1. The ESSENTIAL NATURE of the Covenant of Works:
When God created Adam, he entered into a covenant relationship with him.1 It was in the context of this covenant relationship that God gave Adam the blessings of work, sabbath rest, and marriage. Adam and Eve enjoyed the blessing and favor of their covenant God (Genesis 1:28). His smile rested upon them. It was in the context of this covenant relationship that God gave Adam one specific command.2 We read in Genesis 2:16-17, “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Adam and Eve enjoyed the blessing and favor of God in Eden; but that would all change if Adam disobeyed God's command.3
It's for this reason that this covenant with Adam is called The Covenant of Works: 4 The continued blessing and favor of God rested upon Adam's obedience (upon his works). His position was not secure. He could be thrust out of life into death, and he indeed would be if he did not continue to live before God a life of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.5 Adam's standing before God hinged upon his obedience. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes it: “When God had created man He entered into a covenant of life with him upon the condition of perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil upon the pain of death.”6
Now, it's important to understand that though God required perfect obedience from him, Adam's relationship with God wasn't based on fear. Adam was the friend of God. Adam shared intimate communion with God. God didn't just command Adam not to eat of the one forbidden tree; He invited him to eat freely of any of the other trees of the garden.7 “In all his life and work Adam was to be busy as the friend-servant of God, not as a slave who works from the motive of fear for the whip, nor as a wage earner who puts in his hours merely for his wages, but freely from the love of God. . .”8 Still, in the Covenant of Works, it was absolutely essential for Adam to obey in order to enjoy God's favor. Continuing in the Lord's blessing was wholly contingent upon Adam's obedience.
2. The SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION for the Covenant of Works:
It's important to note that the word “covenant” is never used in Genesis 2-3. Still, this relationship between God and Adam in the garden is considered to be a covenant for the following reasons:
A) Scripture doesn't always use the word for covenant when a covenant takes place. We have one example of this in the Davidic Covenant: Psalm 89 makes clear that what was happening in 2 Samuel 7 was a covenant—God was confirming His covenant with David. But there is actually no mention of a covenant in 2 Samuel 7 itself. Another example is with the Patriarchs: Psalm 105:8-10 tells us that the covenant God made with Abraham was also confirmed (as a covenant) to Isaac and then to Jacob—but the word covenant isn't actually used in Genesis as it relates to God's dealings with Jacob. Maybe the best example of this is right in Genesis 2-3: Genesis 2:18-25 describes Adam and Eve coming together in marriage. Biblically, marriage is a covenant. Scripture elsewhere refers to marriage as a covenant relationship (Malachi 2:14). But the word covenant wasn't used in Genesis 2.
B) It is called a covenant in Hosea 6:7. Hosea 6:7 seems to tell us quite explicitly that God made a covenant with Adam. It says this: “like Adam they have transgressed the covenant.” This is the most straightforward reading of the passage.9 Just as Adam transgressed the covenant that God had made with him, so Israel transgressed the covenant that God made with them at Mount Sinai. In other words, God must have made a covenant with Adam. It is true that the verse can also be translated, “like man” (cf. Psalm 82:7), since the Hebrew word for Adam can refer either to mankind or to the person Adam. But even if “man” was the right translation, it would attest to the fact that mankind in general is in some way bound in covenant relation to God. And so: “In either case, Hosea 6:7 would appear to apply covenantal terminology to the relation of God to man established by creation.”10
C) It is a necessary implication from Paul's words in Romans 5:12-19. In this passage, Paul parallels Adam and Christ as two covenant heads.11 Here he argues that life and justification come to all12 through one man (Christ) in the same way that death and condemnation had come to all through Adam. So, Adam was just as much a covenant representative as Christ. The difference is that Adam brought death and condemnation to all those he represented (through his disobedience), whereas Christ brought life and justification to all those He represented (through His obedience). Since a covenant representative is by definition the representative of a covenant, it seems strange to say that Adam was a covenant representative while at the same time claiming there was in fact no covenant.
D) Summary and Significance: Because of the reasons we've mentioned, we take God's relationship with Adam in the garden to be a covenant relationship. It's true that there are some who disagree, and it's also true that we can't claim this was indeed the case with absolute certainty; there are some things we need to hold more tightly than other things. But at the same time, we believe the biblical evidence does indeed point to the fact that God's relation to Adam was a covenantal relationship.
