On the question of the time statements, I have written much off and on and really need to collect those observations as many of them, though alive in my spirit, are not all fresh to my memory. But I have written of the unique nature of how the scriptures view time in spiritual dynamic. I note how that every generations stands, in one sense, at an equidistance to the day of the Lord, that great transition point from the present evil age to the age to come. I argue that we must discern what I believe the prophets themselves discerned of an ‘existential’ imminency that is always true, as the powers and the judgements of the last day impinge equally upon all, at all times, as over against a ‘chronological’ imminency that can only be true when the final signs are literally present in their final form, as in Paul’s reference to the necessary precursory appearance of the man of sin as final embodiment of the mystery of iniquity in the context of a besieged Jerusalem.
This can be shown in the way that some prophets centuries later would employ the same vocabulary of imminence (e.g., the DOL [Day of the LORD] “at hand”, “near” and hasting etc.). They would speak this way of their own generation’s close proximity to the DOL in conscious knowledge that the earlier prophet had used this very language to describe an imminent visitation of the day that was not fully realized in the time of the early prophet. What was realized was a historical visitation of judgment that was fulfilled in remarkable detail, though the full end would still remain for a further generation. Yet, the contemporary generation of evil doers did not escape the threatened covenant judgments associated with the ultimate day of the Lord.
For the surviving remnant, there would be a return and partial fulfillment of restored blessing, but the full balance of all that was promised would be postponed to a more distant point of reference, as in the well known mountain range analogy or the phenomenon known as ‘prophetic foreshortening’ or telescoping, where the near and far horizons are blended in a composite vision without clear distinction. Yet, lest we imagine that this is some effort to save prophecy from the appearance of having failed, we can observe in retrospect how many scattered predictions could not have been fulfilled if all that had been foretold in the composite visions had taken place finally and all at once. So the scripture itself makes provision, even requires recognition of a gap between events that were seen as taking place on a single plane that would be fulfilled in distinct periods separated by such distinctions as the seventy years of Jeremiah’s prophecy, as over against Isaiah’s prophecy of a much more protracted exile and desolation of the Land is envisioned as covering “many generations” (Isa 61:4), as many other examples could be cited of this overlapping of events that would be fulfilled in stages and distinct installments over time, with many important foretold events supervening. It’s the nature of a uniquely biblical perspective of time. There is good evidence that the prophets understood this and were not the least disturbed by the earlier prophet’s announcement that the Day of the Lord was imminent from his perspective.
The judgements of that day were indeed realized in part; but until the discipline of the covenant has reached final resolution in the everlasting salvation of Israel, the end is not yet and the day is yet future, always put just beyond a final unequaled time of trouble and national travail. So far from the later prophets’ conceiving of the earlier prophet’s announcement of an imminent end to have failed, the prophets of a later period will apply the same language to their own generation, as yet another gentile aggressor would threaten judgment and exile. The prophets were aware of this continuing cycle of covenant judgment that must continue until the entirety of the nation comes into the everlasting righteousness of the NC. Only such an apocalyptic in-breaking would be sufficient to overcome the nation’s habitual tendency to backslide and thus end forever the constant threat of covenant judgment. As long as there is only a remnant that fulfills the righteousness of faith, covenant jeopardy will continue to hang over the nation, threatening further curses of the broken law according to Lev 26; Deut 28-32, etc.
I call this ‘pattern eschatology’, because it has recurrent cycles every time the threshold of iniquity has been reached. In which case, the Land spews out its chosen inhabitants and this is subject to be repeated as long as the condition of apostasy persists, again and again. So long as Israel is not saved, the curse continues as the world continues to hemorrhage until their full return to their appointed place under the reign of Messiah from Jerusalem. In every repetition of the cycle of judgment, it is a piece of the end drawing near and visiting a particular generation with the judgments of the coming day. This must continue until all Israel, and not only a remnant, is saved with an everlasting salvation (Isa 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34; 32:40 etc.).
