Why They Followed the Law (Part 3)

Read the series.

Many dispensationalists are mistaken about the impetus for obeying the Mosaic Law, and they’re mistaken about Paul’s main point in his letter to the Galatian churches.1 These errors compound one another and, like an investment gone mad,2 they produce great confusion among Christians.

I’ll repeat something I wrote in the first installment of this series:

In Galatians, Paul was not arguing against the Old Covenant. He was arguing against the twisted, warped version of the Old Covenant the scribes and Pharisees had been pushing for so long.

Dispensationalists have made many attempts to explain the relationship between Old Covenant saints, the law and Christian life today.3 They often labor mightily to avoid the excesses of Scofield and Chafer, while yet simultaneously upholding a strong discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants. They often focus relentlessly on Paul’s letters (particularly Galatians and Romans), and less on the Old Covenant texts or their continuity with Jesus’ ministry.

As a result, many Christians mistakenly believe Old Covenant saints followed the law out of fear, or perhaps even as some kind of works righteousness.4 On the question of “why they followed the law,” the standard dispensationalist answer is terribly wrong – and this is the great error of their position.  

In part one of this little series, I provided a brief survey of Jesus’ own interpretation of the Mosaic law (Mk 12:28-34). In part two, I quickly surveyed several Old Covenant texts and argued God’s people have always followed His law because they love Him. In this last installment, I’ll present a test case from Old Testament history, and invite the reader to follow along and draw his own conclusions – why did they follow the law?

Solomon’s Prayer at the Dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8:22-53)

The temple has been built. The ark has been brought forth, and placed into the holy of holies. The people are offering sacrifices (likely burnt offerings); “so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered,” (1 Kgs 8:5). As soon as the priests place the ark and exit the sacred space, “a cloud filled the house of the Lord,” (1 Kgs 8:10-11). Yahweh had come to dwell among His people.

Solomon begins his public prayer to God in the presence of all the people by praising God for “keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to thy servants who walk before thee with all their heart,” (1 Kgs 8:23). God keeps His promises (cf. Isa 40:6-8; 1 Pet 1:23-25). Solomon is moved by love and gratitude, and understands God expects His children to love Him with all their hearts (cf. Deut 6:5; 10:16).

He pleads with God to keep His eyes and ears open, to hear the cries from His people (1 Kgs 8:28-29):

And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant and of thy people Israel, when they pray toward this place; yea, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place; and when thou hearest, forgive (1 Kings 8:30).

Solomon presupposes God’s people will spend time praying and pleading to God, asking for forgiveness for their sins. He continues:

When thy people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against thee, if they turn again to thee, and acknowledge thy name, and pray and make supplication to thee in this house; then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again to the land which thou gavest to their fathers (1 Kings 8:33-34).

In the future, when (notice the certainty) Israel begins to suffer military disaster because of her sin against God:

  • If they turn to back to Him (i.e. repent);
  • If they acknowledge God’s name (i.e. reaffirm His Lordship, put Him back on the throne in their personal and corporate lives);
  • If they pray and plead to God

Then Solomon asks God to:

  • Hear
  • Forgive
  • Restore

His entire prayer is predicated on that first, most important commandment – to love God with everything they have (cf. Deut 6:4-5; Mk 12:29-30). There is no mention of bringing 100 sacrifices to “square” things away, is there? Solomon reminds the congregation their corporate life must be founded on the rock of sincere love for God, which produces loving obedience.

Solomon knows the law can’t be kept perfectly (after all, he assumes sin will occur), but one of the great lessons of the Old Covenant is the need for a final, definitive, once for all and total cleansing from sin, something better than the temporary band-aid of animal sacrifices, which were nothing but object lessons pointing to the true lamb of God to come - Jesus Christ.

He goes on:

When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against thee, if they pray toward this place, and acknowledge thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them, then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, thy people Israel, when thou dost teach them the good way in which they should walk; and grant rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people as an inheritance (1 Kings 8:35-36).  

In the future, when Israel begins to suffer drought because of her corporate sin against God:

  • If they pray towards God’s house​;
  • If they acknowledge His name (i.e. reaffirm Lordship);
  • If they turn from their sin when God afflicts them

Then Solomon asks God to:

  • Hear them from heaven
  • Forgive their sins
  • Teach them by corrective action
  • Remove the punishment

Solomon is describing true repentance (cf. Prov 28:13). He doesn’t mention law-keeping, external rituals or even a sacrifice. He advocates repentance. He also models how to teach believers through corporate, congregational prayer.

Solomon isn’t finished:

If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in any of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by any man or by all thy people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house; then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and render to each whose heart thou knowest, according to all his ways (for thou, thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men); that they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest to our fathers (1 Kings 8:37-40).  

