God’s Plan: Why God Gave the Law of Moses, Part 1

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

In chapter 10, Walton investigates the purpose of the Law of Moses. The New Testament, of course, is filled with the struggle over how the coming of Jesus affects the Law. Jesus’ debates with the Pharisees, Paul’s epistles on faith versus “works of the Law,” and Hebrews all deal very explicitly with the Law.

To modern Christians, it’s all very abstract and arcane. What do we care about the Law of Moses? Dispensationalists simply declare it repealed and move on, until they read passages where Jesus or Paul or others seem to apply the Law as though it’s not been repealed at all.

In several places, Paul insists that charges not be brought against someone except on the testimony of two or three witnesses — a command by Moses. Jesus says not a “jot” or “tittle” (KJV) of the Law will pass away before the end of time. And there are many such examples.

As a result, some seek to selectively impose the Law today — such as by converting Sunday into the “Christian Sabbath.” We take from the Mosaic sacrificial system the idea of “giving God your best” when it comes to Sunday morning clothes. But there surely must be a better way of apply the Law today.

[Ancient laws] were comprised of illustrations of the kind of laws that were enacted and/or enforced under the king’s administration. By collecting such exemplary laws the king intended to reveal something about himself as the promulgator of those laws. He was under obligation to promulgate and enforce such laws so as to retain his official relationship with the gods under whose auspices he ruled.

In a very similar manner, the biblical law collections are comprised of illustrations of legislation paradigms that are intended to reveal something about the promulgator of the laws. A key difference here, however, is that God is the promulgator of law in Israel. Therefore, rather than revealing the justice of the king, the law in Israel reveals the holiness of God.

The law is a revelation of God’s ways (Ps. 103:7). Beyond mandating justice for society, Yahweh mandates holiness for his people. Just as the king’s enforcing that type of legislation maintained his elect relationship with the gods, so Israel’s enforcing legislation would maintain their elect relationship with God. The law reveals what God is like and circumscribes a covenant relationship that asks the people to imitate and reflect God’s holiness.

(Kindle Locations 2231-2241).

The collections of laws are not intended to prescribe a comprehensive legislation, but represent the foundation for the ever-changing legislation required in order for a society to operate. In that sense, it functioned more like our constitution, which is not legislation but the foundation for legislation. The obligatory force carried by the law in the Bible is not the obligatory force of enforceable legislation, but that of a binding agreement; the obligatory force is thus connected more to covenant than to law.

(Kindle Locations 2241-2245).

Israel, as the covenant people, is obliged to observe the law in order to maintain its elect status before God. That does not mean that its legislation will always and only look exactly like the law of the Pentateuch, for that law is illustrative. Its actual legislation must reflect interpretation of the covenantal law.

(Kindle Locations 2254-2257).

We see this process at work when, for example, the rabbis continually toughened the evidentiary standards for adultery, so that by the time of Jesus, it was essentially impossible to stone an adulterer within the rabbinic system. (Only a vigilante group acting outside rabbinic authority and in rebellion to Rome would have tried to stone a woman taken in adultery.)

Just so, by the time of Jesus, the rabbis has developed a system whereby a woman could compel her husband to divorce her when he failed to honor his marital obligations to her.

That is, the rabbis applied the over-arching principles of the Law but often varied the Law to reflect a changing society. After all, there were probably far more Jews living outside Palestine than within Palestine. Strict adherence to the sacrificial system and countless other rituals was impossible for a Jew living on a different continent. And the rabbis made allowance for the new reality.

This led to the so-called Oral Law, which by the time of Jesus was equated with the written Law. In fact, the Oral Law had gained enough of the weight of tradition that it had become hard to distinguish the Law of Moses as written from the Law of Moses as interpreted by the rabbis.

As a result, by the time of Jesus, the experts in the Law were much more likely to be expert in the Oral Law than in the Law itself. Hence, the Pharisees condemned Jesus and his disciples for eating with unwashed hands, a violation of the Oral Law but not the Law itself.