Why does it matter? Because it helps us to understand the nature of the relationship between God and Adam. The command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil wasn't just a random stipulation. It was a command given in the context of an intimate covenant relationship between God and Adam. There was a living, covenant bond between them. God's dealings with Adam were so much more than: “I created you so don't do this.” As a marriage covenant is deeply personal as well as legal, so it was with God and Adam in the garden. The requirement was given in the context of covenant intimacy. It's one thing for someone to tell a stranger, “Don't eat my lunch.” It's another thing for a man to tell his wife, “Don't be unfaithful to me.” When Adam disobeyed, it wasn't just the transgression of a random command, it was the shattering of a covenant relationship.
3. The BINDING REQUIREMENT of the Covenant of Works:
So again, in the context of the covenant, God required of Adam simple and perfect obedience to His command: In Genesis 2:16-17 we read, “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”13 God's clear command was that Adam was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, it doesn't seem that there was anything intrinsically evil about this tree: “There was in itself nothing sinful in eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . .Only God's forbidding word made it wrong for Adam to eat of the tree.”14 The command that God gave Adam was a simple test of obedience that focused on whether or not he would obey the Lord.15 Would he submit to the Word of God? Would he obey simply because God told him to? Would he acknowledge that he is the creature and not the Creator?16
4. The UNIVERSAL SCOPE of the Covenant of Works:
Once again, though it is not immediately apparent in Genesis chapters 2-3, Scripture later makes it very clear that Adam was acting as a covenant representative for the entire human race. It's as if every single person who has ever lived was loaded together into one massive airplane, and Adam was the pilot. Or all humankind was together on one enormous ship, and Adam was the captain. If the pilot takes the plane down, everyone perishes; if the captain sinks the boat, all those aboard are lost. Romans 5:12-19 makes it clear that the fate of the entire human race was at stake in Adam's obedience or disobedience to the command God had given him (we'll talk about this more later).17
5. The PRESENT SIGNIFICANCE of the Covenant of Works:
A) The Covenant of Works has been completely shattered: It's been shattered in so far as it relates to Adam and all those whom he represented.18 Remember, it wasn't just Adam's personal destiny that was on the line—it was all humanity with him. He didn't just represent himself; he represented all of us. So when Adam disobeyed—that was it—the covenant was shattered, and there was no going back.19 It's vital for us to understand that “no one can stand in Adam's place to try to merit favor with God.”20 Adam already stood in your place (and mine), and he failed and fell, and we fell with him. So there's no longer any hope for us to attain eternal life this way. When Adam disobeyed, the Covenant of Works was shattered in such a way that it could never be put back together again.21
B) The Covenant of Works carries with it lasting effects: When Adam disobeyed, the Covenant of Works itself was completely shattered—but its effects continue to this day. All humanity fell with Adam into condemnation and death. Because of his transgression, every single one of us is born with hearts that are both unable and unwilling to love and obey God: we're both enslaved to our sin (unable) and in love with our sin (unwilling). Because of Adam's sin, every one of us is born as a guilty sinner under God's wrath and condemnation. So, Adam's sin absolutely carried lasting effects.
C) The Covenant of Works represents what man still owes to God: When Adam disobeyed, the Covenant of Works was shattered. And because of that, we are wholly unable to live before God the way that He commands. But this in no way lets us off the hook.22 God still demands perfect obedience to His Law. Jesus tells us that we are to be perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect. All men are still commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The standard hasn't changed just because we can't attain to it anymore. God still demands our perfect obedience.
D) The Covenant of Works prepares the way for redemption: It does this in two ways. First, the Covenant of Works exposes our NEED for redemption: Without an understanding of what happened in Genesis 3, we will never understand why it is that we so desperately need a Savior. The only reason anyone comes to Christ is that they have first been confronted with the reality of their condition: that we stand presently and personally under God's eternal wrath and condemnation. So, the Covenant of Works exposes our need for redemption. Secondly, the Covenant of Works provides the HOPE of our redemption: Christ came as the second Adam to do exactly what Adam had failed to do: “Jesus Christ enter[ed] into the same covenant of works that Adam did to deliver believers from it. . .He came under the same covenant of works that Adam did; in so far as the fulfilling of that covenant in their stead was the very condition required of him, as the second Adam in the second covenant.”23 So, the Covenant of Works also provides the hope of our redemption. Jesus is our righteousness. It's His obedience—and not ours—that is the only basis of our salvation and security. So then: “The covenant of works is the basis of our need of redemption (because we have violated it) and our hope of redemption (because Christ has fulfilled its terms for us).”24
1 See the footnote at the very beginning of this lesson. As Herman Hoeksema put it: ”From the very first moment of his existence, and by virtue of his being created after the image of God, Adam stood in covenant relation to God and was conscious of the living fellowship and friendship which is essential to that relationship.” (Reformed Dogmatics, p315).
