Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Righteousness Is More Than Guiltlessness

Suppose, for instance, I promise to my servants a reward for keeping my commands, and threaten punishment for breaking them. At the end of the appointed time, one of them has kept them, and receives the reward. A second one has broken them, and is chastised. Suppose this second should then arise and claim his reward also, on the ground that suffering the full penalty of the breach was an entire equivalent for perfect obedience. Common sense would pronounce it absurd…Since Christ steps into the sinner’s stead, to fulfill in his stead the whole Covenant of Works, He must, in order to procure to us full salvation, both purchase pardon for guilt, and a positive title to favor and life. The sinner needs both.

-R.L. Dabney- Lectures in Systematic Theology


At Wednesday, May 03, 2006 9:04:00 PM, Anonymous bobby grow said...

Interesting post! I think the guilt/righteousness "negative/positive" paradox is a good point! I just don't agree with the "Covenantal" framework (i.e. cov. of works) Dabney operates from.

Good thoughts!

In Christ,


At Thursday, May 04, 2006 7:34:00 AM, Blogger bluecollar said...

Great stuff, Doug!

Mark Pierson

At Thursday, May 04, 2006 9:33:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


What aspect of the covenant of works do you disagree with?


At Thursday, May 04, 2006 9:43:00 AM, Blogger Jada's Gigi said...

He did soooo much more than simply pay the price for sin! He gave us His Life....which is the far greater make a new species who lives in two realms, God's and man's, both at the same time.

At Thursday, May 04, 2006 7:35:00 PM, Anonymous bobby grow said...


Briefly, it would primarily be a hermeneutical issue. I do not see the possibility for establishing a normative hermeneutical grid from the NT as Cov. interpretation does. In other words, amongst amil/cov. interp. there is the assumption that "we" can a. discern how the NT authors interpreted/used the OT, and b. once discerned supposedly "we" can employ the same methodology that the NT authors did when approaching the OT. I disagree for an array of reasons. So this is one point of disagreement for me, since Federal/Cov. theology assumes such a hermeneutic.

Theologically, I don't see one-to-one correspondence between the 1st Adam and 2nd Adam as Cov. theology does.

Eschatologically, I see a distinction between ethnic Israel and the church--and as a futurist I see a remnant from national Israel living under the "physical" fulfillment of the Davidic Cov. (II Sam 7; Ez. 36--37) in Jerusalem under Messiah's rulership; which is incompatible with Cov/amil's view of the "people of God" and spiritual Israel.

I have other points of departure--but hopefully this will help clarify some of my perspective here.

In Christ,


At Thursday, May 04, 2006 9:23:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


That is helpful. What do you think specifically about the covenant of works. Does one exist?


At Friday, May 05, 2006 6:58:00 AM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

Doug, if I may join the conversation (if not just tell me to "take a hike" ;) ), the problem I see with the covenant of works is that it presents a method of salvation other than faith.

The "covenant of works" is never specifically mentioned in Scripture.

The level of obedience that pleases God has always stemmed from faith. Look at how often the two are coupled together in the Bible.

Notice that when Satan tempted Eve, he began by attacking her faith in what God had said.

Just my two cents worth, but given inflation and the rising price of gas it may not even be worth that much!

At Friday, May 05, 2006 9:38:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Join in any time you like. I agree that their belief in God is a crucial aspect, but God's command was...

Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

So even if faith was an important aspect of it, it was at least faith plus works. In fact most of the covenatal theologians I have read place major emphasis on Adam and Eve's belief in God. Not to mention it does seems of confuse faith with works, which leads to this question. Is faith a work or law that must be kept? I ask this because if Adam did not break the law of works, what did he break? Was it the law of faith?

I actually believe Scripture does lay out two ways of obtaining a righteousness worthy of eternal life. Perfect obedience to God, or (since none of us can do that) accepting the righteousness of God. I will most likely be posting on this soon.


At Friday, May 05, 2006 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

Good point, Doug. Let us consider this: from our position, we are trying obtain eternal life through righteousness, Adam and Eve already had it.

Adam and Eve were the only humans ever created in this state, so even if there was a covenant in Gen. 2 (and I am not saying there is) it would only apply to them. The covenant would be related to them losing their life if they ate of the tree and thus would be consummated when they did so.

At Friday, May 05, 2006 11:30:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Thanks for responding, but the idea of needing to obey God perfectly (what we call the covenant of work), cannot only apply to them, because we broke something too. What was it that we broke.

God Bless,


At Friday, May 05, 2006 6:01:00 PM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

I agree, Doug. They were required to have perfect obedience, but they were to obey from a status that was already perfect, whereas we are born with a sin nature.

Had they maintained faith in the one commandment God gave them, they never would have disobeyed.

At Friday, May 05, 2006 7:51:00 PM, Anonymous bobby grow said...

Plus, to argue for an formal "covenant of works" would betray the definiton, supplied by O. Palmer Robertson (Christ of the Covenants), of how a covenant is established in the scriptures--and that is through the shedding of blood (sacrifice). There never was such a shedding of blood prior to Adam and Eve's breaking of the so called covenant of works--which undercuts any scriptural idea of covenant in the first place--given Robertson's definition on how a covenant is established.

I don't believe in a covenant of works--I believe it's an artificial overlay of an "a priori" committment to a pre-conceived theological system. The covenat of works, historically, presupposes what was called the "divine pactum" which places "conditionality" on "meriting" salvation by meeting the stipulations of God's Holy character expressed, for YHWH's covenant people, Israel--and for the covenant theologian, for us today.

But again, as I've argued briefly, the Mosaic Covenant was never intended to provide justification--not even through Christ's corporate solidarity with man, and His substitutionary atonement.

At Friday, May 05, 2006 8:56:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


I'm familiar with Roberston's definition and when it comes to the historical covenants I believe He is right. But the theological covenants are different.

Not to mention I personally have no problem if someone doesn't want to call it a covenant. But there is some agreed upon order of conduct between God and man. If man fulfills it he lives, if he trangresses it he dies.

God Bless,


At Friday, May 05, 2006 9:48:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


We seem to agree that Adam and Eve had to have perfect obedience in order be righteous, faith being an important aspect of that arrangement, but this arrangment is what we call the covenant of work. I have no problem if you don't want to call it a covenant, but we are talking about the same thing.

As far as we go (being born sinners), it is clear that the law can never justify us but when we sin we are trangressing something. My question is, what is it? We call it the covenant of works. It's the arrangent between God and man that demand perfect obedience. This is still in effect. If it is not, then there is nothing for us to break, which means we really can't be sinners.

God Bless,



Post a Comment

<< Home