One of the biggest things I appreciate about seminary is not just the opportunity to gain knowledge from books and instructors who are are specialized in their areas of expertise but especially the ability to also interact with fellow students and learn from them.
As one of our graduate level Old Testament classes embarked on the study of Genesis, someone in class posed an interesting question to my classmate Drew Zook. They asked about the hypothetical outcome if the patriarchs and (later) people of God had kept the stipulations of the covenants given to them perfectly, and whether in that case that would obviate a need for a Messiah. I liked Drew’s response so much that I asked him permission to share the exchange here.
I hope this spurs you to think further on what the covenants established in the Old Testament, and their expression of God’s will to his people at that time, did and did not accomplish prior to the time of Christ. The Abrahamic covenant still looked forward for its ultimate fulfillment and the Mosaic/Siniatic Covenant could (and was designed) to only accomplish so much. Perhaps we can learn just as much from what the covenants did not address as what they do.
Question: “Would there be a need for Jesus if the Patriarch’s and the people in OT fulfilled God’s will?”
Drew’s Response: “My answer is yes. Jesus is unique from the people in that he is not just a man. His place as the Son of Man is significant in that He can stand as a second Adam and a new Israel bringing the promise of God to all nations. The calling in Genesis 2 is to spread the image by cultivating and multiplying. While that alone would be sufficient for the will of God to be fulfilled on a human level in terms of the spread of His glory and name, it would be unable to combat the full problem. In Genesis 3, the promise is of a snake crusher.
Jesus’ position as the Son of God operates on a different level. He is solely capable of confronting and abolishing the hold that the powers and principalities of this world have on mankind. There is a spiritual aspect to the fulfillment of God’s will that is aided by the giving of the Holy Spirit and will be fully realized in the renewed Heaven and Earth and in our renewed bodies. Freedom from sin and death only can be achieved through sharing in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
– His perfect life fulfilled the requirements of the law.
– His actions of healing the sick and lifting the poor enabled Him to speak into the lives of broken and hurting people.
– sufficiently making Satan powerless in their lives.
– His sacrifice on the cross absorbed the natural consequence for sin
– and lifted Him to His rightful throne in Heaven.
– His resurrection broke the power of death over His people.
– the giving of the Spirit definitively sealed a life in the world to come.”