; Eph 5:23,25)
6. Flock of Israel (Ezek. 34:17-20; Ps 77:20 cf Ps 78:52-53, 56-59; Ps 95:10-11; Ex 20:38; Heb 8:9)
6. Flock of Christ (John 10:1-18; 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; Matt 25:32-34)
7. Carnal nation outwardly set apart by carnal birth & ceremonies (Ex. 19:5; Lev 20:22-26; Deut 26:19; 14:21; Gen 17:7-14)
7. Spiritual nation inwardly set apart by spiritual birth & faith (1 Pet 2:9; John 1:12-13; 3:3; 18:36; Luke 17:21; Matt 5:3; Col 1:13; Rev 1:5)
8. Kingdom of Priests offering carnal sacrifices (Ex 19:5; Heb 9:9-10; Leviticus)
8. Kingdom of Priests offering spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rom 12:1, 15:16; Heb 13:15; Rev 1:5)
9. Peculiar Treasure for a time (Ex 19:5,6; Deut 7:6; 28)
9. Peculiar Treasure forever (1 Pet 2:9; Titus 2:14)
10. God’s people outwardly (Gen 17:8; Lev 26:12) who became not His people (Hos 1:9 cf Heb 8:6-13)
10. God’s people inwardly (Hos 1:9-11 cf Rom 9:24-26 & Heb 8:6-13; 1 Pet 2:10)
11. Holy People (Deut 7:6; see #1, 7, etc)
11. Holy People (1Pet1:15; see #1,7,etc)
12. People of inheritance through Abraham (Deut 4:1, 20, 37; Acts 13:19)
12. People of inheritance through Christ (Eph 1:11-14,18; Matt 25:34; Gal 4:30; Heb 9:15; 1 Pet 1:4)
13. God’s external/earthly tabernacle (Lev 26:11; Ex 29:45, 25:8; 26:1; Heb 9:1-2, 23)
13. God’s internal/spiritual tabernacle (John 1:14; 1 Cor 6:16-20)
14. God walks among them (Lev 26:12)
14. God walks among them (2 Cor 6:16)
15. Twelve Patriarchs
15. Twelve Apostles (note: not Patriarchs)
16. Married to God (Ex 24; Jer 31:32), who divorced them for unfaithfulness (Heb 8:7,9,13; Hos 1:9)
16. Married to Christ (Eph 5:22ff; 2 Cor 11:2; Heb 8:9-10), who is their faithful one (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:8-9)
17. Type (Gen 17:7-14 Rom 9:5; Gal 4:21-31)
17. Anti-type (Gal 6:16; Rom 2:29; 9:6, 22-26, 11:26; Gal 3:16, 29; 4:21-31)

7 thoughts on “Israel and the Church: See the Difference?


    Doug Moo: Letter vs. Spirit = Old Covenant Age vs. New Covenant Age

    Paul’s “letter”/”spirit” contrast is a salvation-historical one, “letter” describing the past era in which god’s law through moses played a central role and “spirit” summing up the new era in which god’s spirit is poured out in eschatological fullness and power.44

    44. Note that paul first uses the contrast when speaking of covenant (2 cor. 3:6). (nicnt, romans, moo, p. 175).

    “so that we might serve in newness of the spirit64 and not in oldness of letter.”65 this is the second time in romans that paul has used the letter/spirit contrast (cf. 2:27-29). As in this earlier text, the antithesis is not between the misunderstanding or misuse of the law and the spirit,66 nor even at least basically, between the outer demand and the inner disposition to obey, but between the old covenant and the new, the old age and the new.68 (Moo, p. 421)


    Brian Rosner: Letter vs. Spirit = Past Era vs. New Era

    “As Moo contends, ‘letter describes the past era in which God’s law through Moses played a central role and “Spirit” summing up the new era in which God’s Spirit is poured out in eschatological fullness and power” (Paul and the Law by Brian Rosner, p. 100).