Therefore, the ever present ‘at hand-ness’ of the kingdom as a potential spiritual realization, and the equally ever present ‘at hand-ness’ of the judgments of the great day are no surprise at all. It is the Scripture’s way of pressing on everyone at all times, both the access and the potential imminence of being continuously exposed to the dynamic of Israel’s eschatology, as always impinging, as near as a heart beat, as in the parable of the rich fool: “You fool! This night your soul will be required of you” (Lk 12:16-21). There is no person and no generation who does not stand in that kind of existential proximity to the DOL, so it is eminently wise and serviceable to all generations that the scripture should speak in this way, due to the sense in which every generation stands under, and in direct confrontation with the great day, regardless of how removed it may be chronologically. We see this in the gospels where some passages present the Lord’s return as potentially imminent, while others present the same day as heralded in advance by definite signs.
On your question concerning the law, I believe the case can be made that when Paul speaks in negative terms of the Law, he is NEVER finding fault with the law. Rather, it is the fatal presumption that the law’s perfect requirements can be met and satisfied by something in the natural power and will of man. It is the false hope that there is some strength or potential virtue in man that can gain life by anything less than the miracle of resurrection and rebirth. It is the divine rejection of anything meritorious that has its source in man. It is not that the law is set aside or made obsolete. Rather, it is the fulfillment of the law by the Spirit through faith in Christ’s obedience, atonement, and resurrection, as apart from any work or righteousness that has its source in man. The prophet Isaiah said that Messiah would magnify the law and make it glorious (Isa 42:21), but the law is cheapened when it is presumed that its holy demands can be sufficiently met by the strength and will of man to escape wrath and gain eternal life. It is not the end of the law except in the sense that its goal has been realized in Christ. Rather, it is the end of a misplaced trust in man that presumes that life can come by the law, which is to say by man. That is Paul’s concern, not the removal of the law, but the removal of confidence in the flesh, which perverts the proper intent and use of the law.
The only fault with the law is its inability (‘weakness’) to secure life by the inability of fallen man to adequately fulfill its requirement of holy perfection (Jn 7:19). The fault lies with how men look to the law as a means of winning divine acceptance. It is the deadly presumption that man has strength (Ro 5:6). God must resist the pride of this false dependency, since it is impossible for God to be moved or indebted by anything that has its source in man (Ro 11:35-26; 1Cor 4:7). Otherwise, mercy would be conditioned on something in man that could merit and lay claim to the promise by the resident powers of the first creation. This can never be, since the promise made in grace fully assumes that only by a miracle of regeneration can the inherent corruption and inability of the fallen nature be overcome by the God who raises the dead. This great truth is witnessed by Abraham’s deep sleep to show the unilateral nature of the covenant.
For Paul, reliance on the law is nothing more than reliance on the flesh’. It is the presumption that imagines that the law’s unapproachably high standard (Heb 12:18-21) can be met and managed by man. Paul shows that the law was intended to shut persons up to the necessity of a miraculous deliverance of radical, inward transformation that is nothing less than life from the dead. This is Paul’s apocalyptic gospel. So far from encouraging hope in man’s innate abilities, the law was given to drive men off of their self reliance and to crowd them to Christ. The transformation that comes through the Spirit’s revelation of Christ is patterned after Israel’s eschatological new birth and resurrection at the last day when the surviving remnant are transformed as they “look upon Him whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10).
The prophets entertained no such optimism concerning human nature and spoke of another covenant based on better promises of the initiative that God would take to make His people willing in the day of His power (Ps 102:13; 110:3; Gal 1:15-16). The mystery of the gospel is that the power and blessing of that day has, in real measure, come already, as first fruits. Hence, the already and the not yet of an inaugurated eschatology. The gospel reveals the predestined Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world, to be the only means by which God can approach the guilty, since it is only by death to the flesh accomplished by the atonement of the last Adam that the sinner can be free from the law’s sentence of death. Without the atonement of Christ, faith itself would be vain, since it is only through His sacrifice that all who go down into death with Him can be made alive in Him.
