Archive

Author Archive

Is John MacArthur Right About Revolution? – Reformed Libertarian

December 7, 2018 Leave a comment

John MacArthur appeared last Sunday on Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire. I greatly appreciated MacArthur’s focus on the gospel in the interview – specifically his willingness to personally direct it to Shapiro and call him to repentance. That is very rare in situations like this. It far outweighs any other nit-picking I may have.

Towards the beginning of the interview, MacArthur said

I’m to be a citizen who submits to the powers that be I am NOT to be a revolutionary. We don’t start riots that’s not a Christian thing to do. We don’t even start revolutions, and you could argue about the American Revolution whether that was actually legitimately a Christian act or not. We don’t start revolutions. We submit to the powers that be and we work to change the culture from the inside one soul at a time.

Read More at Is John MacArthur Right About Revolution?

Advertisements

John Brown on Galatians 3:16-17

December 2, 2018 3 comments

In previous posts (see here, here, here, and here) I have argued that in Galatians 3-4, Paul does not identify the Abrahamic Covenant with the New Covenant and then distinguish them both from the Mosaic Covenant. His argument is much more nuanced. In short, Paul distinguishes between two different promises made to two different seed of Abraham. One promise concerned Abraham’s numerous offspring (who were circumcised and received the law to regulate their reception and retention of the promised land), the other promise concerned Abraham’s single offspring who would bless all nations.

Someone on twitter recently pointed me to John Brown’s commentary on Galatians where I found some encouraging agreement on key points (though not every point). Specifically, Brown agrees that Galatians 3:16 refers to a distinction between two different promises made to two different seed of Abraham; and he agrees that 3:17 should be translated as “concerning Christ” not “in Christ.” Furthermore, he rightly understands that circumcision was a seal of the historia salutis: a guarantee of the coming of Christ to bless all nations.

John Brown was a 19th century Scottish minister (grandson of John Brown of Haddington). Spurgeon said in his Commenting and Commentaries, ‘Brown is a modern Puritan of the utmost value.’


“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.”

The language is somewhat peculiar, but the meanhig is not obscure. That is ascribed to the Scripture which properly refers to God in that transaction which the passage of Scripture quoted describes. Similar modes of expression are to be found in other parts of the New Testament (Mark 15:28; John 7:38, 42; Rom. 4:3; 9:17). The meaning plainly is, ‘God, who foresaw that in a future period many of the Gentiles were to be received into his favour and treated like his children on their believing the revelation of mercy through his Son, gave an intimation of his design to Abraham in the promise which He made to him.’ The Syriac version reads, — “And God knowing before hand.” The phrase, “preached the gospel beforehand,” in consequence of the very definite idea we generally attach to the word “gospel” and the technical sense in which we use the word “preach” does not, I am persuaded, convey distinctly the apostle’s idea to most English readers. It is just equivalent to, ‘made known these good tidings to Abraham long before the period when they were to be realised.’ Tyndale’s version here, as in many other passages, is better than the authorised translation, — “showed beforehand glad tidings to Abraham.” And this intimation was given in these words, — “In thee shall all nations be blessed.”*1 The word translated “nations,” is the same as that rendered “the heathen [Gentiles]” in the beginning of the verse. The same word should have been retained to mark more clearly the point of the apostle’s argument.

*1 Gen. xii. 3; xviii. 18; xxii. 18. See also Gen. xxvi. 4; zxviii. 14. The words are not an exact quotation of any one of these passages, — eye vX. cV aoiy Gen. xii. 3, n. r. c.^ ori is not a part of the quotation; it marks the words quoted, as 1 John iv. 20; Rom. viii. 36 ; Matth. ii. 23 ; v. 31 ; yii. 23, etc. — See Buttmann, § 149. The Hebrew “o is used in the same way, Gen. xxix. 33 ; Josh. ii. 24.

But it may be said, What intimation is there in these words of God’s purpose to “justify the Gentiles by faith”? This will appear if we consider that the particle translated “in,” signifies, in connection with, along with, in the same manner as.*2 The declaration of the oracle, in this way of viewing it, is that, ‘all the nations,’ i.e. that multitudes of all Gentile nations, ‘shall be blessed along with Abraham.’

