God’s Law Is Profitable
You were born into an age in which the society and the Church of God have become thoroughly antinomian, which is to say that it has rejected God’s law. While it’s completely understandable that Man would desire to make himself righteous by writing his own laws in order to accommodate his sinfulness, it is perplexing that the majority of Christians have become uncomfortable, or perhaps embarrassed even, about God’s law.
Using me as an example, the vast majority of my Christian life was one plagued by confusion on matters of law and grace. This confusion was brought about, I believe, by the predominate rejection of God’s law all around me. Within the Christian community that I lived, God’s law had been repealed, or so I was told, and yet I knew that I was still not free to live any old way I pleased. As I saw it, I was supposed to try to live righteously but there was no law to guide me in that attempt. I spent considerable time and energy endeavoring to understand this dichotomy between living rightly when any action I might want to undertake broke no law.
This quest led me to understand that man, in his heart, hates God’s law. We can detect a resistance to His law in our expressions. There is an almost knee-jerk repulsion against what is called, “bringing back the law,” anytime there is an appeal to the fact that a thing is against that law. Accusations that one is attempting to put people “under the law again” are quite common when issues of morality are discussed. But these same Christians rightly have no problem calling idolatry, adultery, murder, all of which are based on God’s law, sin. The vast majority of your true brothers and sisters in Christ will at some level be confused on this matter. I hope, therefore, to bring a little clarity for you in this letter. So let’s begin by taking a look at the three purposes of God’s law.
Before I get started, however, let me assure you that God’s law is profitable. It does every human being, redeemed and unredeemed alike, good. A society that sets its morals on God’s law will be safer and more prosperous than the one that does not. Therefore, in order to love your neighbor as yourself, you will want to, as much as it is up to you, base the enactment of the laws of your land on God’s laws. Will doing this bring about a Utopian paradise? Of course not. Man is fallen. There are no Utopias and anyone who thinks there can be ought to be judged as foolish. So, with that said, let us get started with the 3 ways that God’s law is profitable.
First, God’s law Tutors, Examines, Reveals
The New American Standard Version uses the word tutor to describe God’s law. The King James Version uses schoolmaster.
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. (Gal 3:24-25)
God commands, and His law ever points at my fallen nature by revealing to me His righteous standards and my failure to live by them. But this is where the power of the Gospel is revealed. The law teaches us that we are fallen and rightly deserving of God’s wrath. But rather than pour that wrath out on us, God sent His Son to die on the cross in place of those who put their faith in him. The more we grasp God’s law, and our inability to live according to that law, the more we grasp the glory of the cross. How can anyone meditate on such things and not be moved into praise, thanksgiving, and the worship of our glorious God? Meditate, therefore, on these very things. You must seek to grasp grace lest the redemption that occurred on that cross become dull and small. It was by no means anything but glorious. That’s because grace and God’s law go hand in hand. In order to grasp righteousness one must grasp God’s law, and it is this truth that is a source of confusion.
To appeal to God’s law in our understanding of righteousness is not the same as saying that one is saved by obedience to that law. To say that adultery is a sin is one thing. To say that you can only be saved by not committing adultery is another thing altogether. That God’s law exists and still applies is on the one hand. That we are saved by grace is on the other. If the law tutors us in anything at all, it’s in the fact that we fall short of it and are desperate for grace. And, to confuse these two hands is to understand the Christian culture within which you will be living your life.
Second, God’s law restrains evil
The word civil is based on law. Civil societies have laws, civil people obey those laws, and there’s a process for dealing with those who don’t. Civil societies punish lawbreakers. Such is justice, but it’s also a deterrent to others whose passions might rise up against their neighbor. When a civilization stops punishing lawbreakers, it begins a slide toward incivility, or what the Bible calls lawlessness. (For more on this read Romans chapter 13.) You will live your life, it grieves me to say, in an age that is well into this slide. Idolatry is embraced. Babies in the womb are murdered with the law’s permission, and increasingly so, so are the aged and sick. Marriage is no longer sacred. Private property is legally stolen through excessive taxation and regulation. Lying is acceptable to justify Godless ends. Covetousness is embraced, preached and glorified.
