God’s Law: its Purpose

Obedience to God’s law is not an attempt to earn salvation (Romans 3:20, 28).  That’s not the purpose of the law.  But that doesn’t mean that we are free to ignore the law of God either.  The law is for our benefit, and we would be wise to study and obey it.  The law shows us what God’s will is.  Sin is the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4).  How would we know that we are breaking God’s law unless He had revealed His law to us?  The law is not the problem.  Sin is the problem.  If God had not given us the law (either written literally or “written” in our conscience) we would still sin but we would not have knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20, 5:13).

There are (at least) two ways in which we benefit by knowing God’s law.  First, and most importantly, the law shows us that we need salvation.  It does not save us, but it reveals to us that we need a Savior.  The apostle Paul states, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7).  We read in Romans 3:20b “for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”  It is because we have the law of God that we know we do not match up to His perfect standard (Romans 3:23).  Without this knowledge, we would never repent, and would never come to faith in Christ (1 John 1:8–10).

Second, the law has very practical value in this world.  God’s commandments are good (Romans 7:12).  And it will always go better for us and for others in the long run if we obey God.  For example, consider the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17).  What would society be like without these principles?  Aren’t you glad that God has commanded that no one is allowed to murder you?  Of course, people don’t always obey God’s law.  And that always causes problems.  In fact, every problem our society faces can be traced back to disobedience to God’s law.

How different would our world be if everyone obeyed God’s commandments perfectly?  Since there would be no theft, there would be no need for locks on doors.  You would never have to worry about misplacing your car keys—cars would have no locks, and would be started with simply an “on” button.  There would be no security screenings at airports, yet everyone would be perfectly safe.  Written contracts would be unnecessary since no one would ever lie.  The list goes on.  Suffice it to say that the world in which we live falls substantially short from God’s ideal standard.  And so we have to have locks, security screenings, contracts, and so on since we know that people do not always obey God’s commands.  My point is simply that God’s law was given for our benefit.

Even those laws that we tend to think of as God-directed (such as the first four of the Ten Commandments) are given for our benefit.  Consider the biblical principle of taking one day of the week to rest and focus on God (Exodus 20:8–11).  Do you think that God’s survival is somehow endangered if we fail to do this?  Clearly not!  The Sabbath day was God’s gift to us (Mark 2:27).  It gives us a chance to rest and to enjoy time with the Lord.  Even the command to have no other god’s but the living God (Exodus 20:3) is for our benefit (e.g. Deuteronomy 12:30–31, 20:18).

Sin of any kind always leads to negative consequences in this world.  Some of these effects are obvious; others are subtle.  But they are always negative.  Of course God can forgive our sins, and sometimes He will mitigate the consequences.  But God would rather that we not sin in the first place, and that we not have to suffer any of those consequences (Ezekiel 33:11).  God gave us the law because He loves us.

2 Responses to God’s Law: its Purpose

  1. Anthony Perez says:

    Right on point!
    Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
    1 John 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
    1John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

  2. Charles k Cooper says:

    Thanks indeed sir. I have read some of your publication on the moral and ceremonial laws. I was touched and surprised after learning some trues about the manner in which God exposed to me a clear distinction between the two laws. I am a pastor of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ Inc. This true cannot be willfully by me any more. God’s Moral law was never destroyed by Jesus as many of us have been thinking. may God bless you as you strive to lift the name of the lord in the heart of the perishing, amen.

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