In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Last time we started looking at God’s requirement that humans obey his revealed law and the extent that the law applies to humanity. But is there any use of the law for sinful humans?
The Bible teaches that although God has given us his law, we have all disobeyed it. Ever since Adam and Eve broke God’s law in the garden of Eden and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, humanity has fallen from their high estate of holiness. We are all sinners now.
So is there a use for the law for lawbreakers?
If we only seek to use the law in order to make ourselves right with God again, there is no use for the law in our lives. The Apostle Paul says: ‘We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law’ (Galatians 2:15-16).
In other words, you can never keep the law well enough to warrant God turning his wrath away from you. Isaiah the prophet says that even the good we do is stained: ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6).
So if keeping God’s law can’t save you, what use is there in knowing God’s law?
The first thing the law of God does is helps you understand how sinful you really are. Paul says: ‘What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet’ (Romans 7:7).
But how is it helpful to know how sinful you are? Surely it’s just depressing?
The Bible tells us that as we become conscious of sin we are then pointed to Christ. Thus the law of God actually leads us to trust in Jesus who has kept the law on our behalf. Paul summarises the matter this way: ‘21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ’ (Galatians 3:21-27).
Just as you won’t go to a doctor unless you know you are sick, so you won’t go to Christ unless you know you are sinful. Thus the law shows you how sinful you and causes you to run to Christ and put your faith in him as the only way of salvation.
So has the law of God led you to Christ so that you trust in his observance of the law on your behalf?