Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Apostle Paul's Law versus Gospel Contrast: A Response to John Thomson

This is a response to comments made by John Thomson to my post entitled “The Gospel of Paul and the Old Testament Prophets.”

Thanks, John. Very good comments.

“Does the OT preach the gospel?” Yes, definitely, and most Reformed folks do believe that it was through faith in this gospel promised beforehand that Old Testament believers were justified. I’m not suggesting that they don’t believe that. We need to keep in mind though that the Old Testament gospel was communicated to the Old Testament saints through the torah of Moses and the prophets. As the saints of old oriented themselves positively with respect to torah, they were positively oriented to the gospel promised in torah.

Yes, you are right to point out that the gospel for Paul, as evidenced from Rom 1:3-4, centers on the enthronement of Jesus as the Christ. I don’t think, however, that Paul is limiting the gospel to just the humiliation and exaltation of the Messiah. I think that in his view the humiliation and exaltation of the Messiah lies at the heart of the gospel prophesied in the Old Testament; but at the same time I find it hard to believe that Paul would not have accepted the full Old Testament view of the gospel, which includes the consequences of the work of the Messiah for God’s people and the world as an important part of the gospel.

I agree that the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament is one of both continuity and discontinuity. Indeed, I am suggesting to my Presbyterian and Reformed brothers that we need to think more about the discontinuity that exists between the Old and New Testaments. I’m actually saying that Paul was arguing about the discontinuity between the old covenant in Moses and the new covenant in Christ. But I do not find the discontinuity in an anthropological distinction of law/works versus gospel/faith, but in the difference of the medium and the content of old covenant versus new covenant revelation.

I agree wholeheartedly that the gospel is the divinely-authorized message that proclaims the righteousness of God, which is the eschatological righteousness that God would accomplish through the Messiah. Your comments regarding the righteousness of God are very good in my view.

I agree wholeheartedly that there is discontinuity with the coming of the righteousness of God. The nuni de of Rom 3:21 is definitely an eschatological but now. With the resurrection of Christ, the age of the new covenant has begun. It is possible, therefore, to talk about the old covenant age as one of law, and the new covenant age as one of gospel. So I liked most of your list of contrasts: the old age contrasts with the new age, law with gospel, condemnation with justification, death with life. However, I would not contrast human righteousness with God’s righteousness, but rather human unrighteousness with God's righteousness. I would also not contrast works with faith in an anthropological way, but rather (the) works (of the Mosaic law) with faith (in Christ) in a salvation-historical, covenantal way.

But in saying that there is a law versus gospel contrast, we need to understand that that the Old Testament concept of eschatological torah is fulfilled in the gospel. From the Old Testament perspective, the law continues into the new covenant age, and the righteousness of God involves Christ pouring out his Spirit to bring God’s people back to a true keeping of torah. Paul understood this, as Rom 2:14-15, 26-29; 6:17-18; 7:6; 8:2-8 show. The righteousness of God is not just what God did in Christ in isolation from what Christ is doing in his people. From the Old Testament perspective, what God has done and is doing in Christ includes the circumcision of the heart of his people and the new obedience that follows as a result.

Paul’s contrast, therefore, is a covenantal contrast, not an anthropological one. The works of the law versus faith contrast in Paul is old covenant (un)righteousness defined in terms of faithfulness to Moses versus new covenant righteousness defined in terms of faithfulness to Messiah. To say that Paul is introducing an anthropological distinction between faith and works (which is a distinction that is foreign to the Old Testament) ends up making him contradict the Old Testament. Furthermore, the historical issue of the day was not legalism, but a zeal for the law of Moses that did not recognize the lordship of Jesus, which brought the age of the Mosaic law to an end (Rom 10:2-4), i.e., the historical issue of the day was the orthodox Jewish and Christian Judaizers' zeal for the Mosaic covenant instead of the new covenant in Christ.

15 comments:

John Thomson said...

Steven

Thanks again for the blog. Here are a few responses, challenges and questions.

'I find it hard to believe that Paul would not have accepted the full Old Testament view of the gospel, which includes the consequences of the work of the Messiah for God’s people and the world as an important part of the gospel.'

