Book Review Part 2 of Dan Lioy’s “Jesus as Torah in John 1-12”: Chp. 2 “The Moral Law in Christ-Centered Perspective”

Posted: December 10, 2007 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Book Reviews, Christology, Theology
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This is my second review of this book by Dr. Dan Lioy. To see part one, check: https://endued.wordpress.com/2007/12/05/book-review-part-1-of-dan-lioys-jesus-as-torah-in-john-1-12/ 

If interested in purchasing this volume, check out the following link:  http://wipfandstock.com/store/Jesus_as_Torah_in_John_112

This second chapter covered a LOT!!! Dr. Lioy broaches many issues in this chapter, all of which merit much reflection in Biblical Theology. The various uses of the law are reviewed, the nature of the law is discussed, the relation of Christ to the various aspects of the law are mentioned, and the believer’s relation to the law is also discussed. In addition to these weighty issues, Dr. Lioy engages the issues raised by the NPP (New Perspectives on Paul) regarding justification and righteousness. Related to this, Dr. Lioy discusses the relationship of justification and good works, spending time examining the relationship between Paul and James’ use of Abraham’s faith in Genesis.

Some of the excerpts that I found of personal interest are listed and commented on:

“Clearly, the holy God revealed in the Old Testament is the same Lord disclosed in the New Testament” (p. 22).

Dr. Lioy makes clear that he believes that progressive revelation attests to the same Lord. I am assuming that he sides more with a covenantal approach to Scripture, which emphasizes continuity in God’s progressive revelation; whereas Dispensationalists would emphasize the discontinuity. Obviously the early church struggled with this very issue and would fall on the extremes of Judiazing on one hand, and deleting the Old Testament like Marcion, on the other hand.

“In short, the covenant and law go hand in hand to create a unified and holy community of the redeemed down through the ages (cf. Heb 12:18-29). Not surprisingly, then, the ethical instruction given by Jesus and His apostles reflects an affirmation of the Mosaic legal code and its reapplication to believers this side of Calvary” (p. 23).

Dr. Lioy makes a strong case for this comment. It is seen clearly in both James and 1 John that there is an expectation among the New Covenant community to take their cues from previous revelation, primarily in Moses, for our own ethics…whether it be caring for widows and orphans, loving our believing family, or trusting in and acting on God’s word like our great patriarch Abraham. Abraham is set forth as a model for New Covenant faith…a faith that trusts and is ever compelled to follow God.

“Ultimately, there is a strong correspondence and continuity between the testaments with respect to the compassion and faithfulness of the Lord that He made available to the faith community” (p. 28).

It is so critical to note this important truth that the same Lord that saves us by grace alone today is the same Lord who showed loving-kindness and faithfulness to those who trusted in Him before Jesus. His mercies and graces begin in Genesis and are found throughout all of Scripture. I was once taught to disregard the Old Testament as being binding or informative for New Covenant faith and I am grateful for a mentor who showed my God’s grace in the Old Testament and God’s law in the New Testament. It was so freeing to know that I can read all of Scripture and find the same Lord on all the pages of Scripture.

All that the law anticipated and declared is embodied in the Messiah” (p. 29).

That Dr. Lioy would dub Jesus as the Torah would seem to be a fair deduction from this very statement that the Messiah is the embodiment of the law. Jesus is called the Word, and is the final revelation from God for His people. He is therefore the finality, the substance, the fullness of what the law was pointing forward to. Dr. Lioy suggests as much, “What the law of Moses could not elucidate about the triune God has now been fully unveiled in Jesus as Tanakh. Only He could reveal the essential being of the Godhead, for the Messiah alone is the image of the invisible God”(Col 1:15), the “exact representation of [God’s] being” (Heb 1:3), and the One in whom “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9). We should not be surprised, then, that Jesus said to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)” (p. 30).

“When people trust in the Son, a miraculous exchange occurs. Their guilty status as condemned sinners is transferred to the Messiah on the cross and His perfect righteousness is transferred to them. Through this exchange, the requirements of the law are met in full. Jesus’ righteousness operating in believers enables them to consistently live according to the Spirit of God, rather than according to the sinful nature” (p. 32).

The most glorious doctrine for the sinner is the imputed righteousness of Christ and the offering up of Himself as the propitation for our sin. Not to be missed in this transaction is the very presence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives to put to death the flesh and increasingly grow in righteousness. The distinction between justification and sanctification are made by Dr. Lioy. He states that Jesus’ righteousness is at work in us, not only to impute and grant us positional righteousness, but also alive to empower our living out of righteousness. This qualification is made clear by Paul in Romans where he qualifies believers as those who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Rom 8). Lioy summarizes this view as follows, “…those who trust in the Son and operate in the power of the Spirit are declared righteous” (p. 33, emphasis mine). This doesn’t contradict justification by faith alone because it assumes that saving faith is of a particular nature…alive and working. When our faith “works”, our righteousness is vindicated. This is James’ whole point in using Abraham’s acts of working faith to vindicate his standing with God. The whole point is that Demons believe God cognitively, but the friends of God are those who act rightly on such knowledge. Saving faith is alive and looks a certain way…unlike the demons. Lioy further comments, “It is worth noting that John also insisted on the inseparable connection between genuine faith and righteous deeds. He wrote that loving God meant keeping His commands (1 John 5:3). The idea is that love for God has less to do with emotions than with a complete compliance with His universal ethical absolutes” (p. 47).

Some questions I would have for the author, that may be dealt with in later chapters, is how sabbath observance is understood in relation to the New Covenant. Is the Sabbath part of the moral law? Was it abrogated in Christ?

Another question I would have for the author is whether the salvation experienced in the Old Covenant was less glorious. Was the Old Covenant believer’s relation to the life of the Spirit in sanctification qualitatively the same or different? Basically, what distinguishes the New Covenant as being better and of greater sufficiency for the covenant people? Does it lay in the object of our faith, our salvific experience, both?

 

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Comments
  1. Dan Lioy says:

    Rick,

    Thank you for your careful review and comment on my second chapter!

    I wanted to briefly comment on you two sets of questions. First, regarding the place of the sabbath, I deal with that issue in my monograph titled “The Decalogue in the Sermon on the Mount” (Peter Lang, 2004; ISBN: 0820470821). You might consider borrowing a copy of the book through interlibrary loan, particularly since my discussion of the issue of the sabbath is somewhat extensive and involved.

    With respect to the various issues raised in the second locus of queries, you might find clarifying my journal article titled “Progressive Covenantalism as an Integrating Motif of Scripture”, which was published a while back in the SATS Conspectus journal.

    Best regards,

    Dan

    >>>Some questions I would have for the author, that may be dealt with in later chapters, is how sabbath observance is understood in relation to the New Covenant. Is the Sabbath part of the moral law? Was it abrogated in Christ?

    Another question I would have for the author is whether the salvation experienced in the Old Covenant was less glorious. Was the Old Covenant believer’s relation to the life of the Spirit in sanctification qualitatively the same or different? Basically, what distinguishes the New Covenant as being better and of greater sufficiency for the covenant people? Does it lay in the object of our faith, our salvific experience, both?<<<

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