Thursday, March 21, 2013

Baugh on Paul and Law...

More on the law/gospel distinction from the book The Law Is Not Of Faith, Dr. Stephen Baugh begins his essay Galatians 5:1-6 and Personal Obligation - Reflections on Paul and the Law:
In his comments on 2 Corinthians 3, the old Princeton biblical scholar and systematic theologian Charles Hodge observed the following on Paul and the law:
Every reader of the New Testament must be struck with the fact that the apostle often speaks of the Mosaic law as he does of the moral law considered as a covenant of works; that is, presenting the promise of life on the condition of perfect obedience.  He represents it as saying, Do this and live; as requiring works, and not faith, as the condition of acceptance.
Remarkably, what struck Hodge and "every reader" as obvious back then is lost on most people today even among Hodge's Reformed descendants.
The background of Hodge's statement above is that the precise character of a covenant of works resides in the imposition of an obligation to personal and perfect (or entire) obedience to its specified stipulations.  The Mosaic law imposes such an obligation; therefore---at the very least---it embodies a works principle within its broader covenanted administration.  The key point here as I will discuss further is personal over against mediated or substitutionary performance of the covenantal stipulations.  Granted, the Mosaic covenant in its typological priestly embodiment of mediation (the ceremonial law) must be viewed as an administration of the covenant of grace.  Nevertheless, the Mosaic law more narrowly considered embodies what can only be described best as a works principle.  This is what other and I mean by "republication" of the covenant of works in Moses.  (pp. 259-260)
And as an enticement to get the book and read the whole thing, here is the conclusion to Dr. Baugh's essay:
In conclusion, this examination of Galatians 5:1-6 has shown that Paul presents here two mutually exclusive ways of eschatological righteousness and justification.  The one comes by faith in Christ's substitutionary mediation as our Surety, which is bestowed on us by divine grace apart from personal fulfillment of the law's demands.  The other that the Galatians were seeking through their circumcision moved them into a closed system of obligation to personal, perfect obedience to the law as it embodied a principle of the republished covenant of works.
The Mosaic law itself did not originate the notion of personal obedience de novo, since it recapitulated a more fundamental creational principle of righteousness through obedience to the Creator's covenant stipulations.  Further, the Mosaic law did not introduce a new way of salvation through a covenant of works, but it did embody this principle for pedagogical and typological functions in the history of redemption.  But Paul does not elaborate on these sorts of essential qualifications n Galatians 5:1-6.  Rather this passage is his urgent testimony to avoid even placing one foot on the path to a righteousness based on personal law-keeping whether mixed with supposed divine grace or Christ's mediation or not.  The two are not compatible, as Paul makes abundantly clear. (pp.279-280) [bold emphasis added]


  1. p268 in Baugh----T.L Donaldson--" Israel serves as a representative sample for the whole of humankind. within Israel’s experience, the nature of the universal human plight–bondage to sin and to the powers of this age– is thrown into sharp relief through the functioning of the law. The law, therefore, cannot accomplish the promise, but by creating a representative sample in which the human plight is clarified and concentrated, it sets the stage for redemption. Christ identifies not only with the human situation in general, but also with Israel in particular…."

    “The Curse of the Law and the Inclusion of the Gentiles”, NT Studies 1986, p105


    A number of recent Reformed commentators acknowledge that Paul is sharply contrasting faith and works of the law in these and parallel passages, yet deny that the Mosaic law itself can be contrasted with faith (in this sense adopting a similar conclusion to many New Perspective advocates). Instead, these Reformed commentators believe that when Paul quotes Lev 18:5 or refers otherwise to the law so as to contrast it with faith he thinks not of the Mosaic law itself but of the law as misinterpreted
    in a legalistic way by his Jewish contemporaries.36 In my judgment this line of interpretation should also be rejected.37 That Paul dealt with people whom he judged to have misinterpreted the purposes of the Mosaic law is unquestionable, but that the law itself stood in contrast to faith, at least in certain respects, was Paul’s own view. That Paul would concede the interpretation of Lev 18:5 to legalistic Judaizers both in Gal 3:12 and Rom 10:5 (where he introduces his quote by saying, “Moses writes” about the righteousness of the law) is farfetched.
    Furthermore, in Gal 3:19 Paul asks a rhetorical question, understandable in light of the contrast of law and faith in previous verses: “Why then the law?” His explanation in 3:19-4:7 is that God’s own purpose in giving the Mosaic law was to keep his people imprisoned under sin for a time, a condition from which Christ released those who believe in him. In this same section of Galatians Paul speaks of Christ himself being “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (4:4-5), which must be speaking of the Mosaic law in the light of preceding verses. As Israel was under the Mosaic law so Christ came under the Mosaic law. Yet Paul could hardly have been asserting that Christ, whom he says elsewhere “knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), lived under a subjective misinterpretation of the law. Both Christ and the Israelites came “under the law” in an objective sense that reflected God’s own purposes in giving it—but where the Israelites failed Christ prevailed.
    (pp 316-18)

