by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5 August 16, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(150)Thesis:The Law is established only by the Gospel.
Introduction:Last week we considered Paul's use of the Jewish "Shemah" as the foundation of his argument that Yahweh is as much "of the Gentiles" as He is "of the Jews" and as the foundation for his argument that the "unity" of Yahweh signals the reality of His intention to justify at least some within both groups. For us to be as clear as possible, we must understand that "unity" has never meant "singularity of person" or "simplicity of essence" as a description of Yahweh; rather, it has always meant "harmony in the face of indescribable complexity". The unity of Yahweh has never meant "singularity" -- even to the issue of personality -- but has always meant "harmony" between all of the attributes of the complex God -- including personality as one of those attributes. The reason "polytheism" is false is not because of multiple personalities, but because there is no essential unity between those personalities. Polytheism makes "personality" the attribute of "God" so that multiple personalities means multiple gods. Christianity makes "personality" an attribute of the complex God so that multiple personalities only signal multiple "Gods" if the "sum of the attributes" of one "personality" is different from another. Since biblical theology says that God is the sum of His attributes, every "person" who possesses each of those attributes to the same degree is "God".
It is the fact that "mercy", in the unity of Yahweh, is just as "demanding" as "justice" as an inherent and essential aspect of Yahweh's identity that makes it possible for Paul to extend justification beyond the borders of Israel. Yahweh does not "have" to save "Gentiles" to be all that He is, but His "unity" at least opens the door to that possibility.
It is this possibility that Paul turns into a declared intent that raises yet a third question. And it is this third question that will occupy our minds this evening.
I. The Third Question.
A. First, Paul asked about "boasting". Any legitimate "theology" has to provide an adequate foundation for the elimination of boasting because of its essentially Sinful character and its fundamentally destructive impact upon relationships.
B. Second, Paul asked about whether "God" was "of the Jews only". In the answer ("God is one") there is no presentation of singularity in simplicity, but, rather, there is harmony in complexity. The "unity" of God is not as much about numerical singularity as it is about the perfection of unity between the various attributes of God -- including personality.
C. Now, by this third question, Paul is asking whether his doctrines are undercutting God's purpose for the Law.
II. The Importance of this Third Question.
A. All of the doctrinal integrity of the Gospel hinges upon whether Paul has corrupted the true meaning of "Law".
1. This was a major accusation by his opponents (Acts 21:21) because of its prejudicial impact (it's easier to sway people through prejudice than it is through truth).
2. There is no way that any "truth" can legitimately be put forward if, in fact, it is in contradiction to established Truth.
a. It is fundamental to Truth that it contains internal consistency.
b. It is a biblical principle that any "new" truth must not be in contradiction to anything that has already been established as "true".
3. The questions are two...
a. Is the "new" information in harmony with established truth (Romans 3:21 compared with the apostolic insistence that even the "prophets" be "evaluated" -- 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1)?
b. Has the "established truth", which is actually resting upon "interpretation", been properly understood? In other words, is the "established truth" true, or has it already been corrupted by a false interpretation that makes it appear to be established truth when, in fact, it is a deception founded upon very subtle lies?
B. There is no doubt that Paul's "understanding" of the purpose of "Law" is significantly different from his contemporaries' "understanding" of that purpose.
1. The contemporaries had made "Law" the means to salvation.
2. Paul, in contradiction, made "Law" the divine means to bring the world to guilt before God (3:19), thus claiming that the purpose of "Law" was to reveal Sin (3:20).
C. The question is this: whose "interpretation" is correct and how do we know?
1. Paul's argument was given in 2:1-3:20.
a. In that argument, he claimed that the Day of Wrath (Day of Judgment) was going to be an application of legal demands to actual human performance with actual human motivation as a part of the evaluation.
b. In that argument, he claimed that if the human performance/motivation was shown to be contrary to the legal demands, the consequence would be "tribulation and anguish" (2:9) and that was summarized under the concept of "perishing" (2:12).
c. In that argument, he claimed that it was an absolute fact that there is no such thing as a sinless man (3:9 and 3:23).
d. Thus, the conclusion was one of two...
1) Either there were not going to be any human beings in God's eternal kingdom...
