The debate between the functions of law and grace, in particular what exactly believers are supposed to be doing is one that continues to rage. Is what has been termed as the Mosaic Law been fully nailed to the cross with the only two remaining expectations of loving God and others the only remaining command? How exactly does works, obedience, and faithfulness work in an era so often labeled as one of grace and not of works? Bradley Green, in his excellent book Covenant and Commandment: Works, Obedience, and Faithfulness in the Christian Life, walks the reader through this vital subject.
I have long enjoyed the New Studies in Biblical Theology of which Green’s contribution is a part. Each volume I have read thus far tackles some thorny yet important theological issues. When it comes to examining the subject of works, one can argue that things can get very thorny very quickly. The so-called “easy-believism” approach to the message of the gospel is often ridiculed; however, there are some who continue to hang on to at least a portion of that perspective, especially when it comes to the subject of obedience and the often forlorn word law. As noted earlier, some affirm the law was nailed to the cross which of course begs the question what we are to do with the repeated commands in the New Testament to obey God’s commands, to obey the commands of Jesus, to remain faithful, and the consistent urging of believers to do things to the glory of God.
Green first establishes this repeated call to obedience and faithfulness found throughout the New Testament. He examines fourteen key groupings of the New Testament discussion on obedience, noting how these key themes are utilized along with a quick yet salient commentary on the relevant passages that fall under each thematic element. While there is not a lot of detailed commentary per say, that is not the overall purpose of this initial discussion.
If one is to understand the overarching theme of works, obedience, and faithfulness, the entirety of Scripture must be examined. This is the proper approach taken by Green and he does a truly excellent job of setting the important Old Testament backdrop, revealing along the way that obedience is not some ancient construct that was nailed to the cross in favor of an easier approach to our relationship with God this side of the cross. Conversely, he aptly notes “once persons are in covenant relationship with the Lord, he then gives his people commands, statutes, laws and so on. And he expects his people to obey what he communicates to them.”
Throughout this helpful book, Green expertly outlines the biblical theology of works, obedience, and faithfulness in a way that remains true to the truth of Scripture, examines the key arguments for and against this topic provided by biblical scholars throughout history, and most importantly, reveals to the reader the reality that God’s grace should drive the believer to a loving desire to be obedient. He concludes his conversation with a marvelous reminder, namely that “When we think of redemption as including both human and cosmic transformation, and when we properly root such redemption in the precious reality of the gospel itself, we are able to affirm (as we should!) the cherished insights of the gospel of Christ crucified, while giving full weight to the clear biblical teaching that the true people of God will indeed be marked by works, obedience, and faithfulness.”
I highly recommend this book for all believers. It is written in a scholarly yet very accessible manner and will serve as a valuable resource for those interested (which should be everyone) in further examining the biblical treatment of what works, obedience, and faithfulness looks like in theology and most importantly, in application. In a time when far too many put at arm’s length terms such as works, law, and obedience, Green’s book provides a needed paradigm shift, one that properly orients the reader back to the pages of Scripture and God’s call to obedience as the only valid response to His merciful grace.
This book is available for purchase from IVP Academic by clicking here.
I received this book for free from IVP Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”