I am so excited to prepare for our Connect Group teacher training meeting on Sunday evening. In our Connect Groups this Sunday, we are going to learn how discipleship is the process of empowering others for ministry. The lesson that follows is about the Law of God given to the children of Israel. In this lesson, we are going to discover the purpose of the Law, but, before we dig into what the Law was for, we have to discuss what the Law is not for.
First of all, the Law was not given as a list of Dos and Don’ts for the people to attain God’s favor. The Law is not a way to please God. All the religions of the world teach people to work their way to God, or to do things that make God happy. Or, they teach things not to do in order to keep God from getting angry. In this kind of mindset, the deity is not personal and there is no relationship involved. In contrast, the Law of God is all about relationships. If you view the Law of God as a list of Dos and Don’ts that satisfy or appease God then you have missed the purpose of the Law of God. The Law was not given to teach us how to work our way to God.
Why was the Law of God given to the people of God? That is the question that we want to answer, keeping in mind God’s eternal plan of sending the Promised Rescuer to mankind in order to deal with mankind’s sin nature.
I. The Law is Relational
In general, laws in this world are not relational. They show what is correct and what is incorrect. They condemn or justify us. The Law of God is not a list of Dos and Don’ts. The Law of God is personal and relational. The division of the 10 Commandments shows us that the Law of God is relational. The first 4 Commandments teach us how to connect with God in a personal way. God is a relational being and He created us to have a personal relationship with Him. True fulfillment in life comes from having a personal relationship with God. The Law of God was to remind the people of God that He wanted a personal relationship with them. He is not like the gods of the Egyptians. He is different. He is living. He is relational. He desires a personal relationship. The other deities of the world are not personal. For example, Islam is based on the idea of pleasing Allah through actions and appeasing Allah by not doing certain things. Allah is not personal. He is not relational.
As mentioned earlier, we were created to be relational beings. Not only are we to connect with God, but, we are to connect with each other in personal relationships. This idea is demonstrated in the division of the 10 Commandments. Commandments 5-10 deal with connecting with others. We connect with God and He teaches us how to relate to each other. We relate to each other correctly to share our relationship with God to the people within our sphere of influence. If you view the Law of God as a list of Dos and Don’ts then you miss the relational aspect of the Law of God.
II. The eternal Purpose of the Law
God made a promise to Adam and Eve and subsequently, to all the descendants (humanity) who would be born with a sin nature. That promise, unbeknownst to Adam and Eve, was going to take about 4,000 years to fulfill. For 2,500 years, each generation passed on the hope of the Promised Savior to the next. About 1,000 years after the Promise was made to Adam and Eve, we get to the time of Noah. There was no Law of God for the people. They were having trouble waiting for the Promised Savior. Their sin nature was left unchecked and things got really bad for all.
5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually
11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.
13 Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth (Genesis 6)
Mankind actually spiraled out of control. This is why the Apostle Paul writes what he does in Galatians 3:16-24.
16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.
21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
Here of a couple of insights from this passage.
- The Law was added because of our sin. (V:19)
- The Law hemmed everyone in under sin. The Law became like a coral to keep mankind from self destructing before the Promised Savior arrived. (V:22)
- The Law kept mankind in custody. It is for our own good. (V:23)
- The Law was a tutor that was supposed to lead us to Jesus Christ. (V:24)
There is more to learn about the purpose of the Law of God from a few more verses written by the Apostle Paul.
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” (Romans 7:7)
The Law of God reveals our sin.
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)
The Law of God reveals the fact that I stand condemned before God. This was the reaction that the Jews were supposed to have when God presented the terms of the Old Covenant. Unfortunately, that was not their response. They had the crazy idea that they could obey. They could not because of their sin nature, just like I cannot because of my sin nature. I have murdered with my words. I have committed adultery in my lustful mind. I have not always kept my word. I stand condemned before God when I trust in my ability to keep the Law of God. Do you think that you can keep the Law of God? The Law of God is supposed to make us cry out to God for mercy and grace in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the only Human who has the ability to keep the Law of God because He does not have a sin nature like the rest of us. If the Law of God has not led you to Jesus Christ then you have missed the purpose. Many in churches today are trying keep the Law of God in their own power, not realizing that it is impossible. Surrender your life to Christ because He has kept the Law of God and is willing to trade His righteousness with us for our sin.
III. Practical Advice from the Law
I love how practical the Word of God is. The Law of God, as explained by Jesus, is all about loving God and loving others. The main Commandment in the first 4 Commands is do not have or worship idols. An idol is anything that comes between you and your relationship with God. Noble things can be idols. Whatever you dedicate the majority of your time and energy to is your idol, if the majority of your time and energy is not devoted to serving the Lord. The first command in the second half of the 10 Commandments is to honor your father and mother. Learning to love and serve others begins in the home. We must learn to love and serve our mother and father before we will ever learn to love and serve the people around us. I have noticed in almost 20 years of ministry on 4 different continents that children who are taught to be grateful, to love and serve in the home are much more likely to be grateful to others as they grow up. They are more likely to love and serve the people around them if they learned to love and serve their parents while at home. Are you teaching your children to avoid idols? Are you teaching your children to be grateful to others, to love and serve others all the days of their lives? It begins in the home with teaching and godly examples. May the Lord help us bow to Christ and allow Him to shape our character into His character.