The Marrow of Modern Divinity and the Recent Republication Issue.



Someone on the Puritanboard wanted to know how the view of Republication contained in the Marrow of Modern Divinity measured up.

He asked, “I have some questions in regards to Republication in the book Marrow of Modern Divinity. The book seems to be supporting some sort of republication of the CoW at Sinai. The Republication of the CoW proposed in Marrow does not seem like what we have in modern Republication. Am I right?”

Reverend Winzer does a really good job pointing out the positions advocated in the Marrow. He speaks and addresses a few questions in the discussion linked to above that I think highlight some of the problems with the Modern understanding propagated by those who hold to the modern Republication model advocated by David Van Drunnen, R. Scott Clark, Bryan Estelle, J. V. Fesko, and those who adhere to the teachings of Meredith G. Kline’s later theological stance concerning the Mosaic Covenant.

Reverend Winzer comments in Post 2…

‘The traditional view held that there was a republication subordinate to the covenant of grace, whereas the modern movement maintains that republication is co-ordinate with the covenant of grace. The one sets forth the unity and continuity of the covenant of grace as administered under Law and Gospel while the other introduces division and discontinuity into the covenant of grace.”

The last post at this time ,post #12, is an answer to Reverend Todd Ruddell.

Reverend Ruddell asks, “What is the “Marrow” combating in that line of argument?”

Reverend Winzer replies,”Antinomista questioned the belief that the covenant of grace was renewed with the people of Israel and is the same in substance with the new covenant, and quoted Jeremiah in an attempt to show there are two covenants differing in substance. From an Antinomian perspective, the law and the old covenant are one and the same and the abrogation of the old covenant entails abrogation of the law in every respect.”

Now, I know for a fact that one of the Professors I use to communicate with holds to a doctrinal stance that Antinomista is advocating in the Marrow. That being that the Mosaic Covenant is both an administration of the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.  It is a mixed Covenant.  Let me quote Dr. R. Scott Clark’s Theological Theses at the end of this blog. It is certain that even Evangelista is in opposition to the movement that is being presented today as an acceptable understanding of Republication. But it wasn’t Fisher’s or Boston’s view that these men are teaching and claiming to advance.  I have heard one of them specifically say they are in agreement with what the Marrow men advocated.  If the Marrow of Modern Divinity is teaching the doctrine of the Marrow Men then it appears that some of these guys are off base.  Reverend Winzer points out that the root of this teaching advocated by this Modern teaching has more in common with Antinomista’s position.  Reverend Winzer makes note of this in his last sentence on post 6 stating, “If one is looking to trace the co-ordinate view of republication to its ancestry the tree will lead back to Antinomista, not Evangelista.”

Dr. Clark’s Theological Theses.
Biblical / Exegetical section…
13. The Mosaic covenant was not renewed under Christ, but the Abrahamic covenant was.

16. With regard to the land promise, the Mosaic covenant was, mutandis, for pedagogical reasons (Galatians 3:23-4:7), a republication of the Adamic covenant of works.

17. With regard to justification and salvation, the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace.

18. The Israelites were given the land and kept it by grace (2 Kings 13:23) but were expelled for failure to keep a temporary, typical, pedagogical, covenant of works (Genesis 12:7; Exodus 6:4; Deuteronomy 29:19-29; 2 Kings 17:6-7; Ezekiel 17).

19. The covenant of grace, initiated in history after the fall, was in its antepenultimate state under Adam, Noah, and Abraham, its penultimate state under the New Covenant administration and shall reach its ultimate (eschatological) state in the consummation.

20. The term “Old Covenant” as used in Scripture refers to the Mosaic epoch not every epoch before the incarnation nor to all of the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures indiscriminately.

21. The New Covenant is new relative to Moses, not Abraham.


I thought the thread was pretty explanatory.  It lays out that the modern understanding of Republication differs significantly from that of the teaching in the Marrow of Modern Divinity. This should draw a line for some of us. I personally am not a Marrow Man but it is within the confessional bounds of Reformed teaching. That being that the Mosaic Covenant is an Administration of the Covenant of Grace and not a mixed Covenant.

Be Encouraged guys. Press on.


