keeping an eye on the tree and the forest

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Paul’s View of the Law


Here is an interactivity post in which I do regurgitate some of my other stuff on Paul and the Law. Here is the question:

I was finishing up When Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology by Herman N. Ridderbos, and I thought that the following topic could make for an interesting discussion. Ridderbos says, “The question arises, then, of the relationship of Jesus to Paul. When for example, the Sermon on the Mount greatly stresses compliance with the commandments, as we believe we are able to maintain, is it then at all possible to speak of a unity between the Gospels and the epistles of Paul, because the former stress is laid upon the positive meaning of the law, and in the latter upon the negative meaning? (pp. 61-62) I would love to read what others may think about the actual or so-called negative Pauline remarks of the law.

What a wonderful question and topic for discussion. Regarding Paul’s view of “the Law”, I believe his view depends upon what Law is being referred to in a particular context, because without defining our terms ambiguity will abound. I think that Paul makes a distinction between the Sinai Code/Law of Moses (Old Covenant/Letter) and law of God/Christ (New Covenant/Spirit).

In two specific sections in his writings he discusses at length historical-redemptive covenant theology in 2 Cor.3:1-18 and Gal. 3-4. In these passages, he gives his rationale for why the Mosaic Law offers only death and how the New Covenant transcends by it offering life. In 2 Cor.3:1-18, he zeroes in on the Letter/Spirit contrast resident in the two covenants. He even goes as far as to label the Law of Moses as “the ministry of death” (vs.7) and “condemnation” (vs.9) as it was, written on tables of stone. He contends that this “letter” brings death, surely drawing from his argument in Rom.7:7-11:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceived me and through it killed me.

He likens the Law to the glory that was on Moses face which needed to be concealed to Israel by a veil over his face (vs.7). Even then, there was a veil over their hearts every time they read the Law (vs.15) because their hearts were hardened by it (vs.14). However, the glory of the New Covenant revealed in Christ is infinitely superior because it does not fade and has no end (vs.11). It is written not on a tablets of stone, but on the tablet of the heart (vs.3), drawing on Ezek.36:26 and Jer.31:33. Since this covenant is imparted directly by the Spirit on the heart with no outside mediator, those in it are now with “unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord and being transformed into the same image” (vs.18). So we can summarize by saying that the Letter/Spirit contrast is about the difference in the nature of the Mosaic and New Covenants.

In Galatians 3-4, Paul focuses on the purpose of the Mosaic Covenant in light of the New Covenant. He is trying to remind the Galatians very forcefully that no one will be justified by the works of the Law (3:11). In other words, no one can please God escatologically by trying to execute their duties as prescribed by the Law of Moses. The reasons for this are because no one is truly able to execute this covenant so we are cursed in trying to do so (3:10), and the purpose of the Law was to make transgression fully visible and never to offer eternal life (3:18-19). This covenant came to bring us into slavery and imprisonment so that we could be rescued by Christ (vs.23-24). So Paul is setting up two different covenantal strands that find their culmination in the allegory of Hagar and Sarah in 4:21-31. Hagar corresponds to the slavery that exists under the Mosaic Law and is demonstrated in the contemporary Judaism that is visible in Jerusalem (vs.25). Sarah corresponds to the freedom that exists under the New Covenant and is demonstrated in the promises God offers His people in the New (spiritual) Jerusalem (vs.26-28). So the Mosaic Covenant existed to serve as a physical template that would anticipate the spiritual realities to come in the new age that has been inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Christ. Thus, in order to partake of this inaugurated Covenant, we need to believe in what Christ accomplished on our behalf and so cast out the “slave woman” (the Mosaic Covenant) (vs.29-31).

In light of these passages, I think it is evident that the Mosaic/Old Covenant was an external code which does and can only demand. God designed it this way in order to magnify sin in Israel, as Israel is simply Adam on a corporate/national scale (Hosea 6:7). Neither Adam nor Israel could ever have kept, executed, or complied to the Law given to them. Even if they could have, there was no promise for eternal life. It wasn’t the function of the Law given to them. But, both Adam and Israel’s failure have become the canvas for God to promise grace in the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus ratified the New Covenant which does and can only promise eternal life. In the New Covenant there is no code to keep or demand upon us, but the promise of life in Christ itself produces faith in us which will result in us keeping the law of God/Christ, which is essentially loving God and loving our neighbors.