There’s a well-known proverb, “Without vision the people perish.” In other versions it says, “without vision the people cast off restraint.” The understanding of the word, vision, in this proverb has morphed in modern times. But if we read it as simply vision, as in the ability to see, and if we also consider the context, the true meaning of this passage will emerge. That context is found in the next line which says, But happy is he who keeps the law.” If a society has no vision, then it can’t see God’s law, and by not being able to see God’s law, it will begin to cast off self-restraint which will throw it into chaos and cause it to finally perish.
But if we do see God’s law, and appeal to it as a reference for restraining evil, both in ourselves and in others by way of the civil magistrate, we will be a happier and more prosperous society. Lawless societies are not pleasant places to live.
But wicked men not only cannot understand that God’s law provides the best society, he will not. And when he rejects God’s law, or, as scripture says, when he “casts off restraint,” then problems arise. To deal with these problems, laws upon laws are written in an attempt to restrain the evil that flows from a culture that has decided that it knows better than God how to order society. But the problem is not that there aren’t enough laws, but rather that man, by his very nature, is rebellious and lawless. Corrupt Man can’t simply make it up as he goes and have any hope for peace. Scripture warns us about this. It tells us that God turns people over to their own foolishness:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, spiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Rom 1:28-32)
Third, God’s law shows us how we may please our heavenly Father
Man often asks the question, “How should we live?” God’s law answers that question. You, my dear children, know that your obedience pleases me, just as your children’s obedience will please you, and this in spite of the fact that we are sinful. In the same way, we aren’t left here by God not knowing how to please him. But in many ways this is another source of the confusion concerning God’s law because the line between love and obedience is blurred. If you, my children, obeyed me to the letter but did not love me, your obedience would not be pleasing to me. In the same way, if you loved me and yet rejected my authority, that would not be pleasing to me either. But both of these examples are absurd, for if you didn’t love me obedience wouldn’t be your desire, and your disobedience would reveal your lack of love. But if our relationship is a loving one, it would be the opposite. Disobedience does not cost you my love, nor are you happy when you are disobedient. Our own relationship gives us insight into our relationship with our Father in Heaven. It’s what Jesus meant when he said: “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
In conclusion, let me say that the man who lives his life between the ditches of lawlessness and works-based salvation understands that the law and salvation have no overlap. He can read, “faith without works is dead” in the book of James, and then in Galatians read, “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,” and understand that they’re saying two entirely different things. He knows that earning one’s salvation through works is impossible; thus he praises God for the grace bestowed on him. He still, however, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, not because he thinks his salvation depends on it but because he loves God. In fact, humility and gratitude is the mark of his salvation because he understands that if his salvation did depend on himself, his situation would be hopeless.
A misunderstanding of the book of Galatians has led many a Christian to reject God’s law. But Paul never says such a thing; rather, he contends that our justification is not based on our obedience to the law. He knew that the belief that one can earn his salvation—or even lend his aid in accomplishing it—through obedience inevitably leads to pride and self-righteousness, just as it did with the Pharisees. Paul, who was himself a former Pharisee, knew this better than most. The Galatians were turning down this road and he reserved his most scathing rebukes for anyone who had adopted that doctrine. Still, we must remember that Jesus’ most frightening words are directed towards those who had adopted the opposite doctrine of antinomianism when He said, “…away from me you workers of lawlessness.”
Please know that the dichotomy of law and grace is wrought with confusion for those who don’t understand how they work together to bring about your salvation. I hope I’ve shed some light on the subject. I believe that when you grasp it, the confusion will dissipate quickly. Perhaps this little introduction into the matter will give you a reason to seek more knowledge, wisdom, and understanding concerning God’s law in this age of lawlessness. I pray that God would richly bless you in this endeavor as you learn more and more about the beauty of the cross, God’s loving restraint of evil in this world for His children, and how you might grow in obedience to your Heavenly Father.