Is there a contradiction Galatians and Romans?
The controversy between Romans seven and Galatians five is an interesting one. Toussaint makes a point that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in Romans seven.37 While in Galatians five, the Holy Spirit is the emphasis of a spiritual battle that is taking place. But in Romans seven, there is a spiritual battle taking place not involving the Holy Spirit. What then is doing battle? In Romans seven, the new nature is emphasized as the opponent of the old nature. Is the new nature the same as the Holy Spirit? No, these are two different conflicts. In Romans the conflict is between sin nature and the reborn ego. Paul is still building his systematic theology, assuming that one is not saved. But in Galatians, Paul is speaking specifically to Christians. Their battle is between the flesh and the Spirit. They are saved but still struggle with sin. The Galatia church must choose between the Law or grace. This is a great observation. Context is always the key in Biblical study. It is extremely important to understand the context and back ground of each book in the Bible to effectively study and truly understand the authors.
Romans seven and Galatians five are speaking about two conflicts to two different audiences. Still there are other questions about the Law, which Paul’s writing is quite confusing. How can Paul claim that he has died to the Law in Galatians two, verse nine-teen and but yet does not want to abolish the Law? How is it that all of the Law fulfilled completely, yet saints are still required to love their neighbor as themselves? Is the Law in Galatians three the same Law in Romans seven? What exactly does Romans ten, verse four mean that Christ is the “end” of the Law? These questions are some of the most difficult and most debated topics in New Testament studies.38
There are a lot of theories discussing these topics; this paper will exhaust all of the theories sufficiently. Longnecker suggests that Galatians represents a more basic and fundamental form of Paul’s story of Israel. Romans represents what he calls “organic linearity” versus an “conventional linearity” in Galatians.39 Obviously, Longnecker’s argument is much more complex. Basically, Longernecker’s theory is that Romans and Galatians are logically incompatible with one another. Hooker responds saying that Paul is not telling different stories in the two letters but drawing on different elements in the one story.40 Hayes agrees.41 The two stories are acutely different, but are not contradictory. As discussed above, the context and background of each letter is essential to understanding Paul.
Barth debunks the assumption that Paul should have fought the Old Testament writings. Firstly, because the Old Testament writings actually begin with the reminder that redemption precedes Law.42 Secondly, Barth is confident because Paul had been well trained in the Old Testament. Barth does not question Paul’s understanding of the Old Testament. The truth is that Paul loved the Old Testament. He was one of the most literal Jews and considered one of the best keepers of the Law before his conversion. Paul killed Christians because they were not properly obeying the Law. Paul understood the Old Testament well.
So if Paul loved the Law so much, what was his purpose in standing against those who believed in justification by the Law? Paul brings Jews and Gentiles together.43They both are given access to God through faith. God’s gift of grace and salvation through faith is for everyone, Jews and Gentiles. Saints are all united by God. There is no way to reject God’s grace. The Judaizers, for example, were offering a false system that rejects God’s grace. It is not ethics or obeying the Law that justifies us to God, but the only justification is through faith. This is why Paul stresses these things.
Snodgrass brings a calming perspective. His theory is simple yet eye-opening. He says that the Law is just a tool.44 It does not have any power of its own and it is not really meant as a Tyranny. As Paul says the Law, itself, is good, righteous, and holy. Although, the Law is a tool that sin can (and has) used before. The exceedingly sinfulness of sin commandeered the Law for its own use. Normally, the Law as a tool for God and accomplished many good purposes as discussed above. But the flip side is that sin wrathfully used the Law as well. Understanding this helps because there is less conflict. The Law can be good and increase sin.
The final questions remain surrounding Romans ten, verse four? Is Christ the end of the Law? What does this mean? After much research, I support Schreiner’s solution. Schreiner concludes that Christ is the end of the Law in the sense that he is the end of using the Law to establish one’s own righteousness.45 In other words, righteousness no longer comes through obeying the Law. As Paul has made clear righteousness only comes through faith in Christ. Many scholars want to extend this verse’s meaning to mean a lot more than what it is saying in context. The verses around verse four must also be studied for a full meaning of what Paul is saying. Paul is not suggesting an end of the Law completely and absolutely. Paul is saying that righteousness does not come through the Law because the Law cannot be obeyed perfectly. Christ provided what was necessary for salvation. He obeyed the Law perfectly and died as a sacrifice for us. And salvation is obtained by believing this Gospel.
Schreiner continues his case, saying that it is quite unlikely that Christ is the “goal” of the Law because Romans nine, verse six says, God’s Word has not failed with respect to Israel. Schreiner believes that Paul is not saying that Christ is the absolute end of the Law. Paul’s view of the Law suggests continuity and not contrast of the Law. In fact, Paul is writing experiential, for he is reacting to an experiential problem. Again, those who believe in Christ will no longer use the Law to establish their own righteousness. Nowhere does Paul ever say that righteousness comes “from” the Law!
What Paul is doing when he cites Lev 18:5 in Rom 10:5 is pointing out that no one can attain righteousness or eternal life by obeying the Law since no one can obey sufficiently what the Law demands. In context of Romans nine and ten this fits well, because Paul makes it clear again and again that the Law is not the source of righteousness. To put these concepts in another man’s words, “Christ brings the Law in its promise of righteousness to its goal so that righteousness may be available to everyone who believes.”46 This is from Rhyne. His theory has three parts. First is that Christ did the work. Christ is the propitiation for sin. Second is the “the Law in its purpose of righteousness to its goal.” The purpose of righteousness is now through Christ, not through the Law any longer. Therefore there is an end to gaining righteousness through the Law, but not an absolute end of the Law. Finally “so that righteousness may be available to everyone who believes.” Hallelujah, Christ died for all! Amen!