According to Paul, the law, rightly perceived, weakens rather than strengthens man. That is its design, to drive men off of carnal confidence that they might put their trust in God and not in themselves. This is why Jesus raises the bar by drawing out the true implications of the law’s demands in the Sermon on the Mount and in His shocking rebuke of the naive humanism of the rich young ruler whose root problem was his optimistic view of man (Mt 19:17 with Jn 2:25). In this, Jesus perfectly anticipates Paul’s theology of total depravity (Ro 7:18). This state of natural helplessness is the corollary of a pervasive corruption that has passed on all men through the fall. It is well said; we are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners! Sin is not measured just in terms of particular offenses against the law. It is a disease that pervades every aspect of our nature. This condition has been called, ‘original sin’. Judaism’s great error is not in their rejection of a term coined by Christian theologians; it is their denial of what the term stands for.
By such denial, Judaism shows a far greater optimism concerning human nature their prophets who despaired of anything short of an ultimate apocalyptic in-breaking, sufficient to transform the nature of an entire nation in one day, a transformation so radical as to last forever, unto children’s children (Isa 54:13; 59:21; Jer 31:34). The prophets saw Israel as ‘shut up’ by the law to an act of God, exerted dynamically from outside themselves that would radically transform their nature by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the revelation of their Messiah (Isa 32:15-17; Eze 39:28; Joel 2:28-29; Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; 24:30; Rev 1:7)
In that day, they will know that nothing in themselves made them to differ from the generations before them who were not able to enter in. And what the prophets saw for the nation, Paul sees for the individual. The new birth is an apocalyptic concept derived from the pattern of Israel’s eschatology. This is why Jesus holds Nicodemus accountable, as a teacher in Israel, to make this connection. If a nation cannot enter into the kingdom except by a birth of the Spirit, can it be any differently for the individual?
From the standpoint of Israel’s eschatology, it is only when this apocalyptic transformation has been effected that ‘all Israel’ will “know the Lord from that day and forward (Eze 39:22), and so fulfill the demands of the law in such a way as to keep the Land forever, without further threat of affliction from their enemies (2Sam 7:10; Jer 31:40; Amos 9:15). This, since the ever threatening jeopardy of the broken law will have been finally overcome by the Spirit of regeneration, not only for a remnant, but the whole of the nation unto children’s children.
Only such a transformation of the whole of the nation (beginning with the third that survive the tribulation) can guarantee continuance in the Land, which is the logic of the intervention of the Day of the Lord. The promise is therefore NOT the removal of the law in the sense of the holy commandments that define righteousness. Impossible! What is removed is the inability to fulfill all righteousness by the Spirit through the quickening of faith. However, the Spirit cannot be lawfully given unless the enmity is destroyed by the removal of what Paul calls, “the body of sin” (Ro 6:6), and this is only accomplished through the atonement of the last Adam.
For Paul, to be under the law simply means to be under the power of the flesh where the law can only speak death to all that falls short of its perfect requirement to be holy as God is holy. In short, the law is commanding and requiring nothing short of the moral nature of God. For Paul, as long as one is alive to sin through dependency on the flesh (natural will and power), one is under the dominion of the law that must curse all that comes short. To die to the flesh through the Spirit, as only made possible by the body of Christ, is to live to God by the rule of the Spirit of life that is the ever present fulfillment of the law as emanating from the divine nature within. It is God incarnate in jars of clay who is fulfilling the law through the union of sonship by reason of shared nature. The nature and life of the woman’s Seed has been born within and this secures the inheritance promised to all the seed.
Paul is continually contrasting and polarizing these two principles of power, the power of the flesh versus the life and power of the Spirit. They exist in totally different domains, the domain that under the curse of the law through dependence on the flesh for its fulfillment, and the domain of the Spirit that fulfills the law by a faith that depends wholly on what God has done and will do and depends nothing at all on what man can do apart from the life giving Spirit of God. Paul is not saying the law is finished but the tyranny of the flesh that takes occasion by the law, which is to say the presumption of power that there is something in man that can sufficiently meet the law’s demand for a life that is beyond human reach and must therefore be given freely as a divine act of resurrection based on the work of Christ, with no account of merit in the creature.