    Tom Schreiner: Letter vs. Spirit = The 2 Covenants

    “He convincingly argues that the letter/spirit contrast must be interpreted in terms of salvation history.

    The term “letter” does not signify any criticism of the content of the law nor does it refer to legalism.

    Thus the letter/spirit contrast should be interpreted functionally and in terms of salvation history.

    The “letter” refers to the law without the spirit…

    The law apart from the spirit kills. Since god did not grant israel his spirit, the ministry of moses became one of death for them. The problem them cannot be located in the content of the law. It is the law without the gift of the spirit which produces death…

    The content of the law is not criticized in 2 cor. 3, nor is there a critique of legalism here…

    The major difference between the ministry of Moses and Paul, therefore, relates to salvation history. The Spirit was not bequeathed through Moses’ ministry, while the gift of the Spirit was at the very center of Paul’s ministry.

    Indeed, from now on all scholars who address these issues must reckon with Hafemann, for his work represents the most thorough interpretation of 2 Cor. 3 and the OT background”

    (…”Letter-spirit) antithesis supports the salvation-historical character of the text…this contrast…which is also found in rom 7:6 and 2 cor. 3:6, both of which contrast the work of the holy spirit with the mosaic law…the contrast between the letter and spirit is a salvation-historical one…

    To describe the law as (greek: letter) is not criticism of the content of the law, nor does the term (greek: letter) refer to legalism (romans, p. 142).

    “so that we serve in the newness of spirit and not oldness of letter”…the spirit-letter contrast…there i argued that the reference to the spirit indicates a fulfillment of salvation history…

    The contrast between “newness” and “oldness” here also signifies the disjunction between the two covenants…

    “letter refers to the ot law and its inability to effect righteousness apart from the spirit. The letter refers to the commands…

    16. Thus, contrary to kasemann (1971: 146-47, 154-55), the “letter” does not refer to the perversion or misuse of the law.

    It is the law without the spirit that inevitably produces sin 17

    17…for an extended defense of this thesis see hafemann 1995: 156-86. As hafemann argues, the contrast is a salvation-historical one (Schreiner, Romans, pp. 354-354).


    Jason Meyer: Letter vs. Spirit = Old Covenant vs. New Covenant

    “the intrinsic differences (letter/spirit) between the old and new covenants (p. 64)…2 cor. 3:1-6 highlights the ineffectual nature of the old covenant and the effectual nature of the new covenant (p. 66)…

    We should not assume that paul aims to denigrate the mosaic law or the mosaic covenant with the contrast between “stone tablets” and “flesh-heart tablets” (p. 69).

    Readers cannot hold the “stone tablets” responsible for israel’s rebellion…the stone tables did not cause the problem; they only confounded the problem that already existed (p. 74)

    The letter/spirit contrast is central to paul’s contrast between the covenants…this contrast between the ineffectual and the effectual reinforces the eschatological nature of the contrast between the old and new covenants…the contrast between the letter and the spirit confirms the eschatological nature of the contrast between old and new covenants…the contrast is salvation-historical (p. 78)

    We can take the contrast between the letter and the spirit one step further as a reference not only to a contrast between what is inscribed on the tablets versus the spirit, but also to a contrast between old versus new covenant (p. 81).

    Rom. 7:6 documents the contrast between serving in oldness of letter and in newness of spirit…paul correlates oldness with letter… And newness with spirit…in 2 cor. 3:6. The contrast between old and new covenants argues for the corresponding link between “old covenant” and “letter.” therefore, the pairing of “old” with “letter” and “new” with “spirit” is completely consistent in these passages.73

    73 so also d. J. Moo…romans…he asserts that the contrast is between “the old covenant and the new, the old age and the new.” see also .n. Ridderbos, paul: an outline of his theology (p. 81)

    The distinction is between two different powers that represent two different ages or epochs…

    (“the letter kills”) stands as a surprisingly fitting summary for the sinai and post sinai accounts of israel’s history…

    Furnish wrongly understands “letter” as promoting a legalistic misunderstanding.

