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The End of the Law:
Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology
by Jason C. Meyer
by Fred G. Zaspel
Meyer’s argument is that the Old Covenant is “old” in that it belongs to the old era, and the New Covenant is “new” in that it belongs to the new age. Moreover, it was precisely because the Old Covenant was ineffectual that the New Covenant was necessary. And in the present arrival of this eschatological New Covenant we experience the power of the new age - the Holy Spirit who creates in us that to which the New Covenant calls us and which the Old Covenant could never bring about.
These are not new ideas, of course, but Meyer’s approach is somewhat fresh. He begins with a summary analysis of the terminology and the concepts of “old” and “new” in Paul and concludes that the apostle understands the New Covenant to be both qualitatively and temporally new. It is no mere “renewing” of the Old Covenant but is a qualitatively and eschatologically “New” Covenant.
Next, the heart of his work, Meyer provides a rather thorough exposition of this concept in the thinking of the apostle Paul as expressed in the leading New Testament passages where this subject is treated - most notably, 2 Corinthians 3-4, Galatians 3-4, and Romans 9-11. Few discussions of the New Covenant give extensive consideration to Romans 9-11, but, as Meyer clearly demonstrates, few passages could be adduced that would demonstrate better its effectual nature: it is on the basis of the New Covenant that the Lord intervenes and saves “all Israel.” Yet this - the sovereign effectuality of the New Covenant - is the heart of the apostle’s argument in 2 Corinthians 3 also, with its emphasis on the Spirit of God powerfully transforming the lives of all His New Covenant people. Meyer’s expositions of these passages provide detailed analysis of their bearing on the nature of the New, eschatological Covenant.
One very helpful fruit of Meyer’s exegesis is the connection established between the two covenants (the Old / Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant) and various theological concepts. The New Covenant is closely associated with such concepts as Spirit, life, life, righteousness, heart, freedom, glory, promise, gospel, and the like. The Old Covenant, by contrast, is closely associated with terms such as letter, stone tablets, condemnation, abolish, slavery, law, curse, and death. These associations, tallied and viewed together in this way are telling, and they go a long way toward establishing Meyer’s thesis.
As he states (p.84), “Paul correlates the nature of each covenant with its effects. In other words, the intrinsic character of each covenant produces results that flow from it.”
Before concluding his work Meyer examines the Old Testament to confirm that Paul’s understanding of the Old Covenant is entirely consistent with descriptions of it in the Old Testament Scriptures. Here of particular interest is his exposition of parallel lines of thought in Deuteronomy and the Prophets (especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel but Isaiah also), where the problem of Israel’s unfaithfulness under the Old Covenant is answered, finally, only in the New Covenant. He then concludes with a summary and some pastoral applications concerning the character of New Covenant ministry.