Friday, December 31, 2010

1 Timothy and Law

1 Timothy focuses on a different part of the Jewish Law than Romans and Galatians do.  The focus of the Law Romans and Galatians is on “works of Law,” the things that most distinguished Jew from Gentile ethnically (e.g., Gal. 2:16).  In Paul’s central writings, the Law pertains to the former age—it is something to which believers die when they die with Christ (e.g., Gal. 2:19).  Believers are thus no longer “under Law” (1 Cor. 9:20), even though they now fulfill the “righteous requirements of the law” (Rom. 8:4).

By contrast, the focus of “law” in 1 Timothy is not on its “past-ness,” as in Paul’s central writings.  The law in 1 Timothy is the common moral standard for all people—basically the Ten Commandments.  It is still in force, but because Christians keep this standard, it is not something Christians need to think much about.  “[T]he law is not made for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels” (1 Tim. 1:9).  The list that follows roughly corresponds to the Ten Commandments.

It is for the “ungodly and sinful,” those who have other gods before God.  It is for the “unholy and irreligious,” those who would take God’s name in vain.  It is for “those who kill their fathers and mothers,” who do not honor their father and mother.  It is for murderers.  It is for the sexually immoral and men who practice homosexuality (1:10, ESV), sexual prohibitions related to the heading of adultery.  Finally, slave traders, liars, and perjurers relate to the commands not to bear false witness or to covet.

Unlike Paul’s central writings, 1 Timothy thus focuses on the law as basic and universal moral standard, something Christians do not need worry about because they already keep these requirements.  Those who need worry about the law are thus criminals and lawbreakers.  This is quite a strikingly different way of talking about the law than we find in Romans and Galatians, where the Law retains a strongly Jewish flavor and is relegated to the age before Christ.

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