Re: Reformed Forum on Jer 31, Typology, Owen, Subservient

A couple of months ago Reformed Forum released an episode of Christ the Center titled John Owen, Jeremiah 31, and the Relationship between the Old and New Covenants featuring a conversation with Camden Bucey, R. Carlton Wynne, and Will Wood.

I appreciate Reformed Forum’s precision in their episodes, including this one. I also appreciate Wynne’s attitude and that he has clearly read at least one book from Renihan, and has carefully considered Owen, not assuming Owen agrees with him and the WCF. Here are some thoughts I have (as usual, please forgive the length; it’s necessary).

Regeneration is New

Initially, I was thankful Wynne recognized that the comparison between the Old and New Covenants in Jer. 31/Heb. 8 is not exclusively about a difference in ceremonies. Rather, what is new in the New Covenant is regeneration, reconciliation, and the satisfaction of sin.

[W]hat exactly is new?…The Lord lists a number of promises… Number two, regeneration. Whereas the Old Covenant law was written on tablets of stone, God promises that he’s going to write his law on the hearts of his people. Calvin says this. He says the New Covenant penetrates into the heart and reforms all the inward faculties so that obedience is rendered to the righteousness of God.

I interpreted that to mean regeneration was a new promise in the New Covenant, something not promised in the Old Covenant. This was further re-enforced when Wynne said

[W]e have to recognize that…many of these blessings were present for the believing people in the Old Testament. And this, I think, is the point at which things get a little more complicated because we can’t act as though all of these New Covenant blessings were wholly absent from the people of God prior to the coming of Christ.

Thus I understood Wynne to be asking how regeneration, a blessing unique to the New Covenant, was received by Old Testament saints. I therefore prepared a reply explaining why the Old and the New Covenant would therefore be different in substance (since regeneration is not an accident/non-essential part of the covenant of grace). However, I asked Wynne to review my reply and he said I had misunderstood him. He does not believe that regeneration is unique to the New Covenant. Regeneration was also a promised blessing of the Old Covenant.

Wynne clarified that what is new about the New Covenant is that redemption has now been accomplished by Christ. Thus regeneration, an ordo salutis blessing of both the Old and the New Covenants, has now been secured in the historia salutis work of Christ. Thus Wynne concluded in the podcast:

We’ve already said that through sacramental forms of the Old Testament, these New Covenant blessings were revealed and communicated to the faith of the Old Testament Jew. So what’s going on here [in Jeremiah 31]? I remember catching Dr. Gaffin after a worship service very quickly asking him about this text, and he’s just like over his shoulder. He goes, “It’s a lot to say here, but I think Jeremiah is articulating a historia transition in ordo terms.”  And I walked away and was like, that is so helpful. What God is describing here is a redemptive historical transition promising the arrival of the one who would secure all of these blessings. The unprecedented securing in time and space through the blood of Christ of all of these blessings. But he’s describing it in terms of the blessings themselves. Blessings that were applied prior to the coming of Christ, blessings that are applied after the coming of Christ but blessings that are secured by the once for all coming of Christ.

Gaffin made the same comment on episode 223. I understand and affirm the distinction between historia salutis and ordo salutis, but “articulating a historia transition in ordo terms” doesn’t make sense to me. Jeremiah and the author of Hebrews were perfectly capable of articulating a historia transition in historia terms. They could have said that the blessings common to the Old and New Covenant would finally be secured by the Messiah. Instead they said that the New was not like the Old specifically on the ordo level.

Note that above Wynne compared the law written on the heart with the law written on stone and said that was the comparison Jeremiah was making. That is not the same thing as claiming that Jeremiah is comparing regeneration received prior to being legally secured in the death of Christ with regeneration received after being legally secured in the death of Christ. Those are two different interpretations of the meaning of the verse. In my opinion, one is derived from reading the text (he said he was getting his list from Phil Ryken’s commentary), the other is an attempt to reconcile the text with one’s view of the covenants – a reconciliation that may at first sound profound, but upon further inspection is found greatly wanting.

In my opinion, “[A]rticulating a historia transition in ordo terms” is not so much an explanation of the passage as a dismissal of it. Jeremiah and the author of Hebrews are no doubt referring to a historia transition (Heb 8:1, 6, 13, etc) but it is a historia transition that brings with it new ordo benefits. The Old Covenant was faulty (v7) in that it did not provide the things necessary for eternal salvation. In order to avoid the same situation Israel found itself in (under the wrath of a broken covenant), the New Covenant will provide regeneration as well as reconciliation via the eternal forgiveness of sins. These things the Old Covenant did not provide. That is a straightforward reading of the passage and if one’s systematic theology leads one to the conclusion that the Old Covenant did provide those things, then I believe one has made a mistake in their deductive syllogisms somewhere and need to go back to the drawing board (I appreciate how difficult the process of reconciling exegesis of individual passages with exegesis of the rest of Scripture can be).

Vos’ Triangle

In several episodes Bucey has used Vos’ typology triangle to try to answer the question of how OT saints could be saved prior to Christ’s incarnation. This can get extremely confusing. Vos’ main point is to explain why the original Greek in the Epistle to the Hebrews calls the earthly tabernacle an anti-type (9:24). I try to explain the meaning of the triangle in this video. The basic point is that the language of type and anti-type is relative. Something can be either a type or an anti-type depending on context and what it is being compared to. In Vos’ triangle, “A” is the heavenly realities that exist in light of the Covenant of Redemption, including a heavenly sanctuary. Thus in Moses’ day, prior to Christ’s incarnation, God could show Moses this heavenly reality as a pattern for the earthly tabernacle. In this sense, “A” is the archetype (pattern) from which the earthly sanctuary “B” is created (anti-type). Considered from a different perspective, the blood of the Old Covenant lamb was a type (pattern, preliminary sketch) of Christ’s future sacrifice (anti-type). Because the Covenant of Redemption contains the plan of salvation, the plan for Christ to take on human form and offer himself as a sacrifice, it can be the conceptual background (pattern, sketch) for the earthly sanctuary in Jerusalem. However, this is only an anticipation of the Covenant of Redemption’s actual fulfillment in Christ’s death and his offering himself in the heavenly sanctuary.

Now, in answering the question of how Old Testament saints could receive the benefits of the New Covenant, Bucey has repeatedly (in this and other episodes) appealed to this triangle. I thought Bucey was trying to make some kind of argument regarding time: Christ doesn’t die until later (“C”), so OT saints can’t receive his benefits through “C”. Instead they receive his benefits through “A” where Christ has somehow already died. I previously objected because that doesn’t solve anything regarding time and somehow magically makes Christ already slain in heaven before becoming incarnate. However, that does not appear to be Bucey’s primary point. In this episode Bucey said

We have great similarity and join hands with Reformed Baptist on that subject – that what saves is the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the only name given under heaven by which men may be saved no matter when you live, whether before he was incarnate, lived, died and was raised again or after. And it’s not any more difficult for the Lord and by the Spirit to save us whether we live before him or after him, because we have to be united to somebody who isn’t physically present on Earth at the time. To God, what’s the difference if it’s before he accomplishes his work or after? So we’re on the same page. But then how?

