The Purpose of the Law
If you notice the title of this article, it suggests an idea that there is an underlying or co-existing motive on the part of God in regard to the Law. It suggests that there is a “bigger picture” to the function of the Law, but the disturbing trend I find among HRM followers, is that they don’t believe there is a “bigger picture” perspective to be grasped.
People who adhere to the Mosaic Law are concerned with the “doing” and the “keeping” of it, and why not? That would seem to be the bulk of it. However, if we start talking about the “purpose” or “fulfillment” of the Law, then we add another component or function to the Law, other than doing and keeping. This is where the controversy begins, but it shouldn’t be a controversy. God does not contradict Himself, therefore, there must absolutely, and most certainly be, a balance to it all.
So, with that said, let’s ask some questions to provoke thought:
1)Does the Bible say there is or was a purpose to the Law, apart from the keeping of it?
2)What is that purpose?
3)Was that purpose made known before Jesus Christ or only afterwards?
4)Was this purpose hidden from man, or available to him?
5)Did this purpose need fulfillment at a future date?
6)Does the Bible contain both negative and positive descriptions of the Law? Especially in the NT concerning
The Law provides 3 main functions or purposes that are universal to the NT and OT and irrespective of how someone views the Law:
1)Righteous Standard for God’s people.
2)Revelation of Sin and Punishment.
3)Revelation of God.
THESE 3 FUNCTIONS ARE GOING TO BE WHAT WE USE IN THIS ARTICLE TO DETERMINE WHAT THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW IS AND WHAT APPLICATION IT HAS.
First, let’s cover 3 types of scripture concerning the Law.
1)THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW-
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God…for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.” (Romans 5:20)
“What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made…”(Galatians 3:19)
“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”(Galatians 3:24)
All these verses along with their context, have 2 things in common; 1) A revelation of sin, and 2)captivity that awaited fulfillment.
2)NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF THE LAW-
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another.”(Romans 7:4)
“But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”(Romans 7:6)
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son…”(Romans 8:2-3)
“…who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious…how will the ministry of the Spirit be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.”
(2 Corinthians 3:6-9)
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ…but after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
3)POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE LAW-
“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”(Romans 7:12)
“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
So how do we put this all together as one word from God?
To simply say we are or aren’t under the law is only a belief or doctrine, but it still doesn’t answer the question.
The best text is contained in Romans 5:12-21. In this we can see that the beginning for all these things is based on the fact that man is lost and condemned, and he has inherited a nature from Adam contrary to being made in the image of God. God could not put this right until man was brought under the knowledge of his sin through the law, so that it would prepare the way for Christ, that man may be reconciled to God and re-made in His image. The order or pattern of Romans 5:12-21 is this:
-Revelation of sin and death
-Revelation of the fall/nature of Adam
-Revelation of Jesus Christ
The Law of Moses was the first universal revelation of God and His righteousness, outside of the conscience of man(Romans 1:20). And this revelation came through a covenant of works in written format because of man’s condition. The covenant that God had between Himself and Israel was no fluke, nor insincere. It was real, but it was not fulfilled. What God wanted in us, was seen in Abraham, but this could not be accomplished until Jesus Christ could pay the penalty of the Law, which is death, that man incurred at the fall in the garden.
The Law reveals the distinction between man’s sinfulness and God’s character and holiness. It is not an abstract notion from the mind of God for how man should live. It represents His attributes, kingdom and His desire to dwell with His people.
Where people ultimately fail is that they are not looking for any revelation. They may appreciate how the Law functions and what it represents, but the tangible/visible aspects of the Law have become too convenient and manageable for them. They see and honor the distinction it brings between themselves and other people, but they don’t see and honor its revelation and the distinction between themselves and God.
In Christ, there are two primary distinctions to focus on:
-Between ourself and God/Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:31, Romans 3:19)
-Between ourself and our old self. (Romans 6:11, Ephesians 4:22-24, Galatians 5:24)
When we look at these two distinctions, this is why Paul says:
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:3)
The Law can only awaken someone to the righteousness of God, but it does not abolish the nature of Adam, nor does it provide an inherited righteousness. That only comes through Christ. The Law is not contrary to righteousness in Christ, but it is IMPOTENT for the purposes of it. Lets read:
“Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, then truly righteousness would have been by the law.”
Remember the 3 functions of the Law I listed near the beginning??
-Revelation of Sin and Punishment
-Revelation of God
Well, these functions are more important than the Law itself, ( Yeah, you read that right ) and these revelations have come to us in Jesus Christ. This is how He fulfilled the purpose of the law. (Matthew 5:17)
A person who still depends on the whole of the Mosaic Law has not seen, nor are they looking for these 3 functions of the Law, and therefore they have not seen, nor are they looking for Jesus Christ. Why else would Jesus be so bold in saying:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned ALREADY…” (John 3:18)
“…Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:45)
Jesus did not come to reveal and reinstate the Law. He fulfilled, what it revealed. It revealed and pointed to what is only found in Him. He used the Law to point to Himself. The Law pointed to Christ, and He pointed to Himself and the Father. There is no other way. Jesus is not synonymous with the Law, He is synonymous with the righteousness of God.