Friday, January 15, 2010
Paul and the Law in Redemptive-History
Over at Berith Road, Steven Coxhead has an interesting post on Justification by Works of Law in Pauline Perspective. I enjoyed teaching on this subject since I find that most undergraduate students have a default understanding of the law that is quasi-Marcionite. I often set an exam question, "According to Paul, is the law a bad thing that has been done away with, or a good thing that has been fulfilled?" I categorically reject the idea that the Mosaic law is a republication of a covenant of works and it has to be related positively to the Abrahamic covenant (as Coxhead notes). In my view, the purpose of the law was to be a temporary administration of God's grace to govern God's people until the promised seed of Abraham came, to cocoon God's promises around Israel and to protract Israel's capacity to worship God, to point out the reality of sin and the holiness of God, and to intimate the ministries of the Christ. Thus the law was guardian to lead God's people until Christ and to lead them to Christ. Still, Paul can also identify the law as part of an unholy triad comprising of law-sin-death. The law is also bound up with the old age that is passing away and is not the instrument that will ultimately realize the fulfllment of the Abrahamic promises.