Inaugurated Eschatology and the Shortness of Time


Here is some of my recent interactivity that I’ve done for one of my classes. The original question was:

What did the resurrection and the glory of Jesus Christ that Paul saw in his vision reveal to him about where he stood in the history of God’s plan for His people and His creation?

The resurrection and glory of Jesus Christ revealed to Paul that he stood at the final leg in the history of redemption. Paul disclosed to Agrippa some the content of what Jesus told him in the initial vision in Acts 26:14-18. Jesus told him that he has appeared to him to appoint him as a minister and witness of all he will reveal to him (vs.16) to go to the gentiles and open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God, and that they might receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance as they are sanctified by faith in Jesus (vs.17-18). He also tells Agrippa that what was revealed to him which he had been proclaiming was everything that the Prophets and Moses said would take place (vs.22). In further discussion with Agrippa, Paul asks him bluntly, “King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do” (vs.27). In an earlier account in Acts, we see Paul at Mars Hill sharing the very message that was revealed to him by Jesus (17:19-34). The climax of his message to the Athenians was the fact that God has fixed a day of judgment through Jesus, proving this by raising him from the dead.

In every encounter that Paul has with people in Acts, as well as every letter that he writes, this message of the death and resurrection of Jesus, which vindicates the judgment of God and forgives the sins of all who believe, is proclaimed and grounded in the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets (whether typologically or prophetically). Scripture drove his language and argumentation that Jesus is the end-times Messiah who ushered in the Kingdom of God through his death and resurrection. What is presupposed here is that all of the elements described in the message Paul preached about Jesus were written in the Scriptures of Israel when it spoke of the “latter days” or “end of days”. Passages come to mind such as Genesis 1-3, Exodus 19:5-6, Deuteronomy 30:1-6, 2 Samuel 7:5-17, Jeremiah 31:31ff, Isaiah 42:5-7, 52:13-53:12, Ezekiel 37:1-28, and Daniel 7:9-13. Paul drew upon these and many other texts to display his understanding that Jesus’ resurrection and glory signaled the inauguration of the final leg of redemptive history.

The response to my answer and follow-up was:

Let’s continue our discussion about inaugurated eschatology. Please turn to 1 Corinthians 7:29-40. How does this view of the shortness of our time onearth in light of the eternity of heaven impact your views not only of theissues discussed by Paul ­ which include marriage, death, happiness, and material goods, but also whatever else is on your mind?

That’s an interesting question, because I normally don’t assess my understanding of the “shortness of time” with how it impacts my views of the topics you mentioned. It seems that Paul is essentially driving at the concept of not wasting the precious time we have here on earth. His central ground in verse 31 is that “the form of the world is passing away”. I don’t know that he was privy to the fact that there would be 2000+ years of kingdom expansion ahead of him. I also don’t think the apostles expected to be alive when Christ returned due to the fact that both Paul and Peter had their suffering deaths revealed to them by Jesus. But it is apparent that both Paul and Peter were aware of the accelerated suffering that the people of God would undergo. Here in the context of the passage of discussion, Paul forms his reasoning by considering “the present distress” (vs.26) which he is trying to spare his readers from (vs.28). I don’t think he meant that “life is hard enough, marriage will make it worse”. I think he is appealing to the possibility of either you being captured, tortured, and killed or your spouse being captured, tortured, and killed. The only thing worse than suffering is seeing your loved ones suffering. I think Paul is trying to brace his hearers for pain for the sake of Christ. When he says, “the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world” (vs.34), I don’t think he means that it is “less spiritual” or “less godly”, but simply that human marriage does not continue in heaven the same way it is on this earth. Since the “form of the world is passing away” and is temporary, to marry is to invest in a temporary venture.

I also don’t think we should miss the subtlety with which Paul is disclosing his understanding of the purpose of marriage. He says, “One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife” ( vs.32-33). He is using the very same language of marriage for humans as for covenant in Christ, showing that he sees a vital connection between the two analogously. I find it striking.

Have You Seen This? Have You Heard About This?


