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Romans 10 Setup – Renovating the Law

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Romans 10 Setup – Renovating the Law




In 10:1-4, we saw that Paul reiterated a desire that his fellow Jews be saved.

  • The problem, of course, is that they stumbled over Christ.


Paul told us that they were ignorant of the way to righteousness.

  • As a result, they established their own way to be right with God.


Their way involved an abuse of the law.

  • They attempted to make the law (and membership badges)…
  • The way to be made right with God.


But Paul argued that Christ is the goal and the finish line of the law.

  • Righteousness comes through Christ, not obedience to the law…
  • Or any other man-made entryway into the people of God.
  • To be right with God is to be right with Christ. Period.


In Deuteronomy 10:5-8…

  • Paul unpacks this “law-righteousness-Jesus” thing a bit more.


Specifically, Paul contrasts:

  • Righteousness “out of” the law.
  • Righteousness “out of” faith.


Before we can dive into Paul’s contrasts…

  • I think it will be helpful to deal with our misconceptions of the law.


We will do this by exposing our Christian caricatures of the law.

  • And we will expose them by looking at two contrasts of the law.



The Law – Caricature 1:

Let’s start with Romans 7:22-23:

  • Romans 7:22–23 (ESV) — 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 25b So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.


Some months ago, we learned in this passage, that Paul never threw the law under the bus.

  • He lamented the fact that the “law of sin” corrupted the law.


In other words, his experience of the law before Christ…

  • Was in the domain of sin.
  • A domain that warped and corrupted the law.


Paul teased this out by discussing the tension he saw with law in his own life.

  • (1) His good intentions with the law.
  • (2) Evil’s grasp of the law (within the domain of sin and death).


N.T. Wright helped us understand this tension.



Good Intentions with the Law:

Of the first, Wright said:

  • “Imagine Paul as a young man praying Psalm 19 or Psalm 119, studying Torah prayerfully day and night, longing to wrap it around him like a cloak, to make it his way of life, his every breath. Not only is there nothing wrong with that; it is exactly what Israel was meant to do” – N.T. Wright.


This reflects the zeal Paul had for the law as a good Jew.

  • The zeal he spoke of in Romans 10:2 that his fellow Jews shared.
  • …I bear witness that they have a zeal for God…


But Paul’s good intentions with the law before Christ…

  • And the experience of his fellow Jews who were also living under the “law of sin”.
  • Didn’t play out as hoped…and it wasn’t the law’s fault.



Evil’s Grasp of the Law:

Under the “law of sin”, the God’s law is under the power of “evil’s grasp”:

  • “But the closer you hug the law to yourself, if you are still ‘in Adam’, the more the law is bound to say ‘But you’re a sinner!’ Worse: it will not only accuse, it will tempt…[and bring death]. It looks as though the law has developed a shadowy copy of itself, a negative identity which seems to be fighting on the side of sin against what the ‘I’ longs to do” – N.T. Wright.


This reflects the condition of the Jew Paul laments over in Romans 9 and 10.

  • The Jew that stumbled over Christ.


The kingdom of darkness – the power of sin and death – corrupted a right relationship with the law.

  • The law itself became the servant of sin and death.
  • As a result, the law became a tyrant.
  • A brutal taskmaster.



Saving the Law – Killing Caricature 1:

But the law was never intended to be a tyrant and taskmaster.

  • It was mean to be a joy and delight.
  • In fact, the law was never the problem.


The law was corrupted by the kingdom of darkness…

  • Of being “in Adam” and being “under sin”.


Why is this important to understand?


Christians look at the law itself as problematic…this is simply wrong.

  • We have caricatured the law to artificially magnify the Gospel.


OT Scholar Christopher Wright calls our mischaracterizations of the law:

“…a distorted theology that tries unnecessarily to gild the gospel by denigrating the law” – Christopher Wright.


Such a view does injustice to a right view of the law.


Look at the Psalmists view of the law.

  • Psalm 119:1–8 (ESV) — 1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!


Again…lets look at Christopher Wright:

“The frequent claims by various psalmists to have lived according to God’s law are neither exaggerated nor exceptional. They arise from the natural assumption that ordinary people can indeed live in a way that is broadly pleasing to God and faithful to God’s law, and that they can do so as a matter of joy and delight.”


Yes…the law could be followed in such a way that it brought “joy and delight”.

  • This will be helpful when we get into Paul’s use of Deut. 30 next week.


But to clarify, Wright follows this with a helpful observation:

“This is neither self-righteousness nor a claim to sinless perfection, for the same psalmists are equally quick to confess their sin and failings, fully realizing that only the grace that could forgive and cleanse them would likewise enable them to live again in covenant obedience.”


This joyful experience of the law was only possible in a grace.

  • In a place outside of evil’s ability to warp and corrupt the law.
  • It was God’s grace that “powered” a right relationship with the law.


