Tuesday, September 12, 2006

We Can Work It Out

The more I consider the issues we have been discussing -- particularly the relationship of works to faith and law to gospel -- the more I realize the importance of properly distinguishing between the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants.

Although many proponents of the Federal Vision see the same dynamic existing across the covenantal spectrum (a strange mixture of grace on the one hand and threat of curse on the other), the truth is that the works principle ("Do this and live") that characterized the Adamic and Mosaic covenants (Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12; cf. Lev. 18:5) is in direct opposition to the grace principle that is found in the Abrahamic covenant. As Paul writes:

"Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.... For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void." Rom. 4:4-5, 13-14
Abraham's good works that he clearly displayed by "not staggering at God's promise through unbelief" contributed in no way whatsoever to his securing of the promised blessing, for if they did, "he would have something of which to boast" (vv. 20, 1-2). If Paul is at all coherent here, he is saying that the law, which did promise blessing for obedience, could not have been the means of the promise's fulfillment without completely overthrowing the graciousness of the arrangement (v. 16).

There is no question, of course, that all God's covenantal arrangements include an important place for works. But the specific role that works play in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants could not be more different. In the latter, they are the means to secure the (typological) blessing. In the former, they are the necessary result of Christ having secured the (eternal) blessing for us.

So here's my question: Which of these two covenantal arrangements most resembles the dynamic of life under the New Covenant?