I believe Paul is absolutely correct to understand that the law requires nothing less than the Son and the nature of the Son in sons; and so the necessity of a new creation that is patterned after Israel’s eschatology of the renewal of all things. Only by being dead to the flesh by a new creation can one be discharged from the obligation to fulfill the law’s full range of obligations by the flawed and limited powers of the first creation. In Paul’s marriage analogy, unless one has become legally and spiritually dead to the law by the body of Christ, the full obligation persists, as the law decrees death to all who fall short. But the law is met and gloriously fulfilled, first by the Messiah on behalf of His people, but then also by His nature within, as the body remains a battleground between flesh and Spirit, where the war has been won but each battle remains decisive for the progressive conquest of the soul to be fully conformed to Christ as the light that grows brighter to the perfect day.
Because we are now in perfect union with the law giver, it is impossible that we, as a new creation, can be at enmity with the righteous requirements of God contained in the law. That’s why Paul could distinguish between the inward man of the Spirit, who could not commit sin from his inmost new nature but still battled the sin that remained in his members (Ro 7:20 with 1Jn 3:9). For the new man of the new creation, all enmity is contained and condemned in the flesh with which the new man of the Spirit (which new man we are if we are Christ’s) is perpetually at war. This is the ongoing struggle between death and life with the goal that the power of Christ’s resurrection might be fully magnified and displayed in our mortal bodies (Phil 1:19-20; 3:10-12). The standard of perfect holiness has not changed, but the means and source of its fulfillment has changed radically. Though the law is no longer looked to as a means; conformity to its righteous demands is no less imperative in any age or dispensation.
That said, there is an important difference, as even the rabbis speak of a ‘change in the law’, not as conceived by Christians, of course, but as observed by the marked changes to the outward ordinances of the law in the messianic age after the day of the Lord. As noted, Jesus and the Apostles conceived of the kingdom as taking a new departure in the present. In the person and work of Christ, the kingdom was ‘at hand’. For Jews this could only mean that the ‘age to come’ was ‘at hand’. From Jesus’ parables concerning the ‘mystery of the kingdom’, it becomes evident that for Jesus, it is the power an presence of the age to come that is not only ‘at hand’; it has come.
With the revelation of Jesus as Messiah and Lord, personal salvation is understood as passing over into the life of the age to come, according to the pattern of Israel’s still to be realized eschatology in the still coming, post-tribulational day of the Lord. Here is an important point. All the prophets understood the dilemma of the covenant as posed by the inability of Israel to ever possess the Land according to the promise of everlasting possession apart from a mighty apocalyptic in-breaking that would accomplish at once the inward transformation of the heart and the external subjugation of the gentiles to the rod iron rule of Messiah. They knew the inadequacy of the law to bring this about, not by any defect in the law, of course, but by the natural enmity of human nature.
For Jesus and the Apostles, the power of that coming day has come in the person of the Spirit through the word and work of Christ. The age to come is here, not in its finality, of course, but in its powerful working by the Spirit of revelation. There is an apocalyptic unveiling before the end, because the ground and basis of the everlasting covenant of promise to Abraham has come to light in the ‘blood of the everlasting covenant’. Jesus is the apocalyptic event that brings the promise and blessing of the age to come into the present, despite the continued presence of evil, thus, the ‘mystery of the kingdom’. That Jesus sees it this way is clear from His application of the everlasting covenant to those who believe on Him in Jn 6.
The promise that guarantees that all the children of redeemed Israel would be ‘taught of God’ has come now. The anomaly is that the passage that Jesus is citing appears in a decidedly post-tribulational, day of the Lord context (Isa 54:13 with Jn 6:45). Thus, Jesus is applying the covenant of peace that is described as coming to post-tribulational Israel to be now available to those who believe on Him. The emphasis on the Spirit’s drawing as necessary pre-requisite to faith stands in notable analogy to the pouring out of the Spirit on the Jewish survivors of the final tribulation. Notice too the implied security of those who trust in Christ in analogy to the ability of post-tribulational Israel to inherit the Land forever without further fear of their enemies, because all Israel will know Him “from that day and forward” (see Isa 4:2-3; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:22; Ps 89:36; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 39:22, 28-29; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Zeph 3:13 and many other scriptures that show a uniformity of Jewish salvation in the millennium that secures the Land as an everlasting possession).
