Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Mosaic Covenant: Only for "Life in the Land"?

"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.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Brandon said...

Thanks for your comments Brother. Have you had an opportunity to consider the material here http://www.1689federalism.com/republication-the-mosaic-covenant-and-eternal-life/ ?

10:45 AM  
Blogger Andrew Lindsey said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I have seen that page, and I still agree with Johnson. Nor am I convinced that y'all are reading Coxe quite correctly on this point. Coxe writes:

"Yes, such is his infinite bounty that he has proposed no lower end to his covenant transactions with men than to bring them into a blessed state of eternal enjoyment of himself. And therefore, when one covenant (through the weakness of man in his lapsed state) has been found weak and unprofitable as to this great end of a covenant because insufficient to accomplish it, God finds fault, abolishes it, and introduces another in which full provision is made for the perfect salvation of those that have interest in it (Hebrews 8:7-8)." (37)

I would draw your attention to two matters in the above quote:

1. Coxe writes, "he has proposed no lower end to his covenant transactions with men than to bring them into a blessed state of eternal enjoyment of himself." You are proposing a lower end: namely, "life in the land." [I would argue that, practically speaking, "life in the land" is all that the Mosaic Covenant could actually achieve-and only for a limited time-due to original sin, which was dealt with by the regenerating power of the New Covenant, but this does not make "life in the land" the "end"-properly speaking-of the Mosaic Covenant.]

2. Given the reference to Hebrews 8:7-8, the "one covenant" in view [the one replaced by the New Covenant] is the Mosaic Covenant. The end of the Mosaic Covenant, therefore, is "to bring them into a blessed state of eternal enjoyment of himself." It was due to "the weakness of man in his lapsed state"-NOT due to some "lower end" of the covenant, such as "life in the land"-that those under the Mosaic Covenant did not enter into that blessed state.

9:35 PM  

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