Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ursinus: Law/Gospel - Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace

36 Q What is the difference
between the law and the gospel?

A The law contains the covenant of nature [or works]
established by God with man in creation;
that means,
it is known by man from nature,
it requires perfect obedience of us
to God,
and it promises eternal life
to those who keep it
but threatens eternal punishment
to those who do not.

The gospel, however,
contains the covenant of grace
that means,
although it exists,
it is not known at all from nature;
it shows us
Christ’s fulfillment of that righteousness
which the law requires,
and its restoration in us
through Christ’s Spirit;
and it promises eternal life
freely on account of Christ
to those who believe in him.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Calvin - Faith and this Present Life

Faith does not promise us length of days, riches and honors, (the Lord not having been pleased that any of these should be appointed us); but is contented with the assurance, that however poor we may be in regard to present comforts, God will never fail us. The chief security lies in the expectation of future life, which is placed beyond doubt by the word of God. Whatever be the miseries and calamities which await the children of God in this world, they cannot make his favor cease to be complete happiness.
- John Calvin, Institutes.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Paul on the Mosaic Covenant...

Lee Irons writes:
"Did the Mosaic law demand obedience as the legal basis of obtaining life (Lev 18:5), or is that only a Jewish misunderstanding of the law? If the latter, one cannot make sense of the teaching of Paul that the Mosaic law-covenant was Israel’s “pedagogue unto Christ” (Gal 3:24). One could try to get around this by claiming that it is not the Mosaic covenant but the universally-binding, trans-historical “moral law” that has this pedagogical function. But Paul has already blocked that move by defining what he means by “the law” (ὁ νόμος) in the context: it is the specific covenant that came 430 years after the Abrahamic promise (Gal 3:17); it is the historical expression of the law accompanied by the threat of a curse to the disobedient (Gal 3:10 quoting Deut 27:26) and a promise of life to the doers of the law (Gal 3:12 quoting Lev 18:5); it is the temporary guardian set over the minor children (Israel) “until the date set by the father” (Gal 4:1-2). Of course, there is universal application of this pedagogical function, even for Gentiles, as the Spirit uses the law to convince us of our inability to keep it, but the original reference is to the historical Mosaic covenant and its pedagogical role in redemptive history."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Law-Gospel Application...

This is manifest, not only from the most of the arguments, advanced in the preceding chapter, which prove no less, that Adam was the public representative of his posterity, than that a covenant of works was, in that capacity, made with him; but also, from the following considerations:

First, As the spiritual seed of the second Adam, are called after his name, to show that they were all included in him, as their glorious Representative; so, the natural posterity of the first Adam are, in the original language of the Old Testament, more than four hundred times, called Adam. On the other hand, as Christ the second Man, to show that in the covenant of grace he represented his spiritual offspring, is in the Old Testament, denominated Jacob and Israel...

Further, This is also evident, from these words of the apostle Paul: "For since by man came death, by man came also, the resurrection of the dead; for as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive." By the one man here, is evidently meant Christ the second man, and by the other, is understood Adam the first man. By the one, comes the resurrection of the dead, for in him, shall all his spiritual seed be made alive; by the other, came death, for in him, all, that is, all his natural descendants die. But, how could all his posterity die in Adam, if they had not all sinned in him, as their natural head, and federal representative? and, how could they have sinned in him, as their covenant-representative, when he sinned, by eating the forbidden fruit, if when the Covenant of Works was made with him, he had not been their representative?...

Again, The wrath of God which, Adam, by breaking the covenant of innocence, deserved and incurred, falls on all the human race. The elect of God are naturally under it, even as others. The believers in Ephesus "were by nature children of wrath, even as others." They were naturally chargeable with original sin, and from their very conception, were infected with it. On that account, they were condemned, and exposed to the eternal wrath of Jehovah as really, as those are, who are chargeable with actual transgressions. The first sin of Adam is imputed to the persons of his posterity, and the corruption of nature, under which he thereby fell, begins, as soon as they are conceived or formed in the womb, to be interwoven with their nature. They, therefore, as soon as they are conceived and born, before they can be capable of committing any actual sin, deserve, and are justly exposed to, the wrath of God. The obvious consequence is, that all the offspring of Adam, were comprehended or comprised in him, as their covenant-head and representative, when he sinned, and so became liable, to the sin-avenging wrath of the most High...