*2 This is a common signification of the Hebrew part [], of which [] is here the translations – Numb. 20:20; 1 Kings 10:2; Jer 11:9; Psal 99:6

“By ‘the nations’ in this promise we cannot understand all and every one in the nations; nor can we consider them as such, political bodies of men in the earth; but according to the New Testament explication, “it is a great multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.” (Rev. 7:9) This will be evident if we consider that the blessedness spoken of in this promise, is spiritual and eternal, and must be acknowledged so to be by those who take the New Testament account of it (Gal. 3:8,9,14). It is manifest no nation of this world can, in a national capacity, be the subject of justification by faith, and of the promise of the Spirit, which we receive through faith ; and it is as certain that every person in the nations of the world is not to partake of this blessedness. What remains, therefore, but that it should be those who are redeemed by Christ out of every nation? And thus we find out the intent of the writings of the prophets about the nations. For these are enlargements upon, this promise to Abraham.”
-Glas’s “Testimony of the King of Martyrs,” chap. ii. sect. i. pp. 74-76, 12mo ed. 1777

The promise is fulfilled in God’s “visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) Thus, all nations shall be blessed along with Abraham, in connection with Abraham, members of the same body, possessed of the same privileges, made happy in the same way as he was made happy.

[…]

And if, while this deed remains unrevoked, some other arrangement or disposition should take place which might seem inconsistent with it, if we have a perfect confidence in the wisdom and integrity of the author of the two arrangements, the conclusion to be come to is, the second arrangement does not really interfere with the first, and their apparent discordance must arise from our misconception of them. The application of this principle to the apostle’s object is natural and easy. God had, in the case of Abraham, showed that justification is by believing ; He had, in the revelation made to Abraham, declared materially that justification by faith was to come upon the Gentiles. This arrangement was confirmed or ratified, both by circumcision, which the apostle tells us was “the seal of justification by faith,” and by the solemn promise made to Abraham that, “in him,” along with him, in the same way as he was, “all nations should be blessed.” It follows, of course, that no succeeding arrangement of God could contradict this arrangement; and that if any succeeding Divine arrangement seemed to do so, the cause of this was to be sought in our misapprehension of its true nature and design, which, when clearly perceived, would distinctly show the perfect harmony of the two apparently inconsistent arrangements. This is the line of argument which the apostle pursuea in the following verses.

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises *3 made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

*3 “Plurale. Promissio saepe repetita : at lex semel data.” — BENGEL

These words admit of two renderings: either ‘Now to Abraham and his seed,’ or ‘now in, through, or in reference to Abraham and his seed.’ In either case they are expressive of a fact. “To Abraham and his seed promises were made;” or, in other words, blessings were promised. The following are examples of such promises, — Gen. xii. 3; xvii. 4-8; xxii. 16, 17. This has been generally understood to be the meaning of the apostle; and it has been supposed that his argument is, — ‘Certain blessings were by God freely promised to Abraham and his spiritual seed long before the law was given, and therefore their communication cannot be suspended on obedience to the requisitions of that law.’ The great objection to this mode of interpretation is, that it obliges us to understand the word “Christ,” not of the Messiah personally, but of the collective body of those who are saved by him.

We are rather disposed to consider the apostle as stating, ‘Now the promises were made through or in reference to Abraham and his Seed.’ Not only were blessings promised to Abraham and his seed; but blessings were promised through Abraham and his Seed to the nations (Gen 12:3; 22:18). It is to one of these promises that the apostle refers in the preceding context, verse 8. The blessing promised through Abraham and his Seed was, he informs us, the justification of the Gentiles by faith. We consider the apostle then as saying in the first clause of the verse, ‘Now the promises of justification by faith were made to the Gentiles through Abraham and through his Seed.’

The word “seed” is a word of ambiguous meaning. It may rather signify descendants generally, or one class of descendants, or a single descendant. The apostle in the concluding part of the verse tells us how it is to be understood in the passage he alludes to. “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy Seed, which is Christ.'”