The Covenant of Grace, The Sinaitic and the New



The Covenant of Grace, The Sinaitic and the New
Drs. J van Gunderen and W. H. Velema
Concise Reformed Dogmatics pp. 548-550 P&R 2008

3. The Sinaitic Covenant.  We can say with Bavinck that the covenant with the fathers is the foundation and core of the Sinaitic covenant (R. D., 3.220).  God’s faithfulness toward the patriarchs is mentioned as the motive (Deut. 7:8).  There is continuity so that also the covenant with Israel bears the character of a covenant of Grace.  This is sufficiently clear from the words of Exodus 20:2, although in the phase of the history of the covenant there is a great emphasis on the observance of God’s commandments.

Sometimes the distinction between the covenant with Abraham and that with Israel at Sinai is almost turned into a contrast.  Thus it is said that although the latter is indeed not a covenant of works, it is presented in a form that is strongly reminiscent of a covenant of works (Aalders, 1939. 179).  We can object that the emphasis on what God demands from his people does not take us into the sphere of a covenant of works.  In Deuteronomy the central idea is that the people will keep the covenant.  Blessing and curse depend on this (Deut. 27-30), but it is the obligation to respond to God’s love that carries the covenant (see Deut. 6:4-5; 7:6-8; 30:19-20).  The Law is the torah, which plays a role within the covenant.  It provides the instruction that is required to make the people walk in the way of the covenant.  Just as Abraham is called to walk before God’s face when the Lord allies himself with him (Gen17.1), so the law that is given to Israel serves the covenant as a further explanation of the statement, “Walk before me and be thou perfect” (cf. Bavinck, R. D. 3.222).

4. In connection with the prophesies concern a new covenant or an eternal covenant, which God is about to establish with his people (Jer. 31:31-34; 32:37-41; Ezek. 37:24-28), the question arises whether this is a covenant other than the covenant made with Israel or whether we must think in terms of a renewal of the covenant.

Some theologians contrast the Sinaitic covenant with the new covenant.  The bond with the people of God in the covenant of Sinai is purely external and national, in the new covenant it is purely internal and spiritual.   Today we deal with the new covenant.  The members of the covenant are members of the invisible church , the living members of Christ (Aalders, 1939, 158f.).  An important conclusion is that covenant and election are quantitatively identical.  The number of covenant members is identical to the number of the elect.  Incidentally, the covenant appears to include illegitimate members, to whom also God has said that he establishes his covenant with them to be their God, but who refuse to acknowledge him as their God.  This can be interpreted as a breach of the covenant on their part (Aalders, 1939, 193,222).

According to Reiling, the prophecy of the new covenant implies that the old covenant no longer exists.  It has been breached by the people and there is nothing left to be restored or renewed.  The old covenant and the new covenant constitute the same covenant only to the extent that God remains himself.  As far as the covenant people are concerned, however, we must speak of two fundamentally different covenants. (J. Reiling, Verbond, oud en nieuto, 1976.111)

While Aalders, Reiling, and others emphasisze the discontinuity of the covenant with Israel and the new covenant, others point to continuity.  The distinction is not that the old covenant is only external and the new covenant internal.  This would constitute an essential difference.  It is disputed by L. H. Vander Meiden (1955.35).  The difference lies entirely in the area of the history of redemption (Wiskerke, 1955.174).

Regarding the relationship between the old (Sinaitic) covenant and the new covenant (Jer.31), we must keep in mind both the similarities and the distinctions between them.