So it might not be an argument about “A” vs “C.” Instead it is an argument about how one is connected to “C” (the resurrected Christ, the fulfilled Covenant of Redemption, the benefits of redemption – although, confusingly, in Christ the Center episode 186 Tipton says that “the redemptive reality in B and C is A” suggesting that the benefits of Christ come from A, not C). Interestingly, for Bucey, this presents a challenge both pre and post-incarnation. (I would love to have him elaborate because I don’t see why a lack of physical presence would create any kind of problem post-incarnation – but I suspect he feels the sacraments somehow solve this problem. More on this below.)

Bucey’s solution, following Kline, is that the Old Covenant order, established after the pattern of the Covenant of Redemption is realized eschatology wrapped in an earthly form. It is not simply an analogy or a picture that anticipates the new heavens and the new earth, it is the consummation brought back in time and established in Canaan. That is the significance of the triangle to Bucey. OT saints can receive the benefits of the New Covenant, they can be united to Christ, because the Old Covenant is (at its “core”) Christ. It is the fulfilled Covenant of Redemption “intruded” back in time (and covered in earthly types). Thus they can receive eternal forgiveness by faith through the blood of bulls and goats because Christ’s blood is the “core” of the blood of bulls and goats.

I disagree. I do not believe the Old Covenant sanctuary was realized eschatology. I believe it was only typological, only earthly, only anticipatory to and analogous of Christ’s atonement in the heavenly sanctuary. I think Vos’ triangle helpfully explains Heb 9:24, but I don’t think Heb 9:24 entails the idea that the Old Covenant shadow was actually realized eschatology. They may find the two ideas helpfully go hand-in-hand, but I don’t believe it is necessarily entailed. They would have to establish that from some other text.

Sacramental Salvation

In trying to answer the question of how OT saints are saved, they go straight to sacramentology. But is that how we answer how NT saints are saved? Do we go to the Lord’s Supper or baptism to explain how someone is saved? No, we go to the Word and explain that in the elect the Lord makes the general call effectual. This is referred to by Calvin as the “inherent efficacy of the Word” (2.10.7). Yet these brothers said nothing about this regarding OT saints and how they are saved. Can someone today be saved apart from the sacraments? Yes. Could someone in the OT be saved apart from the sacraments? Yes. Explain how and we have some common ground to start from on this issue.

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word

WCF/2LBCF 14.1

Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

2LBCF 10.1 (nearly identical to WCF)

The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners. (Genesis 3:15; Revelation 13:8)

2LBCF 20.1 (chapter 20 was added and is not in the WCF)

Genesis 3:15, the promise of a Messiah who will come to reverse the curse, is foundational to salvation in the Old Testament. It is the object of the saints’ faith. WCF/2LBCF 8.6 is frequently cited in debate over 1689 Federalism, but look what it says about the promise:

Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in… those promises… wherein he was revealed… to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head… being the same yesterday, and today and for ever.

Once again, explain how the promise of a future Messiah (propositional revelation) is sufficient to communicate (impart, convey, confer) the benefits of Christ to OT saints and we can begin to find common ground. Once we have this foundation we can then move on to talk about how typology relates.

Bare Resemblance Typology

The brothers on the podcast repeatedly disparaged what they called “bare resemblance” or “doppelgänger” typology, belittling the idea of NC grace being communicated to OT saints by means of typology as word pictures informing the “noetic prowess” of OT believers. But if we start with the proper foundation of effectual calling by the Word (see above), this should not be minimized and disparaged as somehow inadequate. It is not in any way deficient. The noetic effect of the propositional revelation of the gospel informing an individual such that he may, by the power of the Holy Spirit in the effectual call, understand and believe it is the primary means of salvation. Typological word pictures were simply a supplemental way of revealing the gospel. This does not make them deficient any more than it makes the Word deficient. Please carefully consider Vos’ comments in The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews regarding the noetic effect of types.

The Old Testament law is dispensed with because of its weakness and unprofitableness. Its weakness is not merely a matter of degree, for in reality it accomplished nothing, since it made nothing perfect and did not lead to the goal. This is further implied in the quotation from Jer. 31:31, quoted in Heb. 8:8-12. The fathers did not continue in the covenant made with them. But in the new Berith the law would be put in their minds and written in their hearts. And the further promise is added: “Their sins I will remember no more.” In both these respects, therefore, the Old Testament law is inefficacious. In verse 7 the author goes on to say that God found fault with the first covenant, for otherwise there would have been no place found for a second…

But how could a true religion exist under such a system at all? Several observations are in order. First, we may turn to the types of the Old Testament as something which should have led the people to something better. The author does not make much of this, however. The types were primarily for the people, but objectively they were for the mind of God. Nowhere in the Epistle has the author set himself really to solve the problem as stated above. Nor is it really solved in Paul’s epistles. Still there was a possibility of the significance of the sacrificial system entering into the subjective mind of the Old Testament believers, by the latter raising themselves to a higher state through the types. We see an indication of this possibility first at 10:3. In the Old Testament sacrifices there was a remembrance made of sin year by year. This was necessary, since it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. This yearly practice was not intended merely for an objective purpose; it was a remembrance in the minds of the people. Because of this remembrance the Psalmist, in Psalm 40, was led to speak concerning sacrifices which would satisfy the will of God. It should be noted that it was the Psalmist who rose to this consciousness – an inspired writer, not an ordinary individual believer under the Old Testament. Still, he did write it, with the result that higher consciousness later became the common property of Old Testament believers. It was with the aid of revelation, therefore, that this higher consciousness was brought about.

Likewise Psalm 110 is quoted. Here we have the prophecy of a future Priest, after the order of Melchizedek. Thus there was the consciousness of a higher order of priesthood than the Levitical being possible, and there was the prophecy that at a future time such higher priesthood would become actual.

Psalm 95 is also quoted, which speaks of the rest of Canaan. This idea of rest is eschatological, looking forward to the true rest which is to come in the future. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews here again recognized, in one of the Old Testament Psalms, a certain higher consciousness on the part of the people of the Old Testament…

The Old Testament, however, had more than these mere symbols and ceremonies. It also contained direct promises, many of which were spiritual in content. And these promises were given repeatedly, form age to age. Therefore it was not necessary for the Old Testament believers to live exclusively on the basis of insight into the meaning of the types. Of these promises the author of Hebrews speaks much.

(64-67)

Disconnecting the New Covenant from Christ

Bucey suggested that to disagree with him on the nature of the Old Covenant puts one on the trajectory of theological liberalism denying the incarnation. Bucey argues that our position should lead to the following hypothetical position:

Well, the Old Covenant was just one way that some abstract Grace of Christ was applied, and the New Covenant is just the newer way by which this abstract grace or merit or being of Christ is applied… [T]hey both just kind of take some sort of abstract grace or benefit of Christ and just apply it in different ways… If the old Covenant just illustrated Christ, but it’s still Christ, they might want to flatten and say so also, the New Covenant merely illustrates Christ. And you do find similar issues where people will not want to say that the Lord’s Supper or baptism are a means of grace.

