For the Faculty: James T. Dennison, Jr. (Editor), Scott F. Sanborn, J. Peter Vosteen
Typing and formatting: Tin L. Harrell

1. THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS AND THE LAW...........................................................................................................3

Scott F. Sanborn

2. GAMES....................................................................................................................................................................................39

Charles G. Dennison

3. ON BEING A CONFESSIONAL CHURCH...........................................................................................................................41

Gregory E. Reynolds

4. CHARLES HODGE ON THE SYSTEM OF DOCTRINE.......................................................................................................48

5. JOHN DONNE: HOLY SONNET 14......................................................................................................................................52

6. DEUTERONOMY 19: CHIASMS AND CASES.....................................................................................................................53

James T. Dennison, Jr.

7. AUGUSTINE ON CHRIST'S DEATH......................................................................................................................................66

8. BOOK REVIEWS.....................................................................................................................................................................67

KERUX is a publication of Northwest Theological Seminary and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 17711 Spruce Way, Lynnwood, WA 98037-7431. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $20.00 (U.S. and Canada); $25.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in New Testament Abstracts, Cambridge, MA, Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in ATLA Religion Database, Chicago, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.

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ISSN 0888-8513
Vol. 19, No. 1
May 2004


The Old and New Covenants and the Law:

Was the Mosaic Covenant a Redemptive Covenant of Grace?

A Dialogue

Scott F. Sanborn

Characters for the Dialogue:

Smith: Alias the writer of this article. He believes that the Mosaic covenant is a covenant of grace legally administered.

Cleaver: Makes objections to the article. He believes that the Mosaic Covenant was a temporal covenant of works relating only to the temporal blessings of Canaan. However, Cleaver does not believe that Jewish believers who were under that covenant received their eternal salvation by that covenant. Instead, that was given to them by the Abrahamic Covenant, which continued to have force at the same time as the Mosaic Covenant but remained distinct from it.1

Smith, answering the door: "Welcome, Cleaver. I appreciate you coming over."


1 For want of better names, I have chosen "Cleaver" because he cleaves the covenants apart, while "Smith" seeks to forge things together.


Cleaver: "But of course, always interested in a little interaction. So what's this article you've written?"

Smith: "Just a little something I've put together. Please, have a seat. Something to drink?"

Cleaver: "Oh, no thank you. I'm fine. But I wouldn't mind a copy of the paper so I can read along."

Smith: "Yes, of course. And please interrupt any time; you're good at that."

Cleaver: "That's what my wife says."

Smith: "No, no, I'm sorry. I mean, I appreciate your critique. Anyways, here we go."

Was the Mosaic Covenant a Redemptive Covenant of Grace?2

Question One:

Was the Mosaic Covenant simply a typological covenant of works, promising temporal blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience?3 We deny.

The state of the question: The question is not, "Did the Mosaic Covenant promise temporal blessings for obedience and temporal curses for disobedience?" For we affirm this. The question is not, "Do these temporal blessings and curses carry over into the New Covenant in their earthly/temporal mani-


2 Since I have found the style of Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology helpful in clarifying the theological question being discussed, I have followed its format in this article. Also, the use of "we" should be understood as a literary "we," not a claim to represent an ecclesiastical body or any other group.

3 Turretin seems to ask a similar question in his Institutes, Twelfth Topic, Twelfth Question (Vol. 2, p. 262). See also Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, pp. 112-13. However, the position discussed by Turretin and Bolton may differ from the position of those with whom we argue, for the latter seem to contend that strict merit was the foundation of Israel's blessings in the land. At least, this is not always clear.


festation?" For (we agree that) they do not. Again, the question is not, "Were these temporal blessings and curses types of the eschatological blessings and curses of the New Covenant?" For we affirm this. The question is not, "Were the sanctified works of Israel under the Old Covenant uniquely a type of Christ's work (insofar as they were rewarded with various degrees of blessings and curses)?" For we affirm this.

Instead, the question resolves itself into four major questions. 1) Was the Mosaic Covenant a redemptive covenant of grace (in which the above typological framework functioned)? We affirm. 2) Were the temporal blessings simply temporal blessings or were they foretastes/intrusions of the eschatological blessings yet to come in Christ? We deny that they were simply temporal blessings and affirm that they were intrusions of eschatological blessings in Christ. This resolves itself into another question, "Is it possible to speak of the blessings of the Mosaic Covenant as intrusions of future blessings in Christ if the Mosaic Covenant was not a covenant of grace?" We deny.

3) Were the works of Old Testament believers (by which they received temporal blessings and curses in the land) strictly meritorious? We deny. 4) Is it possible to speak of the Mosaic Covenant as a typological covenant if its blessings were not an intrusion of future eschatological blessings? We deny. Instead, we affirm that the blessings (promised to obedience) must have been intrusions of the kingdom to come. Otherwise, they could not have been types of that kingdom. This resolves itself into a similar question, "Is it possible to speak of the Mosaic Covenant as a typological covenant if it was not a covenant of grace?" We deny. Instead, we affirm that the Mosaic Covenant must be a covenant of grace in order to be typological.

The position taken (by those with whom we dispute) on questions 2 through 4 (above) is not always clear. However, resolving these questions will support our main point—that the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of grace (and its uniquely typological structure must be understood within this larger framework). Therefore, the main question resolves itself into this, "Was the covenant given at Mt. Sinai a covenant of grace?" We affirm this, and those with whom we dispute seem to deny it. (And if they don't deny it, it is not clear to us in what way they affirm it.)


We will deal with this subject in the order of the four questions above.

1) Was the Mosaic Covenant a redemptive covenant of grace? We affirm.

The state of the question. The question is not, "Was the Mosaic covenant a redemptive covenant of grace in the exact same way (and in all respects) as the Abrahamic covenant or the new covenant?" For we affirm that there are differences. For one, the Abrahamic covenant (as administered before the law) did not promise its recipients (in their own lifetimes) the same earthly blessings as the Mosaic covenant. And the theocratic blessings of the law do not carry over into the new covenant in their temporal/earthly form (as we have said). Instead, new covenant believers receive them in their eschatological fullness, even now (semi-eschatologically). In addition, God mediated these blessings to Israel through her sanctified obedience. These blessings partially relieved Israel from the curse upon her inheritance in the land. Therefore, God partially relieved Israel from the curse upon her inheritance by Israel's own sanctified obedience. However, in the new covenant there is no curse upon our inheritance that is lifted by our sanctification. Nor is the question, "Was this arrangement a unique type of Christ's work and future reward?" For we affirm this, calling these unique elements of the Mosaic covenant its "legal administration."

Neither is the question, "Did this legal administration follow the pattern of the covenant of works?" For we may say that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of grace legally administered according to the pattern of the covenant of works.4

Nor is the question, "Is the unique legal arrangement of the Mosaic covenant revealed in the fact that Israel took oaths during the covenant ratification ceremony?" For if this is the case, it would only underscore the uniquely legal character of the Mosaic covenant, which we acknowledge. For, as noted,


4 In accordance with Samuel Bolton's words, "Still others say that there were never more than two covenants made with man, one of works, the other of grace, the first in innocency, the other after the fall. Yet, they add, this covenant of grace was dispensed to the Jews in such a legal manner that it seems to be nothing else but the repetition of the covenant of works" [emphasis mine] (Bolton, True Bounds, p. 90).


we believe that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of grace legally administered.

However, the main question amounts to this, "Is the legal administration of the Mosaic covenant best understood within the context of the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace or simply as a typological works covenant?" We affirm the former (i.e., as a covenant of grace). The next four sections seek to answer this question.

Limiting the question to the confines of this section, we ask, "Was the Mosaic covenant a covenant of redemptive grace (that united old covenant saints to Christ to come)?" We affirm.

In this discussion, we hope to show that the covenant given at Mt. Sinai is central to the Mosaic Covenant. The following distinction would not hold: the Sinaitic Covenant was simply a covenant of works; it should be distinguished from the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Covenant, which was a covenant of grace.5 The redemptive nature of the Sinaitic Covenant undermines such a distinction. This assumption will be supported as we look at Exodus 20-24.

The argument: The Mosaic Covenant bound Israel to God as their God. After the fall, no covenant can bind sinful people to God unless it is a redemptive covenant of grace.

That the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of eternal redemptive grace is proved by:

a) The Covenant Union between God and his People, as revealed in:

i) The prologue to the Sinaitic covenant—"I am the Lord your God."

It begins by affirming God's covenant union with his people. This union is underscored with the words "your God." As Ruth later says, "Your people


5 This appears to be the position of Edward Fisher in his Marrow of Modern Divinity (Chapter II, Section II, 4, the last comment of Evangel, and Chapter II, Section II, 3, the fifth comment of Evangel). However, in Thomas Boston's notes on the Marrow, he disagrees with Fisher on this point (Chapter II, Section II, 3, footnote 4). In response to Fisher's claim, we may say that the following interpretation is sufficient to account for the words of Deuteronomy 5:3: God made not this covenant (a covenant of grace legally administered) with your fathers.


will be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16). The language repre-sents exclusive covenant union. Such a bond is itself a foretaste of the eschatological future in which the Lord says, "They shall be his people, and God himself shall be among them" (Rev. 21:3). God's union with Israel was an eschatological intrusion.

Here I will use the term "partially mixed eschatology" to describe this eschatological intrusion in Israel to distinguish it from the "semi-eschatological" experience of new covenant saints. Thus, the language "blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Ps. 33:12) is the language of covenant union with God. In it, God uniquely identified with the nation. So the nation was a possessor of partially mixed eschatology. In this way, God was uniquely present in the land.

After the fall, union with God can only take place through redemptive grace. Therefore the prologue continues—"who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex. 20:2). This covenant is a redemptive covenant. And it is this redemption that provides the basis of Israel's covenant bond with God that will be necessary for the giving of the law.

Cleaver: "Can I interrupt you for a moment?"

Smith: "Yes, go ahead."

Cleaver: "Wasn't Israel already bound to God prior to the exodus?6 For God said to Abraham, 'I will . . . be God to you and to your descendants after you' (Gen. 17:7)."

Smith: "Yes, I agree. However, that bond was based on a covenant oath with Abraham, which was itself a foretaste of the exodus. And it was a foretaste of the exodus insofar as the exodus was a foretaste of the work of Christ's death and resurrection."

Cleaver: "How do you get that?"


6 Many of the objections presented in this article are purely hypothetical. While no one may hold them, we have tried to answer possible objections that may arise in the minds of some of our readers as they read along.


Smith: "Well, take a look at Genesis 15. There are some things here that anticipate the exodus. For instance, 'I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans' (v. 7) sounds a lot like the prologue to the law (Ex. 20:2). In verse 8 Abraham asks 'how may I know that I shall possess it (that is, the land)?' Thus, the ceremony that follows will confirm this promise. The exodus itself is elaborated among these promises (v. 14). In scripture, redemptive promises are confirmed by uniting people to the reality to be confirmed. Thus, this ceremony will partially unite Abraham to the exodus event and entrance into the land.

It may be that there is also an allusion to the exodus in that the flaming torch goes through the midst of the pieces (v. 17) in darkness (v. 12) just as the light of God's presence went through the midst of the sea in darkness (Ex. 14:19-22)."

Cleaver: "How can Genesis 15 be an intrusion of the exodus, if the exodus had not yet taken place? Mind you, I grant intrusions of eschatology, but that's eschatology."

Smith: "But if you grant that the exodus is an intrusion of the future work of Christ, what prohibits this ceremony from being an intrusion of that intrusion?"

Cleaver: "Well, perhaps, but these comparisons do not prove that Genesis 15 was an intrusion of the exodus event. They only prove that Genesis 15 looks forward to the exodus."

Smith: "However, it is precisely this anticipatory language that usually indicates to us that an Old Testament event is an intrusion of the work of Christ to come. Why shouldn't it also indicate to us that one Old Testament event is a partial intrusion of another Old Testament event yet to come? Or should we think that we are the only ones who participate in all of redemptive history?"

Cleaver: "You mean Old Testament saints were united with all of redemptive history just as we are?"

Smith: "Yes; this is not to deny that new covenant saints participate in the events of redemptive history in greater fullness. Thanks be to God, we do.


However, we must not deny to Old Testament saints some degree of participation in all of redemptive history—even during their earthly pilgrimage.

Thus, I would suggest that the exodus and the Abrahamic covenant are organically interdependent as the progressive unfolding of the eschatological life of God himself. Therefore, the covenant bond with Abraham was dependent upon the future accomplishment of the exodus just as the exodus was dependent upon the future accomplishment of Christ's obedient life, death and resurrection."

Cleaver: "Sounds like you're denying the progress of redemptive history."

Smith: "I don't think so. This does not mean that there is not progress in the history of redemption when we come to Exodus 20. The fact that the exodus redemption has already been accomplished is the basis for the giving of the law. It also seems to be the basis for a fuller union of God with Israel, giving new meaning to 'I am the Lord your God.' For now, after the exodus and the giving of the law, God will more fully dwell with his people."

Cleaver: "That's enough; read on."

ii) The Tabernacle.

God's union with his people comes to central expression in the tabernacle. And thus the language of covenant union is used to describe it. "I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar . . . And I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God" (Ex. 29:44-45). God, in his heavenly presence, truly dwelt in the tabernacle. Not in the same degree and fullness as he dwells in heaven, nonetheless he was present there. And Israel truly communed with him as they worshipped at the temple.7

The language of Exodus 29:44-45 not only implies this; it is also necessary if we are to believe that any eschatological intrusions took place within


7 Geerhardus Vos continually notes the epistle to the Hebrews's distinction between shadow and reality. However, he implies that this is only a relative distinction when he says, "Christ is the core of the heavenly, spiritual world. Therefore a real contact existed between that world and the Old Testament house. The Old Testament house was therefore also in vital contact with the heavenly, spiritual reality" [emphasis his] (Vos, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 67).


the land of Canaan. For it was precisely the presence of God in the tabernacle which brought the eschatological intrusion of his wrath in the theocracy. The ark of the covenant was to go before Israel into battle to bring God's wrath on Israel's enemies. And if he was truly present in his wrath, he must have also been truly present in his blessing.

This presence of God was administered to Israel through the Mosaic covenant. This should need no argument since the tabernacle was unique to the theocracy. Its administration (Ex. 29) flows from the Sinaitic covenant (Ex. 20-24) and the presence of God on Mt. Sinai. Thus, it was to be made according to "the pattern which was shown you on the mountain" (Ex. 25:40, Heb. 8:5).

Therefore, since the Mosaic covenant administers the presence of God in Israel, it is a covenant of grace.

Cleaver: "Let me stop you there. Admittedly, the Mosaic covenant administered an eschatological intrusion of wrath. But how does that make it a covenant of grace?"