These words have very generally been understood as if they embodied an argument, — as if the apostle reasoned from the word “seed” being in the singular, inferring from that circumstance either that the word referred to one class of descendants, and not to descendants of all classes, or to one individual descendant, and not to descendants generally. That this is not the apostle’s reasoning we apprehend is certain; for it is obviously inconclusive reasoning. The use of the plural term might have laid a foundation for the inference that he spake of more than one; but seed being a collective word, its use in the singular lays no foundation for an opposite inference. Even supposing that his Jewish readers might have been imposed on by such a sophism, which is not at all probable, it would not only have been unworthy of his dignity as an apostle, but of his integrity as an honest man, to have used it.

The truth is, there is no ground to suppose that it is the statement of an argument at all. It is just as Riccaltoun observes, “a critical, explicatory remark.” It is just as if he had said, ‘In the passage I refer to, the word seed is used of an individual, just as when it is employed of Seth, Gen. iv. 25, where he is called “another seed,” and said to be given in the room of Abel, whom Cain slew. In looking carefully at the promise recorded, Gen. xxii. 16-18, the phrase “seed” seems used with a different reference in the two parts of the promise — the first part of the 17th verse plainly referring to a class of descendants; the last clause and the 18th verse to an individual, and that individual is Christ.’ There is no doubt that this is the fact — that in the promise, “In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” the reference is not to the descendants of Abraham generally, nor to his descendants by Isaac, nor to his spiritual descendants, but to bis great descendant, the Messiah.

The words will, indeed, admit of another meaning, q. d, — ‘The sacred oracle does not refer to all the descendants of Abraham, but to one particular class of them; not to his descendants by Ishmael, nor to his descendants by the sons of Keturah, nor even to all his descendants by Isaac, nor to his natural descendants, but to his spiritual descendants.’ But this obliges us to understand the word “Christ” in a very unusual, if not altogether unwarranted, sense. Besides, if the apostle alludes, as is natural, to the promise he had already quoted, there is no doubt that the reference there is to the Messiah personally considered,* We therefore prefer the former mode of interpretation. The promise of justification by faith to the Gentiles was made through Abraham and his seed, meaning by his seed, the Messiah. The reason why this is so particularly noticed will appear in the course of the discussion.

The apostle proceeds with his argument. “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none efiect.”

The only phrase which is obscure in this verse is the clause rendered “in Christ.” Some would render it to Christ; others till Christ, i.e. till Christ came, which is undoubtedly its meaning at chapter v. 24. I apprehend the true rendering of the particle is concerning or in reference to — a meaning which the term by no means uncommonly bears in the New Testament. I shall give a few examples, — Eph. v. 32 ; Acts ii. 25 ; Heb. vii. 14 ; Luke xii. 21 ; Bom. iv. 20 ; xvi. 19 ; 2 Cor. ii. 9. The covenant in reference to Christ is just the arrangement or settlement as to justification by faith to be extended to the Gentiles through the Messiah, which was made known in the Divine declaration to Abraham. This Divine arrangement was “confirmed of God,” ratified by God in the ordinance of circumcision which was given to Abraham as a person justified in uncircumcision, and made known as a fixed appointment in the Divine declaration so often referred to. It was “confirmed before.” That is, it was a finished, ratified deed, long previously to the law.

‘Now’ says the apostle, ‘this completed and ratified covenant or arrangement about Christ, as to the justification of the Gentiles by believing, could not be disannulled by the giving of the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, so that the promise should be of none effect.’

There is some uncertainty as to the period of four hundred and thirty years mentioned, some chronologers insisting that it is the exact period from the time the promise was given till the law was given,’ others that it refers only to a part of that period, namely, to the time of the Israelites sojourning in Egypt. In either case it is true that the law was at least four hundred and thirty years after the promise in which the covenant about Christ was exhibited as confirmed. The law being a subsequent covenant or arrangement, could not make of none effect the promise, which was a previously ratified and unrepealed covenant. The person who thinks the promise thus made void, must labour under some misapprehension with regard to the nature and design of the law.

