Why Theonomy Gets It Wrong: Nick Batzig On the Typological Nature of Israel’s Civil Laws

In a helpful essay published last month by Reformation 21, Nick Batzig draws attention to a point not often appreciated or discussed among Christian theologians. When Paul talks about the curse of the law satisfied by Christ in Galatians 3:13, he is talking about Israel’s civil law.

An important biblical theological idea emerges out of Paul’s use of Deuteronomy 21:23 in Galatians 3:13. In the middle of the most polemical book in the New Testament, Paul made the astounding declaration: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” The immediate context shows that the curse to which Paul is referring is the curse of the law (Gal. 3:10-11). Returning to Deuteronomy 21, out of which Paul takes the command for capital punishment and applies it to Christ, we discover the theological riches of Gal. 3:13. In Deuteronomy 21:23 we read:
“If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” (Deut. 21:22-23)
The civil law, given to Israel in redemptive-history, was meant to prepare God’s people for the coming Redeemer. Just as the moral and ceremonial laws pointed to Jesus and our need for Him, so too did the judicial principles of the civil law. The civil law as a redemptive-historical guide is one that has often been neglected–and yet it is one of the richest in all the Scriptures.
Nick notes an important point, not often recognized by those Christians who think that contemporary political authorities are obligated to enforce Old Testament Law. Even Israel’s civil law was typological.
When we come to the New Testament we do not find the apostles insisting on the church’s implementation of civil law into the governments. Rather, we find them applying it spiritually to the life of the New Covenant church.
The implications are significant, and deserve much more reflection and careful thinking.
You can read Batzig’s whole piece here.
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About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on June 7, 2013, in Law and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Why Theonomy Gets It Wrong: Nick Batzig On the Typological Nature of Israel’s Civil Laws.

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