Smith: "No, that alone wouldn't make it a covenant of grace. But with that wrath comes blessing. The Mosaic covenant (like the new) is a savor of life to some and a savor of death to others (2 Cor. 2:14-16). Clearly, the new covenant administers final eschatological wrath (Heb. 2:2-3; 10:28-29; 12:22-26) and is still a covenant of grace. The wrath is visited on God's enemies, not his people. It is an administration of God's covenant of grace. For, in his grace, God promises his people that he will save them from destruction, and also that he will destroy their enemies."

Cleaver: "Alright, go ahead and continue."

Thus, the presence of God in the tabernacle further proves that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of grace. This will be further proved when we notice that the people were required to bring sacrifices to worship in the temple. And by partaking in these sacrifices, they had union with Christ, participating with him in a fellowship meal in his heavenly house.

iii) In the Announcement of the New Covenant.


When Jeremiah announces the new covenant, he does it by way of contrast to the old covenant (Jer. 31:31- 32). However, at the same time, God says that by the old covenant "I was a husband to them" (v. 32). If God is a husband to them, clearly they have a covenant bond with God. If this bond arose from the Mosaic covenant, it is a covenant of grace. Indeed this bond did arise from the Mosaic covenant. For Jeremiah says, "It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them."

This bond is also central to the new covenant: "I will be their God and they will be my people" (v. 33). Surely, a closer bond results from the final accomplishment of redemption. For in the new covenant, the people of God will not be cursed in regard to anything that is their inheritance in God.8 "For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more" (v. 34). The very text that teaches discontinuity between the old and new covenants, also teaches this continuity between them. Both covenants bring God's people into union with God himself.

And since he is a father to Israel, their bond of sonship is in his Son, Jesus Christ. Before the time, theirs was a participation in the age to come, in Christ, the resurrected Son of God (Rom. 1:3, 4). Yes, before Christ, their heavenly participation was not as full as ours. But now their bond is as full as ours. For our God is the God of Israel, and he is the God of the living.

b) Old Testament Sacrifices.

i) The sacrifices expiated sins.

On this subject Francis Turretin states, "This appeared most of all in the sacrifices which (for no other reason than as types of the sacrifices of Christ) expiated sins. Hence 'an offering made by fire is said to be a savour of rest unto the Lord' (Lev. 1:9, 13, 17), i.e. most acceptable, which makes God (provoked by sins) rest and pleases him. Since however that expiation could not be made by the victim's own virtue (Heb. 9:9, 10), it must necessarily be made


8 For further elaboration of this (and other themes in this article) see my "Paul and the Law" in Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 17/2 (September. 2002): 24-53.


by another, namely by Christ prefigured."9 In other words, the animal sacrifices pleased God. But how can animal sacrifices, which can't take away sin, please God? Only if Christ's blood is mediated through them.

Turretin then deals with an objection. Some point out that sacrifices "belonged to external purity and immunity from temporal punishments in the court of earth."10 Presumably, they wished to limit the significance of sacrifices to this alone. Turretin admits that "this may be a use of ceremonies." However, he goes on to say that they must embody more than this if they are to point to Christ.

Our point is similar. If God was pleased with the sacrifices at that time, they must have been a partial eschatological intrusion of the blood of Christ to come. And if Christ's saving grace is mediated through the sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant, then the Mosaic covenant is a covenant of grace. This grace was also necessary for the sacrifices to have an effect in the "external purity and immunity from temporal punishments," as we hope to examine in the future.

ii) Sacraments of Grace.

Argument: If old covenant saints partook in the sacrifices as sacraments of saving grace, then the Mosaic covenant (which administered these sacrifices) must have been a covenant of grace. If the Mosaic covenant was simply a typological works covenant, what would its sacraments present to believers? Nothing more than temporal (typological) life. No doubt, they had this function for believers in the land. But they offered more than that. They offered real union with God by faith.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul teaches that through the sacrifices, Israelites participated in the altar (1 Cor.10:14-22). This both proves: 1) that they experienced real union with God at the temple; and 2) that the Mosaic covenant which administered this union was a covenant of grace.

The sacrifices mediated to them a real union with God. For he says, "Look


9 Turretin, Institutes, Twelfth Topic, Twelfth Question, XV (Vol. 2, p. 266).

10 Ibid.


at the nation of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?" (v. 18). The word Paul uses here is koinonos, almost identical to koinonia which it explicates in verse 16. There, partaking in the bread and the cup involve fellowship with Christ. This is no mere external participation in Christ, but involves vital union. For it is the very fellowship to which they were called in Christ (1 Cor. 1:9).

This is further strengthened with its contrast to partaking in demons (vv. 20, 21). Such partaking provokes the Lord to jealously (v. 22) which indicates that the fellowship established in the table of the Lord is a vital union. As a result, when it is broken (as in a marriage bond), it provokes him to jealousy.

And so we must think of the children of Israel who were sharers in the altar of God by faith. They possessed a real vital fellowship with the altar. But of course Paul cannot simply mean that they had vital communion with an inanimate object. He must mean that they were sharers in God himself through the altar. If not, the analogy that he is using between the Lord's supper and the altar seriously breaks down.

Therefore, we may argue as follows: 1) God can only bring sinners into union with himself through redemptive union with Christ. 2) Israel possessed real vital union with God through their sacrifices. 3) Many of these sacrifices were unique to the Mosaic covenant; thus, they were administrations of the Mosaic covenant. 4) Therefore, the Mosaic covenant was a redemptive covenant of grace in Christ to come.

Cleaver: "Good try Smith. But you failed to recognize that all Israel partook in the altar, even those who perished. You see, your text is parallel to 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 where they all partook in the same spiritual food and drink (vv. 3, 4). In spite of this, God wasn't pleased with most of them and they were judged (vv. 5-10). Thus, not all who partook were united with God. And so participating in the altar didn't unite them to God."

Smith: "It must have been a long night, Cleaver. I mean, you believe this is true in the new covenant as well, don't you?

Cleaver: "What do you mean?"


Smith: "Well, I mean, 'these things . . . were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come' (v. 11). Thus, the same thing is true in the new covenant. Those who partake of the Lord's supper and live as idolaters will be judged with the judgment of the new covenant. But this does not obscure the fact that those who partake with true faith commune in union with the Lord through his supper. So it is with Israel. Many partook externally without true faith and were condemned. But those who partook with saving faith communed in union with the Lord."

In fact, only if the old covenant was a covenant of grace, can Israel's life-history come upon us in fullness at the end of the ages (v. 11).

Cleaver: "Well, it doesn't matter anyway. For when Paul says, 'look at the nation of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?' he refers to Israel sharing in idolatry. Verse 14 says 'flee idolatry' and Paul follows up verse 18 with the words 'What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything' (v. 19). Thus, Paul is suggesting that Israel shared in demons when they sacrificed to the golden calf, getting up to play (v.7 with Ex. 32:4-6). Aaron called this a 'feast to the Lord,' allowing Paul to contrast it to the Lord's supper. Thus, Paul's point is that many Israelites partook of the Rock/Christ and then participated in the cup of demons in the golden calf. But they were judged. Paul does not want this for the Corinthians. Therefore, Paul is not referring to Israel partaking in God but partaking in idolatry."

Smith: "I don't deny that this may be one aspect of what Paul is saying. However, I would suggest that verse 18 is an explanation of 'sharing' in the Lord's supper in verses 16 and 17. Thus, if Paul is also reflecting on Israel's evil participation in idols in verse 18, it is a two edged sword. Who they vitally partook in was the one whom they vitally shared in, either idols or God. Thus, those who partook in saving faith partook in God himself through the sacrifices."

Cleaver: Silence.

Smith: "This is a good place to pick up the reading."


Yes, indeed, Israel had true vital union and communion with God through the sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant. She did not simply possess this fellowship by means of the Abrahamic covenant, for many of the sacrifices to which Paul alludes came with the giving of the law. They are unique to the Sinaitic covenant. And so, Israel possessed this union through the Mosaic covenant itself which administered these sacrifices.

Obviously, the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of eternal redemptive grace. For how else could the apostle of Romans 3 conceive of it? If, after the fall, sinners are to have fellowship with God it can only be by eternal grace. And if they participate in that eternal fellowship through the sacrifices, it can only be because those sacrifices were sacraments of a covenant of saving grace.

c) Sinai's Covenant Ratification Ceremony.

This brings us back to Exodus 20-24 and the covenant ratification ceremony for the Sinaitic covenant.

That it ratified the covenant made at Mt. Sinai (in Ex. 20ff.) is clearly indicated, for: 1) "Moses . . . recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances" (Ex. 24:3); and 2) read the "book of the covenant" (v. 7). Then, 3) Moses sprinkled the people with the "blood of the covenant" which the Lord made with them in "accordance with all these words" (v. 8). The fact that the Sinaitic covenant had to be ratified with the shedding of blood indicates that it is a covenant of redeeming grace.

Further, this ratification ceremony consummated the bond between God and his people. While not embodying the fullness of the final consummation, it is a clear anticipation of it. The elders laid hold of the end of the world (before the time). For they "saw the God of Israel" (v. 10). This is repeated a second time; they "beheld God" (v. 11). And his appearance has striking eschatological overtones. "Under his feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself" (v. 10 with Rev. 21:11, 19). Finally, they "ate and drank" before him (v. 11). They participated in a fellowship meal of communion with God. In this they participated in the Last Supper, the eschatological supper, with Jesus himself and through it laid hold of the wedding supper of the lamb.


Such a glorious communion can only be the result of a covenant of grace to sinful men. Therefore, the Sinaitic covenant, which this ceremony ratified, had to be an eternal covenant of grace.

Cleaver: "Smith, you're failing to recognize that this covenant ratification ceremony is different from those of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 15) and new covenant (Matt. 26:28, Mk. 14:24, Lk. 22:20), i.e., the Last Supper. The difference is that in Exodus 24 the people make oaths to the Lord while in Genesis 15 and the Last Supper they do not. These oaths are repeated in both Exodus 24:3 and 7; 'all that the Lord has spoken we will do.' I don't deny that the Abrahamic and new covenants require oaths from the people. However, these oaths were not given during the historical, foundational covenant ratification ceremony. Therefore, the Mosaic covenant was unique. Obviously, it was a typological covenant of works."

Smith: "I concede that this distinction between the covenant ratification ceremonies may be significant. But you're drawing an invalid conclusion from it. It doesn't follow that the Sinaitic covenant is simply a covenant of works. The unique element in the covenant ratification ceremony of Exodus 24 may single it out as having a unique legal administration. However, the surrounding context (as we've seen) clearly indicates that the Sinaitic covenant was an eternal covenant of redemptive grace. Therefore, at most, this unique feature indicates that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of grace legally administered. It cannot prove that the Mosaic covenant was simply a typological works covenant without coming into conflict with the surrounding context."

Cleaver: "I don't know Smith. The book of Hebrews seems to give a completely opposite interpretation of this passage. It does agree with you that this ceremony ratified the Mosaic covenant (Heb. 9:18 with 19-21). However, it contrasts these sacrifices with the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:23). Therefore, they don't mediate eternal grace, only typological grace."

Smith: "I admit there is a distinction between the animal sacrifices (in so far as they mediated the covenant of grace) and the sacrifice of Christ, received directly at this point in the history of redemption. For after Christ's resurrection, we possess the eternal inheritance (9:15) above in a way that surpasses Israel, while her inheritance in the land was under curse. The cov-


enant of grace as mediated through the old covenant sacrifices could not finally take away sin and curse from the inheritance (10:3-4). This is accomplished in the new covenant era (Heb. 8:12, 10:17-18). As a result, we have a fuller access to God (10:19, 20). However, I think you're suggesting too sharp a distinction between the Sinaitic covenant and the new covenant.

For the distinction between the covenants is comparable to the distinction between their sacrifices. And the writer to the Hebrews is not suggesting that those sacrifices did not mediate the covenant of grace. In fact, he implies the opposite. For several verses before the covenant ratification (9:18-21) he compares and contrasts the blood of goats and calves to the blood of Christ (9:13, 14). This language suggests a relative distinction between them rather than simply an absolute distinction. This relative distinction is suggested by the fact that the same heavenly grace is found in both, just in different degrees. Of course, it also implies an absolute contrast in so far as the blood of Christ alone is the foundation of all redemptive grace. Still, a relative contrast is also represented in the text in so far as the animal sacrifices were means of the redemptive grace of Christ."

Cleaver: "How can you say that?"

Smith: "By comparing these verses to other verses in Hebrews that use similar language. Verse 13 begins with 'for if' and verse 14 begins with 'how much more.' Similar constructions are found in Hebrews 2:2, 3; 10:28, 29; and 12:25.

In these texts, it is the eschatological wrath of God, partially mediated through old covenant penalties (etc.) that comes to full expression in the final judgment of the new covenant. By way of analogy, this construction suggests that it is the eschatological grace of Christ, partially mediated through old covenant sacrifices that comes to full expression in the final sacrifice of Christ.11

Therefore, the old covenant, which was ratified with these sacrifices (Heb. 9:18-21) must have the same nature. It must be a covenant of grace that administers the true realities of heaven, though the new covenant administers


11 The placement of Hebrews 9:15 (where Christ's death has taken place for the redemption of the sins committed under the first covenant) may be instructive in this context.


these realities with greater fullness. The old covenant possessed an eschatological vector. Therefore, in it saints possessed the heavenly city before the time (Heb. 11:1 and 10 with 32-34)."

Cleaver: "I've been thinking about your overall argument, Smith, and I think it has some serious flaws. Going back to God's presence administered in the old covenant, I would suggest that the presence of God described here is simply the temporal/typological presence of God, i.e., it is not God's saving presence of eternal union and communion."

Smith: "Haven't we gone over this?"

Cleaver: "Yes, but I'm still not satisfied. You see, it seems to me that the exodus was typological grace and thus only administered a typological union with God."

Smith: "Perhaps I should tell you what I think I'm hearing when I hear that distinction. It appears that this distinction implies that the typological presence of God in Israel was simply an external presence of God, not one that eternally transformed the heart."

Cleaver: "No, I grant that God's typological presence included temporary internal movements of the Spirit. Certainly, God's typological presence moved men to deeds. For the Spirit of God moved Saul to action (1 Sam. 11:6). Thus, in some sense, it moved his heart."

Smith: "Yes, and I'm using the term 'external' to include that influence of the Spirit. Of course, I'm sure we both agree that this external presence did not move Saul's heart savingly."

Cleaver: "Oh, of course."

Smith: "But according to your view, God did not eternally transform men's hearts through the Mosaic covenant. (Eternal salvation was only mediated to Israel through the Abrahamic covenant.) In this sense, I'm calling your view 'external,' so that you believe that the typological presence of God was simply external."

Cleaver: "That sounds good enough."


Smith: "But on what grounds do you still make that claim?"