But it might be said. How does the making the observance of the law the condition of justification disannul the covenant or make the promise of none effect? The answer to that question is to be found in the next verse. “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise : but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”

“The inheritance” here is, I apprehend, the same thing as the blessing of Abraham, which, we have seen, is justification — the being treated by God as righteous ; or, what is necessarily connected with, indeed implied in, it — the heavenly and spiritual blessings of which the possession of Canaan is the type. The “covenant,” “the promise,” and “the inheritance,” all refer to substantially the same thing ; but it would be absurd to say these three words have the same meaning. The “covenant” refers to the Divine arrangement as to conferring on men the blessings of the Divine favour, ” the promise ” is the revelation of this in the form of a promise, and ” the inheritance ” is this as enjoyed by men. It is termed ” the inheritance,” because it is as the spiritual descendants of Abraham, ” the father of the faithful,” that we come to enjoy it. Now, if the enjoyment of this inheritance be suspended on our obedience to the law of Moses, ” it is no more of promise,” i. e. it is no more a free donation in fulfilment of a free promise. But this is the character which belongs to the blessing as originally promised to Abraham. “God gave it to Abraham by promise,” i. e, ‘God freely promised it to Abraham;’ or, ‘God in promising it, acted from free favour.’ He meant to give a favour, a free favour ; not to make a bargain, however favourable. Abraham’s justification was not suspended on his circumcision ; and the justification of the Gentiles was to be like Abraham’s.

This, then, is the sum of the apostle’s argument, A ratified, unrepealed constitution cannot be set aside by a subsequent constitution. The plan of justification by believing was a ratified and unrepealed constitution. The law was a constitution posterior to this by a long term of years. If the observance of the law were constituted the procuring cause or necessary means of justification, such a constitution would necessarily annul the covenant before ratified, and render the promise of none effect. It follows, of course, that the law was appointed for no such purpose. Whatever end it might serve, it could not serve this end ; it could never be appointed to serve this end.

SRR 93 Brandon Adams on Covenant Theology & Republication, Part II

November 28, 2018 Leave a comment

Part 2 of my discussion of covenant theology on Semper Reformanda Radio is now live: https://thorncrownministries.com/srr/2018/11/28/srr-93-brandon-adams-on-covenant-theology-amp-republication-part-ii

Categories: Uncategorized

SRR 92 Brandon Adams on Covenant Theology & Republication

October 24, 2018 Leave a comment

Tim and Carlos had me back on Semper Reformanda Radio to explain why I was asking so many questions about Patrick Hines’ view of the Mosaic Covenant in a debate about baptism. We discussed R. Scott Clark, John Murray, the OPC Report, 17th century diversity, and more.

On Social Justice (2): Defining (Social) Justice — Reformed Libertarian

September 28, 2018 1 comment

On Social Justice (1): The Ambiguity of Social Justice On Social Justice (2): Defining (Social) Justice Jared C. Wilson has a helpful post laying out 8 categories of people involved in the social justice debate and offering 5 very worthwhile suggestions for how to discuss the issue. In our analysis we are endeavoring to interact […]

via On Social Justice (2): Defining (Social) Justice — Reformed Libertarian

Categories: Reformed Libertarian

On Social Justice, pt 1: The Ambiguity of Social Justice — Reformed Libertarian

September 28, 2018 Leave a comment

Written by C.Jay Engel and Brandon Adams Thousands of words have been spoken and written in response to the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. God uses controversy to force Christians to very carefully consider matters. God chose to reveal Himself to us in Scripture, in part, because of the precision that written words…

via On Social Justice, pt 1: The Ambiguity of Social Justice — Reformed Libertarian

Categories: Reformed Libertarian

Acceptable Understanding of Mosaic Law (According to the OPC Report on Republication)

August 30, 2018 2 comments

Below is a summary of the confessionally (WCF) acceptable way that the Mosaic law may be understood, according to the OPC Report on Republication. I believe that they have accurately explained the meaning of the substance/administration distinction according to the WCF. They have also drawn out a necessary conclusion regarding Lev. 18:5 that was not necessarily drawn out by all who have historically held to Westminster’s version of covenant theology.

