“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt 5.17).
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10.4).
The End of the Law was authored by Jason Meyer who has filled John Piper’s place and is now the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church. This book is the sixth volume in the New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology series [NACSBT]. The NACSBT series is dedicated to taking hard passages/themes of Scripture and looking at them in light of inerrancy, scaling the depths of the Bible, remembering B. F. Westcott’s point that, “Unless all past experience is worthless, the difficulties of the Bible are the most fruitful guides to its divine depths” (Preface).
Meyer’s premise starts with the issue that how we understand the old and new covenants an their relation to each other has a huge impact on how we understand the Old and New Testaments. What is so ‘new’ about the new covenant? What is so ‘old’ about the old covenant? The central question of Meyer’s study is about the character of the Mosaic covenant, especially in Paul’s theology.
Meyer’s thesis, that he will go on to prove, advances that Paul conceives of the Mosaic covenant as non-eschatological, while the new covenant is eschatological. Essentially, “the old covenant is now old because it belongs to the old age, whereas the new covenant is new because it belongs to the new eschatological age” (p. 1-2). The old age, and now the Mosaic covenant, are impermanent. “the new covenant is both eternal and effectual because it belongs to the new age and partakes of the power of the new age, the Holy Spirit” (p. 2).
There is much I could say about this book. Too much, in fact, for the size of this post. I intend to show you a palate of flavors from this book, in hopes that it will leave you with intrigue, wanting to know more about a topic which can seem so boring to many, the old and new covenants.
The Chocolate Milk
As I enjoyed this book, It’s difficult to cram it into a single book review of this size. I’m amazed at how Meyer was able to put so much information on Paul’s conception of the Law into a book, with clarity and care to boot! Instead, my purpose here will be to focus on two chapters that I found to be of great use.
Chapter 3; The Old and New Antithesis in Paul
Meyer exegetically reveals what makes up the difference in the two terms ‘old’ and ‘new’. Throughout the Old and New testament, ‘new’ and ‘old’ are sometimes used temporally. Thinking of Christmas time coming, when I received ‘new’ toys for Christmas, suddenly my other toys became ‘old.’ My new toys were not one year ‘old’, but were ‘new’ today.
But that’s not the end of the story, for the Testaments use ‘new’ and ‘old’ in a qualitative function. As a kid on Christmas day I might receive some ‘new’ toy cars, but if I receive a real car, who cares about the quality of the toy cars? I have a real, practical machine to help me get from point A to point B in minutes. ‘New’ can mean “something new in manner and thus better than its ‘old’ object of comparison or contrast (i.e., new and improved)” (p. 36). The glory of the new covenant exceeds glory of the old covenant in that it fulfills through Christ (2 Cor 1.20) the promises God made in the OT prophets (Jer 32.38-40; Ezek 36.26-27; Joel 2.28-29). We now have the Spirit, and are new creations (Isa 43.18-19; 65.17; 2 Cor 5.17).
Now then, there is a difference having the New Man over the Old Man. Meyer argues that we do not have both, but we are relationally in the New Man. Believers are in Christ, not Adam; the new man, not the old (Rom 6.6; Col 3.9-10; Eph 4.21-24). Meyer looks at the Oldness of the Letter verses the Newness of the Spirit (Rom 7.6), the Old Leaven and the New Lump (1 Cor 5.7-8), and Old Creation versus New Creation (2 Cor 5.17; Gal 6.15). Finally we end on looking at the two ages (old, new) and the two Adams (Adam and Christ). You are either in one or the other. Paul is a theologian of contrasts.
I’ll provide a long footnote from Meyer’s final chapter, which is a helpful concluding summary chapter on the rest of his book: In chapter three
“we saw that Paul emphasized the removal of or the release from the ‘old thing,’ and the advent and continuation of the ‘new thing.’ A release from the old is a release from sin and death, while entering or becoming the new results in righteousness, fruit-bearing, and life. Freedom from the ‘old thing’ is a release from the experience of the ‘old age,’ which is characterized by sin and death, and ruled by the old Adam, while entering or becoming the ‘new things’ is entering the experience of the new age, which is characterized by righteousness and life, and ruled by the new Adam”
(p 274, fn 33).
Chapter 4; Contexts of Contrast: 2 Corinthians 3-4
This chapter on 2 Corinthians came at the perfect time. In teaching 2 Corinthians this semester, my dilemma came in 2 Cor 3 where Paul discusses the New Covenant and its super-cession of the Old. I had commentaries from both Hafemann and Garland, the former Meyer admires but differs greatly on, the latter agreeing with many of Hafemann’s conclusions. “Hafemann argues that the old covenant is identical in content with the new covenant; they are co-equal in grace and glory” (p. 112). Yet Meyer has well-shown that ‘new’ and ‘old’ are entirely different.
What makes the new covenant ‘new’ isn’t that it’s another special toy, but that it’s on a superior level to the old covenant because the Holy Spirit is an intrinsic element to it and this age (2 Cor 3.3, 6-11; Jer 31.31-34; Ezek 11.19).
Throughout, Meyer examines the long-held difficulty of the veil of Moses. While I don’t think Meyer has answered it in full, he gives an incredible understanding of the veiled experience of Israel in the old age under the old covenant and the unveiled experience of believers in Christ in the new age under the new covenant. Why would Moses veil his face from Israel? What is significant about Israel being hardened even up “to this day”? Meyer draws themes from the OT and shows how this new age and covenant with Holy Spirit is far superior (2 Cor 3.7-11) than the old age and covenant without the Spirit.
(The only downside to this chapter was that Meyer didn’t write a commentary on all of 2 Corinthians! – it turns out he is writing the 2 Corinthians volume in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series).
The Spoiled Milk
My only issue with this book wasn’t so much Meyer’s writing as perhaps was the books format. Meyer often gives lists: either reasons for his conclusions, or lists of competing arguments. Yet was often difficult for me to find every “number” on the list. Or, since none of the numbers are in bold, things start to move in together and look the same. Meyer was clear, but having distinctions or breaks from the previous paragraph cuts through some of the fog and makes it all the more clear to read, which is important when reading a difficult topic such as this one.
This book has a thorough flair of academic to it. Which for some won’t sound enticing in the least, for they would only want to know how this helps them. For others, this is exactly what they want for this helps them to know the text.
The usefulness of the NAC series lies in its purpose to help church leaders with resources for their ministry, along with individual believers to grow in knowledge and in faith. With that purpose in mind, and knowing that Meyer is now the Vocational Pastor at BBC, the reader can trust that the author has his readership in mind. His purpose is to help the church understand God’s Word better, and thus each other and the life we live. That is helped in having a greater knowledge of the Holy Spirit through the new covenant. What the old covenant didn’t have, believers under the new covenant now have, that being the Holy Spirit who has softened our hearts (2 Cor 3.14, 16-18) and who gives us the ability to endure life’s trials (2 Cor 4.13).
Since this is geared towards for church leaders, it is recommended that they have a purpose in reading this book. This book will not be a leisurely walk in the park. Quite contrary, I read chapters 1-3 in the summer and again this semester so I could understand the book better. After having taught on the new covenant in 2 Corinthians 3, I understood those first three chapters the second go ’round much more than the first.
- Series: New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology (Book 6)
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: B&H Academic (September 1, 2009)
[Special thanks to India and Jim at B&H Publishing for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]