This is the background of Paul’s logic in contrasting the conditionality and weakness of the law as a means of life based on man’s performance, with the unconditionality of the everlasting covenant as based on God’s predetermination in grace to raise those who are dead in sin. The question of the law is the question of the radical pervasiveness of sin as requiring nothing short of resurrection and new birth by the Spirit, not as a reward for doing the law but as a means to do it in truth by the power of God for which no glory can be taken.
I believe we could say that for Paul it was an inexorable rule of the Spirit that a division in the labor means a division in the glory. Paul is not against works. He insists on the necessity of fruits of righteousness. His great concern is with the source. His guard is up against anything of man that would presume to mix the un-mixable. The holiness of the transaction cannot bear even a piece of the leaven of man’s power to be or do apart from divine grace. Else, the whole is spoiled and lost. The presumption of power is pride! The cross has exposed the resident powers of the first creation to be, not only useless to gain life, but an affront to holiness. This false presumption of power is the basis for the misuse of the law that turns it into a law of works when it was never so intended (Ro 9:31-32; Gal 3:19). But works were ruled out as a means of life, even before the law was given. This is seen in so many examples, but particularly in God’s choice of Jacob before the children had been born to do either good or evil, precisely “so that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him who calls” (Ro 9:11). Paul is committed to show what Jesus was interested to emphasize. Righteousness is not the cause but the fruit of a divine choice that does not take account of any inherent quality or ability within the power and reach of man. “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you” (Jn 15:16).
This is why Judaism’s denial of original sin is so telling of its rejection of the need for an atonement that deals radically with the root of human nature. It betrays a naive optimism concerning the pervasiveness and power of sin, as though it is something that is humanly manageable. This optimism concerning human potential is at radical odds with the implications of Israel’s eschatology of death and resurrection. It is the grim diagnosis and despair concerning human nature that moved the prophets to call for a new covenant based on better promises, promises that declare what God has determined to do despite the condition of man as dead and without strength (Jn 1:13; Ro 9:16; Jas 1:18), as shown when He put Abraham in a deep sleep before passing through pieces.
I’m going considerably beyond your question, but what I’m pointing out is the too little considered reason that Paul speaks negatively of the law. It is his way of speaking of misplaced confidence, the false presumption of power that imagines to come before God in a righteousness that is in the reach of the will and power of man apart from a sovereign miracle of regeneration. That’s what Paul is getting at. He’s not interested to diminish the law or render it obsolete. He’s interested to magnify it and make it glorious and put it to its proper use till it is seen for all the terror it represents to those who put their trust in man instead of the God who raises the dead. And how dead is dead? That is the question; isn’t it?
The Law is spoken of negatively because of what man does with it through the delusional presumption that there is something sufficiently good in man that can accommodate the holiness and fearful implications of of its demands. This is evident in the requirement of a New Covenant that can guarantee eternal inheritance and safe continuance in the Land only by reason of a divine intervention that gives the the new heart and spirit to a people that would have forever remained unwilling if they had not been brought to the end of their power and so made willing in the day of His power (Ps 102:13; 110:3). It will be like Paul’s sovereign arrest on the road to Damascus (Gal 1:15-16).
We must show Israel that a mere remnant is not enough. Only as ‘all Israel’, fully purged and redeemed, exists as an all holy nation can the Land be secure of abiding inheritance, because only then will Israel’s habitual tendency to backslide will be cured, not only for a remnant but for all the nation, once and for all. Only in this way can there be secure assurance that the next generation will not slide back and come back under the curse of the law. This is the logic of the new covenant as the prophets saw it. It is why they insist that there can be no abiding inheritance until “all Israel” has come into the everlasting righteousness of the New Covenant. And why is it called an ‘everlasting righteousness? It is because it is NOT their own righteousness, but His and preserved by Him. “Their righteousness is of Me” (Isa 54:17). “And this is the name by which He (Messiah) shall be called, “the LORD our righteousness” (Jer 23:5-6). And “in the Lord shall ALL Israel be justified and shall glory” (Isa 45:25), and so on.
