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QUESTION: Why did God give the Law?



ANSWER:  This is a good question because it is thought-provoking.  A couple of years ago a visitor to our church was quite confused (and in fact did not return) because, on that Sunday, I preached from a text in the Old Testament.  He apparently did not have much use for the Old Testament in general or the Law of Moses in particular.  But the New Testament regards the Old Testament not only as helpful (1 Cor 10:11), but essential (Galatians 3:24) to understanding the foundational doctrines of future exaltation.


Have you ever been frustrated, perhaps “stressed out,” with the burden that is placed on us to be “perfect” (either by a well-meaning parent or misguided clergy/religion)?  Used ‘lawfully’ (1 Timothy 1:8) the Old Testament law does exactly what our Heavenly Father intends for it to do: convict us of our sin, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). 


The law reveals our sinfulness by demanding the impossible from us. The assumption made by many that God gave the Old Testament commandments as a way for people to gain Heaven, is false.  Rather than being a means for us to save ourselves, the commandments of the law teach us the utter impossibility of doing so.  I mean, who can love God wholeheartedly?  Who always loves their neighbor as themselves?  Who can keep himself from every greedy, lustful or selfish thought? No one!  “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12).


The fact that we are not good is what God wants us to see when we come across one of His laws.  He literally wants us to despair of trying to save ourselves.  The law is given to reveal the extent of our sinfulness and sin’s dreadful consequences.  “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10).


Note how comprehensive that verse is.  It includes “everyone” who doesn’t “continue” to do “everything” that our Heavenly Father says to do.  No matter how good people think they are, if they are not “perfect” all the time, they are under God’s curse.  They are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10) and have earned the eternal death of outer darkness (Romans 6:23 cf. Matthew 25:30).


Why would God concentrate on such depressing news?  Isn’t the Gospel of Jesus Christ supposed to be “good news?”  Well it is good news.  But before we appreciate the fact the God’s grace relieves our fears, we must first acknowledge that it is also God’s grace that teaches our hearts to fear (Amazing Grace, verse 2, first line).



Don’t try to wiggle out of this right now.  Let the truth of being a law-breaker against God sink in.  Fear isn’t always a bad thing, you know.  Fear keeps us away from steep cliffs, dangerous curves, and many other life-threatening situations.  The thief on the cross testifies: “dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?” (Luke 23:40).