328: Mosaic Covenant

I. Long-Standing Disagreement

A. Heinrich Bullinger, De testamento seu foedere Dei unico et aeterno (1534).
B. John Owen

1. Beeke and Jones, chapter 18

2. Savoy Declaration

 

II. Meredith Kline’s View of the Mosaic Covenant (MC)

A. No uniform, monolithic view  (review of Merit & Moses)
B. Two convergent strands/distinctions of Kline’s thought

1. Kline very big on typology. In the MC, this produces a distinction between the symbolico-typical level of the covenant and the spiritual level of the covenant.

a. Symbolico-typical level

b. Spiritual level

2. Reliance on Ancient Near Eastern treaties. This produces a distinction between ‘Promise Covenants’ and ‘Law Covenants’ as here.

a. ‘Promise Covenants’

b. ‘Law Covenants’

c. A distinction based on the swearing of covenant oaths

C. The symbolico-typical level of the MC is categorized as a law covenant.

1. Covenant oath in Exodus 24

2. Distinct from Abrahamic Covenant and larger Covenant of Grace (CoG)

3. The law covenant is particularly focused on national/ethnic Israel and the inheritance of Canaan.

a. If obedience is rendered to the Law, Israel will retain the land.

b. If obedience is not rendered, Israel will forfeit the land.

c. The outcome of the covenant is contingent upon Israel’s performance.

4. The obedience required is not a perfect, personal obedience. ‘What we have found then is that once the typological kingdom was inaugurated under the Mosaic Covenant, Israel’s retention of it was governed by a principle of works applied on a national scale. The || standard of judgment in this national probation was one of typological legibility, that is, the message must remain reasonably readable that enjoyment of the felicity of God’s holy kingdom goes hand in hand with righteousness. Without holiness, we do not see God.’ (Mark Karlberg, ‘Reformed Theology as the Theology of the Covenants’, Creator, Redeemer, Consummator: Festschrift for Kline, 246-247)

5. This construction is present in Michael Horton

a. MC is seen as a law covenant; based on oath in Exodus 24

b. MC seen as a national covenant for Israel

c. The covenant called only for a ‘relative fidelity’ from Israel (Horton, Introduction to Covenant Theology, 38). Obedience required is neither perfect nor personal.

d. The reward for this ‘relative fidelity’ was the possession of the typological land of Canaan.

e. Judgment of Exile imposed only after generations of failure to attain to ‘relative fidelity’.

6. On the symbolico-typical level, a “relative fidelity” that was “typologically legible” was required in order for Israel to maintain possession of the typological land of Canaan.

a. It is in this regard that Kline et al refer to a “works principle” being re-injected into God’s covenant dealings at Sinai.

b. The purpose of this “works principle” was not to provide a way to attain salvation, but rather to point to Christ. A pedagogical use.

D. The spiritual level of the MC is categorized as a promise covenant. The MC points us to our need of righteousness, to be found and given in Christ.
E. Summary

1. On the symbolico-typical level:

a. A law covenant with righteousness required

b. Works principle enunciated

c. Disappeared with the Exile

2. On the spiritual level

a. A promise covenant

b. Points to the righteousness found in Christ

F. Points at which Kline needs to be critiqued

1. The focus shifts to the symbolico-typical level.

2. Untold implications for the abiding validity and place of the Law.

3. Even if you do suppose the symbolic-typical level, the typology is deceptive.

4. There is no exegetical warrant from the OT to make a distinction between the symbolico-typical level and the spiritual level and to see the symbolico-typical level as based on works.

a. Both ‘levels’ interpenetrate each other in the Biblical account; e.g. Deuteronomy 10.12f, 30.1-10

b. Tom Schreiner’s appendix in The Law and Its Fulfillment.

5. Truncates our view of God. In the Biblical record, restraint of judgment is rooted not in the terms of relative fidelity, but in the character of God.

G. Terminology of ‘Republication’

1. General idea is that at Sinai, the CoW was, in some way, being ‘republished’.

a. Some hold the radical position that the fullness of the CoW was being republished.

b. Some, like Horton, hold that simply a ‘works principle’ was being republished at Sinai, although without salvific implications.

c. Others hold that a ‘works principle’ is being republished, but without reference to any specific reward, salvific or otherwise. Essentially, the MC is reiterating that obedience is required within the covenant.

2. A great deal of diversity here. Illustrated even in The Law is Not of Faith.

III. Location of the MC

IV. The MC’s Organic Continuity with the CoG as Embodied in the AC

A. The CoG has precipitated the MC; Exodus 2.23-25
B. The CoG drives the MC

1. Exodus 19.4-6

a. Ex. 19:4-5. God reminds Israel of the tangible benefits they have had through the CoG.

b. Ex. 19:6. עתה (see here). As the practical conclusion of the benefit they have enjoyed through the CoG, Israel is to obey God’s voice.

2. Israel’s compulsion to obey the Law of the MC comes from their participation in the AC

3. Preface to the Ten Commandments; Exodus 20.1-2; Deuteronomy 5.6.

4. It is because of the AC that Israel receives the Law; and it is because of the AC that Israel to obey the Law.

C. The CoG, as it was recently embodied in the AC, receives further clarification in the MC. See this even with what appears to be the clearest example of departure and innovation in the MC – the Law.

