Sin and a World Gone Wrong and God’s Plan of Restoration
Paul (and his fellow Jews) recognized that sin had corrupted the world and a solution wasneeded to bring humanity and creation back to order. It was clear in the Scriptures thatAbraham was chosen to repair what Adam had broken - to ‘undo’ Adam’s sin.
Israel, then, wasmeant to be the ‘new Adam’.
Unfortunately, Abraham and his heirs, the people of Israel, didnot live up to this mission and fell into perpetual exile.
This meant that Israel was holding out hope for God’s vindication where they would see thefulfillment of his promise to restore them and install them as vice-regents.
Paul came to see,though, that Jesus actually accomplished Israel’s job as God’s ‘true humanity’.
What about Israel, then? What role did they play? While they certainly preserved Torah andreflected God’s character and will in some ways, Wright finds a distinctive element in Paul’sperspective: Israel happens to be the place where Torah draws sin to and magnifies it. It is ameans of bring ‘Sin’ to one place to deal with it by means of Christ’s crucifixion. Torah’sfunction of increasing Israel’s sins from this angle would be ‘the positive reason for the negativerole of Torah’.
Wright observes that Torah contains both the promises to Abraham as well as a covenantal law-structure that has sent Israel into a dizzying pattern of sin and exile.
That should not mean,though, that Paul felt a complete inability to keep Torah and obey God. The challenge of sin
‘…Abraham will be God’s means of undoing the sin of Adam’ (
, 21); ‘…God has called Abraham and his family toundo the sin of Adam, even though Abraham and his family are themselves part of the problem as well as thebearers of the solution’ (
‘God’s purposes for the human raced in general have devolved on to, and will be fulfilled in, Israel in particular.Israel is, or will become, God’s true humanity. What God intended for Adam will be given to the seed of Abraham…If there is a ‘last Adam’ in the relevant Jewish literature, he is not an individual…He is the wholeeschatological people of God.’ (
‘…at least some Jews in [early Judaism] understood the exile to be still continuing, since the return from Babylonhad not brought that independence and prosperity which the prophets foretold’ (
‘Israel’s God will act in history to vindicate his own name by installing his people ‘at his right hand’, ruling overthe nations of the world’ (
‘…the role traditionally assigned to Israel had devolved on to Jesus Christ. Paul now regarded him, not Israel, asGod’s true humanity’ (
The full quote is as follows: ‘The Torah possesses, Paul asserts, the divinely intended function of drawing sin onto Israel, magnifying it precisely within the people of God ([Rom.] 7.130-20), in order that it might then and thus bedrawn on to Israel’s representative and so dealt with on the cross (8.3). This is, as it were, the positive reason forthe negative role of Torah. As a result…it becomes clear that the obedient act of Jesus Christ was the act of Israel’srepresentative, doing for Israel what she could not do for herself’ (
, 39). See also
152, 196. Again: Torahhappens to increase sin ‘
sin might be seen as sin,
sin might become exceedingly sinful, might as itwere be piled up in one great obvious heap’ (