I may be mistaken, but I believe this relates back to Bucey’s previous comment that “we have to be united to somebody who isn’t physically present on Earth at the time.” It seems like Bucey is saying that we are united to Christ (in heaven) through the sacraments (on Earth) and that apart from the sacraments, Christ’s grace is just “abstract” and “disconnected.”

When I deny that Christ’s benefits are conveyed to OT believers “by virtue of these very forms [OT sacrifices] – not merely something that they trigger or something that they point to in a formal way” (Wynne) I am not saying that OT saints receive some abstract grace or merit. We believe that OT saints were united to Christ (who was to be incarnate) and that they received the benefits of Christ’s atonement by virtue of that union with Christ, not by virtue of the blood of bulls and goats. In that sense, it is not abstract grace. It is grace that comes through union with Christ. I simply deny that the blood of bulls and goats is that union (if Bucey wants to put it in those terms). The New Covenant itself is our marriage union with Christ and the OT saints receive the benefits of Christ, the benefits of Christ were communicated (imparted, conveyed, conferred) to them by virtue of that New Covenant union, which they possessed. Being a legal union, it is invisible, but it is not “abstract” or “disconnected” from the covenant.

Bucey suggests that our view would entail the disconnecting of Christ from the New Covenant. Presbyterians tend to view and speak of the New Covenant primarily in terms of “administration” (i.e. the “external Covenant of Grace”; see Bucey’s comment above about Lord’s Supper and baptism being the New Covenant) whereas we tend to view and speak of it primarily in terms of union with Christ (i.e. the “internal Covenant of Grace”). I believe this is no small part of often talking past each other (especially with Kline’s formulation of the CoR vs the CoG). So I hear him say our view entails that we must disconnect Christ from the New Covenant and I really scratch my head. We believe the New Covenant is union with Christ, so how does that entail disconnecting Christ from the New Covenant? But I think what Bucey means is that disconnecting Christ sacramentally from the blood of bulls and goats entails disconnecting Christ sacramentally from baptism and the Lord’s Supper – because he thinks of the New Covenant primarily in terms of administration. If we think that someone can be saved and receive the benefits of Christ apart from OT sacramental presence of Christ in the blood of bulls and goats, then we must also think that someone can be saved and receive the benefits of Christ apart from NT sacramental presence of Christ. To which I would say – it is the reformed teaching that sacraments are not necessary to salvation and receiving the benefits of Christ, and that the Word is the primary means, so that’s not really a point of disagreement. However, I think Bucey might be correct that disagreement on OT typology as sacrament entails disagreement over NT sacramentology, but I will leave it at that for now.

Bucey’s Conundrum

Bucey presented a great condundrum that he could not find a solution to: “What about the Jew who just says ‘Well now that I’m believing in that, I’m going to stop offering sacrifices altogether.’ What is the problem with the Jew that just decides to quit participating?” The answer is very simply that God commanded him to participate, so not participating would be sinning against God. Additionally, on our view the sacrifices served a purpose within the Old Covenant (typological atonement in a typological holy land) distinct from their purpose as a type pointing to Christ and that purpose continued as long as the Old Covenant continued. I fail to see how this is a grand conundrum.

Typological Covenant of Works

Wynne asks If Israel was under a covenant of works, how could they have survived one second, let alone entered the land?

First, because it was undergirded by the Covenant of Circumcision (God’s promise to give them the land), which was the basis of God’s longsuffering towards them when they broke the covenant (Exod 32:10, 13, 14; Num 14:20; Deut 9:5-8, 13-14, 19, 25, 27-28; 28:26; Jer 7:33; Ps 106:8, 23, 44-45). Note that they were only scattered (Israel) or exiled (Judah) after God fulfilled that promise. See my JIRBS article or this podcast series and Renihan’s The Mystery of Christ… p. 112-113 for an elaboration.

Second, Mosaic curse and blessing (entering and remaining in the land) was conditioned upon outward obedience to the letter of the law (though God still required full obedience from the heart under the terms of the Adamic Covenant of Works, which the unregenerate were also under). See also: Post-Fall Covenant of Works?

Third, this typological covenant of works included a sacrificial system that atoned for (at least some) of Israel’s violations of the covenant.

Our brothers pointed to Jeremiah 7 to argue this was an incorrect understanding of the Old Covenant because Jeremiah says the problem with Judah was specifically that they rested in the sacrifices to cover their iniquity, giving them license to sin.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord.

20 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”

21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward…

30 “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

God chastised Judah for not rightly prioritizing obedience to the moral law above obedience to the ceremonial law (1 Sam 15:22). Note that the violations listed are disobedience to the letter of the law. But they did continue to offer sacrifices. Why weren’t those sacrifices enough to turn away God’s wrath for their disobedience? Our brothers would argue because they lacked saving faith in Christ. I am not convinced that is the case. There are (at least) two different ways of viewing this (from a subservient covenant view). (1) The sacrifices were not instituted to atone for presumptuous, high-handed sin, but only to atone for unintentional sin. This seems to be very much the case if you read the instructions concerning the sin offering and the guilt offering (Lev 4; Num 15:22-31). Thus Owen says (forgive the Hebrew words not copying correctly)

[I]t had respect unto all such sins as were not committed so eJkousi>wv, “willingly, wilfully, presumptuously,” as that there was no sacrifice appointed for them, the covenant being disannulled by them, Hebrews 10:26. And there is no sort of sins, no sin whatever, that is between this hg;g;v], this sin of “ignorance,” or error, and sin committed hm;r; dy;B], “with an high hand,” or presumptuously. See expressly, Numbers 15:27-31. Hence this taF;j, this “sin-offering,” was the great sacrifice of the solemn day of expiation, Leviticus 16, whereby atonement was made for all “the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins,” verse 16. And upon the head of the live goat, which was a part of the sin-offering on that day, there was confessed and laid “all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins,” verse 21; that is, all iniquities not disannulling the covenant, which had e]ndikon misqopodosi>an, a revenging recompense allotted unto them, Hebrews 2:2. And accordingly are those words to be interpreted where the cause of this sacrifice is expressed: Leviticus 4:2, “If a soul sin hg;g;v]bi,” — “by error, ignorance, imprudently,” — “against any of the commandments of the LORD, as it ought not to do, and shall do against any of them.” And in instance is given in him who killed his neighbor without prepense malice, Deuteronomy 19:4. Any sin is there intended whereinto men fall by error, ignorance, imprudence, incogitancy, temptation, violence of affections, and the like. For such was this sacrifice instituted. And the end which it typically represented is expressed, 1 John 2:1,2, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins,” — namely, in the room of and as represented by the sin-offering of old, whereby atonement and propitiation were typically made for sin. Only, there was this difference, that whereas the law of Moses was appointed to be the rule of the political government of the people, wherein many sins, such as adultery and murder, were to be punished with death, and the sinner cut off, there were in such cases no sacrifices appointed nor admitted; but in the sacrifice of Christ there is no exception made unto any sin in those that repent, believe, and forsake their sins, — not unto those in particular which were excepted in the law of Moses, Acts 13:39. So that as the sin-offering was provided for all sins that disannulled not the covenant made at Horeb, which allowed no life or interest unto murderers, adulterers, blasphemers, and the like, in the typical land; so the sacrifice of Christ is extended unto all sinners who transgress not the terms and tenor of the new covenant, for whom no place is allowed, either in the church here or in heaven hereafter.