In the last place, The great Apostle of the Gentiles writes thus: "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second Man, is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also, that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The second Man is the second or last Adam; the first man, is the first Adam. The Lord Jesus Christ is the second Man, in respect that, in the covenant of grace, he is a public Person, the Representative of his elect-seed. Adam therefore is the first man, because in the covenant of works, he was not only the natural, but the moral root, the public representative of his posterity. Since then there is a second Man, representing all his spiritual children, the opposition in the passage requires, that there be also a first man, a public person, representing all his natural offspring. When the covenant of works then was made, it was made with Adam, as—a holy and upright man; as the natural root;—and as the moral head or representative, of all his natural descendants...
It is evident from what hath now been advanced, that it is not enough that we assent, simply to the truth concerning the Covenant of Works, but that we believe and consider it well, with application to ourselves. We cannot consistently, take hold of God's covenant of grace, or apply to ourselves any of the promises of it, unless we previously believe with particular application, his covenant of works. Be persuaded, reader, that this covenant was made with the first Adam, in thy name, or for thee in particular. Consider it attentively, and with application to the state of thy own soul. Lay to heart, O, lay to heart, without a moment's delay, thy own case in relation to it. If thou be still under the dominion of sin, thou art as really, as completely, under that covenant, as if thou hadst in thy own person, consented to all the articles of it. O, do not any longer doubt of the reality of it. Thou and I, reader, have sufficient evidence even within ourselves that a covenant of life was made with our common parent. Nothing is more natural for us than to do, that we may live; than to think, that our performances will entitle us to the favour and enjoyment of God; and that if we do our part, God will do his.  
O do not flatter thyself, that, by thy own righteousness or strength, thou wilt be able to discharge, and dissolve the obligations of this covenant. Thy violation of it in Adam, instead of setting thee free from it, lays thee effectually and completely, under the dreadful penalty of it. Thou canst not otherwise be delivered from it, than by a discharge obtained from Jehovah himself, the other contracting Party: and such a discharge cannot be granted, but upon full satisfaction given to all its demands. Thou canst not have thy discharge, from the hand of Divine justice, till the very last farthing, of thy debt of obedience and suffering to the law be paid. — "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." It is impossible for thee, O sinner, ever to satisfy the demands of the law as a covenant, otherwise than by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ, as Jehovah thy righteousness, and counting to the law, all that he did and suffered, as done and suffered for thee. Assure thyself, that if ever thou "become dead to the law" in its covenant-form, it must be "by the body of Christ." Accept Him, then, as the end of the law for righteousness to thee in particular; and having received abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, thou shalt reign in life by one Jesus Christ, the glorious Head of a new, and a better covenant.
John Colquhoun, Treatise on the Covenant of Works, pp. 34-41

Monday, March 30, 2015

Calvin: Assurance Reposes in Grace Through Faith in Christ...

First I ask, whether there be any sin, however light, that is not inconsistent with the observance of the law? For what vicious thought will creep into the mind of man if it be wholly occupied with the love of God? The law is not satisfied unless God is loved with the whole heart. That men do not therefore cease to be righteous I admit. But why so, but just because they are blessed to whom sin is not imputed? If they insist on being righteous by works, on which their consciences can repose in the sight of God, they, in the first place, subvert faith, and do an insufferable wrong to the grace of God; and, in the second place, they bring no support to their impious doctrine as to possible observance of the law...
John Calvin. Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Whence Saving Faith?

Heidelberg Catechism 
Q. 65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence does this faith proceed? 
A. From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.
"We do not find God; he finds us. Faith comes not by feeling, thinking, seeing, or striving, but by hearing."- Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology For Pilgrims On The Way.

Thoughts On Faith and the Gospel...

Where does saving faith come from? The answer, I suppose is pretty obvious. Scripture teaches that the faith which saves is the faith that God gives, i.e. the faith given to a sinner who looks to Christ for salvation. How then is saving faith given to sinners by God? He gives it them through their hearing the gospel. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Again, faith in Christ comes to sinners through hearing the gospel. And to state the obvious, Christians are still sinners and as sinners still need to regularly HEAR the gospel, and in order to hear the gospel it needs to be proclaimed. Faith in Christ is renewed and strengthened through the preaching of the gospel.

