Review: Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community

Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community
How do the laws given to Moses at Mount Sinai relate to Christians today?

This is a topic that has caused millennia of thought, and barrels of ink to be spilled. By use of careful exposition and Biblical Theology, as well as contemporary illustration, James M. Todd III attempts to explain, as simply as possible, a potential answer to this conundrum.

The author explains the differing views the church has historically held. He summarises these by examining ideas of different groups, which he refers to as: ‘Moral Law Christians’, ’10 Commandment Christians’, ‘No Old Law Christians’ (which he splits into two: “since Christians are no longer under the old covenant, much of the Hebrew Bible does not directly relate to me” Christians and “those who identify a dichotomy between law and gospel throughout the Bible” Christians. After showing the strengths and weaknesses of each, he goes on to explain his own view – which is not any of these. His view is very much in alignment with the understanding of this topic from the Progressive Covenantalism camp.

What follows from this introduction is a Biblical theology of the word ‘law’, and what the Bible actually says about the topic. This is something that tends to be missed in discussions about the law’s ongoing application to the believer, and was highly welcomed here. In conclusion, Todd summarizes his understanding of the Old Covenant law as “not being “Keep these laws.” Rather, the ultimate message relates to a future work of God that will solve the problem of the people’s unrighteousness.” The Old Covenant law, in its entirety, points to Christ.

In conclusion, Todd summarizes his understanding of the Old Covenant law as not being “Keep these laws.” Rather, the ultimate message relates to a future work of God that will solve the problem of the people’s unrighteousness.

From here, Todd goes on to argue – in a very Pauline way – that although we are not under Old Covenant law, that does not give us the license to do anything we want. Instead, he explains, we are under the law of Christ. He explains: “When the ethical demands of the new covenant overlap with those of the old covenant, Christians should not conclude that we are still under the old covenant; rather, we should attribute the overlap to both covenants reflecting God’s universal standards of right and wrong. In other words, some of the old covenant laws are expressions of God’s universal moral law, but the old covenant laws themselves are not the moral law given to all people for all time. In particular, the Ten Commandments have a high degree of overlap with God’s natural law, yet they are not identical. The old covenant laws that reflect God’s universal natural law are historical and covenantal expressions of God’s natural law.”

The Ten Commandments have a high degree of overlap with God’s natural law, yet they are not identical. The old covenant laws that reflect God’s universal natural law are historical and covenantal expressions of God’s natural law

Todd makes the point throughout that the Old Covenant law was temporary by divine design. He then goes on to show that a careful reading of the Pentateuch proves that. He concludes by showing how this view is echoed throughout the rest of the Bible, looking at the Prophets and then into the New Testament itself.

Todd makes the point throughout that the Old Covenant law was temporary by divine design

Usefully, at the end of the book, the author has included three appendices – ‘How should Christians use the Hebrew Bible to address homosexuality?’, ‘The Second Commandment and images in worship’ and Challenges to my position’. These are topics that are of interest particularly today, and I have not seen these in previous books of this kind.

Overall

Overall, this is a great introduction to the New Covenant Theology understanding of the law. Anyone wanting to grasp a better understanding of it will not be left disappointed, whatever side of the argument they fall on.

Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community by James M. Todd III
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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