“Why the Law then?”

Taken and adapted from, “The Law of Christ”, Chapter 4, The Mosaic Law
Written by, Charles Leiter

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According to Paul, “the Law is not of faith,” and it is only when salvation is by faith that it can be a matter of grace:

For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified…. For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants…. Romans 4:14-16 

We see in these verses that Law, because it is characterized by the principle of “works,” is opposed to both Promise and Faith. And it is precisely this opposition that leads to Paul’s question, “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?” If Paul were teaching that the Law is a covenant based on the principle of grace, this question would never have arisen. But as it is, God has done something apparently inexplicable: He has made unconditional promises to Abraham and then followed them with a covenant that is conditioned on human performance! Does He really intend that men will earn their salvation by keeping the Law? Paul’s answer is an emphatic, “May it never be!” “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”  

God never intended the Law as an alternate method of salvation, because man’s sinful condition renders the Law “unable” to impart life. The problem lies, not in the Law’s promise of life, but in man’s inability to keep the Law and thus obtain its “righteousness.” For this reason, Paul speaks of “what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh.” Instead of bringing life to fallen men, the Law brings only death: “And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me.” The commandment did indeed promise life, but it “proved to result” only in death.

In answer to the question, “Why the Law then?” 

Paul says that it was “added because of transgressions.” After considering something of what he means by this phrase, we see that God’s ultimate purpose in giving the Law to fallen men was not that they might save themselves by keeping it, but that their utter need of a Savior might be established by their failing to keep it!

In light of this truth, several questions immediately press upon each of us, even though we have never lived directly under the Mosaic Covenant.

1.  Do I see God’s demands as “holy, righteous, and good” and His requirements as only good and right?

2.  Have I stopped blaming God for my sins by excusing them or by imagining that He expects too much of me?

3.  Do I realize that I have fallen infinitely short of living a life of perfect love to God and man, and that, in myself, I stand hopelessly condemned in God’s sight?

4.  Can I see that I am condemned, not because of any fault on God’s part, but because of my own selfish and wicked heart?

5.  Do I realize that I will never be able to establish any righteousness of my own before God or do anything that will obligate Him to love and save me?

6.  Have I given up on ever being able to “merit” the merits of Christ?

7.  Do I realize that unless salvation is entirely by grace, I will never be saved?

If my answer is “yes” to all of these questions, then the law of God has done its intended work in me! I have nothing to do but to look away from myself and put my trust in Christ alone for my righteousness and salvation!

“So the ransomed of the LORD will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads.” Hallelujah!