And Wright finishes his point:

“Obedience to the law in the ot, as has been stressed repeatedly, was not the means of achieving salvation but the response to a salvation that was already experienced” – Christopher Wright.


Note he says, “a response to a salvation that was already experienced”.

  • This is the crucial bit.
  • The law in the context of grace was a beautiful thing.


Again, the is why the Psalmist can say:

  • Psalm 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.


Remember Paul – “we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2).

  • To stand in grace, is to no longer stand “in the way of sinners”.


In this place, the law is a delight.

  • The law is worth meditating on day and night.
  • Even for the Christian.


Do we think the law – the instruction of God – is worth meditating on day and night?

  • If not, why?


The Law – Caricature 2:

The second caricature concerning the law – God’s instruction…

  • Arises from a basic mishandling of how we approach the law.


Generally, there are (from OT scholar Scott Booth/Eric Smith)…

  • Two ways God’s law or instruction can be approached.


It can approached as:

  • (1) Statutory Law
  • (2) Common Law (Ancient Near Eastern Context)


As we unpack these two…

  • It will become readily apparent which one produces the caricature…
  • And which one is in line with Paul’s view of the law.



Statutory Law:

So what is a statutory approach to law?


For purposes of our conversation…

  • The statutory law view is one that literally…
  • Takes the text – the words – of the law to be the law (Scott Booth/Eric Smith).
  • To abide by the law is to literally do what the text says.


Here is an example from the state of Virginia law code:

  • “If any person commit robbery by partial strangulation, or suffocation, or by striking or beating, or by other violence to the person, or by assault or otherwise putting a person in fear of serious bodily harm, or by the threat or presenting of firearms, or other deadly weapon or instrumentality whatsoever, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in a state correctional facility for life or any term not less than five years.” (18.2-58)


Couple of questions:

  • So, literally, what is the “law” in this example?
  • What does breaking this law entail?


Let’s look at one more example…just for fun.

  • “If any person, armed with a deadly weapon, shall enter any banking house, in the daytime or in the nighttime, with intent to commit larceny of money, bonds, notes, or other evidence of debt therein, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.” (18.2-93)


Same questions:

  • So, literally, what is the “law” in this example?
  • What does breaking this law entail?


I think we get the point.

  • The text itself is the law.
  • And to abide by the law is to literally abide by the text.



ANE Common Law:

We now need to contrast this with the ANE view of law.

  • So what is the ANE approach to the law?


I great way to start is to take a couple of NT and OT examples of law/instruction…

  • And show how the statutory approach misses the mark.



(1) Our first example comes from Deuteronomy.

  • Deuteronomy 25:4 (ESV) — 4 “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.


On a statutory approach…

  • Literally, what is the “law” in this example?
  • What does breaking this law entail?


If the statutory approach is the correct way to approach this law…

  • Does this law have any use outside of Ox users?


On this approach…

  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to delight and meditate on this example of God’s instruction.


Now, let’s look at what happens when we take a different approach.


Let’s take the approach that does not see the text as the literal law itself.

But, instead, lets approach this as if the text is an “application of some specific principal” – Eric Smith.


In other words, on the ANE approach…the law is really a greater principal behind the text.

  • The law is not primarily the text itself.
  • It is just an example of the greater principal – God’s wisdom – played out.
  • The text is just an application of the greater principal.


In taking this approach, we have to figure out what the greater principal is.

  • But…alas…this requires some effort on our behalf!


However, when we do this, we are taking the ANE approach to the law.

  • So let’s see what this looks like.


Fortunately, the apostle Paul is going to help us out with this first example.

  • 1 Corinthians 9:9–12 (ESV) — 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.


Aha…now we can grasp what an ANE/Biblical approach to God’s law and instruction looks like.

  • Given what Paul tells us, what is the greater principal behind the oxen law?



Reflect Time:

So on the ANE approach…Paul’s approach:

  • What we are after is the wisdom of God…
  • The wisdom that is the source of the application found in the specific text.
  • A wisdom that can have an enormous range of application.


This is awesome stuff!

  • Why?


This is how we can delight in the law and instruction of God.

  • And thus delight in God Himself.


Importantly, what happens to this law if we come at it with a statutory approach?

  • Comparatively speaking, it becomes lifeless.
  • Not something we can delight in and meditate on.
  • But something easily corrupted into legalism.


And the worst part?

  • It doesn’t bring us into a deeper contact and appreciation of Yahweh and His wisdom.


BTW – On a side note, taking the statutory approach also does something else problematic.

  • It makes Paul out to be a loose and lousy OT interpreter.



(2) Our second example comes from Peter.

  • 1 Peter 3:3 (ESV) — 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—


So, once again, on a statutory approach…

  • Literally, what is the “law” in this example?
  • What does breaking this law entail?


