Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Ministry of Death

[God] has made us ... ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone ... was being brought to an end...
2 Corinthians 3:6-7
To "hear" the law is to understand clearly the law's terms of perfect obedience and to realize you can never satisfy those terms and are therefore without hope of ever seeing, apart from sovereign electing grace, the face of God in peace.

It is tragic that neither the Judaizers in Paul's day nor many Christians today understand what it means to hear the law.  The Scriptures are replete with statements that a person can "hear" without ever "hearing" (Matt. 13:10-17).  This is true of the law as well as the gospel.  If all you ever heard was, "Thou shalt not steal," you have not heard the law.  All you heard was a commandment.  You have not heard the law until you hear it say, "Thou shalt not steal and if you do I will have you stoned to death."  Now you have heard the law.  If all you heard was, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," all you heard was a commandment.  If you heard, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, and if you so much as pick up a few sticks you are a dead man," then you heard the law.  It is the penalty aspect that gives law its status and authority.  You could post a sign saying "50 mile-an-hour speed limit" every hundred yards on every highway in America, but without a fine for breaking that speed limit, police officers to arrest speeders, and judges to collect the fines, you do not have a law--you only have good advice.

In Galatians, Paul uses the term the law to refer to the old covenant in its entirety, including the Ten Commandments.  He states that this law cannot provide help in the fight against sin--either in justification or in sanctification.  The purpose of the old covenant was to expose sin and to drive a sinner to the only viable solution in the battle against sin--the Lord Jesus Christ.  To view the old covenant in any other ways is to misunderstand and misuse it.  The ultimate goal of the old covenant was to do its killing work job and then pass out of existence.

--John Reisinger, Studies in Galatians, p.283-284

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