If you’ve paid attention to various laws, you’ll see how insane some can seem. Here in NYC there are some interesting laws on the books. For example, a $25 fine can be levied for flirting, it is against to throw a ball at someone’s head for fun, it is illegal to jump off the Empire State building, and you are not allowed to walk across the street diagonally. However, it’s also fair to say that these laws were probably instituted in response to a situation needing adjudication. They might seem ridiculous now, but I’m sure they have significant back-stories.
For anyone who has ever read the Old Testament and the Law, you’ve probably thought the same thing. There are some seemingly insane laws dictated by God in the Old Testament. Most specifically, there was the Mosaic Law given to Moses and then given to the Israelites. For example, the Mosaic Law commanded:
-Don’t have a variety of crops on the same field. (Leviticus 19:19)
-Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19)
-People who have flat noses, or is blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God (Leviticus 21:17-18)
-Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. (Leviticus 19:27)
-If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity. (Duet. 25:11-12)
While many of these laws do not seem compatible with our modern sensibilities, it would be these laws that govern the Israelites for hundreds of years.
However, today when these laws are read there are usually one of a few reactions. First, some people will read some of the Old Testament laws are think, “The God of the Bible is evil and oppressive. How can anyone serve a God like that?” Second, some say, “If Christians don’t follow every law, then they are hypocrites”. Third, some say, “God is not like that anymore. God is just about love”.
Well I would submit that all three perspectives are wrong, incomplete, and lack understanding of the purpose of the Law. Once you understand the Law, you begin to realize the Law doesn’t reveal God as oppressive or passive, but rather it provides an understanding of how our relationship with God is developed.
However, in order to understand the full purpose of the Law, there are few things about the Law that are worth addressing. First, what are the different types of laws? Second, what does Jesus, the most universally accepted religious figure; have to say about the Law? Third, what is the purpose of the law? ‘
First, it is worth addressing the fact that not all the laws were given for the same reason. They cannot be viewed as the same because different laws were dictated for different purposes. When looking at the Old Testament laws, there are 3 main categories they can be broken into.
1. Ceremonial Laws
These laws involved all laws concerning ceremonial purity, diet, and sacrifice. These were temporary enactments for purposes of ritual purity. However, the New Testament canceled these out because their symbolic meaning would be fulfilled in Christ.
2. Moral Laws
These laws commanded both personal and community behavior. These laws, such as the 10 Commandments, were given to provide the people with standards necessary for human flourishing.
3. Political Laws
These laws were the Old Testament principles of the moral law given to Israel as a nation. Israel was a Theocracy in that they were to be God’s people on Earth. Therefore these laws kept the nation of Israel pure and clean from pagan influences.
With this in mind, it is important when reading the law that each is understood in this way. It brings clarity to what is being read and why God instituted the law. The moral laws certainly apply to us today; however, the ceremonial laws and political laws do not. Understanding this is an important step toward understanding their purpose.
Next, it is important to see what Jesus had to say about the Law. Since Jesus is a prominent figure in almost every world religion, it is worth seeing how He treated the Old Testament Law.
When many think about Jesus they do not think about the Law. Jesus was supposed to be the one who eliminated the law in order to bring a new medium. The picture that many have of the peace loving, soft-spoken, wise preaching, merciful Jesus does not intermix with the Law. Yet, Jesus does not only speak highly of the Law, but in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”
Jesus would then continue for 2 chapters talking about many topics, such as, murder, adultery, lying, judgment, loving your enemies, and fasting. It becomes obvious that Jesus took the Law quite seriously. Some might say, “well of course he did, He’s God. He’s supposed to love the law”. However, Jesus is not the only one who loved the law. For example, King David, throughout the Psalms, would reveal his delight in the Law of the Lord.
So then, what was it about the Law that Jesus took so seriously and made David delight? To understand this we must understand that the Law was not just a set of rules, but instead it was an act of God’s grace. When you begin to see the grand purposes of the law, as revealed through the larger narrative of Scripture, you begin to see how gracious this law truly is to us.
Purposes of the Law
1. The Law shows us our depravity
One of the main issues within the fallen human condition is the lack of understanding of sin’s seriousness. We do not take or sin seriously and therefore do not feel the need to address it. This creates a problem for us because the perfectly holy and righteous One requires sinlessness in order for us to come into His presence. However, by our nature, we don’t take the sin that separates us from God seriously.