When Jesus began interacting with the Jewish leaders, they were shocked at his neglect of their traditional interpretations. It was an act of audacity, in their view, for Jesus to bypass all of that time-honored tradition and offer his own interpretation of covenantal law. But what Jesus was doing, in effect, was replacing the superimposed rabbinic law with his own superimposed interpretation of covenantal law. We see Jesus presenting himself as a new Torah that perfectly fulfills the covenantal Torah.

(Kindle Locations 2302-2306). Jesus did not reject the idea that the Law needed to be interpreted and applied in light of new circumstances. His point was that he himself was the new circumstance!

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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26 Responses to God’s Plan: Why God Gave the Law of Moses, Part 1

  1. Price says:

    Would this concept explain the statement that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath ? Healing on the Sabbath? I think I hear you saying (or rather the author) that it’s the heart of the law.. as in Love God, Love your neighbor in summing up all the law and the prophets…?? Wow, that’s going to throw a wrench in the gears of the traditional patternists…

  2. Jack says:

    First of all, I don’t see, “..passages where Jesus or Paul or others seem to apply the Law as though it’s not been repealed at all.” If it is that you see it this way then that is simply your lack of Spiritual understanding. If you were saying that from simply one of the misunderstandings that people have of those references to OT principles then I might agree with the statement as a mere observation of poor interpretation. But, clearly you fail to get Christ’ mention of the jot and tittle of the law: “until all be fulfilled” was fulfilled! It was fulfilled by Jesus and ended on the cross. He was saying that the binding of the law was to remain in effect until His law the “perfect law of liberty” was to go into effect, after His death! You also make several claims about what was the case in respect to the oral law, although do agree that the oral law is the exact same thing as all the modern day false doctrines of men that have emerged from men over the last 20+ centuries, especially the last 16, but I am not certain how accurate your specific claims pertaining to how exactly they had improperly changed the actual written law! You may have some definitive research of which I am unaware but without it these are empty claims. On one note I would say that the scene in which they were going to stone the adultress would do much to disspell your claim that they had made unauthorized alterations to Moses law as such that stonings had ceased! In any case your article was poor in general!!

  3. Skip says:

    Jesus applied the law before his crucifixion but it isn’t applied afterwards. Col 2:14 says the law was nailed to the cross and cancelled.

  4. David Purcell says:

    See what a tangled web we weave tacking together escape hatches from the text? This
    man, of finite wisdom, says this while another wizened minor prophet says something,
    which must be true because he is a man of importance, an acclaimed lecturer you see,
    with a lifetime of scholarly study under his belt. He speaks and the clouds disappear.

    Lecturers come and go but a veil lifter rarely. You want to know about Zithion bc 576?
    Or Marvinthus, cousin of Hectorus ad 245? He’s your guy. Why he can speak for 25
    minutes without offending a single person whether militant Muslim, Zen Buddhist,
    rabbi or Pat Robertson.

    Christ and him crucified? That might take a while longer.
    And “fulfilled?” Forget about it.

  5. Dan Harris says:

    These responses seem to be a pretty good example of the kind of cross talk (not THE cross) we can get into when discussing a subject with a history of many interpretations. Nobody is listening to the other and everyone is talking about something the first person didn’t even bring up.

    I would mention that Col 2 doesn’t speak of the law being cancelled or nailed to the cross. Who first taught that? David Lipscomb? Campbell? Protestant reformers? I don’t know. But clearly it is not stated in Col. 2: 14 unless you approach it with that point of view and already believe that all other interpretations are wrong.

    The verse says in the KJV that the handwriting of ordinances that were against us were blotted out being nailed to the cross. Were all the laws of the Old Testament against us and contrary to us? The New ASV and the ESV (and others) shed a little more light by suggesting that these ordinances (which were removed) were not the law at all but were the writings of God’s own condemnation against us under the law. —- So our condemnation was blotted out and removed by the death of Christ, being nailed to His cross. Now this is the kind of Cross talk that brings people together.

    So do we live under the same sacrificial system? YES! We live under the very same system to which the law of the Jews pointed. In as much as it was a shadow pointing to the idea that it is not the blood of bulls and goats to which we apply our faith, but to Jesus who sanctified us by the offering of his body (Heb 10)… The OT was the veil. Now the veil is lifted (apply your own marriage ceremony illustrations) as Moses lifted the veil having descended the mount having received the Law.