2 As O Palmer Robertson says: “In considering the prohibition of Genesis 2:17, it is essential to appreciate the organic unity between this commandment and the total responsibility of man as created. The requirement concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must not be conceived as a somewhat arbitrary stipulation without integral relation to the total life of man. . .All that Adam did had direct bearing on his relation to the covenant God of creation. . .His life as a covenant creature must be viewed as a unified whole. . .If the covenant of creation is thought not to exceed Adam's probation-test, a curious brand of Christianity ultimately emerges. It is a brand of Christianity greatly at odds with that in which the probation-test is understood as the focal point of a total life-embracing covenantal relationship.” (The Christ of the Covenants, pp81-82).
3 We say Adam because the command was given to Adam alone: the Hebrew second person pronoun is singular in Genesis 2:16-17; 3:17. It was Adam alone who was the covenant representative for the entire human race. Witsius says: “Though Eve had the first hand in this crime, yet it is usually in scripture ascribed to Adam: by one man sin entered into the world (Romans 5:12)...Adam was the head of the covenant, with whom, even before the creation of Eve, God seems to have transacted...nor was the covenant judged to be entirely broken, till Adam also added his own crime to that of his wife's.” (Economy, pp135-36).
4 Kevan helps us understand the history of the concept in covenantal thought. He says: “The concept of a Covenant of Works was relatively new [for the Puritans], being no part of the theological formulation of Calvin and those who labored with him. The Reformers never went beyond the belief in one covenant, namely, the Covenant of Grace. The idea of the Covenant of Works was introduced into British theology by William Perkins and others at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and was intended to serve as a kind of bridge linking revealed theology to natural theology.” (The Grace of Law, p111).As we mentioned earlier, there are also other names for the Covenant of Works. It has been called the Covenant of Nature because nature hadn't been infected yet with sin at the time the Lord established the covenant with Adam. It has also been called a Covenant of Life because it held out the promise of life in the tree of life in the garden. More recently it's also been called the Covenant of Creation (O Palmer Robertson prefers this designation). Some object to the name Covenant of Works for especially two reasons. First, it is said that there was also grace in the Covenant of Works with Adam. Second, it is said that this terminology narrows all attention in God's dealings with Adam to the single command given to him in Genesis 2:16-17, to the neglect of the whole of the covenant relationship between God and Adam. In response, I would tentatively agree with the reasoning of the second objection. It is true that God's covenant with Adam was not exclusively limited to the command of Genesis 2:16-17. The command was there and the command carried massive implications; but the command was not the entirety of the covenant relationship between God and Adam. As to the first objection, along with others, I would draw a very distinct line between the goodness and kindness of God on the one hand, and the grace of God on the other. Grace in Scripture is always in the context and against the background of sin. True biblical grace cannot be properly understood apart from sin. So the fact that Adam had yet no sin to speak of before the fall renders it impossible, in my understanding, to speak of the presence of God's grace towards Adam in the garden in Genesis 1-2. There is another third issue that can be mentioned in respect of the phrase Covenant of Works. It is not necessarily in the phrase itself, but in the phrase as it relates to its counterpart, the Covenant of Grace. From Adam's perspective alone, these two phrases very accurately describe God's two great covenants. For Adam was the covenant head for the first, the Covenant of Works; and after that covenant had been broken, he was then a recipient (but not the covenant head) of the Covenant of Grace. And from Adam's perspective, these two terms would describe God's dealings with him, with Adam the man, perfectly. For his own righteousness (IE, works) was the basis and foundation of the Covenant of Works; but it was the grace of God and God's own righteousness that was the basis and foundation of the Covenant of Grace. So, from Adam's perspective, the terms fit perfectly. But there is a lack of preciseness when it comes to the two phrases being used in general. For the Covenant of Works is named so as it relates to God's relationship with the covenant head (Adam); but the Covenant of Grace is named so as it relates—not to the covenant head (Christ Jesus) — but to the recipients and beneficiaries of the covenant head (believers in Jesus). Louis Berkhof explains it this way: “Basically, the Covenant of Grace is simply the execution of the original agreement by Christ as our surety. He undertook freely to carry out the will of God. He placed Himself under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law, and were no more in a position to obtain life by their own fulfillment of the law. He came to do what Adam failed to do, and did it in virtue of a covenant