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Featured Audio: Office Hours on ‘The Law is Not of Faith’

18 November, 2009

Authors Bryan Estelle, David VanDrunen, and John Fesko — all of them professors at Westminster Seminary California — chat with Scott Clark, host of The Law is Not of FaithOffice Hours and fellow WSC prof, about the important book they recently co-edited, The Law is Not of Faith: Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant.

Click on the Featured Audio widget in the sidebar, or click here.

HT: A post on The Heidelblog (The links to available resources in the post are excellent, as well.)

  1. 19 November, 2009 5:51 pm

    This is definitely one of the most helpful reads out there. I enjoyed it thoroughly as it helps me see more clearly the work of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ on our behalf so we can better worship him as he alone deserves.
    It’s a book that should be read in the order that it was carefully arranged. And it should be read again and again.
    Looking forward to more from these faithful pastor/scholars.

  2. 21 November, 2009 1:41 am

    Here is a quote from John Fesko in that interview:

    John Fesko (39:25 minutes):
    Adam was offered life on the condition of his obedience, he could, but didn’t.
    Israel was offered life on the condition of obedience, they couldn’t because they were fallen, and therefore didn’t.
    Christ takes that same promise of life, promised both to Adam and to Israel, and not only could he, but did.
    And I think that that summarizes the principle of republication.

    The error here is the equivocation in the “life” promised to Israel. The Mosaic Law never promised Heaven, and that’s why the Torah doesn’t mention it. The “life” offered was a earthly life with temporal blessings. Thus, keeping the Mosaic Law perfectly wouldn’t save in an absolute sense, whether done but us or Jesus in our place.

    It is looking beyond the earthly reading of the Torah is what Paul does, realizing there are ‘two tiers’ so to speak. The spiritual reading of the Torah is that of unfolding prophecy and not that of a legal code.

  3. 21 November, 2009 10:22 pm

    ” The error here is the equivocation in the “life” promised to Israel. The Mosaic Law never promised Heaven, and that’s why the Torah doesn’t mention it. The “life” offered was a earthly life with temporal blessings. Thus, keeping the Mosaic Law perfectly wouldn’t save in an absolute sense, whether done but us or Jesus in our place.”

    Nick, this is why you need to actually purchase the book and read the articles carefully. This exact question about “life” is addressed carefully. See Brian Estelle’s article for one. I don’t have time to fill you in. I’m super busy. But you’d show yourself to be more than a blogger if you studied actual material rather than just blathered arrogantly on blogs. Get the book. It’s cheap considering the level of scholarship. Read it. Then blog. Don’t be so fond of the sound of your own voice. Read.
    I’m not trying to silence you at all. But if you’re going to vent at least do some actual work. Listening to a short podcast (even though this one is as good as podcasts get) and then blathering is not actual work. Do like your Medieval patriarch–tolle lege, tolle lege.


  4. Nick permalink
    22 November, 2009 12:06 am

    I am thankful that you informed me the book does deal with “this exact question.” It is disheartening to me when books are suggested and yet they don’t deal with the very issues I believe are key. If the book answers that question, great, I will be more inclined to buy it. But when I hear John Fesko in the interview stating the Mosaic Law promised eternal life, that’s misleading at the very least, flat out wrong at most.

    When Paul said (or quoted) stuff like “The righteousness of the law” or “do this and you will live” (e.g. Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12) he was not speaking of eternal life, or the Law requiring perfect obedience, but instead an ‘earthly righteousness’ alone, not a ‘saving righteousness’. His is contrasting a righteousness that saves with a righteousness that does not (and instead merely temporal).

    And my argument, that the Law didn’t offer eternal life, is not my own, it comes from great thinkers throughout history, such as St Thomas Aquinas.

    • 22 November, 2009 3:17 pm


      If you really want to get the argument you should get the book, or something like it. In the podcast, it’s easy to miss that the analogy Fesko draws between Adam and Sinai is not univocal — so in other words, no one’s arguing that ‘life’ means the same in both. The NT makes clear that even those in the OT who were part of the Mosaic theocracy were looking for a city with everlasting foundations. God’s people have always been saved by looking only to Jesus, before and after his coming to be God with us. Of course the Mosaic law didn’t offer eternal life, because the whole point of it was to point out sin and our need for Christ, the one promised 430 years earlier to Abraham, the father of all those who believe the saving promises of God before Sinai was ever on the radar.

