Tuesday, August 18, 2009

0 Marrow Theology: Republication of the Covenant of Works, part III

One of the important points that Edward Fisher makes in The Marrow of Modern Divinity is that the presentation of the Law made at Sinai was in fact in substance the same Covenant as existed in the pristine Garden, prior to Adam's Fall. He has made the point, as I've noted in previous posts in this short series, that the reason for God's re-presentation (or re-publication) of the Covenant of Works was not to muddy the waters and confuse the people, but to show them directly to what Covenant they already were obligated - to present to them exactly what righteousness God requires of man: a perfect conformity in thought, word and deed to that Law. This presentation has (at least) two impacts - one, to drive man entirely to the mercy of God in Christ (in the Sinaitic context, to the coming Seed) because of the immediate clarity with which one sees one's own sin when confronted with the Law of God, and two, to magnify and glorify the Son of God. Christ perfectly satisfied that which God required (and, even after the Fall, STILL requires of man), and through the republication of the Covenant of Works at Sinai we are clearly shown the glory of the God-Man by way of reminder of what God requires.

One of the important things the republication shows us is that Adam's breaking of the Covenant of Works does NOT imply in any sense that somehow man no longer has to measure up to that standard. The republication shows clearly that in fact all men MUST have that righteousness required of Adam. The glorious Covenants of Grace and Redemption, in which context the Covenant of Works was republished, give forth the truth that man CAN by substitutionary atonement of God's ordained Lamb in fact satisfy these standards to which every man is beholden still, even in the wake of Adam's fall.

Now that I've let the cat wholly out of the bag, let's pick up Fisher's text on these points. Fisher argues that the law covenant presented at Sinai was not some appending of rules and regulations to the Covenant of Grace, but in fact was a re-presentation of the same covenant of works God laid upon Adam:
"Antinomista: And, sir, did the law produce this effect in them? [to make them sigh and long for the promised Redeemer - TKP]

Evangelista: Yea, indeed, it did; as will appear, if you consider, that although, before the publishing of this covenant, they were exceeding proud and confident of their own strength to do all that the Lord would have them do; yet when the Lord came to deal with them as men under the covenant of works, in showing himself a terrible judge sitting on the throne of justice, like a mountain burning with fire, summoning them to come before him by the sound of a trumpet, [yet not to touch the mountain without a mediator,] (Heb 12:19,20), they were not able to endure the voice of words, nor yet to abide that which was commanded, insomuch, as Moses himself did fear and quake; and they did all of them so fear, and shake, and shiver, that their peacock feathers were now pulled down. This terrible show wherein God gave his law on Mount Sinai, says Luther, did represent the use of the law: there was in the people of Israel that came out of Egypt a singular holiness; they gloried and said, "We are the people of God; we will do all that the Lord commandeth.
Thus you see, when the Lord had, by means of the covenant of works made with Adam, humbled them, and made them sigh for Christ the promised Seed, he renewed the promise with them, yea, and the covenant of grace made with Abraham." (pp. 65-67, The Marrow of Modern Divinity)
Fisher plainly says - this covenant of law IS not merely a statement of rules - but in fact is a presentation anew of the Covenant of Works - the real deal, as it were, showing God's clear expectations upon man if he is to be acceptable before Almighty God. Without that re-publication it may not necessarily be clear to us that in fact that righteousness is still required of us! At this point, Thomas Boston adds an important footnote:
"Making a promise of Christ to them, not only as "the seed of the woman," but as "the seed of Abraham," and yet more particularly, as "the seed of Israel: the Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet, from the midst of THEE, of THY BRETHREN," (Deut 18:15). And here it is to be observed, that this renewing of the promise and covenant of grace with them was immediately upon the back of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, for at that time was their speech which the Lord commended as well spoken: this appears from Exodus 20:18,19, compared with Deuteronomy 5:23-28, and upon that speech of theirs was that renewal made, which is clear from Deuteronomy 18:17,18." (footnote, p. 67, The Marrow of Modern Divinity)
The purpose, then of this re-presentation is made clear.... to magnify the glory of Christ, AND, I might add, to magnify the wonder and glory of the Covenants of Redemption and Grace! Without this backdrop, it seems to me, the grace of God doesn't quite stand out in such stark relief. God through Moses gave immediate and clear reminder of what God requires of man - and with immediate clarity man sees that, as Isaiah says in chapter 6 of his prophecy, "I AM UNDONE!" What glorious grace shines forth at this moment as the Promised Seed, the Lamb, Christ Jesus is then brought to mind on the heels of the reminder of our unworthiness!

We are reminded later in this work again that Christ was born under the Law - and satisfied it, and that in this the Covenant of Grace is intimately tied in with the Covenant of Works. Again, Fisher:
"Antinomista: But, sir, was the form quite taken away, so as the ten commandments were no more the covenant of works?

Evangelista: Oh no! you are not so to understand it. For the form of the covenant of works, as well as the matter, [on God's part,] came immediately from God himself, and so consequently it is eternal, like himself; whence it is that our Saviour says, (Matt 5:18), "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no ways pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." So that either man himself, or some other for him, must perform or fulfill the condition of the law, as it is the covenant of works, or else he remains still under it in a damnable condition: but now Christ hath fulfilled it for all believers; and therefore, I said, the form of the covenant of works was covered or taken away, as touching the believing Jews; but yet it was neither taken away in itself, nor yet as touching the unbelieving Jews." (p. 74, The Marrow of Modern Divinity)

The glory of Christ shines most brightly when we see that He alone satisfied that which is incumbent upon all man from Adam's creation... perfect holiness, righteousness, conformity to the Will of God. That righteousness without which no man shall see the Lord, that which is incumbent upon all because of the requirements placed upon man in the Covenant of Works, and re-presented at Sinai, IS GRANTED, AND (I cannot emphasize this strongly enough) IS REALLY OURS THROUGH CHRIST. The measure of righteousness has been laid out clearly. The impossibility of our satisfying it (one because of Adam as our head falling, and two because of the organic weakness to obey the Law that all have, also stemming from Adam's fall) is clear and highlights Christ's glory for us.

Praise be to the Lord on High that He has accepted us in the beloved Son and accounted to us that righteousness He requires. Does this not make your heart exult in God's Work? Let us praise Him with every fiber of our being!



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