Friday, April 30, 2010

The Law, Eschatology and Christ

An excellent quote from Jason Meyer's The End of the Law:
Paul conceives the Mosaic (old) covenant as fundamentally non-eschatological in contrast to the eschatological nature of the new covenant. Paul declares that the Mosaic covenant is not old because it belongs to the old age, whereas the new covenant is new because it belongs to the new eschatological age. This distinction has determinative effects. The old age is transitory and impotent, and therefore the Mosaic covenant is both transitory and ineffectual. The new covenant is both eternal and effectual because it belongs to the new age and partakes of the power of the new age, the Holy Spirit.
Another way to state the difference is as follows. As the eschatological covenant, the new covenant consists of what one would call "eschatological intervention," while the old covenant does not. God intervenes through His Spirit in the new eschatological age in order to create what He calls the new covenant. The Mosaic covenant lacked the power to produce what it demanded. (p.1-2)
A couple of thoughts:
(1) While this synthesis draws together a whole number of Paul's works and sections within them, it clearly stands out in Galatians. Moises Silva has said that the key to understanding Galatians is eschatology. Bruce Longenecker's work The Triumph of Abraham's God makes the same basic point. In Galatians, Paul clearly sees the Mosaic Law as temporary. He set apart obedience to the Mosaic Law from fulfillment of the promise with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is clearly eschatology that is at work. 

Paul's focus though is to go back to the Abrahamic covenant as the root of the this eschatology. So that the climax of the age, Paul in Galatians does not mention the new covenant directly but the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (which is clearly in the New Covenant). 

For Paul the role of the Law is temporary until (eis) faith--Paul uses "faith" towards the end of chapter three as a metonymy for 'Christ' or for the object of faith. When Paul speaks of the Law being a tutor, he is not speaking of the role of the Law prior to an individuals salvation but rather the redemptive-historical role of the Law prior to the fulfillment that comes in Christ.

(2) It seems to me that this eschatological structure and the role of the Law is found similarly in Hebrews.  Clearly the Mosaic covenant (the old covenant) is the first covenant that leads to transgression. Those transgression committed by the first covenant must be removed (almost in a similar argument as Galatians 3:10-14). The new covenant is the eschatological and therefore is both a climax and a fulfillment.

Hebrews is clearly all about eschatology. The fulfillment comes in the "once for all time" work of Christ which sets aside all that which belongs to the 'shadow' and sub-eschatological. Hebrews also in its eschatology sees the eternal fulfilled in the new covenant, again Vos is strongest here.

(3) Of course, Scripture never sets aside ethical behavior result from the Spirit which is having the Law written on our hearts. But these changes the role of the Law. The first covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant. Yet it is clear that the outward working of the Law in kosher foods, feasts & holy days, circumcision and the sacrificial system are all set aside as matters that do not bind because we are no longer "under the Law."

(4) We should never under estimate the lack of actual power that the Law in itself has. The Law, according to Paul, in the end stirs up sin. This is because of the human who enters into the covenant with God through the Law not God, or the Law which is holy, righteous and good. Hebrews, too, identifies the same problem with the Law.
Hebrews 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
Hebrews assumes the first covenant has a problem and therefore we need the second one. The Law could not ultimately remove sins, furthermore the second partner in the covenant--us--could not live up to their end of the bargain, so to speak. This condition of 'having faults' is that it is the not 'perfection' that Hebrews envisions as a category of eschatology itself.

(5) The implication is the freedom we have in Christ. This freedom is not merely a personal experience that we now have in Christ, although Luther was certainly right in all this. Rather, freedom is a category of eschatology. Freedom in Christ removes the yoke of slavery to the Law as Mosaic Covenant. Those having received the adoption as Sons can live in a new way has full heir, which makes a statement over against being a 'minor' not yet of age to inherit who needs the tutor. 

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