To put Calvin’s later position in Pauline terms: Grace (Abraham) came first, and the law that came through Moses did not nullify the promise but was a means toward the fulfillment of the promise. Grace is prior to law not only in Israel’s history, but in “the grammar of creation. God’s grace, in covenant love, creates Adam for covenant love and then lays him under unconditional obligations, warning him of the consequences which would follow ‘if’ he transgresses these commandments.” Federal theologians generally said instead that the covenant was added to a natural Adam, an Adam possessed of the natural law but not yet a recipient of God’s covenant love. Before that happens, he must pass the test of obedience.
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