Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jesus didn't save me from the curse of the Law

I'm a Gentile.

A few years ago I took an MA subject on Galatians, and our teacher made the suggestion that the plural we/you pronouns and verbs in Galatians might actually be read, for the most part, as referring to Jewish-background believers, and Gentile-background believers. Try it - pick up Galatians, and everytime Paul says 'we', think of Jewish-background believers, and everytime he says 'you' think of it referring to Gentile-background believers in Galatia.

Lately I have been reading Brian Rosner's fine work, "Paul and the Law". Rosner makes a very clear and persuasive case that for Paul, Gentiles were never under the Law.

If that's so, that I was never under the Law, then how does salvation work for Gentiles?

I have heard countless sermons, and probably preached a few myself, that apply the Law to Gentiles, either for conviction of sin, or to show the need for salvation, essentially based on the assumption that Christians who are Gentiles should have fulfilled the Law, didn't fulfill the Law, and are under judgment for not fulfilling the Law. And yet, if Gentiles were never under the Law, this is not true. We are very clear that Gentiles who become believers do not come under the Law of Moses, but we act as if Gentiles who become believers also become pseudo-former-covenant-members who failed to keep the Law. Do you see how odd this is?

Of course, if I was never under the Law, I am not under the penalty of the Law. But I don't need to be under the penalty of the Law, because in the sphere of the Old Testament to be outside the Law, outside the covenant community, is already to be under judgment. We don't need to do mental gymnastics here - all Gentiles in virtue of being sinners and outside the covenant, were already under judgment.

Preachers often struggle with applying Galatians - there is only a (thankfully) small subsection of Gentile believers today who are tempted by Judaising - by going back under the Law (though we do see this - Christians who want to be more 'Jewish' and get back to more 'Jewish' roots, often uncritically adopting OT practices and worse, pseudo-OT practices). But perhaps a more telling application is right in front of us - we keep applying the Law to Gentiles as if they should have been keeping it and weren't and so need to repent of this and find righteousness in Christ. Actually it is we, preachers and teachers, who are putting Gentiles under the Law in order to bring them out of the Law through the Gospel. What??

 Preach the Gospel so that Gentiles who are judged outside the Law may be saved through Christ, and don't be tempted to preach the Law in such a way as to falsely impose it on Gentiles. Otherwise, ironically, it is we, not the Judaisers of Galatians, who are 'leading people back under the Law'.

1 comment:

ozhamada said...

This is a most fulfilling read - thank you for posting it.