 

Preliminary Conclusions

 

  • “it is basic to our confession’s presentation of covenant theology to distinguish between the substance and administration [accidents] of the covenant of grace”
  • “the confession allows for an administrative republication of the covenant of works” [not a substantial republication]
  • “if church officers subscribing to the system of theology contained in our confessional standards refer to the Mosaic administration as a covenant of works in some sense, it would seem that there must be qualifiers added to explain what is and is not meant by the use of this terminology… The qualifiers that your committee recommends can be found at the conclusion of our report.

Conclusion

In this report, we have identified two basic senses of republication: substantial and administrative. Administrative republication is consistent with our standards in that it coherently maintains that the Mosaic covenant is in substance a covenant of grace. Examples of administrative republication include declarative, material, and misinterpretive republications, as well as an indirect, redemptive reenactment of Adam’s sin and exile (as described in our report).

Views of substantial republication which are theologically inconsistent with our standards include: pure and simple republications, subservient republications, mixed republications, and a direct, non-redemptive reenactment of Adam’s pre-fall covenantal probation.

Administrative Republication (compatible with WCF)

administration: By “administration” of the covenant of grace, covenant theologians denote the outward means by which, or a redemptive era in which, the benefits of Christ’s redemption are communicated to the elect. Thus, while the covenant of grace is the same in substance in the old and new covenants, it is administered differently in the old covenant age of promise (e.g., through promises, types and sacrifices) than in the new covenant age of fulfillment and the advent of Christ (cf. WCF 7.5; 8.6).

administrative republication: republication occurs when the covenant of works is declared (but not made) or materially present in the administration of the covenant of grace. However, there is not a substantial republication of the covenant of works as the way of obtaining eternal life through perfect obedience.

declarative republication: the covenant of works broken with Adam is declared at Mt. Sinai to communicate the grace of conviction of sin, and function antecedently as a schoolmaster to lead Israel to Christ.

material republication: a second promulgation of a works principle that operates without reference to redemptive grace at any point or any level.

misinterpretation principle: the notion that Paul, in texts such as Gal 3 and Rom 10:4–5, is refuting a Jewish misinterpretation of the law (namely, that the Mosaic law contained a substantial republication of the covenant of works).

misinterpretive republication: the idea that the covenant of works is not actually republished in a substantial sense in the Mosaic covenant but is present only in the misunderstanding of those who opposed Paul’s teaching of a substantially gracious Mosaic covenant. Hence, the language of contrast between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants rests in the minds of Paul’s opponents, but not in Paul’s actual theology.

accidental republication: in this understanding of republication the covenant of works is present in the Mosaic covenant merely as a byproduct of God’s intention and design. For example, it can be a byproduct of the misinterpretation theory. This would mean that there is no substantial republication of the covenant of works per se in the Mosaic covenant, but that such a republication is mistakenly perceived to be present through misunderstanding by the interpreter.

indirect redemptive reenactment: language that describes the way that Israel’s sin and exile from Canaan as a typological Son (Exod 4:23) recapitulates in a context adjusted to sin and redemptive typology Adam’s sin and exile from Eden (Gen 3:22ff.). This view would also construe the works principle operative in Israel at the national level as a redemptively recalibrated principle, differing in substance from yet similar in function to the prelapsarian works principle in Eden. As such, the redemptive works principle that applies to national Israel tethers typical land maintenance to Israel’s corporate fidelity to the Lord under the covenant of grace. [“Just as an individual who turns apostate loses eschatological inheritance, so national Israel in apostasy loses the typal kingdom-inheritance in Canaan. This reality can be helpfully understood in terms of the analogy with church discipline of individuals—the difference being that Israel experiences a sort of corporate form of church disciple focused to the loss of the typico-symbolic inheritance land of Canaan… This, as we have seen, comprises the essence of the works principle relative to judgment in the typal kingdom.”]

recapitulative republication: the idea that national Israel’s sin and exile from Canaan functions to present in typological forms adjusted to redemptive history the sin and exile of Adam from Eden.

