Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is Christ the goal or the end of the Law?

Paul believed that careful observance of the Law was critically important as a faithful response to God’s love. It is Paul’s loyalty to the Law that gave him such a difficult time with the entire notion that Jesus was the Messiah. ‘Anyone who is hanged on a tree is under God’s curse’ (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). Since Jesus had been crucified on a cross, then by definition he could not have been the Messiah.[1] This is why Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road was so important. In his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul discovered that he had been wrong. In fact, in keeping the Law so closely, Paul was actually in direct opposition to God.[2]

Paul clearly taught that Christ was the end of the Law[3] though I also believe that Paul came to believe that Christ was also the goal of the Law. In Galatians 3:23-25, Paul teaches us that the Law was like a custodian and a tutor to lead us to Jesus. Tutors and custodians are temporary and I believe that is how Paul came to view the Law.

Paul’s views have been interpreted differently over the centuries. The traditional Lutheran doctrine of a three-fold use of the Law as (i) a means of preservation, (ii) as a summons to repentance, and (iii) as guidance for the church.[4] Paul addresses government in Romans 13:1-7 and agrees that the Law is a call to repentance since the Law has revealed man’s sinful nature to begin with.[5] The Reformed tradition derived from Geneva says that while a man in Christ is not under the Law as a means of salvation, he remains under it as a rule of life. According to Paul, this is simply not true unless one considers the law of love which is much different from following a code but rather is an outward expression of an inward power, that of Christ in the believer.[6]

[1]Drane, John William: Introducing the New Testament. Completely rev. and updated. (Oxford : Lion Publishing plc, 2000), S. 372

[2] Bruce, F. F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. (Grand Rapids, MI / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 189.

[3] Romans 10:4

[4] Bruce, F. F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. (Grand Rapids, MI / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 191.

[5] Ibid, 193-198. F.F. Bruce gives an extended treatment of Paul’s comparison of his own life and adherence to the Law to that of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden that greatly enhances understanding of Paul’s view of himself under the Law.

[6] Ibid, 192.


Chris Sanchez said...

This post was included on the website of a Twitter friend. Very cool site...check it out!

Gorges Smythe said...

My understanding is that even though we are incapable of fully keeping the law, it remains a guide to live by and something to "shoot" for, even though it neither saves or condemns us.

Richie said...

The Bible says that the Law is our tutor, or schoolmaster to Christ. Once we've joined Christ, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Romans 7:1-4 likens being under the Law and joining to Christ to adultery.

Rom 7:6 sums it up.

God bless, Richie
Through Heavenly Eyes