Exercitation 24.37

In this view Judah fell under God’s wrath because they committed presumptuous sin that could not be atoned for. Note importantly that Owen views the Day of Atonement as being the same in kind as the sin and guilt offering, in this regard. Gill, however, does not.

and confess him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins; which takes in their sins, greater or lesser, sins of ignorance and presumption, known or not known x, even all sorts of and all of them: the form of confession used in after times was this y; O Lord, thy people, the house of Israel, have done perversely, have transgressed sinned berate thee, O Lord, expiate now the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, in which thy people, the house of Israel, have done perversely, transgressed, and sinned before thee, as it is written in the law of Moses thy servant (#Le 16:30;) and it is added, and the priests and people that stood in the court, when they heard the name Jehovah go out of the mouth of the high priest, they bowed, and worshipped, and fell upon their faces, and said, blessed be God, let the glory of his kingdom be for ever and ever:

x Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Teshnbah, c. 1. sect. 2.

y Misnah Yoma, c. 6. sect. 2.

Commentary on Lev 16:21

I certainly have more studying to do, but I am inclined to agree with Gill that the Day of Atonement offering was different from the regular sin and guilt offerings in that it did atone for presumptuous sins (there is no qualification in Lev 16).

(2) So then what was wrong with Judah? Why did the Day of Atonement not spare them from God’s wrath? Note verse 30 above: “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it.” They setup idols inside the temple.

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.

10 And the Lord said by his servants the prophets, 11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, 12 therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15 because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.”

2 Kings 21:1-15

Note Ezekiel 5:11 “Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw. My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity.”

Compare with the instructions in Leviticus 16 for the sin offering of the Day of Atonement.

16 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. 17 No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

23 “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. 24 And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. 26 And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. 27 And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. 28 And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Do you read anything in there about idols being setup in the sanctuary? The text is clear that the iniquities of the people could only be placed on the scapegoat once the Holy Place and sanctuary and altar was atoned for (cleansed from the people’s sin). They could not have been cleansed with idols in them. Thus Judah could not have achieved forgiveness on the Day of Atonement through any sacrifices. I don’t think this proves that saving faith in Christ was the condition of the Old Covenant.

Note quickly the alternative. Our OPC brothers argue that obedience to the commandments was tethered to tenure in the land, but that it is Spirit-wrought, faith-fueled obedience, the same in nature as what is required in the New Covenant. The problem here is that it makes Lev 18:5 a condition of the Covenant of Grace (note the reference to Lev 18:5 in the OPC version of WCF 19.6). For an elaboration, see

Conclusion

In all honesty, I am growing wearing of this particular discussion. I hope that this post does not further contribute to misunderstanding and talking past one another, but rather contributes to better understanding of where the precise point(s) of disagreement lay. I have much more I would like to study and comment on regarding sacramentology, but I’m afraid that I just don’t have time to do so. Please make sure to listen to lectures #2 and #3 here from Sam Renihan, as he elaborates more fully on the error of the Presbyterian argument from typology.

OT Saints Were Saved by the New Covenant (Quotes)

Only the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. OT saints were saved the same way we are today: by New Covenant union with Christ. This concept is not baptist eisegesis. Here are a variety of quotes affirming this truth (I’ll add to it as I come across more).

Christ can work out of that finished work in the future because it has been decreed and ordained. So the Holy Spirit can be active according to ordo salutis even in advance of the historia salutis pouring out.

Camden Bucey, Christ the Center 700 Redemption Accomplished and Applied


Old Testament believers enjoyed the benefits of union with Christ and His imputed righteousness prior to His earthy ministry. The covenantal-legal agreement of the pactum [i.e., the Covenant of Redemption] was sufficient in and of itself due to the Trinity’s utter trustworthiness to carry out its covenant-oaths. In other words, the stipulations of the pactum, an inherently legal arrangement, are the foundation for the application of redemption in covenant of grace.

J.V. Fesko, The Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, 347


[W]hatever spiritual gifts the fathers obtained, they were accidental as it were to their age; for it was necessary for them to direct their eyes to Christ in order to become possessed of them… There is yet no reason why God should not have extended the grace of the new covenant to the fathers. This is the true solution of the question.

Calvin (Commentary Hebrews 8:10)


There are clear passages indicating that ‘the forgiveness of sins’ is unique to the New Covenant (“remember their sins no more”; Jer 31:34)… Kuyper seems to confirm this conclusion. He argued that the energies of the Spirit at Pentecost worked retroactively in the lives of OT saints.

Horton, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, p152ff (See extended quote here: Horton’s Retroactive New Covenant)


[T]he work of Christ is the source of all human salvation from sin: the salvation of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham, of Moses, of David, and of all of Godâ’s people in every age, past, present, or future. Everyone who has ever been saved has been saved through the new covenant in Christ. Everyone who is saved receives a new heart, a heart of obedience, through the new covenant work of Christ. So though it is a new covenant, it is also the oldest, the temporal expression of the pactum salutis… The New Covenant does have a temporal inauguration… the shedding of Jesus’ blood, a datable historical event, is the substance of the New Covenant, the Covenant that purifies, not only the flesh, but the conscience, the heart. Nevertheless, as we saw earlier, the efficacy of the New Covenant, unlike that of previous covenants, extends to God’s elect prior to Jesus’ atonement. When believers in the Old Testament experienced “circumcision of the heart,” or when they were Jews “inwardly,” they were partaking of the power of the New Covenant.

John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 79-81 (See extended quote here John Frame’s Retroactive New Covenant)


[T]he happy persons, who even in that early age [the Old Testament] 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.

Augustine, A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius, 189 (See more quotes here)


These pertain to the new testament [covenant], are the children of promise, and are regenerated by God the Father and a free mother. Of this kind were all the righteous men of old, and Moses himself, the minister of the old testament, the heir of the new . . . Let us, therefore, choose whether to call the righteous men of old the children of the bondwoman or of the free. Be it far from us to say, of the bondwoman; therefore if of the free, they pertain to the new testament [covenant] in the Holy Spirit, whom, as making alive, the apostle opposes to the killing letter. For on what ground do they not belong to the grace of the new testament [covenant]?

Augustine, A Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 406-407 (See more quotes here)

Augustine, with great shrewdness remarks, that from the beginning of the world the sons of promise, the divinely regenerated, who, through faith working by love, obeyed the commandments, belonged to the New Testament; entertaining the hope not of carnal, earthly, temporal, but spiritual, heavenly, and eternal blessings, believing especially in a Mediator, by whom they doubted not both that the Spirit was administered to them, enabling them to do good, and pardon imparted as often as they sinned. The thing which he thus intended to assert was, that all the saints mentioned in Scripture, from the beginning of the world, as having been specially selected by God, were equally with us partakers of the blessing of eternal salvation.