    My question is, what need was there for the veil in the first place? Why not start out with the perfect law of liberty? My guess, it was (at least partly) because of the hardness of our (human race) hearts. If one tells a 6 year old to guide his life by the principal of loving God and Man we would be creating a lot of trouble for that kid. Better just to tell her ‘don’t go near the stove when it is turned on’ or ‘don’t play in the street’. Maybe mankind as a race simply couldn’t handle the liberty of a law of grace at the beginning.

    Apparently God believes that we as a race can handle it now. The question remains, is it possible that even now there are individuals who cannot handle it and prefer the veil and the shadow of truth because they are as hard hearted as many of the ancients?

  6. Gary says:

    I agree very much with your overall point Jay. Jesus is always the “new circumstance” or criterion by which Law is to be interpreted and applied. I would also emphasize that this is true not only for the Law of Moses but for all law including the Law of Paul that is the center of Christianity for many restorationists.

  7. Jay Guin says:


    Nicely said.

    (Col 2:13-14 ESV) 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

    The KJV is simply mistranslated —

    (Col 2:14 KJV) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

    The “record of debt” is the Greek word for a record of how much money someone owes. It’s a debt ledger.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Jack and Skip,

    I should have given more examples, because we’ve all been trained to ignore the examples that there are. Let’s start with —

    (2Co 13:1 ESV) This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

    (1Ti 5:19 ESV) Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

    These are both taken nearly verbatim from Deu 19:5.

    Deu 19:15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

    Why is Paul imposing a Mosaic civil trial rule on the church?

    (1Co 5:1 ESV) It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.

    The language “his father’s wife” is taken from —

    (Lev 18:8 ESV) 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.

    Paul is quoting Leviticus.

    Paul defends his right to be paid as an apostle from the Torah —

    (1Co 9:8-10 ESV) 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

    Paul’s argument assumes that the principle behind the Torah’s command remains applicable, doesn’t it? Why else cite to Deu 25:4? And claim to be speaking on God’s authority because he is relying on Deuteronomy?

    Paul writes,

    (Rom 13:8-10 ESV) 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    Why should Paul care whether his readers fulfill the law unless the law has some continuing force?

    (Gal 5:14 ESV) 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Again, why care whether we fulfill the law?

    Paul, of course, is looking through the Law to find God. He is applying the characteristics of God as revealed in the law (and much more perfectly in Christ!) to help his readers become more like God.

    We in the CoC rarely speak of the requirement to have two or three witnesses, both because it runs afoul of our dispensational teaching (the law was supposedly repealed) and because we so often violate it — by gladly hearing charges against elders and fellow Christians based on rumor and hearsay or but one witness. We are unwilling to live under the discipline of Deuteronomy 19:15.

    But if we were to take the time to read this section of the Torah, we’d learn that God is greatly concerned that reputations not be destroyed and that church members not be spoken against except on very convincing evidence.

    (Deu 19:15-19 ESV) 15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

    Notice especially Deu 19:18 — “Inquire diligently.” False witnesses are to be punished with the punishment they sought to impose on the other.

    What does this tell us about God? Well, God is not willing to let his children be accused, much less convicted, based on rumor and supposition. It’s a very practical application of “love your neighbor.” And the Churches of Christ would be a very different denomination were this command taken seriously. Some preachers would lose half their sermon material!

    And yet we ignore this teaching. Has anyone ever heard a sermon based on these texts? Frankly, we’re embarrassed that Paul is seeking to impose a Mosaic rule that’s been, in our minds, repealed. And so we never preach a command of Paul twice given, routinely violate it, and feel comfortable that we’re a better interpreter of the Torah than Paul himself.

  9. Alabama John says:


  10. Jay Guin says:

    Jack wrote,

    But, clearly you fail to get Christ’ mention of the jot and tittle of the law: “until all be fulfilled” was fulfilled! It was fulfilled by Jesus and ended on the cross.

    Not sure I can buy that argument. Consider —

    (Mat 5:17-19 ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 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.