  1. It is in essence one covenant of God with his people.  When the covenant first established with Abraham was subsequently ratified with Israel at Sinai, it retained the character of a covenant of grace.  Jeremiah 31 implies in a surprisingly new manner that God commits himself to extend his grace and faithfulness toward people who do not at all deserve it (cf. in this regard Jer. 31:32).  He renews his covenant with his people.
  2. The new covenant is none other than the old covenant.  The Law that is to be written in the hearts is the same law that was given earlier.  The all-encompassing promise (Jer. 31:33), “I…will be their God and they shall be my people,” is the same promise of Moses’ time (“I … will be your God, and ye shall be my people,” Lev. 26:12).  One may not infer from Jeremiah 31:33-34 that in earlier days the law was not yet written in the hearts or that there was then no forgiveness of sin and knowledge of the Lord.  This “internalization” (See F. Malaresta, Interiority and Covenant, 1978, 68-77) was already promised in the books of Moses (Deut. 30:6).  The Law was indeed written in the hearts of the godly, and the saints of God stood in the right relationship to him.
  3. The manner in which God deals with his people has not changed in the new covenant.  He grants promises such as those expressed in Jeremiah 31:31-34 not just to those who have been chosen to eternal life.  Just as those in Genesis 17 and Exodus 19, they are promises that require a believing response.
  4. There is nevertheless a clear progression in the history of the covenant, which is at the same time redemptive history.  “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant” (Jer. 31:31).  More blessings can be expected in the future.  In essence, what was granted under the old covenant is given to a fuller and richer extent under the new covenant.  Thus there is indeed a difference in degree (cf. Vander Meiden, 1955, 41).
  5. As far as the fulfillment of this prophecy is concerned, some place it after the exile, because the context refers to people returning (Jer. 31:23-25) and because they would then naturally be preoccupied with the law (cf. Neh. 9.38-10.31).  In our view the prophesies concerning the new covenant refer more to a new, enduring dispensation the covenant.  This new dispensation came when Christ completed his work as Mediator and when his Spirit was poured out (see Heb. 8:6-13; 2 Cor. 3:6).  Believers from among the Jewish people and from the nations of the world are proof that God fulfils his promise (cf. Rom. 9:24-26; 2 Cor. 6:16-18).  Thus the church of Christ represents the people of the new covenant. 

Report on the Overture presented by the PNW OPC on the issue of Republication


Here are portions from a report concerning the 81st General Assembly Overture on the Mosaic Covenant and Republication put forth by the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC.

The 81st General Assembly by Daniel F. Patterson

Overture from the Presbytery of the Northwest

An overture was brought to the assembly by the Presbytery of the Northwest (PNW) asking the assembly to establish a study committee to examine and give its advice as to whether and in which particular sense the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

One of the representatives for the PNW, the Rev. Randy Bergquist, was granted 30 minutes to present the reasons for the overture, in which he outlined the history and context that lead them to bring the overture.

After the presentation by the representatives of the PNW, the advisory committee recommended that the overture be denied. A substitute motion was then made, namely, that the General Assembly grant the overture from the PNW. The assembly took quite a bit of time debating whether to substitute before running up against the order of the day, the morning break, at 10:15 a.m.

Continuation of the Consideration of the Overture from the PNW

After the address by Dr. Duncan, there was discussion regarding parliamentary procedure and it was determined that the question on the floor was, “Shall we grant the overture from the PNW?”

A substitute motion was then made to request the assembly’s Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR) to recommend to the 40th (2014) meeting of the National Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) that NAPARC call a conference on the confessional implications of republication, to which member churches are invited to send speakers, and authorize the CEIR to accept, on behalf of the OPC, the designation as the member church responsible to convene such conference.

After lengthy debate, a motion was made to postpone definitely the consideration of the substitute until the question of a visitation committee to the PNW was decided. This motion was passed by the assembly.

The advisory committee then brought a recommendation to the assembly that the assembly erect a committee of three presbyters, to be appointed by the moderator, to meet as soon as possible with the PNW and concerned parties within it to assist the presbytery in dealing with matters that divide it and to promote reconciliation.

Before the recommendation by the advisory committee was considered, the assembly came to the order of the day, our morning devotion and lunch break.

Continued Consideration of the Overture from the PNW

The assembly reconvened at 1:30 p.m. with the singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy” and prayer by elder John Terpstra of Providence Presbyterian Church, Austin, Texas.

The assembly took up the recommendation of the advisory committee to form a visitation committee. A substitute motion was then made to better reflect the urgency of the request and also require that the visit from committee wait until the PNW has officially asked for help. This motion was amended to reflect a different composition of the committee (three ministers and/or ruling elders). It passed. The substitute motion was then passed by the assembly. It then became the main motion before the assembly. This motion was then amended to reflect that the visitation committee should be tasked to assist the already existing republication committee in the presbytery. This amendment was defeated.

Following these various substitutions and amendments, the assembly approved the formation of a visitation committee.

With this question decided the assembly took up the consideration of the referral of the substitute motion regarding a NAPARC committee to the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations. The motion to refer failed.

The assembly then took up the debate regarding the substitute motion, which was to request CEIR to recommend to the 40th (2014) meeting of NAPARC that NAPARC call a conference on the confessional implications of republication.

There was a motion to table this substitute. The motion to table the substitute passed.

Since the motion to table passed, the assembly took up the consideration of the overture of the PNW to form a study committee on republication.