If there is a famine, plague or sickness of any sort in the land of Israel:

  • Any prayer or plea
  • Made by any man or all people
  • Knowing their own hearts, and stretching out their hands towards God’s house in repentance and submission (what else could this posture of abject submission mean!?)

Then Solomon asks God to:

  • Hear from heaven
  • Forgive
  • Act by rendering to each man according to his own heart (e.g. is he truly repentant?)
  • So that each person will fear God always.

In other words, Solomon understands God uses discipline as a teaching tool for His children (cf. Heb 12:5ff). Again, there is no reference to law-keeping, no hint of works righteousness, and no evidence of a strictly fear-based approach to covenant obedience.

Solomon now turns to God’s grace to Gentile converts in the covenant community:

Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of thy people Israel, comes from a far country for thy name’s sake (for they shall hear of thy great name, and thy mighty hand, and of thy outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to thee; in order that all the peoples of the earth may know thy name and fear thee, as do thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name (1 Kings 8:41-43).

When (not “if”) a Gentile foreigner comes to Israel to seek God for salvation (“for thy name’s sake”) and prays towards God’s house, then Solomon asks God to:

  • Hear from heaven
  • Answer the Gentile’s prayer
  • So that more Gentiles would know God and fear Him

How will the Gentiles hear about Yahweh? From His covenant people, who are a kingdom of priests (cf. Ex 19:6), whose job is to show God to this pagan world. He doesn’t pray they will learn the sacrificial system, or learn about works righteousness. He prays these Gentiles would know “thy name and fear thee, as do thy people Israel.” His plea is that they, too would be able to call the Lord their God, know who He really is, and (by implication) serve Him because they love Him with all their heart, soul, and might.

If they sin against thee—for there is no man who does not sin—and thou art angry with them, and dost give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; yet if they lay it to heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to thee in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned, and have acted perversely and wickedly;’ 

if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to thee toward their land, which thou gavest to their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name; 

then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause and forgive thy people who have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions which they have committed against thee; and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are thy people, and thy heritage, which thou didst bring out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace) (1 Kings 8:46-51).

If Israelites sin against God, and He allows them to be carried away captive by a pagan army:

  • If they “lay it to heart”
    If they repent
  • If they plead to God and admit, “we have sinned, and have acted perversely and wickedly”
  • If they “repent with all their mind and all their heart”

Then Solomon asks God to:

  • Hear their prayers and pleas from heaven
  • Forgive their sins
  • Forgive all their transgressions
  • Grant them compassion among their captors

Solomon teaches that God forgives if His people repent, and return to Him. If they do this, then God will be merciful.


Solomon said nothing about works righteousness, a checklist approach to salvation or sanctification, or religion of externalism, or a path to salvation by obeying the law. These were the errors of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Specifically, it was the error the Judaizers made in the churches in Galatia, and it was what Paul spent the entire letter arguing against.  

No, for Solomon, Jesus, Moses, John the Batist, Malachi, Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, Joshua, Samuel and everyone else in the pages (or kilobytes) of Scripture, there is only sincere, all-encompassing love for God which naturally produces joyful obedience.

Whether you lived in Noah’s day, Abraham’s day, Moses’ day, David’s day, Isaiah’s day, Paul’s day, or in the present day, these basic principles never change.5 You love God with everything you have. So, you serve Him and obey His holy law:

  • because you love Him,
  • because of His mercy, love, grace and kindness,
  • because of all He’s done for you,
  • because He saved you from yourself,
  • and because He didn’t have to redeem you and didn’t need to rescue you, but He did it anyway

Why did they follow the law? Because they loved God. It’s always been that way. It always will be that way.


1 See, for example, Wayne Strickland’s contribution to the book Five Views on Law and Gospel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999; Kindle reprint, 2010). He wrote, “Expositors such as C. E. B. Cranfield and D. Fuller have attempted to harmonize the ‘seeming’ contradictory statements of Paul regarding the law by arguing that wherever Paul disparages the law, he is actually denouncing legalism. According to this understanding, Paul did not present the Law and Gospel in antithesis, merely the Gospel and the Pharisaic misunderstanding of the Law. Cranfield attempts to prove this thesis by citing that Paul did not have a separate Greek term available to represent legalism. Consequently, he had to employ the term nomos to denote both the Sinaitic legal code and the abuse or legalistic use of the law. Is this a warranted understanding of the term?”

Strickland argued energetically against this viewpoint. His position is representative of many dispensationalists.

2 I’m an insurance fraud investigator, so I feel I ought to throw in some bad financial analogies every once and a while.  

3 See, for example, Strickland’s contribution to the Five Views volume, and especially Myron Houghton, Law & Grace (Schaumberg, IL: RBP, 2012).  

