Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Functions of the Law (1 Timothy 1:3-11)

"But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully" (1 Tim. 1:8).

Two extremes we find in applying God’s law are antinomianism and legalism. Legalism has several errors: legislating things that God has not, conforming to the letter of the law but not the spirit, and regulating Old Testament laws that have been fulfilled. The most devastating form of legalism, however, says man must rely on his works to be saved. On the other end of the spectrum is antinomianism, which means against the law. People who hold to this view say that because we are under the Gospel, the law now has no relevance. Extreme antinomianism allows a person to act any way he wants, even contrary to God’s righteous standard.

We need to avoid these extremes; we must understand that the law is functional today. We refer to these functions as the three-fold use of the law. The first function of the law is that of a mirror. As we learned yesterday, it reflects the righteousness of God and reveals our own sinfulness. By studying the law, we come to understand our own sin and our need for forgiveness. Until an unbeliever is confronted with God’s law, he does not recognize his need for Christ. The law, therefore, drives him to Christ, showing him God’s righteousness and his own sinfulness.

Secondly, the law functions as a restraint on society. While our society claims that government cannot legislate morality, this is exactly what God requires it to do. When the government ceases to make laws, it ceases to govern as God ordained. All laws are based on moral principles. If a government could not legislate morality, it could have no laws against murder or theft.

Lastly, the law reveals what is pleasing to God not only for the unbeliever, but for the Christian. We are not to rely only on the New Testament for insight into God’s standards, for the New Testament does not speak to every issue. For example, the Old Testament says necromancy is wrong. The New Testament is silent on this issue, and there is nothing in the New Testament that indicates this law has been abrogated. Therefore, we discover this act is not pleasing to God by studying Old Testament law. Christians must spend just as much time studying the Old Testament as the New that they may be grounded in God’s complete revelation.

Did the law drive you to Christ when you put your faith in Him? It certainly should continue to do so now that you walk with Him by faith. It can only do so if you study it. Be careful not to restrict your reading and study to the New Testament only.