I recently wrote a post on Gospel Pardon as part of my interaction with Edward Fisher’s The Marrow of Modern Divinity. That book is about the errors of both legalism and antinomianism. In that post I mentioned Andrew Farley’s The Naked Gospel which I had read and reviewed earlier this year ( Part 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 with increasing frustration). He has what I consider to be extreme views based on a hyper-dispensationalistic hermeneutic. We engaged in an on-line discussion where it became increasingly clear to me that we were talking past each other as a result of our very different approaches to interpreting Scripture.
While I thought I was ending communication he left one last ginormous comment. So, I’ll use that comment to have one last installment of our discussion. If you have questions about the relationship of the OT and NT, law and gospel, and what really is the rule of life for Christians you may find some interesting points made here. Then again ….
Thanks for this! It’s been fun to dialogue. The ideas you are presenting are familiar to me, but it has been good practice for me to think about which Scriptures to share. In this post, I will clarify that:
1. the New Covenant was put into effect at Jesus’ death (Hebrews 9:16-17)
This is not at issue at all. What is at issue is the relationship between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. Both the Old and New Covenants were manifestations of the Covenant of Grace (Live & Do This). As we will note later, some treated the Old Covenant as if it was the Covenant of Works (Do this & live). As John Piper notes, “The flesh turns the law into a ladder.” As people born in Adam (Romans 5), we are under the covenant of works. As a result the Law works death in us since we are sinners. But even the Mosaic covenant was given to redeemed people. It was not given for them to earn life, but to manifest life. All who believe in the promises of God (keeping in mind the progressive nature of revelation, we know more than Abraham) are under the Covenant of Grace. This why Hebrews 4:2 says they (the wilderness generation) had the gospel preached to them. The gospel is not only in the New Covenant. In fact, Paul often uses OT figures to explain the truth of the gospel. For instance, Paul quotes Ps. 32 about the bliss of forgiveness/justification in Romans 4. You’ll note it is not tied to the sacrificial system but his confession of sin as the instrumental means (this after David had been a believer for years- gospel pardon!)
The Old and New Covenants are not identical though. There was real progress, and the issue in Hebrews was a temptation to leave the newer, better covenant for the Old Covenant, which at that point in the history of redemption (and now) amounts to apostasy.
2. Jesus was born under Law (Galatians 4:4) and his audience was too (Galatians 4:4) and Jesus expanded on the Law (Matthew 5:21-48).
Yes, Jesus redeems all those under the Law as a Covenant of Works. He does this in 2 ways. First, he perfectly fulfilled the law as our Substitute. Second, he suffered the curse of the law as our Substitute (Galatians 3).
3. The Lord’s Prayer teaches a conditional forgiveness (“as we forgive others”) while in contrast Colossians 3:13 and Ephesians 4:32 teach the opposite (unconditional forgiveness) after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I’m not so sure it teaches conditional forgiveness. But if it did … think about who is teaching this. Am I to disregard anything the Eternal Son of God in flesh teaches? In your hermeneutic, yes. In a biblical one? No. We find no basis for this, unless we do violence to 2 Timothy 3 as you have done by neglecting ALL that Paul says the law is useful for.
In fact, the Great Commission (given AFTER his death & resurrection!!) includes the instruction to “teach them to obey EVERYTHING I have commanded you.” That would seem to include how to pray from earlier in that same gospel.
However, I understand this as a prayer Jesus gives to His disciples. They are justified. Forgiven people are forgiving people (as Paul teaches in Ephesians and Colossians which you point out). Those who refuse to forgive others though they have theoretically been forgiven by God prove they are self-deceived. Jesus is stripping them of their counterfeit profession. Regeneration produces people who will forgive. We cannot separate justification from other doctrines connected with salvation. Justified people are also regenerated people, adopted people and people who are being sanctified.
4. The Gentiles (that’s us!) were never given the Law (Ephesians 2:12) so we shouldn’t even be pondering our relationship to it!
Paul would disagree in that all who are born naturally are born in Adam. Therefore they are under the Covenant of Works and dead in sins and trespasses (Paul wrote that to both Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2). When Paul speaks of the Law in Eph. 2:12 he is referring to the Mosaic Covenant, which was for Jews and Gentiles who converted. But as Paul says in Romans 3, the whole world is held accountable. How? On the basis of Adam’s sin and their own sins against the moral law (not isolated to its codification in the Mosaic covenant).
