DISCLAIMER: The material in this article may offend those with other viewpoints. This article is not meant to offend or cause any emotional harm to anybody. I have written this piece to both share my experiences with this topic and to hopefully help others who are interested in this doctrine. And if you'd like to make the most of this article, go grab your dusty Bible under that lamp and follow along. May you be blessed in reading this as I did in writing it.
Chapter 4: The Law Understood
We find throughout the New Testament at least three reasons as to why the Law was given.
“Before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” (Romans 5:13)
“The law was added so that the trespass might increase.” (Romans 5:20)
“Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” (Romans 7:9)
The law was given to bring all of humankind to death. Paul says that “the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death” (Romans 7:10). The law was planned to bring life, but it ultimately brought death to the human race. It was expected to save, but it came and destroyed.
Although the law brought death, we must understand the underlining purpose of God in writing the law. Bringing the law about in human history was fundamentally intended to increase sin (Romans 5:20a) so that “sin might become utterly sinful” (Romans 7:13). The first reason for initiating the law was to bring judgment upon everybody.
“through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20)
“I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” (Romans 7:7-9)
The second reason the law was given was so that we would become conscious of sin. Before salvation comes to a person, the knowledge of being utterly sinful and depraved must be present. Paul describes the very essence of this purpose, “I would not have know what sin was except through the law.” Sin becomes evident when God says, “Do not do that.”
For example, when I was a around the age of four, I loved to play with the vacuum cleaner. I would turn the beautiful machinery on and push it around the duplex. At one point in my cleaning adventures, I thought it would be a wonderful thing to clean my sister’s hair. So I thrust the vacuum toward my three-year-old sister and actually pulled off a large chunk of hair from the top of her head. Because I enjoyed seeing my sister cry, I didn’t think anything was wrong until my mother came into the room, spanked me, and told me never to do that again; that it was a no-no. From then on, I chose to do other interests, slowly exploring the no-no lines until I was completely clear what the laws were. Then I would cross those lines in my teenage years, but we’ll leave that for another time.
So we see here that God chose not to judge people when there were no laws. “Sin is not taken into account when there is no law” (Romans 5:13). And God, “in His forbearance...had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Romans 3:25). Therefore, the begetting of the law prepared a way for God’s judgment to come on everybody. But more than that, it provided a way for God Himself to come and take the punishment we deserve and lay it upon Himself. For it pleased the Father “to crush Him and cause Him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10). And this leads us to the third reason God established the law.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17)
The law was given so Jesus the Christ could come and fulfill it. The Law, or the Torah, which includes all 613 commandments, was given to prophecy about the coming Messiah who would save His people from their sins so that His sheep would know who He was by His fulfillment of it. Christ wasn’t coming to restore His kingdom and reign on earth with His enemies under His feet just yet. He first had to come, live a perfect life by fulfilling the prophecies and the law, then be sacrificed for the sins of the world and be resurrected on the third day. When Jesus speaks of not abolishing the Law, He means that His first visitation to earth was not for this purpose, but His second coming is. He says, “until everything is accomplished,” which is when He comes again to bring judgment upon the unbeliever and glory upon the believer.
THE GOSPEL FOUND IN THE GIVING OF THE LAW
We see that the LORD did an incredibly beautiful thing in the bringing about of the law. We may ask ourselves why such a holy and perfectly good God would desire that sin increase? And not only that, why would He create a document whereby sin actually did increase? But we would be confronted with the reality of grace. The answer to it all is grace. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20b-21). God desired sin to increase so He could display His glory in Christ by pouring out infinite amounts of grace upon His elect. He desired sin to increase so we would come to Him for this grace! He gets the glory, we get the blessing!
This is an amazing realization! The only way to eternal life is through death; death to ourselves through the law of God. When dead, we cannot do a single thing. Scripture says that “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). And in Hebrews it says “without faith it is impossible to please God” (11:6). So we cannot do anything that would deserve or merit ourselves before this just and holy God. Therefore, God chose in His ultimate freedom to come and restore us to life in Christ Jesus, thus demonstrating His complete and pure grace.
By his illustration of being angry with one’s brother, he encapsulates the Law of God which explains that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
Jesus begins by saying, “You heard what was said long ago, ‘Do not murder’. The real issue is the heart!” And He goes on to explain how wickedly sinful men are in comparison to the law they tried so hard to follow, “A person who is found to be extremely angry and hates his brother is brought before the Sanhedrin to be judged, but before God and His Law, even if you call somebody a fool, you will be in danger of the fires of Hell.” Jesus begins with the God’s Law, which seems basic and general in description, but in the end digs at the heart. He shows that nobody can fulfill the Law of God and must come to Christ in faith for righteousness. Works will not do!