    J.d.g. Dunn correctly captures the epochal force of this contrast. The “spirit/letter contrast is between epochs and the experiences characteristic of those epochs (p. 82)

    The letter (or writing) kills not because it is inherently evil, but precisely the opposite, because it is inherently good. God’s good standards do not and cannot square with israel’s hardened condition. Death and condemnation result from this clash between a good law and an evil heart…the primary problem with the old covenant as “script” or letter is that it “is (only) written…

    Murray j. Harris also says it well: “here paul contrasts the old and new covenant (p. 84)


    Blake White: Letter vs. Spirit Is Salvation History

    “Paul uses “letter” to refer to the mosaic law (3:3)…in 2 cor. 3…the gramma/pneuma contrast should be understood in terms of salvation history…

    Paul is saying that there was nothing inherently wrong with the old covenant…the torah…not because it was a bad thing…but because it was a good thing …

    The era of letter was inferior due to the lack of the spirit…without the spirit, the letter kills (White, the newness of the new covenant, pp. 36-38).

    Liked by 2 people


    Rosner: Law vs. Grace = (Old Age) vs. New Age (Rom. 6:14)

    “’under grace’ in Romans 6:14-15 describes the new age inaugurated…Being ‘led by the Spirit’ is the Galatians 5 equivalent of being ‘under grace’ in Romans 6. It represents a new era in salvation history…Gal. 5:18 draws a contrast between under law and under grace in salvation–historical terms: ‘But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law’ (TNIV; cf. Rom. 6:14-15)” (Rosner, p. 56-57).

    White: Law vs. Grace = Old Age vs. New Age (Rom. 6:14)

    “Believers in Christ are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Rom. 6:14). ‘Law’ (ho nomos) in Paul’s usage is most often referring to the Mosaic covenant. Paul is referring to two different salvation-historical powers. He could have just as easily said, ‘We are not in the old age, but in the new.’ He is referring to two different eras in salvation history” (White, The Law of Christ, p. 55).

    Moo: Law vs. Grace = Old Age vs. New Age (Jn. 1:17)

    “As in John 1:17, then, ‘law’ and ‘grace’ contrast the old age of bondage and ‘tutelage’ (cf. Gal. 3:25) with the new age of freedom and ‘sonship’ (cf. Gal. 4:1-7; Rom. 8:14-17)”

    Moo: Law vs. Grace = Old Age vs. New Age, Not Misunderstanding of Law (Rom. 6:14)

    “you are not under law but under grace…Paul’s presentation of his gospel in this letter never moves too far from the salvation–historical question of Old Covenant and New, Jew and Gentile…

    Paul is speaking in these passages of the law as God gave it, and this of the intended function of the law in salvation history – not to a human misunderstanding. Such interpretations as these illegitimately ‘soften’ the salvation-historical contrasts that are endemic to Paul’s presentation of the gospel as a new and climactic work of God in history…

    Several bits of evidence suggest that Paul is thinking of ‘law’ and ‘grace’ as contrasting salvation-historical ‘powers.’ (1) The contrast between being ‘under the law’ and ‘under grace’ fits naturally into the ‘transfer of realm’ language that so characterizes Rom. 5:12-8:39…’Law and ‘grace’ are viewed as ‘realms’ or ‘powers.’…

    ’Under law,’ then, is another way of characterizing ‘the old realm.’…To be ‘under law’ is to be subject to the constraining and sin-strengthening regime of the old age; to be ‘under grace’ is to be subject to the new age in which freedom from the power of sin is available…

    The law is not an intrinsically negative force, as Paul will explain at length in chap. 7…

    Still less does this verse allow the conclusion that Christians are no longer subject to ‘law’ or ‘commandment’ at all – for nomos here means Mosaic law, not ‘law’ as such” (Moo, NICNT, pp. 387-390).

