When we are transformed by grace, our world view and mindset are changed to be like that of Christ’s. We therefore desire and strive to live lives that are pleasing to God and according to His will. Believers are to live lives of repentance, receiving God’s absolution and recognizing our inability to be obedient yet striving in faith to do so. The purpose of the Law is first to show us our sin, second to drive us to Christ, and third to guide us in right living.
When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin came into creation. We have inherited this sinful condition. We are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) and separated from God because of our sin (Romans 3:23). To make our sinfulness clear to us, God gave us a code of conduct which is impossible for us to keep. The code finds its primary form in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20*, Deuteronomy 5) and is summarized with two statements: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…[and] “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 NASB). Or as we read in Romans 7, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (7b). God’s Law shows us our sin.
If we were to stop here, what a misery life would be. We have a code that is impossible to keep. Our sin results in death, eternal separation from God. But there is good news. God has provided for us a solution to this dreadful problem. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ…namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:18a, 19a, 21). Because Jesus became our sin for us, God restores the relationship that was broken because of sin. The Law shows us our sin. The Law shows us my desperate condition. The Law makes us see how much we need God to heal the brokenness in our lives. God reconciled us to Himself by declaring us innocent because Jesus took our sin and its consequences on Himself.
The forgiveness of sins, the declaration of innocence, the righteousness of Christ applied to us results in a transformation. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our old, sinful nature is put to death. A new, Christlike nature is raised in its place. We are a new creation. This transformation applies to the whole of who we are. Instead of living in disobedience, now, it is our sincere desire to live in the obedience that comes by faith (Romans 1:5). The Law then changes its purpose in our lives. When we were disobedient, the Law showed the extent of our disobedience. The Law next drove us to Jesus, the only solution to our death. Now, having been transformed, the Law becomes something we love and can use to know what it means to live a life pleasing to God as Psalm 118 reminds us:
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You” (9-11).
The Apostle Paul concluded in the letter to the Romans that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (7:12). The Law shows us that we are sinful and separated from God. The Law drives us to Christ. The Law is our guide for holy living. The Law is good because it is how God interacts with us and gives us His whole knowledge and will.
*Exodus 20 NASB
1Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3“You shall have no other gods before Me.
4“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
8“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
13“You shall not murder.
14“You shall not commit adultery.
15“You shall not steal.
16“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”