A motion was then made that the overture be referred to the newly formed visitation committee and that this visitation committee report back to the 82nd General Assembly.

After considerable debate, the motion to refer the overture of the PNW to the visitation committee failed.

The overture was once again before the assembly. In review, the overture requests that the GA establish a study committee to examine and give its advice as to whether and in which particular senses the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

At 3:15 p.m. the time for the afternoon break arrived and the assembly recessed.

Continued Consideration of PNW Overture

The assembly reconvened with the singing of “Let All Things Now Living” and prayer by the Rev. David Graves, pastor of Trinity OPC, Franklin, Pennsylvania.

The question of the overture from the PNW was once again before the assembly. After much debate, and a call for division, the overture was granted by a vote of 83–53.

Election of the Study Committee for the Issue of Republication

Have given the assembly time to consider nominees for the committee to study the doctrine of republication, elections were held.

The study committee will consist of five men. Sixteen men were nominated. The following men were elected: the Revs. Craig Troxel, Chad Van Dixhoorn, Bryan Estelle, Benjamin Swinburnson and Lane Tipton.

The Modern Day Grace Movement / A Hermeneutical Problem

I was reading through one of the threads on the the other day and noticed something that I must have missed last year. I knew there was a Pre-Assembly Theological Conference before the PCA General Assembly last year on Grace but I didn’t realize that the sessions were posted for us to listen to. One of the sessions that peaked my interest was a critique of the Modern Grace Movement. So I downloaded it and listened to it a few times. I have to admit that I was quite taken back by the content and theological expose’ that was given. Now the session critiquing the Modern Grace Movement doesn’t mention any names nor does it openly go after anyone specifically. At the same time I found it quite unavoidable to see certain teachers and teachings being address. It is very relevant to the topics being discussed today. I would wholeheartedly encourage everyone who has any interest in the discussions going on in today’s climate concerning Sanctification to give this Session a solid listening to.

The Gospel Reformation Network

Original page to Conference videos. 2013 Sessions

Sermon Audio page with audio and video links
Critique of the Contemporary Grace Movement |


Video – Media Player


Dr. Robert B. Strimple on the Mosaic Covenant and Republication of the Covenant of Works


Dr. Robert B. Strimple
I found Dr. Strimple’s thoughts on Republication of the Covenant of Works as portrayed in ‘The Law is Not of Faith’ very true.   “Here in the WCF, it is claimed,one also finds the same legal characterization of the Mosaic covenant even in terms of the republication of the covenant of works…” (p. 43). And I wrote in the margin of my copy: “No, no, no!” That is precisely what is not found in the Confession!” RBS

I find it strange that David Van Drunen is the Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California, Dr. R. Scott Clark is the Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, J. V. Fesko is Acedemic Dean, Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and Bryan Estelle is Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California.  It is strange that these men have taken up a position that is not confessional especially since one of Dr. Clark’s books is claiming the Recovery of Confessionalism.

Here is the conclusion of the paper by Dr. Strimple concerning Dr. Robert Scott Clark’s position concering WCF chapter 19.

The other relevant blog by Dr. Clark was published much earlier; it is dated  July 16, 2007 (quoted here from footnote 87 on p. 356 of Covenant,  Justification and Pastoral Ministry. Essays by the Faculty of Westminster  Seminary California). There he presented essentially the same argument that he presented in his more recent blog (which we considered above), but with the additional factor of following Thomas Boston in appealing “to the logic implied by the grammar of WCF 19:1 and 2,” and claiming that “the phrase ‘covenant of works’ in 19:1 is appositive to the noun ‘law'” (italics added). “Thus the ‘Law’ is reckoned here as a covenant of works. Thus when, 19:2 establishes ‘this law’ as the subject of the verb “was delivered,” the antecedent can be none other than the law defined as a covenant of works in 19:1.”

Thus, if I am following the “logic of the grammar” correctly, if (as we have shown above) then all the references to “this law” in this chapter, since they all have the same ultimate antecedent (namely the “law” referred to in sec. 1), must also be understood as referring to “none other than the ‘Law’ defined as a covenant of works in 19:1.” But that, of course, is impossible, for that would mean that “this law” spoken of there in sec. 2 as continuing for us is a covenant of works; as also the “law” spoken of in sec. 5 as “forever bind(ing) all, as well justified persons as others”; as well as the references to “the law” twice in sec. 6 as that which “true believers” are “not under…as a covenant of works”! I know Dr. Clark doesn’t believe that, but that is where the logic of his argument would lead him.