agreement. And if this is so, and the covenant of grace is, as far as Christ is concerned, simply the carrying out of the original agreement, it follows that the latter must also have been of the nature of a covenant.” Thomas Boston reflects thus: “But that time being so expired, he [Adam] would have been confirmed in goodness, so that he could no more fall away, as a part of the life promised. And the covenant of works would have forever remained as man's eternal security for, and ground of his eternal life; but no longer as a rule of his obedience, for that would have been to reduce him to the state of trial he was in before, and to have set him anew to work as a title to what he already possessed, by virtue of his supposed keeping of that covenant. . .after Adam's standing out the set time, all mankind then standing with him, would have been confirmed; and those who should afterwards have come into the world, would not only have had original righteousness conveyed to them from him, but have been confirmed too in holiness and happiness, so that they could not have fallen.” (A View to the Covenant of Works). Edward Fisher, in his famous The Marrow of Modern Divinity, puts it this way: “And thus did our Lord Jesus Christ enter into the same covenant of works that Adam did to deliver believers from it: Our Lord Jesus Christ became surety for the elect in the second covenant. Heb. 8:22; and in virtue of that suretyship, whereby he put himself in the room of the principal debtors, he came under the same covenant of works that Adam did; in so far as the fulfilling of that covenant in their stead was the very condition required of him, as the second Adam in the second covenant. . .How then is the second covenant a covenant of grace? In respect of Christ, it was most properly and strictly a covenant of works, in that he made a proper, real, and full satisfaction in behalf of the elect; but in respect of them, it is purely a covenant of richest grace, in as much as God accepted the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them; provided the surety himself and gives all to them freely for his sake.” (p43). Vos says: “The covenant of grace is nothing other than a covenant of works accomplished in Christ, the fulfillment of which is given to us by grace. . .The covenant of grace is the implementation of the covenant of works in the surety for us.” (Dogmatics, V2, pp33,36). And again: “When we say that it is a covenant of grace, then we must consider specifically the relationship of guilty man before God in this covenant. When one considers the Mediator of the covenant, then naturally no grace is shown to Him. Considered in Christ, everything is a matter of carrying out the demands of the covenant of works according to God's strict justice, though in another form. . .God shows grace to us when He demands from Christ what He can demand from us. Considered in Christ, everything is strict justice; considered in us, everything is free grace.” (p120). Because of this, it seems to me that there might be a better designation for these two great covenants than Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace (though I have used these terms myself here). Perhaps it is best to distinguish them (as the Westminster Confession at times) as the first covenant being the Covenant of Life, the second as the Covenant of Grace. Or, as O Palmer Robertson, the first the Covenant of Creation, the second the Covenant of Redemption. Or perhaps simply the Covenant in Adam and the Covenant in Christ. I don't object to the present terminology (again, I've used it myself here), but do think it to be helpful and necessary to understand the things written above. I've also included a simple chart on all this after Section III, Point 5, Sub-point D.
5 The language of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience is the language of the Westminster Larger Catechism #20.
6 Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 12.
7 This phrase is literally in Hebrew, “eating you shall eat. . .” Henry Ainsworth explains the Hebrew phrase, “That is, 'mayest (or shalt) freely eat.' Thus God first showeth his love and liberality before he makes any restraint. The doubling of words is often used in Scripture for more earnestness and assurance. . .” (From his Annotations on the Pentateuch, pp14-15). John Gill describes the Hebrew phrase the same way: of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: “a very generous, large, and liberal allowance this; or 'in eating thou mayest eat'; which was giving full power, and leaving them without any doubt and uncertainty about their food; which they might freely take, and freely eat of, wherever they found it, or were inclined to, even of any, and every tree in the garden, excepting one, next forbidden.”
8 Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, p316.
9 O Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants, p23.
10 Ibid, p24.
11 See also 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.
12 IE, all those whom Christ represented, who are safe in Christ; not all indiscriminately.
13 Ligon Duncan notes here that Adam was already in a state of blessing. It wasn't that Adam would be transferred from a state of non-blessing to a state of blessing if he obeyed God's command; it was whether he would continue in that state of blessing (and receive even greater blessing), or fall from that state of blessing, that was at stake in his obedience.