4 Strickland seems to suggest Old Covenant saints were under some kind of works righteousness system. He wrote, discussing Romans 10:4, “With the meaning of “cessation” for telos, Paul is contrasting the law righteousness with faith righteousness. The coming of Christ to the human scene brought an end to the law, making an appeal to Romans 10:4 in support of a continuum unjustified,” (Five Views, 270).

He also wrote, “The righteousness that Israel failed to achieve by the works of the law has been replaced by righteousness made possible by Christ’s coming. Now it is possible to achieve God’s righteousness by faith,” (Five Views, 269).

Are we to believe it wasn’t possible to achieve God’s righteousness by faith before the incarnation? I don’t believe Strickland actually believes this; I assume he was less than precise in his terminology. However, this only demonstrates the problems with the standard dispensationalist position on the Mosaic law.

William vanGemeren wrote in response, “In support of his position, Strickland deduces from Romans 10:5-8 (cf. Gal. 3:10-12) that the Mosaic law and Christianity have little in common. They represent two kinds of righteousness: a righteousness based on the law and a righteousness based on faith. The former focuses on Moses and is without Christ, whereas the latter focuses on Jesus as the Christ. If this is what Paul is saying, then I must submit to my brother in the Lord and repent from my Reformed view of the law,” (Five Views, 282).

There is no need for Bro. vanGemeren to repent; Strickland is wrong!

5 “These two laws— love God and loving others— are the greatest because they epitomize the nature and character of God from which all other laws of the Torah arise. Obedience to God is not about making sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed so that we are worthy to enter God’s presence. True obedience comes from a heart that has experienced God’s amazing grace and been transformed by it,” (Strauss, Mark, 545).

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There are 15 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture


Well argued. And I appreciate this study. There is so much broad criticism of Moses these days... some of it borders on unintentional blasphemy. There was no new testament when these words were inspired:

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; (ESV, Psalm 19:7)

Or these...

7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. (ESV, Psalm 119:7)  

And from a NT perspective Paul wrote:

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. (ESV, Romans 7:13–14)  

The "that which is good" here is either law as a category or the law of Moses in particular.

Either way, it's a far cry from the way many speak of the law today (dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist alike!)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

BrandonC's picture

Tyler, thanks for your work on this. A couple of thoughts. First, this framework causes some real problems for Sailhamer's thesis that Moses wrote the Pentateuch to contrast a life of Faith (Abraham) with a life under the Law (Moses). Also, do you think there are any implications for the classical Lutheran position that the Law is "anything which makes demands" (cf. The Book of Concord here: http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#V. Law and Gospel) and the subsequent relationship of Law and Grace (particularly in the Mosaic Covenant)?

Brandon Carmichael

Working to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of the faith of those to whom God has called me, that I may rejoice with them in Him - Phil. 2:17.

TylerR's picture


I was actually re-reading the Book of Concord on the use of law and Gospel last night. I didn't get past the first paragraph before my wife called for me to destroy a huge, evil killer spider in the kitchen, so I'll get back to you on the Lutheran position. It's been about five years since I last read Sailhamer's work on the Pentateuch, and need to read it again now that I'm a bit less dull than I used to be.

Bottom line, I have not found the classical dispensationalist position on the law, OT saints and the Christian today to be satisfactory. I've read Houghton's work three times, and I find it utterly incomprehensible. It's probably the most comprehensive dispensationalist treatment I've seen on the matter. My journey on this matter:

  1. I had no formal theological education before Seminary, had always attended dispensationalist churches, and had a vague idea that "we're under grace, not law."
  2. I was taught a dispensationalist approach in Seminary. I was never entirely comfortable with it. I'd been a criminal investigator in the military police and I always had the sense that, on the issue of the Mosaic law, dispensationalists were trying too hard to make a case that wasn't there.
  3. I preached through Galatians, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Hosea, Malachi, Habakkuk, Jonah, Ecclesiastes, Zechariah, John and Mark in a space of two years. I became very skeptical about the standard DT approach to the Mosaic law, the OC saint, and the Christian. I saw great continuity between the Old Covenant, Jesus' message, and the Apostle Paul's message in Galatians. I didn't see a radical discontinuity about the principles for why a believer follows God or how he relates to Him. The outward forms of worship were certainly different, and the contexts between Old Covenant Israel and the New Covenant church are different, to be sure - but I saw great continuity about the basic principles and impetus for service.
  4. I've read McClain, Houghton, Chafer and Ryrie on the law. I'm still not sold.

