Did Jesus Christ Abandon the Law?
by, 25-04-2012 at 12:05 PM (1425 Views)
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
At the very foundation of this topic, lies the heart of the Judeo-Christian narrative on the personhood of Christ and the religion of Christianity. For some almost 2000 years, there has always existed a disconnect between the validity of the application of the Torahís laws and Christís ministry. Therefore to establish a basic understanding from which to work, letís look at the Christian position on the Law as it stands today and then regress into the ministry of Christ and subsequently the period after his ministry. In doing so, we shall develop a holistic comprehension of how the law was used in Christís time and how it was observed directly after his time, then we shall contrast it with the modern Christian understanding. What, therefore, is the standard Christian position towards the relevance of the law? John Calvin in his, Harmony of the Law, Volume 1, succinctly addresses or rather summarizes and defines the Christian position during his time and that of which almost all Christians have adopted today as their standard position, he states:
With having read this, we come to the understanding that Christians accept the following:ďThe Last Part shews the end and use of the Law; and thence its usefulness is very extensive. For how would it profit us to be instructed in righteousness of life, unless the perception of our guilt and iniquity induced us to seek after the remedy? But when God allures us so gently and kindly by his promises, and again pursues us with the thunders of his curse, it is partly to render us inexcusable, and partly to shut us up deprived of all confidence in our own righteousness, so that we may learn to embrace his Covenant of Grace, and flee to Christ, who is the end of the law. This is the intention of The Promises, in which he declares that he will be merciful, since there is forgiveness ready for the sinner, and when he offers the spirit of Regeneration. On this depends that sentence of St. Paul, that Christ is the end of the Law Still I do not so distinguish this class from the foregoing, as if it had nothing in common with them. For, before arriving at it, it will be often necessary to refer both to the terrible ruin of the human race, as well as to the peculiar blessing of Adoption, and to that increasing flow of fatherly love which God extends to his people. For all the expiations have no other meaning than that God will be always merciful, as often as the sinner shall flee to the refuge of his pardon. But how needful this division is will be best understood as we proceed.Ē
- The Law (Mitzvot, Shariíah) are from God.
- They serve a divine purpose, that being of guidance to God.
- The Law demonstrates our weakness.
- It demonstrates our weakness to aid us in turning to Christ.
- Christ is the end of the Law.
While I as a Muslim would agree with the first two points noted above, I do have to question the third notion which is commonly expressed and those of which are derived from it. If the purpose of the law is to solely demonstrate our weakness, then what happens when the law is put into practise? When obedience and application of the law is being done, does that then render the purpose of the law, invalid? Perhaps, out of Godís reason for giving the law? These questions must be asked, because if it is the Law is there to only demonstrate our weakness, what then occurs if it doesnít? Using this line of reasoning, the Christian concept of the Law seems rather paradoxical if not, inane.
To circumvent this theological problem of the Christians, letís examine what the Torah (LXX) actually states in Deuteronomy (Devarim) 4: 1-4 :
Note, in these verses, the purpose of the Law, as explicitly stated isnít to display manís weakness (although the Law does that, it can, conversely demonstrate manís faithfulness and piety as shown in the verses above), but to grant success, meaning then that the Law grants life. It grants life because obedience to God demonstrates piety (in Islam: taqwa) and by extension earns Godís pleasure with his obedient followers/ believers. The same can be seen in the Qurían, see Surah 2:1-5.ďNow, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today.Ē
If we were to also follow through on the logic that the Law is supposed to take us to Christ, in the understanding that salvation can only be sought through him, then we also have to question this track of reasoning. If for some 1,500 years before Christ the Law was supposed to lead people to him as their eternal saviour, then therein lies a problem. For 1,500 years no one was lead to the Christ, they followed a Law, which according to Christian reasoning was supposed to lead to someone who wasnít their. Alas, early converts to Christianity did notice this exception, we find that an answer is given in Luke 16:19-21, wherein those who did good await for Jesus to take them to heaven, which Paul states in his epistle to the Ephesians, was fulfilled, see Chapter 4, Verses 8 Ė 10. However the problem still persists, if the Law is supposed to lead to Christ as a means of salvation, then law in itself cannot be a means of salvation. This may become confusing, so letís break this down:
- The law exists to lead to Christ.
- You are only saved because of Christ.
If we accept that the law leads to Christ then can the law be held against us, i.e sinners arenít led to Christ?
Or if the Law does lead us to Christ, are we saved because we practised the law or are we saved because of Christ? If we are saved because of Christ, then the law becomes irrelevant, if we are saved because we practised the law, then Christ didnít actually save anyone.
Lastly, we read that Christ is the end of the Law (mitzvot, shariíah). This statement leads us into our next section, where we examine this claim in detail. What exactly does this phrase mean? Of what consequence is it? What ideological and theological beliefs can be derived from such a position?
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