The Law of God has its place. It gives us knowledge and direction, but not power. The love of God in Christ is able to capture our hearts and minds, motivating us to obedience.
I met with a young lady recently who was wrestling with a drinking problem. After our first meeting, she expressed surprise, “I thought you would read all the passages in the Bible that condemned drunkenness, but you didn’t”. I saw a couple; the husband, who had just ended an affair, also expressed his expectation that I would read many of the biblical passages referring to adultery, but I did not.
It is not that I am against the law; it is just that I understand the limitations of the law. Law cannot give life; law cannot renew a heart. The apostle Paul explained it this way, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). In both cases, the people came from good churches. They came to see me because they knew the law and they knew they were guilty of sin. Yet, both told me that many others who had addressed them regarding their sins had focused upon the law. The focus upon the Law had increased their sense of guilt and shame, but it had not helped them change.
That is a large part of the “weakness” of the law. The law can condemn us, but it cannot change us. Another man sat across from me; he had recently been caught in an affair, for the fourth time in 10 years. He expressed great sadness, “Why do I do this, I know it is wrong, I know how much it hurts my wife and family? I promise myself it will never happen again, but here I am. What is wrong with me?”
There are numerous answers to his questions, but in this case I focused upon his lack of a relationship with the Lord. He was from a good church; he had lots of good theology, plenty of knowledge of the Bible. But he lacked any motivation to keep the law, he lacked love for Christ. He claimed to be a believer, and despite his sin I did not question that. But, even if his faith was real, his walk with the Lord was just on the surface. He went to church twice on Sunday, prayed at meals and had devotions with his family. But as soon as those activities were over, he forgot all about God. He did not have much of a sense of thankfulness or joy (I Thessalonians 5:16-19). He did not have a sense of wonder or worship for all the work of Christ on his behalf (Ephesians 1:3-23).
For each of these counselees, the Law of God was just a list of rules that were good and right, but there was little reason to be committed to them. They wanted to be committed to them, but found that temptation could easily overcome their level of commitment.
To make a point, I asked “Jim” to loan me $500.00. He said he was unsure about that. I asked him why he was unsure and he said he did not know me well enough. So, I asked him who he would loan money to. His answer involved people he was close to: family, close friends. I used this to point out that he was right. Loaning me money would not be appropriate. Why should he make that kind of sacrifice for me? We barely knew each other. And it also pointed out why he was not keeping God’s Law, even though he agreed with it. He did not have a close enough relationship with the Lord to care enough about the Law.
In Romans 8, after pointing out the weakness of the Law, Paul goes on to point out the glory of God and His love for us in Christ. The strength of the Law is in the love of God in Christ; “He who did not spare His own son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;” (Romans 8:32-33).
The Law of God has its place. It gives us knowledge and direction, but not power. The love of God in Christ is able to capture our hearts and minds, motivating us to obedience. When we confront sin in our own lives or the lives of others, we have to keep a wise balance. Presenting God’s Law has an important place, but it will not bear fruit apart of the grace of God in Christ. Galatians 6:1-2.