Monday, May 19, 2014

Good news for The Narcissist

The centre of the book of Galatians is the geekiest verse in the Bible. Galatians 3:16 says that promises were made to Abraham's offspring and that is not many but one. One offspring who is The Christ.

The Galatians, like Peter at Antioch, and me have fallen into a narcissistic legalism where legal standing with God and belonging to the family have become about what I do rather than these things having been fully accomplished by the gospel of the Triune God.

Paul constructs from personal testimony and from Biblical Theology at response centred on the revealed Son of the Father who is proclaimed to all peoples (1:15-16), the crucified Son of the Father who loved me and gave himself for me, who brings those from all peoples into the blessedness of the Triune life as adopted Spirit-filled Sons of the Father.

The difference between a self-centred life and finding your life in the life of the Triune God is bigger than the difference between thinking the sun orbits the earth and how things actually are.

A promise was made to Abraham for his offspring, in truth a promise from the Father to his Son, the Christ. This promise is made in a Universe of unchangeable covenants and inheriting sons. What's signed can't be changed.

But that raises a huge question in Biblical Theology. Around 2000BC a promise is made to Abraham and this is the gospel that in Abraham's one offspring all the peoples of the world will be invited out of curse into blessing. But, 430 years later God gives the 10 Commandments and a whole lot more law to Israel. What is that? A change of plan? A different way to all that God gives? A rival plan?

No, says Paul, its not plan B. It's something else. Something that serves the promise. Like a fridge serves an oven. For a while you don't need a fridge but the passing of time and the room temperature may mean that you temporarily need a fridge otherwise the work of the oven will be undermined.

In the Old Testament we need to get from Abraham to an identifiable Christ who will be one of us and who will give himself in love for us, in a way that is meaningful and effective.

The law will help! It's a good gift.

For 430 years we have a family in Canaan and then a large ethnic group contained in Goshen. The Exodus sets a million people free to interact with the peoples of the world and their gods. And they rapidly start intermarrying and following new gods (See The Book of Judges). The law restrains this a little, but there's still only a remnant 1500 years later. Yet a remnant. An identifiable people are preserved so that Matthew can trace a line from Abraham to David to the Exile to Jesus the Christ... and indeed a further 2000 years later people can still count themselves among the descendants of Abraham. The outward life-style markers of the law identify the people as different to the other peoples. It makes them look a bit like God, a community with care for the fatherless, the widow and the orphan. Holy as he is holy.

The law isn't mostly about ethics, mostly its about the tabernacle and then helps us to interpret the cross of Christ, to understand about curses and curse-bearing substitutes. Together these things mean there can be an identifiable Christ who can have a curse bearing death and so bring the peoples of the world into the blessing of being filled with the Holy Spirit, legally adopted into the family of the God who loves the fatherless.

Once the Christ comes the law isn't need to lock up the people. They don't need a guardian to keep them distinctive. No such law is needed to mark them out any more. Righteousness was always by faith in the promise and for a time it came with certain ethnic markers about ethics and the tabernacle.

The law is still very precious Scripture but it's purpose as a guardian/prison has been completed.

Can any book interpret the cross better than Leviticus?    As Hebrews shows the grammar of the gospel come from the law (see also Gal 3:10-14). 

Can any book tell better a story of rescue to beautiful relationship more than Exodus? Etc. What was said to them then for that time still describes a life lived like the Triune God, but not as command to them or us now. The Spirit bears fruit that fills up what the law describes and will far exceed it for all who repent and believe the gospel.

Any people of any of the peoples who hear with faith after Christ came will be people adopted into the life of the Son and filled with the Spirit. 

Anyone from any people who looks to the Christ receives the Spirit of the Son. 

The greater law of Christ, the promise of the one offspring, will lead those in union with Christ to be crucified with Christ, living by faith in the resurrected Son, pursuing the desires of the Spirit, sowing to his ways. Maturing not by outward signs but mature by repenting and believing the gospel of the Son.

Fallen humanity is expert at curving in on themselves. Giving us things to do is exactly what we like, but that just feeds the flesh and makes things worse. The cure is the gospel. Hear with faith. Look and live. The cure is Christ, the one to whom the promise is made. Get in him and freely share in all his life. Come to the Father, anointed with the Spirit exactly as the Son does, crying "Abba!"


  1. Good word, Dave. I've been studying law and gospel for years, and I'm still learning about the relationship. Thanks for helping me continue to learn on the topic.

  2. Thanks Milton. Some how we can draw together a picture from various texts. The Galatians angle seems very helpful - but then there is more work to do in Hebrews, Romans, the Sermon on the Mount and other places to build a full picture of a New Testament read on the law.