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Discussion in 'Covenant Theology' started by Timotheos, Feb 3, 2019.
How would you describe or identify the 2 covenants here? Interested to see the various views.
The covenant of works and the covenant of grace, with some reference to the republication of the covenant of works in the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace. Since the Mosaic administration has been superseded by the new covenant, all that is left from the old administration is the republished covenant of works, which can only lead to bondage and not to life.
1) Sinai. 2) Abraham.
Paul's typological hermeneutic of Israelite history means that he views the conditions and persons of history as prophetic. In various ways, they point ahead to One who will fulfill that which has been lived out in an historical frame, combining (as only the true Fulfillment could) the many experiences and events in a coherent and integrated whole.
As Acts begins, the New Covenant church has taken over the identity of Abraham's proper offspring, through the Sole Heir (Gen.24:36). All others have been disinherited (Acts 2:36-37). Those who are clinging to their Old Covenant identity are, ironically, in the position of recapitulating the situation of Ishmael, who was cast out, and refused any claim to patrimony on the basis of kinship.
Only by accepting that there is no inheritance available outside of submission to and receipt of gifts from the Only Begotten Son (Gen.22:2,12,16) and Mediator, can anyone of spiritual-Ishmaelitish stock be received again.
Here is how I interpreted those covenants when preaching this passage:
My best understanding of Galatians 4:24 with context is that Paul is contrasting the Covenant of Grace (Sarah) with the misunderstanding and misapplication of the demand of the Covenant of Works (Hagar) as included in the covenant at Sinai (which was largely considered, actually part of the Covenant of Grace). Sinai largely considered was part of the Covenant of Grace but it had elements included that restated the demand of the Covenant of Works (Do this and live). The Jews took the demand and thought: this is the way then to life. But the reason this demand was included at Sinai wasn't for the Jews to try to earn salvation by their works, but to humble them so as to drive them to Christ, who was in turn also very clearly revealed at Sinai, which is why Sinai belongs to the Covenant of Grace.
Here is some extra explanation if helpful (from a sermon I preached):
A) Paul says these women represent two different COVENANTS (vv24-25)
1. Who does HAGAR represent? “. . .for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia. . .”
So, it's clear that Paul is saying that HAGAR represents MOUNT SINAI in some way. In what way? Hagar's conceiving Ishmael represents those who turn the Law into a system of achieving self-justification.
2. Who does SARAH represent? Well, she's called the “free woman” (v22) and she conceives through God's promise (v23). So if Hagar represents the way of trying to achieve God's blessings by the LAW, then Sarah must represent the way of simply receiving God's blessings by faith in His PROMISES.
So, Paul likens HAGAR to the way of LAW and human ability; and he likens SARAH to the way of receiving God's PROMISES by faith. Now, this analogy makes even more sense when we think about it this way: Sarah was Abraham's wife long before Hagar. And God's purpose was to fulfill His promises to Abraham THROUGH Sarah. The promised son was always going to come through Sarah. But what happened? God delayed to fulfill His promise, and they began to doubt. And then they started thinking maybe they could help God out. And there was HAGAR. But it's important for us to realize that Hagar herself wasn't the problem. The problem was when Abraham and Sarah gave Hagar a place she was never meant to possess—when they made Hagar the maid into Hagar Abraham's wife. That was the problem. Hagar was Sarah's maid. Her purpose was simply to serve Sarah. This is why she was added to the household, to serve Sarah. But what happened? Abraham and Sarah gave Hagar a place she was never meant to have, they attempted to obtain God's promise through Hagar. That was the problem.