So, all told, I'm likely a dispensationalist "heretic" on this one.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

BrandonC's picture

Tyler, thanks for continuing to interact on this with me. For what it's worth, there are Dispensationalists who offer a more balanced perspective. I have benefited from Eugene Merrill's OT Biblical Theology..."Everlasting Kingdom," I think. I'm looking at the Portuguese version here on my shelf, and it's just called "Teologia do Antigo Testamento." Very vanilla title. Anyway, Allan Ross, who was at the time at Dallas, contributed a good article in "Continuity and Discontinuity" which also was very firm on the gracious nature of the law and the capacity of Israel to obediently enjoy the blessings of the law by lives of faith. So there's some good stuff out there. But like you, I found "Law & Grace" by Houghton to be an unhelpful framework. I have a good friend who thinks the world of Houghton, and I'm sure Houghton has a sharp mind, but there are intrinsic inconsistencies in his model. 

Here's another question. How would we distinguish what we are saying about continuity from the classical Reformed model of continuity of grace? There are enough variations of "New Covenant" theology, or whatever Gentry and Wellum call themselves, that we don't need to consider the overarching "Covenant of Grace" as necessary to the system (they in fact deny such a construction). So how should we distinguish what we are saying about the continuity of grace from a generally covenantal perspective?


Brandon Carmichael

Working to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of the faith of those to whom God has called me, that I may rejoice with them in Him - Phil. 2:17.

TylerR's picture


Don't have time to answer very much right now. I suggest you listen to Dr. Paul Henebury's audio series on Biblical Covenantalism, or read his articles on the same, or watch his video presentations. I think his is the best overarching framework for understanding the storyline of the Bible. I was working my own way towards the same thing before I stumbled across his materials.

I don't see a need for an over-arching covenant of grace. I think we have God's revealed character, and the principles of how and why His people ought to relate to Him. The different biblical covenants (e.g. Noahaic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Priestly, Davidic) are all mile-markers playing important roles on the road to the prize, which is the New Covenant (i.e. Christ). The outward forms of worship are different between certain covenants (i.e. the Mosaic and the New), but the motivation for service is the same, because God is the same.

I think dispensationalismism, in it's essence, is right about Israel and the need for a responsible hermeneutic. I think the dispensations themselves are a poor framework for understanding Scripture, and they fit a bit like Cinderella's glass slipper on the wicked stepsisters - not well. I think it's a framework with a lot of insights, but I think it's really being forced onto the text in some areas. We're better off to focus on the explicit covenants in Scripture, and build a framework from that. And, to my way of thinking, Christ is the telos of all the covenants, and the goal they're all pointing and working towards. So, I suggest our center is Christ - built around the covenants as they progress through Scripture.

I"m probably disappointing you with my answers. No time. Must dash!     

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Bert Perry's picture

I also have had trouble with the "Cliff's Notes" version of dispensationalism, at least, as I read through the Old Testament in light of the new and see Christ shining through in a ton of places.  So I guess I'm a heretic with Tyler on that.   And I simultaneously am uneasy with the Lutheran approach--it also seems to place a gulf between Torah and evangelios that I don't see in Scripture.  

It strikes me as well that Paul's denunciation of Pharisaical legalism--quite different from what Moses preached, I agree--stands as a warning to us about the perils of "fencing off" God's moral laws with our own rules.  Neither Paul nor Christ appear to have ever squabbled with earnest students of the written Torah, who sought to live it in their lives.  The squabble was largely with the Pharisees and Sadducees, along with the corrupt priesthood.  There is a lesson there, I think. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

BrandonC's picture

There have been a couple of helpful dispensational reformulations lately that are worth mentioning. A number of years ago Mal Couch wrote an article entitled "The Relationship between the Dispensations and Covenants," Published in the second volume of what was then known as the Conservative Theological Journal (Now the Journal of Dispensational Theology), this article was an attempt to provide an element of continuity through an emphasis on the Covenants. It's worth reading. More recently, Michael Vlach just published a massive Biblical Theology entitled "He Will Reign Forever." He stands tall on the shoulders of McCune's theology of the Kingdom while providing a more balanced view of the questions of Law and Grace. His research is very, very extensive and he is thoroughly conversant on issues of Progressive Dispensationalism, Progressive Covenantalism (Gentry and Wellum's view), and classical Covenantal thought, while maintaining a generally Classical Dispensational approach. His volume ought to be considered a major contribution to the development of Dispensational thought.

Brandon Carmichael

Working to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of the faith of those to whom God has called me, that I may rejoice with them in Him - Phil. 2:17.

TylerR's picture


I plan to get Vlach soon. I suggest everybody look at Henebury's stuff (linked in one of my responses, above).

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Rolland McCune's picture



I first intended to write an extended note but decided that brevity was the better part of valor. So pardon any abruptness or clipped phrases.

The series was to remedy the thought that dispensationalists rely too much on Paul in Galatians and Romans rather than going back to the Mosaic world in the OT itself. But, going back, I frankly do not recognize the OT world that is described in this series. It is far more a Christianized world; no meaningful discontinuities between Law and Grace were noticeable.