Cleaver: "Well, for one, the presence of God in the land is given to all those dwelling in the land, not just the elect. Therefore, these statements do not reflect the eternal saving presence of God with his people."

Smith: "But doesn't this go back to what we've said before? For the New Testament speaks of God's saving presence with the whole church without always distinguishing between the wheat and the tares. Still, we do not think the New Testament is speaking about a typological presence of God. Instead, it is speaking of God's saving presence with his people which is only experienced externally by the reprobate, but internally by the elect alone. Thus, we're looking back to the distinction between the visible and the invisible Church, made famous by Augustine.12

Cleaver: "I've sometimes wondered about that distinction."

Smith: "Well, it's not simply in Augustine. This distinction is implicit in Hebrews 6:1-9. Let me look it up. Yes, I would suggest that Hebrews 6:4-6 (following Heb. 3:7-4:11) seems to reflect the experience of the children of Israel in the exodus and wilderness wanderings. Israel was 'enlightened' by the pillar of fire. They 'tasted of the heavenly gift' in the manna and quail from heaven. They were 'partakers of the Holy Spirit' in the cloud (Isa. 63:11 and Neh. 9:20). They heard the word of God and received a foretaste of the age to come in all these blessings. However, the majority of them fell away. Therefore, they experienced these things in a way that was not accompanied with salvation. The writer implies this when he says, 'we are convinced of better things concerning you, things that accompany salvation' (Heb. 6:9). Thus, we say that apostate Israel experienced these blessings externally without receiving an internal transformation of their hearts. And Hebrews implies that such a possibility is at work in the new covenant church as well."

Cleaver: "Fair enough. But how does this relate to Israel?"

Smith: "Well, the nation and the church were coextensive in Israel. Therefore, the saving presence of God in the nation was experienced internally by


12 Geerhardus Vos finds in Isaiah "the birth of the idea of a church within a church, the idea of the invisible church" [emphasis his] (The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 61).


the elect as a foretaste of their future eschatological glory. But it was only experienced externally by those who would later apostatize. As noted, Hebrews 6:1-9 implies that the same type of distinction that is at work in the new covenant was at work in the old. We could also consider the comparison we saw with Israel in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5.

Cleaver: "So what does this have to do with the distinction between the typological presence of God and his saving presence?"

Smith: "Well you suggested that this distinction might be grounded in the fact that the presence of God in the land is given to all those dwelling in the land, not just the elect. From this you drew the conclusion that God's presence in the land was not his eternal saving presence. But I would suggest that the distinction between the visible and invisible Church is sufficient to account for this. God was present in the land (which was the visible church), but his presence in the land only transformed the elect. But note, it was his presence in the land, mediated through the old covenant that eternally transformed the elect."

Cleaver: "I don't buy that."

Smith: "Yes, I realize that. However, we do know that the distinction between the visible and invisible Church is found in scripture. So I ask you, What is the ground for claiming that there is another kind of distinction found in the old covenant, one that would separate God's presence mediated through the Mosaic covenant from his eternal saving presence?"

Cleaver: "I suppose it's found in the typological nature of God's presence in the land."

Smith: "Certainly, I agree that there is exegetical ground for saying that the presence of God in the old covenant had a unique typological function not found in the new. However, what ground is there for claiming that the presence of God mediated through the old covenant is to be reduced to the typological (as if that could be separated from an eternal vital union between God and his people)?"

Cleaver: Silent.


Smith: "In fact, as I later note in my paper, I suggest that the typology of the old covenant is dependent on an eschatological intrusion. That is, on the old covenant blessings being a real eschatological intrusion of the grace of Christ to come. They cannot be based on a mere external presence of God with his people."

Cleaver: "Why not?"

Smith: "Well, I'll give you one example. For instance, the typology found in David is based on the internal transformation of his heart. As a man after God's own heart, David is a type of Christ, the true man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). Therefore, the covenant bond that is the foundation of this typology must be none other than the covenant of grace.

Therefore, you cannot say that the presence of God in the land was merely external because it was typological."

Cleaver: "I'll have to think about that."

Smith: "So, what grounds are left for the claim that God's covenant union with his people (administered through the Mosaic covenant) was merely external?"13

Cleaver: Silent.

Smith: "And if there are none (as it would appear), we should draw the conclusion that the distinction between the visible and invisible Church (implied in Heb. 6:1-9) is sufficient to account for God's covenant union with the nation of Israel. Therefore, the Mosaic covenant administered God's presence to Israel. This presence was only experienced externally by the reprobate. However, it eternally justified and transformed the elect in Christ to come.14 The Mosaic covenant was truly a covenant of eternal saving grace.


13 And if we say that the Mosaic covenant was a typological works covenant and not the covenant of grace, what else is that but to say but that the presence of God which it administered was simply external, that is, that it did not eternally transform the heart?

14 Here I am using the terms "elect" and "reprobate" as are used in classic doctrinal categories. It can be argued that Paul uses the term elect to apply to the whole visible Church. We may then draw the distinction between the visible elect and the invisible elect.


And if I'm right that the Abrahamic covenant was an intrusion of the exodus deliverance (Gen. 15:13, 14), then the exodus deliverance was an intrusion of the work of Christ. For all acknowledge the Abrahamic covenant to be one of eternal redemptive grace. If this grace was given to Abraham by means of the future exodus event, then the exodus event itself must have been a vital intrusion of eternal redemptive grace and not a mere external type of it. (And God's union with Israel that flowed from the exodus would also have the same nature.)"

Cleaver: "Alright, I'm worn out. Why don't we go back to the paper."

Smith: "Certainly. We had just finished up with the covenant ratification ceremony. Alright, more reasons for believing that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of eternal saving grace."

d) The Nature of Covenant Union in Redemptive History.

God's eschatological presence, his eternal love, is experienced as a mighty torrent flowing through redemptive events (1 John 4:8-11). That is, our eschatological union with God is in Christ. Even in our heavenly life, we will participate in the person of Christ as he embodies his redemptive events (Rev. 5:12). We will see the eschatological God through Christ and his death and resurrection.

If the presence of God in the land was merely external, then the redemptive event of the exodus did not mediate to Israel the eschatological love of God in Christ. They did not experience their glorious Lord through the exodus event as an overflowing torrent of love and grace penetrating their souls.

Cleaver: "What kind of argument is that?"

Smith: "It attempts to show that if you make the exodus into a purely external redemptive act, it cannot stir the heart with eternal gratitude to God."

Cleaver: "But why should it since it only introduced Israel into temporal blessings?"

Smith: "Don't you believe that those blessings were an eschatological intrusion?"


Cleaver: "Of course, I'm not denying that those blessings were an eschatological intrusion, just that God's eschatological presence in the land didn't transform people's hearts."

Smith: "But if the eschatological intrusion in the theocracy (mediated through the Mosaic covenant) did not eternally transform people's hearts and justify them, it is hard to see how it is an aspect of redemptive history. For then it did not touch men and women in their greatest need."

Cleaver: "The same eschatological presence of God at work typologically in the theocracy culminated in Christ's resurrection Spirit. It was this Spirit that was given eschatologically at Pentecost. This same Spirit was experienced before the time by the Israelites through the Abrahamic covenant in their eternal salvation. So there is a redemptive historical connection between the Spirit's presence in the land and their regeneration, just not an immediate connection. The Spirit's typological presence in the land is mediated to them through its fullness in Christ which then is given to them through the Abrahamic covenant before the time.

Smith: "I don't want to deny these connections. However, I would suggest that these connections took place within the Mosaic covenant itself. So the presence of the Spirit in the land immediately transformed their hearts through the mediation of the future risen Christ by means of the Mosaic covenant."

Cleaver: "Doesn't that really amount to the same thing? For in both cases the same Spirit who was at work in the typology of the theocracy was at work in regenerating Old Testament saints through the Abrahamic covenant."

Smith: "There I think is the principle difference. And that brings me back to the point of my paper. You say it is through the Abrahamic covenant and not through the exodus event with it's Mosaic covenant. If this is true, then the exodus event was not itself an intrusion of the work of Christ. It was only an intrusion of the presence of the Spirit, which would later be culminated in the work of Christ. For if the exodus event itself was an intrusion of the work of Christ then it should have moved the hearts of the Old Testament saints, thus making the old covenant a covenant of grace. However, if the supernatural work of the Spirit was only to culminate in the work of Christ then the Israel-


ites were only led to Christ as future and could only see his work as actually mediated to them through the ratification of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15. They would not look back to the exodus itself as a mighty act of God that mediated to them the work of Christ. They would only look back to the establishment of the Abrahamic covenant.

Cleaver: Silent.

Smith: "In this way, the exodus event would be cut out of the organic unfolding of the mighty acts of God in redemptive history."

Cleaver: "I see; well, why don't you continue with your paper."

Smith: "Alright."

And if Christ is not behind the exodus, what becomes of our union with the exodus and the other redemptive historical events of the Mosaic covenant? If Israel had no real vital connection with the eschatological life of God through these events, how about us? How can we be vitally united with these events and through them find vital connection with the eschatological Christ? How can we find our life hidden in those events and in them experience the overflowing love and mercy of Christ toward us? We cannot.

Again, if the exodus did not embody the resurrection life of Christ, it was not a real eschatological intrusion, in spite of claims to the contrary. Neither were any of God's mighty acts under the law, including the conquest of the land and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom. Instead, the old covenant becomes flat. It possesses no real eschatological vector. So, its mighty acts become for us mere pictures. And on this theory, as we shall see, they can't even be that.

Further, if we cannot find our lives in the exodus (or God's other mighty acts under the law) neither can it inspire us with love for the Church. For then we cannot find in the exodus the life of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot see them united to Christ and his love through the exodus event. Therefore, preaching the exodus event can have no effect on our love for our fellow saints. For it is precisely our recognition of their union with Christ (as well as our own) that is the foundation for Paul's appeal that we love one another, not


to mention John (1 Jn. 4:11). Therefore, the exodus event ceases to have significance for the life of the Church.

Finally, and most importantly, we cannot see the glory of Christ in the exodus or in his mighty acts in the land. Christ reigns supreme. The history of redemption is the story of his progressive triumph over the powers of darkness. God's mighty acts under the law are organically connected to this progressive triumph of Christ, coming to final expression in his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection.

e) Old Testament Saints Rejoiced in the Law of God.

i) Psalm 119

Psalm 119 shows that the Mosaic Law was intimately bound to God's saving grace. In this psalm the psalmist rejoices in the law (vv. 14, 111, 162) and delights in it (vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 143, 174). He longs for God's commandments (vv. 20, 40, 131), which he loves (vv. 47, 48, 97,113, 119, 127, [132], 140, 159, 163, 165, 167). They have become his songs (v. 54).

The law binds him to God. For his love for the law is simply the mirror reflection of God's lovingkindness (vv. 41, 88, 149; especially 159) and faithfulness (v. 90). God's face will shine upon him in keeping the law (v. 135a with v. 135b and v. 134b).

This is underscored when he connects the law with salvation. First, with his own salvation (vv. 41, 81-83, 156, 166, 173, 174). Then with the salvation that eludes the wicked. "Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek thy statutes" (v. 155). In fact, this connection between the law and salvation is quite striking in the Resh section (vv. 153-160). Verses 156 and 159 have interesting parallels.

V. 156: "Great are thy mercies, O Lord;

                        Revive me according to thine ordinances."

V. 159: "Consider how I love thy precepts;

                        Revive me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness."


Is this a chiastic pattern? Perhaps. Verses 156a and 159b contain God's mercies and lovingkindness. Verses 156b and 159a contain God's ordinances or precepts. Interestingly, "ordinances" and "lovingkindness" can be interchanged in the phrase "Revive me according to thy ______." The ordinances of the law are here placed in the most intimate relationship with God's lovingkindness. The law is intimately connected with redemption.

Since the law is so intimately bound up with salvation it can be none other than an eschatological intrusion of the life of God in Christ. And thus, "all things are thy servants" (v. 91).

The psalmist believes that the law is his hiding place (v. 113b with 114), as if the law embodies his union with God himself as his hiding place. Thus, the law cannot simply represent God's eternal character in abstraction from his salvation. The psalmist associates the law with God as his hiding place. And God cannot be considered his hiding place apart from redemption. Thus, the law must be an intrusion of redemptive saving grace in Christ.

This is not to deny that the law can be viewed in abstraction from redemption, as a repetition of the covenant of works, by which it only condemns sinners. The point is that it can also be viewed as a whole (moral, ceremonial, and judicial) in which it was Israel's means of identifying with the eschatological life of God in Christ. Together moral, ceremonial, and judicial law draw the psalmist to Christ's objective work of redemption. As a result, they also embody his vital union with Christ, functioning as imperatives in the Mosaic covenant of grace. As he follows these imperatives, he is living out of his union with Christ, laying hold of Christ's life with greater and greater fullness.

Therefore, he finds in the law his covenant bond in God. "I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts" (v. 94). Certainly he hopes that his eschatological salvation will be anticipated in his theocratic deliverance (vv. 94, 95, 109, 110, 117, 126, 134, 135).

However, the psalmist would be disappointed indeed to learn that in the law he was merely seeking a temporary salvation of earthly blessings. No, this man wants God. He will be satisfied with nothing less. He seeks progres-


sive identification with the eschatological life of God. In this he seeks progressive sanctification, being sanctified unto God's own arena.

What then of the earthly blessings? He desires them because God is present in the land. The blessings of the land are the blessing of his presence. Therefore, the psalmist desires to anticipate this salvation (of greater union with God) in theocratic deliverance.

However, this is no strictly meritorious reward, for it is salvation, and salvation is ultimately from the Lord. Of course, the difference with the new covenant is that this anticipated salvation that he receives through sanctification removes curse from his inheritance. This is not at work in new covenant saints, whose justification involves their final deliverance from the curse of the law so that nothing that is their inheritance in God is cursed. But if this is reflected in this psalm, it does not indicate that the Mosaic covenant was simply a typological works covenant.

If the law was simply a covenant of works (for external blessings), how could it effect his heart in longing for God himself? Presumably, it wouldn't effect his heart to lay hold of God. His heart would simply be filled with the temporary, the earthly, and the transitory. Only a law that promises God himself as its reward can fill the heart with God.15 And only a law that promises this within the context of redeeming grace can be a comfort to sinners. Therefore, it must be an expression of the covenant of grace in Christ, binding him to God in the Spirit.

Further, if the law is not an expression of the covenant of grace how could he rejoice in it? True rejoicing only comes to lost sinners through redemption. But, you might say, could he not rejoice in temporary earthly deliverance? Sure. But the rejoicing described here is so full that this alone is not sufficient to account for it. Besides, are those who simply rejoice in temporary deliverance truly rejoicing (according to the scriptures)?

But you will say, he does rejoice in his salvation through the Abrahamic covenant. So he truly rejoices.