1. Already had been commands within the CoG.

a. Noah

b. Abraham

2. Already had been penalties for violations of these commands

3. Law and command was evident in the world at large

4. In the Law, this Divine command receives its clearest revelation and distillation.

a. In some cases, the Law codified what already was extant; e.g. the Sabbath Ordinance.

b. This clarification is gracious.

5. Even in what appears to be the MC’s greatest departure from the CoG, we see that actually, God is bringing greater and gracious clarity to something that has been present throughout the CoG to date. Command is part of God’s covenantal relationship with His people. In the MC, this integral component simply receives greater clarification, systemization, and codification.

D. The MC is in organic continuity with the CoG as that covenant was embodied in the AC. There are differences of emphasis, but that is what clarification and progress requires. If there were no differences from one covenantal administration to the next, God’s covenantal purpose would be static.

V. The MC’s Advancement of the CoG

A. The MC advances the three covenant promises made to Abram, bringing them to greater fulfilment.

1. Promise of a seed.

2. Promise of a land.

3. Promise that Abram’s descendants would be a blessing to all the nations.

a. Exodus 19.5-6. Israel as a ‘kingdom of priests’.

b. The identity of the Law.

i. The Law as a description of the holiness of God. The Law takes God’s righteous character and describes how it is lived out in the midst of human society.

ii. This identity undergirds the Three Uses of the Law.

a) Reveals our sin.

b) Restrains evil.

c) Guides the believer in righteousness; shows us what holiness looks like.

c. When God’s people render obedience to His Law, they display His holiness to a watching world.

i. Scripturally, obedience to the Law brings the reflection of God’s own holiness.

ii. Leviticus 19.2. The holiness displayed by obedience to the Law is analogous to God’s own holiness.

iii. Matthew 5.48. Obedience to the Law, applied to the heart, produces a ‘perfection’ analogous to the perfection of the Father Himself.

d. The Law’s connection with the ‘priesthood’ of Exodus 19.5-6.

i. Through obedience, Israel will show God’s holiness to the world, representing God to man.

ii. Through obedience, Israel will serve as a light in the midst of darkness and will draw God’s people to Himself, bringing men into God’s presence.

e. Connection with Exodus 24.

i. Klinean notion that Exodus 24 shows the MC to be a Law Covenant.

ii. A different understanding

a) Exodus 29.19-20. The only other place in Scripture where a similar ceremony occurs and includes the application of blood to people. Here, it is in the consecration of priests.

b) Hebrews 9.18-22. Reflects on Exodus 24 and treats Moses’ application of blood to the people as the application of cleansing blood; blood that brings the remission of sin.

iii. Exodus 24 as a consecration service.

iv. A further note on Exodus 24.

a) Deuteronomy 29.12, 14-15. Scriptures speak of God making the oath.

b) Israel ‘accepts’ the covenant?

4. The Abrahamic promises are advanced in the MC. A nationalized people of God are given instructions on how to live in the land in such a way that all the nations behold the glory of God.

B. The MC places sin and atonement in the forefront of God’s covenantal relationship with His people.

1. The Law showed Israel their sin. In this, it brought a profound advancement in the understanding of atonement within the covenant.

2. God’s people had recognized the need for atonement before.

3. In the MC, the practice of sacrifice receives detailed clarification and it is put in its proper context.

4. Exodus 20

a. Ex. 20:1-17. The Decalogue.

b. Ex. 20:18-21. The people’s terrified reaction.

c. Ex. 20:22f. Regulations concerning the altar.

d. The revelation of the Law is not only joined to the revelation of atonement; the revelation of the Law is intended to lead to the revelation of atonement.

e. In the same covenant in which God exposed the sin of His people with the righteousness of His Law, He also gave them explicit and clear – and gracious – instructions on how that sin was to be taken away.

5. In the Mosaic covenant, God gave His people the Law to find their sin, a sacrificial system to wash it away, and the Law to guide them in walking after Him.

 

VI. Overall Presentation of the MC in the Pentateuch

A. It is in marked continuity with the CoG as it was most recently embodied in the AC.
B. The MC advances the CoG.
 

VII. The MC and the Law in the NT; 5 important principles

A. In NT times, the MC represented the clearest and most comprehensive revelation of the CoG.
B. While the MC was the clearest, most comprehensive revelation of the CoG prior to the coming of Christ, it paled in comparison with the glory of Christ and the New Covenant in Him.

1. Example of NCAA basketball tournament

2. ‘Covenantal regression’

a. It is the regression; the moving back; that is bad, not the MC in itself.

b. Applies to other covenants, as well.

C. Because of the clarity and the prominence of the MC, when the NT authors want to refer back to a previous period in redemptive history to highlight the glories of the New Covenant, they almost invariably refer to the MC.