Faith is a grace of the gospel. And like the gospel it comes to us from outside of us. Saving faith is not something that we conjure up from within, or muster up or build up through self-effort or positive thinking. Rather, saving faith is a gift of God by which we apprehend the good news of Christ crucified "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 29-30). Paul wrote,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom. 1:16)
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 1:23-24)
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:2-5)
Faith that is given through the hearing of the gospel is the very same faith that is renewed in the hearing of the gospel. It is faith born of and nourished by the gospel that trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of salvation through him.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ? A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
That isn't meant to be a one time experience. It's an ongoing means of grace in the Christian life. And it's the gospel of Jesus Christ apprehended through faith that humbles and leads believers into thankful obedience to God. As Westminster Larger Catechism Q/A 97 teaches, the primary function of the moral law for believers is to continue to point them to the gospel causing them to realize how much they...
are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.
Which echoes Paul's words,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as offered in the gospel, salvation from sin is received by faith as an already judgment before the throne of God. In God's declaration of justification in Christ received through faith, sinners/saints can know that they truly have peace with God (Rom. 5:1; 8:1). And yet in daily experience, the Christian life in many ways is a not yet. We still struggle with sins, many of which easily entangle us. We often struggle to obey. Where is one to find comfort and the assurance of salvation in light of this kind of personal experience? Certainly not from within. Shouldn't we then conclude that in this life we'll always need to hear the good news proclaimed? The word of salvation in Christ is the ongoing means of salvation for the elect and it is still, and always, by grace through faith in Christ alone.

Some additional thoughts...

It is the gospel that God has ordained as the means to bring sinners to Christ. Indeed as Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 "the gospel... is the power of God for salvation unto everyone who believes..." So then where does faith come from? Yes, it is a gift of grace from God himself to the elect. And how does God communicate that gift of grace? Calvin writes:
"God inspires us with faith, but it is by the instrumentality of his gospel, as Paul reminds us, "Faith cometh by hearing" (Romans 10:17). God reserves to himself the power of maintaining it, but it is by the preaching of the gospel, as Paul also declares, that he brings it forth and unfolds it." Institutes 4.1.5
Can we then not say that it is upon hearing the gospel that we receive from God the gracious gift of faith by which we believe the very same gospel that we are hearing? And it's that same gospel proclaimed that continues to nourish and strengthen our faith in Christ. 
Belgic Confession, Article 24The Sanctification of Sinners - We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God's Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a "new man," causing him to live the "new life" and freeing him from the slavery of sin.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Unequal to the Observance of Law, Flee to the Grace of Christ...

"I go farther, and assert, that what the Scriptures declare never shall be, is impossible; although, if we are to debate about a word, the very thing was expressed by Peter, (Acts 15.) when he spoke of the yoke of the law as that which none of their fathers could bear. It is an error to suppose that this refers only to ceremonies: for what so very arduous was there in ceremonies as to make all human strength fail under the burden of them? He undoubtedly means that all mankind from the beginning were, and still are, unequal to the observance of the law, and that therefore nothing remains but to flee to the grace of Christ, which, loosing us from the yoke of the law, keeps us as it were under free custody. And it is to be observed that he is speaking of the regenerate, lest the Fathers of Trent quibble, and say that he spoke of the weakness of the flesh when the assistance of the Spirit is wanting. For he affirms that prophets and patriarchs, and pious kings, however aided by the Spirit of God, were unable to bear the yoke of the law, and declares, without ambiguity, that the observance of the law was impossible..."
John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Two Covenants: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion...

"The spirit of bondage is the effect of the law, which, manifesting his sinfulness to man, and the fearful wrath of God, makes him tremble under the apprehension of its curse. The Apostle, comparing the two covenants, namely, the law from Mount Sinai, and the gospel from Mount Zion, says, that the one from Mount Sinai gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar, but Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of all believers; because, like Isaac, they are the children of the promise. Now, this promise is the promise of grace. For as man has sinned, the law which demands perfect obedience, and pronounces a curse against him who continues not in all things which it commands, must condemn and reduce him to the condition of a slave, who after he transgresses expects nothing but punishment. On this account, when God promulgated his law amidst thunderings and lightnings, the mountain trembled, and the people feared and stood afar off. This showed that man could only tremble under the law, as he could not be justified by it; but that he must have recourse to another covenant, namely the covenant of grace, in which God manifests his mercy and his love, in which he presents to sinners the remission of their sins, and the righteousness of his well-beloved Son; for in this covenant he justifies the ungodly, Rom. iv., 5, and imputes to them righteousness without works. He adopts as his own children those who were formerly children of wrath, and gives the Spirit of adoption to them who had before a spirit of bondage and servile fear."
[emphasis added]
Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans p. 360. Robert Haldane

