Sunday, May 31, 2015

Every Word Out of the Mouth of God...

Reading David VanDrunen's latest book, Divine Covenants and Moral Order, got me to thinking about Adam's temptation in the garden and the temptation that Jesus faced many millennia later. VanDrunen posits that the natural law was given covenantally to man as part of the image of God woven into his being at his creation.
By their image-bearing nature human beings were morally obligated before God, and by their image-bearing nature they were destined for eschatological life.  The absence of any covenant-making ceremony and of the word ברית in Genesis 1-2 may be explained by the fact that humanity's very creation established a covenantal relationship requiring no further establishment or confirmation. p. 85
In other words, the righteousness of the moral law written on Adam's heart requiring obedience had a view to an end - a fulfillment, or as the Divines wrote, a "fruition of him as their blessedness and reward " (WCF 7.1). Thus the creation of man was itself a covenantal, "voluntary condescension" of God due to the hope of eschatological blessedness.

Taking that view, the prohibition to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil upon penalty of death that came later to Adam, as VanDrunen writes, can then be understood
not as supplementing Adam's natural obligation but as focusing it. As I argued earlier in this chapter, the command to work and to guard the Garden served as a concrete test of Adam's general and natural obligation to subdue the earth. Likewise, the command to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would become a concrete test of his general and natural obligation to exercise dominion over the creatures. The commands of 2:15-17 did reveal something that Adam could not have know simply by his image-bearing nature... pp. 85-86
God put Adam in the garden to "guard it" and to exercise dominion (rule with justice) over all including the serpent. The tree prohibition was a concentrated test of Adam's faithful obedience to God's creation mandate, moral law, and God himself. And it was particularly focused for the reason that the prohibition was a positive command that came from without. The command to not eat of the forbidden tree wasn't directly found in the natural law directly given at Adam's creation. There wasn't anything inherently wrong with eating that fruit that could be understood from the moral law. Yet it was God's command. In the upcoming test Adam had only God's outward spoken command to lean on. In other words, the prohibition to not eat of the forbidden tree wasn't inherently known by Adam, an image bearer of God. Obedience was required to a command that in and of itself that one could say seemed arbitrary and morally neutral. And yet being God's spoken word it wasn't neutral. It was indeed both morally right to obey and morally wrong to disobey.

The point I'm focusing on is simply that God's law-command regarding the tree was a outward one apart from the moral law written inwardly on Adam's heart. So in that sense it was a command extrinsic to him, i.e. not subjective or inherent to him. His obedience would lean solely on the outward word - "Thus God said..."

That being said, for Adam to bow to the serpent and disobey the outward command to not eat of that tree was indeed a violation of the moral law, especially in light of the first commandment.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me."
And to violate just one command of God is to be guilty of all the law (James 2:10).

When challenged on the outward command to not eat Adam fell from his original righteousness, bowing before the serpent. Adam disobeyed the command that came not from the law written inwardly on his heart but that came outwardly from the mouth of God.

Turning to the New Testament we see a similar scene played out in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus had just completed forty days of fasting. Satan's presents the first of three temptations to Jesus and upon first blush it hardly seems like the temptation has anything that has to do with a moral right and wrong. Is there a moral law against nourishing oneself after a fast? Or turning a stone to bread to do so? We know later in a different circumstance Jesus does perform a food miracle by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish in order to feed a multitude of people and we presume himself.  So Satan was working from that same old play book he used in the garden with Adam.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
The Spirit of God had led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted and the divine lead up to that test was forty days of fasting. Though starving, one could infer that Jesus knew that as man it was not his to take up his own judgment and efforts to end that divine mandated fasting. For Jesus to rule justly and exercise dominion as a man required his absolute obedience to and reliance on his Father. So it is of no small coincidence that as the Second Adam Jesus replied with words that echoed the battle that took place long ago in the garden of Eden concerning God's original outward command to Adam.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  
Jesus had been given by the Spirit of God a wilderness test that included coming to near starvation and three temptations. The fasting wasn't to be over until the final temptation was over.

Upon Satan's third temptation, Jesus as a man in obedience to his Father judged the tempter with righteousness and authority by quoting God's word:
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

It was at that point, when the Jesus's temptation had ended, that nourishment and relief were given to him from above.
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
A man, the Second Adam, once again had righteous dominion over all creation, including over the serpent.


  1. I don't get way it's important to say that Adam's sin against God's law was a sin also against the laws later revealed in the Mosaic covenant (what you call "the moral law"). Certainly all God's laws are moral laws, and all of God's law speak not only to our actions but to our motives thoughts?

    I understand that you think it's important to have more than one law going on before sin, because you are committed confessionally to the possibility that righteous Adam might have obeyed more than one law for long enough to justly be rewarded with immortality, but even with Jesus, three days of not disobeying three laws does not amount to positively obeying all the laws for long enough, does it?

