Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Are Christians Still Under the Mosaic Law?

Concerning Eph 2:14-15:

The International Critical Commentary on Ephesians and Colossians (T. K. Abbott) has this to say:

"The Mosaic law as such, not merely certain aspects of it, has come to an end in Christ. He is the 'end of the law,' Rom 10:4. Faith having come, we are no longer hUPO PAIDAGWGON" (page 64).

Abbott adds:

"NOMOS here is not to be limited to the ceremonial law; there is nothing in the connexion to show such a limitation, which on the contrary, would make the statement very weak . . . The moral law retains its obligation, not, however, because the Jewish law is only partially annulled, but because its obligation was independent of the law and universal (Rom 2:14)" (64-65).

He goes on to show that Christians now fulfill the "moral law" of the Mosaic Code since a life governed by the spirit is in direct conformity with the moral precepts of the ancient Jewish Law mediated by Moses. Abbott makes an astute observation when he also notes the Pauline contrast between works of law and fruit
of the spirit. We also do well to recall the apostle's words found at Gal 5:18: "Furthermore, if you are being led by spirit, you are not under law" (EI DE PNEUMATI AGESQE OUK ESTE hUPO NOMON).

If THN EXQRAN is in apposition to NOMON TWN ENTOLWN EN DOGMASIN, which I think it is, then Eph 2:14-15
indicates that the entire Mosaic Code was made inoperative via the death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I must therefore reject R. Schnackenburg's suggestion (The Epistle to the Ephesians. T & T Clark: Edinburgh, 1991) when he contends that only the ceremonial aspects of the Law were abolished by means of Christ's death. Paul, on the other hand, clearly teaches that Christians are not under Law, but serve God under the loving assurance of His manifested and benevolent unmerited kindness (Rom 6:14-15).

Richard Longenecker (in his Word commentary on Galatians) likewise writes that Paul delivers the 'coup de grace' to the Judaizers whom he theologically opposes since he teaches that the Law "no longer has validity as a PAIDAGWGOS regulating the life of [Christian] faith" (149). No longer are Jewish precepts (moral or ceremonial) required for Christian faith. So Longenecker observes, when commenting on Galatians 3:25.

I find that James Dunn also has to concede this point in some way, namely, that Paul teaches the Law has been fulfilled and rendered inoperative through Christ. While he apparently wants to avoid a type of dualism that is evidently posited by Lutherans, Dunn has to treat Paul's letter to the Romans with a certain amount of scholastic integrity. He thus believes that the traditional antithesis between law and grace (undeserved kindness) can withstand scrutiny, but "not in the overdrawn terms of the classic Lutheran formulation" (Romans 1-8. Dallas: Word Books, 1988, pp. 340-341).

Regardless of how Dunn exegetes Rom 6:14-15 and other such texts, I think the Pauline teaching on Law is quite clear: Christians are no longer bound by the Torah, although they conduct lives in harmony with its moral precepts. Paul wrote: "So, my brothers, you also were made dead to the Law through the body of the Christ, that you might become another's, the one who was raised up from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God" (Rom 7:4).


"For Christ is the end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness" (Rom 10:4).

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