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.11.10


[A]lthough the Old Law contained precepts of charity, nevertheless it did not confer the Holy Ghost…
the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Ghost, which is given to those who believe in Christ…
Nevertheless there were some in the state of the Old Testament who, having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the New Law…
As to those under the Old Testament who through faith were acceptable to God, in this respect they belonged to the New Testament: for they were not justified except through faith in Christ, Who is the Author of the New Testament…
No man ever had the grace of the Holy Ghost except through faith in Christ either explicit or implicit: and by faith in Christ man belongs to the New Testament. Consequently whoever had the law of grace instilled into them belonged to the New Testament… at all times there have been some persons belonging to the New Testament, as stated above.”

Aquinas Summa Theologica I-II, 106-107 (See more here and here)


There were . . . under the regimen of the Old Covenant, people who possessed the charity and grace of the Holy Spirit and longed above all for the spiritual and eternal promises by which they were associated with the New Law… [E]ven though the Old Law prescribed charity, it did not give the Holy Spirit, through whom “God’s charity has been poured into our hearts.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Aquinas (1964)


The grace and blessings of the new covenant were given and ensured to Abraham for himself.

Nehemiah Coxe, Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ (75)


All believers, who lived under the Old Testament, were saved by the covenant of grace, which Christ was to establish.

Keach, “The Display of Glorious Grace” in The Covenant Theology of Benjamin Keach (Conway: Free Grace Press, 2017), 110.

These things being observed, we may consider that the Scripture doth plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way, as what is spoken can hardly be accommodated unto a twofold administration of the same covenant… Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended… If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue thereof, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst they were under the covenant… This covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as formally such… [T]herefore I have showed in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition… 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 (Exposition, Hebrews 8:6, 9)

[D]uring the observation of the whole law of Moses, whilst it was in force by the appointment of God
himself, he still directed those who sought for acceptance with him unto a new covenant of grace, whose benefits by faith they were then made partakers of, and whose nature was afterwards more fully to be declared. See Jeremiah 31:31-34, with the inferences of our apostle thereon, Hebrews 8:13.

The Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Exercitation 8, Paragraph 22

Podcast: Responding to Reformed Forum on 2LBC 8.6 @ The Particular Baptist

Daniel Vincent and Sean Cheetham at the Particular Baptist Podcast invited me on to respond to an episode of Reformed Forum from a few months ago. In that episode, titled Typology and Covenant Membership, Jeremy Boothby argued that the author of Hebrews’ particular understanding of typology necessarily entails that the Old Covenant was (an administration of) the Covenant of Grace. He said he could not understand how baptists could reject WCF 7.5-6 but affirm 8.6 and asked for those who hold to 1689 Federalism to explain. So that was our primary goal in this episode. It has become a recurring objection so I’m glad I had the opportunity to address it. The episode went really long (which should not surprise readers of this blog) but Daniel and Sean graciously let me ramble on to make my point. I hope you find it useful. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Here are my notes/outline for the show, if it helps.

Related Posts and Mentioned Posts:

Re: Gaffin on Hebrews 8

This is an old video (2012), but I watched it again recently.

At 50:00 Dr. Gaffin argues that Jer 31/Heb 8 is making a redemptive historical/historia salutis point “using ordo salutis language.”

No, rather, the text makes an ordo salutis point with historia salutis implications. The New Covenant saves. Therefore the Old Covenant, which did not save and which merely pointed forward to the New Covenant, is obsolete.

Gaffin points to the experience of Abraham, Moses, and David in order to argue that ordo salutis benefits, namely regeneration, were provided by the Old Covenant. However, this is an invalid argument. The conclusion that the Old Covenant includes ordo salutis promises/benefits – including all those listed in Heb 8 – does not follow from the premise that OT saints were regenerate. I believe a correct exegesis of Heb 8 leads to the minor premise that the ordo salutis benefits are unique to the New Covenant (“better promises,” “not like the Old Covenant”).

P1 OT saints were regenerate
P2 The New Covenant alone regenerates
C OT saints were regenerated by the New Covenant

Before one objects that this is fanciful baptist eisegesis, consider that Gaffin said

The ordo salutis reality… Abraham being a man of faith, a regenerate person of faith which is dependent upon the work of Christ still to come in the future for its efficacy.

Bucey likewise said

[T]he grace that is administered to these Old Testament saints – really what they’re receiving are the same spiritual benefits the same grace the same substantial grace coming from the same work of Christ – they’re just receiving it in anticipation of the work he would come to do.

And in a separate episode, Tipton said

Even prior to His advent, His incarnation, His life and death and resurrection, prior to that the virtue, benefits, and efficacy of his atoning sacrifice and resurrection and ascension are retrospectively applied to saints in the Old Testament order by the supernatural agency of the Spirit.

What the author of Hebrews argues at great length is that this work of Christ and the benefits it entails are exclusive to the New Covenant. According to the author of Hebrews, the New Covenant is different from the Old Covenant in that it regenerates and justifies (8:6-12). The author of Hebrews contrasts the blood of the Old Covenant (bulls and goats) with the blood of the New Covenant (Christ). He argues there is an ordo salutis difference between the two, not merely an historia salutis difference. “[I]t is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (10:4) “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (9:15) As Owen has correctly remarked

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.

Calvin was confronted with the truth of this logic in his effort to exegete Hebrews 8, particularly verse 10. He concluded

[W]hatever spiritual gifts the fathers obtained, they were accidental as it were to their age; for it was necessary for them to direct their eyes to Christ in order to become possessed of them… There is yet no reason why God should not have extended the grace of the new covenant to the fathers. This is the true solution of the question.

This was actually the dominant view (as far as I can tell) prior to the reformation. It was Augustine’s view, echoed in Aquinas (who is quoted in Catholic Catechism 1964 on this point). See Joshua Moon’s “An ‘Augustinian’ Reading of Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Dialogue with the Christian Tradition.” Many others, such as John Frame and Michael Horton, have also recognized this truth.

Once we have this correct foundation, then we can discuss how types relate to OT saints’ understanding of and belief in the gospel, as well as how we are to understand the issue of apostasy and the warning passages.

Promise, Law, Faith – A Review Article (JIRBS 20)

The 2020 edition of the Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies has just been published. It includes a lengthy (46 page) review of T. David Gordon’s “Promise, Law, Faith: Covenant-Historical Reasoning in Galatians.” The review incorporates various points I have made on this blog, builds upon them, and adds to them. Readers of this blog will most likely find it worth reading. In the end it presents a 1689 Federalist interpretation of Galatians, particularly Galatians 3.

It also includes a brief review of Richard P. Belcher Jr.’s new book on covenant theology by Sam Renihan.

The Reformed Baptist Academic Press website is undergoing construction so the journal is not available through the site currently. Instead, you have two options:

There are a couple of things I came across after writing the review that I would have added. On page 88 I note the NET translation of Gal. 3:18. I should have also noted the CSB translation. Also, in fn29 I would add Aquinas’ statements on the New Covenant.

If you read the review, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Aquinas’ Distinction Between Membership in the New Covenant and the era of the New Covenant

I have previously mentioned Joshua Moon’s dissertation “Jeremiah’s New Covenant: An Augustinian Reading.” I do not agree with everything he has to say, but I highly recommend reading it (PDF) as he explains Augustine’s view of Jeremiah 31, as well as how that Augustinian reading was held down through church history up until the Reformation. Below is an excerpt (66-74 PDF) of his account of Aquinas’ Augustinian reading of Jeremiah 31 (see my previous Aquinas’ Retroactive New Covenant).