Jesus Himself was born, lived and died on OT grounds, and He was infinitely more solicitous for OT Mosaism than what is described (e.g., Matt 8:4; 23:23; for John the Baptist, see Lk 3:7-20, esp. v. 18). Christ's  "it has been said…but I say to you…" was simply a call back to the Mosaic Law, not a disparagement of it. He began the transition from Law to Grace (Mark 7:19) (which transition was a gigantic discontinuity that ended with the abolition of the Law of Moses [Col 2:14]), enlarged it and ended His life promising further revelation (John 16:12-15). He left the transition process to the NT authors of Acts and the epistles. The NT closes the subject with the grand slam walk-off of discontinuation--the Book of Hebrews! (There was no theological reference to the theology of Hebrews in the series, unless I missed it.) By the bye, I'm still waiting for your exegesis of the adversative construction in John 1:17, as well as other texts of what the Law could accomplish if used " lawfully" (1 Tim 1:8).

Jesus' and others' attitude toward the OT Levitical forms did not reflect that they were "temporary band-aids…which were nothing but object lessons pointing to Jesus Christ." Conversly, there was obviously some dimension of efficacy in the offerings; they were not regarded as magical or as historical-theological-Christological pantomimes. E.g., offerers could walk away "forgiven" (Lev 5:6, 10) and could experience some form of expiation of guilt (Ps 103:12) though not an eternally finished removal at the time (Heb 11:39-40; Heb 9:13). Old Covenant sins were given final expiation at the death of Christ (Heb 9:15).

There was not sufficient comprehension of the importance of the central altar in Mosaic religion. All of life for the Israelites, individual and corporate, emanated in the end from the Temple and its personnel whom the Mediator (Moses was the first) appointed. The Law formed an absolute theocratic monarchy that regulated everything, even including the direction of their payers. What is missing, for instance, in the analysis of Solomon's dedicatory petition is that prayer was to be directed "toward and in this house, this place, this city, this land." The prophet Daniel took it literally.

My understanding of the substance of the Deut 6:4-6 mandate, which actually goes back to Eden, is that this all-consuming love for God is to be discharged within certain time periods of God's administration of His will. I view the unfolding epochs, such as the Law of Moses, as creating differing understandings, expressions and applications of the command to love and obey God with all of one's being. I do not see this as a somewhat static, linear, continuous high-spiritual energy motivation. As such the upward trajectory of revelatory information and salvation history makes the motivation different, i.e., greater---and better. The transitions in these dispensations are thus not exactly seamless, each having continuation and discontinuation, predominantly the latter. Thus I could not "agree wholeheartedly" with Motyer's assertion earlier in the series; in truth I could not agree at all.   

A low point in the series was the argument from silence against law-keeping, apparently conceived by Strauss' dictum about not having to dot every "i" and cross every "t" in order to "make us worthy to enter God's presence."  Because Solomon does not explicitly mention "law-keeping, external rituals or even a sacrifice" and other such actions (such as "learning the sacrificial system"), it is concluded ostensibly that all that was needed was "repentance" (Prov 28:13). In OT soteric thought that would be abstract, confusing and unintelligible.  Faith and repentance were not "out there" in some kind of a cloud, they   would have been accompanied by or expressed through a sin offering, or a trespass offering, or some means through the Levitical system that God had ordained and set up in the Mosaic Law. Not so under Grace. This one truth alone forms a monumental discontinuity incapable of penetration in Law-Grace exegesis and theology. This argumentation, my friend, is not worthy of you.

I confess that brevity again escaped me. Please read again my early plea for pardon.



Rolland McCune

TylerR's picture


A few points:

  1. I know you disagree with the continuity I emphasized in my series. I expected you to. The question is, from the texts I presented in all three parts of this series, why am wrong? If you can explain, from my texts (especially part 2) why I am wrong to see more continuity about motivation for service, then please let me know. You go to other texts. Fine and dandy. I doubt I'll have anything earth-shattering to mention when I respond to them. But, what about the passages I did ​mention?  
  2. I know you're still waiting for my response to texts you mentioned in Part 1. I was busy finishing another project first. It'll be awhile.
  3. Yes, Hebrews shows a massive discontinuity ​in the form of worship,​ but not the essence or motivation for it. If anything, Hebrews provides much greater incentive for worship. I've often told people that they can know God and be closer to him today than King David ever could, because of Christ's finished work. I don't think that means the entire OC worship was cold and aloof, distant and fear-based - I don't think the motivation or worship changed. I looked at several passages in Part 2. And, again, I point to Jesus in Mk 12:28-34, contrasted with the legalistic apostasy among the Jewish leaders in His day. This is important - I'm not arguing the form of worship under the OC was different - it was! I'm saying the motivations for that worship (i.e. serve God because you love Him) have always been universal, in any period. Your remarks about discontinuity from Hebrews are irrelevant; there was discontinuity in the form of worship. I don't believe there was discontinuity in the motivation; that is where our disagreement is.  
  4. Certainly, the Levitical sacrifice were efficacious. My point about the "band-aid" analogy was to point out that they were temporary, always pointing to the One who would fulfill the need or this temporary arrangement. They were "band-aids" in the sense that they never permanently settled the matter for the believer; he had to keep coming back. It isn't a scholarly analogy, to be sure, but it does the trick. I once explained the incarnation and kenosis by using Princess Jasmine's flight from the palace and her ill-fated descent into the marketplace (from the movie Aladdin), so count yourself lucky on the "band-aid" analogy! 
  5. The altar. Yes, I do sufficiently comprehend it. Yes, Daniel certainly did take it literally. I could have shoe-horned a discussion in somewhere, but the article was already dangerously over my word limit. I probably should have made room for it; I covered this a lot when I preaching through Hebrews. Regardless, you have yet to explain what on earth that has to do with the impetus and motivation for service. How does that change the motivation for service?

You wrote:

I view the unfolding epochs, such as the Law of Moses, as creating differing understandings, expressions and applications of the command to love and obey God with all of one's being. I do not see this as a somewhat static, linear, continuous high-spiritual energy motivation. As such the upward trajectory of revelatory information and salvation history makes the motivation different, i.e., greater---and better

I'm aware you believe this. How do you guard against a charge of works-righteousness? I quoted some excerpts from Strickland in my footnotes (above), and he cannot help but unconsciously suggest it. I see your position as only a few, reformed steps from Scofield and Chafer's remarks. I provided quotes, especially in Part 2, from an entire spectrum of passages running from Moses to Malachi that suggest precisely the opposite. I even quoted Jesus, and He gave no hint that He was ​reinterpreting ​Deut 6:4-6 in some fashion. He said that was the way it was. My point is that I believe Jesus presented what God intended the understanding of the OC to be. This is the way we must look at Mk 12:28-34. To advocate your understanding of Deut 6:4-6, you have to prove Jesus provided a fresh, reapplication of the passage in light of His own ministry and the culmination of all previous revelation. That's why I started off with it - I don't think it can be done.

Regarding Strauss, not sure what you're getting at. Repentance was meaningless without bringing a sin offering or a trespass offering (circumstances depending), and a burnt offering at regular intervals to maintain fellowship with God. No argument there. I agree with you. Now, no sacrifice is needed, because the sin has been atoned for by Christ It is interesting, however, that God built a way of forgiveness into the law - there was no presumption of perfection. He knew people would sin, and provided a means of atonement for that sin - while pointing to a final atonement in the future. Note also this - simply bringing a sacrifice was irrelevant (cf. Isa 1; Mal 1; Hos 6). The heart and motivations of the offerer had to be pure, or it would not be accepted. This goes beyond mere external ritual to the heart (pun intended) of the matter. Motivations have always had to be pure That is the point - the entire point.

  • Do you suggest Isaiah, Malachi and Hosea had a different understanding about God, and how we ought to relate to Him, than Moses did? On what basis? Revelation from the Davidic Covenant?
  • What do you do with the Psalms, many of which are much earlier than the immediate pre and post-exilic prophets? They, too, overflow with love for God. See, for example, Psalm 119.

No, see what you made me do? I'm going to be late for work. Must go. Bye. More later.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Rolland McCune's picture


One last try at unraveling the knot of continuity/discontinuity.

In rethinking our positions re: motivation for living for God, especially in the OT vis-à-vis the NT, I have concluded that we might be a little closer than we think. Deut 6:4-6, either written or understood, appears to me, to be more than a stand-alone, independent, static, linear and sort of unstructured mandate incapable of being expanded, increased or bettered in the history of sin and salvation. In my paragraph you quoted on 6/23/27 I explained briefly that the unfolding progressive divine revelation elevated God's administrations (dispensations) thereof in such a manner that the motivation for living for God with all one's being brought a heightened relationship and thus greater incentive, stimulus, or motivation. The great Deut 6:4-6 Motivation is actually the sum of the many motivations/incentives inherent in it. Even you mentioned that "motivations [plural] have always had to be pure …the entire point," which I take to mean that these small "m's" form the structure for the "Big M" of Deut 6. As such they increase, expand, and enhance previous expressions of the all-important impetus in living for God. This is the essence of the dispensational transitions from the beginning.

