God’s Plan: Why God Gave the Law of Moses, Part 2

We’re working through Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan. by John H. Walton.

In Christ, the covenant relationship is redefined, but the basic thrust of the covenant has not changed. Now the character of God is revealed not through legislative examples of how a godly person will act, but by God’s Son who came and lived among us. The map has been replaced by a guide. That does not make the map wrong, but a guide makes a map unnecessary. The Sinai Torah covenant had not been distinctly new in providing new laws, but adopted much of the common law into a new framework—the foundation being the revelation of God’s character in the relationship of the covenant. In the same way Christ’s coming and teaching were not distinctly new in providing different law, but again adopted a new framework—the foundation being the revelation of God in Christ in the relationship with God available through the new covenant. The Spirit of Christ indwelling us is the law in our hearts that was promised in the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:3). Obedience to Christ is the new set of stipulations in the renewed covenant. Obedience to the law of Christ satisfies the requirements of the law.

(Kindle Locations 2314-2322).

Yet if the Torah was first and foremost the revelation of a personal God rather than a code of law, it is this new revelation of a personal God which alone can enable men to understand it truly and to obey it properly. Furthermore, in Christ’s interpretation of the law, the law is seen in its best light and the spirit of the law is revealed. Yet, the statements that none of the law will pass away and that breaking of the law is a serious offense can now be appreciated as references to Christ’s authoritative interpretation of the law.

(Kindle Locations 2336-2340). If the Law of Moses is seen as primarily about God’s self-revelation, then it is obviously radically redefined and reshaped by the radically full self-revelation of God through Jesus. Since the point is to look through the Law to find God, and since we best find God in Jesus, Jesus himself becomes the true Torah.

This doesn’t make the revelation found in Torah false but incomplete and, in light of Jesus, no longer adequate. It’s the difference between seeing Yosemite in person and seeing a picture of Yosemite. The picture is not false but it cannot convey the fullness of the experience.

Walton quotes with approval N. T. Wright —

The notorious crux of  [Romans] 10:4 can, I think, be reduced to these terms: that the Torah is neither abolished as though it were bad or demonic, nor affirmed in the sense which the Jews took it. It was a good thing, given deliberately by God for a specific task and a particular period of time. When the task is done and the time is up, the Torah reaches its goal, which is also the conclusion of its intended reign, not because it was a bad thing to be abolished but because it was a good thing whose job is done…The Messiah is the fulfillment of the long purposes of Israel’s God. It was for this that Torah was given in the first place as a deliberately temporary mode of administration. In the Messiah are fulfilled the creator’s paradoxical purposes for Israel and hence for the world. He is the climax of the covenant.

(Kindle Locations 2362-2368). So what is the continuing impact of the Law? Should we study it? Is any of it binding? Is all of it binding?

Walton quotes David Dorsey —

A law reflects the mind, the personality, the priorities, the values, the likes and dislikes of the lawgiver. Each law issued by God to ancient Israel (like each declaration of God through the prophets) reflects God’s mind and ways and is therefore a theological treasure. Moreover the theological insights we gain from a particular OT law will not only enhance our knowledge and understanding of God but will also have important practical implications for our own lives if we are patterning them after our heavenly Father and modifying our behavior and thinking in response to our knowledge of him and his ways (Paul argues along these very lines in 1 Cor. 9:9–10).

(Kindle Locations 2446-2450). And so you see the importance of seeing scripture and the covenants especially as being about God’s self-revelation. As revelation of God, the Law remains true — incomplete compared to Jesus himself, but nonetheless an important source of knowledge about our God. And what could be more valuable and important than knowledge of God?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to God’s Plan: Why God Gave the Law of Moses, Part 2

  1. Charles McLean says:

    I like Dorsey’s use of the word “implications” when referring to the Law. If we can indeed get beyond our perspective of being “under” the Law, and see it from our seat with Jesus in the heavenlies, we get an “author’s perspective”, so to speak. If we can get past “does this apply to us?” and learn from it more of God’s intentions and character, it is indeed a “treasury” of insight. Why the dietary laws, for example? Because the care of our physical bodies is a legitimate exercise in stewardship. Or why the civil laws? Because not all men are godly, and the stability of society depends on its ability to protect itself from ungodliness. God wants us to live in peace, not under Darwinism. Why such a little rule as not harvesting the corners of your fields? To remind us even at harvest that it is God who is meeting our needs, and that he wants us to reveal this generosity in the earth by providing for others.

    If we see such things and ask, “Well, then how much ‘corner’ do I have to leave?” then we remain personally under law, and cannot see it from above, as our Father would have us do.

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