John Murray and the Covenant of Works (3 of 4)

by | Feb 8, 2019 | Systematic Theology

In my last post I began to defend John Murray’s orthodoxy by saying that Murray’s concerns about the terminology, Covenant of Works, must be properly understood and not exaggerated.  Now let me come to a second point in my defense of Murray. So …

Second, John Murray holds everything essential to what was called the Covenant of Works.  Indeed, let me go further.  I think he holds more than some defenders of the Covenant of Works hold of the things that are associated with the Covenant of Works.  Further, I think he holds these things more consistently than such people.

It is, of course, indisputable that John Murray taught the representative headship of Adam.  This is the master concept which was embodied in the historic Covenant of Works formulation.  This involved a commitment to several crucial conceptions associated with the Covenant of Works.

  • He taught (in contrast to modern heterodoxy exemplified in Daniel Fuller, Norman Shepherd, and the New Perspective on Paul) the imputation of Adam’s sin. No doubt can be entertained about this.  His statements in “The Adamic Administration” make this clear,[1] but the entirety of his treatment of this subject in his masterful The Imputation of Adam’s Sin makes this irrefutable.[2]
  • He taught (in contrast to modern heterodoxy exemplified in Daniel Fuller, Norman Shepherd, and the New Perspective on Paul) double imputation and the associated distinction between the active and passive obedience of Christ. Not only do his statements in “The Adamic Administration” exemplify this,[3] but the emphasis he lays on the obedience of Christ as the master category under which the work of Christ is to be understood in Redemption: Accomplished and Applied makes this irrefutably clear.  There he asserts that this master category enables us to see clearly the distinction between the active and passive obedience of Christ.[4]
  • He taught (in contrast to modern heterodoxy exemplified in Daniel Fuller, Norman Shepherd, and the New Perspective on Paul) the reward of life. Murray makes it indisputably clear in “The Adamic Administration” that the reward of life is more than the continuation of the life with which Adam was created.  Murray says simply: “The tree of life represented everlasting life (Gen. 3:22). But it could not have this application unless there had been some provision connected with Eden which contemplated such life.”[5]  In case this is not clear enough, Murray earlier argues that Adam had not partaken of the tree of life.  This conclusion is necessary for Murray because he regard the rewarded of life as more than the life which Adam possessed in the Garden. He argues: “Although from Genesis 3:22 we infer that Adam had not partaken of the tree of life, and although it was not forbidden as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gen. 2:16), yet, apparently, by the arrangements of providence or of revelation, it was recognized as reserved for the issue of probationary obedience.  This would explain Genesis 3:22, 24 (cf. Rev. 2:7; 22:2, 14, especially the expression “the right to the tree of life.”[6]

 

[1] Murray, Collected Writings, Volume Two, 50-51, 57-58.

[2] John Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1977).

[3] Murray, Collected Writings, Volume Two, 58.

[4]John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1961), 19-21.

[5]Murray, Collected Writings, Volume Two, 54.

[6] Murray, Collected Writings, Volume Two, 48.

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