"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Justification and Sanctification | Main | An “Interview” with the Apostle Paul on the Law, Life, and Death »

    Operative Principle in the Covenant of Works and Grace

    The operative principle in the Covenant of Works is “do for ourselves.” The operative principle in the Covenant of Grace is “trust God’s Mediator to do for us.”

    “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written,
    Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in
    the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the
    sight of God is evident, for, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ And the law is not of
    faith: but, ‘The man that doeth them shall live in them.’”
    – Galatians 3:10-12

    In one sense nothing has changed between the two covenants. What is held before man in both covenants is the same blessedness. What is necessary and indispensable to receive this blessedness is identical in the two covenants. The
    Lord required perfect and universal righteousness in both. The definition of righteousness is unchanged from the Covenant of Works to the Covenant of Grace. But in another sense everything is at opposite poles. In the Covenant of
    Works man must earn by his doing. In the Covenant of Grace man must receive the free gift from a Mediator by believing.

    Quote from Walter Chantry's The Covenants of Works and Grace

    Commenting on the same subject, John Calvin said, ‎"The person who wants to be justified by works must do more than produce just a few good deeds. He must bring with him perfect obedience to the Law. And those who have outstripped all others and have progressed the most in the Law of the Lord are still very far from this perfect obedience." - John Calvin

    Posted by John on August 19, 2010 06:51 PM


    The "works" vilified in Paul's writings is not all actions but rather specifically the religious activities connected with the terms of the Sinai covenant God made *with the Jews* only.

    Rather than vilifying all actions as being bondage or even irrelevant, he agrees with James and Jesus that one *is* justified only if they act appropriately:

    James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    Clearly if Abraham had failed the test put before him by God he would have been rejected by God. But he passed the test. James says that this testing is something *all* who profess to belong to God are subjected to:

    James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

    Peter agrees:

    1 Peter 4:
    12 ¶ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
    13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

    Paul clearly agrees:

    1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

    Faint when tested and you will forfeit your salvation.

    Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

    And, of course, Hebrews:

    Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

    And Jesus:

    Mark 4:19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.


    Works are not vilified by anyone here. In fact we are saved by works - the works of Christ, that is. He obeyed the law perfectly from our side, doing for us what we were unable to do for ourselves.

    However, if you trust in your own works as your savior then you have misused Holy Scripture. Paul says, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." - Galatians 3:10-12 (quoting Deut 21:23, Deut 27:26, Hab 2:4, and Lev 18:5; also see Is 32:15, 44:3; Jer 11:3; Ezek 18:4; Joel 2:38; Matt 5:19; John 7:39; Acts 5:30; Gal 2:6, 4:5, 5:4; Rom 1:17, 4:9, 15-16, 10:5; Heb 10:38; 2 Peter 2:1; Rev 22:3)

    You have two choices. You either obey the whole law or your recognize the futility of doing so and trust in Christ alone. Christ is not only necessary but sufficient to save us to the uttermost. He came as a Savior, not someone to help us save ourselves. So now, as Christians, we obey God's Law, not in order to be saved but BECAUSE we are saved. He has given us a new heart which loves his law, but to trust in our obedience is damning. Apart from the grace of Jesus Christ we have no hope.

    Hi John,

    In light of this post, do you believe that faith is a blessing of the Covenant of Grace or do you believe it is a condition of the Covenant of Grace?

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