In summary form the lex nova for Thomas is the grace of God through the Holy Spirit.64 Thomas identifies the lex nova with the Law of the novum testamentum (‘lex nova est lex novi testamenti’), and defines the new law as the grace of the Holy Spirit:

‘Each thing appears to be that which is foremost in it,’ as the Philosopher states (Ethic., ix). That which is foremost in the Law of the novum testamentum, and in which all its power consists, is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given through faith in Christ. Consequently the lex nova is principally the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ.65

To establish his position he cites Jer 31:31,33, followed by two citations of Augustine from the De spiritu, the second of which reads: ‘What else are the Divine laws written by God Himself on our hearts, but the very presence of his Holy Spirit?’ From Augustine, Thomas reads the contrast in Jer 31 as between an old law without further power, and the ‘new’ work of the Spirit in those who believe.

The consequences of this for Jer 31 are then spelled out by an objection now somewhat familiar: what of those prior to the nova lex? If the new law is the Spirit’s work by which people are made friends of God, and if the ancient faithful had that Spirit’s work, then you have the novum testamentum in the era of the vetus. Thus, the objection runs, the new law cannot be defined this way:

The Law of the Gospel is proper to those who are in the state of the novum testamentum. But the Law that is inscribed [on the heart] is common both to those who are in the novum testamentum and those who are in the vetus testamentum. For it is said in Wisdom 7[:27]: ‘Divine wisdom conveys herself through the nations into holy souls; she establishes the friends of God and the prophets.’ Therefore the lex nova is not the Law inscribed.66

Thomas answers by appeal to an implicit distinction between membership in the novum testamentum and the ‘state (or era) of the novum testamentum:

No one ever possessed the grace of the Holy Spirit except through faith in Christ, explicit or implicit. Through faith in Christ a man belongs to the novum testamentum. Thus whoever had the Law of grace infused, accordingly belonged to the novum testamentum

At first glance it does not appear that Thomas answers the objection. He solves the dilemma by agreeing that there have always been those who had the Law of grace and belonged to the novum testamentum. The implicit point, however, is that Thomas does not see ‘belonging to the novum testamentum’ as the same as being in the statu novi testamenti – otherwise the reply would not at all address the objection. Thomas thus drives a distinction between two realities, that of the era of the Gospel or the statu novi testamenti, and that of
membership within the novum testamentum. And Jer 31:33-34 is addressed to the latter. Thus, in article 4 of the same question he asserts that the state of the new law succeeds the state of the old law (‘successit enim status novae legis statui veteris legis’), a claim he finds consistent with the novum testamentum existing during the state of the old law.

Matthew Levering summarizes the distinction being made this way: ‘The state of the new law begins after the Incarnation, while the new law itself, as the grace of the Holy Spirit, is found in all places and times.’68 Or more fully is Colman O’Neill:

the new law exists as the mystery of salvation at work in the world from the time of the restoration of man to grace. Yet, though the new law thus transcends historical periods, the state of the new law does not. For the state of the new law is precisely that third state of revelation and faith which was initiated in the Incarnation and in the mysteries of Christ.69

That Thomas owes this position to Augustine is clear: Augustine is cited no fewer than 8 times in answer to this one question. One can speak two different ways of the vetus and novum testamentum (or lex): either to a ‘state’ or era, or with respect to the thing itself. If the former, then one can speak of the economical differences. But if the latter, then any view of temporal succession is impossible. And Jeremiah is speaking of the latter. The lex nova, spoken of in Jer 31:33-34, is available throughout all ages and without the possession of it, one’s happiness (proper end) is unattainable – for that which is outside of a person cannot justify. The virtue of being just before God cannot be acquired unless given by God, and clearly those faithful of the ancient era were just. Thus ‘in all times there have been some belonging to the novum testamentum’, even if the statu novi testamenti awaited the coming of Christ.70

This point is made concrete in Thomas’ treatment of David in Psalm 51 (Vg. 50) and Thomas’ view of David as having the Holy Spirit (i.e. the lex nova):

The reason for this manifestation [of guilt (culpa) being wiped clean] is a divine mercy; for the manifestation of righteousness (iustis) is useful so that we do not presume on his righteousness (iustitia). For if David sins – after all of his victories, after the gift of the Holy Spirit, after all his familiarity with God and prophecy – how much more ought we to fear how weak and sinful we are?71

If Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant is a prophecy of the lex nova, which is contained fundamentally in the giving of the Holy Spirit, then David is here explicitly counted as a member of the new covenant. The exhortation even hinges upon an a fortiori privileging of the place of David: if even David can sin, how much more should we fear? There is only one way by which anyone is made right with God, and that is through the novum testamentum or the lex nova, which is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to those who believe. This is true for Augustine and Thomas regardless of era, and this right standing before God is the substance of Jeremiah’s new covenant.72

Re: James White’s “Newness of the New Covenant”

In 2004 (part 2 2005), James White wrote The Newness Of The New Covenant: Better Covenant, Better Mediator, Better Sacrifice, Better Ministry, Better Hope, Better Promises in defense of credobaptism. He wrote from the perspective of one covenant of grace differently administered and sought to answer the question “Exactly what is the nature of the covenant in the blood of Christ (Lk. 22:20; Heb. 13:20), and how does it differ from other administrations of the covenant of grace?”

His answer was that the difference between the Old and the New is that only some of the members of the Old covenant were saved, while all of the members of the New covenant are.

[T]hat which the New Covenant provides in perfection the Old only provided in part or in picture… [W]here something is found in both covenants, it will be seen to be partial and incomplete in the Old, finished, total, and perfect in the New…

The Old Covenant was, by nature, breakable. Why? Because it did not, in and of itself, effect the change in the heart and mind of each member thereof that would cause them to “continue” therein…

While there were those who knew the Lord and followed his statutes, they were the remnant, not the norm…

All those with whom he makes this covenant experience what the remnant experienced under the old: true internal conversion resulting in a love for God’s law and a true relationship with him. Quite simply, there is no “remnant” in the New Covenant, and all those with whom God makes this covenant experience its fulfillment. This is why it is better, and hence proves the author’s apologetic presentation of the supremacy of Christ over the old ways…

The contrast drawn here between the old “faulted” covenant and the new faultless one is simple: the New Covenant brings salvific knowledge and relationship to all who are in it, “from the least to the greatest of them.”

