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February 18, 2011 / Daniel

The Law and the Christian, Part Two

Baal, right arm raised. Bronze figurine, 14th-...

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In my Intro to OT Exegesis class at Wheaton, Dr.  John H. Walton described the Law as being at least three things.

1. The Law is the reflection of a particular culture at a particular moment in history.

For instance, many of the OT laws must be understood in light of the Canaanite fertility cults (i.e. Baal worship). Lev. 19 and Deut. 14 forbid Israelities from trimming their beards to mourn the death of false gods. According to the Baal myth, Baal was alive during the rainy season and dead during the dry season. So Baal worshipers would cut themselves and trim their beards to let people know that they were mourning for Baal (cf. 1 Kings 18).

So we are at least 3000 years removed from this culture, the Law does not apply to us as a cultural reflection.

2. The Law is a covenant that God made with the nation of Israel.

The OT Law involved stipulations and rules that were part of a treaty that God made with Israel. If Israel was faithful to the covenant, God would bless them. But if Israel was unfaithful, God would curse them. As Christians, we are under the new covenant, not the old covenant. So the Law does not apply to us as a covenant.

3. The Law is Scripture.

The Law reveals the character of an unchanging God. Moreover, the Law is a part of a greater story that climaxes in Jesus Christ. Therefore, certain elements in the Law serve as signposts that point us to Jesus. The Law contains shadows of the substance that we have in Jesus.

For instance, the sacrificial system reveals to us that God requires a payment for sin. The temple tells us about what it takes for God to live amongst men. Jesus is the fulfillment of these realities, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate how they foreshadowed God’s work in Christ.

So here’s the recap. The Law does not apply to the Christian as a cultural reality. Neither does it apply to us as a covenant charter. But it does apply to the church as a revelation of God and as part of the story of Jesus.

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