    First, Jesus plainly says he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, and yet Jack’s argument is that Jesus himself fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and so abolished them.

    Jack wrote: “It was fulfilled by Jesus and ended on the cross.” If it was “ended on the cross,” then Jesus abolished it, which is exactly what he said he wasn’t doing.

    Moreover, Jesus looks ahead to the coming of the Kingdom, and says that, “in the kingdom of heaven” the greatest will be those who teach the commandments of the Law and the Prophets.

    Clearly, Jesus was not expecting us to treat Torah as repealed. However, I certainly agree that Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Indeed, to a First Century rabbi, “fulfill” means to correctly interpret. Jesus is not only the Messiah to whom the Law and the Prophets point, his life and teachings perfectly interpret the Torah as fulfilled in Jesus.

    If we see God’s goal as self-revelation, and his self-revelation as most fully realized in Jesus, then Jesus — of course — fulfills the Law. But he does not repeal the Law. Rather, he gives us a new and better vantage from which to see God in the law.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    Price asked,

    Would this concept explain the statement that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath ?

    Yes. The Sabbath reveals God — his compassion for the working man and for working animals. (The Law requires that animals get a day off, too!) It’s not about setting aside a day of worship but humanely allowing people a day of rest. It’s the same principle as our Wages and Hours law, which establishes a 40-hour work week.

    Hence, the Sabbath was established for man — not because God demands a day of worship but because the ancient world worked people and animals to an early grave.

    The Pharisees wanted to honor the Sabbath to an extreme in order bring the Messiah and the Kingdom, believing that God could be controlled by providing obedience beyond even the dictates of the Law — as though God would be pleased by refusing to heal on the Sabbath — misunderstanding the heart of God.

    God was not pleased with extending human suffering. To see the Sabbath as requiring more days of suffering was to entirely misunderstand the heart of God — to fail to see God in the commands. Rather, the Pharisees constructed a hard-hearted, uncaring God to allow them to please such a god by imposing harsh, hurtful rules on the people.

    We, of course, do the same when we find rules prohibiting us from helping those in need from the church treasury — supposing that God is more about correctly construed silences than helping his children. Such “interpretation” is built on a false image of God that ignores both the Law and Jesus — all in an effort to win God’s pleasure by allowing continued suffering. It’s all very, very sad.

  12. David Purcell says:


    I must confess that I am seeing Tom Wright in a new light having just heard his video
    “What is the Gospel?”. I found it refreshing, especially with dealing with how to present Jesus to a stranger in 5 maybe six minutes. For instance, in an airport where
    you are seen reading the bible and are asked “Is that a good book?” I am paraphrasing
    Also he amplifies Paul’s treatment of the “gospel” in this short video. I will re-play
    often I expect.

  13. Jay Guin says:


    I’m glad you enjoyed the video. It’s easy to forget that Wright, for all his intellectualism, served as a chaplain and later as a bishop of the Anglican Church, doing very practical church work. I have a reader who was a part of his Anglican diocese, who had no idea her bishop was a great theologian until reading about him here.

  14. Norton says:

    A good explanation of the purpose and fulfillment of the Law. So far you have provided a more satisfactory explanation than I have ever considered.

  15. ” the law of Paul” we learn something new every day, I did not know Paul was a legislator, I was under the impression he was a teacher.

  16. Skip says:

    So please help me understand. If Jesus still upholds the law then I assume you believe all 613 OT commands are in force such as circumcision, fringes on the corners of clothing, praying AFTER meals, binding the word on the arm and head, affixing the word to the door posts and gates of a house, not reaping an entire field, not to intermarry with gentiles, the newly married husband does not have to work for one year, to eat matzah on the first night of the passover, etc…
    Obviously, to me at least, many elements of the law are no longer in force. Jesus said all the law and the commandments are summed up in the one command: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Thus, I can meticulously try to obey 613 commands or instead I can fulfill all the requirements of the law by loving. So which approach do you think we should take?

  17. Charles McLean says:

    Jay, I see the Sabbath quite differently. It is for man’s benefit, but it is not man-centered. It is best illustrated in the wilderness when manna was the daily staple. On the day before the Sabbath, there was plenty of manna for two days and it did not spoil, as it did on any other day. This was not a matter of sparing the Israelites the couple of hours manna-gathering once a week. The Sabbath was a constant reminder that we do not provide for ourselves, that all provision is from God. Even for animals. This was such an important revelation that God was redundant in making the point; even that provision which you had only to pick up off the ground can eventually be seen as the work of your own hands, so once a week, you didn’t even do that much.

    What is the benefit of the Sabbath? It is a faith reminder, a marker that no matter what work we are called to do, God is there ahead of us, seeing that our needs will be met. The day we do not work, we eat anyway, because God provides. Getting a day off is a perk, but not the point.

    This carries over into the Sabbath that the Hebrews writer describes. The Sabbath rest which is described here is not an occasional break, but a life of rest brought about by the work of Christ. As with the physical Sabbath, no matter what work we are called to do, our ultimate welfare is in the hands of Another, in the hands of One who is entirely and eternally faithful. How do we enter this rest? Believe! Not just that we can’t do it on our own, but that it has already been done for us.

  18. Jay Guin says:


    I actually agree with you. The Sabbath has multiple implications, and you’ve very ably presented another one of them. As a I see it, God made the Sabbath to give man rest, but as you point out, this implies that God will care for us so that we may rest. The command to rest carries the implicit promise to make sufficient provision for us so that we may rest. Thus, the command to rest becomes a means of living by faith in God’s provision.

    However, I disagree on your reading of Hebrews. I think the rest promised is the new heavens and new earth. Stick with me —

    (Heb 4:4-11 ESV) 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

    We rest from our works when we’re in the hands of God. God’s rest is in heaven — where God is. And this, I believe, has great significance for those of us who believe retirement from secular work means retirement from Kingdom work. Rather, we should see secular retirement as an opportunity to FINALLY get to work fulltime for Jesus.

    Our rest comes later and will last a very long time indeed.

  19. Jay Guin says:


    First, we have to take Jesus’ words seriously, as difficult as they are. We can’t contradict him and then claim to honor him. We have to try harder than that.

    Second, Walton’s theory, as explained in later posts, is that the Law remains true and important because it reveals the character of God. And I challenge anyone to read the first 10 chapters of Deuteronomy and come away with a different conclusion. God is quite clear about what he’s doing and why.

    Therefore, the Law is not repealed. Our dispensational insistence on erasing the Law as no longer relevant is mistaken. Jesus “fulfills” the Law because he himself is the correct interpretation of the Law — he reveals God more fully and perfectly than the Law. Therefore, he himself supersedes the Law without erasing the Law.

    Just as meeting someone supersedes having emailed that person in terms of knowing that person — the emails don’t go away, but they will be re-read and re-interpreted in light of the much more complete knowledge that comes from having been in that person’s presence.

    Therefore, Torah still matters and is still true as a revelation of the author of Torah. Of course, Jesus was also speaking of the Prophets, and for the same reason, David, Jeremiah, and Isaiah still matter because they are additional windows into the heart of God.

    For the last few years, unwittingly, I’ll admit, I’ve been reading the OT in search of insights into the heart of God — and I think that’s likely the very best way to do so. I’ve sure learned a lot and even been changed by it.

    It requires leaving a lot of bad teaching behind, learning to read poetry, and working hard to think Eastern rather than Western — but it’s more than worth the effort.

  20. Jay Guin says:


    I appreciate the encouragement — truly. It’s great fun discovering authors such as Walton and introducing others to his insights.

  21. Skip says:

    Jay, Thanks for the time.

  22. Skip says:

    Jay, one more question: What does Romans 7:6 mean “we are released from the law?”.

  23. Charles McLean says:

    Jay, I guess I would compare the “rest” concept of Hebrews to the “rest” which God said the unbelieving generation of Israelites would never enter. The land which was their inheritance was not a place wherein they would no longer be active. It was, however, a place of houses they did not build and vineyards they did not plant. God had already made provision for the Israelites, but as they did not believe, they did not enter into it. Their security, which they were trying to protect in their unbelief, was exactly what they lost.