    Schreiner: Law vs. Grace = Law’s Grace Replaced by Superior Grace (Jn. 1:17)

    “John 1:17: ‘For the law was give through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ John does not deny that there is grace and truth in the law. Indeed, the preposition anti in John 1:16 (translated in the ESV as ‘grace upon grace’) should be translated ‘instead of’ or ‘in place of,’ for this preposition is regularly used in terms of replacement and never means ‘upon.’ Therefore, the grace in Christ replaces the grace that is in the law. It is acknowledged, then, that there is grace in the law, but the grace found in Christ is superior. Grace and truth exist in the law, but they reach their climax and purest expression in Christ. So, we have another indication that the law points to Jesus Christ” (Schreiner, 40 Questions, p. 190).

    Schreiner: Law vs. Grace = Old Era vs. New Era (Rom. 6:14)

    “First Paul says believers are no longer ‘under law’ (Rom. 6:14), and I will argue…that ‘under law’ should be interpreted redemptive-historically, so that it supports the notion that the law is no longer in effect” (Schreiner, 40 Questions, p. 69).

    “The phrase ‘under law’ (hupo nomon) occurs eleven times in Paul (Rom. 6:14, 15…the phrase should be interpreted in terms of redemptive history. The old era of redemptive history refers to the time period when the Mosaic covenant was operative…’under the law,’ and the argument prosecuted here is distinctively redemptive historical, for the temporal difference between the old era and the new is emphasized” (Schreiner, 40 Questions, p. 73).

    “He promised in Romans 6:14 that ‘sin will have no dominion over you’…’since you are not under law but under grace.’…Therefore, the power of sin is broken for those who are no longer under the old era of salvation history – for those who live in the new era inaugurated by Christ…Romans 6:14-15 promises liberation from the tyranny and mastery of sin for those who live in the new era of redemptive history…’under law’ should be understood in redemptive-historical terms” (Schreiner, 20 Questions, p. 75).

    “Verse 14b provides the reason the mastery of sin has been destroyed. Believers are no longer in the old redemptive era where sin exercised dominion through the law and death (5:20-21). They are in the new era of redemptive history in which grace reigns…

    The word…(nomos, law) refers to the mosaic law (most commentators), not to religion…or to law in general…The phrases…under grace) are best understood in a salvation-historical sense (cf. Dunn 1988a: 339; Moo 1991: 406). They refer to different eras in God’s redemptive historical plan. The term…designates the Mosaic era as a whole, while….describes the new age inaugurated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    The logic of verse 14 is as follows: If you were still under the era of law, then sin would rule over you; since you are under the age of grace, sin cannot have dominion over you.

    I conclude from this that Paul is saying that to live under the Mosaic covenant was to live under the power of sin. I have remarked several times that the history of Israel would suggest this thought to Paul…In Rom. 6:14, Paul connects liberation from sin with liberation from the Mosaic era…The Mosaic era was the age in which sin dominated.

    Now this does not mean that there was no grace in the Mosaic era, nor does it imply that all Israelites lived under the power of sin…What we have here is a generalization…

    Moreover, because Paul is speaking in a redemptive-historical fashion, it would be an error to conclude that believers need not obey any commands since they are under grace. Paul’s point is that Israel did not keep the law as long as they were under the law…Now that believers are under the power of grace they are enabled to keep the moral norms of the law by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:4) ” (Schreiner, Romans, p. 300, 325-327)

    “For sin shall not (GG: & can not) be your master,
    because you are not under law, but under grace.”


  3. markmcculley

    Scott Clark– “Baptists continue to share with the Anabaptists this fundamental conviction—that however valid infant circumcision was prior to the incarnation, the New Covenant is such that there is no place for infant baptism as a proper recognition that the children of believers are members of the covenant of grace j This rejection of the status of Christian children as such introduced (and continues to perpetuate) a principle of radical discontinuity between Abraham and the Christian. This denial of the fundamental unity of the covenant of grace as symbolized in the administration of the sign and seal of the covenant of grace to covenant children, is serious enough to warrant saying that any congregation that will not practice infant baptism)into the administration of the covenant of grace is not a church. ..Denial of infant initiation is a denial of the catholicity of the church stretching back to Abraham.”