14 Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, pp320-21.
15 Berkhof says that in this one command, “the demands of the law were, so to say, concentrated on a single point.” Edward Fisher (Marrow of Modern Divinity) says: “That one commandment was in effect a summary of the whole duty of man. . .”
16 Reformed theologians have been decisively split over the question: Had Adam obeyed, would he have merited life through his obedience? The emphasis is on merit. On the one side of the debate is Charles Hodge, who affirms that Adam would indeed have merited life had he obeyed: “The word 'condition,' however, is used in two senses. Sometimes it means the meritorious consideration on the ground of which certain benefits are bestowed. In this sense perfect obedience was the condition of the covenant originally made with Adam. Had he retained his integrity he would have merited the promised blessing. For to him that worketh the reward is not of grace but of debt. In the same sense the work of Christ is the condition of the covenant of redemption. It was the meritorious ground, laying a foundation in justice for the fulfillment of the promises made to Him by the Father.” On the other side of the debate is Louis Berkhof, who denies Adam would have merited anything from God had he obeyed: “And while transgression of the law would render him liable to punishment, the keeping of it would not constitute an inherent claim to a reward. Even if he did all that was required of him, he would still have to say, I am but an unprofitable servant, for I have merely done that which it was my duty to do. Under this purely natural relationship man could not have merited anything.” These are the two lines of thinking. They are both compelling. On the one hand, it is compelling to say that even Adam would have to say he was merely an unprofitable servant doing the will of his heavenly Master. The other side is also compelling, especially if one considers the parallels between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21 and its logical ramifications for Adam's obedience. Under this line of thinking Herman Witsius is also very compelling, when having established the fact that God had made promises to Adam upon his obedience, he observes two things from Scripture. First, Witsius observes: “It is universally allowed, that Paul, in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians, where he treats on justification, does under that name comprise the adjudging to eternal life; he in many places proves that a sinner cannot be justified, that is, lay claim to eternal life, by the works of the law; but never by this argument, because the law had no promises of eternal life. . .On the contrary, the apostle teaches, that the commandment, considered in itself, was ordained to life, Romans 7:10; that is, was such as by the observance thereof life might have once been obtained; which if the law could still bestow on the sinner, 'verily righteousness should have been by the law.' Galatians 3:21. . .If Adam therefore had persevered in obedience, the law would have brought him to that same inheritance, which now in Christ is allotted not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth.” Second, Witsius observes: “We are above all to observe how the apostle distinguishes the righteousness, which is of the law, from the evangelical. Of the first he thus speaks, Romans 10:5, 'Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law; that the man which doth those things shall live by them.' Of the second, he writes as follows, Romans 1:17, 'The just shall live by faith.' On both sides, the promise of life is the same, and proposed in the very same words. Nor does the apostle in the least hint that one kind of life is promised by the law, another by the gospel. . .But to what man, thus working, were the promises made? Was it to the sinner? Was it not to the man in a state of innocence? And was it not then, when it might truly be said if thou continuest to do well, thou shalt be heir of that life upon that condition? And this could be said to none but to innocent Adam. Was it not then, when the promise was actually made? For after sin, there is not so much a promise as a denunciation of wrath, and an intimation of a curse, proposing that as the condition of obtaining life, which is now evidently impossible to be performed. I therefore conclude, that to Adam, in the covenant of works, was promised the same eternal life, to be obtained by the righteousness which is of the law, of which believers are made partakers through Christ.” So Witsius concludes (see Economy of the Covenants, V1, pp73-75). I tend to side with his arguments. However, I wonder if much of this is purely speculative, especially in light of the fact that so many good Reformed theologians disagree. It is our portion now to know in part. The fact is, Adam didn't obey. So maybe instead of wondering what would have happened if he had, we ought to simply glory in what has happened. What we do know for sure is that sin, condemnation and death were imputed to us in Adam. But now, in Jesus, the Lord is our righteousness.
17 “The very truth is, Adam by his fall threw down our whole nature headlong into the same destruction, and drowned his whole offspring in the same gulf of misery, and the reason is, because, by God's appointment, he was not to stand or fall as a single person only, but as a common public person, representing all mankind to come of him.” (Fisher, Marrow of Divinity).
