J. Nicholas Reid contributed the chapter on the Mosaic covenant. He observes that there are two main positions with regard to the Mosaic covenant. The dichotomist position holds that there are two covenants: a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. A trichotomist position holds that there are three categories: a covenant of works, a covenant of grace, and the Mosaic covenant which is subservient to the covenant of grace. Reid holds the dichotomist position, but he does describe other positions fairly in the course of the chapter.
According to the dichotomist position, all of the post-Fall covenants are in substance part of the covenant of grace but as to their accidents differently administered. He holds the substance of the covenant to be “forgiveness of sins and salvation” through Jesus (152).
Reid claims that the Mosaic covenant was unilateral in that God unilaterally established it and fulfills its promises of atonement (promises signified in the sacrificial system). But it is bilateral in the expectations for obedience to the law laid down. Further, though an administration of the covenant of grace, it is an “inferior administration” in that it is “Jewish” (rather than universal), “shadowy,” “temporary,” “condemning,” “weak,” and “preparatory” (154-55).
Reid also claims that the law which was part of the covenant of works was included in the Mosaic covenant as “a perfect rule of righteousness” (WCF 19.2). While granting that the Old Testament does not make the ceremonial, judicial, moral law distinction, Reid holds that this distinction emerges by observing how the New Testament writers handle the law.
Reid then discusses the threefold use of the moral law: to restrain sin, reveal sin, and serve as a rule for life. He looks to these distinctions to distinguish how the law functions with relation to justification and sanctification. This the Christian is set free from the law with regard to its function of condemnation but still under the law as a rule of life. Legalism happens when people attempt to keep the law apart from Christ and the Spirit. This is why love for God and others is so important to the law.
Reid grants that the exile shows there is some conditionality to the Mosaic covenant. However, he argues that the exile did not occur because Israel failed to perfectly obey the law. Though the law required perfect obedience, as an administration of the covenant of grace of also provided sacrifices and covenant mediators to deal with the sin problem. Rather, Israel went into exile because of idolatry, a failure to love God. Finally, Reid argues that God’s wrath under the Mosaic covenant is only temporary.
In the final section of the chapter Reid deals with Meredith Kline’s republication thesis. While acknowledging that there are different interpretations of Klinean republication, and that Kline’s view may have developed over time, Reid holds that in the end Kline taught that the Mosaic covenant was part of the covenant of grace rather than teaching substantial republication. Kline holds that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works only on the typological level and that the merit required was also only typological. Furthermore, typological obedience was imperfect, though it pointed forward to Christ’s perfect obedience. Reid notes that Leviticus 18:5 is the key verse for republication since it articulates the works principle. Some argue that Leviticus 18:5 and its use in the NT demonstrates that there was a works principle within the Mosaic covenant, even though the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace and even though the works principle was not tied to eternal salvation. In favor of this view, in addition to its use in Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12, is Jeremiah 31:33 which says the Mosaic covenant had been broken. Others argue that in Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12 Paul is responding to false teachers who are misusing Leviticus 18:5. A key verse for this interpretation is Romans 9:32, which indicates that by not pursuing the law by faith but by works, the Jews stumbled. Proponents of this view argue that Leviticus 18:3-4 indicate that this command is given to those who are already God’s people, meaning that the law as a guide to righteous living is in view.
Reid offers a fair summary of the various covenantal views regarding the Mosaic covenant.