Why the Law?

This post developed out of a comment I left on Kevin DeYoung’s recent post on Why Lewis Loved the Law.

The two parts that I wanted to comment on were:

How awful it would be to inhabit this world, have some idea that there is a God, and yet not know what He desires from us. Divine statutes are a gift to us. God gives us law because He loves.

And then in a response comment:

As to the law, it certainly does convict us of sin. But in Romans 13 Paul suggests that we love God and respond to his grace by following the Ten Commandments.

Let me preface this by saying that I regularly read Kevin’s blog and have found many of his posts helpful. This is not a critique of his overall views but just some further thoughts on these two excerpts.

God’s Desire- becoming man’s life

This first quote really should read: “How awful it would be to inhabit this world, have some idea what God wants, and yet be unable to fulfill His demand. The law is a curse to us. God gave us the law because we don’t know ourselves.” Something like that at least.

What God desires from us is not expressed in His giving the law to Israel. It is expressed in His putting Adam before the Tree of Life. God wants us to receive Him as life.

Paul’s verdict on the law is unsparing:

1) The law perfected nothing (Hebrews 7:19)

2) The law is weak and unprofitable (Hebrews 7:18)

3) The law was becoming old, growing decrepit, and near to disappearing (Hebrews 8:13)

4) There is something the law cannot do (Romans 8:3)

Peter’s verdict is similar:

1) A yoke upon their neck which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear (Acts 15:10)

Romans 13- expressing God’s life

It is interesting to note that in Romans 13:8-10 Paul does not say “keep the law.” In fact, in context of this whole book and Paul’s whole ministry that would be a ludicrous charge to ascribe to the apostle.

Paul is making the point that the whole law is fulfilled through love. This is God’s attribute of love expressed through our virtue of love. Not our trying really hard to love people we find unbearable. If we are still irritated by fellow members of the Body this doesn’t mean we are not actually saved, it just means that God’s life in us needs to grow unto maturity.

It’s a difference of way and issue. It’s not that we love God BY keeping the 10 commandments, but that the living that the 10 commandments describes is an issue of our loving God (the 1st commandment) and loving man (the 2nd commandment). All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:40).

It’s also interesting to note that the commandments that Paul mentions in Romans 13:9 are all in the second group of the 10 commandments. The first five, which all contain the expression “Jehovah your God”, relate to man’s relationship with God. The second five relate to man’s relationship with man. So Paul is not talking here about loving God but about loving our neighbor.

Besides, Romans 13 comes after Romans 10:4 where Paul says that Christ is the end of the law. This means that the law as the principle of God’s dealing with man is over. BUT what the law describes is still applicable, so when Paul says that the law is over this isn’t license for lawlessness or sin. The described living is still desired by God but the WAY He brings it about is by our enjoyment and experience of Him as grace, not by the self-perfection and cultivation of our old man.

The living described in Romans 12:9-13:14 is an issue and expression of the life of God in us. This is why Paul stresses the divine dispensing of the divine Trinity into our spirit, soul, and body in Romans 8 and then our presented body, transformed soul, and burning spirit in Romans 12.

11 thoughts on “Why the Law?

  1. the law was given by God to expose man, to show man that he can’t do it – man cannot express God in His righteousness, holiness, and glory. But I love how the Lord Jesus says in Matt 5 and 6 that He didn’t come to annul the law and the prophets but to fulfill it – and uplift it! At the end of Matt. 5 we have the key, You therefore shall be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect! Because we are the sons of our heavenly Father, with the divine life and the divine nature, the law can be fulfilled in us as we live by Christ, the divine life in us!

    I think that the law was given to expose man and bring man to Christ – now Christ is the fulfillment of the law and He is also the One in us that fulfills the law! If the law brings us to Christ that we may love Him, enjoy Him, and allow Him to live in us, the law has fulfilled its function…


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