Friday, May 08, 2015

No Covenant of Works (1)

The concept of salvation by works was given legs by Marin Luther. His goal was to expose the activities of the Roman Catholic Church, which he claimed was selling salvation. He contrasted salvation by faith with salvation by works.

The other reformers followed his lead and developed the concept of a covenant of works. They claimed that that God established a covenant of works with Adam that promised life and blessings on the condition of perfect personal obedience. This covenant of works applied from Adam to Jesus, when it was replaced by the covenant of grace.

The so-called covenant of works requires human to earn their salvation by living good lives. The law of Moses is presented as a covenant of works, in which the blessing promised depend on obedience to all the requirements of the law.

Despite its popularity, the concept of a covenant of works is contrary to the nature of God. He is a God of grace, from beginning to end. He has far more to give to us than we can give to him. God is gracious, so everything that he does is grace. All his covenants are covenants of grace.

God knows that a covenant of works can never work. Humans are incapable of earning anything from God. He does not make mistakes, so he would not set up something that cannot work. The covenant of works is a human idea. It is a fallacy created by people who want to prove that they deserve something. But we can never deserve something from God, we can on receive grace.

To show that covenant of works does not exist, I will begin in the next few posts to review the original covenant that God made with Adam and Eve.

1 comment:

August said...

I find this to be completely tiring and sort of missing the point. We are called to be perfect; and it is work. It also seems laughable, because only God is perfect and we cannot be perfect unless he makes us so- yet we have this command.
So we have a struggle of both faith and work because we are here, on this earth. Perhaps it is the western world, with it's fondness for Aristotle, that got us down to this point, where even as a child when I would read doctrine- and even if I agreed with it- I would say to myself, they have said too much. Some of the really ancient churches- the Copts, if I remember right- will not explain very much of anything, but when pressed, will simply say, 'it is a mystery.' And it is true- go too far and the words detract from the thing. In Christianity's case, the words distract from God's action, and one's appropriate response to it. I see plenty of degeneracy among Christians, and they often hold out the idea that their faith, which I cannot see, will overcome their works, which I can see. I don't think so. I think the works are providing me with evidence of their faith.