15 That is, the reward of a progressive sanctification that presumes the positive imputation of Christ's righteousness.


However, the psalmist makes it clear that he rejoices in the law. Thus, the law itself must be an expression of his salvation (and of the Abrahamic covenant).

Ah, but you will say, "Once he is truly delighted with his salvation through the Abrahamic covenant, he can truly delight in other things, such as temporal blessings (since he already possesses the greatest delight)."

If this is so, why does he spend so much time describing his love for the law, if his greatest delight is found elsewhere?

Again, the blessings of the law cannot be limited to the earthly. For he goes on to say "trouble and anguish have come upon me; Yet thy commandments are my delight" (v. 143). In the midst of trouble and anguish, God's commandments are his delight. Therefore his delight transcends the earthly. In it, he possesses the heavenly arena of God's superlative presence.

In conclusion, the Psalmist does not view the law as bare commandment. The law for him is the expression of the very eschatological life of God himself. And since God has bound himself to his people in his redemptive acts, the eschatological life of God has been given to them in redemption. The law identified Israel with God's redemptive acts, yea with the God of Israel himself, even with the heavenly city in Christ Jesus.

ii) Romans 7

Paul implies the very same thing in Romans 7. In this chapter Paul weaves together his positive and negative statements about the law. In fact, he shows that these positive and negative statements cannot be separated from one another.

Here, I will be advocating the position that Romans 7:13-25 deals with the struggle of old covenant saints. This is not to deny that new covenant saints have struggles, but only to point out that this is not the immediate focus of this passage. We will not have room to fully present this claim. However, let us note a few structural indicators.

Romans 8:1 states, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." This statement is similar to Romans 3:21 ("but now


apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested") indicating a redemptive historical transition from the age of the law to the age when there is "no distinction" between Jew and Gentile (v. 22). This implies that the material immediately prior to Romans 8:1 was discussing the age of the law.

Romans 7:6's use of "now" anticipates the "now" of Romans 8:1, linking them thematically. "But now we have been released from the law." That this is a redemptive historical transition is further revealed by the fact that we now "serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter."

This indicates that the language used in the immediately preceding verse (v. 5) refers to the era of the law. It further supports our claim that 7:13-25 refers to the era of the law. For verse 5 is intimately connected with 7:7-25. "The sinful passions, which were aroused by the law" (v. 5) are displayed in 7:7-25 where "the commandment produced in me coveting of every kind" (vv. 7, 8, 11). Verse 13 picks up on this: "affecting my death through that which is good." And this statement of verse 13 is in the rhetorical question that introduces verses 13-25. Therefore it colors the whole discussion in this section. The repetition of "for" in verses 14 and 15 is the first indication of this.

Further, "members of my body" in verse 5 sets up its use in verse 23. And their connection with "death" in verse 5 anticipates the same connection with death in verse 24.

Therefore, we suggest that Romans 7:5 and 7:6 set us up for the rest of chapter 7 and chapter 8. Verse 5 refers to 7:7-25 and verse 6 refers to chapter 8. Verses 7:7-25 describe the era of the law. And they must focus on Israel according to her greatest representatives, her saints, for no unregenerate person can "joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man" (v. 22).16

This brings us to the main point of our discussion. Using the first person


16 Contra the traditional Arminian interpretation of Romans 7:14-25, which states that Paul is simply referring to unbelievers. For a modern representation of this view by a Lutheran see, Westerholm, Perspectives, pp. 144-45.


singular (a literary "I"), Paul places into the mouth of the old covenant saint these words: "I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man" (v. 22). This reflects the language of Psalm 119 and strengthens our analysis of this psalm, the claim that this is the inner joy of eternal salvation in Christ to come.

Cleaver: "Are you sure this joy of the inner man has anything to do with salvation? Isn't Paul simply making the general distinction between the inner man and outer body that we find in all people?"

Smith: "Certainly this general distinction lies behind what he says. However, in Romans 7:22-23, Paul doesn't simply distinguish the inner man from the law in the members of the body. He contrasts them. But in the natural man, the inner man is darkened and has the same desires as the body (Eph. 4:17, 18). The two are not contrasted to one another as they are in Romans 7 (v. 22, 23, 25).

Thus, the real question is 'What lies behind Paul's contrast between the joy of the inner man and the desires of the sinful body?' The only similar thing we find in his epistles is the contrast between the inner and outer man in the believer (2 Cor. 4:16). In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the outer man is associated with the body which is decaying. This strengthens the probability that the contrast in Romans 7 (with the members of the body) is similar.

Now we may ask 'What allows Paul to make this contrast in 2 Corinthians 4:16?' Only the fact that the inner man is oriented to the eschatological dimension in contrast to the temporal (v. 18). For instance, the 'outer man' is 'decaying' (v. 16). Therefore, it is related to this 'temporal' age, 'the things that are seen' (v. 18). However, the 'inner man' is being renewed (v. 16). This renewal is oriented to the 'eternal' realities that 'are not seen' (v. 18). Since Paul's contrast in Romans 7 is similar, it's also dependent on the fact that the inner man rejoices in the possession of unseen eschatological realities. In this case, he possesses them before the time. However, if the law were simply a typological covenant of works, Israel's rejoicing in it would only be tied to this world."

Cleaver: "How can you draw that conclusion? For 2 Corinthians 4:18 is within chapters 3-6 (framed by 2:13 and 7:5), all of which expound the contrast between the old and new covenants related in chapter 3. Thus, when Paul


says 'we look not at the things which are seen,' he contrasts his situation with the old covenant in which they looked at the things which are seen in the theocracy. Thus, Israel in Romans 7 is also looking at the things that are seen. In fact Paul says as much. For he speaks about Israel's desire to be delivered from present death. This would be the outer man as you see it. For he says, 'who will deliver me from this body of death?'" (v. 25)

Smith: "I admit that Paul's distinction between the things that are seen and the things that are not seen is a relative contrast to the law. For the semi- eschatological situation of 4:7-11 exists as a result of the treasure of the glory of the new covenant (4:6, 7 with 3:18). Thus it is contrasted to the old covenant. But this is only a relative contrast. For 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 states that the old covenant had glory while the new covenant possesses more of this glory (v. 8), i.e., the glory of God's presence.

However, if anyone goes back to the old covenant after the coming of Christ (Gal. 3:1), it is as if he is saying the revelation of Christ's kingdom in the old covenant is not important. All that is important are the earthly blessings which revealed that kingdom. This is what the super apostles of 2 Corinthians 10-12 were doing. They are among those who 'take pride in appearance, and not in heart' (2 Cor. 5:12). Thus, in 4:18 Paul is making an absolute contrast to the old covenant (as the super apostles laid hold of it) and a relative contrast to it (as it was before the coming of Christ). This is the way the saints before Christ possessed the law (Rom. 7). Thus, we should expect to find a mixture of the old and new man in their experience under the law in so far as this is contrasted to the new covenant.

Therefore, we may also say that the outer/inner man distinction does not express itself in the exact same way in both covenants. Israel hoped to anticipate her eschatological blessings in the outer life while Paul sees the outer life tied more to a life of suffering.

Our point here is not to exclude the outer man from Israel's desire for deliverance, but to show that the inner man has an eschatological orientation that transcends the present earthly arena. Even the outer man in Israel's experience had an eschatological orientation tied to the inner man.


Thus, Israel's desire for bodily redemption (anticipated in the theocracy's outward blessings) transcended present temporal earthly blessing. For her desire for bodily salvation is only answered in the resurrection of Christ (v. 24-25). Her entire desire was eschatologically oriented.

In the same epistle, Paul contrasts inward and outward circumcision (Rom. 2:28-29), the inward oriented to the age of the Spirit. Thus, in Romans 7, when he speaks of Israel rejoicing in the law of God in the inner man, he cannot have forgotten himself. Paul is not talking about a bare external typological desire in abstraction from eternal salvation. He must be implying that their desire for the law had an eschatological orientation to life in the Spirit.

If I may continue I think you'll find some further support for that in the paper."

Cleaver: "Go ahead."

The law is spiritual (v. 14) governs the verses that follow, including "rejoice in the law of God in the inner man." Law is an eschatological intrusion of the world to come. (It is Spiritual.) Thus, it gives him such a taste of eschatology that causes him to long for the fuller manifestation of the world to come in the eschatological Spirit.

The law is eschatological in nature, binding us in covenant fidelity to God. Such a taste of the Spirit (in the law) can only come through an administration of grace to sinful men and women.

Cleaver: "I don't know. How do we not know that the inner man joyfully concurred with the law because it pointed him to Christ (by way of contrast to his own disobedience)? For Romans 7 emphasizes Israel's inability to keep the law by way of Christ's fulfillment of it (Rom. 8:3, 4)."

Smith: "Certainly, the emphasis in this chapter is finally on Israel's futility in keeping the law and the curse that resulted (v. 24). However is this all we can say about it? I suggest not. For he joyfully concurred in his own doing of the law. In fact, the phrase 'I joyfully concur with the law of God in the


inner man' is connected to 'the good that I wish, I do not do' (v. 19).17 By implication, his inner man wanted to do the good found in the law. He wanted the substance of the law.

He rejoices in his own doing of the law. Thus, his own active identification with the law must arise from redemptive grace."

Cleaver: "You are saying the law arises from redemption because he rejoices in actually doing the law. But the text doesn't say that he actually does the law. It simply implies that he would rejoice in it if he did it. That is, he would rejoice in it if he was perfect like Adam. And this does not require redemption."

Smith: "I don't think that follows. For the text says that he actually rejoices in the law in the inner man. If he actually rejoices in it, he must actually do it to some extent. Or else he would not find any joy in it. He would only know that he should have joy in it. That is, if it was simply a covenant of works, he would only recognize his obligation to rejoice in God's law, but he wouldn't actually rejoice in it."

Cleaver: "But he could rejoice in it in so far as it gave him earthly blessings."

Smith: "Well, then, I must return to my previous point. In fact that brings me to the next part."

Romans 7-8 presents an absolute and relative contrast to the law simultaneously. For Israel rejoices in the law of God. Therefore, it must represent the covenant of grace to her. On the other hand, Israel fails to do the law.

In this failure, what precisely does Israel fail to do? What Christ has done in Romans 8:3 and 4. "What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh God did." Therefore, they failed to keep the law perfectly (as an absolute covenant of works) in order to bring in the eschatological age. Israel failed to


17 The connective gar of verse 22 connects it to verse 21, which is a conclusion to verses 15-20. That verses 15-20 form a unit is indicated by the precise correspondence (in wording) between verse 15 and 19 ("for not that which I will" with "this I practice") and again between verses 16a and 20a. And finally, the concluding words of verses 17 and 20 are similar, "but sin dwells in me."


do this. And that which she failed to do is said to be the very thing she wanted to do. Thus, she wanted to bring in the eschatological age through her perfect obedience.

This is underscored by the fact that the failure to do this was not the law's inability but the failure of the flesh (8:3) which is recorded in 7:14-25 (see "flesh" in vv. 14, 25). Thus, it must have been the desire of Israel, which she failed to do, due to the flesh.

However, there was only one way for sinful Israel to rejoice in that very law which she sought to keep perfectly. She had to positively lay hold of it as a good in order to rejoice in it. And she couldn't do this apart from grace. Thus, we could reason: 1) she had to rejoice in the law; otherwise she would not have the desire to keep it (to bring in the eschatological age). But 2) in order to rejoice in it, she had to lay hold of it by grace. However 3) this very situation (bound up with her inability to keep it perfectly) showed her that she could not bring in the eschatological age. Therefore 4) she realized she needed an eschatological deliverer (v. 24). Finally 5) she anticipated the spiritual resurrection-life of her deliverer (8:2, 4, 6, 9, 11) in so far as she rejoiced in the spiritual law of God (7:14 and 22), although her participation in the Spirit was not as full as ours (8:1-4 and thus 5-17, especially v. 15 with Gal. 4:4-7).

In conclusion, righteous Israel rejoiced in the law in the inner man. Therefore, this rejoicing was eschatologically oriented. And since he was anticipating this eschatological reality in his own doing of the law, it must have been a covenant of grace to him, one in which he laid hold of the risen Christ before the time."

Cleaver: "I have one more question for you. How about Galatians 3:15-25? There Paul clearly distinguishes between the law covenant of Moses and the covenant of promise in the Abrahamic and new covenants. Thus, Paul seems to teach that the Mosaic covenant is a typological covenant of works."

Smith: "Well, I deal with that in some detail in a later section of my paper, but I can say a few things about it here.

First, Paul's contrast between promise and law here is not simply an absolute one. For Paul applies the term 'covenants of promise' (Eph. 2:12) to all of


Israel's previous identity, and thus to all her covenants, including the Mosaic covenant.

Galatians 3:15 makes it clear that the Abrahamic covenant still continues to have its own distinct nature and continuing validity apart from the latter additions of the law. But it does not deny that the Mosaic covenant itself is the Abrahamic covenant with legal stipulations added, making it a covenant of grace legally administered. This would still allow for the difference between the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant, which Paul is affirming, while also doing justice to the other texts we have discussed."

Cleaver: "Well, I'm not sure. I suppose I'll wait for your further exposition."

Smith: "Then I guess I'll read on."


Final conclusion to question one: Was the Mosaic covenant a redemptive covenant of grace? Yes; we have seen that Israel's covenant bond with God was dependent on his mighty acts in history (especially the Exodus). These acts must have been eschatological intrusions of the resurrection life of Christ. Otherwise Israel could not have laid hold of her eschatological salvation through them. And these acts would be cut off from the organic unfolding of redemptive history.

Since they mediated eternal salvation, the bond that they establish (with those who lay hold of them by faith) must be the eternal bond of intimate union with God in Christ. And the Mosaic covenant that administers these blessings (Ex. 20-24) must be a covenant of eternal redemptive grace. This is further confirmed by the fact that Israel laid hold of the law of God with her inner man, revealing that the law was tied to her eschatological salvation. For in it she laid hold of the world to come in Christ. And since the law that was given through Moses is an administration of grace, the Mosaic covenant that administered this law must be a covenant of grace. Yes, the Mosaic covenant had a true eschatological vector in Christ Jesus.


And this is the point of this whole discussion. The Mosaic covenant revealed Christ, not just by way of negation (the law contrasted to Christ) but by way of positive affirmation. For the Mosaic covenant was a real vertical intrusion of the eschatological life of Jesus Christ to come. In it, Israel was possessed by the world to come. Christ Jesus himself possessed her, as his bride.

If our preaching of the Old Testament is to draw the Church into a vital relationship with Christ, we must not neglect this. We must do justice to this vertical eschatological intrusion of the heavenly life of Christ in the Mosaic covenant. Otherwise we will fail to see it consistently in Israel's history, which was a living out of that covenant. Only when we see Christ's vertical life in Old Testament history can we see it in Old Testament revelation. And only then can we have an eschatological hook to show its greater fullness in the new covenant. What is at stake is the fullness of the vertical eschatological revelation of Christ at the end of the ages. And without that, Christ's transcendent glory in the midst of his suffering Church is eclipsed. The Church can have no transcendent eschatology now—no transcendent age to come in the midst of this present age—semi-eschatological life. And without it, she cannot lay hold of the transcendent glory of Christ in the midst of suffering. (Therefore, even the distinction between the old and new covenants is diminished and flattened).

