August 26, 2010

The Kindness of God through the Law

Ever have that experience where you hear something you know, but this time the speaker phrases it so that you feel as if a light has come on and you see other things clearly.  I've been listening to lectures on Paul from Covenant Seminary's Dr. Hans Bayer recently.  As he was working through the themes in Romans, he pointed out that God's pattern for dealing with human sin is not to restrict it but to remove all restrictions.  This is the meaning behind the verses in Romans 1:18ff which refer to God's handing people over to their depravity.  When human beings worships false gods, God does not divinely intervene to restrict us.  Rather, Paul indicates that he has handed humanity over to its sinfulness, and humanity became increasingly darker and dirtier.  Anyone who's read Romans even slightly carefully knows this, but the way Bayer phrased it was spectacular and helped me to better understand the function of the law.  If the consequence of sin is the removal of restriction, then the giving of the law and the restrictions therein is a manifestation of God's kindness.  No wonder the Israelites were proud to possess the oracles of God, it meant that he had not abandoned a relationship with him.  We know that the law functioned to restrain sin.  But we don't always think of the restrictions as positive and helpful.  What we don't consider is that if the restrictions were removed it would be the sign of divine judgment. 

1 comment:

ἐκκλησία said...

It would not be unreasonable to see [Psalm 19:7-14] reflected in Pauls arguments in [Romans 7:7-13]. Although the law functions to restrain sin, its chief purpose is to make us aware of sin [Romans 3:20] (also [Psa 19:11]). (That is what is meant by the "Law is spiritual" in [Romans 7:14]). It is this chief purpose which is both positive and negative; for not only can we repent of our sin once aware, but should we not repent, we remain without excuse having been given this awareness [Rom 1:20].

Even so, as [Romans 3] says, the Hebrews (both the House of Israel, and the House of Judah), were privileged to possess the oracles of God. That blessing was promised in their election, their covenantal relationship, and their heritage. However, so too was the honour of producing the House of David, and thus the messiah. These old covenant blessings where mere shadows of the blessings to come though.

Just as the 'old' covenant bestowed blessings on Israel and Judah, so too did the new. The new follow on blessings were much more significant and related to the old covenant blessings in an analogous way (which is why Paul brings it up in the first place). The House of Israel and the House of Judah the recipients of the New Covenant {[Jer 31 esp 31:31],[Eze 34:25-31] and [Matt 15:24]}. Also, notice from [Jer 31:4] how God says they would react where they received this blessing [Jer 31:8o-q], and the duration of this New Covenant promise [Jer 31:36]

[John 10:3,27] indicates that truly truly His sheep [Eze 34:30-31] heard His voice, and they followed him (see also [Eze 34:6-8, 10-12, 15]).

It is curious that these old covenant aspects to Paul's Romans arguments constantly gets ignored though it is a prominent feature of the argument itself, just as the relationship between Ezekiel 37 and Romans also does.