On the cross, Jesus received all of the Law’s condemnation and judgment. We died with Him to the Law, and it can, therefore, no longer condemn us. We now serve God in an altogether different way, not through laws but through the heart. Since we are no longer under the Law, does the Law actually accomplish anything?
Indeed, if the Law brings us into bondage, could not it be said that the Law and sin are equally evil? One promotes the other. The apostle Paul anticipates this question and asks the Romans, “Is the Law sin?” (see Rom. 7:7), but he graciously answers the question with a profound explanation of the purpose of the Law.
THE LAW REVEALS SIN
The Law makes us conscious of sin (see Rom. 3:20). The Law was also given to reveal the holiness of God. We live in a culture where a clear conscience is very rare and almost anything goes. Unmarried couples live together and sleep together; we adjust our tax returns; we murder unborn children in the womb; and lying, drunkenness, and drugs are all commonplace. These are acceptable practices in our culture here in America and throughout the earth.
God’s law presents humanity with a definite statement of right and wrong. The Pharisees thought they were acting holy and avoiding sin because their perception of sin was that it could be measured by outward expressions of deeds. So they tried to argue with Jesus by saying they had not committed adultery. But Jesus reminded them:
You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery,” but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV).
Jesus kept giving more law. Each time the Pharisees would tout that they had not sinned, Jesus would give them more law. The Law was truly given to reveal sin in the heart of humanity and to reveal the holiness of God.
THE LAW PROVOKES SIN
There is a beautiful wooded area right next to The Prayer House in Chico, California. Many people go on walks and spend time next to the creek eating lunch and enjoying each other’s company. Many people also bring their dogs to let them walk, run, play, and exercise. I have noticed that there is no sign anywhere on the property telling the owners of these dogs to have them on a leash. Suppose that the city of Chico suddenly decided to make the park a “dogs must be on a leash” park. Imagine dog owners arriving at the park and immediately letting their dogs run and exercise as they part from their vehicles. Then shortly, as they walk through the park, they notice a sign staked in the ground that says: “Dogs Must Be On A Leash!” The immediate reaction from the dog owner is to rebel. “My dog is well-behaved; he will stay next to me. I do not need to have him on a leash. And by the way, this sign was not here the other day.” A little farther down the path, there is another signed staked in the ground stating; you guessed it, “Dogs Must Be On A Leash.” There it is; the Law revealed one more time.
All of a sudden the rules were revealed and the dog owner wanted to disobey. Paul describes it this way:
But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment [the Law], produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead (Romans 7:8 NASB).
The Law was actually given by God to provoke sin in us. Paul states that, as a Pharisee of all Pharisees, he would not have known about coveting except through the Law. The Law actually caused him to covet, because apart from the Law, sin is dead. The Law helps us to know that we are helpless to erase our failures. The Law was not given to us so that we could find peace with God, but to show us that we could never live up to the Law. This brings us to the next reason why God gave us His Law.
THE LAW LEADS US TO THE CROSS OF JESUS
The Jews of Jesus’ day thought that God gave them the Law so they could save themselves through the Law. They failed with the Law! Why?
Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone (Romans 9:32 NASB).
Let’s consider the following reasons as to why.
#1 Their hope was set on Moses, who represented the Law.
For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46 NKJV).
#2 The Law was never given to be a way to salvation. Salvation was given through Jesus.
So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12 NIV).
#3 We were made to die once and for all to the Law through Jesus’ sacrifice.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God (Romans 7:4 NASB).
#4 Now that we have died to the Law, we are completely free from the Law.
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6 NASB).
#5 We have an assurance from our Father, and His promises are forever true.
For if the inheritance depends on the Law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in His grace gave it to Abraham through a promise (Galatians 3:18 NIV).
THE LAW WAS GIVEN TO DRIVE US TO JESUS!
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24 NASB).
The law hasn’t gone and disappeared simply because we now have Christ. The law is still a tool God uses to draw unbelievers to Christ.
So, what was the purpose of this holy and good law of God? Ultimately God delivered the Law to show His creation their need for grace. They knew of His mercy (because they weren’t getting what they deserved), but God wanted to reveal the power of His grace. God wanted to show them that the Law’s holiness must be fulfilled, and that the Lamb of God is the only one who could fulfill it.
I believe this is what Jesus meant when He spoke His last words while dying on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30 NIV). Jesus fulfilled the Law for His Father, because the Law had to be completed, and none of us had the ability, or even the hope of, fulfilling the perfect and righteous law of God.
God’s task is not to fulfill the law within believers. He has already fulfilled the law through Christ. The Holy Spirit is not attempting to draw us into submission to the law. The law has been accredited to us as fulfilled!