Monday, July 16, 2007

Christians and the OT law

Fee and Stuart do a fine job of explaining the role of the Old Testament Law in the life of the Christian. “All of the Old Testament law is still the Word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us.” Though a fine distinction, this upholds the importance of scripture while acknowledging that not everything applies specifically to us. They also explain what is “explicitly renewed from the Old Testament law can be considered part of the New Testament ‘law of Christ.’” This includes the Ten Commandments and the commandments from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

Jesus showed respect toward the law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt 5:17). The law was valid, but he was the fulfillment. Its purpose was to point us to the savior according to Paul in Galatians 3:24. We are not bound by the ritual aspects of it today, since it has already done its work in our hearts.

The primary role of the law is to show neediness for “through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom 3:20).

When human achievement is measured against what God requires, there is no place for pride or boasting but only for silence that lends consent to the verdict of guilty….How startling it is to contemplate the fact that the best revelation man has apart from Christ only deepens his awareness of failure.

Martin Luther emphasized the positive aspects of the Ten Commandments in his Small Catechism. Concerning the Sabbath he wrote, “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise God’s Word or preaching, but instead keep that Word holy and gladly hear and learn it.” An article in A Survey of the Old Testament stated, “Finally, this love for God that prompts obedience to his commandments marks the true child of God (I John 5:1-5).”

Regarding Paul’s letter to the Romans:

In describing the law as that which brings the knowledge of sin (3.21), works wrath (4.15), increases transgression (5.20), stands opposed to grace (5.20–21; 6.14), and so

on, Paul was preparing the ground for the startling declaration in 7.4: “My friends, you have been put to death with respect to the law.”

In Galatians 3, Paul describes the purpose and temporariness of the law. “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come” (Gal 3:19). Verse twenty-three explains the law’s function to “hold us prisoner, locking us up until Christ should be revealed.”

Paul’s view of the law was not completely negative. In Romans, Paul teaches that the law is holy and spiritual (Rom 7:12, 14). He relates the law to the inception of the church in Galatians 4:21-5:1 and as a guide for the church’s daily life, because of how Christ effected the law.

1 Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 169.


3 Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 39-40.

4 Timothy J. Wengert, Luther’s Small Catechism: A contemporary translation (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 197.

5 L. Goss and J. Ruark, eds., A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 87.

6 Moyer V. Hubbard, New Creation in Paul’s Letters and Thought (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 104.

7 Frank A. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 467.

The Bible. New International Version.

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