This is what Paul is after! He’s not concerned to set light or obviate observance of the law as a stewardship, whether now or in the millennium, except in the case of gentiles for whom the Law was never specifically assigned in all its tedious detail, as witnessed by Judaism’s acceptance of the so-called, Noahic laws. There is some question of unique purpose for this dispensation that I can discuss with you later that also bears on this question and why gentiles were “loosed” of certain obligations towards the law as contained in external ordinances. It is also acknowledged in some parts of Judaism that the arrival of the age to come would bring changes in the law, as we see clearly in Ezekiel 40-48 and even new requirements for gentiles to send an annual delegation to keep the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem (Zech 14). So there is something to be said of the uniqueness of divine purpose for a given dispensation and this by no means makes one a dispensationalist, with all dispensationalism’s implications for dividing Israel from the church and the recently contrived idea of two separate, albeit regenerate ‘peoples of God’ and so forth.
Paul’s concern was NOT whether one continues to observe Kosher or circumcision, but how one looks at these things and depends on them as a means of life. He is concerned to cast down the fatal mixture of a misplaced and divided trust. He is opposed to mixing the un-mixable. Paul sees trust in the latent powers of the first creation to be subversive of true faith. He sees the necessity of an apocalyptic transformation to be a resurrection event of life from the dead, without the help of man. With the exception of the analogy of marriage, all the metaphors of Israel’s eschatology, birth, resurrection, and new creation are all passive. Man is dead and moribund in his ability until acted upon from outside himself by a sovereign, recreative act of the Spirit. Paul’s whole conception is based on Israel’s eschatology, and shouldn’t it be?
Paul is making consistent application of Israel’s eschatology to the individual. The rule and pattern of travail before birth and death before resurrection is the same. Paul is not concerned with what a living person does with the law so long as they are alive in the doing, not by the law, as by human ability to approach the law in one’s own power, but by faith through the Spirit who reveals and quickens Christ to the heart. If the stewardship of obedience is to keep the law, as Paul says the commandments are still to be kept, then whatever that stewardship decrees is only acceptable if it is done by one who is alive to God by the Spirit of regeneration. In such case, the commandments are kept by the power of a new creation, even the indwelling Messiah through the Spirit. Paul is interested that we put the cart behind the horse. The commandments indeed must and will be kept, but they are kept, not as a means of life but as the fruit of life. Just pair these following two scriptures to get what I mean:
1 Cor 7:19 “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.”
Gal 6:15 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature”
You see, it is not a neglect of the commandments. The commandments must be kept. That has not changed. The question is the source by which they are done. Is it His life or our life? The commandments are acceptably kept and the law fulfilled in only place, namely, “in Christ”, which is another way of saying, “in the Spirit”. It is the mystery of incarnation and the logic behind the New Covenant. It is Jesus in us, the One true Seed, who alone does the only works that can ever count with God. Those are the works of the Spirit through union with Christ by faith; just as Jesus refrained from doing His own works or speaking His own words (Jn 14:10, 24). This is how He could be the moral perfection of the image of God and thus become our representative humanity in His death and resurrection. By circumventing original sin through the virgin birth, to this one, uniquely begotten Son, the Spirit is given without the measure (Jn 3:33). This is how the Messiah can fill up in Himself, by no works of His own, the fullness of the Godhead bodily, so that in Him all fullness was pleased to dwell, that of His fulness we may all receive. How? Through the virgin birth, Jesus was the new Adam, free from the corruption of nature received in the fall and passed down through the seed of the man. Why? Because He never did one thing by Himself. By a dependency that was utter, untainted, and complete, He was the weakest of the weak and thus the meekest of the meek.
The indwelling of the Spirit of Christ is made possible only by the atonement that removes the body of sin. This is why Jesus had to be free from the nature that was received and passed down through the fall. It is why the last Adam had to be born of a virgin. Only in this way could He be free from the mixture of the self sufficient nature received through the fall that tends always to trust in the natural powers of the first creation. It is this misplaced confidence that is the quintessence of idolatry. Whether the self-covering of an apron of leaves or Cain’s sacrifice, in every false approach to salvation, at its root is the delusive presumption of power. To believe that there is some resident quality or power in man that can gain divine approval and fit one to stand before infinite holiness is a cheapening of the work of the cross. No, any so-called work of righteousness that issues out of the natural will and power of man, as apart from the quickening of the Spirit, is rejected as filthy rags (Isa 64:6; Ro 3:10-12; Phil 3:7-8).