Totally agree.

'From the Old Testament perspective, the law continues into the new covenant age, and the righteousness of God involves Christ pouring out his Spirit to bring God’s people back to a true keeping of torah. Paul understood this, as Rom 2:14-15, 26-29; 6:17-18; 7:6; 8:2-8 show. The righteousness of God is not just what God did in Christ in isolation from what Christ is doing in his people.'

I agree with this. Though I would nuance how we 'keep torah'. we keep torah by being delivered from torah into the new Age of the Spirit where the essence of all torah strained for is fulfilled in life in Christ and the Spirit. Paradoxically we can only keep torah by being delivered from the realm in which torah has authority.(Roms 8:4-6) This, I take it is an insight of NT revelation unforeseen in the OT.

'I would also not contrast works with faith in an anthropological way, but rather (the) works (of the Mosaic law) with faith (in Christ) in a salvation-historical, covenantal way.'

Here disagreement lies.

a) I see an anthropological distinction embedded in the two covenants. The Law covenant I understand to be a covenant based on the principle of works (this do and live) while by contrast the NC is based on the principle of grace (I will write my law on their hearts).
b) I think that Paul speaks of 'works' not only in terms of salvation-history but in an a-historical sense. 'Works' is shorthand for any attempt to gain righteousness by self-effort, that is to 'justify oneself' and is not tied exclusively to the covenant. Romans 4 which we have discussed previously seems persuasive.

The Roms 4 quotation from Gen 15:6 precedes the covenant and consciously does so (4:10,11). In addition, it makes a general principle re works that transcends the historically particular (4:4). Its point is clear, ‘works’ credited is a wage not a gift. If it is a ‘work’ it is a due, it is merited. By contrast, if it is ‘faith’ it is unmerited. The difference seems anthropological, absolute and a-historical. Paul goes to great lengths to deny faith any merit. Abraham believed in a God who justifies the ungodly, the wicked. These are forceful words. Abraham’s faith is, for Paul, a confession he is ungodly, not an expression of his righteousness. Faith is not a ‘right’ that ‘righteouses’. Faith credits what is undeserved; it is a gracious crediting. Faith understood as ‘faithfulness’ makes no sense here. Anything that smacks of ‘works’ is an excuse for boasting before God which God will not allow.

Compare
Eph 2:8-9 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


In addition Paul cites the faith of David as justifying where his works would condemn.

Rom 4:6 (ESV)
just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

By all the demands of the Law David ought to die. He ought to be punished. If righteousness rested on David’s ‘works’ he had no righteousness. David’s righteousness depends on grace. He trusts in a God who justifies apart from the Law, apart from ‘works’; he is justified by faith. Here again we see the faith/works divide is not simply a problem of transition between two ages. It is not that of a generation clinging on to commitment to Moses instead of yielding to commitment to Christ. The issue is anthropological. Does David’s justification lie in faith or works.

In my view Paul is not paralleling Jewish exegetes but opposing them. He sees no merit in faith.

John Thomson said...

'Furthermore, the historical issue of the day was not legalism, but a zeal for the law of Moses that did not recognize the lordship of Jesus, which brought the age of the Mosaic law to an end (Rom 10:2-4), i.e., the historical issue of the day was the orthodox Jewish and Christian Judaizers' zeal for the Mosaic covenant instead of the new covenant in Christ.'

It is I think difficult to be dogmatic about the precise nature of the historical conflict, however, given the comments above I clearly do think that legalism was a big feature in C1 Judaism. Probably it was a semi-Pelagian legalism, viewing righteousness as the result of being a member of the covenant by grace (possibly merited grace) plus covenantal obedience or adherence to the works of law to sustain this covenant position. These twin aspects that Paul alludes to in Roms 2

Rom 2:17 (ESV)
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God

However, much of the above I have I think already said and so I am covering old ground. I wonder if I can move the discussion on a bit by asking some questions.

