the Law and the victory of God?

I’ve really been getting into the idea that, without detracting from God’s sovereignty, we’ve got to say that sin and death and the devil are fundamentally enemies — triumphed over in Christ — before we move (cautiously) to say anything about their being instruments in His hands.

But at least since Luther, the Law (and sometimes also God’s wrath) has been counted among the enemies that Jesus defeated. The problem with this — as I see it — is that the Law appears to be first the instrument of God and only subsequently His enemy. As Paul puts it in Rom 7.6-13, speaking (I take it) of the Law of Moses:

Now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.

Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

OK. So it’s notoriously difficult (not to mention hotly-debated). But I’m wondering what we should say about the Law with respect to God’s victory. Is it the exception that proves the rule? Or should we re-write the rule book?

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2 comments

    1. Hmmm. That’s a good question, Matt. Any hunches?

      I think you’re right about the law being hijacked by sin — in Romans 8.1-3 it’s sin that prevents it achieving its intended purpose, ie. the condemnation of sin that God achieves in sending Jesus ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin’ (v 3). But that makes me wonder about the other ‘enemies’ (hence my question about re-writing the rule book): Might sin and death and the devil, like the law, not have been initially intended as enemies? And what would it mean if that were true?

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