When Dr. Clark says in this blog that “the phrase ‘covenant of works,’ in 19:1 is appositive to the noun ‘Law’—”the second expression identifying or supplementing the first” The American College Dictionary—his argument is that therefore “this law” in sec. 2 “can be none other than the ‘Law’ defined as a covenant of works in 19:1.” But if all references to “law” or “this law” in this chapter must be  references to law as a covenant of works, because that is the definition of law in this chapter, that would lead to the consequences noted in our previous paragraph, which cannot be true. The error in Dr. Clark’s argument is that the phrase “as a covenant of works” in sec. 1 is not appositive but restrictive. The little word “as” in the sec. 1 —”God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant or works—is a preposition here in the first sense listed in the Webster New World Dictionary: “as—preposition 1. in the role, function, capacity, or sense of “. The Confession says that God gave to Adam a law as a covenant of works, but it never says, or even suggests, that God ever so gave it to any person or nation after the fall.

In sec. 2 the important phrase “as such” appears, appears immediately after the reference to “this law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and…” The first usage of the word “such” as an adjective listed in the Webster New World Dictionary is: “such—adjective 1. of the same kind mentioned or implied.” Here in sec. 2 the phrase is “as such,” where “such” is a pronoun, meaning “as being what is indicated or suggested” Webster. And what is indicated in the sentence in sec. 2 is the purpose/function stated in the words immediately preceding “as such,” i.e., “to be a perfect rule of righteousness.” The words “as such” do not leap over all the words in the sentence in which it appears to go back to “as a covenant of works” at the beginning of sec. 1!

Note also that the two references to “covenant of works” with negative force in sec. 6—”not under the law as a covenant of works” and later “although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works”—must be read alongside the positive statement of sec. 2. Question: If true believers after the fall (including those who received the law on Mt. Sinai) be “not under the law, as a covenant of works” (sec. 6), how does the law relate to them?  Answer: As “a perfect rule of righteousness.”

The meaning of 19:1-2 is so clear that I do not understand why any question concerning that meaning should ever have arisen. To state that meaning I can use no clearer words than the words the divines used: “God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works…This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai…”

Download the short document here.

Herman Bavinck – The Covenant of Grace – Mosaic- (Read Bavinck!)


Reading Bavinck on the Covenant of Grace and the Mosaic Covenant is well worth anyone’s time. Put the modern books down and read the good stuff. The difference between Modern Reformed Thought and reading Reformed thought is like going to eat at McDonald’s or Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Read Bavinck!


The universal reality of misery evokes in all people a need for deliverance, a deliverance from above. Pagans who construe misery as basically physical know neither the essential character of sin nor the deliverance of grace. Scripture, however, sees our misery as sin, as an ethical violation of communion with God, who alone can restore it. This requires grace, which in biblical revelation assumes the form of a covenant.

This covenant begins immediately after the fall as evidenced by Adam and Eve’s shame in their nakedness, a sign of lost innocence. Guilt and shame reveal both God’s wrath and his grace, but the latter is shown especially when God seeks out Adam and Eve and interrogates them. In his punishment on the serpent and on humanity, God’s mercy triumphs over judgment as he annuls the covenant made with evil and puts enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Now the path of glory must pass through suffering for man and woman. In the promise of Genesis 3, we find the gospel in a nutshell and, in principle, the entire history of the human race.

The word “covenant” is not found in Genesis 3, but the reality is. Modern critics judge that covenant ideas arose late in Israel’s history but need circular arguments for their case. A history of Israel is constructed by alleging that certain biblical sources are inauthentic, which history is then used to demonstrate the inauthenticity of documents that witness against it. It is better scholarship to see the latter prophets as standing on the foundation of a real covenant made with the patriarchs.

Covenant (ברית) is characterized by three factors: an oath or promise including stipulations, a curse for violation, and a cultic ceremony that represents the curse symbolically. Covenant making is a religious and social act. The covenant of grace is unilateral, indissolubly grounded in the merciful promises of the sovereign God. God cannot break his promise; he has sworn himself to uphold it. The unilateral divine origin and character attributed to the covenant in Hebrew is likely the reason why the Septuagint translates ברית by διαθηκη, or “testament,” rather than συνθηκη.