If as you say Steven, Jewish non-Christians miss Christ altogether because of a 'zeal for the mosaic covenant' (and I agree) what in concrete terms what does this mean? Is this not another way of saying a commitment to Law-keeping blinded them to Christ? Properly understood, the law ought to have led them to Christ? If it didn’t, why not? Is the essence of their sin not therefore, like the Pharisee in Lk 18,who ‘trusted in himself that he was righteous' ? Is Paul not implicitly criticising them when he says they ‘rely on the law’?

How are we to understand Christ’s criticism of self-righteousness in the Pharisees? What blinded Paul to Christ? Why in some is blamelessness before the Law a positive thing and for others zeal for the Law is virtually a pejorative term?

What does Paul mean when he writes: Rom 3:20 (ESV) For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. There is no suggestion that only ‘now’ is no-one justified by Law. The argument of Ch 1:18-3:20 is that viewed historically there is none righteous, whether without Law or with Law.

Why does Paul not use the categories of ‘faithfulness to the Law’ and ‘faithfulness to Christ’ and instead say ‘the Law is not of faith’ ? Why does he juxtapose ‘grace and works’ in Roms 10 if both function by the same principle?

John Thomson said...

Secondly, the Christian Judaizers argue for Christ plus the Mosaic covenant. I agree? So why is Paul so ferociously opposed to this? Why will he not allow Law (covenant) any place in the gospel (covenant)? His concern seems much more than that this covenant is past, the covenant itself comes in for heavy criticism. The covenant was damning.

What is Paul meaning when he says

Gal 3:10 (Darby)
For as many as are on the principle of works of law are under curse. For it is written, Cursed is every one who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;

What are we to make of his language in Phil 3

Phil 3:2-9 (ESV)
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh- though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-

The Judaizers are not dealt with sympathetically. They are ‘dogs’, ‘evildooers’ who ‘glory in the flesh’. Judaism is not looked on favourably either. It is about, ‘confidence in the flesh’, ‘a righteousness of my own’.

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, John, once again for your thoughts. I’ll respond here to your first comment.

I would nuance a little what you said about keeping torah. We (Gentiles Christians) keep torah by the law being written on the heart, having been delivered from sin in Adam through union with Christ. Jewish Christians are actually the ones who have to be delivered from the law (of Moses) in addition to being delivered from sin in Adam. The law was added to increase the trespass (Rom 5:20). The law in question here is the law of Moses.

Likewise in Rom 7:6:

“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

The we there is referring to Jews (see 7:1). Israel was under the law; the Gentiles weren’t strictly speaking bound by the law of Moses (but it did have something to say to them—Rom 3:19).

In relation to torah, in Rom 8:2 Paul speaks of two laws, two kinds of torah. One (i.e., the law of Moses) brings death, whereas the other (namely, new covenant torah) brings life. Torah in the heart always brings life. The issue is which torah does that comprehensively: the law of Moses or the gospel?

The term works can mean obedience in general or the works of the (Mosaic) law, depending on the context. My view is that works in Rom 4 is shorthand for the works of the law. Romans 4:2 (which only mentions works) picks up the language of works in Rom 3:27-28. Notice how works in 3:27 becomes works of the law in 3:28. They are interchangeable terms here. So if works is shorthand for the works of the law in Rom 4, there is a strong covenantal dimension to Paul’s argument. You have to read Rom 4 in the wider context.

In a similar way, the language of works and boasting in Eph 2:9 sounds very similar to what Paul argues in Romans. It is not surprising to find, therefore, a very strong Jew versus Gentile dimension in Ephesians (see 2:11-19). According to Eph 2:14-16 Jesus ended the rule of the Mosaic covenant on the cross, the very covenant that kept Jew and non-Jew separate. Works in such a context has to do with the works of the law.

I accept on a covenantal level that the old covenant can be viewed as an “experiment” to see how Israel did (effectively left to her own resources). Her failure to do then leads God to do it for us, but part of doing it for us is by circumcising our heart so that in the end we might also do. So you can contrast Israel’s doing with God’s doing, but all the same “do this and live” still applies under the new covenant (see Rom 8:13 as a classic example).

