Last time we made our way through a lot of passages that showed Laws and requirements that God made for His people, requirements that were perpetual, everlasting and specifically for all generations of the Jewish people. We also looked at the various covenants God made with His people, all of them unconditional and eternal except for one, the Mosaic Covenant.
However, the Mosaic Covenant was not only broken by God’s people repeatedly, it was completed through the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah and since there’s no Temple in existence today, it’s not possible to fulfill the rituals and sacrifices anymore either.
So what was the purpose of the Law?
The Hebrews, the Jewish people, had been enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, and prior to that they were simply a large family made up of a father, his wives, their children and their grandchildren who left Canaan to escape a really severe drought. By the time they escaped their 400 years of slavery and captivity, they had grown into a nation of people at least one million strong, probably more. While they knew the God of their fathers existed, they didn’t ‘know’ Him. All they’d seen for generations was the false gods and the religious system of the Egyptians.
They didn’t know what God’s standards were, they had no idea at all what His moral code was and they didn’t have a clue about how they were supposed to approach Him and worship Him. Their only religious experience came from observing the Egyptians. That’s why they so easily and quickly fell into idolatry in the wilderness with the golden calf incident. (Ex 32)
God gave His Law to His people for several reasons.
1) It revealed that God – Ya’hovah – was totally different to the gods of the world. He has no peer, no comparison and no equal. He alone is God and He’s nothing like the gods of the nations.
2) It revealed that God’s standards and expectations are incredibly high and lofty. He is to be approached the way He says or not at all, and His perfection and purity and holiness have no parallel.
3) It revealed how far away, sinful and corrupt humanity actually is.
Romans 7:7, Paul said, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I wouldn’t have come to know sin except through the Law; for I wouldn’t have known about coveting if the Law hadn’t said, “You shall not covet”.’
If you don’t know that coveting is sinful are you guilty of coveting when you covet? Yes. You’ve still committed the sin, you just don’t know it. So God gave the Law to reveal what is and isn’t acceptable for us to do and then we become aware that we’re sinning when we do certain things. With that knowledge, we are supposed to initiate changes so that we stop sinning. That’s the purpose of the Law.
But here’s the problem we just can’t get away from. Because of our sinful, fallen nature, sinning comes naturally to us. We don’t want to do it, but we do it anyway. Sinning is the most destructive thing in the entire universe, we know it’s going to destroy us and yet we run to it anyway because we’re compelled by our inner sinful nature.
This is what Paul said about this human dilemma we all face.
Romans 7:18-20 & 25, ‘For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good isn’t. For the good that I want, I don’t do, but the practice of the very evil that I don’t want. But if I’m doing the very thing I don’t want, I’m no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me……..Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?’
Isn’t this the frustration we all face. Again…what is the purpose of the Law?
The Law is a mirror for humanity…it doesn’t make us ugly, it just shows us that we are! The Law doesn’t make us sinful, it just reveals to us how wretchedly sinful we are.
What’s the answer to our dilemma? How are we supposed to get out of this predicament? The answer is, we can’t. The problem with being a law breaker is that it reveals that we’re guilty, and being guilty carries a consequence. Do we deserve the consequence? Yes we do. God is holy and perfect and pure and He’s also uncompromising. If He wasn’t all those things He wouldn’t be God…or at least He wouldn’t be a righteous and just God.
Paul reveals the solution to our dilemma.
Romans 8:1-4, ‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the Law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (the consequences that we rightly and justly deserved for being Law breakers) For what the Law couldn’t do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who don’t walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.’
This is the Gospel. We, who are guilty before God for contravening His Law accept the free gift of forgiveness and mercy offered by His Son to us. It costs us nothing and is free. But the Son, knowing that our guilty verdict requires a death penalty, stands in our place and pays that ultimate price. The Law and the consequences for breaking it have now been satisfied. God has not compromised His righteousness at all. The price for our Law breaking has been paid in full and forgiveness is ours. We’re now no longer bearing the weight of our guilt because it’s been paid by someone else on our behalf and condemnation is no longer awaiting us. This is talking about salvation…not conduct.
We’ll continue looking at the role of the Law next time on Foundations.