The Wonderful Purpose of The Law Within The Gospel!November 16, 2007
This is part of an outline I taught on at my college to a group of believers and unbelievers. Most Christians have a poor and unbiblical understanding of what the law is for and what grace is for. Most believe that grace is to make an easier way to God instead of the law. This is profoundly untrue. The law was never intended to be a way to God! I recommend reading ‘The Law and the Gospel’ by Ernest Reisinger in order to have a comprehensive knowledge of law and grace. In summary, the law was given so that we would need grace, and grace was given so that we would fully live according to the law. Chew on that for a while! You won’t hear that in many churches today.
What isn’t the gospel?
The gospel isn’t having good feelings about God. It isn’t believing that “God” exists. It isn’t believing that Jesus historically existed or died. It isn’t believing that Jesus loves you. It isn’t believing that you’re going to heaven when you die.
Knowledge of God or theology even belongs to Satan and demons. Simply proper knowledge of God is of no real significance. James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.
The gospel begins with understanding our sin problem.
What is sin?
How do I know if I am sinful? We know we are sinful by comparing ourselves to God’s holiness, otherness, and purity. Isaiah was a God fearing man yet was undone at the sight of God. Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
We don’t have God standing next to us in His full majesty. How do we then see His holiness and know if we are sinful? We see God’s holiness through the law (moral law, or Ten Commandments, Deut 5, Exo 20), which is a reflection of God’s own unchanging, eternal, and good character. Rom 7:12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
Ten Commandments: (paraphrased)
(1-4 are in relation to God) Mat 22:36 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ‘This is the first and greatest commandment.
1. Worship no other God 2. Make no idols (false gods) for yourself 3. Do not blaspheme the Lord (make His name worthless) 4. Keep the Sabbath holy (by dedicating rest and meditation frequently to God)
(5-10 are in relation to man) Mat 22:39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
5. Honor your parents (implicitly and explicitly, considering you are not sinning) 6. Do not murder (hate is a form of murder, Mat 5:21) 7. Do not commit adultery (lusting outside of your one spouse who is the opposite sex as you is adultery, Mat 5:28 ) 8. Do not steel (no matter how little) 9. Do not lie (not even to yourself) 10. Do not covet (jealously desire what is not yours)
These are God’s moral commandments. Now let’s look at their functions for both believers and unbelievers.
The purpose of the law for the believer and unbeliever
A guide to holiness. Psa 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
A means of protection. Psa 119:36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
A means of love to God. John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
A means to fulfill our purpose of knowing God more. Ecc 12:13 here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
For the OT Jew, the law was the primary means by which one would remain closer to God.
Under the NT, the primary means to be closer to God is grace by the Spirit, which is still in accordance to the law. Rom 6:14 “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Rom 3:31 “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”
To be “under law” for the OT Jew was to have it act as a guardian, in order to strictly guard them from lawlessness. Being under law never meant they were to obtain self-righteousness by it. Gal 3:22 “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” Gal 3:25 “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”
To bring rightful conviction of sin. Rom 7:7 For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.
To bring condemnation. Rom 7:9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.
1 John 3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”
Rom 6:23 “the wages of lawlessness is death”
The unbeliever who is under law is also under the threat of God’s judgment for having broken it. Rom 2:12 “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.”
To lead sinners to Christ. Gal 3:24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
Man is created in God’s image (Gen 1:26) and thus has the law (moral compass) of God’s righteous character written on their hearts. Rom 2:16 “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”
Who is held accountable by the law?
Everyone. God has given His law to everyone, by way of writing to the Jews and by way of conscience to the Gentiles, the whole world is held accountable and judged by the law. Rom 3:19 “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
Is the law evil because it condemns us?
The law is not evil. In fact, because it is not evil but good it finds us evil, and thus guilty before God. The law is good, but shows us that we are not good because we have broken it. Rom 7:7 “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.”
The law makes life better for both the believer and non-believer. For the believer it will keep you closer to the God you love, help you become like the God you love, and out of jail. To the non-believer it will only keep you out of jail. Lev 18:5 “The man who does these things will live by them.” The Hebrew word ‘live’ here is chayay which in this context means “well-being” not self-righteousness.
“God’s commands are good because if everyone loved and served God then no one would worship idols, money, or pleasure. There would be no need for police, jails, or courts. No one would murder and we could feel safe anywhere at night. No one would commit adultery and there would be no broken homes. No one would steal, thus there would be no need for locksmiths, or security systems, etc.” ~ Ernest Reisinger
What should our proper understanding of the law be?
The law was never intended to bring self-perfection unto salvation. Many have misunderstood and distorted the biblical uses of the law. Many Christians today believe it was a way to God for OT Jews, and that Jesus simply made an easier way to God in the NT. But the NT does not replace the OT. Rather, it fulfills it because the OT was to get the sinner to need grace, and the NT gives that grace. Even many Jews, past and present, have understood the proper use of the law and have not falsely sought salvation through it.
In summary: “The law was given so that grace might be sought, and grace was given so that the law might be fulfilled!” ~ Ernest Reisinger
Many Christians today will say “we are no longer under law but under grace” and think it is biblical to abandon the moral law of God as though it were a primitive way to God. The way to God has never been through the law though! It has always been by grace through faith. All come to God through the promise of Abraham in Gen 15:6, which is through faith.
In fact, the law was given for the very opposite reason then to make us righteous! One primary reason God instituted the law was BECAUSE it brings worldwide condemnation, not self-righteousness. The law echoes how evil we are. It is the standard of moral perfection! This is so grace through faith would be all the more needed.
Lastly, the NT Christian should uphold God’s moral law even better then the OT Jew. This is because we now have the Spirit of grace to help us. Rom 3:31 “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”
Rom 8:13-14 “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”