5. 1800 years of human-led church tradition can’t be the standard. The Galatians and Corinthians were messed up within hours of hearing the gospel. The age of a belief doesn’t make it true. Scripture makes it true.
You are correct, the length of a tradition doesn’t prove it is true. Arianism is nearly as old as Trinitarianism. Arminianism is nearly as old as Calvinism (which I understand as the biblical gospel and taught by Jesus, Paul, John, Peter…. and only summarized by the Reformers). But the novelty of a belief is pretty much a sign it is false, particularly one that seems so central to the gospel. To say it was not present until the 1850’s (like the hyper-dispensational method of interpretation) is to not only condemn part of the church, but ALL the church previous to that point.
It is a bit of an overstatement to say that the Corinthians and Galatians had departed from the gospel hours after hearing the gospel. In both cases this happened well after Paul’s ministry there and AFTER false teachers had come and led them astray. In Corinth they were corrupted by an over-realized eschatology (too much already and not much not yet). In Galatia the Judaizers wanted the Gentiles to come under the Mosaic administration instead of recognizing the progress of redemption in Christ. They added circumcision to Christ.
6. The passage from Jeremiah 31 is re-written differently in the New Testament, on purpose. The Law of Moses is not on our hearts, but God’s lawS of love are.
A. Why the Writer of Hebrews Wrote “Law-S”
You quoted from Jeremiah 31 that “I will put my LAW in their minds and write it on their hearts.” However the Apostle and author of Hebrews found it important to clarify what Jeremiah prophesied about. He actually changed the grammar in Hebrews.
He says God inscribes His laws (not the Law of Moses) on our minds and hearts. We become His people and have the privilege of knowing Him personally. But the author of Hebrews actually changes the Old Testament passage here. How could he be so bold? And for what reason? He purposely changes the Old Testament rendition “My law” to “My laws” to clarify an important truth.
Contrary to popular teaching, it’s not the Law of Moses that’s written on our hearts. It’s God’s laws. These are expounded upon by Jesus and the New Testament writers. These laws are called “the royal law”, “the law of liberty”, and “His commandments.” God’s commandments are to love each other and to love Him. These aren’t burdensome. In fact, Jesus Himself says that those who love Him will keep His commandments. Under the New, God has it rigged.
If the Mosaic Law were written on our hearts and minds, imagine the consequences! The dietary restrictions, the wardrobe regulations, and hundreds of other rules would overwhelm our consciences just as they did Israel. Thank God that the New isn’t just a dressed up version of the Old!
When James writes of the Royal Law and Law of liberty he quotes the Moral Law (here your refusal to distinguish between the moral and ceremonial law is part of the problem. One concerns how we are to live, the other about atonement until Christ provided the perfect, unique atonement.). Paul does the same thing in Romans 13 in describing what love does & doesn’t do. You have repeatedly ignored this in our discussions.
The Reformers maintain this distinction (which was taught by Jesus prior to the atonement since he declared all food clean). This distinction is not explicit, but is the result of good and necessary inference. In other words, it seems pretty obvious that there is a difference between how we live and how we worship to remove the stain of sin. And how we are to stand out from the nations around us. The end of a political theocracy plays into that as well. That shift should be clear in how the Apostles didn’t set up a theocracy (which the Pharisees wanted) but the kingdom exists in the midst of Rome (and now America, China, Iran, Africa).
Additionally, one of your inconsistencies is that the laws you say we are under now (Love the Lord & one another as I have loved you) were given prior to the death of Jesus, therefore under your view should be considered part of the Old Covenant. You seem to keep forgetting this.
B. Next, here are some thoughts on the Christian’s relationship to the Jewish Law. Below are just a few Scriptural facts concerning the Christian’s relationship to the Law:
1. We Christians died to the Law. (Rom 7:4; Gal 2:19)
Didn’t you say above (based on Eph. 2:12) that Gentiles were never under the law? Why did we have to die to something that was not for us? These inconsistencies should reveal a flawed system of biblical interpretation. It does not handle the texts in a manner that makes sense of them.
The passages must be kept in context, there are no brute facts and proof texting creates problems. In Romans 7 we have died to the law as a Covenant of Works. We are freed from condemnation, having been justified in Christ. Therefore we are no longer under the dominion of sin. We have a new master, Jesus, who has given us his Spirit to fulfill the righteousness of the law (Rom. 8:1-5) and love our neighbor which Paul, again, defines quoting the moral law (Rom. 13).
