Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Pauline View of the Law: Part 7 Conclusion

            The sheer volume of scholarship on this topic presents a formidable task for a work of limited length such as this.  To unpack any of many views on Paul’s view of the law further necessitates additional discussion on others that would likely take this monograph well beyond the limits imposed.  There is little wonder in my mind why there is so much scholarship devoted to Paul, the law, and first century Judaism.  The subject is worthy of further study that I hope to undertake during my time in LBTS’ DLP.  If the opportunity does not present itself, perhaps the Lord will see fit to provide another opportunity.
            The law was given as a means to maintain the relationship between God and his people following the exodus from Egypt after God had delivered his chosen people from bondage.  The law should be viewed in the context of the covenant between God and his people.  It is not the basis of the divine-human relationship but rather a guide for the maintenance of that relationship.  The law was given after Israel experienced salvation, after being delivered out of Egypt, not before.  It is important to remember that Israel was saved by God’s mercy and not by their own good works.  When the New Testament (NT) refers to the law, it is referring to the Law of Moses which the Jews received at Mt. Sinai though this is not always the case.  The law is itself neither good nor bad but rather is a tool used by God to bring to light man’s sinfulness and his inability to perfectly keep the law as required.  The purpose in giving the law is to magnify sin and demonstrate that righteousness through the law was not possible as it is not possible for anyone to keep the law.  God’s grace shines brighter when conquering human sin.
            While the promises made to Abraham begun to be fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ, the moral absolutes are also fulfilled in Christ.  The fulfillment of these commands does not change the commands themselves.  What has changed is that the believer can now keep the law through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling within the believer.
            In Christ’s crucifixion, the curse that the law pronounced on Israel was focused on Christ whose sinless death on the cross atoned for Israel’s repeated violations of the law.  With the death and resurrection of Christ, Paul speaks of the end of the Mosaic Law which clearly involves a number its specific commandments.  An inductive study also shows that Paul speaks of the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law.  Some of the laws from the OT ear are no longer practiced literally because they are fulfilled in Christ.  Paul is of the belief that the moral norms of the law are still in place and that believers can now carry them out by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer.[1] 
            Justification is by faith and faith alone.  This was true in the OT and continues today with the finished work of Christ on the cross.  There were some Jews who mistakenly believed that keeping the law would lead to their own righteousness in the sight of God.  There is no salvation through works and never has there been.  There are many in our own day who would do well to realize this and come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.


                [1] Schreiner, Thomas R. The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 176-78.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What do take of the theory that Galatians was the last book written by Paul, and evidences his growth and maturity into the concepts of Christian liberty as compared to his earlier writings?

Steven

Chris Sanchez said...

The dating of the letter to the Galatians depends on who one believes the letter was sent to. If the letter was sent to North Galatia, Paul and his team planted the Galatian churches during his second missionary journey meaning he wither wrote the letter from Ephesus in A.D 54 or from Macedonia in A.D. 55. However, if Paul was writing to South Galatia (where the political activity was centered) where he planted churches on his first missionary journey, then he likely wrote Galatians at the end of that journey from his home in Antioch in A.D. 49.

Paul’s second letter to Timothy was written while he was in a Roman prison from which he would never see freedom in A.D. 67. Given is the fact that there are some liberal scholars who contest the authorship of 2 Timothy, there is still 1 Timothy written in A.D. 62 or 63, Colossians written A.D 60 or 61, Philippians written in A.D 60, Ephesians written in A.D. 61, and even Romans written in A.D. 57 or 58 is older than Galatians. I could go on to support this timeline but the point is clear that rather than being Paul’s last letter, there is strong evidence in support of Galatians being Paul’s first known letter after his conversion around A.D. 33.

Given this, I am not sure what you mean by Paul’s growth and maturity concerning the concept of Christian liberty compared to any of his other writings. I find Paul to be rather consistent on this point. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he says that all things are lawful for him (1 Cor. 6:12) but goes on to say not all things are profitable. Paul repeats this theme in 1 Cor. 10:23 (see also Gal 5:23). The idea of liberty, it seems to me, is an early idea of Paul rather than a later development in his understanding of Christianity.
Liberty is one thing but read all of the surrounding Scripture for the context of the passage.

Like all of the Bible, taking a passage out of context alters the meaning perhaps to the point of serving a purpose other than the one God intended. I do not see how God can bless that.

Anonymous said...

Interesting timeline perspective, thanks for the reply.

Steven

Chris Sanchez said...

My pleasure!