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Law and Grace in Kline’s View of Israel

In his two plenary addresses at our recent 2014 Theology Conference, Lane G. Tipton develops several themes pertaining to obedience, merit, and the notion of a republication of the Covenant of Works in the Mosaic economy. Much has been written of late on the subject particularly with reference to the works of Meredith G. Kline. Interpreters of Kline will sometimes draw a sharp distinction between law and grace and therefore between the operative principles within Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant in his thought.

To condense such a view, the Abrahamic Covenant was a covenant of grace, whereas the Mosaic Covenant instituted at Sinai with the people of Israel was a covenant operating strictly according to a works principle. Under this view, Kline is often pitted against John Murray and the biblical interpreters indebted to his theology. Yet Kline’s own writings indicate that such a view is foreign to his own formulations. For example, in his last published book, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, Kline writes:

The Old Covenant order, [Israel’s] by national election, was one of highest historical privilege. And while a works principle was operative both in the grant of the kingdom to Abraham and in the meting out of typological kingdom blessings to the nation of Israel, the arrangement as a whole was a gracious favor to fallen sons of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal. The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace, designed to further the purpose and program of the gospel. By exhibiting dramatically the situation of all mankind, fallen in and with Adam in the original probation in Eden, the tragic history of Israel under its covenant-of-works probation served to convict all of their sinful, hopeless estate. The Law thus drove men to Christ that they might be justified by faith. All were shut up in disobedience that God might have mercy on all (Rom 11:28–36; Gal 3:19–25). Indeed, in the unsearchable wisdom of God, Israel’s ultimate act of satanic rebellion against the Lord of Har Magedon—their repudiation of the Messiah, delivering him up to death on the Cross—became the occasion for the accomplishing of salvation and the gospel’s going out to the Gentiles (Rom 11:11, 12). [Meredith G. Kline, God, Heaven, and Har Magedon, pp. 128–129]

Kline developed similar themes in one of his first published works, a commentary on Deuteronomy in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, 1962. In bookends to his own corpus, Kline challenges a prevalent interpretation of his covenant theology. If you’d like to learn more about this along with a fascinating and provocative development beyond Kline’s immediate application, listen to Lane Tipton’s plenary addresses from our conference:

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