Galatians 2:19 is written in the context of justification. The law condemned me as a sinner. Jesus died under the law to free me from guilt and justify me. I no longer serve it as a Covenant of Works like the Galatians thought. I now live for God, to God by the power of the Spirit. As Paul explains that latter in the letter he describes sin & righteousness in terms of the moral law. The power of sanctification is not in the law, but the Spirit. The law is just the direction the Spirit moves us.
2. We Christians are not under the Law. (Gal 5:18; Rom 6:14)
The context there in Gal. 5 is a return to justification by the law. They are not to think their relationship with God is determined by THEIR obedience. It is determined by His obedience, and their participation in it by faith.
In Romans 6 the whole passage is about who you serve: sin or Jesus? As people under grace, we don’t live as if our status with God depended on obedience. We no longer live in fear. Yet, Paul also says right there, shall we sin because we are not under law but grace? May it never be!!
What is sin, lawlessness (1 John). How are both sin & righteousness defined? Law. Our status is secure by grace, now grace also teaches us to say no to unrighteousness and live upright & godly lives in this present evil age (Titus 2). Our status is not an excuse to sin more (I know you agree with me here). But Paul in Rom. 6 is talking about status as the foundation for sanctification.
As the Reformers taught, and the Westminster Confession shows by its order, and Walter Marshall taught: true sanctification only happens in a context in which justification & adoption are believed and experienced. There we know the love of God, the acceptance of God and the empowerment of God to imitate our heavenly Father. Where we continue to live in fear, we are not being sanctified by merely managing sin.
3. We Christians are not supervised by the Law. (Gal 3:25)
4. We Christians are not perfected by the Law. (Gal 3:2-3)
We are mature, not like children. The false teachers in Galatia were saying that faith was not sufficient to gain a proper standing with God. Here Paul points them to the fact that, yes, our standing is always determined by faith in Christ. Our performance of the law will not justify anyone. Blessing is brought by faith, not law-keeping.
One who relies on the law for this standing (pre- or post-conversion) is a legalist. Paul rules out such legalism, such abuse of the law which depends upon the works of the flesh. But Paul often reminds us of the law in the context of salvation- the direction the Spirit moves us. But we in no way merit any blessing by obedience to it.
Keep 3:25 in the context of 3:24 (oh, the problem of proof-texting).
23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
See the purpose of the law in his argument. He is again discussing justification, not sanctification. This is an important distinction. We no longer need the law to lead us to Christ. We are no longer like immature children. But that doesn’t mean adults are free from law utterly and completely.
5. We Christians shouldn’t even live by rules. (Col 2:20-23)
The false teachers in Colossae were teaching, among other things, a form of asceticism that was connected with early gnosticism. Material things were bad. The road to maturity was based on man-made rules (vs. 8). Even vs. 22 says these rules are of human origin. They are not to be confused with the moral law.
Yet, as I have said before, the Law does not have the power to sanctify us any more than to justify us. So we don’t relay on the law to change us, only to direct us. We must rely upon the power of the Spirit in faith to put to death the misdeeds of the body and produce the new life in us. You seem to think that new life is utterly antithetical to the Law. The ‘problem’ with the Law has always been the flesh (Rom. 6). But the new life we experience in Christ, the grace of God, teaches us to walk in righteousness. Faith & the spirit, not the flesh.
I think we should read the passages above carefully. If any of us consider ourselves to be of the intellectual, theological elite, we should read them even slower. Now, what kind of relationship do we think we Christians should have with the Law?
To claim that the Law is intended to guide a Christian’s daily life requires a re-writing of Scripture. Essentially, it requires taking all of the above passages and adding the phrase “for salvation only” to each one. Examples of this rewriting of Scripture would be: “we died to the law for salvation only,” “we are not under the Law for salvation only,” etc. These theological gymnastics simply display our lack of confidence in Jesus for every ounce of daily living.
It is a shame that this basic Scriptural view is sometimes mislabeled as antinomianism. But, again, categorize-label-dismiss is a common human tendency; we all do it. Unfortunately, today, someone who simply holds to the Scriptures listed above about our freedom from law may be mislabeled as antinomian.
