Does Paul tell us of two Gods? Did one live in the Old Testament and die in the New?
Proponents of the anti-Paul movement reject Pauline theology for a number of (ignorant) reasons. The claim that Paul was an apostate is one such encompassing reason. The proposed evidence for this is found in Romans 7:1-7. Here, they say, Paul tells us that the God of the Old Testament (the God of Sinai or Israel’s husband) has died with Jesus and we are now under another (the Resurrected Lord), who is said to be another God altogether.
That modern Christianity has the tendency to either separate the God of the Old Testament into an entirely separate deity or else ignore Him altogether is an atrocity I don’t stand for, but a contextual reading of the text reveals that Paul is hardly doing the same.
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:1-6)
It is said that because Paul alludes to the traditional law of marriage (that if the husband dies the wife is no longer bound to him) in his analogy he is insinuating that in a literal sense the God of the OT, who established the written law, died. But the question is why switch from believers having died to the law (which Paul teaches elsewhere) to God dying?
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:1-5).
Paul is teaching his audience that believers are no longer bound to the ways of sin and the flesh and have become “crucified and buried with Christ,” that is we now share corporate identity with Jesus, having died and been resurrected with Him as a new creation (this also fits in with what we know of ancient culture as a collectivist society). Paul emphasizes many times over how our ability to obey the law is ineffectual for salvation for we can never achieve perfection the same way Jesus did, thus it is a “curse” we have become dead to in Christ (we no longer have to rely on the law for salvation). We see elsewhere that this plan of dying to the law was purposed from the beginning.
“The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:1).
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah (31:31-33)
It’s interesting how Paul says at the end of the passage in Romans that “now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Rather than being contractually bound to the written letter, the law is now written in our “inward parts.” While one may interpret this passage as God effectively dying with Christ, making the former covenant with His people obsolete, it was planned this way from the beginning by God Himself and not by Paul’s “heretical” hand. What we are seeing is one God’s intricate plan from the start for the well-being of His creation, not two Gods filling in different roles in history. The anti-Paul proponents simply don’t have a grasp on the very law they’re defending.