…Reformed credobaptists have asserted that if this passage teaches that the New Covenant differs from the Old in the matter of the extensiveness of the work of grace in the lives of the members (i.e., the New Covenant is not a mixed covenant of regenerate and unregenerate, elect and non-elect), then the most needed element of the paedobaptist argument regarding the continuity of the covenants and the covenant sign is disrupted at its most vital point. The “continuity” of the Covenant of Grace is seen in the expansion of God’s work of grace, so that the New Covenant in the blood of the Son encompasses all of God’s elect, with the older administration’s ceremonies pointing forward to the perfection that would come in Christ…

We must agree that considered individually, each of the elements of the New Covenant listed in Heb. 8:10-12 can be found, in particular individuals in the Old Covenant…

if some in the Old Covenant experienced these divine works of grace, but most did not, what then is to be concluded? That the newness of the New Covenant is seen in the extensiveness of the expression of God’s grace to all in it…

We are not saying there were none who experienced God’s grace under the Old Covenant, but that the Old Covenant, in and of itself, did not guarantee that those who partook of it were, in fact, heirs of grace. The newness of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ is found in the reality that the better mediator, better hope, better sacrifices, mean that all, from the least to the greatest of them, know the Lord savingly. This is its glory, for it reflects the power of the blood in which it is sealed. Hence, when we read, “God’s law, the transcript of his holiness and his expectations for his people, was already on the hearts of his people, and so is not new in the new covenant,”11 we respond by saying it is not the mere existence of the gracious act of God writing His law on the heart that is new, but it is the extensiveness of that work that is new. While some in the Old Covenant experienced this, all in the New Covenant do so.

While White is correct that all in the New Covenant receive new hearts and the forgiveness of sins (they are saved) while only some members of the Old Covenant did, he is ambiguous as to how exactly those members of the Old Covenant were saved. Were they saved by the Old Covenant? Numerous statements by White seem to deny that.

[The author of Hebrews’] view of the New Covenant as “better” must be seen in light of the perfection of Christ’s work of mediation…

Is this ministry simply of the same kind as the ministry of the old priests, only, in some fashion, “more excellent”? Or is the point of the passage that the Messiah’s ministry, the covenant in his blood, and the promises upon which the covenant stands – all these things are substantially different, better, than that which came before?…

Surely, at this point there can be no argument that the betterness of the sacrifice of Christ is qualitatively superior to that of the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant. His death is not just more effective or in some fashion greater than the sacrifice of a lamb or a bull. That sacrifice differs on a fundamental, foundational level. It is better by nature and definition...

As a result of the permanence of his priestly position, Christ has an ability the old priests did not possess. He is able to save

Christ is the mediator of a better covenant, based upon better sacrifices, with a more excellent ministry, based upon better promises, which include, he will later assert, the very promise of the eternal inheritance for those in the New Covenant (9:15)…

What the Old Covenant had only pictured and hinted at, but failed to produce in them, God fulfills in the better covenant with the better sacrifices and better promises and better mediator…

These repetitive sacrifices lack the power or ability to take away sins…

The text presents an apologetic argument that unlike the Old Covenant, where “they did not continue in My covenant” (v. 9), the New Covenant presents a perfect, full work of God which includes the internal renovation of the heart, salvific knowledge of God, and the forgiveness of sins…

We must further note that the contrast in Heb. 10 is between the repetitive sacrifices of the Old Covenant, which could never take away sins, and the singular sacrifice of the New, which not only can but in reality does do so for those who are in the covenant (Heb. 10:10-18)!

There appears to be some unresolved tension in White’s argument. On the one hand, he argues that the New covenant is qualitatively better than the Old because it does what the Old could not: give a new heart and take away sins. Yet on the other hand he argues that the difference is quantitative because the Old covenant did give a new heart and take away sins, just not for all in the covenant (“it is not the mere existence of the gracious act of God writing His law on the heart that is new, but it is the extensiveness of that work that is new”).

I believe the logic of White’s argumentation throughout the two essays requires him to modify his conclusion. If Christ’s mediation of a better covenant means simply that more members of the covenant are saved, does that mean that some members of the Old covenant were saved apart from his mediation and sacrifice? On the other hand, if Christ’s mediation of a better covenant means “Christ has an ability the old priests did not possess. He is able to save” then perhaps those in the Old Covenant who were in fact saved were saved by Christ’s better New covenant. Perhaps the “Newness of the New Covenant” is that it is able to save! As White himself says

The writer plainly sees in these words a prophetic proclamation of what Christ, the one high priest, would accomplish through his better sacrifice so as to initiate a better covenant based upon better promises leading to a better hope. The singular offering of Christ (Heb. 7:27) and the acceptance of that offering pictured in his entrance into the Holy Place and his being seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb. 8:1) has made it possible for God to be merciful to the iniquities of those for whom the High Priest now intercedes (Heb. 7:24-35).

Note Owen’s observation on the same text.

Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended… If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue thereof, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large… [T]herefore I have showed in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition… 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.

Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ, p. 187-8, 241

Aquinas’ Retroactive New Covenant

I have previously shown at length how very similar Augustine’s understanding of the New and Old Covenants is to 1689 Federalism. He limits the Old Covenant to temporal, earthly promises and argues that OT saints were saved by the New Covenant.

[T]he happy persons, who even in that early age [the Old Testament] 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

Augustine: Proto-1689 Federalist

Aquinas followed Augustine on this point, citing him several times in Summa Theologica I-II, 106-107 (Old “Law” = Old Covenant; New “Law” = New Covenant).

[T]he Old Law, which was given to men who were imperfect, that is, who had not yet received spiritual grace, was called the “law of fear,” inasmuch as it induced men to observe its commandments by threatening them with penalties; and is spoken of as containing temporal promises…

the New Law which derives its pre-eminence from the spiritual grace instilled into our hearts, is called the “Law of love”: and it is described as containing spiritual and eternal promises…

although the Old Law contained precepts of charity, nevertheless it did not confer the Holy Ghost…

the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Ghost, which is given to those who believe in Christ…

Nevertheless there were some in the state of the Old Testament who, having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the New Law…

As to those under the Old Testament who through faith were acceptable to God, in this respect they belonged to the New Testament: for they were not justified except through faith in Christ, Who is the Author of the New Testament…

No man ever had the grace of the Holy Ghost except through faith in Christ either explicit or implicit: and by faith in Christ man belongs to the New Testament. Consequently whoever had the law of grace instilled into them belonged to the New Testament…

at all times there have been some persons belonging to the New Testament, as stated above.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifically quotes Aquinas on this point (1964).

There were . . . under the regimen of the Old Covenant, people who possessed the charity and grace of the Holy Spirit and longed above all for the spiritual and eternal promises by which they were associated with the New Law… [E]ven though the Old Law prescribed charity, it did not give the Holy Spirit, through whom “God’s charity has been poured into our hearts.

I mention all of this simply to re-iterate the historicity of the concept. It is not an idea invented by baptists in response to paedobaptism. It is drawn from Scripture itself and has been recognized by various traditions for a very long time.

Tabletalk’s Retroactive New Covenant

H/T @flyoverliberta1

The June issue of Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine features a daily study through Hebrews, starting with ch. 8 on June 1. I don’t know who wrote the study, but they make some very good points, quoting Owen several times.

June 2 – The Necessity of Christ’s Heavenly Priesthood

8:4 is saying that because Christ is a member of the superior priesthood, His work cannot be done on earth. To engage in priestly ministry on earth is the province of the inferior Levitical priesthood, which is exercised according to the Mosaic law, the law that cannot perfect anyone.

