Paul understood God’s ways. God’s ways are “Covenant-shaped,” they concern transformation, and the glory always comes at the end. It is the result of God’s Word going out and coming back with something good, His own goodness multiplied.
or Baptism into Baal
My Federal Vision friends believe baptism is an important subject, from both theological and pastoral points of view. I agree, but for me it is also an issue of aesthetics. The Bible has a wonderfully consistent internal logic, and paedobaptism crunches the gears at every turn.
Peter Leithart just posted something concerning baptism, and it’s worth answering, not only “because somebody on the internet is wrong,” but also because it is an issue I’ve just finished dealing with in The Shape of Galatians. It should be noted that Trinity House is hosting some lectures on sacraments by a baptist, so Dr Leithart and his colleagues have a spirit that should be imitated by theologians everywhere. My own posts here are always bait in the hope of a bite, a friendly disputatio, so don’t take them the wrong way. If a friend has soup on his tie, or wax in his ear, or a fertility rite in his sacrament, what sort of friend isn’t going to point it out!?
or Nailed to the Mast
Rachel Held Evans is a writer who likes the challenge of “asking tough questions about Christianity in the context of the Bible Belt” while consulting the howling void of modern culture for the answers. That is indeed a challenge. She takes Christians to task for referring to the de-Christianizing of Christmas as “persecution”, offering a helpful chart.
“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.”’ (Acts 3:6)
Israel consistently failed to keep the final feast, the Feast of Sukkot, because she took her calling to be elitist rather than priestly. She thought her calling, gifts and purification were for herself, rather than for the healing of the nations.
How to Fulfill the Law
“…men are enthroned as elohim (judicial ‘gods’) but not as God intended. Those who sit in the seat of Moses often lack his meekness before God, and their rule is like that of Lamech. Their seventy times seven ‘fulfilling of the Law’ is vengeance not forgiveness.”
We continue with the Deuteronomy section of Galatians, which has seven cycles. Paul moves from an Ascension/Firstfruits motif to an Testing/Pentecost motif. Being the center of this final group of cycles, and at the center of its Ethics cycles, here we have its turning point. The first half of this cycle is about sacrificial binding. The last half is about being loosed on account of the sacrifice.
That day Moses charged the people, saying, “When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. (Deuteronomy 27:11-13)
Paul now moves into the Deuteronomy section of his epistle to the Galatians, and it becomes clear that, structurally-speaking, Galatians gets no further than Moses. The epistle is fivefold in nature, a recapitulation of the Torah, and thus it ends on the wilderness side of the Jordan. Like Moses, Paul will not live to see the new order, except from afar.
The Blessings of Abraham and the Curses of Moses
This is the fourth cycle within the “Numbers” section of Galatians. Since the next section concerns the Christians’ identity as sons of Abraham (Succession), this cycle seems to correspond to New Covenant Sanctions. I’ll take a risk and outline the epistle as I see it so far, so you can keep a handle on it. (The headings for the sections we have already covered are links to the relevant blog posts.)
“Show Us the Father And We Will Be Satisfied” (John 14:8)
This is the third cycle within the “Numbers” or Ethics section of Galatians. Paul is contrasting the external Ethics of the Law (requiring the perfect obedience of Man) with the internal Ethics of the Spirit (resulting from trust in the perfect obedience of Christ). But there is something deeper here which, it seems to me, is often overlooked.
We are still in the Covenant Ethics section of Galatians. Not having looked too far ahead, I’m not yet certain of the overall structure of this section. So until this becomes clear we will stick with the secondary cycles. I have no doubt that the structure will become clear in hindsight, because it always does.
We have arrived at what appears to be the center of the epistle, which would be Testing (in matrix terms), the “opening” of the Law (Ethics 2 in Covenant terms) and “purification” (in sacrificial terms). And, being at the centre of the book, this part is the Apostle’s main argument, or thesis. Just as Christ and the coming of the kingdom in His sending of the Spirit are found at the centre of Covenant history, so the transformation by fire of the Levitical priesthood into a fragrant Bride are at the centre of Galatians.