Substantial Republication (incompatible with WCF)

substance: in covenant theology, a discussion of the “substance” of God’s covenant involves the essential nature of, and/or condition of, the covenant. The covenant of grace promises eternal life and salvation through faith in Christ. The covenant of works promises eternal life on the condition of perfect, personal, exact and entire obedience to God’s moral law.

substantial republication: the view that the Mosaic covenant is essentially characterized as a works arrangement in terms of its fundamental principle or condition. A substantial republication of the covenant of works would therefore be different in kind from the covenant grace. [“Is the Mosaic covenant itself a covenant of works, a covenant of grace, or something else? At other times, the question was asked relatively, focusing on the relationship between the old and new covenants. Is the Mosaic covenant the same in substance as the Abrahamic and new covenant administrations of the covenant of grace?[96] Whatever the approach, the focus was same: identifying the substance of the Mosaic covenant. The key question turns on whether there is a substantial difference between the Mosaic covenant and the covenant of grace… [The idea] that the Sinai covenant is in substance or kind a covenant of works in contrast to a covenant of grace. The language utilized to express this fact has been varied, but (on this reading) produces a similar theological result. The nature of the Mosaic covenant is said to be “legal” or governed by a works principle in contrast to grace; it is said to be a different covenant that is different in kind from characteristically gracious Abrahamic covenant; it is said to be a covenant that is itself not gracious; or that it places Israel under an arrangement that is fundamentally similar or analogous to the original covenant of works with Adam. Put absolutely, the Sinai covenant itself is therefore substantially not a covenant of grace, but a distinct covenantal arrangement governed by a works principle. Put relatively, this language means that the Sinai covenant and the Abrahamic and new covenant are not really the same covenant differing only in degree or circumstances, but in substance or essence.”]

subservient covenant: the view that the Mosaic covenant in substance, and at the national level as opposed to the individual level, promises temporal life in Canaan upon condition of perfect obedience to the moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws.

direct, non-redemptive reenactment: on the reading of Kline as advocate of substantial republication, this view would understand the Mosaic covenant to enshrine a non-redemptive works principle that is republished from the prelapsarian covenant with Adam and thereby places Israel under what is in substance a covenant of works relative to land retention.

Hybrid?

Measured by our historical taxonomy, the idea that the Mosaic covenant is in substance or kind a “works” covenant, but at the same time an aspect of the administration of the covenant of grace, seems to create a hybrid position that combines elements of positions that viewed themselves as alternatives to one another. Simply stated, there were really only two categorical options for speaking of the Mosaic covenant within the systemic framework of historic Reformed covenant theology, with various other possible permutations under each.

The Mosaic covenant was either a covenant of grace that differed only in administration from the Abrahamic and new covenants (among others), or it was a substantially distinct covenant that stood in essential contrast to grace.

Works Principle

works principle: In Kline’s writings, a “works principle” is, on an administrative reading, a covenantal feature that tethers the acquisition or loss of a promised inheritance to the representative obedience or disobedience of a sinless federal head (Adam or Christ), a believer (e.g., Abraham), or a nation (Israel). As such, the works principle is not identical to the covenant of works with Adam, because it can operate in both pre-redemptive and redemptive settings. A works principle, on a substantial reading of Kline, would denote the reappearance of a graceless principle of Adamic probation, set in substantial contrast to redemptive grace, that is applied at the typological level to the nation of Israel. [“A fourth phrase commonly associated with the discussion of republication is the “works principle.” When defining the works principle, it is first important to distinguish it from what it is not. It is not identical to the idea of retribution as discussed in biblical studies. Retribution can be stated simply as the notion that God rewards the good that men do and punishes their evil… a works principle, broadly and strictly conceived as it relates to republication, is not merely a discussion about the retributive principle found in the Scriptures. Broadly defined, a works principle is merely communicating obligations with sanctions.”]

Leviticus 18:5, the Works Principle, and Apostasy: Corporate and Individual

Apostasy occurs when an individual in the new covenant fails to appropriate the indicative of the gospel and walk by faith working in love (cf. Rom 1:5; Gal 5:6). The individual is cut off from the covenant community, invoking the curse sanction of the covenant, and loses eschatological inheritance.