      The point is rather that Adam and Sinai fundamentally ‘work’ the same way: Do this and live (Lev 18:5), don’t do this and die — whether life and death are eschatological, as in the case of Adam, or ethnic and national, as in the case of Sinai. Now complete the picture with the gospel of the grace of God for all nations in the faithful Second Adam a la Rom 5, and you’ve got what Paul says in other contexts, that the law is not of faith, faith is opposed to works, i.e. opposed to what we have done and earned (whether we’re Jews or Gentiles). The gospel doesn’t ‘work’ the way Adam and Sinai do, because Christ has done all on our behalf, that by faith we may have life in his name, not in Adam’s or in Moses’ or in our own.

      As you said, this all has to do with law/gospel and the nature of righteousness.

  5. Nick permalink
    24 November, 2009 3:28 am

    Your last comment was very helpful, and I am looking into buying the book. That said, I read this review on Amazon, and it caused me to delay the order (at least for the moment):

    You said:
    “Of course the Mosaic law didn’t offer eternal life”
    and later
    “whether life and death are eschatological, as in the case of Adam, or ethnic and national, as in the case of Sinai”

    I would agree with this, the Mosaic Law only offered temporal blessings and not eternal life, but (ironically) I’m talking with Calvinists now who rabidly reject this idea and say the Mosaic Law did offer eternal life (some even suggest I read the above book).

    Take this blog for example, which quotes John Calvin as saying the Mosaic Law offered eternal life:

  6. Nick permalink
    24 November, 2009 3:45 am

    And not to be a pain in the rear with all these responses, but if you say the Mosaic Law doesn’t offer eternal life, then I don’t see how Sola Fide stands at all. For the logic is plain: If the Mosaic Law doesn’t offer eternal life, then keeping it perfectly wont give eternal life. So Christ keeping the Law perfectly and imputing it to us wont save any more than we keeping it perfectly would save.

    And this radically changes how Paul is read, for he goes from saying “faith saves because you didn’t keep the Law perfectly” to “faith saves because the Law never saves.”

    • 24 November, 2009 6:24 pm


      Let me clarify. What I mean by saying the Mosaic law didn’t offer eternal life, is that Torah was never meant to lead the people of Israel to seek everlasting life in itself. That wasn’t its intention. The covenant with Abraham was the path to everlasting life, both before Sinai and afterward.

      Your logic doesn’t follow, precisely because you don’t understand the parallel between Adam and Sinai — the ‘republication’ the book is all about. There’s Law with an uppercase L as in Torah (or the Israelite theocracy more broadly), while I’m being much more specific — law with a lowercase l as in the opposite of ‘gospel’ whenever our standing before God is concerned. So the ‘Law’ contains both ‘law’ (Lev 18:5) and gospel (so 1 Peter 1:10-12). You’re collapsing the two together in your reading of Calvin and others.

      If someone could keep ‘law’ perfectly — whether Moses’ commands or those written on the conscience, as Paul says in Romans 2 — then, yes, they would earn everlasting life. What is the summary of the law but love of God and neighbor, which leads to true life? Paul’s whole point is that gaining life this way would be the opposite of receiving everlasting life by grace through faith. In fact, what we have earned is everlasting condemnation by hating God and neighbor, whether in failing to keep the commands of Moses or those of our consciences. That’s why Moses should drive us to Christ.

      Hope this clarifies things,

  7. Nick permalink
    25 November, 2009 5:58 am

    I realize the Mosaic Law contains foreshadowings of Christ, and I don’t believe I collapsed/confused/lost that in the Reformed view. The only sense in which the Law promises eternal life is in the prophetic/foreshadow sense (as with Christ).

    In quoting Lev 18:5, either it was promising eternal life for obedience, or it was promising earthly life blessings for obedience. Calvin appears to say eternal life is promised here. I believe Lev 18:5 was speaking of the Mosaic Law Covenant rules and regulations which must be kept, and in turn the promise was earthly blessings.

    Where you appear to be going wrong is introducing the little-l ‘law’, when Paul’s fundamental concern was the Mosaic Law as a Covenant with it’s specific rules and regulations. Paul was saying the Mosaic Covenant doesn’t save (Acts 13:38-39), without reference to a supposed underlying little-l ‘law’.

    Where does Paul clearly teach this little-l ‘law’, including eternal life for keeping it?

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