1. The MC was the revelatory stage preceding the NT.

2. The distinctive emphases of the MC highlight some of the emphases of the New Covenant.

3. 2 Corinthians 3.1-18

a. Negative language used to refer to the ‘Old Covenant’

b. Positive language used to refer to the ‘Old Covenant’; 2Cor. 3:7, 9, 10, 11.

c. Paul is making a distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

i. The relationship between the two is one of growing, intensifying glory.

ii. 2Cor. 3:10. The Old Covenant ‘has no glory’ only in the sense that the glory of the New Covenant now engulfs it.

d. 2Cor. 3:3-6.

i. Paul uses language of Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 31. The superabundant glory of the New Covenant is that in that covenant, the Spirit is poured out in the people of God, who have been given new hearts. Without the Spirit, there is no power to obey.

ii. The defect is not in the Law, but in the sinful hearts of men.

e. The negative presentation of the MC is only in comparison with the New Covenant. Seen by itself, the MC is ‘glorious’.

4. Same dynamic found elsewhere; e.g. John 1.17

D. Much of the NT was written in polemical contexts. One of the areas of most ferocious debate within the early Church was the status of the Law.

1. NT authors often are writing to correct false teachings; teachings which often centered on wrong views of the Law and the MC. This results in a ‘negative’ presentation of the MC.

2. When the NT considers the Law in the abstract, it is portrayed positively; e.g. Matthew 5.17; Romans 7.12.

3. Galatians 3.6-14

a. Paul is addressing the Judaizing heresy; the compulsion to look to the Law in some measure for justification.

b. Gal. 3:6-9. Paul details that God always has justified His people by faith.

c. Gal. 3:10-12. Paul points out that God never has justified His people through the Law (cf. Galatians 3.21-22).

i. Therefore, all who look to the Law for righteousness are condemned (Gal. 3:10; quoting Deuteronomy 27.26).

ii. It is clear that no one can win righteousness by the Law because the just are made just by faith (Gal. 3:11, quoting Habakkuk 2.4); from Abraham to Habakkuk, God always had saved the just through faith. But the Law is not of faith (Gal. 3:12) because the effectiveness of the Law comes through doing (Gal. 3:12, quoting Leviticus 18.5). The benefit of the Law comes to the man who does the Law.

iii. The blessings that the Law brought, it brought to those who obeyed.

iv. God always had justified His people by faith; the Law profited those who did. Justification came by faith; the Law operated in relation to performance.

a) Gal. 3:10

b) The Law does not operate on the same currency that is involved in justification, so why look to it for justification?

v. The Law is useless for justification. It never was intended to pertain to justification. It has other positive uses, but not justification.

a) Application

d. Gal. 3:12-14. Paul calls on the Galatians to look to Jesus for righteousness.

e. Paul is not pitting Law and Faith against each other; he is pointing out that they were intended for different things.

E. The Judaism of the NT era was horribly misguided; it was a distortion of the faith of the OT. Institutionally speaking, the ‘heirs of Moses’ were wrong. Sometimes, negative language is simply a case of critiquing a wrong view.

1. Matthew 5

2. Matthew 23

3. Acts

F. Confluence of five Principles

1. Each principle is clear enough in itself. In specific NT passages, a mixture of these principles can create confusion about the Law.

2. One of two scenarios often happens

a. The NT author will appear to be critiquing the Law, yet in actuality, he is critiquing a false view of the Law that is being forwarded at that time; e.g. Galatians 3.21.

b. The NT author will critique the Law proper. However, it is being critiqued as something that is held up as an alternative to Christ; e.g. Hebrews.

 

VIII. A Biblical Paradigm for the Law in the NT – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

A. The Law has an eternal, binding authority

1. Matthew 5.17-20

2. Jesus is not soft on the Law!

B. The Law, as it was then being taught by contemporary Judaism, had been perversely distorted.

1. Six antitheses of Matthew 5. The Law had been distorted to such an extent that it was actually working counter to its intended purpose and Jesus had come to correct it.

2. In the epistles, this same principle applies to Judaizers within the early Church.

C. A correct view of the Law was still to be enjoined upon Christ’s followers.

1. The Six Antitheses

2. Jesus’ declaration in Matt. 5.20

3. Jesus’ expressed desire in Matt. 5.48

4. Jesus has ‘internalized’ the Law, but obedience to that correctly-viewed Law still is enjoined.

D. The Sermon on the Mount presents the Law as an eternal authority that must be rescued from abuse; brought into the current age of redemptive understanding (in this case, internalized and heightened); and then applied. The Law is to be maintained, vindicated, clarified, and applied.
E. What is said about the Law throughout the NT fits with the view that is found so clearly in the Sermon on the Mount.

1. When something seems, initially, to run counter to the clear teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, we must study how to reconcile them; must allow clearer passages to interpret less clear ones.

2. I Peter 2.1-12. See that the Law still does what it always has done; it marks out God’s people as a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

a. I Peter 2:1-8. Peter is dealing with obedience to the Law among Christians.

b. I Peter 2:9. Peter speaks of Christians being a royal priesthood.

c. I Peter 2:11-12. Peter returns to obedience within the Church.

 

IX. A Practical Question

What role is the Law to have in the lives of Christians today? Three options.
A. Can ignore the Law altogether.
B. Can focus on the parts of the Law that you keep.
C. Can focus on the parts of the Law that you do not keep.