Put a bit differently, blessing in the new covenant operates within the contingent confidence of one who, by virtue of Spirit-wrought union with Christ, walks by faith and not by sight. This may be expressed in confessional language as “improving our baptism” by faith and obedience in union and communion with Christ (cf. LC 167). Kline speaks of a form of conditionality that appends to the covenant of grace, due to the fact that the Lord’s demand for holiness is consistent in its expression.[234] The sacraments of circumcision and baptism, while holding forth the promised indicative, do so in such a way that the demands for consecration and holiness are escalated and perfected. Finally, and underwriting these points, Kline appeals to the dual sanctions of the covenant of grace, both in its old and new covenant administrations.

Let us now briefly extend this discussion, using Kline’s sacramental theology to guide us. Explaining Israel’s exile and loss of national election in relation to apostasy under the covenant of grace, we can say that circumcision has a judgment function when applied to the “uncircumcised heart” of national Israel in a manner similar to the way it has a judgment function in relation to an “uncircumcised heart” of an individual within Israel (or in the Abrahamic or new covenant). Moses and the prophets appeal to the fact that Israel as a nation has an uncircumcised heart (Deut 10:16; Jer. 4:4). This uncircumcision brings the nation under the threatened sanctions of the covenant in a manner analogous to the way that an uncircumcised heart brings an individual under the threatened sanction of the covenant of grace. In both instances, there is a threatened sanction—a judgment according to sinful works—that is expressed.

Where, then, is the difference? The difference between national Israel and the individual in the new covenant is that Israel as a nation bears the curse sanction of circumcision at a typico-symbolic level. The substance of that reality consists in Israel’s apostasy invoking the curse sanction of circumcision in a unique, typological setting whereby the nation forfeits the typal kingdom. Just as an individual who turns apostate loses eschatological inheritance, so national Israel in apostasy loses the typal kingdom-inheritance in Canaan. This reality can be helpfully understood in terms of the analogy with church discipline of individuals—the difference being that Israel experiences a sort of corporate form of church disciple focused to the loss of the typico-symbolic inheritance land of Canaan.

This, as we have seen, comprises the essence of the works principle relative to judgment in the typal kingdom. In both instances, the apostate, whether individual or national, is judged according to a principle of works. Failure to demonstrate appropriate fidelity to the Lord, whether individual or national, results in a judgment to be borne by the individual or nation, the latter being in the form of exile from Canaan. And insofar as Israel bears the threatened circumcision curse at the national level, there is a repetition of sin in the likeness of Adam and a repudiation of the faith-obedience of Abraham. The uniqueness of Israel’s apostasy turns on the fact that judgment expresses itself in the form of typological land loss, which adds a unique feature to Israel’s national apostasy that in the final analysis redemptive-historically reenacts the sin and exile of Adam.

This theme of covenantal judgment continues with the sacramental significance of baptism in the new covenant. Baptism, like circumcision, brings dual sanctions into view.


Comments

The idea that the Mosaic Covenant is different in substance from the Abrahamic and/or New Covenants is contrary to the WCF. If the condition of the Mosaic Covenant differs from the condition of the Abrahamic/New Covenant, then it differs in substance. According to the WCF, the condition of the Abrahamic/New Covenant of Grace is faith in Christ. Therefore, according to the WCF, the condition of the Mosaic Covenant is also faith in Christ. The Mosaic Covenant offers the land of Canaan as a type of heaven. It was received and retained through faith in Christ. The dual sanctions (blessings and curses) of the Mosaic Covenant (Deut 28) are sanctions of the Covenant of Grace and are included in every administration of the Covenant of Grace, including the New. Leviticus 18:5 epitomizes these dual sanctions. In its original context, Leviticus 18:5 states the condition of the Covenant of Grace: a “redemptive works principle.” This obedience to the law is not contrary to faith, it is of faith. Paul’s quotation of Leviticus 18:5 in “texts such as Gal 3 and Rom 10:4–5 is refuting a Jewish misinterpretation of the law… Hence, the language of contrast between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants rests in the minds of Paul’s opponents, but not in Paul’s actual theology.” As corporate Israel’s retention of the promised land depended upon their faith and Spirit-wrought works according to Lev. 18:5, so too the individual’s retention of their eschatological inheritance depends on their faith and Spirit-wrought works according to Lev. 18:5 (note that Lev 18:5 is a proof text for WCF 19.6 in the OPC Standards).

Further Reading