When we read those passages carefully, in context, we see we are not “re-writing” Scripture. If the context of the passage is justification, then it means we died to the law w/respect to justification. It is not theological gymnastics, but proper exegesis. Proof-texting is not proper exegesis and leads us to distort the Scriptures to say something they don’t intend to say. Sadly, the label fits.
The believer’s total freedom from law should be normal and commonplace, not controversial. In fact, it is those who abandon the old way of the law that truly respect it! Everyone else is picking and choosing from the 613 laws to make it palatable and convenient for themselves. This is disrespectful to the Law.
Wanna wear polyester? Delete that one. Wanna work on Saturday? Delete that one. Wanna eat shrimp? Delete that one. And so it goes as we conveniently pick and choose some moral laws to keep our behavior in check. All the while, Jesus is telling us that the fruit of the Spirit is enough and “against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23b).
Here are the absurd arguments. The Scriptures do make a distinction between moral law (the 10 Commandments) and ceremonial law. We are not picking & choosing, but seeking to listen to the whole of the NT. The ceremonial law, fulfilled by Christ, is obsolete and was fading at the time. Since then the Temple has been destroyed. It is not about personal preference.
Yes, there is no law against godly character. But wouldn’t there be sin in a lack of self-control (sensuality), impatience, cruelty, hatred etc.? Yes, it is sin for it violates the character & will of God (which is what the moral law is, his character & will).
God’s grace teaches us to live godly, upright lives free of immorality: “For the grace of God… teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12).
Romans 7 tells us that we died to the law and are now married to Jesus. Any return to law for daily living is spiritual adultery – cheating on Jesus.
This should be normal Christian thought, not controversial. The misunderstanding of “beginning by the Spirit” for salvation and then turning to the law after “beginning by the Spirit” was precisely what angered the Apostle Paul, prodding him to say, “You Foolish Galatians.” Two thousand years later, I’m afraid we are not doing much better: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)
Isn’t porneia (sexual immorality) part of the moral law? We’ve been over the rest of the ground already.
C. Gentiles (Hey, That’s Us!) Were Never Invited to the Law (Ephesians 2:12)
In addition, most of us are Gentiles – not Jews – and we were *never given the law.* As Ephesians 2:12 and following explains, we were “without hope” and “without God” and “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel” and “strangers” to the covenants of Israel.
The New Covenant is our only option as Gentiles. We were never invited to the Jewish law.
All Christians, whether Gentile or Jew, are dead to the Law, in every way. In fact that’s the only way we can bear fruit at all: “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” (Romans 7:4)
Ephesians 2:12 does not teach that we were never invited to the Jewish law. The very genealogy of Jesus contains Gentiles who converted to faith in YHWH- Rahab, Ruth, probably Bathsheeba. The covenant of grace is our own hope for salvation, faith in the Lamb & the blood of the eternal covenant (Heb. 13).
1. we died to the law.
2. we now belong to Jesus.
3. dying to the law was the only way we can truly bear fruit.
As for how we can now define morality now, we are certainly not lacking in instruction today. There are hundreds of behavior verses throughout the New Testament; the fruit of God’s Spirit is listed in detail; and we’re also told that it’s all about “love your God” and “love your neighbor” (see Romans 13:9). This is the true fulfillment of the Law anyway.
If we choose to have an ongoing relationship with the law, we can expect sin to “increase” in our lives (see Romans 5:20) because the law actually arouses “sinful passions” (see Romans 7:5). So what’s the only solution? “For sin shall not be your master, because…. you are *not* under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)
I dealt with most of this above. But one I thing I found interesting was in 2 Corinthians 3.
14But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
Notice that when the Old Covenant is read, there is a veil on people’s hearts. Paul says something is removed when we turn to the Lord- not the Law but the veil. The Old Covenant was never the problem, but the deadness of our hearts and hardness of our minds. The veil is removed so we may see the unfading glory of Jesus and be transformed into His likeness.
D. Is the Law the Accurate Way to Define “Sin” For Christians?
It seems, then, that we may disagree about whether the law is designed to point out the failings of the believer and point them back to Christ. In short, we only disagree on whether the law defines sin for the Christian. My reasons for saying “no” are twofold:
1. I interpret “dead to the law” as meaning no relationship with it. (Romans 7:4)
2. I think using the law to define sin will result in arbitrary selections from the law at our convenience. According to the law:
a. Eating pork is sin.
b. Eating shellfish is sin.
c. Saturday yardwork is sin.
d. Giving less than a tenth is sin.