Now, think about the Law and the promise. God first gave the gospel promise to His people long before the Law. The Law was “added” much later (like Hagar). And so far, so good. There was never any inherent problem with the Law; the Law is good and holy and righteous. In fact, like Hagar, the intent of the Law was always to serve the gospel. This is why God gave the Law, to function as a “handmaid” the gospel. But what happened? The Jews gave the Law a place it was never meant to have. They perverted the Law and turned it into a way to try to achieve God's promised blessings. They began to use the Law in a way it was never meant to function (like Hagar). Like Abraham and Sarah, they took the handmaid and turned her into a means of obtaining the promised blessing by their own ability. Just as Abraham allowed Hagar to have a place in the household that she never ought to have had, so too the Jews allowed the Law to have a place in the Church that it never ought to have had.
Some quotes here:
“Hagar was not intended to be a wife. She never ought to have been anything but a handmaid to Sarah. The law was never intended to save men—it was only designed to be a handmaid to the covenant of grace. When God delivered the law on Sinai, it was apart from His ideas that any man would ever be saved by it. He never conceived that man would attain perfection thereby. . .Ah, if we know rightly how to use the law, if we understand how to put her in her proper place and make her obedient to her mistress, then all will be well. . .The law is good and excellent if it keeps its place. Nobody finds fault with the handmaid, because she is not the wife—and no one shall despise Hagar because she is not Sarah. If she had but remembered her office, it had been all well and her mistress had never driven her out.” (Spurgeon)
“But though those Jews that were saved were saved by the same covenant that we now are saved by, yet notwithstanding the Covenant of Works was declared and promulgated among the Jews: 'Wherefore then was the Law added?' says the apostle. Added then it was. As Sarah and Hagar, made types of the two testaments by the apostle, were at once in Abraham's house; so the old Covenant of Works, and the new Covenant of Grace were at once in the Jewish church. But though both these covenants were at once in the Jewish church, the one [was] declared and the other made with them; though Hagar was in the same house, yet it was in subserviency unto Sarah; and though the Covenant of Works was declared and was there at the same time, yet it was in subserviency unto the Covenant of Grace; 'It was added, wherefore?' says the apostle: because of transgression, to be a school master to bring to Christ. It was there in subserviency, and upon a gospel design.” (William Bridge, Christ and the Covenant, p48).
Sarah was Abraham's wife, and the one through whom the promises would be fulfilled. Hagar was a handmaid to Sarah and was in the house to serve her, but was never meant to be Abraham's wife. That was an abuse of Hagar, and not a proper use. In the same way, the Mosaic Covenant was always subservient to the Abrahamic Covenant. It was there for the administration of promises that God made in the first covenant, but was never meant to replace, supercede, or substitute that covenant. To make the Mosaic Covenant a covenant of life was an abuse and misuse.
Coming from the 1689 Federalism perspective, I partially agree with the above explanations and partially disagree.
I believe the two covenants in question are the Mosaic (Old) and New, both of which are born from the Abrahamic Covenant. v24-25 are clear that Hagar = Mosaic Covenant. I believe v27's quotation of Isaiah 54:1 is equally clear that the other covenant in view is the yet future New Covenant prophesied by Isaiah.
The Old Covenant gives birth to bondage because it was a covenant of works (for temporal life and blessing in Canaan) (compare v3, 9-10; 5:1-3; Col 2:20; Heb 9:10). Note that this is not simply an abuse of the law. Prior to Christ the Old Covenant served the purpose of typologically pointing towards Him and thus it was consistent for a saved member of the Old Covenant of works to continue its practices (ie circumcision). But now that the New Covenant has come (v4-7) it must be cast out (v30; Heb 8:13). The two are no longer compatible but diametrically opposed.
Since Paul was addressing Jews ("you who want to be under the law" v. 21), "the promise" in v. 23 would have been understood as the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant contained the promise, whereas the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the promise. I do not know if this adds anything to this discussion other than to make the point that once the promise was fulfilled, the need for the promise ends by necessity.
I'm probably misunderstanding you here, but are u saying that 'circumcision' was a C of W's practice? If so, I am not following you. Could u elaborate a bit?