But thanks be to God, Christ has revealed his glory in the mighty acts of the old covenant, that the culmination of this victory may have the full character of eschatological triumph—one of resurrection power and grace to all those who believe. Their history is Christ's history in the old covenant and in its final triumph in the new. For the end of the ages has truly come upon us in Christ Jesus.

Cleaver: "Yes."

Smith: "Well, that's the end of the first question. I don't suppose you're up for the second one?"

Cleaver: "Perhaps not today. That's plenty to think about. Got to get back to the wife, you know."


Smith: "Well, thanks for coming over. I appreciate it."

Cleaver: "Maybe we can finish it off another time. Give me a ring."

Smith: "Sounds good. Take care."

Northwest Theological Seminary

Lynnwood, Washington


Bolton, Samuel. The True Bounds of Christian Freedom. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001.

Fisher, Edward. The Marrow of Modern Divinity. With notes by Thomas Boston. Reprinted by Still Waters Revival Books, 1991.

Sanborn, Scott F. "Paul and the Law." Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 17/2 (September 2002): 24-53.

Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 2. Translated by George Musgrave Giger and edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994.

Vos, Geerhardus. The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1956.

Westerholm, Stephen. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The Lutheran Paul and His Critics. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 2004.



(A Reflection on the Opening Chapters of I Samuel)
Charles G. Dennison

A simple child,
              shuffled in a rage of games . . .
The ancient priest (hardly wisdom's best)
              gives the heirs Egyptian names . . .
Sits sightless down to see his mirth depart;
Lies lifeless hearing judgment's birth.
Out of glory
              the hand is played;
Then quiet, small, the Kingdom bursts
And whispers softly, "Last is first."



The motif of the poem—games—appears in the title and line 2. These are trivial games, insignificant games, yet games of life and death. They are games which mirror this world and the next. The "single child" (Samuel) is likened to a deck of cards—"shuffled" in the Eli-Hophni/Phinehas games. The refusal of the "ancient priest" (Eli) to restrain his "heirs" (Hophni and Phinehas) is


added to the game of assigning them Egyptian names. Does Eli look to Egypt against Philistia? a game Israel/Judah will reprise at the end of her monarchical life—witness the prophets who condemn the respective kingdoms for looking to their once-upon-a-time tyrant slavemaster. The blind priest bows to Philistine games—the ark ("his mirth") is captured. And finally he lies dead with the departing judgment—"the glory hath departed."

But from that arena—from the glory-arena—comes a different "hand." It is no whimsical, political, posturing game. It is a sovereign player who fills the womb of an obscure woman (Hannah) with a tiny, child-like savior. And the whisper of that transcendent kingdom in the person of that weak and insignificant child—"last is first."

(Notes compiled by James T. Dennison, Jr. from the comments of Charles G. Dennison in conversation with his niece, Kristin Annette Dennison, in the summer of 1996.)


On Being a Confessional Church

Gregory Edward Reynolds

In 1980, at my first General Assembly, in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the late Bernard "Chip" Stonehouse exhorted rookie commissioners to wait five years before we opened our mouths in debate. Fresh out of seminary I thought my Old School theology made my position superior to Chip's on most questions. However, I am pleased to have heeded his exhortation. Over the past several decades I have been privileged to observe and participate in a system of church government based on principles that are self-consciously Biblical. It has been difficult at times to learn to think and communicate in a way different from my native egalitarian instincts. As an outsider, raised in liberal New England Congregationalism, it took a conscious effort, time and experience to learn to participate in the culture of Presbyterianism. I am glad I waited. Chip gave us good advice on this point.

With an increasing number of ministers entering the OPC from outside the Presbyterian tradition, and with the increasing variety of seminary training of our ministers, I would like to pass on some thoughts on what it means to be a confessional church. I, with my fellow officers, have taken a vow to uphold the purity, peace and unity of the church. I believe that only a truly confessional church has the ability to keep such a vow, because we have corporately agreed on what we believe. If we cannot continue our agreement we will face, as is perhaps already evident, a confessional crisis. As one astute observer of the last General Assembly comments: "The church is particularly ill-equipped to judge the way in which her subordinate standards serve to establish both the unity and the diversity of its faith. In the more confessionally


literate age [of] . . . the Synod of Dordt, the church recognized that a confession served both vital functions: it established boundaries for theological formulation and it offered latitude within those boundaries for the development of varied theological expressions . . . . A party spirit seems to be emerging within the church, with factions largely determined by where ministerial commissioners were educated."1 The antidote is the culture of confessionalism.

Being a confessional church means that we are exegetical.

As the body of Christ, the church is rooted in the text of Scripture. Being confessional means that we have come to a consensus regarding what Scripture teaches. We must always be testing the truth and accuracy of that consensus by the careful exegesis of Scripture. Unlike Scripture confessions are fallible. Being faithful to Scripture does not mean that because I have a particular understanding of a passage or passages that my interpretation supercedes the confession of my church. If I think the confession unbiblical, based on my understanding of Scripture, I am bound to test my findings with the mind of the church, and then if others agree, take proper constitutional steps to revise the confession. I must be careful not to think that my interpretation trumps the church's understanding. The Biblical alternative to authoritarian clericalism is not an egalitarianism, in which my opinion sets the agenda, but confessional Presbyterianism.

Being a confessional church means that we respect our history.

When examined by the Presbytery of New York and New England, John Murray, who differed with the confession on at least eight points, stated only one exception and that was his conviction of exclusive psalmody. What is


1 Bryan Pieters, "Synod of Dordt, the Lesser." Nicotine Theological Journal (October 2003): 4.


ironic and instructive is that the ipsissima verba of the confession supports exclusive psalmody, but because Murray thought historically about the confession he knew that his church had decided in the nineteenth century that it was permissible to sing hymns, since the singing of psalms was not essential to the system of doctrine.2

Furthermore, Murray taught his points of difference to seminary students and even wrote to defend them. He admitted that his view of the covenant was a significant recasting of the historic Reformed doctrine. However, even in teaching contrary to these non-essential points he always did so with great respect for the confession, while never treating it as if it is infallible. "It is with something of an apology that attention is drawn to these blemishes," he wrote. "But they serve to point up and confirm . . . that any amendment necessary does not affect the system of truth set forth in the Confession, and they remind us of the imperfection that must attach itself to human composition so that we may never place human documents or pronouncements on a par with the one supreme standard of faith."3 Murray is worthy of our emulation.

Tradition is a living reality [L. traditio=hand down]. Culture is "the ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc. of a people or group, that are transferred, communicated, or passed along, as in or to succeeding generations."4 All cultures are in dynamic growth, but when cultures grow properly they cultivate themselves in the soil of their past. The church decides what it confesses. It often does so on non-essential points, teaching that is not part of the system of doctrine, without changing the text of the confession, as with hymn singing. Its commitment to the authority of Scripture means that it is always seeking to maintain what is Biblical, and correct what is not. Thus, the confession is, in this sense, a working document. Like any constitution it must be revised or amended with great care and deliberation, but it is open to revision.


2 James E. Urish, "A Peaceable Plea About Subscription: Avoiding Future Divisions." David W. Hall, ed. The Practice of Confessional Subscription (New York: University Press of America, Inc., 1995) 220-221. Urish lists the other seven points of difference, which Murray apparently did not consider essential to the Reformed system.

3 John H. Skilton, Scripture and Confession: A Book about Confessions Old and New (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973) 148.

4 Webster's New World Dictionary and Thesaurus. Accent Software International, Macmillan Publishers, Version 2.0 _ 1998, Build #25.


Some might object that this is judicial activism. The answer is no, judicial activism is interpreting the constitution in a new way, as it is applied to a particular case, which is out of accord with the history of the church's interpretation. As a confessional church our courts must not act as if no one before us had ever read, interpreted or subscribed to the confession, but we must rather ask—How have our forefathers interpreted it? If we seek to understand it differently then it is the whole church that decides through the arduous process of amending the constitution. Substantive changes to the system of doctrine must be made by amending the constitution. This is a legislative, and not a judicial action. In deciding judicial cases, it is important not to reverse the church's former understanding. Such a reversal is judicial activism. It is unjust because it is unpredictable. This can only be corrected by understanding the animus imponentis ("the intention of the party imposing the oath") of the church, which is the meaning of "the system of doctrine."5 The animus imponentis is not a subjective or arbitrary concept. It is the mind of the church as expressed in the concrete history of the specific decisions of its courts, especially its General Assemblies.

Being a confessional church means upholding the "system of doctrine."

The recent ongoing debate among conservative Presbyterians over subscription needs to be understood in terms of the ways that we American Presbyterians have understood the nature of subscription, especially our understanding of what constitutes the "system of doctrine."

The ways in which words are used to communicate ideas is especially important in maintaining and developing a culture. The words "strict" and "full" have recently been used to define "system" subscription as subscription to every single teaching or doctrine of the confession. The impression is given that anyone who differs with this view is not strict, but "loose" and therefore suspect. In fairness to men like Morton Smith and George Knight, who use


5 I owe some ideas in this paragraph to T. David Gordon. For the expression of them I take full responsibility.


these terms, they grant that not every word, phrase of even proposition is required. But, they insist, every doctrine is. Thus, the idea of the "system of doctrine" is narrowed in a way never intended by the authors, or subsequent interpreters, of the second vow. John Murray quotes Charles Hodge with approval: "The words 'system of doctrine,' have a definite meaning, to serve to define and limit the extent to which the confession is adopted."6 Hodge believed that to require the adoption of every proposition or teaching is to invite hypocrisy and foster disunity. "We are not sure that we personally know a dozen ministers besides ourselves, who could stand the test," he asserted.7

Hodge took his cue from the original Adopting Act of 1729, which refers to the "essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine" and defines "scruples" as "only about articles not essential and necessary in doctrine, worship, or government."8 Thus the "system" excludes articles not part of the "whole system in its integrity."9 Hodge was careful to distance himself from the view that essential refers only to the "doctrines of the gospel."10 Essential refers, rather, to the entire "system of doctrines common to the Reformed Churches."11 This includes all teachings on doctrine, worship and government, which are essential to that system. There are three categories of such teachings: 1) those common to all Christians, expressed in the early councils of the ancient church; 2) those common to all Protestants, as distinct from Romanism; 3) those peculiar to Reformed Churches, as distinct from Lutheran and Arminian.12 On the other hand Hodge


6 John Murray, "Creed Subscription in the Presbyterian Church U. S. A." David W. Hall, ed. The Practice of Confessional Subscription (New York: University Press of America, Inc., 1995) 259.

7 Charles Hodge, Discussions in Church Polity (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1878) 331.

8 Ibid., 321.

9 Ibid., 323.

10 Ibid., 329.

11 Ibid., 326.

12 Ibid., 333.


gives examples of doctrines not essential to the system which are consistent with the kind of exceptions noted by the Adopting assembly. These are doctrines "relating to civil magistrates, the power of the state, conditions of Church membership, marriage, divorce, and other matters lying outside of the 'system of doctrine' in its theological sense . . . ."13As important as the Confession's teaching on these doctrines is, Hodge maintains, the Church has been wise not to make them conditions of ministerial communion.14

Being a confessional church means that we are the church.

The church is not a group that supports the particulars of my agenda. The confession is not what I interpret it to mean, but what the church has said it means. It is decidedly un-confessional to seek to impose my own set of particular cherished beliefs on the entire church. The very concept of confessionalism is that the whole church comes to a consensus about its system of belief. To behave otherwise is to be sectarian. Thus, Murray always taught his points of difference with deference to the confession. While Presbyterianism in the nineteenth century moved in the direction of confessing less than it should, our own reaction may lead us to seek to confess more than we should. The prudence of confessionalism demands that we strike a careful balance between these two extremes, nothing less and nothing more.

Being a confessional church requires substantial humility.

The first time I heard the term "consensus document" used of our confes-sion I was taken aback. Surely, I thought, this smacks of compromise. Of


13 Ibid., 334.

14 Cf. Gregory E. Reynolds, "The Nature, Limits and Place of Exceptions and Scruples in Subscription to the Doctrinal Standards of the Presbyterian Church," written for the Committee on Candidates and Credentials of the Presbytery of New York and New England, 1999.


course, it is not wrong to hold convictions narrower than the confession, or even at odds with the confession, as long as these do not undermine the system of doctrine. But consensus requires humility and submission to the others. Even the most cursory look at the history of the deliberations of the Westminster Assembly will demonstrate that many particular views were consciously and humbly set aside in order to agree upon a doctrinal position. Compromise on non-essentials is necessary to being a confessional church, and essential to conserving the culture of confessionalism, maintaining the purity, peace and unity of the church.

When debating and deciding judicial cases we must consider the nature of the case itself in light of our tradition, consciously setting aside our own particular views or views imputed to but not part of the case. Humility also requires deferring to older elders and ministers. Theological training in our circles is a heady academic experience. That is necessary, but often leaves us with the false impression that we are wiser than those who have been involved in the life and work of the church for decades. Only then will justice be done and the culture of confessionalism preserved.

We need to work much harder at this critical point in our history at being a confessional church.

Amoskeag Presbyterian Church

Manchester, New Hampshire


Charles Hodge on the System of Doctrine

In the preceding article, Dr. Reynolds mentions the role of Charles Hodge in the discussion of subscription to the system of doctrine in the Westminster Standards. Prior to the Reunion of the Old School and New School of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1869, Hodge wrote an article on the strengths and weaknesses of that proposed reunion. As he lined out his reasons for opposition to the Old School receiving the exscinded 1837 New School party back into the Presbyterian Church, he summarized the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter by chapter in order to demonstrate the system of doctrine in each part and en toto.

Hodge remained an opponent of the reunion, casting his vote against it in the Presbytery of Cranberry in October 1869. He maintained that the New School (re)marriage diluted adherence to the system of doctrine in the Confession and Catechisms. It is entirely relevant to remind ourselves of what this "Prince of Presbyterians" wrote about that system which every Presbyterian and Reformed minister vows is the system of doctrine to which he subscribes ex animo. Here is his summary of that doctrinal system.1


1 This summary originally appeared in The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 39/3 (July 1867): 509-12. It was reprinted in Hodge's Discussions in Church Polity (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1878) as part of an article entitled "Adoption of the Confession of Faith" (pp. 317-42, especially pp. 338-40 for the excerpt we have printed here).


