Read This Week’s Passage: Galatians 4:21–5:1
Points to Keep in Mind
In this and the next five lessons, we will carefully, prayerfully, and studiously examine six major New Testament passages on the old and new covenants. These passages cumulatively contain all of the negative characterizations describing the old covenant and law listed in the Introduction to this series and summarized in the inTro section of Lesson Three. We will be seeking to understand, from their contexts, what these pejorative statements mean in our search to better understand how the old and new covenants function as subsidiaries of the sin-resolving covenant of grace and its archetype, the everlasting covenant, and how the old and new covenants relate to our lives personally. Here are four key concepts to keep in mind as we progress:
1. When the New Testament discusses the old and new covenants together, it does so by presenting a series of contrasts that distinguish them from each other. We will, in each case, identify those contrasts and note the significance of the most vital components among them.
2. The “code” that will unlock the meaning of the New Testament’s discussion of the old and new covenants is the recognition of, and appreciation for, both their historical and experiential dimensions. There are historical old and new covenants, and there are old and new covenant experiences based on people’s responses to the covenants. These contrasting responses to the covenants can also be referred to as experiential old and new covenants. This has been discussed in our previous lessons.
3. Whether discussions be on scientific, philosophical or theological subjects it is widely accepted that the best model should have the largest explanatory power with the least academic burden. This is a self-evident truth. While few models in any academic pursuit can answer every question that can be raised or resolve every conceivable discrepancy, the best model is the most coherent one, the one that contains the least inconsistencies and most correspondences among the data available. In theological circles that is often referred to as “the weight of evidence”—the preponderance and coherence of the evidence by which a particular matter is “established.” Stating it more simply yet: Which model makes the most sense, seems most consistent, and creates the fewest incongruities given the data available? This point should become more apparent for our study as we proceed.
4. We must do our prayerful best to refrain from foisting an interpretation upon a text, but rather to allow each text and passage, within its own and wider context, to interpret itself. If given sufficient prayerful study, each text and passage, within the wider context of Scripture as a whole, should help guide us to a correct interpretation.
Take a deep breath. Put on your thinking cap. Adopt a humble and prayerful spirit. Let’s proceed with the challenge!