    The tree of life in the book of Revelation will come as a result of Christ's death as satisfaction of the law that was disobeyed by Adam for all of us. Adam's sin was for all of us, but Christ's death is only for all the elect, Dvine law now blesses the elect because Christ has satisfied divine law for the elect. God's curse on Christ blesses the elect.

  2. Where is the Mosaic covenant/Decalogue in my post? James says that to keep all the law and yet to disobey only one is to be guilty of all. The reason that's important is because it's biblical. (James 2:10).

    Likewise, your second paragraph doesn't represent my thinking. I more or less held the view above (parallel between Adam and Jesus) long before I became "confessional." Again, I understand it to be biblical.

    No qualms with your third paragraph.... one out of three!

  3. My question was occasioned by your reference to other law, to "moral law". That tends to be short hand for the Ten Commandments for some folks. James was writing after the giving of the Noahic, Abrahamic and Mosaic laws. So it's not clear to me that Adam was governed by those other laws, given after his sin.

    if indeed God only gave one law to Adam, for Adam to disobey that one law was for Adam to disobey all the law..

    I really am confused. Were you saying that Adam was under more than one law before Adam sinned? What do you mean by "moral law"? Are there some laws that God gives at times which are not moral?

  4. the comparison between Adam and Christ is that the guilt of Adam's one act of disobedience is imputed to the elect and that the righteousness of Christ's one act of obedience is imputed to the elect. Adam and Christ were NOT born under the same law. Christ was born under the Mosaic law, but Adam was not. Christ came to die to win immortality for the elect. Adam was threatened with death for disobedience, but was never promised immortality no matter what he would ever do.

    1. Nobody but Adam was born under the law not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    2. Christ was not born under the law not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    3. After Adam sinned, even Adam was no longer able to keep the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Break it once, break it all forever, means that Adam no longer able to keep the law.

    4. Adam and those Adam represented were guilty and condemned to death because of his disobedience of the law not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    5. Adam did not represent Christ, so Christ was not even born under the guilt of Adam's sin, except as that sin was imputed to His elect, and Christ was imputed with all the sins of His elect.

    6. Christ was born the Mosaic law, under the Noahic law, and under the Abrahamic law.

  5. Did Jesus only redeem those who were under the Mosaic Law?

    We can say that Adam was a gentile not under the Mosaic Law. Yet the moral law (which is summarized in the Decalogue) was written on his heart. Here's on spot that would point us to that conclusion.

    14 For when Gentiles who do not have the [Mosaic] Law do instinctively the things of the [Mosaic] Law, these, not having the [Mosaic] Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

    The law written in the gentiles hearts showed them what essentially what was the moral law found in the Mosaic. On that basis God can justly judge them because they know moral right and wrong.

  6. Interestingly, Paul writes that the gentiles' conscience bears witness to the law written in their hearts, alternately accusing or else defending them. So attached to that moral law written in their heart is the knowledge that certain works bring the accusation of condemnation, others approbation. This points to man as being naturally under a law-covenant of works. He is a law creature seeking to find approval through his works and avoid disapproval because of his misdeeds.

  7. Thanks for the continued discussion. I certainly agree that we want to find approval by our obedience. Indeed, I think God's command to Adam to "don't eat or die" suggests that finding approval by obedience is not a bad thing in itself. The problem we agree is that we disobey, and therefore cannot find approval except in the death of Christ. Even if the law (whichever covenant) should approve us in all but one thing, the one accusation demands our death.

    Jack, do you know the soundbite which says that Christ "satisfied law and justice"? What is the difference, if any, between law and justice? What does the soundbite mean? For some people , I think it means that active vicarious law-keeping satisfies the law and that the death of Christ satisfies justice. But it the death of Christ is not righteousness, and if the death of Christ is not demanded by the law, then why would we even need to be joined to Christ's death? Romans 6....

    On the one hand, I don’t want to be a distraction from the fundamental importance of the law-grace distinction by questioning “active obedience as vicarious law-keeping” (or by debating if there was a “covenant of works” with Adam.)

    On the other hand, a focus on obeying laws as the righteousness CAN imply that the death of Christ is not the righteousness. I don’t think active and positive should be split up, not only because the death was active and the obedience passive, but because I want to get away from any idea that the remission of sins is because of the death and that the positive blessing is because of the life.

    "Moral law" is found in that one law God gave Adam "Moral law" is found in the Noahic covenant and in the Abrahamic covenant. Christ perfectly obeyed all the laws revealed in all those covenants. The sacrifices of all those covenants pointed not to something merely practical and "natural" which could hold people together, but to the death of Christ, which would bring in righteousness for all His elect. Even the demand of the Noahic covenant for the death of killers was a religious command point to the need for Christ.