What I would like to do in brief compass is explain how a particular understanding of a pre-fall covenant of works requires us to say that Jesus was faithless. In short, I want to explain the problem some have with our rejection of their covenant of works, and then explain the problem with that problem.
The view we reject is that the covenant with Adam must be considered a covenant of works, based on Adam’s merit or demerit. But those who defend this position say that it is necessary because the first Adam sets the pattern for the second Adam. And if Adam did not merit (or demerit) anything in the Garden, then we cannot be saved by Christ’s merit. And if we cannot be saved by Christ’s merit, then we must be saved by our own merit. And that is works-salvation, and that is why people are talking as though the gospel of grace were at stake.
Here is the problem with that problem. If Adam had not fallen, would he have been under any obligation to say “thank you” to God? And when Jesus was obeying His Father, even to the point of the cross, was He doing so in faith? If He was doing so in faith, then that means the problem with the first Adam was his unbelief, and not an action that brought about raw demerit.
The problem is the use of the word merit, which does not imply a covenant relationship. Rather than saying we are saved by Christ’s merit (Bible verse?), we should rather say that we are saved by Christ’s obedience. This is because obedience implies and requires a relationship — with the someone He was obeying, the same one in whom He was trusting. A man cannot merit anything by grace through faith. But a man can obey by grace through faith. Adam disobeyed through His unbelief. And Jesus Christ is our faithful High Priest.
But if Christ must win our salvation for us through raw merit, and not through obedience, this means that Christ must be considered faithless. Our opponents must face up to this conundrum. If Jesus merited our salvation through His faith in His Father, then it isn’t really what they mean by merit. But if Jesus obeyed God in faith, and that obedience is our only possible salvation, then what is the fuss about?