Evangelist Fred Brown used three images to describe the purpose of the law. First he likened it to a dentist’s little mirror, which he sticks into the patient’s mouth. With the mirror he can detect any cavities. But he doesn’t drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can’t provide the solution.
The law is also like a flashlight. If suddenly at night the lights go out, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box. If you had old wiring, when you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out. But after you’ve removed the bad fuse, you don’t try to insert the flashlight in its place. You put in a new fuse to restore the electricity.
In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumbline. When a builder wants to check his work, he uses a weighted string to see if it’s true to the vertical. But if he finds that he has made a mistake, he doesn’t use the plumbline to correct it. He gets out his hammer and saw. The law points out the problem of sin; it doesn’t provide a solution.
In Protestant theology there are also three uses of the law
The law is a Curb – The law keeps us within the boundaries of morality. It keeps us upon the narrow path and shows us our limits and direction.
The law is a Mirror – The Law serves as a perfect reflection of what God created the human heart and life to be. It also shows us our sinfulness.
The law is a Guide – It helps the believer to grasp on to the Gospel promises of forgiveness and grace. It motivates us to serve God through faith to achieve mighty things in His name.
In all cases we see that the law was not given to solve the problem of our sin but to better prepare us to understand sin and do something about it. The law is God’s instruction on how to better serve Him as we live within a world struggling with unrighteousness.
Being sinful people living within this sinful world, we are captivated by the temptations of the world and find it easy to fall into sinful ways thus jeopardizing our salvation. The law is given to keep us true to God’s intentions for us so that we might be with Him in glory for all times.
Because we chose to want to know the difference between good and evil, we now live in a world containing both. Without law, we would be lost to our own interpretations of good and evil and without consistency comes chaos.
In 1 John 3:4 we read that, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Without the knowledge of what sin really is, we are lost to fall into lawlessness. That is why God wrote His law on our hearts. He knew that, left to our own devices, we would parish under the weight of our own mistakes and missteps. He loved us enough to give us a chance at civility.
“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 1:8-10)
There is no use for the law to those who never sin. Unfortunately, none of us fall into that category. We each need God’s law to direct us, show us and guide us so that we might not let sin overtake us. We need God’s law to lead us away from the path of destruction onto the narrow path of salvation, “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one is justified” (Galatians 2:16)
Trust in God’s law to do all the things He has promised and believe in Christ Jesus for your reconciliation. Use the law to guide you towards those places that God has already chosen for you but put your whole hope and trust in Jesus to take you from condemned to saved. The law was given as a gift, let it direct your path. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for Your good and gracious law. Help us to live by its statutes and teach us to obey. Forgive us for those times we have ignored Your law and give us the courage to endure. Amen.