You state that the Book of Hebrews "shows a massive discontinuity in the form of worship and not the essence or motivation for it." But the very forms of worship in Mosaism were in fact intrinsic motivations of Deut 6:4-6, and Hebrews demonstrates theologically the discontinuity of the earlier (Law) and how much "better" is the later (Grace and Truth). In fact there are divine warnings against carrying on with Mosaic prescriptive motivations in the new administration of Grace (E.g., Heb 2:1-4; 3:12-19, especially v.12 where the continuation of Mosaic motivations was apostate thinking!). I can't imagine that the "better blood" of Jesus' sacrifice and all it entails, vis-à-vis the blood of bulls and goats, did not impact greatly one's incentives, or motivation, to serve Christ with every ounce of his being.  In fact, that seems to be saying exactly what you yourself stated: "If anything, Hebrews provides much greater incentive for worship…people can know God and be closer to Him today than King David ever could, because of the finished work of Christ." Well put!

I can't comprehend why my thinking entertains any charge of "works-righteousness."

The Q, "Do you suggest Isaiah, Malachi and Hosea had a different understanding about God and how we ought to relate to Him, than Moses did?" Well, they were all under Law and should have had a common knowledge on how to relate to God. But--did the aforementioned four OT saints have a different understanding than those of us who are under Grace? Most definitely.

The Q, "what do you do with the Psalms, many of which are much earlier than the immediate pre and post-exilic prophets. They, too overflow with love for God…Psalm 119?" I don't quite understand the Q; I don't see the pertinence of the Exile. About five centuries separate David from the Exile.


Rolland McCune

TylerR's picture


I'll be brief this time, honest:

Greater Understanding:

You point to Hebrews as an example of how people received more reasons to love God, over time. I did the same. But, you haven't demonstrated this understanding changed over time within the Mosaic Covenant. My thesis is that God's people have always served God because they love Him; that is the only motive for true service. I argued this principle was in the Mosaic Covenant, and the New Covenant. You haven't touched this argument. Hebrews was written in light of the New Covenant's inauguration, so of course there are greater motivations for service now. That doesn't mean this motivation was absent in the Mosaic Covenant. Part 2 of my series was dedicated to this.

Heb 2:1-4; 3:12-19:

You wrote,

In fact there are divine warnings against carrying on with Mosaic prescriptive motivations in the new administration of Grace (E.g., Heb 2:1-4; 3:12-19, especially v.12 where the continuation of Mosaic motivations was apostate thinking!)

I don't believe Heb 2, 4 (indeed, the entire book) is a warning to not carry on the prescriptive motivations of the Mosaic Covenant. I think it is a warning to Jewish Christians to not reject Christ and return to the sacrificial system. Motivations are not the issue; the differences between the systems is the issue. So, I completely disagree with you there. On a related note, one day I'd appreciate your opinion on Dr. Andrew Hudson's view that the Hebrew warning passages are warning of temporal punishment for disobedient believers (ala Deut 28-30; Lev 26).  


I meant that, if saints under the Mosaic Covenant didn't obey God's law because they loved him and wanted to serve him, then why did they do it? You say there was an unfolding understanding, a progressive understanding of why we should love God and ser Him, etc. Does that mean, at some time in the past, they didn't serve God because they loved Him? This is the potential charge. I'm saying God's people have ALWAYS served Him because they love Him, and Part 2 presented that from the Mosaic Covenant. It has always been very difficult for dispensationalists to escape allegations of some form of works-righteousness under the Mosaic Covenant, and I think there's a reason for it - the position is bad. How am I wrong in Part 2? I was fair with the texts. I'd like your opinion there.  

Isaiah, Malachi, Hosea . . .

You didn't answer the question. Of course we understand grace better now; we're members of the New Covenant. This doesn't mean they didn't understand grace, or that it wasn't the impetus for loving obedience under the Mosaic Covenant. Again, I think you're making too sharp of a distinction. Read Part 2 and explain why I'm wrong. To borrow from Calvin, when we look at the Old and New Covenants, we're talking about the difference between a pencil sketch and a finished portrait of the same subject; not the difference between a pretzel and an iPhone.

Psalm 119

You claim OC saints' understand about the impetus for loving obedience grew over time with progressive revelation. What revelation is this? When did it come? The only thing I'm aware of that would have done the trick is the revelation of Christ and the inauguration of the New Covenant. What OT revelation broadened their understanding? My point with Ps 119 is that, even long before the exile and the alleged "broadened understanding," God's people demonstrated they followed God because they loved Him.

