Purpose of the Law
(D. Rodstien)

Purpose of the Law Issue: In light of Jesus' sacrifice, His teachings and the writings of the Apostles, what do we now understand is the purpose of the law? Outline:


I. What is the Law?

II. What did God say about the law through Moses?

III. What did God say about the law through the Prophets and Writings?

IV. What did Jesus say about the law?

V. What do the epistles say about the law?

VI. What does history/archaeology say about the law?


Preface: We know that we are justified by faith. There is no biblical basis for the belief that works without faith in Jesus Christ can save us from the consequences of sin. Nothing in this study should be construed as a suggestion that the law itself, or obedience to it, can save.

Eph 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

Rom 3:20 "Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight ..."

Gal 2:16b "by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."

I. What is the law?
    A. Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
        1. was God's commandment to Adam not to eat of the tree a matter of law?
    B. Noahide laws: Thou shalt not . . .
        1. Curse God
        2. Idol worship (bow down)
        3. Animal cruelty: you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood, Gen 9:4
        4. Murder: whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, Gen 9:6
        5. Stealing: DN steal/kidnap
        6. Sexual immorality
        7. Set up a court system to enforce the first six
        * NOT INCLUDED, per Talmud, is to be fruitful and multiply, Gen 9:1
        * source of the seven Noahide laws is Talmud, Sanhedrin 59a
    C. 613 commandments–see file 613 commandments
        1. Love God and love your neighbor--all the law and the prophets hang on these
        2. Ten Commandments
        3. 603 additional commandments, including love God and love neighbor
    D. Talmud
        1. Mishna–oral law given by God to Moses with the written law to expound on written law
        2. Gemorah–rabbinic applications of law and commentaries on law
        3. Midrash ?
        E. Rabinic law
        F. Do all scriptural references to the law refer to the same thing?


II. What did God say about the law through Moses?
    A. continued vitality
        1. Ex 31:16-17. Sabbath is a perpetual/eternal covenant, a sign between God and Israel forever
        2. Deut 4:2. do not add to or take away from the law
            a. counter: we did not take away from the law; Jesus fulfilled it so that we could be free from it. Even if you insist that the law has been diminished in importance, that was not done by man, but by God who sent His son.
        3. Deut 4:6. the law is your wisdom and your understanding, and it will show the nations that Israel is a wise and understanding people
        4. Deut 5:32 "Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, that you may live and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess."
            a. counter: Gal 3:12, 21 eternal life does not come by adherence to the law
        5. Deut 30:11, 14. the law is not beyond our reach or impossible to keep
    B. superseded


III. What did God say about the law through the prophets and writings?
    A. Permanency
        1. Ps 105:8, 1 Chron 15 "He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations"
            a. forever is forever
            b. a thousand generations is approximately 20,000 years
            B. Are we under the new covenant prophesied in Jer 31:31?


IV. What did Jesus say about the law?
    A. Jesus' own words that recognize the continued vitality of the law
        1. Mat 5:17-20. "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. i did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
            a. counter-point: When Christ said on the cross "It is finished," all was fulfilled, at which point we were freed from the law. See Rom 7:1-6.
            b. point: Freed, yes, but the law did not pass away. For the context of Paul's teaching on freedom from law is that the law is a guide to holiness. In Rom 3:20b, Paul states, "by the law is the knowledge of sin." In Rom 6:15-18, he writes "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?" Rom 6:15-18. What would Paul have us obey? The law is our guide to knowing what sinful behavior we must avoid, as he states in Rom 7:7 "I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said "You shall not covet." He concludes "Therefore, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just and good." Rom 7:12.
(1) see also, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." Rom 7:14.
(2) see also, "If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good." Rom 7:16
(3) see also, "For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man." Rom 7:22
            c. synthesis: we are free from the curse of the law, Gal 3:10-14,
    B. Jesus' own words that imply the law is superseded
        1. At the last supper, Jesus instituted the Lord's supper, saying: "For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Lk 22:20; see also Mt 26:28 and Mk 14:24 (NKJV and Critical Text differ on presence of the word 'new' in Mt and Mk).
            a. This appears to be a reference to the new covenant prophesied in Jer 31:31, in which God said he would write his laws on our hearts and in our minds. If so, then the law is summed up in the law of liberty and the law of conscience that Paul writes about throughout the epistles.
        2. John 15:9 – "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.
a. It is clear that Jesus commandments are not the same as the Father's. He appears to be offering a substitute set of commandments. Having fulfilled the law, Jesus has the authority to offer other commandments in place of the law.

V. What do the epistles say about the law?
    A. continued vitality
        1. Rom 2:13. "for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified
        2. Rom 5:13-21. "For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law." Rom 5:13. Consistent with the view that "the law condemns," because it is the law that exposes the transgression of sin. Without a guideline to expose the sin, the sinner cannot be held accountable. (This is analogous to the U.S. Constitutional precept that criminal laws must be defined sufficiently to put a reasonable person on notice of what activity is prohibited. Otherwise, it would be unfair to punish a person for transgressing it.) According to Nelson, "[S]in was present in the world from Adam to Moses, but God did not keep an account of sins before the giving of the Law because there was no Law to obey or disobey." NSB, Rom 5:13 comment. Since the Law still exists, we still know when we have obeyed or disobeyed. The perfect gift of grace is that sins, although exposed by the Law, are still not imputed to anyone who believes in Jesus and accepts salvation. This passage goes on to say that "the free gift [grace] which came from many offenses resulted in justification." Rom 5:16. The Greek word translated "justification" at the end of this verse is translated "righteous act" in verse 18. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous." Rom 5:19. This verse teaches that we are made righteous through Jesus' obedience, and by implication His sacrifice and God's grace. But we are surely not made righteous by His obedience, with a license to go on sinning. This is the subject of Chapter 6. We are now to live in obedience. Obedience to what? To the law.
        3. Acts 21:17-26: And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heart it, they glorified the Lord. A nd they said to him, 'You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor walk according to the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore, do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, bu that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.
        4. Acts 24:14 "But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all the things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets."
    B. superseded
        1. Rom 6:14: For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
        2. Rom 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
        3. Rom 7:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
        5. Col 2:11-23
        6. 1 Tim 1:5-11 Not the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 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, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thin that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
        7. Heb 10:1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

VI. What does history/archaeology say about the law?
    A. Rom 9:31-33 "but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." B. What is the law of liberty? Jam 2:8-13

*Note: Rob Swee suggested following scriptures: Jn 1:17; Rm 3:20, 6:14; Gal 3:24-25, 2:16-19; 2 Cor 12:9; Tit 2:12; 1 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 10:1; Rom 5-7