Monday, November 15, 2010

The Law has Served it's Purpose

Imagine a couple who get married, unconventionally in our culture, who weren't living together before they got married. Imagine they decide - ok we're married but let's still live apart... that'd be weird right?

Found myself in Galatians 3:15-26 again on Friday afternoon, with Cat - loving reading through this great letter again. As Paul drives us back to a Christianity that is about our hearts being captured by the graphic verbal portrayal of the cross of Christ, faith in God's promise was Christianity for Abraham, and still today. All of which raises a question: what was the Old testament law for... and where does it fit for us?

Principle 1 - You can't modify covenants.
The covenant in view is the one made to Abraham and his offspring. That offspring is singular. It is Christ. (3:16). And the promise is above all to Christ (v19). Doesn't matter what happens, say like the giving of the law, you can't change the promise.

Principle 2 - The law is of a lesser order than the promise
The law was because of transgression - v19. We're not told immediately why - though the common answer of 'to show Israel they were sinful' seems dubious to me - their sin was pretty apparent and obvious, and sin is better revealed by encountering Yahweh, though there is Romans 7:7.
The law was until Christ came, from 430 years after Abraham. A temporary measure between about 1400BC and Christ. The law came from Yahweh via Angels to Moses to the people. The promise was made from the Father to his Son. Yahweh is doing two things, and it's clear that in terms of purpose, duration and delivery, the law is lesser than the promise.

Principle 3 - The law and promise aren't two ways to do the same thing
The law doesn't give life. If Yahweh wanted a law that could give life then he could have done that, but he didn't. Life comes in the promise. Yahweh is doing two different things here.
Law is for transgression v19
Law is to imprison v22 until Christ.
Law is to imprison v23 until Christ.
Law is a guardian v24 until Christ.

Question - how did the law imprison and guard those to whom it was given?
The law made Israel distinctive. Imagine they come out of Egypt to Sinai and then Yahweh doesn't give the law - whether it's commands or the tabernacle which will make them distinctive as a people with whom Yahweh is present. Think what happened with the law - the golden calf, marrying other nations and following their gods...  that's with the care of the law. Without the law by the time you get to 1800 years after Abraham there would surely be no Jewish people, they'd have merged into the nations, and where then would you find Abraham's promised offspring and know what he was about??

This makes the law a restraining influence which set the terms of Yahweh's dwelling with his people, for their preservation and distinctiveness. And to some degree it achieved this. When Jesus came there was a grammar to make sense of who he was and what he came to do, set in the context of the Jewish people.

And now?
v25-26 Christ has come, the guardian has done its job. Now by faith we, like Abraham, can all become sons of Yahweh! Adopted in Abraham. No more need for the law. It was good and helpful, a scaffolding to support and serve the promise, but now the building is complete it's obsolete. It's still Scripture - and we can learn much from seeing what Yahweh said to them then, but that doesn't mean he's directly saying to us now what he said to them then, since we are neither them or then. To adopt the law is to go 'BC' and negate and void the cross, as Paul says in Galatians 2 and Galatians 5. To adopt law is like a married person who decided to go back to "being engaged" after their wedding day...

The question remains - how then do we live? And Paul will get to that, it'll be about faith in the gospel and the work of the Spirit... about seeing again our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, of fixing our gaze upon the portrayal of the cross with faith, it'll be freeing and life-giving as the Spirit produces fruit in us. Life in the Spirit raises the bar beyond anything the law might have led us to - to a deeper, from the heart, sacrificial life of self-giving love, produced in us by the Spirit, by faith in Christ.

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