"[Let us] illustrate the principle of interpretation for which Old-school men contend. We do not expect that our ministers should adopt every proposition contained in our standards. This they are not required to do. But they are required to adopt the system; and that system consists of certain doctrines, no one of which can be omitted without destroying its identity. Those doctrines are, the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and the consequent infallibility of all their teachings;—the doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God subsisting in three persons, the Father, Son, and Spirit, the same in substance and equal in power and glory; the doctrine of decrees and predestination as above stated; the doctrine of creation, viz., that the universe and all that it contains is not eternal, is not a necessary product of the life of God, is not an emanation from the divine substance, but owes its existence as to substance and form solely to his will;—and in reference to man that he was created in the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and not in puris naturalibus, without any moral character;—the doctrine of providence, or that God effectually governs all his creatures and all their actions, so that nothing comes to pass which is not in accordance with his infinitely wise, holy, and benevolent purposes;—the doctrine of the covenants; the first, or covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience; and the second, or covenant of grace, wherein God freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all who are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe;—the doctrine concerning Christ our Mediator, ordained of God to be our prophet, priest, and king, the head and Saviour of his church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world, unto whom he did, from eternity give a people to be his seed, to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified, and that the eternal Son of God, of one substance with the Father, took upon him man's nature, so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; that this Lord Jesus Christ, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given to him;—the doctrine of free will, viz. that man was created not only a free agent, but with full ability


to choose good or evil, and by that choice determine his future character and destiny; that by the fall he has lost this ability to spiritual good; that in conversion God by his Spirit enables the sinner freely to repent and believe;—the doctrine of effectual calling, or regeneration, that those, and those only whom God has predestinated unto life, he effectually calls by his word and Spirit from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life, renewing their wills, and by his almighty power, determining their wills, thus effectually drawing them to Christ; yet so that they come most freely;—and that this effectual calling is of God's free and special grace alone, not from any thing foreseen in man;—the doctrine of justification, that it is a free act, or act of grace on the part of God; that it does not consist in any subjective change of state, nor simply in pardon, but includes a declaring and accepting the sinner as righteous; that it is founded not on anything wrought in us or done by us; not on faith or evangelical obedience, but simply on what Christ has done for us, i.e., in his obedience and sufferings unto death; this righteousness of Christ being a proper, real, and full satisfaction to the justice of God, his exact justice and rich grace are glorified in the justification of sinners;—the doctrine of adoption, that those who are justified are received into the family of God, and made partakers of the spirit and privileges of his children;—the doctrine of sanctification, that those once regenerated by the Spirit of God are, by his power and indwelling, in the use of the appointed means of grace, rendered more and more holy, which work, although always imperfect in this life, is perfected at death;—the doctrine of saving faith, that it is the gift of God, and work of the Holy Spirit, by which the Christian receives as true, on the authority of God, whatever is revealed in his word, the special acts of which faith are the receiving and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life;—the doctrine of repentance, that the sinner out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but the odiousness of sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does with grief and hatred of his own sins, turn from them unto God, with full purpose and endeavour after new obedience;—the doctrine of good works, that they are such only as God has commanded; that they are the fruits of faith; such works, although not necessary as the ground of our justification, are indispensable, in the case of adults, as the uniform products of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers;—the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, that those once effectually called and sanctified by the Spirit can never totally or finally fall from a


state of grace, because the decree of election is immutable, because Christ's merit is infinite, and his intercession constant; because the Spirit abides with the people of God; and because the covenant of grace secures the salvation of all who believe;—the doctrine of assurance; that the assurance of salvation is desirable, possible, and obligatory but is not of the essence of faith;—the doctrine of the law, that it is a revelation of the will of God, and a perfect rule of righteousness; that it is perpetually obligatory on justified persons as well as others, although believers are not under it as a covenant of works;—the doctrine of Christian liberty, that it includes freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemnation of the law, from a legal spirit, from the bondage of Satan and the dominion of sin, from the world and ultimately from all evil, together with free access to God as his children. Since the advent of Christ, his people are freed also from the yoke of the ceremonial law. God alone is the Lord of the conscience, which he has set free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in anything contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship;—the doctrines concerning worship and the Sabbath, concerning vows and oaths, of the civil magistrate, of marriage, contain nothing peculiar to our system, or which is matter of controversy among Presbyterians. The same is true as to what the Confession teaches concerning the church, of the communion of saints, of the sacraments, and of the future state, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of the final judgment.

That such is the system of doctrine of the Reformed church is a matter of history. It is the system which, as the granite formation of the earth, underlies and sustains the whole scheme of truth as revealed in the Scriptures, and without which all the rest is as drifting sand. It has been from the beginning the life and soul of the church, taught explicitly by our Lord himself, and more fully by his inspired servants, and always professed by a cloud of witnesses in the church. It has moreover ever been the esoteric faith of true believers, adopted in their prayers and hymns, even when rejected from their creeds. It is this system which the Presbyterian Church is pledged to profess, to defend, and to teach; and it is a breach of faith to God and man if she fails to require a profession of this system by all those whom she receives or ordains as teachers and guides of her people. It is for the adoption of the Confession of Faith in this sense that the Old-school have always contended as a matter of conscience."


Holy Sonnet 14

John Donne

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurped town, to another due,

Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,

But am betrothed unto your enemy:

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


Deuteronomy 19: Chiasms and Cases

James T. Dennison, Jr.
Note: The BibleWorks fonts required to view the Hebrew characters in this article my be downloaded from the BibleWorks web site here:

The legislation in Deuteronomy 19 (especially verses 1-13 and 21) is concerned with life. Even in the case of capital punishment, it is life that is prominent. Life for life (v. 21) places the spotlight on life, not death. So precious is life, only life will do justly—rightly—fairly when life is unjustly—unrighteously—unfairly taken away. It is life that is in view here in Deuteronomy 19—the protection, the preservation, the extension of life. Life given by God; life which may not be taken away except by God and his providence. Here in Deuteronomy 19, God endorses life—even in the event of death.

This chapter is an expansion of the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). In this chapter, we have several cases that involve killing. This case law or casuistical law, as it is called, is directed to the "what if" situations. Thou shalt not kill, but what if the head of an ax flies off while men are chopping wood and that ax head kills another human being? Is that murder? Thou shalt not kill, but what if a person kills another person unintentionally? Is that murder? What are we to do in the case of accidental death—unintentional homicide? Case law addresses these situations.

Deuteronomy 19 is part of a larger biblical revelation of case law regarding homicide. Beginning with Exodus 21:12-14 and moving to Numbers 35:9-34, Deuteronomy contains two (deuteros) sections on homicide: Deuteronomy


4:41-43 and our passage in Deuteronomy 19. The conclusion of this discussion of homicide is found in Joshua 20:2-9. Life! so precious is life in the sight of God that he gives us five passages dealing with the taking of human life.

The City of Refuge

One of the features of Deuteronomy 19 is the role of the city of refuge (vv. 1-3 and vv. 7-9). This is a place of refuge or safe retreat, where life may go on. The emphasis once more is on life—its preservation and protection in a city of refuge. In each of the five biblical passages dealing with homicide, the city of refuge is featured. Repeating myself, notice again life in the face of death—even with the city of refuge.

Exodus 21 mentions the city of refuge as a place God will "appoint" (v. 13). Numbers 35:14 specifies the number of cities of refuge—six in all—three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west side of the Jordan River. Deuteronomy 4:43 names the three Transjordanian cities of refuge—that is, those east of the Jordan: Bezer in the territory of Reuben; Ramoth in the territory of Gad; and Golan in the territory of Manasseh. In addition to these three cities, Joshua 20:7 specifies three on the Cisjordanian or west bank of the Jordan River: Kadesh in the territory of Naphtali; Shechem in the territory of Ephraim; and Hebron in the territory of Judah. Thus in each of the five passages where the Bible reveals God's will with respect to homicide, the cities of refuge are also in the context.

But, you may ask, what is a city of refuge? It was a "safe place"—a city where the manslayer could flee and live (notice Dt. 19:4). The city of refuge is God's provision for the case of accidental or unpremeditated homicide. A person involved in killing another person accidentally or without premeditation may preserve his life by taking refuge in one of the six cities. Notice how this accidental or unpremeditated homicide is specified: the manslayer did not "lie in wait" for the person he killed (Ex. 21:13); he killed the person "unintentionally" (Num. 35:11); the manslayer slew the person without having hated him previously (Dt. 4:42); he is innocent "of the blood" of the person he accidentally killed (Dt. 19:10); he kills the person "without premeditation"


(Josh. 20:3). Unintentional, unpremeditated, accidental homicide is not murder according to these Scripture passages and in the Old Testament, God provided life in these cases. The person innocent of intentional, premeditated, willful murder may live—in a city of refuge.

But the person guilty of intentional, premeditated, willful murder shall be put to death. Life—life for life! If the manslayer strikes a person craftily or willfully (Ex. 21:14), he is to be put to death (no city of refuge for him or for her). If the murderer intentionally strikes a person with a metal object, a stone, a wooden object—an instrument of death—the murderer shall be executed (Num. 35). If the manslayer hated his victim and strikes him so that he dies (Dt. 19), he shall receive the capital punishment. If the murderer acted with premeditation—malice aforethought—deliberate homicide—he or she shall surely die (Josh. 20). Whoever sheds a person's blood murderously, deliberately, intentionally, willfully, hatefully—by man shall that murderer's blood be shed (Gen. 9:6).

Intentional/Unintentional Homicide: Structure

We have discovered that the case law on killing in the Bible is divided between intentional and unintentional homicide. In Deuteronomy 19, the case law is in fact structured as a division between the two situations. Notice that verses 4-6 deal with unpremeditated homicide; verses 11-13 deal with premeditated murder. This pattern is also found in two of the other four passages dealing with homicide, i.e., cases of deliberate murder are distinguished from cases of accidental death by a bracketing/structuring device.

In Exodus 21:12-14, verse 12 deals with premeditated homicide as does verse 14. Verse 13, dealing with unpremeditated homicide, is thus bracketed by cases of premeditation. We may refer to this as a sandwich technique where one type of case surrounds another.

A. Premeditated Homicide (12)
    B. Unpremeditated Homicide (13)
A'. Premeditated Homicide (14)


Notice the provision for the city of refuge at the center of this sandwich/bracket.

Numbers 35:9-34 is perhaps the most complete revelation of cases and provisions regarding homicide. The unit opens with the assignment of six cities of refuge (vv. 9-15). The case of premeditated homicide follows (vv. 16-21). Then we read of the case of unpremeditated homicide (vv. 22-28) and conclude (again) with the case of premeditated homicide (vv. 31-34). As in Exodus 21:12-14, Number 35:16-34 exhibits the bracketing pattern: premeditated homicide sandwiches unpremeditated homicide.

A. Premeditated Homicide (16-21)
    B. Unpremeditated Homicide (22-28)
A'. Premeditated Homicide (31-34)

There is a bracket in Deuteronomy 4:41-43, but it is not the unpremeditated/premeditated bracket; it is the cities of refuge sandwiching the case on unpremeditated homicide.

A. Cities of Refuge (41)
    B. Unpremeditated Homicide (42)
A'. Cities of Refuge (43)

Joshua 20:2-9 is found to be the reverse of Deuteronomy 4:41-43. This chapter reveals the complete assignment of the cities of refuge following the conquest of the Cisjordanian (west) region. Unpremeditated homicide brackets the cities of refuge.

A. Unpremeditated Homicide (3)
    B. Cities of Refuge (4-8)
A'. Unpremeditated Homicide (9)

Deuteronomy 19 presents the most challenging and interesting structure in the five casuistical passages. It is closest to Numbers 35. As that passage began with the cities of refuge, so this one. But here three Cisjordanian cities


are projected (vv. 1-3) as a complement to the three Transjordanian cities listed in the fourth chapter (the delay awaits the conquest of the land; hence the names in Joshua 20:7). Verses 4-6 discuss the case of unpremeditated homicide followed by a repeat discussion of the Cisjordanian cites of refuge (vv. 7-10). It would appear that the cities of refuge will once more sandwich the case of unpremeditated homicide. But no, the second category of homicide succeeds the second mention of the cities of refuge. Premeditated homicide is the case under consideration in verses 11-13. Are we in the midst of a parallelism? i.e., A/B, A'/B'?

A. Cities of Refuge (1-3)
    B. Unpremeditated Homicide (4-6)

A'. Cities of Refuge (7-10)
    B'. Premeditated Homicide (11-13)

The mention of boundary markers (v. 14) threatens to disorient our homicide cases. There is no precedent for this in any of the other four casuistical passages. However we should not be too quick to dismiss verse 14 as an editorial interpolation or statement out of context with the thrust of the passage. Boundaries are 'truth tellers'; and cases of homicide require truthful testimony (as verses 15-20 make clear).

The fact that Deuteronomy 19 does not appear to follow the bracketing or sandwiching pattern of the other passages dealing with the casuistry of homicide directs us to look elsewhere for a structuring pattern for this unique chapter. I am suggesting that a chiastic pattern provides that structure for the entire chapter. Below is the outline of chiasmus in the five sections of the chapter.


Verses 1-3

A. Lord your God (1)
                    B. Lord your God gives you (1)
                                        C. Land (1)



                                                            D. 3 cities (2)
                                        C'. Land (2)
                    B'. Lord your God gives you (2)
A'. Lord your God (3)

Verses 4-6

A. Manslayer (4)
                    B. Flee and live (4)
                                        C. Not hating previously (4)
                    B'. Flee and live (5)
A'. Manslayer (6)

Verses 7-9

A. 3 cities (7)
                    B. Lord your God (8)
                                        C. Love (9)
                    B'. Lord your God (9)
A'. 3 (more) cities (9)

Verses 10-13

A. Innocent blood (10)
                    B. Dies (11)
                                        C. Avenger of blood (12)
                    B'. Die (12)
A'. Innocent blood (13)

Verses 13-21

A. Not pity (13)
                    B. Purge (13)
                                        C. Iniquity and sin (15)
                                                            D. Malicious witness (16)
                                                                                E. Before the Lord (17)
                                                            D'. False witness (18)
                                        C'. Evil (19)
                    B'. Purge (19)
A'. Not pity (21)



Deuteronomy 19 is composed of a series of rolling chiasms. The overlap between the fourth (vv. 10-13) and fifth (vv. 13-21) chiasms creates an interface between the cases of homicide and the testimony of the witnesses—a salient legal reminder! The chiasms contain a type of bracket or sandwich device; however not as previously noted in the other four passages we have been considering. These are not three-piece brackets/sandwiches; rather they are multi-level symmetries centered upon a focal element.

The first chiasm (vv. 1-3) begins and ends with the "Lord your God" (^yh,'l{a/ hw"Ühy>).1 The repetition ("Lord your God") plus the verb ("gives," !tEïnO:) and object ("land," ~c'_r>a;//^êc.r>a;) sandwiches the three cities (~yrIß[' vAlïv' ). Verses 1-3 begin where they end, in doublets of the divine name and gift, centered on the three Cisjordanian cities of refuge.