The doctrine of the covenant achieved dogmatic significance in the Christian church because the Christian religion had to understand its relation to and distinction from Judaism. Over against Gnosticism and Marcion, the church had to maintain the unity of and, over against Judaism, the distinction between the two covenants. Law and gospel, Old Testament and New Testament, are to be distinguished but never separated. During the Reformation this issue became crucial as Anabaptists and others (Arminians, Socinians) devalued the Old Testament. Key differences also arose between the Lutheran and Reformed traditions. It is in the latter, beginning with Zwingli and Calvin, that the doctrine of the covenant is most fully developed, notably in the German Reformed theology of Olevianus and Ursinus, English Puritanism, and the Westminster Confession.

Among the Dutch Reformed, Cloppenburg and Cocceius made the covenant the fundamental premise and controlling principle of dogmatics as a whole. Cocceius had an eccentric view of the covenant, notably the notion of successive covenantal abrogations, which in fact undermined the key element of grace, making it uncertain. After Cocceius, a more general disparagement of the Old Testament took place among modern thinkers such as Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, and Schleiermacher. Judaism was then seen as no better than paganism as preparation for Christianity.

In the Reformed church and theology, covenant became a very important practical encouragement for Christian living. Here the basis of all covenants was found in the eternal counsel of God, in a covenant between the very persons of the Trinity, the pactum salutis (counsel of peace). The work of salvation is an undertaking of the one God in three persons in which all cooperate and each one performs a special task. It is the triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—who together conceive, determine, carry out, and complete the entire work of salvation. The benefit to the believer is in knowing that the covenant of grace executed and revealed in time and history nevertheless rests on an eternal, unchanging foundation, the counsel of the triune God. The Father is the eternal Father, the Son the eternal Mediator, the Holy Spirit the eternal Paraclete.

Care must be taken in considering the execution of the pact of salvation in time and history. Though God elects Abraham and Israel as his chosen people, his salvific purpose is universal, with all peoples. In the fullness of time, humanity as a whole, Jew and Gentile, is reconciled in the one man, Jesus Christ, at the cross. After the fall, grace and judgment alike are extended to the whole human race. In the beginnings of human history, we see great blessing in remarkable longevity and the great judgment of the flood. After the flood, God makes a covenant with nature not to destroy the world with water again, reduces human life span, and spreads humanity across the world, preventing humans from reaching heaven itself with their ambition. Despite letting the Gentiles walk in their own ways, God providentially grants them significant cultural and social development. He did not leave them without witnesses to himself through the works of his hands. In this way God is present to all people, and they are in some sense “prepared” for the message of salvation.

The universal scope of God’s intention for all peoples—Jew and Gentile—must never obscure the special favor of God to Israel. While Israel is drawn from the nations and there are analogies between Israel’s religious practices and those of the nations, the essential difference is that special grace is reserved for Israel and is not known among the pagans. Pagan religion is self-willed and legalistic. The covenant made with Abraham is new and comes from God alone. Through his covenant with Abraham and Israel, the Creator proves himself to also be the Re-creator and Savior. Elohim, Creator of heaven and earth, is Yahweh, the God of the covenant.

The old covenant with Israel is the necessary preparation for the new covenant in Christ. Though the covenant is one, there are two dispensations. In God’s own time, the promise of the old covenant was fulfilled in the new. The shadow and particularity of the letter became the substance, universality, and freedom of the Spirit. Nothing of the Old Testament is lost in the New, but everything is fulfilled, matured, has reached its full growth, and now, out of the temporary husk, produces the eternal core.

The covenant of grace, fulfilled in the New Testament, was and is surrounded and sustained by God’s covenant with nature, with all creatures. Unlike what Cocceius taught, the covenant of grace is not the successive abolition of the covenant of works but its fulfillment and restoration. “Grace repairs and perfects nature.” God’s demand of obedience remains as the only way to eternal life. The difference between the covenant of works and grace is that God now approaches us not in Adam but in Christ, who fulfilled all the obedience required of Adam. Christ is the second and last Adam who restores what the first Adam had corrupted; he is the head of a new humanity.

The covenant of grace is also integrally united with the counsel of peace, though it should be distinguished from it. In the counsel of peace, Christ is the guarantor and head; in the covenant of grace, he is the mediator. In this way the doctrine of the covenant maintains God’s sovereignty in the entire work of salvation. It is the Father who conceives, plans, and wills the work of salvation; it is the Son who guarantees it and effectively acquires it; it is the Spirit who implements and applies it.

