Friday, July 14, 2006

The Purpose of the Law

When I made a "decision" to follow Christ, at the time I thought that what I was really doing was making a commitment to follow the various rules and regulations that you find throughout the Bible. In fact, for years I had put off my "decision" because I knew that I wasn't in a place where I could (or wanted to) keep all the commandments. On January 7, 1992, at the age of 22, something changed in me (I'll have to give the full story another time), and I basically thought I was finally ready to start "living right." This time in my life was truly a time when God did some very noticeable things in my life, and my life truly changed forever. However, my perspective of all that was happening to me was a bit skewed, and I quickly copped a 'holier than thou' attitude and I was down on everybody who I thought wasn't living right and I started being down on myself whenever I thought I was falling short, even just a little!

Trusting solely in Jesus was basically set aside so that trusting in my own right living could take over! And since the reality is that I cannot maintain my own righteousess, even for a minute, I was down on myself quite a bit! I'm thankful that God has given me grace to understand who I am and what His purposes were in giving the law. It's actually RIGHT THERE IN THE BIBLE!

Gal 3:11-12 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them."

Gal 3:19, 24-25 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator... Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Rom 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Rom 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
(All verses NKJV, emphasis mine)

The Law was given, not for righteous people, but for sinners. The Old Testament declared God's word that "there is no one righteous, no not one." So the law was put in place to charge the world with guilt... and that's ALL it can do! Paul calls the law "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation" because that is really what the law's purpose is! The law's purpose was to charge the sinner with sin, and ultimately to bring a sinner to faith in Christ. Once a person has been brought to faith, the law's job is DONE in that person's life! It had led them to the realization that they are guilty of sin and that they cannot make it without the Savior. Once they turn to the Savior in faith, they become "saints" and "new creations" and they no longer need the law to point them to Christ. The law is no longer needed because they have moved onto LIFE!

One thing the ministry of death and condemnation cannot do is give LIFE! And one thing the ministry of LIFE in Jesus Christ will never do is condemn.

But what about Jesus teaching the law? How can we reconcile that the law is not for the believer at the same time that we see Jesus having taught the Law?

Indeed, Jesus is the best Law Teacher there ever was! You will find a lot of Law teaching by Jesus. But considering what the Bible says about the purpose of the Law makes it easier for us to understand why Jesus taught Law. The Bible says that the law is the ministry of condemnation, and yet Jesus said He came not to condemn, but to save. How does all this make sense?

The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ. God's plan was for the law to condemn us (for the sin we were born into) and then to lead us to the Savior. Jesus taught the Law to lead people to faith in Himself. Once a person is in faith, the Law's job is done in their life. Paul said we had to DIE to the law in order to be 'married' to Christ. "Through the law I died to the law that I may be married to another." The law's job is definitely finished when we come to Christ! In fact, we become DEAD to it! But it was necessary in leading us TO Christ.

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