Most Christians ignore (a) and (b). Some ignore (c) and still many hold to (d).
But the same documents that give us the Ten Commandments also tell us wearing clothes spun of two linens is sin. In short, the New Testament commands of love, the “royal law”, the “law of liberty” is the solution. This is not Moses. It’s laws of love that are on our hearts, not 613 things, or 10 things, or 9 things, or 9 + tithing.
I’ve addressed most of these things above. Your failure to make proper distinctions leads to absurd dilemmas. It also fails to adequately reckon with 2 Timothy 3.
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
The Scripture that Timothy had was the Old Testament. We don’t just glean overflow from it. You can’t “re-write Paul to refer only to the New Covenant here. Rather (the OT):
- It can make us wise for salvation thru faith in Christ (like Abraham, David and Timothy).
- It is profitable to teach us so that we have proper doctrine.
- It is profitable to reproof or rebuke us for wrong teaching or living.
- It is profitable to correct us, show us how to live.
- It is profitable to train us in righteousness.
- It is profitable to make us competent and equipped for every good work (including giving- shall we who received more give less?).
E. Clarification on The Lord’s Prayer
Finally, regarding the Lord’s Prayer, you only quoted four words of it – “Forgive us our sins.” There’s more, and it’s pretty critical, especially Jesus’ conclusion to His prayer. That reveals what He’s really doing (just as He told the rich man to sell everything.)
Many of us recite it without thinking about what we are saying: “Forgive us our sins *as we* forgive others”? On top of that, Jesus’ conclusion is: If you forgive others, you will be forgiven by God, but if you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven by God.
Pretty clearly, Jesus tells his Jewish listeners that their forgiveness is *conditional* upon forgiving others. Take a moment. Read the Lord’s Prayer slowly, especially the ending and the conclusion. And compare it with Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13, which were written after the cross. The cross changes everything- a beautiful work!
Notice that Jesus’ communicates that they needed to forgive others *in order to* be forgiven by God. Here is the quote from Jesus: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NASB)
I think the Lord’s Prayer condemns all of us, and that’s why we need grace. On this side of the cross, our forgiveness is not gained by forgiving others first. Forgiveness is given to us as a gift in Christ, with no strings attached. Then we pass forgiveness on to others because we *already* have it in Christ- see Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13.
This is the opposite of what Jesus says in the Lord’s Prayer, which occurs before His blood is shed on the cross for our forgiveness.
Here are Jesus’ harsh words again for us to read slowly and carefully: “For *if you forgive others* for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But *if you do not forgive others*, then your Father will *not* forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Sound conditional? It seems conditional to me. And it doesn’t appear to be grace. Instead, I think that it’s Jesus’ expansion of the Law to show them their hopelessness apart from grace. In contrast, see Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13 to find out why Christians should forgive today- not to earn God’s forgiveness in return, but simply because of what we’ve already been granted through Jesus.
But, in general, it seems to me that a popular interpretation today of Law-based teaching is to water it down to somehow make it more palatable. Maybe Jesus didn’t really mean “be perfect.” Maybe Jesus didn’t really mean “forgive to be forgiven.” Maybe Jesus didn’t really mean “cut off your hand” and “pluck out your eye.” Maybe Jesus didn’t really mean “sell everything.” We water down Jesus’ teaching to make it more palatable, more compatible with “doing our best.”
Instead, we should let the stringency of the Law do its work. And let Jesus’ harsh teaching condemn us all. Then we see our need for forgiveness and new life, as a gift, not earned.
I addressed most of this above. God’s people have always been forgiven by the work of Christ. It is not as if they were forgiven one way in the OT and another now. Those OT sacrifices pointed to His (as Hebrews makes clear). Funny, but here Jesus doesn’t even mention atonement (he assumes it). We don’t make atonement for our sin by forgiving others under either covenant.
Jesus addressed the idolatry of the rich young ruler and addressed that command to him, not everyone. He was stripping the man of his self-righteousness, not setting up a path to salvation. If you think Jesus is telling people to mutilate themselves even though he knows he’s about to die for that sin … he is cruel and a liar. Your method of interpretation creates an inconsistent, confusing, Jesus whose word can’t really be trusted. That’s helpful.
F. Thoughts on 1800 Years of “Church Tradition”
It’s important to some that a particular view on a Biblical matter be well-supported by many scholars, seminaries, or tradition.
