The Law is Good

July 6, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

The psalmist declares, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (119:97). Have you ever read that, or similar declarations in the psalms, and thought, “The law? How can anyone love ‘the law’?” Our relationship with “the law” is deeply impacted by our understanding of the purpose of the law. We do not see the law as good, as something to love or delight in, because we do not understand the good purposes of the law. 

In our sermon series on Sunday mornings through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are about to walk through a series of commands. These commands echo the Ten Commandments. Paul frequently in his writings appeals to the Old Testament law as a guide and content for Christian living and ethics. He said in Romans 7:12, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” In order to hear rightly Paul’s commands in Ephesians, to hear them with delight and love, we must understand clearly the purpose of the law. 

Thankfully, we stand in a rich tradition that has wrestled with these very questions. The Reformers aimed to clearly articulate the relationship between the law and the gospel. When the Westminster Assembly gathered about 100 years after the Reformation, some clear ideas of the purpose of the law had been codified. Questions 95, 96, & 97 in the Larger Catechism provide an excellent summary of the three uses, or purposes, of the law. 

  1. The law is good for moral order. Question 95 asks, “Of what use is the moral law to all men?” The answer is, “The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives; to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.” As the Creator, God has the right and authority to rule his creation. Since he is good and holy and unchangeable, God’s moral will for creation is good for the creatures. Creation thrives when we follow God’s design. This has broad application to our understanding of human sexuality, marriage, human rights, and more. God’s law is good for humanity. 
  1. The law is good for conviction of sin. Question 96 asks, “What particular use is there of the moral law to unregenerate men?” The answer is, “The moral law is of use to unregenerate men, to awaken their consciences to flee from wrath to come, and to drive them to Christ; or, upon their continuance in the estate and way of sin, to leave them inexcusable, and under the curse thereof.” The law helps us see very clearly our own sinfulness and need for a Savior. In fact, I would contend that without the humbling and conviction of the law, no person would repent of sin and turn to Christ for salvation. For many Christians, this is their favorite use of the law, because it exalts Christ. I’m all for that, but some Christians have come to emphasize that this may be the only use of the law. When this becomes your only use of the law, however, you come to be in danger of minimizing the pursuit of holiness, which leads to the third use. 
  1. The law is good for our pursuit of holiness. Question 97 asks, “What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?” The answer states, “Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet, besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.” The law provides a blueprint for Christians on how to live in a way that pleases God. We obey out of gratitude and delight in our Savior. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (Jn. 14:23). We do not obey out of fear of condemnation; that is removed in Christ. We do not obey in order to be saved; our salvation is secure in Christ. We obey because we have a new heart, with new desires, to be with and like our Savior. 

As we dive into Paul’s teaching on the law in Ephesians, I pray that we all would join the psalmist in declaring, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”



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