Understanding the New Perspective on Paul Versus Evangelicals
1. The New Perspective on Paul (in general) is what the Bible teaches.
– The term was coined by James D. G. Dunn in relation to the teaching of E. P. Sanders (most especially in relation to his writing in 1977, Paul and Palestinian Judaism).
– Main tenets of the NPP
1.1. The Jews were never merit-based in their soteriology (including the Pharisees). This means that merit-based salvation is not the problem being addressed in the New Testament.
1.2. The mechanics of salvation are the same from the Old Covenant through the New Covenant.
E. P. Sanders’ term for the mechanics of salvation was covenantal nomism. To now quote him in relation to the Old Covenant:
1.2.1. “God has chosen Israel and Israel has accepted the election. In His role as King, God gave Israel commandments which they are to obey as best they can. Obedience is rewarded and disobedience punished. In the case of failure to obey, however, man has recourse to divinely ordained means of atonement, in all of which, repentance is required. As long as he maintains his desire to stay in covenant, he has a share in God’s covenant promises, including the life to come. The intention and effort to be obedient constitute the condition for remaining in covenant, BUT they do NOT earn it.”
In relation to the New Covenant:
1.2.2. “We must grant that there is a good deal to be said for the view Christianity is a New Covenant, which does function as does the old: for those in it there is salvation. For those outside, condemnation and death. While remaining in it requires obedience and disobedience leads to expulsion and condemnation…thus one can see already in Paul how it is that Christianity is going to become a new form of covenantal nomism, a covenantal religion which one enters by baptism, membership in which provides salvation, which has a specific set of commandments, obedience to which (or repentance) keeps one in covenantal relationship while repeated heinous transgression removes one from membership.”
1.2.3. “Salvation is by grace but judgment is according to works; works are condition of remaining in, but they do NOT earn salvation.”
1.3. “Works of the Law” is the term used for the Old Covenant clean (or ceremonial) laws (circumcision, sacrifices, Sabbaths, and separation). This is seen from Galatians 2, 4, and 5, as well as Romans 3.
1.3.1. They are those laws by which a person became clean (i.e. atoned for sin, were justified) and entered into covenant (saving) relationship with God. These laws were (also) the identity markers of the Jews (Acts 21; Gal 6).
1.3.2. Faith in Christ is now the New Covenant clean law. That is to say Christ is our sacrifice (Heb 12), circumcision (Col 2), Sabbath (Heb 3-4), and separation (Heb 13).
Conclusion: This (then) is the problem being addressed against the Judaizers: that faith in Christ has replaced the Old Covenant application for justification (thereby opening the door for Gentiles to become a part of God’s people without first becoming a Jew). This change came about because the former clean laws were unable to justify (they could only pass-over as a reminder of sin according to Romans 3:26 and Hebrews 10:1-3).
2. John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Todd Friel, as well as the rest of the Evangelical camp rejecting the NPP/Federal Theology are the ones preaching a false gospel. It is the merit-based, antinomian, sola-fide gospel of Luther. We either earn our way to Heaven ourselves or we look to Christ who did it for us.
– Main tenets
2.1. It is a merit-based system which was the Pharisees and Jews of Jesus’ day. (Rom 10; Phi 3:4; Luk 18:9-14 w/ 15-24 w/ Mat 23:3, 23; Jam 2)
2.2. The whole Law (not simply the works of the law) are being condemned by Paul in the New Testament. (Rom 3:20 w/ Heb 10:1-3; 1Jo 5)
2.3. Romans 3:28 – The gospel is sola fide/faith alone. (Jam 2:24)
2.4. Our works are simply the result of God working in us. (Rev 20 w/ 2Co 5; Phi 2:12-13)
2.5. Our security as saved is based on Christ alone. (Mat 16 w/ Joh 20; 2Pet 1:5-8 w/ 10-11)