Saturday, July 29, 2006

Vos: "Paul considered the Gentiles equally as much subject to divine wrath as the Jews"

"(Ritschl) maintains that the pronoun “us” (Gal. 3:13) refers to the Jews exclusively and stands in pointed contrast to the word “Gentiles” in verse 14. Christ redeemed the Jews from the curse of the law, that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus. If this were correct, then the redemptive transaction would after all be but a procedure by which God freed the Jews from a curse resting upon them alone, and would not have the significance of a comprehensive atonement necessary to salvation as such. But this restriction cannot be allowed. On such a view the teleological connection between the removal of the curse and the coming of the blessing upon the Gentiles remains entirely unexplained. This connection becomes clear only when “us” is understood comprehensively of both Gentiles and Jews. The epistle to the Romans shows that Paul considered the Gentiles equally as much subject to the divine wrath as the Jews. Though the law had not been revealed to them in its explicit Jewish form, nevertheless they were virtually under its curse and had to be redeemed from this before the blessing could come to them.

"In the remaining passage of the epistle to the Galatians where the same figure occurs (4:5), the implications are somewhat different. Here it is not the curse of the law from which freedom is secured by the payment of the ransom, but the obligation to fulfill the law in its ceremonial aspect. The leaders had been slaves under these “rudiments of the world.” The work of Christ delivered them from this bondage and gave them the status of sonship. His work was therefore a ransom which bought them their freedom from observance of the ceremonial system. This also, however, did not apply to the Jews exclusively, for according to verses 8 and 9 there was a sense in which the Gentiles also had stood under the “rudiments of the world.” Now, if it be not merely freedom from the curse of the law, but freedom from the obligation to keep this law, that Christ has bought, then the price paid by Him will have been conceived by Paul in accordance with this purpose as consisting not merely in His death, but as involving also His subjection to the ceremonial ordinances of the law. And this is confirmed by the apostle’s statement that Christ was made of a woman, made under the law. These last words must refer to something coinciding with His birth. His life of obedience to the law is the ransom Paul has in view. The principle of His active obedience is here actually enunciated, although this active obedience as here defined does not quite cover the range of the active obedience of the Mediator as defined in our dogmatic theology. It refers specifically to the ceremonial law as such, whence the positive counterpart of the slavery abolished is sonship rather than life." -- Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Conception of Redemption