As a kid I always liked rules. Not all rules of course, but in general I liked to follow the rules. For me, “law” was not a scary idea. My husband, however, never liked rules as a kid and was breaking the law at a young age. In my mind law was something to obey. It kept me safe. For my husband law was a burden, and as a lawbreaker he was always guilty.
When we come to the Bible and read about how it talks about the law of God we sometimes get confused.
At one point Paul says the law is good, but in another part he says the Christian is no longer under law. How should we think of it? Is the law something to embrace, or is it something to escape?
Much of the time when the Bible talks about the law it is referring to the commands of God. From the Ten Commandments to the Sermon on the Mount we are given commands to obey. What does this law do in our lives?
God gave us the law to do three things in all of our hearts:
1. The Law is a Mirror
When we look at the law – the perfect and just commands of God – we see ourselves as lawbreakers. Just like a mirror shows us our blemishes and any other dirt we may have on our faces, the law reflects the blemishes and sin found in our person. It points out our shortcomings, our failure to be like God, our rebellious nature, and our half-hearted love. Ultimately the law shows us the consequences of our sinful nature and the curse that was brought upon us. It shows all people that there is something desperately wrong with us (Rom 7:7-25).
When we see the law of God, one of the things that should be clear to us is that we are lawbreakers and cannot stand before God based on our own righteousness.
“because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20)
2. The Law is a Sign Post
After the law works in us to show us our sin and guilt before God, it continues to speak. It points us to our need for grace – for a righteousness that must come from somewhere outside of us.
In Galatians 3:21 Paul asks if the law then clashes with the promises of God. The answer is “no”. While the law points out that we fall desperately short of God’s standard of righteousness, it is also like a giant flashing neon sign that says “There is a righteousness offered to you!” – namely, the righteousness of Jesus, the perfect law keeper.
The gospel not only offers us forgiveness for breaking the law, but also a way of meeting the standard God has set. In Jesus we are offered his perfect righteousness as a gift. This is what solidifies our standing before the face of God. I cannot be good enough to be accepted by God. But Jesus is, and in him I am counted as righteous. Does sin cling to every part of you? Then go to Jesus and he can wash you clean. Does sin torture your mind? Then go to Jesus and he will set you free. Does sin demand a heavy price for freedom? Then go to Jesus… he has paid that price.
“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”~ Galatians 3:24
3. The Law is a Road Map
The law shows us our sin and our need for Jesus, but the law continues to speak to the believer in a third way. The third use of the law is that it acts somewhat like a road map: showing us how to live while at the same time always directing us to Jesus. The law of God is good and we should delight in it (Rom. 7:12; Ps 1:2)! The law is the will of God given to us to reflect his glory and enjoy his ways.
When we see the law as forgiven lawbreakers, we can see it as a blessing that no longer condemns. It guides us.
As Christians we are not under the law’s condemnation, for it has led us to Jesus. And now that we are united with Jesus we joyfully accept the law of God as the way of righteousness.
Looking to Jesus,
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Jen Thorn grew up in Germany and then spent her teenage years in Africa, where her parents were missionaries. She moved to the United States for college and attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago where she met her husband. They have been married for twenty-two years and have four children. Jen lives in the suburbs of Chicago, where her husband is the pastor of Redeemer Fellowship. Jen is passionate about theology and the connection to daily living.