Chapter 5: Negative Passages and God's Law
In previous posts we have been setting up the positive arguments for theonomy. Last week we began to look at chapter five and the so called "negative passages". Today we will continue to analyze Mr Gentry's addressing of these texts and the quality of the defenses against them.
This text is qualified as a "class 2 passage that speaks of the death-dealing consequences of sin". Of all the passages that I find refuted by context this is the one. First it is the believer and not the law that has died. And this death only occurs for our removal from its judgment. The law truly does condemn sin and this must be remembered. So for the law to not condemn our sins we must die with Christ and be removed from the judgment. These principals lie at the heart of justification.
All of this comes within the context of Paul's own conflict with the law (Rom 7:7-9) and its glory (Rom 7:12-14). This passages lies at the heart of a justification transfer not a continuing application of the law for mortification of the sinful nature.
This passages is treated as a "justification by law" passage. The way this text is dealt with seems unsatisfactory to me. Mr Gentry derives that Paul is saying "God's people are never saved by legal obedience" and that "Israel abuses God's law in attempting to use it for that purpose". While I don't disagree with the conclusions, I don't agree that this is the point of the text.
The text without question comes in the middle of a "self righteousness" context. But Paul drifts into how the word of God has come close to us (Rom 10:6-9). I would prefer it said that Jesus Christ is the theological and revelatory end to the law. The law find its fulness by being completed in Christ. I would still find this passage does no harm to theonomy but I would gain an appreciation for progressive revelation.
1 Corinthians 9:20b
This is an interesting text. It very clearly seems that Paul is declaring himself free from any obligation to the law. A strong case is made by Mr Gentry that the greater context of this passage (1 Cor 8-9) requires us to understand "the law" as the ceremonial aspects of the law.
The most interesting element of this verse is that "becoming a Jew" may be the same as "under the law". If this is true then it does support Mr Gentry's claim that these are the ceremonial elements of the law that truly "made on a Jew". Things if this nature would include circumcision, food laws and other things pertinent to Paul's context.
No student of the Scriptures is able to walk through Paul's use of "the law" and presume he always has the same thing in mind. Strong arguments over this text can be made both ways. I believe Mr Gentry has a good enough case but not a complete one. The quality of the argument really will be determined by the conviction of the ceremonial law being the Jew/Greek distinction in the New Testament (Acts 10:28, 45; 11:2-3; 15:1; 21:21).
2 Corinthians 3
I appreciate that Mr Gentry opens with "on a first, surface reading this passage does sound derogatory toward the law". We as modern readers will certainly come to similar conclusions. Mr Gentry believes the setting of the book and culture provides insight to this explanation from Paul.
It is within the context of serious Jewish resistance that the church at Corinth is born (Acts 18). This is important to be cause 2 Corinthians is filled significantly with Pauline apologetic against false apostles who boast in their Judaism (2 Cor 11:18, 22). It is within this setting that Paul extols the elevated nature of the "new covenant" over the old covenant of law. One of the distinctions Paul uses is the location of the Holy Spirit's activity (2 Cor 3:3).
Everything Paul teaches is entirely consistent and faithful to the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel concerning the new covenant. Both these prophecies spoke of the law being written on hearts (Jer 31:33; Eze 36:27). This is almost certainly meant to be understood symbolically and typologically of the Holy Spirit. But it would be a stretch to presume it to be a typological fulfillment found in the Holy Spirit against the fulness of the law.
Next week we will conclude this chapter and grief a brief analysis of whether or not Mr Gentry achieved his goal.