For the next few weeks, we are going to study the Biblical doctrine of the law. I've been excited for some time about studying this topic together and learning what the Bible has to say about it.
But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully. (1 Timothy 1:8)
What is the law? What makes it good? What is its lawful use? Over the years, there has been as much and probably more false teaching concerning this topic as any other. Sadly, the result is that the majority of Christians today (not to mention lost people) are very, very confused about the law and its purpose. But if we are to be victorious in our Christian life and successful in our witnessing, we must understand the answers to these vital questions according to the Bible.
In the Bible, the term "the law" has several different applications:
- The entire Old Testament, as in Matthew 5:18 A
- A portion of the Old Testament, most commonly said to be the first 5 books – Genesis through Deuteronomy – "the law and the prophets" (Luke 24:44, John 1:17, et. al.)
- The entire body of commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, "the law of Moses" (Luke 2:22, John 7:23, et. al.)
- The 10 commandments are often referred to as the "moral law" and are said to summarize God's standards for our relationships with Him and with others. They were written by God on "the tables of the covenant" and placed inside the ark of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4; Exodus 34:27-29; Deuteronomy 10:1-5). This is probably the most common and probably the least scriptural application of the term.
Now, let's take a brief look at some of Galatians 3. Verse 17 says, And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. Verse 19 says, Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added…
According to Galatians 3 (with the support of the rest of Scripture), the law (we're talking now about the entire body of commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai) is an amendment to the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants, the Hebrew people. God gave an unconditional promise to Abraham – that His seed would multiply and possess the land of Canaan for ever. When the Hebrew people were delivered from Egypt's bondage 430 years later, the law was added to that covenant for the purpose of governing the Israelites in the land they were given to possess. That is what the law is. We must understand that…for reasons that should become apparent in the coming weeks.
Note that Galatians 3 points out that God's promise to Abraham is still unconditional – the Hebrews will one day inherit the land God gave to Abraham and his seed. Aren't you glad God keeps His promises! Is He not worthy of our trust!