That expression, to be God to any, in its full import, includes life eternal, For, when God becomes the sinner’s God, he then becomes to him what he is to himself. But, what is he to himself? Doubtless, the fountain of eternal and complete blessedness. When God, out of his grace, gives himself to man, he gives him all things….
Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank (London: T. Tegg & Son, 1837), 1.261. (HT: Chad Vegas)
T. David Gordon, p 120 in “By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification”
“John Murray (and his followers) implicitly believe that the only relation God sustains to people is that of Redeemer (which, by my light, is not a relation but an office). I would argue, by contrast, that God was just as surely Israel’s God when He cursed the nation as when He blessed it. His pledge to be Israel’s God, via the terms of the Sinai administration, committed him to curse Israel for disobedience just as much as to bless her for obedience. In being Israel’s God, he sustained the relation of covenant suzerain to her; he did not bless or curse any other nation for its covenant fidelity or infidelity. In this sense, he was not the God of other nations as he was the God of Israel.”
Meredith Kline— “How Abraham’s obedience related to the securing of the kingdom blessings in their old covenant form is a special question within the broad topic of the role of human works under redemptive covenant… Abraham’s faithful performance of his covenantal duty is clearly declared to sustain a causal relationship to the BLESSING OF ISAAC AND ISRAEL. It had a meritorious character that procured a reward enjoyed by others… Because of Abraham’s obedience redemptive history would take the shape of an Abrahamite kingdom of God from which salvation’s blessings would rise up and flow out to the nations. God was pleased to constitute Abraham’s exemplary works as the meritorious ground for granting TO ISRAEL AFTER THE FLESH the distinctive role of being formed as the typological kingdom, the matrix from which Christ should come… The obedient Abraham, the faithful covenant servant, was a type of the Servant of the Lord in his obedience.”
Can you explain merit in light of its contrast to grace and faith? Abraham, and consequently the nation in him merited or earned grace?
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say?
Maybe I’m missing something. Thanks for the clarification.
I’m not sure why Mark provides these quotes but they should be distinguished.
1. It’s one thing to talk about Israel’s obedience relative to ther national, temporary, typological covenant, i.e., the old covenant.
2. It is another to impute that scheme to Abraham as a sort of anticipation of Israel’s national covenant. I don’t see any evidence that Abraham was in any such covenant nor does it seem helpful to speak about (congruent) merit in that case in the way we might (or might not) relative to Israel’s tenure in the land and her national status.
There are only two kinds of merit: condign and congruent. By definition, there can no merit in the covenant of grace or else it is not a covenant of grace but a covenant of works. Abraham was in a covenant of grace that was premised upon the future obedience of Christ. Abraham had the benefit of that future obedience already by grace alone, through faith alone. Abraham believed God and Christ’s condign merit (righteousness) was imputed to him and he received Christ, his merits, his righteousness, through faith alone.
I hope that helps.
That helps. Thanks as usual Dr. Clark.
“I’m not sure why Mark provides these quotes”
I think the first quote from Gordon is pretty obvious. He disagrees with Witsius that “I will be your God” necessarily refers to eternal blessedness. Gordon says in Israel’s case, it referred to temporal life in Canaan, in which God treated Israel in a unique way that He did not treat other nations. Thus He was Israel’s God, but not necessarily with respect to eternal blessedness.
Why are these two principles mutually exclusive?
“Why are these two principles mutually exclusive?”
Witsius says “to be God to any” must refer to God as eternal Redeemer. Gordon says no it must not. It can mean something else, like setting apart a nation temporally from other nations.
No one was clearer about the internal/external distinction than Witsius. He understood that there were those in the visible covenant community who had only an external relation. He also understood that there was a different quality to the Mosaic covenant than to the Abrahamic and yet, at the same time, the Mosaic was also an administration of the covenant of grace.
This is why I doubt that there are as many disagreements here as may seem.
Brother, you’re missing the point.
Apparently. Let’s start over. Let’s disregard Mark’s quotations since they only muddy the water.
I think that the sentence you quote from Edwards below is not contrary (or irreconcilable) to what Witsius says in the quote I provided.
“I think that the sentence you quote from Edwards below is not contrary (or irreconcilable) to what Witsius says in the quote I provided.”
Please see my comment down at the very bottom of the page.
I don’t have my copy of Witsius here with me, but I take it he is commenting on Gen 17.7. If so, how does Witsius see that aspect of the covenant applying to Ishmael? Or does it not?
Not in that section. Elsewhere he says,
Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank, vol. 2 (London: T. Tegg & Son, 1837), 154–55.
Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank, vol. 2 (London: T. Tegg & Son, 1837), 189–190.
I believe Jonathan Edwards is much more biblical in his explanation:
I do not see the discrepancy with Witsius. Can you explain?
Witsius: “To be God to any” necessarily refers to eternal and complete blessedness, thus the Old covenant is the covenant of grace (Witsius’ point in that section of his book).
Edwards: “To be God to any” has “considerable diversity of intention.” Israel after the flesh were God’s people in an entirely different way than the church, thus the Old covenant is a type of the covenant of grace.
Brandon and Scott,
Witsius qualifies “to be God to any” with the clause “in its full import.” What does he mean by that and what would the phrase mean in a “lesser import” (possibly the external nation/land types?)? Isn’t he inferring there is more than one way to understand “to be God to any” even as Edwards is saying the phrase has “considerable diversity of intention?”