Thanks for the question Scott. The view of 1689 Federalism is that the Covenant of Circumcision was a covenant of works, of which the Mosaic Covenant was a continuation/addendum. For an elaboration on that, I would point you to this 6 part series Kline’s Abrahamic Covenant of Works 1: Murray and Shepherd
In line with the conclusions reached in that series, circumcision devoted an individual to the priestly service of God according to the terms of Mosaic law. John D. Meade notes that the practice of circumcision in Egypt during the time was an initiation rite for those who would serve in the court of Pharaoh as priests. Kline said "The oath whose curse sanction circumcision symbolized was an oath of allegiance. It was an avowal of Yahweh as covenant Lord, a commitment in loyalty to him." Richard Pratt, Jr. explains that in circumcision “Abraham committed himself to loyal service.” In this way Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6). This was a glorious thing, but it also proved to be an unbearable yoke (Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1) because it devoted one to obedience to Mosaic law (Gal 5:3). It was profitable if one kept the law, but if one broke the law their circumcision made them liable to Mosaic curse (Rom 2:25). And there was no getting out of this obligation. If one was not circumcised, they were to be cut off (killed; Gen 17:14; Ex. 4:24-26). There was no voluntary profession of saving faith. All offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were obligated to circumcision, devoting them to obedience to Mosaic law, upon pain of death.
Is the C of Circumcision the Abrahamic Covenant?
So, the A Covenant is an administration of the C of W's and the C of G. Internally in the C of G and externally in the C of W's?
It would seem logical, at least by your definition, that the A Cov is an admin of the C of W’s.
It depends on what is meant. 1689 Federalism does not share Westminster's formulation of substance/administration/internal/external. I would recommend trying to understand our position on our own terms, rather than trying to express it in Westminster's terms.
Thank you, Bruce. I appreciate your help. Could I ask a favor?
Can you tell me some writers, commentaries, and so on that offer this perspective?
Directly or indirectly, I discover I am repeatedly indebted to Calvin. I don't do a lot of commentary consulting while in the midst of sermon prep, saving it for afterward (if there is time). But it is obvious to me, from how often I find the signs Calvin has already gone down the road I travel, that the pastors and guides of my past formation belong to his path; and therefore, so do I.
[I am afraid not to credit Calvin, so far as my sermonizing goes, for the insight that Paul may use the term allegory in a somewhat ironic fashion, meaning in his case what we now call "typology" (or an anagogic sense in Calvin's terms) over against the Judaizers particularly, and a general rhetorical deprecation of "literal sense" by moralistic philosophers of various stripes. I would not fail to note his view in support of my comments, if publishing any such work.]
I would begin with Calvin, discussing from v21ff to the end of the ch. I recommend starting at least as far back as there, in order to take in the whole of his exposition of the Apostle's argument.
Calvin says of the church--be it Abraham's day, Paul's day, or the present day (Calvin's or ours)--there is within it two "mothers" of Doctrine from which we may be born--either the Legal or the Evangelical. Only the latter son (or sons) is heir to the covenant of Promise. Calvin recognizes no other covenant with Abraham than the promissory.
On v28 note:
He next concludes that we become the sons of God by promise, after the example (kata 'Isaak) of Isaac, and that in no other way do we obtain this honor. To readers little skilled or practiced in the examination of Scripture, this reasoning may appear inconclusive; because they do not hold the most undoubted of all principles, that all the promises, being founded on the Messiah, are of free grace. It was because the apostle took this for granted, that he so fearlessly contrasted the promise with the law.It is with Abraham that Calvin begins speaking on this text (v22) regarding the visible church, through Paul's day, down to his own. So remember to take his commentary on his own (Presbyterian) terms.
I have several commentaries on Galatians, by authors from the Reformation through modern times. None would I put ahead of John Brown's, https://banneroftruth.org/us/store/commentaries/galatians/
His treatments of Gal.3:6 for example, or the passage under consideration here, are unsurpassed for depth and clarity of exposition.
I hope these two suggestions are directly pertinent to your quest.