I Fought the Law

For no flesh will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.          Romans 3:20

DEFINITION: Although the five books of Moses—and the Old Testament as a whole—may be called the Law, in essence “ law” refers to all the righteous demands of God that reveal His holy commandments for His people, including moral, religious, and civil obligations.
Because “law” is used in such a variety of contexts in the Bible, it has been widely misunderstood. The easiest level is to recognize that Genesis through Deuteronomy are the books of the Law (torah in Hebrew), and the Jewish Scriptures can then be called “the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Ac 13:15; 28:33; Rm 3:21). Sometimes the entire biblical revelation before Christ’s coming is called the law (Rm 3:19).

In the sense of “commandments” (comprising all the moral, religious, and civil requirements God asked the Israelites to obey), it must be understood above all that the law was never given as a means of salvation, even though some first-century Jews (and many in other centuries) misapplied the law in this way. The Ten Commandments, for example, were given to those already redeemed from slavery. Further, these requirements were a temporary tutor between the time of Moses and the coming of Christ, as Paul explained in Galatians 3:23-25. The author of Hebrews noted that Mosaic law was superseded now that the new covenant has been established (Hb 8:7-13). Whatever believers in Christ make of the law commands in Scripture, they ought never to suppose that good works or keeping God’s laws can earn salvation or divine favor, and they must keep in mind that all ceremonial regulations (such as rules for sacrifice) have been fulfilled and ended through Jesus Christ.

Many Christian thinkers have discerned three legitimate ongoing uses of the law for God’s people today. Thoughtful reflection reveals the following:

• The mirror function. On one hand, the moral laws of the Bible (including those in the New Testament) reveal God’s perfect holiness. On the other hand, by these same laws comes the knowledge of sin and conviction of the need for the gospel and grace. Paul especially taught this in Romans 7:7-12. Once one learns from a mirror that one’s face is unclean (by the law) then the proper cleansing remedy can be applied (by the gospel).
• The civil function. The moral laws of God applied by governments restrain evil to a degree. Even though applying such law cannot change hearts, threats of punishment may secure order in society and protect the innocent from the guilty, as in Romans 13:3-4. (The church as an institution may only warn or excommunicate violators of civil commands.)
• The guide function. For those whom God has regenerated, the law is a “yardstick” showing growth in good works and Christlikeness. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). Galatians 6:2 and James 1:25 reflect this truth, and Psalm 119 is a ringing anthem about the greatness of God’s law: “How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the law of the LORD” (Ps 119:1).
REFLECTION: When did you first realize that the law could not save anyone? How intentionally do you use the moral teachings of the Bible as a guide to measure your growth in holiness?
PRAYER: Lord God, Your law is wonderful and good, even though it reveals me to be a miserable sinner. I bless You for Your Spirit’s help aiding me to grow in obeying Your moral laws. Amen.

Kendell Easley

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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