You say that David had no righteousness according to the law, but the answer is not that easy. God in 1 Kgs 14:8 says he did. Paul’s quote from Ps 32 also needs to be read in the context of Ps 32. That psalm is talking about the blessedness of the person “in whose spirit there is no deceit” (v. 2). We need to consider what is meant by that language. Here I think it is suggesting that the confession of sin lies at the heart of covenant obedience. According to v. 6, such confession is actually a prayer that the godly make (not the ungodly), and a mark of those who are righteous and upright in heart (v. 11). Your understanding of how Paul uses Ps 32 in Rom 4 has left out the original context of the psalm. I don’t think Paul would have treated the psalm in that way. Psalm 32 views the blessing of forgiveness as being upon the godly (who confess their sins).

Sure, David was a sinner deserving of death, but God stepped in (accepting the death of David’s son in his place). This arrangement may have been beyond the bounds of the Mosaic law ordinarily considered, but it still took place within the framework of the covenant relationship that existed at the time. It was an arrangement mediated to him by an Old Testament prophet, and hence part of torah revelation.

John Thomson said...

Steven

Agree that Gentiles not under Law. Point well made. There are other points here I agree with but shall focus on those I question.

Re Roms 8:2 I think 'law' there probably means 'principle' as I think it probably does also in 3:27. However, in Roms 8 principle or law is fairly unimportant for he is certainly teaching that the Spirit led life fulfils the law as you say. Though if we ask how it does so then we have to radically rewrite the laws of torah, however, that is another matter.

Ps 32 I read against the background of David's sin with Bathsheba involving adultery and murder - both sins for which the law demanded death. It was in this context meant David was guilty before the Law. Having said that the verses in 1 Kings are difficult to understand, not least against the background of his sin.

I think Paul uses Psalm 32 because the psalm is using imputation language. David is patently guilty but God does not reckon his sin, not because of David's law-righteousness but because of his faith. David believes God forgives. This he learns from the Law (though as I say, the law had no sacrifices for murder or adultery as David acknowledges in Ps 51). Paul's point is that David is justified by faith, not works, for his works condemned him.
By the way any insights on what constituted intentional and unintentional sin I would be interested to hear.

'Torah in the heart always brings life. The issue is which torah does that comprehensively: the law of Moses or the gospel?'

In my view OT Torah never gives life. It cannot justify. That is not to say that none in the OT had life and righteousness, simply that they did not receive it through Law, Law that is as a principle.

I agree obedience is vital in the NC but the point is it is not impossibly demanded as in law but graciously supplied by the Spirit. The weakness of Law is its inability to be kept and so justify and bring life - ever.

Despite differences, I appreciate you taking time to respond Steven. Thanks for reflections.

Steven Coxhead said...

This is a response to John’s second comment above.

Yes, I think we must say from a Christian perspective that the common Jewish commitment to the law of Moses got in the way of many of the Jews coming to Christ. The same applies today. Properly understood, the law clearly points to Christ; but ironically a growing covenant consciousness on the part of Israel post-exile actually led them to reject the Messiah in the name of keeping faith with Moses.

I hold that Jewish zeal for the law of Moses was a good thing provided that it was zeal with knowledge. For those of old covenant Israel who were zealous for the law in the right way, the law of Moses was genuinely the way of life. What I object to, coming from an Old Testament perspective, is that we Protestants generally think that salvation in the Old Testament age had nothing to do with keeping torah. We import a kind of Lutheran or semi-Lutheran understanding of Paul back into the Old Testament, and say that back then it was by faith alone and had nothing to do with keeping the law. Where does Moses ever teach that what was required of Israel was faith apart from works? The whole of the book of Deuteronomy is: “You have to keep the law. The law must be on your heart. The law/word of God in your heart is your life and salvation.”

Micah summarizes it well:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8).

The Old Testament concept of faith was holistic. They viewed faith as walking in the way of torah.

Regarding Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees, please consider what Jesus says in Matt 5. Jesus doesn’t say to them, “You are wrong for thinking that salvation comes through the law. You idiots, everyone knows that we are saved by faith, not through the law.” Jesus simply does not say that! Instead he talks just like an Old Testament prophet, calling for a proper commitment to torah:

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19-20).