The only problem with that, I feel, is that it was only a very short time before the Apostle Paul had to chastise the Galatians, “You foolish Galatians!” for their straying from the truth. And it was only a short time after Paul taught the Corinthians that they were getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper.
So even the earliest of Christians got some things horribly wrong. I’m not sure that I believe that how “early” a tradition or belief is should mean that it is correct.
I firmly believe that God can teach all of us His truth today- we are equally capable of making Corinthian/Galatian mistakes and we are equally capably of understanding His truth today- by His Spirit and His Word.
I addressed this above, and am growing weary of the circles. That others have believed something does not mean it is true. That was never my point. But novelty, a suddenly new insight that has not been believed by the church at any previous time is a sure sign it isn’t true. While false teaching has plagued the church throughout its history, the Spirit has always preserved the truth in the church.
G. The Cross Divides: See Hebrews 9:15-17 and Galatians 4:4
I believe in a distinction between life before the Cross and life after the Cross. I guess what convinces me are passages like Hebrews 9:15-17: “He is the mediator of a new covenant… where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it …a covenant is valid only when men are dead… it is never in force while the one who made it lives.”
So, it seems that Christ’s death is what initiates the New Covenant. And it was not in effect while He lived (verse 17). So I personally feel that Jesus was “born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4a) and that His audience was “those under the Law” (Galatians 4:4b).
Those verses are special to me as they indicate an important distinction between relationship with God before Jesus’ death and relationship with Him now. On this side of the cross, “God had planned something better for us.” (Hebrews 11:40). Thank God for the blood of Jesus! It makes all the difference!
I also think the dividing line of the Cross affects how we contextualize different parts of the Bible. As an extreme example, we choose not to abide by the laws in Leviticus, because we have decided they are Law, before the Cross.
I feel that we should have the Cross as our dividing line to contextualize the Scriptures, not the blank divider page put in our Bibles just before Matthew 1 that says “The New Testament.” Of course, that page was simply placed there by publishers as a literary convention. It is not inspired by God nor written by an apostle.
Hebrews 9:25-27 says it is Christ’s death (not his birth in the manger) that brings in The New Covenant (Testament). So, I think Jesus takes the opportunity (before the cross) to expand on the Law and show people their hopelessness apart from grace.
What makes me think Jesus is expanding on the Law at times in His teaching is that in Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus says five different ways: “You have heard it taught [in the Law]… but I tell you this.” For example, He says that the Law states “Do Not Murder” but then He says, “I tell you Do Not Even Get Angry.” This makes me feel that he is expanding on the Law of Moses in Matthew 5, not teaching grace. He is burying us under the demand to “be perfect” (verse 48).
Of course, not all of Jesus’ teaching is this way. His teaching on the Holy Spirit who is to come, and the Vine and the Branches, among numerous other examples are prophecy about the Kingdom that is near.
But I do feel that Jesus expands on the Law in some of his teaching and shows the true spirit of its perfection. We should study the four Gospels and, of course, the Old Testament (see Naked Gospel, pages 68-69) thoroughly as they are God’s inspired Word.
I think it’s important to place everything in the context of the cross and how much Jesus death (and resurrection!) changed everything for us.
Though connected, there are differences between the Old and New Covenants. We do not follow the ceremonial/sacrificial law because Jesus has fulfilled them (yes, the cross matters). It is not, according to Hebrews, because they are law. We also see one way the New Covenant is better is the indwelling of the Spirit which was promised. When? In the Old Covenant. The continuity is that Jesus fulfilled all that was promised in the Old. All God’s promises become ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus. It is not as if the Old didn’t exist.
Most Reformed people keep the cross central. We try to maintain a Christ (and cross) centered method of interpretation. We place texts within the history & progress of redemption. We don’t use the cross to render most of the Bible merely background info. We see the gospel unveiled even in the Old Testament. It is interesting that Matthew begins his gospel with this sentence:
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (ESV)
Jesus fulfills the covenants God made with David and Abraham! Paul picks this up in places like Galatians 3-4.
I appreciate the comments and interaction. I will give you the final word, and I will conclude here, as you requested. Thank you for the opportunity to enter your blog world and converse.
I hope this clarifies things for people. If I responded to everything, both of us would be here for much longer than we already have. Let the reader decide which one of us faithfully uses Scripture.