  2. Like the Romanists, Daniel Fuller and John Piper read "misunderstanding of the law" into "the law" Fuller's Unity of the Bible (143) focuses on commands of God to those “already in the covenant” and explains that people don’t need to be exactly perfect to meet the conditions of “staying in the covenant”. But the gospel teaches that all saving faith is the fruit of the righteousness obtained for the elect AND that justification is NOT a future thing dependent on future works of faith.

    Ted Darmon defends Dan Fuller’s reading of Galatians 3:18

    Daniel Fuller—”Obedience to God’s commands, not simply faith in Christ for salvation, is the condition of justification….none of the commandments of God is ever to be understood as a ‘law of works,’ a job description, but as a ‘law of faith’ (cf. Rom. 3:27; 9:32), a doctor’s prescription. In declaring that God shows ‘love [“mercy” in the original] to a thousand generations of those who love [him] and keep [his] commandments,’ Exodus 20:6 clearly proves that all of God’s commands are a law of faith, calling for an obedience of faith (Rom 1:5) and subsequent works of faith (1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:11). Mercy, or grace, is therefore conditional, though never meritorious”.

    Daniel Fuller–“The conclusion, then, is that instead of two sets of promises in the Bible—conditional and unconditional—there is only one kind of promise throughout Scripture, and the realization of its promises is dependent upon compliance with conditions which are well characterized as ‘the obedience of faith.”

    Matt Perman—Dr. Fuller teaches that obedience is a means of justification by distinguishing works into two kinds and excluding one kind (which is sinful) but not the other (which is righteous) from the means of justification.

    Daniel Fuller—“In what sense, then, are works to be excluded from that attitude which is indispensable for receiving God’s grace? Depending on the context, the word ‘works’ in Paul’s vocabulary means either (1) those actions such as a workman like the supermarket checker would perform, or (2) the things done by a client, customer, patient, or employer in order to benefit fully from the expertise of the workman”

    Daniel Fuller—“By citing Deut. 30:11-14 in Rom. 10] Paul was showing that the righteousness set forth by the law was the righteousness of faith. Since the wording of the law can be replaced by the word ‘Christ’ with no loss of meaning, Paul has demonstrated that Moses himself taught that Christ and the law are of one piece. Either one or both will impart righteousness to all who believe, and thus the affirmation of Romans 10:4 is supported by Paul’s reference to Moses in verses 5-8” (p. 86.4)

  3. ohn Piper tries to say that “works of law” are “legalism”

    Piper–Some twisted the Mosaic law into legalism. That is, they severed it from its foundation of faith, failed to stress dependence on the Spirit, and thus turned the commandments into a job description for how to earn the wages of salvation. That is legalism. But there is no Greek word for legalism, so when Paul wanted to refer to this distortion of the Mosaic law, he often used the phrase, “works of law” (e.g., Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16, 3:2, 5). This will keep us from giving such bad press to the Mosaic law when really it is the legalistic distortion of law that should get the bad press.

    Piper– Now I know that hardly anyone says that God saved people differently in the OT than he does today. But many Bible teachers say (or imply) that the law of Moses offers a way of salvation different than the way offered in the gospel. That is, virtually everyone agrees that anybody that was justified in the OT was justified by grace through faith; it was a gift of God. But many will still say that the law called them to earn God’s blessings through works, and in doing this it showed men their total inability and drove them to the Savior.

    Piper–Or to put it another way, many Bible teachers will argue that the Mosaic covenant (made with Israel at Mount Sinai) is fundamentally different from the covenant with Abraham (made earlier) and the New Covenant (established at Calvary) under which we live. The difference, they say, is this: in the Abrahamic covenant and New Covenant salvation is promised freely to be received by faith apart from works of law. But under the Mosaic covenant salvation (or God’s blessing) is not offered freely to faith, but instead is offered as a reward for the works of the law. Since only perfect works could merit salvation from a perfectly holy God and nobody can achieve that, the law simply makes us aware of our sin and misery and pronounces our condemnation. This is probably the most popular view of the Mosaic law in the church today, and it is wrong. It makes a legalistic Pharisee out of Moses, turns the Torah into the very heresy Paul condemned at Galatia, and (worst of all) it makes God into his own enemy, commanding that people try to merit his blessing (and thus exalt themselves) instead of resting in his all sufficient mercy (and thus exalt him).