Jesus does not denigrate law righteousness. He calls for a proper righteousness, for a proper keeping of the law, which involves keeping it from the heart, not just externally. Who is the wise person? The one who hears Jesus’ words and does them (Matt 7:24). Hear, do, and live! But instead of Mosaic torah, it is now Messianic torah, hence the significance of “but I say to you”!

I’ll do a post on Rom 3:20. I don’t think it has been translated correctly. In the meantime, what I believe Paul is saying is that obedience to the Mosaic law (i.e., the Mosaic covenant) was not able to bring eschatological justification to all flesh. In saying this, he is not denying the possibility of righteousness according to the law on the level of the covenant for particular individuals, otherwise he would be contradicting the Old Testament. Abraham kept torah (Gen 26:5). David kept torah (1 Kgs 14:8). The author of Ps 119 kept torah. The community represented by the poetic voice in Ps 44 kept covenant with God (Ps 44:17-18). Zacharias and Elizabeth were blameless in doing torah (Luke 1:6). The Old Testament and the New Testament both teach that there was a faithful remnant in Israel that was righteous according to the law (i.e., according to the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant), but it wasn't able to bring the fullness of blessing and salvation to them, let alone the whole world, in and of itself.

Steven Coxhead said...

Personally I do think that Paul would have been easier to understand if he had spoken about Mosaic faith versus Christian faith. If he had, Christians could have avoided lots of arguing. Maybe that is why Peter says what he does in 2 Pet 3:16. Paul is difficult to understand, but he speaks the way he does because he is talking in the way that a Jewish rabbi might, designating salvation historical epochs by the key terms found in Scripture that are used in relation to these epochs. The more we understand Paul as the Jewish rabbi that he was trained to be, the closer we come to understanding him.

Regarding his language of grace, the mechanism of salvation by the law/word of God being on the heart doesn’t change in the crossover of the old to the new, but there is greater grace in the new covenant that Paul just calls grace. It’s a typical black-and-white Jewish way of talking! We need to fill in the grey in the wider context of Scripture.

John Thomson said...

Steven

I suppose what I want to insist on about OT justification is that it is rooted in gospel faith and then expressed in covenant keeping fed from a constant trust in God. Not in this sense unlike NT faith.

I want to keep the 'obedience of faith' together but distinct.

I fear that you may conflate these to a point that you are in danger of distinguishing distinctions for which NT writers contend.

John

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi John,

If that distinction is so important for salvation, why wasn't it made clear to the Old Testament saints?

For argument's sake, let's say that such a distinction doesn't exist in the NT. What would be the negative consequences of this in your view?

John Thomson said...

Steven

That's a good question and gets to the nub of the issue. I think where faith and obedience are conflated the natural instinct of the human heart reveals itself - legalism. I have little trouble believing that Judaism was legalistic because I think the human heart is always inclined to think it can earn righteousness. Its default sin is legalism. It believes it can impress God and that is the hubris and boasting that God will not allow.

Steven Coxhead said...

From my (more Old Testament) point of view, justification on the level of the covenant is simply God’s acknowledgment that a particular person has kept covenant with him. Keeping covenant with God can only take place as God’s revelation is received into the heart. The revelation that was given to Israel was the torah of Moses and the prophets. In principle, the totality of this had to accepted. This “total” acceptance of the word of God is what the Old Testament calls אמונה, which we traditionally translate as faith. The point that I am making is that OT faith was directed to torah considered as a whole. As the psalmist says: “I believe in your commandments” (Ps 119:66). It’s not as if faith was only directed towards the promissory parts of torah.

I agree that pride is a common sin. Not sure how universal legalism is. From my experience living in China and Vietnam for a while, the concept of earning righteousness in the face of a creator god isn’t the way most people think.

I note that the Old Testament deals with pride, not by asserting justification by faith rather than works, but through teaching emphasizing the righteous character of God, and also the idea that it is not because of our own righteousness that we enjoy salvation and blessing. Deuteronomy 9:4-6 is very clear on this. Yet, at the same time, obedience was a condition for inheriting the land (Deut 8:1), and also for staying in it.