2) Or the attempt to make "Law" a divine means to entrance into that kingdom was wrong-headed.
2. How did the Jews support their "interpretation" of "Law" as the divine means to "salvation"?
a. They took statements such as Leviticus 18:5, Deuteronomy 4:1, and 8:1 and "understood" them to declare "life" by "obedience".
1) This Paul clearly taught in Galatians 3:10-12, but set it in a context of "distinction" from "faith". He also taught it in Romans 2:6-7. However, he also insisted that both "law" and "the prophets" bore witness to "faith" as a distinctly different "method" of justification (Romans 3:21) and insisted that they each have to have a "legitimate" divine purpose. Since they are distinct principles, their "purposes" must be "distinct" also.
2) In that same context, (Galatians 3:19-24) Paul revealed his "interpretation" of the reason for "Law" -- something to turn us to "faith". He even admitted there that if the Law could have granted "life", righteousness would have been by that means (3:21).
b. They ignored the "problem" of "disobedience" in terms of its "extended implications".
1) They might have argued that the "Law" made provision for disobedience by means of the sacrificial system.
a) The problem for them at this point is that they are just moving from one realm of the "Law" to another -- from the demands for proper moral behavior to the demands for proper sacrificial behavior on the indisputable assumption that all need forgiveness (thus validating Paul's argument that "all have sinned").
b) The problem remains: failure existed not only in the area of proper moral behavior but also in the area of proper sacrificial activities. If a person actually offered a sacrifice each time he sinned, it would not be long before he ran out of resources to provide the required sacrifices.
c) But there is another, even more serious, problem: the sacrifices of animals for the expiation of human sins is a huge "justice" problem (Hebrews 10:4). In what sense can justice be served between two whose relationship has been severed by injustice by the death of a third-party, non-equivalent? If justice can be served by the death of a pigeon in the place of the sinner, why could not justice be as equally served by the smashing of a rock?
i. The essence of justice is "equivalency in retribution" ... an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This is the same degree of pain and loss for the same length of time. [Even under "law" this was not real; it was only a highly variable approximation (people have different "pain tolerances" and live different lengths of time -- and old man who destroyed a youth's eye could never reach an equivalency by losing his own eye)].
ii. With "substitutes" (like lambs or rocks), which do not have the same capacities, there can never be anywhere near the fulfillment of the required equivalency.
iii. The Gospel argument is that Christ was the exact equivalent of both parties with the consequent capacities to meet the exact requirements of justice. This seems to be the point of Hebrews 2:14.
iv. The fly in the ointment in any case is the question of how it is "just" for a substitute to be allowed. Substitutionary atonement has long been held as a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. Now, in the most technical sense, "substitution" is not involved in that the unity of God disallows us any kind of thinking about Jesus independently suffering something the Father and Spirit did not suffer, nor does the unity of man allow any kind of thinking that we were not "Adam" or that Jesus is not "us". We are in Him and He is in us so that the unity is real, and if real, He is not a "substitute" but is "us" acting for "us". The only sense of "substitution" is "personal" in that distinctions between personalities can exist within an inherent and indivisible unity of being. Thus one "person" can act with impact upon another distinct "person", but no person is not the same essence of every other person, nor is any person "independent" of any other person.
2) They had no answer for the inevitable conclusion of "Law" -- that no one "keeps it".
D. Bottom Line: If the Jewish "interpretation" of the Law was the correct one, noone will be in God's eternal kingdom.
III. Paul's Argument Fundamentally Posits the "Establishment" of the Law.
A. If one accepts "Law" as a "revealer of Sin", the Gospel's claim that Jesus met the justice demands inherent in that which makes "sin" what it is (God's essential character), is in no sense an aberration or contradiction.
B. It is only the "self-righteous" who refuse to allow "Law" to accomplish the purpose to which Paul has assigned it, and, by so doing, they also "destroy the Law" in its "purpose" astheyhaveconstruedit because their construction of it is "obedience unto salvation" and they are demonstrably disobedient. And not only that, their acceptance of the sacrificial aspect of the Law is a tacit and undeniable admission on their part that "sinning" is a universal reality...thus destroying Law as a real means of salvation and making themselves the ultimate expression of hypocrisy.