Friday, May 27, 2016

Paul and the Faithfulness of God Chapter 10, Part 3

51YyKVMJh L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_We continue in chapter 10 of Book Two and Part III of Paul and the Faithfulness of God, vol. 4, Christian Origins and the Question of God, by N. T. Wright. His big point is that Jesus represents and fulfills everything that Israel was supposed to do. Again, this is a very brief summary of this very important book.  Previous posts on this chapter are here and here. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Wright then moves on to the central point of chapter 10 in section 3...

Galatians 3.13 only makes sense if the Messiah somehow represents Israel, so that he can appropriately act on their behalf and in their place. Exegetes and theologians have often postulated an unnatural and unnecessary either/or between Jesus as ‘representative’ and Jesus as ‘substitute’. Here the matter is quite clear: because he is Israel’s representative, he can be the appropriate substitute, can take on himself the curse of others, so they do not bear it any more. 865

The point of verses (Galatians 3) 15–18 can be expressed quite simply: (a) God promised Abraham a single family, not two families; (b) the Law threatens to create two families...; but (c) the Law cannot be allowed to overthrow the original promise and intention. 868

He concludes his discussion of Galatians 3-4 by discussing the role of torah in the covenant plan of God. First, because of the Adamic sinfulness in Israel torah could not produce the kingdom life and reconciliation of the world promised to Abraham (3.19-21). Secondly torah functioned as a "babysitter" to limit Israel's 'wandering" until the Messiah came to fulfill the promise. Finally, the promise has been fulfilled at God's proper timing (Galatians 4.1-11), the purpose of torah is fulfilled and God's election is now based only on relationship with His Messiah.

The Messiah’s faithfulness both accomplishes and defines the united and renewed family of Abraham...The problem he has identified, and here summarizes in this ultra-dense fashion, is that although Torah offered life, it could not give it—not through its own fault, but through the sinful human nature of the Israel to which it had been given. (Galatians 3.19-22).  871

The whole point of the chapter is that the one God has done what he promised Abraham he would do, in the original covenant chapters in Genesis. But in order to do that this God has had to smash open the shell of Torah, and with it the ‘present evil age’ in which those under Torah were trapped, in order to bring about the radical new result we see in the Messiah. (Galatians 3.23-29) 875

For gentile Messiah-believers to take Torah upon themselves would be to embrace the life of slavery, to go back to Egypt...we note the sharp edge of Paul’s messianic redefinition of the Jewish doctrine of election: those who belong to the Messiah are not under Torah. Jewish Messiah-believers have been redeemed from that state; Gentile Messiah-believers must not enter it. (Galatians 4.1-11). 878

Wright now moves to three other passages to explain the significance of "Jesus as the Messiah through whom God has reconciled the world." In all these, he defines the term "righteousness" as "God's (Jesus') faithfulness to covenant." In 2 Corinthians 5.11-6.2 the point is that Christ's death has reconciled man to God and dealt with God's wrath. Now God "implements this message" by embodying it in his people through the Spirit as they act as ambassadors of Christ. He then moves to Romans 5.6-21 to celebrate the multi-levels of meaning in the death of Jesus that completes, through Jesus' faithfulness, what God called Israel to do: the reconciliation of all creation to God. "The obedience of the Messiah is the means by which the purpose of election, the rescuing and restoration of the human race, is accomplished" (890).

The whole emphasis of the passage (2 Corinthians 5.11-6.2) thus falls, not so much on the Messiah’s death as such, but on the way in which this reconciling death is then conveyed through the apostolic ministry. 881

Paul’s whole point is that this covenant faithfulness of the one God, having been enacted in the death of the Messiah, is now being embodied in his own representative, ambassadorial, apostolic ministry. 883

(Romans 5.6-11) theological function is to explore various interlocking levels of meaning within the death of Jesus: its character as a gift of sheer undeserved grace and love; its embodiment of the long-promised rescuing love of Israel’s God; its specific focus on the needs of the ‘weak’ to be given God’s power, of the ‘sinners’ to be forgiven, and above all of the ‘enemies’ to be reconciled (verses 6, 8 and 10); its justifying function, through the Messiah’s sacrificial death; and thus its role as the ground of hope itself. 886–887

Paul them moves on to Romans 7-8 to show just how the law fits into God's eternal purpose. He tells the story of Israel in terms of Adam to emphasize that Israel was dealing with the same choices as the two trees in the garden: life and death. The purpose of Israel and the law was to draw this destructive principle of sin into one place, allow it to grow to full strength and deal with it through the work of the Messiah. Israel and all the world died to the sin principle through Jesus' sacrifice, his representative fulfillment of the purpose of Israel, and his victory over the forces of evil and its effects on the world.

The very Torah in which Israel rightly, properly and vocationally delights also bears witness that Israel is part of the problem as well as part of the solution. Israel, too, is in Adam. 895

This means that we must hold firmly in our minds a conviction which remained central for Paul: that this divine purpose, though he (Paul) had rethought it around the Messiah, was the purpose the one God had had in mind all along, from the beginning, in calling Israel, and particularly in giving the Torah. Torah had, all along, been the divinely appointed means of tricking ‘sin’, luring it to come and do its worst so that it might be condemned at that point, much as ‘the rulers of this age’ had been tricked into crucifying the lord of glory and so signing their own death-warrants. 899

Paul’s argument is this—and it stands here at the heart of his greatest letter: that the one God, in his supreme act of faithfulness, and through the faithfulness of the Messiah, had unveiled the inner meaning that had been present in the election of Israel from the beginning. 900

No comments: