Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.(Romans 7:12-13)
We have been discussing the function of God’s law in the light of salvation, and there have been questions raised by this discussion. Are we saying the Law of God has been done away with ? Is the Law Sin, as Paul’s detractors accused him of teaching? It is understandable in this lawless age, that christians are concerned that we don’t dismiss the Law of God, which is perfect, because anti-nomianism is such a problem.
So we say, with the apostle Paul that of course, “The Law is Holy,Just and good“, it a perfect gift from God and has enriched all of those to whom it has come. The Law is a Light, by the teaching of Moses the Jews and in turn the Christians have been elevated in every area of life, and is responsible for the greatest breakthroughs in civilisation the world has ever known.
But God’s Law has a function, it is not an end in itself, it is designed to lead us to Messiah and his salvation.The Law cannot save us, nor can it make us holy, it cannot perfect us in worship. Knowing what is right and true, is valuable but it is not the same as actually doing and loving and living for what is Truth.
One of the functions of the Law of God is that it deeply and truly reveals what sin is in all of it’s deformed ugliness and malignancy. Nothing brings out the nature of sin like a deep revelation of the law of God. The very fact that Paul pondered the Tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not Covet…” aroused covetousness in him!
The problem with the Pharisees was not that ‘they were too into the law’, but rather they had an inadequate understanding of its depth and breadth.This is brought out masterfully in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican;
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.(Luke 18:9-12)
If this Pharisee received the message that Tithing scrupulously,fasting,do-gooding, and external observance of the law was enough to please God, he has missed the whole point of the Law of God. The Law shouldn’t make you feel as if you have arrived, a true understanding of it will have you beseeching God for mercy as an unworthy sinner!
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.( Luke 18:13-15)
If anything it is the publican who truly understood the law of God. He smites on his heart, the very seat of sin, he cries out for mercy, realising that as an unworthy sinner he has no claim whatsoever on God’s favour, and he lifts not up his head, out of a bitter sense of distance from God! This is someone who “gets it”.
Law brings ut the reality of sin, we now know what covetousness really is, dis-contentment against God, murmurring and chafing at the God appointed lot in life, ingratitude towards the One who gave us all.It is even an action it is a state of the heart.
We see sin in its true character as God defying, yea even God hatred! Law tends to show sin in stark relief, we see it clearly, it is exposed, aroused, even energised by Law. If we could understand that this is one of the main purposes for Law, we would stop trying to be saved by it, or to use it for sanctification.It is like trying to cure a fever with a thermometer.
Why isn’t knowing ‘right and wrong’ enough for me? I love to learn right from wrong, ethics, wisdom, instruction are of great interest to me. But why don’t I practice them consistently? It is a matter of love, the Law is impossible to keep without love, the Law actually shows me that no,I don’t love the Lord my God with all of my heart, Soul, mind and strength! Nor do I love my neighbor anywhere near as much as I love myself!
Why don’t I Love God? How can I be reconciled to God? Why do I love self more than anyone else, even God? These are the hard truths a proper understanding of God’s law confronts us with.Those who are ‘into the law’ and yet haven’t come to this point are fooling themselves.
A rebel is only really revealed to be a rebel when some rule is imposed upon him, a clear line drawn as a boundary, not to step over. But because he is a rebel, once the command is given authoritatively not to step over it, he almost has to express his rebellion by stepping over it because that is who he is.To come to see this about ourselves is a painful but needed medicine.