  4. markmcculley

    D A Carson–Some versions of the Reformed construction may be in danger of flattening out the Bible’s storyline in such a way there is nothing new in the new covenant except increased information. Under this reading, for example, new birth controls conversion in the days of Abraham as much as in the days of John or Paul, the work of the Holy Spirit is entirely the same under the Mosaic covenant as under the new covenant (even though it is very difficult to read John 14–16 in that way), and many NT writers affirm that with the coming, death, resurrection, ascension and ascension of the Son of God we have entered a new age. All sides acknowledge, of course, that it is rather difficult to nail down precisely what the “newness” consists in, but it is surely a mistake to argue that there is nothing new that is connected with the new covenant—or (as I’ve indicated) to argue that the only thing that is new is more information now that we live this side of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, but certainly not new experience. At the very least one must say there is a kind of ratcheting up of various expressions and experiences. For example, expressions such as “I will be their God and they will be my people” are tied under the Mosaic covenant to God’s self-disclosure in the tabernacle, are tied under the new covenant to the mediating work of Christ, and are tied under the final vision of Scripture to the perfections of the new heaven and the new earth.

    In short, if one is focusing on God’s one redemptive plan, his one ultimate, saving sacrifice, his one assembly before the throne, his one covenant of grace (though there are some problems with that expression), and his one final purpose for the redeemed, the Reformed heritage, in my view, has it right. The church begins when the first human sinner is redeemed and joined with another redeemed human sinner—indeed, in the mind of God the church begins as far back as the death of the Lamb “who was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev 13:8). If one is focusing on the “new” (ratcheted up?) things connected with the people of God under the new covenant, I can understand why one looks for a term that applies to them and does not apply to OT saints. The problem, of course, is that a claim like “The church begins at Pentecost” might be uttered within the framework of the kind of nuances I’ve just outlined, but it might be heard to be saying far more things that rightly scandalize Reformed believers; conversely, a claim like “The church is the sum of God’s people under both the old covenant and the new” is perfectly defensible along the lines I’ve outlined here, but it might be heard to be claiming a flattening out of covenantal distinctions that ought to be preserved somehow.

    (6) Another element to the debate needs to be acknowledged. Presbyterians have an additional reason for preserving the terminology, in this respect, of covenant theology: they hold that, under both the Mosaic covenant and under the new covenant, the locus of the covenant community, the church, is not to be tightly identified with the locus of the elect. (The folk in Moscow, Idaho, prove to be the exception: they would like to do more to obliterate the distinction!) In other words, the structure of their ecclesiology (ἐκκλησία-ology) provides some pressure to emphasize continuity. By contrast, Reformed Baptists think that under the terms of the new covenant, the locus of the covenant community, the church, is ideally to be identified with the locus of the elect—and this is different from the way things work under the old covenant. This difference of opinion is of course tied to their respective understandings of circumcision/baptism. Presbyterians argue that both circumcision and baptism mark entrance into the covenant community, without saying anything decisive about entrance into the empirical community of the redeemed/elect. Reformed Baptists claim that both circumcision and baptism mark entrance into the covenant community, but that under the terms of the new covenant entrance into the new covenant community also marks entrance into the empirical community of the elect/redeemed: the new covenant is in this respect different from the Mosaic covenant,


  5. markmcculley

    Lee Irons–Gaffin has misunderstood Lincoln’s argument. The argument is not that Israel’s being on the verge of entering the land is a type of the invisible church’s actual present enjoyment of heavenly rest. Rather, the argument is that Israel’s being on the verge of entering the land is a type of the visible church’s being called in the gospel to enjoy heavenly rest now by faith. This distinction is crucial. In fact, Gaffin….assumes that Israel in the wilderness functions as a type of the true, redeemed people of God rather than a type of the visible covenant community (which is not coterminous with God’s hidden election according to grace).

    P 27


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s