Christ's Reliance on the Holy Spirit

At this point it is important to note that this activity of the Holy Spirit with respect to Christ’s human nature absolutely does not stand by itself. Though it began with the conception, it did not stop there. It continued throughout his entire life, even right into the state of exaltation. Generally speaking, the necessity of this activity can be inferred already from the fact that the Holy Spirit is the author of all creaturely life and specifically of the religious-ethical life in humans. The true human who bears God’s image is inconceivable even for a moment without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In addition, in Christ the human nature had to be prepared for union with the person of the Son, that is, to a union and communion with God as that to which no other creature had ever been dignified. If humans in general cannot have communion with God except by the Holy Spirit, then this applies even more powerfully to Christ’s human nature, which had to be unified with the Son in an entirely unique manner.

 

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics V2, pg 292

The Holy Spirit in the Life of Christ

When certain Reformed pastors and theologians speak of Christ being “placed under a covenant of works” (as the second Adam), we might be tempted to think that Christ was left to his own abilities to obey the law of God for us. Without question, the obedience offered by Christ from the cradle to the grave was his obedience. But he was obedient in the power of the Holy Spirit. He never uttered a kind word, nor thought a good thought, except in reliance upon the Spirit of holiness. There was a perfect synergy involved in Jesus’ human obedience and the Holy Spirit’s influence as he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). A careful analysis of Christ’s life reveals that at the most significant points in it (e.g., his conception, birth, baptism, preaching ministry, death, and resurrection) the Holy Spirit was present, enabling him in all that he was required to do.

...He, like us, relied upon the Holy Spirit for his holiness (Isa. 11:2)...

 


The Importance of Continual Repentance

He, however, who gave me the grace to repent, must also give me the power to persevere, lest by repeating my sins I should end up being worse than I was before. Woe to me then, repentant though I be, if he without whom I can do nothing should suddenly withdraw his supporting hand. I really mean nothing; of myself I can achieve neither repentance nor perseverance. . .. For these various reasons I must confess that I am not entirely satisfied with the first grace by which I am enabled to repent of my sins; I must have the second as well, and so bear fruits that befit repentance, that I may not return like the dog to its vomit.

 


Adam and the Promise of Eternal Life

...this is confirmed by the fact that Christ has merited eternal life for the elect by subjecting Himself to the law, satisfying it by bearing the punishment of the law and by perfect holiness in both nature and conduct. This is evident in Rom 8:4, where the apostle declared that by virtue of Christ's satisfaction "... the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us (the elect)." This is also stated in Gal 4:45: "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Notice that here reference is made to a law—the same law Adam had. To this law the Lord Jesus subjected Himself, and in doing so He merited redemption and adoption of sons for the elect. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ ... that we may be also glorified together" (Rom 8:17). Thus, eternal glory necessarily follows upon obedience to the law. Consequently, Adam, having the same law, had the promise of eternal felicity.

 


The Protestant form of the donum superadditum

the Protestant form of the donum superadditum enters here: in no condition, not even in the state of original righteousness, can any "creature be, or conceived to be capable of doing anything independent of the Creator." Thus, God not only "furnished" the first pair "with sufficient powers" to stand "pure and inviolate," he also acted to "preserve those powers by the continual influence of his providence.

 

Richard Muller, The Theology of Herman Witsius and Wilhelmus A Brakel

Covenantal Original Sin

the concept of a covenant of creation, nature, or works provided nascent Reformed theological system with an alternative to the traditional Augustinian view of the transmission of sin as resting on an inherent concupiscence: the Pauline statement that all people sinned "in Adam" could now be interpreted federally, with profound ramifications for Christology and soteriology.

 

Richard Muller, The Theology of Herman Witsius and Wilhelmus A Brakel

Covenant as Promise

This initial analysis of the meaning of berith and diatheke is both more exegetically sophisticated and more linguistically refined than indicated by the studies of Torrance and Poole, which attempt to argue that the translation of berith and diatheke as foedus (or, in German, as Bund) misunderstand and misrepresent the biblical concept as a legal contract rather than as a promise, an oath, a pledge, or a command.