We will continue to spin our wheels unless we look at texts. It's boring up here in the clouds. My task is to address your objections from the first installment, which I plan to do soon. You should look at Part 2 and explain how I got it wrong.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Rolland McCune's picture


This is my final response.  We will never have consensus as long as we keep spinning our wheels up there "in the clouds," or anywhere else for that matter.  I had thought from some of your statements that we might be on the same page in some manner. But not to be. In my mind I've narrowed down the major reason for our impasse: I don't think you comprehend dispensational studies, at least not those since the early 1960s, or before. Charles Ryrie, Clarence Mason, et al., clarified dispensational theology immeasurably by introducing the concept of consistently unifying the dispensations around progressive revelation. There was real "progress" being made by the new revelation that began a new dispensation. (This was authentic "progressive dispensationlism." Some late-comers have co-opted the term but have radically changed its structure.) This constructed a staircase configuration in which there is real progress--theologically, spiritually and personally--toward an ultimate goal within earth history (for me it is the Messianic Kingdom of God on earth). Your understanding seems not to be able to account for such revelation, and I see no cumulative effect that reaches a divine goal within the historical process. More, or progressive, revelation, for you, appears simply to be more information in a linear fashion instead of producing the bettering effect of a heightening of each dispensation from the previous one. This linear idea was actually one of the main criticisms against old Scofieldism which often interpreted the dispensations as a series of mailboxes lined up and nailed to a long 2 x 4.

The introduction of new revelation occurred at the end of a dispensation, not during its ongoing, as you seem to understand. (Sorry if I wasn't clear.) Thus it formed a transition period that led to a new dispensation with some continuity with the former one (via the revelational carryovers or continuing revelational principles), but with overall discontinuity with the former dispensation.

That is why your approach to sin and salvation history, applied unchangeably, or with almost no meaningful discontinuity or beneficial change in incentives, seems so wooden. Of course, the perfect obedience principle of Deut 6:4-6 was in effect after Adam's first sin. This motivational standard never lessened; everyone should have obeyed it, even though no one ever did or could do so. But this somewhat abstract principle with its "oughtness" seems a tad facile to serve as a unifying center for all of God's activity, especially for sin, service and human existence. Your sketch of divine intervention into sinful history, via Deut 6:4-6 essentially, is very reminiscent of the old amillennial idea that human history continues on in linear fashion with good and evil, God and Satan existing side-by-side until the eschaton, after which is a sudden and dramatic cataclysm with Christ's return. Christ thus triumphs over sinful history in an eternity which is totally discontinuous with that sinful history. Actual human history never gets sanctified within its own time.

 Your idea of fundamental continuity via the Motivation Mandate seems so generic and inflexible, although O. T. Allis in Wonderland in his book Israel and the Church (1945) might agree. Covenant theology at least tried to use the biblical covenants to unite salvation history on a broad base of theological continuity. But part of its failure was that it lacked a truly biblical concept or philosophy of ongoing earth history. In that light, I have at least this one overall question: What is God actually accomplishing in human history? What is the unifying principle of all His activity external to Himself? That unifying center will also be the undergirding theme of the Bible. Is it redemption? Is it to create a people that will love and serve Him perfectly, i.e., with perfect motives, all of the time, in every detail of His will? Or what is it? And what are His means?

My friend, this whole matter cannot be relegated to the indefinable "clouds" or the "weeds."



Rolland McCune

TylerR's picture


​I  continue to disagree. I do understand the advances in dispensational thought. I will let it go at that.

What is the unifying center? Christ and His Kingdom, setting everything right that has gone so horribly wrong, so He'll be worshipped in ​real spirit and truth.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Aaron Blumer's picture


I don't think there is actually much, if any, substantial disagreement between what you're saying, Tyler, and what even the most rigid classical dispensationalists believed. The difference is mostly a problem of emphasis. Some dispensationalists are, for whatever reason, oriented toward emphasizing differences ("discontinuities") from age to age, while believing pretty much the same things as other dispensationalists who emphasize similarities.

What it boils down to is the question, what was the spiritual condition/faith condition of the faithful OT saint? Were they the just living by faith? So I think it's pretty clear in OT times you had both the faithful (and faith-filled) few and also the superficial works-for-blessings (and nothing more) crowd--apparently the majority much of the time.

By Jesus' day, you still had both of those categories. You had OT faithful like Anna and Zacharias and Simeon keeping the law but full of faith and looking eagerly for the coming messiah. But you also had unbelieving groups like the Pharisees, Saducees, etc. And the confused masses.

By the time of Galatians, you had Judaizers that really only used the law superficially to manipulate people. But they were not men of faith. So Paul tries to help the Galatians understand what the law was for, what it was supposed to do, and what it was never intended to be... He points everyone back to Abraham, to clarify that law was supposed to be a layer on top of Abrahamic faith, never a primary basis for relationship with God.

I don't think most dispensationalists have truly rejected this. They just, in zeal for the distinctions they see as important, have overstated their perspective at times. Then you have some who have been genuinely confused.

The bigger problem nowadays is not a dispensationalist issue, though, but the libertine evangelical theology that wants to bad mouth the concept of law in any and every context.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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