I don’t know about you, but when I hear Christians start talking about law I feel the frustration smolder and my whole body tense. Law is such an easy word to throw around, squatting three letters wide. I dislike how the law can get quickly rejected and booted out the backdoor with the rest of the Old Testament and yet I cringe when I hear people loosely confess that the law brings them to Jesus. (As though any one of us twenty-first centuryites knows what it would be like to live under Mosaic law.)
The Israelites needed a Messiah because their law was not sufficient to bring them into an everlasting covenant of life with Jesus.
I say that after I lock the backdoor, before anyone can try and say half the Bible is pointless and throw it out.
I’m reading that (not-so-pointless) Old Testament and there is so much death. In some places there are no second chances…if you messed up you were finished. The absence of grace is dark heaviness and despair.
I labor in this ancient heaviness, centuries old, and greater thanksgiving is borne in my own heart.
I cannot be without grace. I am solely dependent on grace, grace is not solely dependent on me. The absolute truth about salvation is this, I cannot obtain salvation by any striving or effort of my own. Grace is a gift that cannot be traded for or earned.
“There are three reasons why God gave the law. First, He gave the Law so that we could see that we have sinned.”
Romans 3 agrees.
3:20: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Every honest man is well-acquainted with this truth. It doesn’t take long to locate the weeds of depravity in your soul if you are open.
And grace for all depravity, it is an inconceivable gift that cannot be traded for or earned.
Paul talked about this when he wrote to the churches of Galatia, warning them about the false teachers who were perverting the Gospel of grace. Right at the beginning of his letter he said,
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” (1:6-7)
And in chapter two, Paul addresses the issue that the Galatian church was facing at the time – the issue of Titus not being circumcised and his not obeying this law. Paul is frank in verse sixteen, because he doesn’t get it, why you would go back to living life by adhering to law.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
The law was death over and over again, like it says somewhere, how the law kills but the Spirit gives life. Circumcision is not a front-burner issue for the Christian church today, but the topics at hand – do we look to them as a means of grace and pervert ourselves to another gospel like the Galatian church?
“The second purpose of the Law is to convince us that we are helpless, through our own efforts, to hit the mark…God’s Law was not given as a means to peace with God. Neither is it to challenge us to live holy lives. It was given to show us that peace with God and holy lives are absolutely unattainable through self-effort. God’s Law imprisons and defines us as persons who are in a state of missing the mark.”
At Youth Club we played darts a new way, a couple of weeks ago. Each girl wrote her idea of a good work on a slip of paper and fastened the paper to the feather of each dart. We stood back and took aim and every single time we missed the mark. Some of the darts made it a little closer than others, but not one single concentrated, deliberate, intentional effort made a dart strike the bulls-eye. The darts fell short, just like the good works.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says it this way.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourself: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
“The third purpose of the Law is to bring us into a grace-full relationship with God on the basis of His own work of grace through Christ.”
We are made the righteousness of God. We are given the gift of eternal life. We are given the ability to live abundantly. We are new creatures in Christ. The old man has died with the law created to aid him and the new man is risen with Christ Jesus the LORD, the One who stands in defiance of death and offers life. And this love, oh what love, it constrains us from going our own way, from fulfilling the lusts of our flesh.
The ugly heaviness of law has brought us to the cross where the ultimate price was paid, where we are ransomed from living in the depression of never meeting the standard, to basking in a grace-full relationship with God.