 

Richard Muller, The Theology of Herman Witsius and Wilhelmus A Brakel

Owen and the New and Old Covenants and Republication

The old covenant referred to in Hebrews 8:6 does not have reference to the covenant of works, according to Owen, because the old covenant (diatheke) "was such a covenant as was a testament also." A testament requires a death, which explains a fundamental difference between the covenant of works and the old covenant. Accordingly, for Owen, the old covenant is "not a covenant properly and strictly so called, but such a one as hath the nature of a testament also [ ... ] the first covenant made with Adam was in no sense a testament also." Owen identifies, as the majority of Reformed theologians did, certain parallels between the covenant of works and the old covenant, and he even maintains that the old covenant "revived, declared, and expressed all the commands of [the covenant of works] in the decalogue."92 However, he indicates that the moral law was revived declaratively and not covenantally at Sinai.93 If the Israelites had been placed under the covenant of works, as Adam was, the promise given to Abraham would have been annulled (Gal 3: 17). All of this suggests that the old covenant operated alongside of the covenant of grace and, unlike the covenant of works, was also a testament. Owen aims to remain consistent and therefore argues that the new covenant is not strictly co-extensive with the covenant of grace. During the Old Testament, beginning with the protoevangelium (Gen 3:15), the covenant of grace consisted only in a promise. The "full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only." The law given at Sinai became a covenant only with the blood of sacrifices. In the same way, the covenant of grace did not have the formal nature of a covenant or a testament (Heb 9:15-23) until the death of Christ. He adds that the "covenant of grace" implies salvation; "yet by 'the new covenant,' we intend its actual establishment in the death of Christ." This manner of understanding the various covenants in Scripture helps explain not only Owen's position, but also why this debate has historically been covered in confusion.

For Owen, all persons indefinitely considered are guilty before God by virtue of the federal nature of the covenant of works. But, for the elect, they are saved according to the fulfilled promise of the covenant of grace. Framing it this way, Owen advocates a dichotomist reading of redemptive history. However, he also maintains the view that the old and new covenants are real covenants, that is, they are also testaments. Neither the covenant of works nor the covenant of grace, considered simply as promises in the Old Testament, is a testament. Thus there are, properly speaking, only two covenants mentioned in Scripture, the old and the new. The old covenant was confirmed by the death of sacrificed animals; the new was ratified by the death of Christ. Understood this way, one can understand why Owen persists in the opinion, even if it runs counter to the majority, that the old and new covenants "can hardly be accommodated unto a twofold administration of the same covenant." Reconciliation could never come by virtue of the old covenant since it lacked the death of an atoning sacrifice, and was never intended to save the church. Believers in the old covenant were therefore "reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst they were under the [old] covenant." In terms of covenant-testaments, Owen is a dichotomist. In terms of soteric principles, only two covenants could ever save, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The idea that Owen holds to a trichotomist reading of redemptive history only works if one allows that the covenant of grace flowers into the new covenant whereas the old covenant is abrogated by the new covenant and remains distinct from the covenants of works and grace.


92
Exposition of Hebrews, 23:77. The idea that the old covenant was "in some sense" a revival or renewing of the prelapsarian covenant of works was widely held among the Reformed orthodox. What they generally had in mind was the idea that the moral law engraven on Adam's heart was "republished" at Sinai on tables of stone. This seems to be the intent of the Westminster Confession of Faith (ch. 19).
93
Exposition of Hebrews, 23:77. Note his comments elsewhere: "God did never formally and absolutely renew or give again this law as a covenant a second time. Nor was there any need that so he should do, unless it were declaratively only, for so it was renewed at Sinai." Justification by Faith, 5:244. Goodwin likewise argues that the old covenant "was truly the promulgation of the covenant of nature made with Adam in paradise (in the moral part, the ten commandments)." The work of the Holy Ghost in our salvation, 6:354.
 


Moses and Grace

the Puritans clearly saw how inconceivable it was to suppose that the Mosaic Covenant could be a cancellation of grace or a reversion to a basis of salvation by works. They contended, therefore, that the Mosaic Covenant could not possibly be inconsistent with grace.