18 I want to be really clear about this. When we say that Adam represented all his posterity, we mean that he represented every single person who would ever live—except one—Christ Jesus. For every single one of them, the Covenant of Works has been shattered beyond recognition. It's not some standing invitation for anyone who wants to give it a try. Adam represented us all when he sinned and fell. The test was given, Adam failed, and the sentence was pronounced: death and condemnation for Adam and all his posterity. Christ, however, was never included in Adam's posterity. It is for this reason that he could redeem His people by means of himself perfectly fulfilling the Covenant of Works (Section D below). So when Adam sinned, the Covenant of Works was shattered as it respected Adam and all his posterity. For them the door of the Covenant of Works has been slammed shut forever. But those ancient doors might be opened by Another. For Him alone was it written: “Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the king of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7, 9).
19 As Charles Hodge puts it: “If Adam acted not only for himself but also for his posterity, that fact determines the question, whether the covenant of works be still in force. In the obvious sense of the terms, to say that men are still under that covenant, is to say that they are still on probation; that the race did not fall when Adam fell. But if Adam acted as the head of the whole race, then all men stood their probation in him, and fell with him in his first transgression. We are by nature, i. e., as we were born, the children of wrath. This fact is assumed in all the provisions of the gospel and in all the institutions of our religion. Children are required to be baptized for the remission of sin. But while the Pelagian doctrine is to be rejected, which teaches that each man comes into the world free from sin and free from condemnation, and stands his probation in his own person, it is nevertheless true that where there is no sin there is no condemnation. Hence our Lord said to the young man, 'This do and thou shalt live.' And hence the Apostle in the second chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, says that God will reward every man according to his works. To those who are good, He will give eternal life; to those who are evil, indignation and wrath. This is only saying that the eternal principles of justice are still in force. If any man can present himself before the bar of God and prove that he is free from sin, either imputed or personal, either original or actual, he will not be condemned. But the fact is that the whole world lies in wickedness. Man is an apostate race. Men are all involved in the penal and natural consequences of Adam's transgression. They stood their probation in him, and do not stand each man for himself.” (V2, p122).
20 Julian Zugg from his Covenant Theology course (From the MINTS website).
21 Again, as Edward Fisher puts it: “The very truth is, our father Adam falling from God, did, by his fall, so dash him and us all in pieces, that there was no whole part left, either in him or us, fit to ground such a covenant upon.” (Marrow).
22 Witsius says: “It is indeed a most destructive heresy to maintain, that man, sinful and obnoxious to punishment, is not bound to obedience. . .man, even after the violation of the covenant, continues bound, not only to obedience, but to a perfect performance of duty. . .The law therefore remains as the rule of our duty; but abrogated as to its federal nature; nor can it be the condition by the performance of which man may acquire a right to the reward (Economy of the Covenants, V2, pp151-59). As William Strong explains: “to all those who are in the first Adam, the first Covenant stands in force to this day. . .Every unregenerate man is under the Law as a Covenant of Works.” (The Two Covenants, pp2,38). Fisher says: “though strength to obey be lost, yet man having lost it by his own default, the obligation to obedience remains still; so that Adam and his offspring are no more discharged of their duties, because they have no strength to do them, than a debtor is quitted of his bond, because he wants [IE, lacks] money to pay it.” (The Marrow, p39). And Colquhoun says: “In consequence of God's having proposed the law in its covenant form, to Adam, [who stood] as the representative of all his natural descendants. . .all the children of men, while they continue in their natural state, remain firmly, in the sight of God, under the whole original obligation of it; even those of them, who, as members of the visible church, are under an external dispensation of the covenant of grace, remain under all its obligation. For though the law in its covenant form, is broken; yet, it is far from being repealed, or set aside. The obligation of this covenant, continues in all its force, in time and through eternity, upon every sinner who is not released from it, by God the other Party. The awful consequence is, that every unregenerate sinner is bound, at once to perform perfect obedience, and also to endure the full execution of the penal sanction.” (Treatise of Law and Gospel, p19).
23 Fisher, Marrow, p43. Witsius says: “The covenant of grace is not the abolition, but rather the confirmation of the covenant of works, in so far as the Mediator has fulfilled at the conditions of that covenant, so that all believers may be justified and saved, according to the covenant of works, to which satisfaction was made by the Mediator.” (Economy, V1, p160).
24 R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Life, p77.