At the same time, the covenant of grace also allows the rational and moral nature of human beings to come into their own. Here it differs from election, in which humans are strictly passive. The covenant of grace describes the road by which elect people attain their destiny; it is the channel by which the stream of election flows toward eternity. Christ sends his Spirit to instruct and enable his own so that they consciously and voluntarily consent to this covenant. The covenant of grace comes with the demand of faith and repentance, which may in some sense be said to be its “conditions.” Yet, this must not be misunderstood. God himself supplies what he demands; the covenant of grace is thus truly unilateral—it comes from God, who designed, defines, maintains, and implements it. It is, however, designed to become bilateral, to be consciously and voluntarily accepted by believers in the power of God. In the covenant of grace, God’s honor is not at the expense of but for the benefit of human persons by renewing the whole person and restoring personal freedom and dignity.

The covenant of grace, with Christ as the new head of humanity, reminds us of the organic unity of the church. The covenant of grace reminds us that election is about not only individual persons but also organic wholes, including families and generations. Therefore, some who remain inwardly unbelieving will for a time, in the earthly administration and dispensation of the covenant of grace, be part of the covenant people. The final judgment belongs to God alone, and in this life the church must regard such with the judgment of charity.(a)

This (Abrahamic) covenant with the ancestors continues, even when later at Sinai it assumes another form. It is the foundation and core also of the Sinaitic covenant (Exod. 2:24; Deut. 7:8). The promise was not nullified by the law that came later (Gal. 3:17). The covenant with Israel was essentially no other than that with Abraham. Just as God first freely and graciously gave himself as shield and reward to Abraham, apart from merits of his, to be a God to him and his descendants after him, and on that basis called Abraham to a blameless walk before his face, so also it is God who chose the people of Israel, saved it out of Egypt, united himself with that people, and obligated it to be holy and his own people. The covenant on Mount sinai is and remains a covenant of grace. “I am The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the ouse of slavery” (Exod. 20:2) is the opening statement and foundation of the law, the essence of the covenant of grace. Yahweh is and perpetually remains Israel’s God before and aside from any dignity or worth that Israel may have. It is an everlasting covenant that cannot be broken even by any sins and iniquities on the part of Israel (Deut. 4:31; 32:26f; Judg. 2:1; Pss. 89:1-5; 105:8; 111:5; Isa. 54:10; Rom. 11:1-2; 2 Cor. 1:20).

The benefits granted to Israel by God in this covenant are the same as those granted to Abraham, but more detailed and specialized. Genesis 3:15 already contains the entire covenant in a nutshell and all the benefits of grace. God breaks the covenant made by the first humans with Satan, puts enmity between them, brings the first humans over to his side, and promises them victory over the power of the enemy. The one great promise to Abraham is “I will be your God, and you and your descendants will be my people” (Genesis 17:1 paraphrase). And this is the principle content of God’s covenant with Israel as well. God is Israel’s God, and Israel is his people (Exod. 19:6; 29:46; etc.) Israel, accordingly, receives a wide assortment of blessings, not only temporal blessings, such as the land of Canaan, fruitfulness in marriage, a long life, prosperity, plus victory over its enemies, but also spiritual and eternal blessings, such as God’s dwelling among them (Exod. 29:45; Lev. 26:12), the forgiveness of sins (Exod. 20:6; 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 4:31; Pss. 32; 103; etc.), sonship (Exod. 4:22; 19:5-6; 20:2; Deut. 14:1; Isa. 63:16; Amos 3:1-2; etc.), sanctification (Exod. 19:6; Lev. 11:44; 19:2), and so on… (b)

