THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW (Part 1)
“Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.” (Galatians 3:23 NLT)
Jesus Christ and His teaching became “a stumbling block” to the Jews because they were bent on using the law God gave them through Moses for the purpose it was not meant or intended for.
The Jews wrongly sought to use the law as a means of righteousness, to attain a right standing with God, and to earn God’s love, acceptance, favour and blessings. They erroneously believed and concluded that the law was given to them for their justification or salvation.
Paul exposes their ignorance in his epistle to the Christians at Rome.
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (NKJV).
God offered the Jews His righteousness as a gift of grace in and through Jesus Christ; however, because of the blindness and hardness of their hearts, they vehemently rejected God’s gift of righteousness, seeking and striving in vain to establish their own righteousness by the works of the law.
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.
2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (NKJV).
Unfortunately, like the zealous but foolish Jews of old, many religious folks today are still seeking and striving to use the law for the purpose it was not intended for.
Many people today are zealously, religiously or dutifully striving to adhere to, abide by, keep or obey all or some of the laws God gave the Jews through Moses as a means of attaining a right standing with God, or earning God’s love, acceptance, favour or blessing.
That is an abuse of the law!
That is using the law wrongly!
The Scripture clearly teaches and reveals that God did not give men the law to serve as a basis or means of obtaining justification and salvation. No man can completely and continuously keep the whole law without stumbling in one point (Jam. 2:10-11, Gal. 3:2-16).
Only the Lord Jesus Christ has ever kept the whole law perfectly without stumbling in one point. No mortal man can attain such a level of perfection!
Paul clearly states this truth.
10 But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.”
11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scripture say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (NLT).
The law was not given or sent to be our saviour but merely to be our tutor, custodian, guardian or schoolmaster ordained by God to lead and bring us to the Saviour, Jesus Christ, that we might be justified and saved by faith in Him and His finished work of redemption.
Paul explains this truth in his epistle.
23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way.
24 The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.
25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. (NLT).
God does not intend for us to remain under the law after the full revelation of God’s grace (Jesus Christ) that brings salvation to all mankind.
The Scripture amply affirms this.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. (NKJV).
25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (NKJV).
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (NKJV).
4 For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him. (AMP).
Now that the way of faith has been revealed to us, we no longer need the law as our guardian, tutor or schoolmaster. Sadly, many believers still don’t recognize, know, understand, believe, or accept this truth.
Through Christ’s perfect and finished work of redemption the believers in Christ have been set free from their bondage and servitude to the law. We are completely free from the burdensome sacrifices and expensive rites of the Jewish law.
We are also forever free from the condemnation, curse and penalty imposed by the law. We have become dead to the law through the body of Christ. Hallelujah!
Paul attests to this truth.
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.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (NKJV).
Unfortunately, many believers today are totally ignorant of the truth of their total freedom from the custody and curse of the law. Consequently, though now under grace, yet they are still constantly seeking to live as those under the law.
Although they are now under Jesus Christ, the great Teacher and Instructor, yet they are still living by the rules and regulations of their former tutor or instructor (the law).
The Law God gave through Moses was not meant for the born-again believers (the new creations in Christ), but for the sinners (the unregenerate people).
Paul aptly points out this truth.
1 Timothy 1:
9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,
11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (NKJV).
Therefore, as a new creation, you are not expected to strive or seek to adhere to, keep or live by the Mosaic Law. What God has given you through Jesus Christ is grace and truth. That is what you are expected to hold or adhere to!
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (NKJV).
But why did God entrust men to the law to serve as our tutor or guardian until Christ came? What purposes does God intend the law He gave Israel through Moses to serve?
Let us examine what the Scripture says about the purposes of the law.
First, the law is intended to reveal God’s moral values and standards of holiness:
Like a measuring tape or rod, the law clearly reveals to us God’s standards and demands which the fallen men can never attain or measure up to. It also shows us how we have fallen short of God’s moral standards.
The law reveals to us that God is holy and also commands us to be holy, not as much as we could, but as God is holy (Lev. 19:2, 1 Pet. 1:15-16, Matt. 5:48).
While the law as our tutor clearly teaches or shows us what God expects of us; however, it does not furnish or supply us with the divine ability or capacity to meet God’s expectations. Although the law demands perfection from us, yet it cannot make us perfect.
19 For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (NLT).
Apostle Paul rightly referred to the Mosaic Law as “the ministry of condemnation and death” because the law demands or requires of us what we cannot do because of our sin nature.
2 Corinthians 3:
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away,
8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?
9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. (NKJV).
The result of our failure to keep the standards and demands of the law is fear, shame, guilt, condemnation and death. Therefore, anyone who is still living under the law is under curse, condemnation and death (Gal. 3:10).
Beloved, the law was not given by God to make or help you become righteous, holy or perfect in God’s sight.
Rather, the law was simply given to show you God’s moral values and standards of holiness that you can never attain in your own strength no matter how hard you strive or try, so as to humble you, stop your mouth and make you guilty before God and then make you cry out for mercy and put your whole trust in the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
19 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.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (NKJV).
What other purposes does God intend the law to serve?
Find out in the second part of this piece!
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I acknowledge my inherent weakness, inability and failure to measure up to the standards and demands of the law. I put my trust in Jesus Christ today and confess Him as my Saviour and Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.