In the 5th chp of NT Wright’s new book, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision
, Wright explains the significance of Abraham in the middle of Galatians. Three issues emerge in chps three and four, and it gets to the heart of Tom Wright’s proposal within the new perspective — and it is not a denial of personal salvation but a placing of personal salvation within the context of what God is doing in history — and that dimension is too often ignored in the old perspective and another context is given — God’s plan for personal salvation is what drives that reading of Scripture. Here are the three major themes for Galatians 3-4:
1. The covenant and promise to Abraham.
2. The Law
3. The Messiah
The the point of the section is to show how the Law fits into all of this: “it gets in the way of the promise to Abraham” (123). How? It chokes the promise within Israel’s failure, it threatens to divide the family of God, and it locks up everything in the prison house of sin. God thereby makes his purposes clear: to carry on the single plan with Israel (and Abraham) on the basis of faith and the Torah makes that faith-response the clear implication of the whole plan. Even the curse passage (3:10-14) is connected — not to human sin — but to the inclusion of Gentiles in Abraham’s blessing and that we might receive this promise on the basis of faith.
Here it is:
“Scripture has concluded everything under sin, so that the promise, on the basis of the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, might be given to those who believe. God’s single-plan-through-Israel -for the-world has turned, as God always intended, into God’s-single-plan- through-the-faithful-Israelite for-the-world-now-including-Israel-too.” (I have made this all italics and split some words up to spread it out.)
The NT Wright version of the new perspective is all right here: the theology of Paul is about how God’s covenant with Abraham to bless the world has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ and this history of Israel focus is more central than the how do I get myself saved? focus of the older perspective.
Sin and God’s plan through Abraham to bless the world are connected tightly in Paul’s argument. Torah can only be understood within this plan for history context for Paul, instead of simply within the personal salvation issue. God designed the Torah to keep Israel in check.