Just as Abraham, when God allied himself with him, was obligated to “Walk before his face,” so Israel as a people was similarly admonished by God’s covenant to a new obedience. The entire law, which the covenant of grace at Mount Sinai took into its service, is intended to prompt Israel as a people to “walk” in the way of the covenant. It is but an explication of the one statement to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” [Gen. 17:1], and therefore nor more a cancelation of the covenant of grace and the foundation of a covenant of works than this word spoken to Abraham. The law of Moses, accordingly, is not antithetical to grace but subservient to it and was also thus understood and praised in every age by Israel’s pious men and women. But detached from the covenant of grace, it indeed became a letter that kills, a ministry of condemnation. Another reason why in the time of the Old Testament the covenant of grace took the law into its service was that it might arouse the consciousness of sin, increase the felt need for salvation, and reinforce the expectation of an even richer revelation of God’s grace. He writes that Israel as a minor, placed under the care of the law, had to be led to Christ (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:23f. 4:1f.) and that in that connection sin would be increased and the uselessness of works for justification and the necessity of faith would be understood (Rom. 4:15; 5:20; 7:7f; 8:3; Gal. 3:19). On the one hand, therefore, the law was subservient to the covenant of grace; it was not a covenant of works in disguise and did not intend that humans would obtain justification by their own works. On the other hand, its purpose was to lay the ground work for a higher and better dispensation of that same covenant of grace to come in the fullness of time. The impossibility of keeping the Sinaitic covenant of the meeting of demands of the law made another and better dispensation of the covenant of grace necessary. The eternal covenant of grace was provoked to a higher revelation off itself by the imperfection of the temporary form it has assumed in Israel. Sin increased that grace might abound. Christ could not immediately become human after the fall, and grace could not immediately reveal itself in all its riches. There was a needed for preparation and nurture. “It was not fitting for God to become incarnate at the beginning of the human race before sin. For medicine is given only to the sick. Nor was it fitting that God should become incarnate immediately after sin that man, having been humbled by sin, might see his own need of a deliverer. But what has been decreed from eternity occurred in the fullness of time. (c)

Bavinck, H., Bolt, J., & Vriend, J. (2006). Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ ((a) 193–196, (b) 220-221, (c) 222). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

I guess what I am trying to say is read Bavinck!

Confusion in the Camp / Merit and Reformed Theology


Confusion in the Camp

Merit and Reformed Theology

In the Reformed Church, there has been much debate in the past decade over issues such as Natural Law, The Two Kingdoms, the Law-Gospel distinction, Justification and Sanctification, the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and even the definition of the Gospel.

In the past few years, it has come to the attention of some ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that doctrinal confusion has arisen over the doctrine of republication. The heart of the issue lies in a particular formulation of the Mosaic covenant, including the notion that Israel as a “corporate Adam” is under a typological arrangement which entails meritorious works on the temporal level. This confusion is coming to the forefront in OPC Presbyteries when licensure and ordination exams are being conducted. As I understand it, these issues are having far reaching consequences as the church pursues its peace, purity, doctrinal integrity, and practice.

In April of 2012, an Overture was proposed to the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC. This overture called for the 79th General Assembly to establish a study committee to examine teachings propagated in a publication, The Law is Not of Faith, edited by Bryan D. Estelle, J. V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen. Overtures are proposed requests for consideration of doctrinal matters or how things should function in the church. At the April 2012 meeting of the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC, the motion to approve the overture was replaced with a motion to establish a Special Presbytery Committee to study the issues concerning the doctrine of Republication as presented in the teachings of Meredith Kline and the book The Law is Not of Faith. This teaching has far reaching implications concerning the doctrines mentioned in the first paragraph.

Three Ministers from the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC (Randy Bergquist, Andy Elam, and Rob Van Kooten), have submitted their own study regarding the presbytery committee’s new proposed overture for all to review. The study first sets out to give some historical background for the publication the The Law Is Not Of Faith. It discusses the motives and reasons that are stated in the book itself. Next, it analyzes the covenant theologies of John Murray, Norman Shepherd, and Meredith Kline. The authors of the study booklet believe that these three men are the main reasons that this issue of Republication has come to the forefront in recent theological discussion. Their teachings are examined in light of the Westminster Confession of Faith and historic Reformed thought. Part 2 of the booklet turns to a critical examination of the doctrine of republication. Its basic thesis can be summarized as follows: ….the Republication Paradigm (ie., the views of Kline and The Law is not of Faith) uses traditional language and concepts, but redefines them in the service of its own paradigm. Not only do these new definitions fail to harmonize with those contained in the Westminster Standards, they may lead to other systematic changes in our confessional theology.” I would also note that when there are systematic doctrinal changes, there will also be changes in how we apply the Scriptures and practice our faith.

All three ministers are graduates from Westminster Seminary California from which most of this controversial teaching is emanating. A pre-presbytery discussion will be held on September 26, 2013 at First OPC in Portland, Oregon.