Posted on October 31, 2010
The Law Both Abolished and Fulfilled: Schreiner’s 40 Questions
I just received and have been immersed in Thomas R. Schreiner’s 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law. Since I’m heading to Atlanta for the 62nd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society where this year’s theme is “Justification by Faith” and the 2 “Toms” (Tom Schreiner and “Tom” Wright) are debating, I thought this would be a good read to prepare (in addition to the many other publications sparking such controversy).
So far I’ve really enjoyed it and, as Justin Taylor mentioned, this is a good primer for anyone interested in learning more about how law and Gospel intersect.
Question 14 “Does Paul Distinguish Between the Moral, Ceremonial, and Civil Law?” really stood out to me in providing a useful framework in which to understand this familiar 3-part taxonomy of Old Testament law. Here’s an excerpt (pp. 92-93).
On the one hand, the “civil” laws of the Old Testament are no longer in force, and yet we have a hint that Paul sees such laws as fulfilled in Christ as well. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul requires the church to expel the man committing incest from the church. The mandate to remove him is expressed in the final words of 1 Corinthians 5:13, “Purge the evil person from among you.” paul here picks up the language of Deuteronomy, where the same language is used to denote the death sentence that the community of Israel must impose upon those who are guilty of blatant sins. Hence, the idolater must be put to death, “So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deut. 17:7). A comparison of the Greek clearly shows that Paul draws on Deuteronomy. Indeed, this phrase or one very similar appears on a number of occasions in Deuteronomy (LXX) for those who are to be put to death (cf. Deut. 17:12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 22, 24; 24:7). Nonetheless, a remarkable difference is evident between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament the evil person is put to death, for Israel is both a political entity and a spiritual people. In the New Testament, however, the evil person is not put to death but removed from the church of Jesus Christ. The law is both abolished and fulfilled. It is abolished, for believers are no longer called upon to execute those who commit the sins specified in Deuteronomy, but it does not follow that the command to purge evil from the community has no relevance to the church. It finds its fulfillment in the expulsion of the evil person from the church of Jesus Christ.
Incidentally, Schreiner refers favorably (p. 90, n. 2) to an article by David A. Dorsey, “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise” available at http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/34/34-3/34-3-pp321-334_JETS.pdf.