Of course, I hold off till this Christmas to buy my wife the 80GB iPod, and now they announce the new iPhone. This was an inevitable integration, and I’m very interested to see how this thing looks and operates. I’m sure there was a furious bidding war, but Cingular has won out as the exclusive carrier. I would call this little device, although having not seen it, the highest form of pocket device evolution. Now, I don’t know that it has “Pocket PC” capabilities, such as PDF viewing, real-size keyboard compatibility, etc. But, let’s face it folks, our computers, TV’s, stereos, cameras, and phones are moving into our pockets. I still have things scattered, but I don’t mind. My Ipaq 1945 (Pocket PC), Blackberry Pearl, and my wife’s iPod altogether comprise our pocket tech trinity. I hope that can suffice for the next few years, especially since the Blackberry and iPod are new. Here is the iPhone article:

Apple’s ‘iPhone’ is coming

Jobs announces ‘revolutionary’ device, confirms iTunes selling of Paramount films.

By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 writer
January 9 2007: 1:48 PM EST

SAN FRANCISCO ( — Apple announced the long-awaited “iPhone” at its annual Macworld expo Tuesday.

Company chairman Steve Jobs also disclosed that Apple (up $5.33 to $90.80, Charts)’s iTunes will sell Paramount films, and that the AppleTV device will be available beginning in February.

Apple Chairman Steve Jobs showing the iPhone at the Macworld expo in San Francisco.


PC magazine’s Lance Ulanoff looks at cutting edge accessories for digital music players. (January 8th)
Play video

In a move that could strike at BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (down $9.17 to $132.99, Charts), Apple will offer free push e-mail from Yahoo (down $0.37 to $27.55, Charts) on the phone device. RIM currently charges for its e-mail service.

Apple shares ralled $5.05, or nearly 6 percent, to $90.52 on the announcement.

Jobs called the iPhone is a “revolutionary mobile phone” that will feature an iPod, phone and “Internet communicator.”

The phone is rectangular, with the entire front surface a touch screen. The device is run entirely by touch. It runs the Mac OS X, scaled down to a cell phone.

“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years,” Jobs told the crowd at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

He especially touted the device’s Internet browsing capabilities.

“It’s bad out there today,” says Jobs of mobile Web browsers. “It’s a real revolution to bring real Web browsing to a phone.”

As a example, Jobs called up the New York Times Web site. The full page displayed, not a special version or oddly formatted page that most smartphones show.

He then called up Google Maps to find a nearby Starbucks. He actually prank called it and ordered “4,000 lattes to go.”

Jobs says the “killer app is making calls.” The iPhone will operate on the GSM protocol, but will not have third-generation broadband initially. It will sync with the Mac’s Address Book application.

Jobs played a voicemail on the phone from former Vice President Al Gore, a member of the company’s board, congratulating the Apple chairman on the new device.

The product formerly known as iTV will now be called Apple TV. This device has a wireless connection for up to five computers to stream or download movies and tv shows. It can connect to a large-screen hi-def television screen. The 40 gigabytes of memory can store 50 hours of video.

Apple TV will ship next month, and will sell for $299. Jobs said the company is accepting orders.

Jobs announced that there have been 2 billion iTunes sold for iPods. He said it took 3 years to sell the first billion and ten months to sell the second billion. He says 1.3 million movies have been sold for video iPods.

There was some question as to whether Apple would be able to use the iPhone name for the device. But Cisco Systems (down $0.19 to $28.44, Charts), which owns the rights to the iPhone name, said Tuesday it expects to reach agreement with Apple later Tuesday on using the name for its device.

Article link is here.

For great pictures, click here.

For best info, click here.

Nothing Quiet on New Years Day


Here are some pics taken from our time in the city, about a half mile down looking at Times Square. Suppose I can check that experience off the list. We were standing most of the night on around the corner of 53rd and 7th, I think about 4 hours. It was myself, Kalila, her brother Zach, and his girlfriend Krystal. It would have really been boring had Zach not downloaded Monopoly on his cell phone, which we played for about 3 and 1/2 hours. Oh yeah, and 5 minutes before the ball drops, an 8 foot circle emerged next to us around the guy standing next to Zach. It took the guy a second, but then he ralphed into the cleared circle. Needless to say, no one was expecting that, especially 5 minutes before midnight. It began to reek immediately, causing a very unpleasant celebration. We hoofed it out of there right after the ball dropped and took refuge in the closest Famous Original Ray’s Pizza place. Along the way back to Port Authority, I was able to get a snapshot of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, home of the Late Show with David Letterman, and the Laugh Factory, scene of Michael Richards’ (“Kramer” from Seinfeld) infamous tyrade. The link to the album for the entire event is here.