The fifth reason it was important to Kline to recognize the works principle in the Mosaic economy is that without it we have a less secure exegetical basis for the Reformational emphasis on the pedagogical use of the law. Defining the Mosaic law in purely gracious terms effectively annuls the pedagogical use of the law, that is, the law’s function of showing us our inability and convicting us of our guilt.
“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)” (GHHM 128-29).
“In addition to calling attention to the probationary aspect of Jesus’ mission, the works principle that governed the Israelite kingdom acted as the schoolmaster for Israel, convicting of sin and total inability to satisfy the Lord’s righteous demands and thereby driving the sinner to the grace of God offered in the underlying gospel promises of the Abrahamic Covenant” (KP 353).
Did the Mosaic law demand obedience as the legal basis of obtaining life (Lev 18:5), or is that only a Jewish misunderstanding of the law? If the latter, one cannot make sense of the teaching of Paul that the Mosaic law-covenant was Israel’s “pedagogue unto Christ” (Gal 3:24). One could try to get around this by claiming that it is not the Mosaic covenant but the universally-binding, trans-historical “moral law” that has this pedagogical function. But Paul has already blocked that move by defining what he means by “the law” (ὁ νόμος) in the context: it is the specific covenant that came 430 years after the Abrahamic promise (Gal 3:17); it is the historical expression of the law accompanied by the threat of a curse to the disobedient (Gal 3:10 quoting Deut 27:26) and a promise of life to the doers of the law (Gal 3:12 quoting Lev 18:5); it is the temporary guardian set over the minor children (Israel) “until the date set by the father” (Gal 4:1-2). Of course, there is universal application of this pedagogical function, even for Gentiles, as the Spirit uses the law to convince us of our inability to keep it, but the original reference is to the historical Mosaic covenant and its pedagogical role in redemptive history.
Kline gets unfairly criticized for his understanding of the Mosaic covenant. His motive was not to be an innovator but to listen carefully to Paul’s teaching on the law and thereby provide better exegetical and biblical-theological support for the Reformation insight concerning the pedagogical use of the law.