Did Jesus live by faith (in his Covenant of Works)?
September 15, 2014
"The Just [One] Shall Live by Faith"
The top men here at the Alliance are not happy with me. I posted my piece on the covenant of works on a day that does not maximize top viewing. My apologies. It will never happen again. Here is my penance: a "Part Deux" to the previous post.
Did Jesus, like Adam, live by faith? Did Jesus, like Adam, depend upon the Holy Spirit in order to obey the law of God?
These are questions that deserve answers.
Some who like to speak of Adam and Jesus being "placed under a covenant of works" (as I do) need to reckon with the Scriptural evidence that Jesus received help from God in many forms. His obedience was just that: his obedience. But even though the obedience rendered were his acts, the power/assistance came from God (this is the "act-power" distinction).
I am in the middle of writing a book called "Knowing Jesus," which will document in more detail the fact that Jesus did in indeed live by faith in the power of the Spirit as he perfectly obeyed the law in our place.
Reformed theologians have generally - as far as I am aware - not had trouble positing that Jesus lived by faith and depended upon the Holy Spirit to obey the will of the Father.
Brothers, we are not Lutherans (well, I am not).
As Bavinck notes, both Roman Catholic and Lutheran theologians "agree in the sense that both elevate the human nature above the boundaries set for it and dissolve into mere appearance both the human development of Jesus and the state of his humiliation." In other words, they don't really have any place for the role of the Spirit and Christ's life of faith.
On the other hand, however, Goodwin, Owen, Turretin, Bavinck, Vos, and countless other Reformed theologians all affirmed that we may speak of Jesus living by faith during his ministry on earth before he moved to the realm of sight in heaven.
Bavinck claimed that faith for Adam and Christ was "nothing other than the act of clinging to the word and promises of God." He adds that Reformed theologians have defended the view that Jesus was a pilgrim on earth, "not a comprehensive knower," and "that he walked by faith and hope, not by sight." Jesus' faith consisted of knowledge, assent, and trust (see Turretin, 13th topic, 12th question).
Moreover, Goodwin opened up his remarkable treatise, "Christ Set Forth," with the following words:
"That Christ lived by faith as well as we do...in some sense he had a faith for justification like us."
However, he did not rely on another's righteousness like we do, according to Goodwin. He did not have a mediator for himself as we do.
There are important Christological, soteriological, exegetical, and pastoral reasons why we must affirm this truth. I don't intend to get into all of them now. But even a casual reading of the Scriptures leaves us with little option but to ascribe faith (and hope) to the man, Christ Jesus (see Hebrews and the Psalms). After all, whatever grace we receive from Christ, he must possess it preeminently in himself, including faith ("he is the pioneer").
However, something else needs to be considered, namely: Christ's graces.
Jesus was and is the man of the Spirit, par excellence. Christ's obedience - all of it - was done in the power of the Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit is the "immediate operator of all divine acts of the Son himself, even on his own human nature. Whatever the Son of God wrought in, by, or upon the human nature, he did it by the Holy Ghost, who is his Spirit" (Owen).
So, according to Owen:
Christ's human nature was "sanctified, and filled with grace according to the measure of its receptivity." The Holy Spirit endowed Jesus with all grace. Why is this so crucial?
"For let the natural faculties of the soul, mind, will, and affections, be created pure, innocent, undefiled, - as they cannot be otherwise created immediately by God, - yet there is not enough to enable any rational creature to live to God; much less was it all that was in Jesus Christ."
This is true for Adam; this is true for Christ. The parallel stands between the two. Their obedience was not "naked" obedience, as if their natural faculties were sufficient because they were sinless. No!
As Bavinck notes,
"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.... 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."
So, did Adam earn or merit the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Or was it a superadded gift? Was God gracious to Adam by giving him the Holy Spirit to assist him in his obedience?
Returning to the covenant of works for Adam, we can affirm that Adam was placed under a covenant of works. We may rightly argue that Adam had to perfectly obey God in order to "earn" or "merit" (ex pacto) his reward. But that does not mean, it seems to me, that we cannot also affirm that God was gracious in assisting Adam (i.e., superadded gift) by giving him the Holy Spirit so that Adam could enjoy communion with God in the context of his obedient life.
The Second Adam, Jesus Christ, possessed the Spirit in greater measure and was, as far as I am concerned, the greatest believer who ever lived.
Thus, Vos, in contrasting Paul's writings with Hebrews, remarks: "while in these other writings Christ is the object of faith, the One towards whom the sinner's trust is directed, here the Saviour is described as himself exercising faith, in fact as the one perfect, ideal believer."
Pastor Mark Jones plans to get back to writing "Knowing Jesus," because he needs a big contract to pay for a new pair of soccer boots, skinny jeans, and Lagavulin (all to be enjoyed at once, somehow).