Leviticus 18:5 And Paul: Do This And You Shall Live (Eternally?) -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 14:1 (Winter 1971)
Article: Leviticus 18:5 And Paul: Do This And You Shall Live (Eternally?)
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Leviticus 18:5 And Paul:
Do This And You Shall Live (Eternally?)

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.*

The classic theme of all truly evangelical theology is the problem of law and grace. Indeed the contrasts between the law which came by Moses and the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ seem to be legion. It would appear that the law is no longer obligatory1 having served its usefulness now that the promise has come,2 and therefore we are delivered from the law3 and its dominion4 in that Christ has fulfilled the righteousness of the law in us.5 For many, these statements are so definitive that no further investigation need detain us.

Nevertheless, this presentation of the law’s relationship to grace is too absolute, antithetical and incomplete for many other Pauline passages, let alone much of the Old Testament itself. Has grace “annulled” the law? Paul responds clearly: “never! On the contrary the law is established!”6 “Annulled?”—that was the very word Paul had used in II Corinthians 3:11 to. speak of the abolishing, or rendering the law as inoperative (katargeo). What is more, the law cannot be made the scapegoat for my problem with sin, for the law is holy, good, just, and spiritual.7 It certainly had a distinctive purpose: to bring us to Christ.8 Therein was its life-giving power revealed, for “if there had been a law which could have given life, verily righteousness would have been by the law.” 9 Obviously then, there never was such a law which could give life and righteousness, nor was the law ever intended to be set in opposition to the promises of God.10

Had not the Psalmists argued in this same line of thought? The law of the Lord according to Psalm 19 was perfect, sure, right, pure, clear, true, righteous and able to revive the soul, make the simple, wise, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, endure forever, being much more desirable than gold, fine gold, honey or the honeycomb.11 Assuredly, all of Psalm 119 only enlarges on these themes.

Still the question remains: How shall we properly observ...

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