Verses 4 and 6 contain the term "manslayer" (x:ceêroh'). The life-flight duplicate ("flee . . . and live," yx'_w" . . . sWnðy") follows (precedes, v. 5d). The center of this unit is the case of "not hating previously" (~Av) lAmïT.mi Alß aWh± anEïfo al{, i.e., unpremeditated homicide). The repetition of the latter phrase ("not hating previously") at the end of verse 6 may indicate an even more complex symmetry, i.e., split-member chiasmus or partial chiasmus.

Verses 7 and 9 contain the phrase "three cities" (~yrIß[' vlïv' ) as the outer chiastic envelope. We discover the phrase "Lord your God" (^yh,'l{a/ hw"Ühy) recurring from the first chiasm (vv. 1-3)—a chiasm which also includes the "three" cities. The center of this chiastic unit is "love" (hb'úh]a;l.)—love of the Lord himself manifest in observing his commands.

Verses 10 and 13 contain the phrase "innocent blood" (yqiên" ~D"ä). The center of this unit is the "avenger of blood" (~D"Þh; laeîGO). Here the chiasm reverses the case of the second chiastic unit (vv. 4-6)—premeditation is involved in


1 "BWHEBB, BWHEBL [Hebrew]; BWGRKL, BWGRKN, and BWGRKI [Greek] Postscript® Type 1 and TrueType™ fonts Copyright © 1994-2002 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. These Biblical Greek and Hebrew fonts are used with permission and are from BibleWorks, software for Biblical exegesis and research." Please display and preserve copyright in the citation or distribution of this article.


this case thus invoking the "redeemer of the blood." The inner bracket here (B/B') thus contains parallel tme_w" ("and he dies") forms. We once again discover the symmetry between unpremeditated and premeditated homicide, i.e., all five of our biblical passages contain the balanced consideration of both types of cases. Deuteronomy 19 is no exception.

The largest and final chiastic unit in this chapter spans verses 13 to 21. The overlap with verse 13 is justified (perhaps as a 'hook' pattern) from the clear duplication of the phrase "not pity" (sAxït'-al{, vv. 13 and 21). The lack of mercy pertains to the witnesses as well as to the perpetrators. Hence they are folded into the broader context of the casuistry about homicide. Especially appropriate is truth telling in the context of matters of life and death. False witness is as the 'murder' of the truth and must be "purged" (T'ór>[;bi(W, vv. 13 and 19). The biblical vocabulary for violation of God's will is replete in this unit: "iniquity" ( '!wO[) and "sin" (taJ'êx;) in verse 15 is balanced by "evil" ([r"²h') in verse 19. We are driven "before the Lord" (hw"+hy> ynEåp.l, v. 17), flanked by the "malicious witness" (sm'Þx'-d[e, v. 16) and the "false witness" ( 'rq,v,'-d[e, v. 18). At the center is the omniscient arbiter of truth, not falsehood; life, not death; righteousness, not iniquity.

Deuteronomy 19 is a carefully constructed (and inspired) chapter of five chiastic units: Cities of Refuge (vv. 1-3); Homicide Case—unpremeditated manslaughter (vv. 4-6); Cities of Refuge (vv. 7-9); Homicide Case—premeditated murder (vv. 10-13); and a fifth unit drawing evil, sin and iniquity into the forum Dei ("forum of God"). There is an A/B A'/B' parallelism here climaxing/concluding in C.

The Cases

The avenger of blood in verse 12 also appears in verse 6. He is also mentioned in Numbers 35 (vv. 19, 21, 24, 25, 27) and Joshua 20 (vv. 3, 5, 9). He is an official of the community of Israel, perhaps a member of the family of the homicide victim, who is charged with avenging the blood of the person killed. And how does he execute his official function? life for life—blood for blood. The avenger of blood is authorized by God and the community of Israel to impose the sentence of the capital punishment upon the perpetrator


of homicide. Notice that the avenger of blood may impose capital punishment on the agent in a case of homicide even if the killer did not kill his victim with malice, premeditation or intention. The avenger of blood is not a judge or a lawyer or a jury; he is an executioner. He does not stop to examine evidence; to sort out the casuistry; to conduct an investigation. His charge is plain; it is clear; it is simple—shed the blood of anyone who sheds blood. Except! Except! if the person flees to a city of refuge. There the avenger of blood halts. He may not pursue the perpetrator of homicide inside the walls of the city of refuge so as to execute him. The perpetrator of homicide is safe from the avenger of blood inside the city of refuge. Remain inside—life. Venture outside and the avenger of blood finds him—death.

But what about the case where a person deliberately and intentionally murders a person and hightails it to a city of refuge for safety? Then the citizens of the city of refuge will investigate the case (Num. 35:24, 25; Josh. 20:4) and determine whether the killer is entitled to refuge and life or whether life must be forfeit for life. And in the city of refuge, the person innocent of murder though he has killed someone shall remain until the death of the high priest. In that year, he may go out of the city of refuge untouched and untouchable by the avenger of blood.


There is in the compilation of this legislation and these cases of homicide a wonderful equity and justice derivative from the Lord God ever equitable and ever just. After all, justice is to give what is due—what is deserved. And that principle of equity and justice is enshrined in this 19th chapter of Deuteronomy. Premeditated murder? capital punishment is deserved. Accidental homicide? no capital punishment is deserved. Life! Life is precious in the sight of the just, equitable and righteous God of all the earth. And the only thing which will satisfy for the murder of a human life is life—life for life. Justice requires the capital punishment for premeditated murder; equity requires the capital punishment for deliberate murder; righteousness requires the capital punishment for willful murder. Apart from the Scriptures, we feel a natural or instinctive rightness about death for death—just death for murderous death. It feels just naturally; it is just biblically.


But wait a minute, you say, We don't live in Old Testament Israel. True. And we don't have high priests and cities of refuge and avengers of blood. True. So, you say, it appears that these cases do not apply to us today since we don't live under the Old Testament theocracy. And I reply, we must make distinctions with respect to Deuteronomy 19 and 2004. First, the sixth commandment has not vanished because we do not live with Israel at Sinai (Ex. 20) or with Israel on the plains of Moab (Dt. 5). We believe (and our Reformed confessions teach) that the sixth commandment is moral law, which means it is perpetually binding on all people in all times and all ages. It is no more permissible or of God's will for us to murder a human being today than it was for an Israelite to murder a human being in Moses' day. So the sixth commandment remains perpetually binding on the people of God under the New Testament. Jesus himself reinforces this in Matthew 19:18.

Second, the just principle of life for life—who sheds man's blood (murderously) by man shall his blood be shed (justly)—is given with the creation. It is not peculiar to Israel's theocracy. So capital punishment is an ordinance of God justly requiring the death penalty in the case of willful murder—and that is so from the beginning (Genesis). Therefore we hold murders accountable (as God does) and we hold murderers liable to the capital punishment for their murderous crime (as God does). BUT! BUT there are specifically theocratic elements of the case law on murder which no longer are binding on the people of God. There are no cities of refuge any longer—they passed away with the theocracy. There are no high priests any longer—they passed away with the theocracy. There are no avengers of blood any longer—they passed away with the theocracy. Specifically theocratic elements have ceased with the theocracy. But the moral, general equity or basic justice remains. Executioners—not avengers of blood. Judges and juries—not high priests and city elders. Safety in every city if innocent of intentional, willful, deliberate, premeditated homicide—not select cities of refuge. In fact, any penalty in the theocratic era which exceeds the principle of life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth—that is, any penalty in the theocratic era which exceeds proportionally just or equal punishment is abolished—not binding on the people of God of the New Testament era. Capital punishment for adultery? required under the theocracy; not required when the theocracy disappears (2 Cor. 10:4). Capital


punishment for homosexuals? required under the theocracy; not required when the theocracy ceases to exist (2 Cor. 10:4). Capital punishment for cursing one's parents? required under the theocracy; not required when the theocracy passes away (2 Cor. 10:4).

We are compelled to make distinctions—necessary distinctions—when we read Deuteronomy 19 in the light of the New Testament gospel era. The New Testament gospel era is non-theocratic; it is non-Israelite; it is not centered in a priestly caste, headquartered in Jerusalem. The New Testament gospel era is universal, Jew and Gentilic, semi-eschatological. It is a better age! Yes, it places the sword of capital punishment in the hands of the civil government (Rom. 13:4, 5), but it does so on the basis of natural equity, not theocratic specificity. Capital punishment remains the just, the righteous, the equitable penalty for premeditated murder. Distinguishing premeditation in cases of homicide is vested in judges and juries.

Cultural Context

But, you say, our culture doesn't think this way. Capital punishment is being abolished. The liberal media routinely objects to execution of murderers. Our judicial leaders, our political leaders, our media moguls don't believe in capital punishment. Not its equity, not its rightness, not its justice.

Well, they don't until someone like the notorious Northwest Green River mass murderer is found out. And then they wrestle with their natural sense of justice. Does not the willful murder of more than 48 women deserve the death penalty? Doesn't that seem instinctively fair? one life for 48 lives?

Yes, the death penalty is being abolished. The World Court is even attempting to classify it as a violation of human rights. But up from the conscience rises the unsettling notion of equity, fairness, righteousness. And so the culturally elite liberal establishment will struggle with that instinctive rightness of capital punishment, especially when murder strikes one of their darlings as it did in the summer of 2003 when the French film star, Marie Trintignant, was brutally murdered by her rock star live-in boyfriend, Ber-


nard Cantat. The mother of Marie wrote a best seller entitled Ma fille, Marie ("My daughter, Marie") pleading for justice for the blood of her daughter.

But the (believing) Christian community will understand the justice of life for life. God himself says so. He has even planted the sense of that rightness in the natural man (suppress it though they may try). And the (believing) Christian community will teach the proportional equity of the punishment fitting the crime—in cases of deliberate murder, life for life. In cases of accidental homicide, no capital punishment. This is the natural and moral law of creation; it is the natural and moral law of the theocracy; it is the natural and moral law of the New Testament era; it is the natural and moral law of God. Notice that in Acts 25:11, Paul himself does not refuse the capital punishment if he is guilty of a capital crime.

Deuteronomy 19 is retrospectively tied to God's creation ordinance; Deuteronomy 19 is prospectively tied to God's arena and its ordinances. No murderers in heaven—no unrepentant murderers in heaven. But some who came into the New Testament church had been, once upon a time, deliberate murderers (cf. Gal. 5:20, 21). And thus we confess that there is forgiveness—wonderful marvelous forgiveness in the blood—in the life-blood of Jesus Christ even for (repentant) willful murderers. Even those deserving of the death penalty—even for the penitent and believing among them, Christ's blood suffices. It's about life. Deuteronomy 19 is about life even as the cross of Jesus is about life. His life, murderously forfeit; his life for your life, for my life; his life for every murderer's life who repents, who believes, who is reborn from above by being united to Christ's life-death. So that in Christ—yes, in Christ—life for life. His death so that you may live.

You see it don't you? Deuteronomy 19 and the other four Old Testament passages about capital punishment drive you to Christ. For Jesus was murdered! He took the capital punishment so that we who justly, rightly deserve death—we who deserve the capital punishment—he took it in our place so that we might not be eternally executed. How many murderous thoughts have we had? we would be ashamed to tell. And if by God's common grace we have been restrained from deliberately killing another human being, we are nonetheless no less deserving of God's infinite capital punishment. But grace upon grace, that is what Christ came to do. To take the death penalty you and


I deserve so as to bring us to an eschatological city of refuge—so as to bring us to heaven where we may live and never die.

Northwest Theological Seminary

Lynnwood, Washington


Augustine on Christ's Death1

For He came down and died, and by that death delivered us from death: being slain by death, He slew death. What is this? A death is gazed on, that death may have no power. But whose death? The death of life: if it may be said, the death of life; ay, for it may be said, but said wonderfully. But should it not be spoken, seeing it was a thing to be done? Shall I hesitate to utter that which the Lord has deigned to do for me? Is not Christ the life? And yet Christ hung on the cross. Is not Christ life? And yet Christ was dead. But in Christ's death, death died. Life dead slew death; the fullness of life swallowed up death; death was absorbed in the body of Christ.


1 "On the Gospel of John," Tractate XII.10, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 7:84-85.


Book Reviews

Christopher Catherwood, Christians, Muslims and Islamic Rage: What is Going On and Why it Happened. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003. 256 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-310-25138-9. $16.99.

Why do they hate us? That is the question so many people were asking after September 11, 2001. What could cause so much anger that people would desire to crash airplanes into buildings and kill so many people? Is this hatred directed against Christianity, against the United States, or a combination of both?

The people in the congregation where I serve as pastor were concerned after the attacks of 9/11 and they were looking to the church for answers. And so I decided that part of my responsibility, as their pastor during these difficult times, was to first educate myself about Islam and then teach my congregation.

In my research I found that trying to answer the question "Why they hate us?" was a lot more complex than to simply understand the religion of Islam. Not just one book, including the Qur'an, was going to be able to answer my questions. I started my research at the local library where I found many helpful secular books on the history of Islam. I then contacted several "Missions to Muslims" organizations and they recommended books that would critique the religion from a Biblical perspective. These mission organizations also recommended that I read contemporary historical writers such as Bernard Lewis who has written several books concerning the political and cultural history of the Middle East as it relates to the Islamic faith. I also watched several televi-


sion specials on Islam, including programs produced by PBS and the History Channel.

Yet as I prepared my Sunday School class each week, I found myself very much on my own as far as Christian analysis goes. I found that Islam is not a religion that you can critique like the Jehovah Witnesses or the Mormons, i.e., where you compare their scriptures to the Bible and show how they are in error. To understand Islam (and more importantly to answer the question "Why They Hate Us?"), you need to understand the religion, the history of the religion in the Middle Eastern culture, and the political issues facing Muslims today in the particular countries in which they live.

Thankfully, Christopher Catherwood, the grandson of the late Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, in his new book Christians, Muslims and Islamic Rage does an excellent job of putting all this together for his readers. Catherwood is an evangelical Christian from England who was granted a sabbatical from teaching at both Cambridge University in England and the University of Richmond in Virginia, to write this book. He has done all the research for you and he puts the whole picture together from a Christian perspective.

The book starts out with a description of his own personal experience on September 11, 2001. He was in the United States on that day, and because of his background in Islam and his previous book Why the Nations Rage: Killing in the Name of God, many people were looking to him for answers to understand why? He, along with his teaching colleagues, concluded that he needed to write a book to help American Christians understand the attacks. The book covers all the important areas. He includes chapters about the history of Islam including the history of the different sects of Islam. He devotes several chapters to the political issues and cultural issues of the Middle East that have given rise to so much hatred against the West. He then concludes by reminding us that as Christians we should not be discouraged about the attacks because God is in charge and Christ is on his throne. Christians, he concludes, should not be afraid of the future.

