Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Purpose of the Law

 “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners…” 1 Timothy 1:6-9

God gave the law to people who were rebellious and unrighteous, and therefore, completely unable to keep the lofty moral demands of the law. Why would God, who is infinite in wisdom, give demands to people who are utterly unable to perform them? Either God delights to cause misery in the consciences of those who continually fail to keep His law, and wishes only to bring condemnation to men, or He has another purpose entirely. Obviously, we know that God does not do what I previously proposed. God is a God of love, mercy, and goodness; it would be contradictory to His nature to have a purpose that excludes love or grace toward mankind. So what then was God’s intent in giving Israel the law? The purpose of the law God gave was to lead men to Christ; therefore it wasn't, in the main, given by God in the hope that it would be perfectly obeyed by the people.

The law was meant to show mankind the desperate plight of his own sinfulness in order to lead him to the grace and mercy that is in Jesus Christ. Law prepares the heart for grace. The law was the tutor, or guardian, to lead men to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). The law imprisoned all under sin so that we would receive the grace that is in Christ through faith (Galatians 3:22-23). The law shuts every mouth, and holds the whole world accountable to God; for no one can be justified by his own efforts to satisfy the law’s demands (Romans 3:19-20). The glory of God in Jesus Christ is the focal point of all of Scripture. The law highlights and magnifies the grace of Jesus, beckoning all people to cast themselves upon this grace. The law’s purpose is to condemn all men so that they might forego seeking salvation through the merits of self-effort, and seek salvation through the mercy of God in Christ.

To miss this is to miss the whole purpose of the law, and to misunderstand this is to misunderstand the whole law. If you don’t get this, you will never understand the cross. That’s why Paul, in 1 Timothy 1:7, said of the false teachers, who desired to be teachers of the law, that, “they understand neither what they are saying nor the things about which they make confident assertions.” They don’t understand that God’s intention was to use the law to show man his corruptness and sinfulness, and thus, show him his great need of a salvation outside of himself; specifically, the salvation by the grace of God through faith alone. Salvation was never meant to be through a righteousness gained by one’s own self before God. This may sound strange, but the law wasn't given primarily to be obeyed. It was given primarily to reveal mankind’s sinful nature (Romans 7:7-12). And by doing that, it leads people to a gracious Savior.

Once the law has accomplished its primary function in bringing people to the mercy of Jesus, it serves an entirely different purpose and function (I will later address the functions of the law in the life of a Christian). It no longer serves primarily as a condemning force leading people to God’s grace; though it ought to serve as a constant reminder to the Christian of his great need for Christ’s grace.

Grace. In actuality, grace is the purpose of the law. It’s all about God’s glorious, undeserved, unmerited, and infinite grace. God’s intention in giving His law was to lead men to the grace of God, so that they may ever exult in His endless mercy and love, and boast only in the cross of Christ. Give up self-effort to earn righteousness, embrace the self-realization that the law provides, and thrust yourself fully upon divine mercy, the grace of God in Jesus Christ. For by works of the law no person shall be justified before God.

By: Chris Blaise

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