God seeing this, he graciously gives us the Law by which we see how depraved and sinful we are. This is because within ourselves we cannot know what is truly right and good. If it were up to us, we’d all have different opinions, which ultimately lead us to subjectivity and not objectivity. Thus, we’d never truly know what is right and wrong. So, God provides the standard by which goodness and purity are measured.
However, this Law is exhausting, extensive, and debilitating. Why? Because so is sin. This law points out the infectious nature of sin. It shows me that there is something wrong with me and that I’m held captive by this sin. Ultimately, can someone who has never understood his or her captivity really understand freedom? So, the law reveals this captivity, show me how great my sin is, and makes me realize I’m in trouble because there is no way I can fulfill it.
Yet, it is at this point that many get it wrong. Many world religions, and some Christians, view the law as the solution to this sin problem. They believe that if they can obey the law, then they will be saved and God will have favor on them. Christianity does not claim this at all because we know how impossible it is to perfectly fulfill the perfect law of our perfect God.
Matt Chandler puts it this way, “the law was the diagnostic tool to tell us we’re sick, it was never meant to be the cure”. In other words, it would be like taking your temperature and expecting the thermometer to get rid of your fever. It was never designed to be a cure, instead it is a tool to show us that we’re sick.
This leads to the second purpose of the law, which is the cure.
2. The Law points us to Christ
In Matthew 5, Jesus makes a bold statement, “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it” (v.17). This statement signifies a greater purpose than a list of rules for humanity to follow. What this meant, and what we’ll see later, is that Jesus would fulfill the law and do it on our behalf. Hebrews 4:15 says, “He was tempted in every way but was without sin”. This statement reveals the perfect life of Christ. Christ fulfilled the Law by living it perfectly.
Furthermore, the Law and Prophets, or much of the Old Testament, pointed to Christ’s coming and His position as fulfiller. The spotless lamb of the Old Testament would point to the perfection of Christ. The blood sacrifices pointed to the final sacrifice of Christ. The offices of the Old Testament, such as, king, priest, and prophet would be a picture of the perfect King, Priest, and Prophet. All of the stories and prophecies in the Old Testament reveal that Jesus is our greater King, Priest, and Prophet.
However, it must be stressed that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, on our behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. We know that Christ lived perfectly righteous and yet this was not simply to provide a good example of how live. There are some who claim Jesus to be nothing for than a moral example. This is not the purpose of Christ’s fulfillment of the Law. Christ lived perfectly righteous in our place. He then becomes our sin and take our place as the perfect sacrifice. In this action, as He takes our sin, He also imputes or gives His perfection. It is this perfection, which justifies us before God. Our faith in Christ then leads to our right standing before God.
This was an incredibly gracious act of God to provide the Law so that we could see Christ as the fulfillment of it on our behalf. Thus leading us to the final purpose of law.
3. The Law provides evidence of salvation
The Law is a standard provided by God, thus providing a measure of obedience. Therefore, obedience to the law provides a testimony to our salvation experience. In other words, our desire to obey God is proof that we have been saved.
However, it is important to address the fact that not all of the law is still applicable to us today. It is here that we must sort through what is ceremonial, political, and moral law. It is the moral laws, which still apply and therefore provide an evidence of our salvation. Let me explain what I mean by this.
Let me first be clear. The law does not save you and it cannot justify you because you are not capable of fulfilling it. Only the perfection of Christ imputed to you, saves you. However, a desire to live according to God’s standard does show my maturity and understanding of God’s grace.
In Romans 6:1-2, Paul asks us, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” In other words, we cannot continue to sin because we are under God’s grace. If we can sin with no concern for our sin, we must evaluate our conversion.
Titus 2:11 tells us, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”. In other words, the external proof of our internal conversion is a desire to change and become holy. We know that we are saved when we have a desire to obey God’s commands.
This desire is not one that says, “I must follow God’s commands so that I don’t go to hell or so that I can have a blessed life”. Instead, it says, “I want to follow God’s commands because I love Him and want to honor Him with my life”. These are two massively different motivations.
Thus, God graciously gives us the Law so that we know we are saved.
How do we view the law of God? Do we ignore it as if it does not apply to us today or do we see the goodness of God in it? While we may not adhere to the Law in the ways that those of the past have adhered, it does not change the fact that it has great implications for us today.
Ultimately, it reveals our need for a Savior, it points us to our Savior, and it proves our Savior has saved us.http://yourlisten.com//jadour/the-graciousness-of-the-law