    If this group failed to enter his rest when they refused to believe, then when do WE enter his rest? When we believe. Jesus says in Jn 5:24 that the one who believes already has eternal life. In my view, this is the rest of God. We rest from our works because we are no longer dependent upon them for our lives and our destiny. We are not being promised retirement, but rest, which is FAR better. We are at rest NOW, because we have already done “the work which God requires”. Rest does not mean inactivity, or even the long, dark naptime of the soul. I believe it relates to what Jesus said when he told his disciples not to worry about what they would eat, or drink, or wear. When he sent them out penniless and barefoot. That their provision was secure and that God had made it already. I would even parallel your example of using earthly retirement to serve God, for herein you have rest — you now longer sweat for your paycheck– and yet you find in this state of rest the most meaningful activity of all. For the believer, we retired from our own works when we accepted the finished work of Christ– everything since has been the work of God, carried out in our own lives. At least, I believe that is His intent for us.

    Besides, I am not sure where we get the traditional idea that the hereafter is some sort of all-expense-paid life on the golf course, or else one eternal church service. I don’t know what it will be like, but in Revelation, we see the Holy City and “the kings of the earth bring their splendor into it.” Something is going on outside all those celestial Barcaloungers…

  24. Skip says:

    Walton said, ” Law remains true and important because it reveals the character of God”. This is no more true than saying that a parents rules around the house reveal the parent’s character. How does telling my kids to go to bed on time, drink their milk, and quit fighting with each other tell my kids about my full character? It tells a very small fraction of our character but not nearly the whole story. I learned the character of my father from how he loved me and how I saw him deal with life and other people. The household rules hardly painted a complete picture of my father.
    Thus, I contend that the OT law does NOT tell us much about the character of God. It only tells us a small fraction. To glean a deeper picture of God we must study how he loved God’s people in the OT and how Jesus loved people in the new. We must study his holiness, faithfulness, mercy, grace, infinitude, omniscience, transcendence, etc… and this goes way beyond any OT law.

  25. Jay Guin says:


    Remember that “Law” refers to Genesis through Deuteronomy in the Jewish vocabulary. Those 5 books reveal quite a lot about God’s character. But even if we limit “Law” to Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and the other statutes, there’s far more there about God’s nature than most readers realize. Seriously, read the first several chapters of Deuteronomy, and you’ll get a lesson on grace and election and God’s compassion for the fatherless, the widow, and the alien beyond imagining. I was astonished what was there to be found when I stopped looking for legislation and began looking for God.

    More importantly, Walton makes the same point regarding the entire Bible, esp. the OT. We learn a great deal about God from the Torah, but learn even more from the Prophets. The Psalms and Job are obviously all about God’s nature. Long before we get to the Gospels, we can gain incredible insights into the character and heart of God.

    Of course, when we read the Gospels as a window into God’s heart, Jesus fills in the blanks and brings it all together. But we understand Jesus far better when we’ve first come to know God through the Hebrew Bible.

    Does this mean that the OT serves no other purpose? No, not really. There’s much more. But it does give us a perspective that connects it all together and helps us see purpose where purpose might otherwise be difficult.

  26. Jay Guin says:


    A Romans question? Wow. You know how much I love Romans. Let’s see …

    (Rom 7:6 ESV) 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.

    You may recall a series I posted not terribly long ago

    Meandering from Romans 6 to the Spirit /2012/05/faith-that-works-meandering-from-romans-6-to-the-spirit/
    Romans 8: The Torah of the Spirit of Life /2012/05/faith-that-works-romans-8-the-torah-of-the-spirit-of-life/
    Romans 6 and 7: Read with the Spirit /?cat=1100
    Romans 8: The Indwelling Spirit /2012/05/faith-that-works/

    These posts try to connect the OT prophecies of the coming Spirit to show that Paul was writing against the OT background of Deu, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. He assumes his readers have read the key OT passages on the Spirit, and he ties them together to show how the Torah applies today through the Spirit, as promised by the Law and the Prophets.

    I got to go get ready for surgery in the morning. Take a look at those posts, and maybe we can continue the conversation in two or three days.

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