If the statutory approach is the correct way to approach this law…

  • Does this law have any use outside of wives/women who wear jewelry?


Like our previous example, on this approach…

  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to delight and meditate on this example of God’s instruction.
  • It is just a to-do list one checks off.


In fact, quite honestly…

  • It comes across as a bit controlling and dehumanizing to the wife/woman.
  • “Hey wifey. You’re not allowed to wear that stuff. Take it off and look plain!”


Moreover, any single dude would just blow right through this…

  • Looking for the stuff where Peter talks about guns and ammo.


So, again, lets approach this as if the text is an “application of some specific principal” – Eric Smith.

  • What is the greater principal?
  • What is the wisdom God is displaying behind this text?


To really unpack it, we need to know something about the cultural context.

  • So we have to do some work.


Which, again, is why the easy and lazy way to deal with the law…

  • Is to come at it from a statutory approach.


So what is the cultural context that will help us?

  • Like today, women (and men) back then wore jewelry for a number of reasons.
  • A common one was to demonstrate a certain level of status.


But, unlike today in the west, the jewelry a woman wore…

  • Also represented her value in the economy of marriage.


In other words…

  • It often times was part of the dowry her paternal family gave to her new husband.


This dowry – i.e., the jewelry – demonstrated that the marriage was a “good one”.

  • The marriage brought her husband additional honor and status.
  • And the marriage transaction gave the wife value.


This system of marriage…

  • Was extremely dehumanizing to women and wives.


All of this stuff, then, is the context we need to get at the general principal behind Peter’s instruction.

  • It will help us see God’s wisdom.
  • A wisdom that any person – married/unmarried or female/male – can delight in.


So what is the principal and wisdom behind Peter’s instruction?


For the Christian, there is a new marriage economy.

  • And it does not revolve around the wife finding meaning in the extent of her dowry.
  • Or by the husband finding the wife adequate due to her dowry.
  • Their value and identity are no longer wrapped up in marriage economics.


On an ANE Common Law approach to this instruction of God:

  • Peter actually humanizes the wife.
  • He turns the old economy of marriage on its head.


Very simply…in Christian marriage:

  • The wife’s identity, worth and value are no longer found in…
  • What her father gave…
  • Or what her husband received…
  • Or what she brought to the table.


Her identity and worth are now found in Christ.


But we can’t stop there.

  • If all this is true…the wisdom behind Peter’s instruction is not just for the wife.


It also leverages God’s wisdom against the husband.

  • Is the Christian husband to continue seeing the wife’s value in her dowry or status?
  • Absolutely not!
  • What must happen to him?


But wait…there’s more!

  • If you compare the statutory approach to the ANE approach using Peter’s instruction…
  • You actually make a surprising discovery.


If we take the statutory approach to this instruction…

  • We can actually violate the general principal and wisdom behind the text.


Scott Booth puts it like this:

“By doing the statutory law we could risk violating what Peter is actually instructing; we could actually be dehumanizing towards wives/women/our daughters” – Scott Booth.


In other words, if we say to our wives…

  • Do not wear jewelry or make your hair pretty.
  • What have we done?


We have corrupted the principal, by bringing to the foreground…

  • The act of jewelry wearing.


The point now becomes:

  • “I am pleasing to my husband and a secure in my wifehood because I don’t wear jewelry.”


Doing this bulldozes right over the principal of Peter’s words.

  • Namely, to foreground the beauty of the saved heart!


Or as Peter puts it in the very next verse:

  • 1 Peter 3:4 (ESV) — 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.


The wife’s new adorning is Christ.

  • This means the husband gets a new adorning too – Christ.


So let me ask you, on an ANE approach…does Peter’s instruction apply only to women/wives?

  • No way!


BTW – Now we can make sense of what seems like an obvious contradiction between Peter’s instruction and any decent study Bible.

  • Peter says, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear”
  • NIVZ Study Bible says, “Peter does not forbid wearing fine clothing, jewelry, and going to the salon”.



Saving the Law – Killing Caricature 2:

Now we can begin to kill off this second caricature we make of the law.

  • The statutory approach that sees the text as the


We can now embrace God’s instruction and law…

  • As a source of happiness and delight in God.
  • As a fount of wisdom and principals from God.


We can now see why to grasp God’s instruction…

  • We must meditate on it.
  • Which happens well when we understand its context.


The following clip (just a couple minutes) will be a great way to finish off this lesson:

  • It ties together everything we have discussed.
  • And impresses upon us the need to delight in God’s law…like Paul did.




The bottom line is this:

  • If we don’t love and know the law like Paul did, we can’t know and love Christ like Paul did.


And now that we have exposed our Christian caricatures of the law

  • We are now better equipped to understand this.


We can now navigate Paul’s use of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in Romans 10…

  • Without caricaturing Paul’s talk of the law.