Why Did God Give the Law?
Why do we have laws? We have laws to maintain public order. We have laws which serve as a discouragement to wrong behavior. We all understand why we have laws…though at times we might not like them and from time to time we don’t obey them (think speed limit there). But we can get into trouble if we think that God gave His law for the same reason. God did not give the “law” primarily to enforce a standard of behavior upon people; yet that is what most people think. I believe that many people think that the purpose of the 10 Commandments is to give human beings a code of conduct to live by. But that wasn’t God’s purpose in giving us the law. God’s purpose in giving us His law is given several times in the New Testament. One of these times is found in the beginning of the book of 1 Timothy, a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to a young man named Timothy. Here it is: 8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
Paul does say that the law is good if one uses is lawfully. It is good to do the things that the law says. But then Paul says that the law is not made for a righteous person; rather it is made for the lawless and insubordinate and so forth. Why? The law is intended to point out our sin. The law is intended to show us the impossibility of living a perfect life on our own. The law is meant to show us very, very clearly and consistently that we can’t be good enough on our own; that we can’t be like God. In Galatians 3:24 Paul writes, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. but after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” The requirements of the law point out to us that we need someone else to help us be right before God. Our consistent failure to keep the law reveals to us our need for a Savior. By faith, we receive the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our way to re-establish a broken relationship with God because of our sin. With Jesus, we no longer need the law, the law has fulfilled its purpose.
So, if you think that the law of God is a roadmap for your life you are mistaken. It is a roadmap that you cannot follow on your own. The law is more like a roadmap that is guaranteed to reveal to you that you are lost in your sin and that you will never, on your own, find your way back to God. But Jesus Christ can enter your life and take you to where God wants you to be. Why did God give the law? To show us our need for Jesus….but it’s still a good idea to honor your father and mother and not covet your neighbor’s leaf blower!