Faithlife Sermons

The Purpose of the Law

New City Catechism  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:54
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Welcome back tonight!
We are getting back into our New City Catechism Study and will play a bit of catch up.
Looking back at Week 13’s q&a:
Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?
Since the fall, no human has been able to keep the law of God perfectly.
Romans 3:10–12 KJV 1900
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
In Rom. 3, Paul is quoting from Psalm 14 as he states that no one is inherently good. There are none who are righteous in themselves and no one seeks after God.
Sure we seek to clean up our act from time to time in fear of consequence, but eventually we fall right back into the same poor choices
John Owen once wrote about this struggle:
As a traveler, in his way meeting with a violent storm of thunder and rain, immediately turns out of his way to some house or tree for his shelter; but yet this causeth him not to give over his journey; so soon as the storm is over he returns to his way and progress again. So it is with men in bondage to sin: the law meets with them in a storm of thunder and lightning from heaven, terrifies and hinders them in their way; this turns them for a season out of their course; they will run to prayer or amendment of life, for some shelter from the storm of wrath which is feared coming upon their consciences. But is their course stopped? Are their principles altered? Not at all; so soon as the storm is over . . . they return to their former course, in the service of sin again.
Likewise, Leo Schuster emphasizes:
As a result of the fall we’re not just spiritually impaired but incapacitated. We’re not just weak; we have no innate power to obey God’s law and glorify him. We’re estranged from our Creator, from one another, and from the rest of creation. In this spiritually disabled condition, we’re unable to obey God’s law not only in our actions and words, but even in our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations. As the prophet Jeremiah put it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:19). And so we stand alienated and guilty before the holy God of heaven and earth.
These realities of human depravity bring us to week 14’s question...
Week 14:
Did God create us unable to keep his law?
No, but because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve we are all born in sin and guilt, unable to keep God’s law.
Romans 5:12 KJV 1900
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
As David Bisgrove comments:
You see, sin has corrupted our ability to love and obey God with our whole hearts, strength, and minds. Sin has infected every part of us, so that we’re all born in sin and guilt, corrupt in our nature, and unable to keep God’s law.
Consider one example. Imagine a hungry lion, and imagine putting two plates of food in front of him—one a plate of raw red meat, the other a plate of perfectly cooked string beans. The lion can choose either one, but because of his nature he’s always going to choose the red meat.
See, when Adam sinned as our representative, our nature became enslaved to sin so that we no longer want or seek God. But when Christ came, he was the second Adam, and where the first Adam failed, the second Adam succeeded. Where the first Adam brought death through his disobedience and selfishness, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, brought life through his obedience and sacrifice on the cross.
So is God some vicious cosmic ruler who made us unable to keep his law?
No, but because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve we are all born in sin and guilt, unable to keep God’s law.
Which brings us to this week’s question...
This week:
Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?
That we may know the holy nature of God, and the sinful nature of our hearts; and thus our need of a Savior.
Romans 3:19–20 KJV 1900
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 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.
v.19 - When God gave the law to Israel, He was using Israel as a sample of the human race. He found that Israel was a failure, and He correctly applied this finding to all of humanity.
It is the same as when a health inspector takes a test-tube of water from a well, tests the sample, finds it polluted, and then pronounces the entire well polluted.
v. 20 - teaches that no one can be justified by keeping the law. It was not given with the purpose to justify but to expose people to the knowledge of their sin.
Commenting on V. 20 William MacDonald wrote:
We could never know what a crooked line is unless we also knew a straight line. The law is like a straight line. When men test themselves by it, they see how crooked they are.
We can use a mirror to see that our face is dirty, but the mirror is not designed to wash the dirty face. A thermometer will tell if a person has a fever, but swallowing the thermometer will not cure the fever.
The law is good when it is used to produce conviction of sin, but it is worthless as a savior from sin. As Luther said, its function is not to justify but to terrify.
Ligon Duncan on the purpose of the law said:
The law of God helps us to know God, know ourselves, know our need, and know the life of peace and blessedness. It helps us to know God because it specifically reveals his character and his attributes, his holy will, what he’s like.
Paul tells us in Romans 1 that everyone knows right and wrong.
But the law of God very specifically reveals to us God’s character and his own moral qualities. The reality of morality it is all rooted in God’s character. And when we study the law, we see a display of God’s character.
God’s law also reveals to us ourselves, especially our sinful nature and our disobedience, our inclination to sin. For instance, when Jesus is talking to the rich young ruler, he says, “Go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). And the rich young ruler essentially says to Jesus, “I can’t.” And he walks away sadly. Now what’s going on in that story? Is Jesus saying that we all have to give away all of our possessions? No. But in the case of the rich young ruler, Jesus is revealing to him by the law of God the specific nature of his own sin. What’s the first commandment? To have no other gods before me. And there, God in the flesh is saying to the rich young ruler, “What’s it going to be? Your money, your possessions, or me, God?” And the rich young ruler chooses something over God, before God.
That leads to the third thing that the law helps us with. It helps us to understand our need. When we know who God is, and we know that we don’t measure up to his morality and character, when we know who we are, and we know the sinful inclinations of our hearts, it presses us to Jesus, because we know that we have need of a Savior. And the Savior has fulfilled that law. He’s obeyed it perfectly, and he’s paid the penalty that is due to us for it. The law presses us to the Savior. It points us to the Savior. It takes us to the Savior.
Of course, the law also shows us the life of peace and blessedness.
When we think about obedience, many of us immediately think, “Oh, do I have to? Do I have to do good works? Do I have to obey?
That wasn’t Jesus’s attitude toward God’s commands and God’s will. In fact, he frequently said to his disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34).
And once we’re redeemed, once we’ve trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as he has offered in the gospel, the law not only is something that points us to Christ, but it also shows us how to live the life of peace and blessedness.
Think about it: When God originally gave his commands to Adam and Eve in the garden, he gave those commands to them as blessings.
They weren’t things upon which his love was contingent.
He loved them and blessed them in the garden.
And their obedience to the commands was the very sphere in which they enjoyed that blessedness.
So what is the purpose of the law now?
1. That we may know the holy nature of God
2. That we may know the sinful nature of our hearts
3. That we may know our need of a Savior.
Our need for the law and the gospel reaches further than simply salvation.
Yes, Romans 3:20 is true that the law informs me of my sin.
Yes, Galatians 3:24 is true that the law is a schoolmaster that brings me to Christ.
But the law of God continually keeps in front of us Who He is, How He is, and our continual need of His grace.
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