Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Law (Torah)

I was mulling on this again, as I preached on Romans 7 recently. Some very helpful chat with Mrs L…

What is the Law to us Christians? (And what do we even mean when we say, ‘the Law’? – that’s a big question that turns on some technical points and also on the big sweep of redemptive history.)

Are we bound by its commandments?

Is it a spur to holiness?
Not profitably so

Is it a measure or guide?

So can we read it with profit, and if so, what profit?
Good question!

Think about Galatians 5, on the fruit of the Spirit (the good life, as it were). “Against such things there is no law”. In other words, what does the Law have to do with our ethics now? It has nothing to do with measuring or defining the good, Spirit-filled life. As Colossians 2 says of the Torah (or what sounds like at least part of Torah), “such things have the appearance of wisdom… but are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh”.

But can we only say ‘we don’t need the Law for our ethics now, thanks’ because it has already had such a tremendous influence, direct and indirect, on Western culture for hundreds of years? Is it indeed the case that the Law is OK as a guide to secular national life, but not for Christian ethics?

Of course, since New Testament ethics is hardly radically opposed to Torah in many areas we will find an amazing similarity between the Spirit-filled life and the Law. But is that because both come, as it were, independently from the same source, rather than one being a development or part-adoption of the other.

Hey, I almost sound like a Lutheran or Dispensationalist in those musings!