"So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD." (Leviticus 18:5 NASB)
In a recent interview with Dr. Guy Waters, Brandon Adams and Pascal Denault helpfully pointed out how the above verse demonstrates that the Mosaic Covenant is not simply an administration of the Covenant of Grace (the standard Presbyterian view, which effectively erases key differences between the Old and New Covenants); rather, the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant of works. In explaining how the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of works, Adams was careful to say that the Mosaic Covenant did not promise eternal life, but only “life in the land.” There may be some problems, however, with viewing the life indicated in Leviticus 18:5 as only involving “life in the land.” Notably:
1. If the Mosaic Covenant could only secure “life in the land,” then this fact would immediately defeat the assertions of the Apostle Paul’s opponents. When arguing against anti-Christian Jewish opponents and Judaizers, who would seek to bind people to certain aspects of the Law in order to achieve salvation, Paul never writes, “Look, the Law can only give you ‘life in the land’ rather than eternal life anyway.” If the Law only had “life in the land” in view, then pointing this out would immediately undermine the arguments of those seeking to use the Law for soteriological purposes.
2. On the other hand, New Testament passages exploring the function of the Mosaic Covenant make a different point about why it could not secure life: a point inconsistent with the view that the Law was only able to secure “life in the land.” NT passages where Leviticus 18:5 is cited (see Rom 10:5, Gal 3:12) are explicitly soteriological; the life under consideration can hardly be only “life in the land” any more than the “curse of the Law” that we actually earn (as mentioned in Gal 3) could conceivably be limited to the loss of real estate. Jeffrey Smith rightly summarizes key components of Paul’s view concerning the Mosaic law, writing:
The Judaizers were insisting that Gentiles be circumcised. Paul argues that insistence on the necessity of circumcision in order to be justified brings one under a debt to obey the whole law in order to be justified. The law and its obligations cannot be treated piece-meal. If one insists on adherence to any aspect of the law as the means or ground of justification, then one is under obligation to obey the whole law as the means of justification. [Jeffery Smith, “An Overview and Critique of the New Perspective,” Reformed Baptist Theological Review 4 (2007), 112.]
3. Finally, the view that the Mosaic Covenant could only secure "life in the land" for the one perfectly keeping it may undermine the doctrine of Christ's active righteousness. Christ fulfilled the law of Moses (Matt 5:17-19; Gal 3:10-14). Why did He do this? It was not for His own sake (the eternal Son of God had no need in Himself to be subjected to regulations mediated by one of His creatures); rather, it was for us and our salvation. He did not fulfill the Law on our behalf just in order to secure an area of ground in the Middle East; rather, He fulfilled the Law in order to secure eternal life for His elect bride.
Labels: Bible study, Reformation Theology