The book is well written and simple to read. It would be an excellent choice to recommend to persons in your congregation. Because he is from Britain and has an American wife, he offers interesting analysis from some


one who has lived and experienced two different worlds. He will challenge you as an American to think differently about how we view terrorism as compared with people in others countries that have lived with it on a daily basis. He will also challenge you as a Christian to recognize that sometimes we do need to separate our Christian thinking about these issues from our American thinking. I believe his comments are insightful even though I did not always agree with him.

In summary, I would recommend this book to any pastor or layperson who is looking for a good overview of Islam. The book will help you have a better understanding of the issues that we face today as Christians and Americans. The overview is somewhat simple, but you can then use his helpful bibliography in the back as a resource to do more in-depth research in particular areas. The book was published in early 2003, before the Iraq war, and because he does focus on recent events, it will soon be dated. However, I believe it is worth the time and money to help you understand a post-cold war world where the war of religions will have a big impact on the future of both the world and the church.

Robert Van Kooten

Oak Harbor, Washington

Hans-Josef Klauck, Magic and Paganism in Early Christianity: The World of the Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003. 136 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8006-3635-X. $15.00.

Klauck has provided a small, impressive, 'refresher' course on the book of Acts. While not a full commentary, his contribution enables us to pause in order to assess the state of the question vis-à-vis the Acts of the Apostles. Since the release of the six-volume set by Eerdmans (The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting), a spate of monographs and commentaries on Acts have been produced. We note the commentary by C. K. Barrett (disappointing, in my opinion), and the works of Howard Clark Kee (To Every Nation Under Heaven: The Acts of the Apostles), Ben Witherington (The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary), Loveday Alexander (due at the end of this


year), Stephen Spencer (Acts), W. H. Shepherd (The Narrative Function of the Holy Spirit as a Character in Luke-Acts), Daniel Marguerat (The First Christian Historian: Writing the 'Acts of the Apostles')—all of which deserve attention. But the superb studies of Justin Taylor require special mention: "St. Paul and the Roman Empire: Acts of the Apostles 13-14." Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt (ANRW) 26/2 (1995): 1190-1231; "The Roman Empire in the Acts of the Apostles." ANRW 26/3 (1996): 2436-2500. His "Acts," in William R. Farmer, ed., The International Bible Commentary (pp. 1506-45) is surprisingly inadequate theologically and narratologically.

The upshot of this scholarship is a fresh appreciation for the historicity of Luke, especially in his Graeco-Roman context. This is a refreshing change from older form critical and history of religions treatments, i.e., Acts as an example of "Lukan invention," not history. Even the work of Martin Dibelius and his disciples (which dominated 20th century studies on Acts) is being displaced by this newer scholarship. With a tip of the hat to conservative scholars F. F. Bruce and C. J. Hemer (The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History), we may smile slightly at the rehabilitation of Acts as an historical document. The ghost of Sir William Ramsay must be smiling from ear to ear.

As salient and insightful as these new studies are, they remain indebted, in part, to the critical agenda—complete historicity and factual accuracy may not be granted to Luke (or to any biblical writer, for that matter, by the critical fundamentalist guild). An added point of significance in these newer studies is the interest in narrative methodologies, including narrative theology (especially noteworthy are R. C. Tannehill's, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, 2 vols.; and C. H. Talbert's Reading Acts). The narrative approaches have the advantage of further breaking up the critical fundamentalist logjam—a logjam that makes it impossible for the text of Scripture to be heard in itself (or to interpret itself, sui ipsius interpres). When combined with a biblical-theological orientation, the narrative studies and refurbished historicity of Acts bode well for appreciating Acts as divine revelation (surely its own claim!). While most of these newer studies do not proceed on that presupposition, this reviewer stands back of the precise factual historicity of Luke's narrative, his structural/narrative skill and his redemptive-historical intrusion and unfolding of God's (especially the Holy Spirit's) acts on believing Jewish and Gen-


tile Christian converts. Reformed biblical theologians may be wonderfully encouraged by the insights generated by these studies upon a heretofore 'weak sister' book of the New Testament.

Justin Taylor's work is remarkable. His hero is Sir William Ramsay whom he follows, though not slavishly (he often corrects or modifies Ramsay's conclusions based on more recent data). The two ANRW studies (above) deal, respectively, with Paul's first and second missionary journeys. In each case, Taylor elaborates upon location (city, geographical site, etc.) with detailed discussion of background relevant to Luke and Paul's first century context. He ransacks inscriptions, ancient texts, etc. in an attempt to mine as much detail as possible to help the reader of the inspired text. While narrative and/or structural patterns are not his major concern (nor is the theological or biblical-theological dimension of the text), his elaboration of historico-cultural context opens up the sense of drama and identification with the original author, communities and readers of Luke-Acts. This is particularly helpful as contemporary western civilization moves towards paganization. The modern church is catapulted into a socio-political context that brings an increasing identification with our first century Christian brothers and sisters. Acts becomes instructive—perhaps more so than ever before for the modern contemporary Christian. Allow me to add that the central theme of Acts, i.e., union with the risen Christ through life in his Spirit, becomes even more poignant and exciting as we live and travel with the church of Acts. Luke fortifies us for our own context.

Klauck and Taylor reinforce one another, especially in historical background and context. Thus the student/reader is doubly confirmed with respect to Luke's accuracy. Klauck's volume is focused on the antithesis between Christianity and pagan magic. Therefore, he isolates the passages in Acts that treat Simon Magus (chapter 8), Bar-Jesus (chapter 13), the Pythoness (chapter 16), the Ephesian silversmiths (chapter 19) and the superstitious Maltese islanders (chapter 28). (He also provides a chapter on the Areopagus address on Mars Hill.) His goal is to compare the supremacy of Christ's on-going miraculous and non-miraculous work to the world bound and trapped in superstition by the powers of darkness. The light of the freedom of the grace of Christ Jesus transforms persons, communities, social distinctions and barriers. Such barriers disappear in the transcendent bonds of unity in Jesus Christ.


That transformation for Paul's disciple, Luke, is centered in the transformation of the ages. The beloved physician's (Col. 4:14) companion had been himself translated from this present evil/pagan age to the age to come. That translation came by way of death and resurrection: on the Damascus Road, Saul died and Paul was raised from the dead. Klauck does not orient the radical difference in the drama and characters in Acts to this central event—i.e., union with the dying and rising Christ. The contrast with paganism is there; the contrast with pagan magic is there, but for Klauck the chief purpose of Acts is the "relationship to Judaism" (p. 119).

If this is the heart of Luke's "acts of the apostles", why the focus on the apostle to the Gentiles? Klauck appears to admit that his profound insights into first century pagan Graeco-Roman culture are irrelevant. In fact, the relevance of Acts is its transcultural focus—not superstition and magic (either Jewish or Gentile), not personality cults (either Roman or Greek or Jewish), not power structures of the Graeco-Roman/Jewish world: rather the new creation in the risen Christ brought near by the Holy Spirit. This eschatological antithesis is at the heart of Luke's record of the work of the risen Christ's Spirit in history.

As an illustration of my previous point, notice Klauck's treatment of Acts 13:4-12 (pp. 47-55). Bar-Jesus, whom Klauck rightly identifies with Elymas (v. 8), is a cameo of Jewish superstition (an "astrologer," p. 48) in league with Graeco-Roman paganism (court of Sergius Paulus). But while Klauck hints (p. 53) at the reversal in the blindness visited on Bar-Jesus/Elymas (v. 11), he does not perceive the biblical-theological reversal that powerfully opposes Paul's arena to the coalition of Judaism and paganism. Paul is characterized in the pericope as the antithesis of his antagonist. Paul has two names (Saul and Paul); his antagonist has two names (Bar-Jesus and Elymas). The Jew (Bar-Jesus) become a magician is a false prophet; the Jew (Saul) become a Christian is a true prophet (Acts 13:1). The antagonist is "full" of deceit (v. 10); the protagonist is "filled" with the Holy Spirit (v. 9). Elymas/Bar-Jesus is shrouded in darkness (v. 11); Paul/Saul is the ambassador of light (v. 47). Ironically, the one with the name son of Jesus/Joshua—'son of salvation'—is, in truth, son of the adversary/son of the devil (v. 10); while the one who is, in truth, son of Jesus/Joshua—'son of salvation'—is the adversary of the son of the devil.


The encounter between Paul and Elymas is a contrast between the one with the pseudo-supernatural (truly, no more than the naturally occult) power of the kingdom of Satan. The magician is a fraud, a charlatan, a con artist. Real miraculous/supernatural power confronts him, confounds him, overpowers him—trumps him. And this genuine supernatural power? it is the obverse of the encounter that transformed Saul into Paul (Acts 9:1-19; cf. 22:3-16; 26:9-18). Notice that Bar-Jesus goes into the darkness, shut out of the light of the sun. Saul had been brought out of darkness by being shut up in the light brighter than the sun. Bar-Jesus/Elymas becomes the reverse of what Saul/Paul now is! There is Luke's biblical-theological/redemptive-historical contrast. Bar-Jesus goes from light to darkness as he opposes the one who went from darkness to light. This narrative is the (on-going) demonstration of two antithetical arenas: Paul's arena of eschatological life and light and salvation; Bar-Jesus' arena of eschatological death and darkness and damnation. The gospel Paul and Barnabas bring to Cyprus confronts, confounds, curses the culture dominated by the principalities and powers of this present evil age. Resurrection power, heaven's power, is superior to magic, astrology, pseudo-prophecy, Judaism. Paul's Lord—the risen Christ Jesus—releases from bondage. Magic is bondage. Astrology is bondage. Contrived prophecies are bondage. Heaven's glorified Christ and his arena are freedom!

Klauck has given us a helpful book—an important book—even a provocative book in places. But he has not given us a biblical-theological/redemptive-historical book. For that, we must look elsewhere. But meanwhile, Klauck prods us on.

James T. Dennison, Jr.

John D. Harvey, Listening to the Text: Oral Patterning in Paul's Letters (Evangelical Theological Society studies series, David W. Baker, ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998. 357 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8010-2200-2. $24.95.

This note is intended to alert our readers to a book that is going out of print, but is still available over the Internet. In fact, it can be had with shipping for under six dollars, less than one-fourth its original price. In this reviewer's opinion, it is well worth it.


Harvey's book brings together many of the structural insights explored by previous scholars on several Pauline epistles, namely the epistles accepted as genuine by biblical critics. Therefore, Harvey deals with Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. First, he presents a structural suggestion on the epistle as a whole. Here, his presentation is not always as broad as one might hope. New Testament scholarship has sometimes presented more structural options for the epistle as a whole than Harvey explores. However, the presentation is helpful.

Second, he goes through the epistle dealing with structural suggestions for numerous passages within the epistle. This material is usually quite detailed. Here he presents specific examples of chiasms, inversions, alternations, inclusions, ring-compositions, word-chains, refrains and concentric symmetries. Suggestions made by Belleville, Betz, Bruce, Ellis, Fee, Funk, Hurd, Jeremias, Jewett, Kummel, Longnecker, Ludemann, Lund, Martin, Talbert, Wannamaker, Welch and numerous other scholars are all included. Thankfully, most of the suggestions are simply structural. However, as he is presenting opinions given by various scholars, some of the chiasms and other structures suggested do not arise from the Greek text. Still, many of them do. (And the Greek is printed out in Greek characters.) Thus, while you need to remain critical, the reader should find these chapters helpful.

In addition, these chapters are introduced with several sections on the historical background and definition of the literary structures mentioned above. They are quite thorough and useful in their own right. If you don't understand what a ring-composition is, here's your chance.

Of course, the book is dedicated to presenting literary structures. The reader retains the job of theological reflection and detailed interpretation. Yet, for what the book offers, it is very helpful. It is especially useful to have all this material together in one volume. If this interests you, get on the Internet and check it out, while you still have a chance.

Scott F. Sanborn


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725; Vol. I, Prolegomena to Theology; Vol. 2, Holy Scripture; Vol. 3, The Divine Essence and Attributes; and Vol. 4, The Triunity of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003. Vol. I: 463 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2617-2. Vol. II: 537 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2616-4. Vol. III: 606 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2294-0. Vol. IV: 557 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2295-9. Set price $175.00.

The following is best described as a book announcement rather than a book review. Reviewers have presumably read all (or at least most) of a book. In this case, I have only read sections of this monumental work. Indeed, it is a work of monumental significance and is well worth the purchase of anyone who can afford it. Muller has done for Post_Reformation Reformed dogmatics what no one else has done with such detail since the beginning of the eighteenth century (and in its own way, what no one else has ever done). He has compiled and synthesized the thinking of Reformed theologians (from 1520-1725) on prolegomena to theology (vol. 1), Holy Scripture (vol. 2), the divine essence and attributes (vol. 3), and the Triunity of God (vol. 4). (On these subjects, Heppe's Reformed Dogmatics is only a scratch in the sand compared to Muller's castle).

However, Muller's work is not simply a theological compendium. Instead, it is primarily a study in the history of doctrine. And whenever possible, Muller brings the immediate historical context to bear on the discussion. In addition, he has introduced his subjects with extensive investigations into the preceding history of doctrine. Medieval precedents for each subject are thoroughly discussed. The following investigations build on this material, and it becomes clear how Reformed theology was in living dialogue with the church of the preceding ages.

Those looking for a research topic may also find this work suggestive. For in spite of his thoroughness, Muller admits that theologians in the seventeenth century wrote vast treatises on subjects he has only dealt with in sections of his work. Thus, there is still room to write whole monographs on these subjects, and Muller constantly refers the reader to his sources. Volume four contains an extensive list of sources; here Muller demonstrates that he is


in constant dialogue with the vast range of original and secondary source material.

Along with the addition of volumes three and four, several changes to the first edition of volumes one and two should be noted. After several evaluations of his original work, Muller has tried to draw it all together with a brief thesis statement at the end of volume one and a more extensive thematic conclusion at the end of volume four. In addition, volume one has been expanded with two new sections: one on the academic study of theology; and the other on "the development of a Reformed perspective on philosophy." In volume one, he has "refined the argument . . . in a few places" and "recast some of the sections." In both volumes, he has rearranged some of the material and added second and third-level sub-headings for ease of reading.

Far more could be said on this work. Of course anyone working in the area of historical theology, intellectual history or philosophy cannot afford to miss these volumes. But they should not be left to the halls of academia. Equally, those working in Reformed churches cannot afford to be ignorant of this work (if for no other reason, it represents the most thorough historical study of their church's theological heritage to date). And due to the richness of Reformed theology, those looking for both historical and theological insights will be highly rewarded. And don't worry; it doesn't have to be read in one sitting. My recommendation? Buy it! Read it! Pass on the word to others!

Scott F. Sanborn