Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The lawful law - 1st Timothy 1:8-11

"But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted." (1 Timothy 1:8-11)
The law used to be the gold standard of righteousness. It clearly defined what a person must do, and how they must behave, to achieve righteousness. Unfortunately, no one was able to be justified by the law because no one could keep the law. Paul reminds us that, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) The law is good and holy, but no man can keep it. It is a dead end as far as righteousness is concerned. Fortunately, the scriptures, foreseeing this problem, also prophesied of a solution. "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, 'The righteous man shall live by faith.'" (Galatians 3:11) The scriptures foretold of a time when men would no longer be justified by the law but rather through faith. This change has taken place with the coming of Jesus Christ. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4) Now, those who chose to believe in Christ, are no longer judged by the law but rather justified by faith.

Those who have been justified by faith are no longer under the law as the scriptures testifies, "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." (Galatians 5:18) However, if we have been freed from the law and are no longer under the law, then to what purpose does the law remain? How can it have a lawful use if it has been replaced by faith? The law still remains for the benefit of those who have yet to find faith in Christ. Paul tells us of the law, "But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."(Galatians 3:23-25)

First, Paul tells us that the law guarded and protected, as in a garrison, the faith that was later to be revealed. The law to the Israelites was to provide some basic societal protections and safeguards as God moved to prepare the way for His Christ. Laws such as, don't steal, don't kill, don't commit adultery provided for a well ordered society with proper remedies for when such laws are broken. As long as Israel obeyed the laws, their nation thrived and prospered, but when they transgressed the law, their nation suffered. Laws, especially civil laws, provide for our safety and allow us to live in community with peace and order.

However, more than this, the Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ. The particular Greek word used here is for a paedagogue whose job it was to safely conduct school children from their homes to school. The law came to take us from one place to another, from sinfulness to righteousness, from lawlessness to the law of Christ. One of the ways the law does this is by showing us our need for a savior.Paul tells us that, "the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin." (Galatians 3:22) More than this, not only does it identify our sin but also shows us the force and nature of our sins. "so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful." (Romans 7:13) Not only are we sinners but our sin is sinful. It is only when we understand our sin, and the sinful nature of that sin, that can we begin to appreciate our need for a savior. If the law teaches us anything, it is that no one can keep the law; we need help, we need a savior who can free us from the law and our sin.
"I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:21-25)
Such is the lawful use of the law, not to condemn, but to bring to life, not to be the end in itself, but to be the beginning of a journey that leads us to Jesus.

David Robison

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