Such scriptures aim to rebuke the really evil presumption that something of human ability can hope to contribute anything that has not been first given by the Spirit. A polar antithesis is set forth in scripture between what can be produced by the flesh and what can be produced by the Spirit. Along the lines of the two seeds of Gen 3:15 can be traced the two great mysteries that govern the cosmic conflict, namely, the ‘mystery of iniquity’ (2Thes 2:7) and ‘the mystery of godliness’ (1Tim 3:16). Both speak of a nature of ultimate contrast found in the children of the flesh and the children of God (Jn 3:6; Ro 9:8; Gal 4:29). God has predestined both natures to be brought to fullest expression in an ultimate incarnation.
The seed is both corporate and personal. The seed of the woman is Christ but also the Spirit of Christ in all the children of God, the corporate ‘seed’ of the Spirit (Isa 53:10; Ro 4:16, 18; 9:7-8; Gal 3:7, 16, 26; 4:28; 1Pet 1:23). Conversely, the seed of the Serpent is the nature of Satan as manifest in the children of the flesh (Ro 9:8 with Gal 4:29) and ultimately embodied in the man of sin (2Thes 2:3-4, 7). This understanding of the two seeds, as two natures that divide humanity, is ruled by the law of Genesis that every seed can only produce ‘after its own kind‘ (Gen 1:11 with Jn 8:33, 37, 39; Gal 3:29). This is how the two seeds are ‘manifest’ (Gal 5:19; 1Jn 3:9-10). Therefore, the only works that can count with God are the works of a new creation, those done out of the nature of Christ in us, namely, the fruits of the Spirit. This is the mystery of Christ in us, the hope of glory.
So Paul is not interested in dismantling the law but of answering the law’s demand for a new creation that is indestructible and eternal. Paul discerns the proper use of the law, to bring us (shut us up) to the Messiah as the one who purchased the right of the Father to give the Spirit to a faith that is itself born of God (1Jn 5:4). And this faith doesn’t only begin after the cross, as Christ was “in” the prophets of the OT, and we may be sure in all the children of the Spirit (Gal 4:29 with Jn 6:63; 1Cor 2:14). The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world was ever the only ground and basis by which God could approach the sinner. The pre-incarnate Jesus is that nature / seed of the Spirit who indwelt the OT faithful (1Pet 1:11), the ‘remnant according to the election of grace’ (Ro 11:5).
The Spirit comes as a free gift that leaves nothing of man to glory, because it is NOT I but Christ. He doeth the work!, not only as God with us; but as God in us. Paul knows that when that seed / Spirit / Word is truly born in a person, there is no way that it can fail to bring forth fruit after its own kind. It is the law of Genesis. That’s why Paul is so mystified and rebukes the thought that someone may be in grace and yet continuing to willingly practice sin (Ro 6:1-2). This shows how profoundly they were mistaken who accused Paul of antinomianism.
All’s to say, Paul is not opposed to the Law but the perversion of the law when it is looked to, not as a measure and index of life, but as a means to life. This is what we’re doing with the law when we look to ourselves or some innate virtue within ourselves as a ground of hope. This is Judaism. In such case, this misplaced and divided confidence becomes the abomination that makes desolate, because it is quintessential idolatry. This is the fatal trust in the creature rather than the creator who gives the Spirit as the necessary means of life and acceptable obedience. In this, Paul has been greatly misunderstood. Other than Jesus, Paul is not only the best friend the gentiles ever had; he’s the best friend Israel has ever had, if eyes could only see the intentions of this hard to be understood man who was arrested by Jesus and sent to the nations. Yes, like Jesus is thought to be Judaism’s ultimate test, Paul is a test for the church but not in a way that either imagine.
Your devoted friend in the fray, Reggie