It’s possible to be zealous in keeping the law, and still be humble. In fact, from the Old Testament perspective, walking humbly with your God is a big part of what it means to keep torah (Mic 6:8). The call for a true (i.e., humble) keeping of torah was the antidote to legalism that was used by Moses and Jesus. Is that now no longer a valid argument?

John Thomson said...

Steven

Walking humbly before God is an expression of faith and only possible by faith. It is an attitude of trust that looks to God to supply all grace. The OT is full of the language of trust. Consider the Psalms. In the NT all the exploits of God's people in the OT for which they are commended are exploits of faith. And faith is not in the first instance faithfulness. It is as its linguistic equivalents demonstrate 'believing' 'trusting'. I believe it is this above all Paul is stressing is the problem with Judaism. Yes it was nationalistic and needed to see this itself was sinful pride but it was also legalistic. Even 'grace' carried for them the idea of being merited if we are to believe the scholars. Paul will have none of this. Hubris in paternity and performance were anathema.

Rom 9:7-16 (ESV)
and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad-in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls- she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Notice although the context of Romans is works of the law here again as in Roms 4 Paul is concerned to widen the scope and show he is speaking of 'works' per se, as an example of human effort and self-reliance. Works play in part in God's choice of Jacob over Esau (both before law). More 'works' is defined as 'human will or exertion'. It is entirely of grace. It is entirely dependent on the God who shows mercy.

This is why the Pharisee is rejected and the taxcollector (the sinner) accepted or justified. The Pharisee rested his case with God on his performance whereas the taxcollector rested his case on God's mercy.

Of course the remnant in the OT and christians in the NT (called believers) are not always distinguishing these aspects. John in his epistles sees authenticity holistically as belief and behaviour (truth, command, and love. These are interacting.

James will pastorally stress justification by works when antinomian tendencies are the case. Paul will stress faith where Judaistic tendencies are the problem (which as you know I still regrad as legalistic).

I struggle for example to know what to make of my Roman Catholic friends who place emphasis on their works.
God knows his own.

It is up to us however to keep the clarity of the gospel.

Steven, I feel I am monopolising your blog and often in ways that are challenging what you write and therefore are likely to test the most patient of people.

You show great patience. I think I will look in for a while and not comment. I feel others need a chance to engage. But keep blogging. God bless.

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, John.

Yes, I take it that works in Rom 9:11 is broader than the works of the law. As a "good" Presbyterian, I do believe in unconditional election, and that is effectively what Paul is talking about in Rom 9:11. Sometimes works means obedience in general, but often in Paul it means specifically the works of the (Mosaic) law. Context must be our guide.

sujomo said...

You write: “I agree that the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament is one of both continuity and discontinuity. Indeed, I am suggesting to my Presbyterian and Reformed brothers that we need to think more about the discontinuity that exists between the Old and New Testaments. I’m actually saying that Paul was arguing about the discontinuity between the old covenant in Moses and the new covenant in Christ. But I do not find the discontinuity in an anthropological distinction of law/works versus gospel/faith, but in the difference of the medium and the content of old covenant versus new covenant revelation.”

You have published in WTJ some of your thoughts, particularly in interacting with Calvin. So far in the posts and comments you have been referring to Paul and him reading the OT as a rabbi who has seen the light re fulfilment in the promised Messiah. You have also referred to Peter referring to Paul re ‘things hard to understand in him’. If you have the time, can you please comment on the rest of the NT, specifically Hebrews.

I understand that in Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews that he is struggling with the OT. He is aware that a law-gospel dichotomy is not correct. He struggles, I think, in describing the relationship of the righteous or covenant faithful to God in terms of the language of the canon as a whole.

Is it significant that Hebrews, like Deuteronomy, refers to God’s Word internalised in the heart as well as having has several ‘warning’ passages.

If you have the time, could you do a post on Hebrews?

Cheers, sujomo

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, Sujomo.

I'll give Hebrews some thought.