Two relevant passages of Scripture:
"And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the heart of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And Jehovah spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even the ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone." Deuteronomy 4:11-13 (ASV)

"Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more."
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ASV)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Covenant of Works Republished at Sinai - Colquhoun

In chapter one of his book, Treatise on the Covenant of Works, John Colquhoun refers to the Sinai covenant as his first proof of the existence of a covenant of works with Adam:
1. This contract between God and the first
Adam, is in sacred writ, expressly styled a covenant.
"These are the two covenants; the one from the
mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which
is Agar." 
Here are two covenants mentioned,
the one of which, genders to bondage, and the
other, to liberty or freedom. The covenant of
grace, or "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus," is the one which genders to liberty, or
which makes free from the law of sin and death.
The one, therefore, which genders to bondage,
must be that law or covenant of works, which was
republished to the Israelites, from mount Sinai
which required perfect obedience to the ten commandments,
on pain of death, and contained a promise
of life, to the man who should do, or perform
such obedience. 
This covenant, which "the thunderings,
and lightnings, and thick cloud, and voice
of the trumpet exceeding loud, on the mount," proclaim
to have been a covenant of works, gendereth
to bondage. By the awful manner, in which it
was then displayed; by the strictness of its precepts,
and the dreadful severity of its penalty, it
tends to beget a slavish and servile spirit, in all
who are under the dominion of it, and to subject
them to bondage of the most ignominious kind. 
Now this covenant, is here contrasted with the covenant
of grace, which, for his comfort, was revealed
to Adam immediately after the fall ; and,
therefore, it must have been made with him, before
the fall. And indeed, we cannot suppose that Jehovah,
to whom infinite Goodness, as well as infinite
Justice, is always essential, could have published
such a covenant of works, from Sinai, to
man in his state of sin, in which he is "without
strength to obey, if he had not already entered
into it with him, in his state of innocence. (pp. 5-6) 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Assurance: Works and Grace? Calvin - "Nay!"

"The question under discussion was, whether observance of the law was to be exacted of the Gentiles. He says it ought not, because there is no other salvation in the Christian Church than through the grace of Christ, and there never was any other. (Acts 4:12.) And justly; for, as Paul says, the promise will not be secure unless it depends on the grace of God and on faith. (Romans 4:16.) Will they pretend that he is here, too, speaking of preceding merits? Nay, he declares that the greatest saints can have no assurance of salvation, unless it repose on the grace of Christ. He therefore abolishes faith who does not retain his as the only righteousness, which exists even until death."
John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Assurance and the Law-Gospel Antithesis...

"While no sane man will strike off the yoke of God from the shoulders of believers, as if they behooved not to keep his Commandments, it must still be understood that assurance of salvation by no means depends on the observance of them. For the words of Paul always hold true, that the difference between the Law and the Gospel lies in this, that the latter does not like the former promise life under the condition of works, but from faith. What can be clearer than the antithesis — “The righteousness of the law is in this wise, The man who doeth these things shall live in them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh thus, Whoso believeth,” etc. (Romans 10:5.) To the same effect is this other passage,"
“If the inheritance were of the law, faith would be made void and the promise abolished. Therefore it is of faith that in respect of grace the promise might be sure to every one that believeth.” (Romans 4:14.)
John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Christ's Works - Ground of Believer's Title to Life...

"The inability of the law, therefore, to afford eternal life now, arises merely from the sinner's inability, to afford that perfect obedience, which it originally required, and still requires as the ground of a title to life. If sin had not been committed, the law as a covenant of works, could have still conducted men to that everlasting life, which Christ the last Adam, confers upon his children."
John Colquhoun, Treatise of the Covenant of Works. p. 76