Thursday, October 13, 2011

Christ Came to Enable Obedience

Paul’s Jewish opponents did not really understand the nature of the Christian gospel. They heard Paul preaching grace instead of the law, but they concluded on the basis of this that Christianity was lawless or anomian, that it was anti-torah (Rom 6:1, 15). But this was to fail to understand the way in which the early Christians firmly saw the gospel as being the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the new covenant, at the heart of which was the idea that God would enable the covenant obedience of his people as part of the new covenant.

By way of example:
“And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you might live” (Deut 30:6);
“But the word will be very near you. It will be in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Deut 30:14);
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Yahweh: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33);
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek 36:26–27).
Hence, Paul’s teaching in Rom 6 that union with Christ involves the believer becoming a slave to righteousness. In other words, Christ enables the obedience of God’s people. Paul understood that the law of Moses was given historically in order to bind Israel under sin, intensifying the consequences of the trespass of Adam; “but where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom 5:20). And with this increase of grace, Christians “have been set free from sin, and have become slaves to God”; and the end result of the sanctification that comes with such obedience is eternal life (Rom 6:22).

Christ came not only to make full atonement for sin, but also to enable the covenant obedience of God’s people. Far from being a license to sin, grace in Christ includes the Spirit-enabled obedience of God’s people.

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