June 3 – Better Promises for a Better Covenant

John Owen says these better promises are the new covenant promises of Jeremiah 31:33–34 that God will write His law on the hearts of His people and remember their sin no more, that is, finally and fully forgive them. These promises were not fulfilled by the old covenant mediated by Moses. After all, the repeated sacrifices of the Mosaic law mean that the old covenant could not provide full and final forgiveness. They, and the old covenant of which they were a part, could only remind people of sin, not remove it (Heb. 10:1–18). Furthermore, the law demonstrates that the old covenant cannot be the means by which God writes His commandments on the hearts of His people. Deuteronomy 31:14–29 foresees that Israel as a nation would be so corrupt as to break the old covenant. The people would need a new heart, a heart that would come only after the nation of Israel broke the old covenant and suffered the curse of exile (30:1–10).

Nevertheless, the reality of the new covenant promises belonged to the old covenant saints. After all, David, an old covenant believer, enjoyed the complete and final forgiveness of sins in his justification (Rom. 4:5–8). No one is saved except through Christ and His new covenant, which is the ultimate expression of the one covenant of grace between God and His people (John 14:6). The old covenant saints belonged also to the one covenant of grace, though they lived prior to the inauguration of the new covenant. They, no less than us, were redeemed by Jesus alone, though their understanding of this was less full than is ours as new covenant believers.

June 4 – The Promised New Covenant

The new covenant is necessary, Hebrews 8:8 tells us, because God found fault with the people. Our Creator never intended the old covenant to bring the blessings we have under the new covenant, though the old covenant saints possessed the benefits of the new covenant, albeit to a lesser degree than we do…

In and through the new covenant, we get what the subcovenants of the covenant of grace hoped for. The new covenant, Hebrews 8:10 reveals, is the means by which God’s promise to be God to Abraham is accomplished (see Gen. 17:7). 

While disagreeing with the author’s interpretation of Gen 17:7 (see here), he correctly notes that Abraham was saved by the new covenant. Abraham, and all other Old Testament saints, received the promises/blessings of the new covenant in advance of its formal establishment.

Further Reading

The New Covenant of Grace was a Present Reality for OT Saints

R. Scott Clark recently wrote another post trying to explain where reformed paedobaptist covenant theology differs from 1689 Federalism. I’m glad that it offers an opportunity to continue discussing the topic. Regretfully, however, Dr. Clark continues to misunderstand our position. He misunderstands what we mean when we say that the New Covenant alone is the Covenant of Grace. He mistakenly thinks we mean that the Covenant of Grace was not a present reality for OT saints.

Clark claims that 1689 Federalism believes “God the Son is not actually present” in the salvation of saints prior to His incarnation. He says that we deny the Covenant of Grace “was actually present” prior to His incarnation. He says “in the PB view, the covenant of grace is entirely future,” which is in contrast to the reformed view that “It was not merely a future (New Covenant) reality but it was a present reality.” Clark says “The Son did not take up his place de novo at the top of the mountain in the new covenant. He has always been the Mediator,” implying that we deny that Christ was Mediator to the elect prior to his incarnation. He claims that our position is that New Covenant grace was not actually conveyed to the elect prior to Christ’s incarnation. He says “The Old Testament saints were not merely anticipating Christ. They were members of Christ through faith,” implying that we deny this. He says we deny that “Old Testament saints were united to Christ by the Spirit.” In his conclusion, Clark says “When the Particular Baptists speak of the benefit of Christ being communicated, it seems as if they mean that a future reality was revealed to the Old Testament saints, which they anticipated but which was not actually present for them.”

All of that is incorrect. Clark has misunderstood our position.

We affirm that that the benefits of Christ were a present reality for OT saints, which they received through a present union with Christ, which is the Covenant of Grace (a present reality for OT saints, not something entirely future) making them present members of Christ.

Our disagreement with Clark is not whether the Covenant of Grace was present and active during the Old Testament period. Our disagreement with Clark is the way in which the Covenant of Grace was present and active during the Old Testament period.

Why are we being misunderstood? I suspect in part because he has misunderstood what we mean by “retroactive.” But more fundamentally, I suspect it is because of an unstated premise that Clark holds.

  • P1 If the Covenant of Grace was present during the Old Testament period, then the Old Covenant was the Covenant of Grace.
  • P2 The Covenant of Grace was present during the Old Testament period.
  • C Therefore the Old Covenant was the Covenant of Grace.

Because we deny the conclusion, Clark thinks we deny P2. That is not the case. We deny P1. P1 is the point of disagreement and where we should focus our discussion, not P2.

When we say “The New Covenant alone is the Covenant of Grace” Clark hears “The Covenant of Grace was not present during the Old Testament.” But that is not what we said. When we say “The New Covenant alone is the Covenant of Grace,” we also say “The New Covenant was present during the Old Testament.”

There are various other points that Clark makes in his post that might be points of disagreement and are worth discussing. But we cannot have that discussion until this fundamental misunderstanding is resolved. When we say that the New Covenant alone is the Covenant of Grace, we do not deny that New Covenant grace was a present reality for OT saints. You might think that is totally crazy. Nevertheless, it is what we believe.

Coxe

Since Clark quoted Coxe to make his case, here are some quotes from Coxe affirming what I just said.

There is no explicit mention of a covenant of grace before
Abraham’s time and yet the thing is certain and clearly revealed in
Scripture, namely, that all who were saved before his time were
interested in such a covenant and saved only by its grace. (48)

[A]ll the blessings of this covenant redound on believers by means of their union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the Head and Root of the new covenant, and the Fountain from which all its blessings are derived to us. Since these blessings were entirely purchased by him, so are they entirely applied to all that are in him and to none other… [N]one are at any time justified before God except those whom Christ has loved and washed from their sins in his own blood (Revelation 1:5). None are washed by him but those that are in him as the second Adam. It is by union to him as the root of the new covenant that the free gift comes on them to the justification of life (Rom 5:14ff). And none can have union to him but by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit. Wherever the Spirit of God applies the blood of Christ for the remission of sins he does it also for the purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. As certainly as any derive a new covenant right from Christ for pardon, they also receive a vital influence from him for the renovation of their natures and conforming their souls to his own image. (81-82)

The grace and blessings of the new covenant were given and ensured to Abraham for himself. (75)

During the time of the law… [t]he children of God after the Spirit (though as underage children they were subject to the pedagogy of the law, yet) as to their spiritual and eternal state, walked before God and found acceptance with him on terms of the covenant of grace… this spiritual relationship to God [was] according to the terms of the new covenant which the truly godly then had[.] (133)

Note also 2LBCF 7.3 “it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality…” Among its references on this particular statement are Hebrews 11:6, 13 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him… by faith Noah… by faith Abraham… All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Rom 4:1, 2, &cWhat then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'” and John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Thus when we identify the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant alone, we do not exclude those who lived before the establishment of the New Covenant – notably Abraham – from “the grace of this covenant.” Nor do we believe that they waited to receive this grace until the death of Christ. In sum, this New Covenant of Grace was extant and effectual under the Old Testament, so as the church was saved by virtue thereof.

See also the FAQ page at 1689Federalism.com: Did the Covenant of Grace Exist During the Old Testament? as well as Samuel Renihan’s two replies to Clark Typology and Communication in 2LCF 8.6 and Typology: Signs and the Things Signified.