4.7.3 The law as a guide for recognising sin

The correct understanding of the law given by God is revealed in the light of the gospel.

Apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3: 19-20). In view of the law's demands, which they repeatedly fail to fulfil, human beings recognise that they are sinful and unrighteous, and therefore in need of divine grace (Romans 7: 7-10).

From the perspective of the New Testament, the most important function of the Mosaic Law consists of helping people recognise that it is impossible to attain salvation solely through their own efforts. The law cannot make an unrighteous person righteous or grant pardon to a sinner. Nevertheless, the basic requirements of the law–as illustrated in the Ten Commandments and the commandment to love God and one's neighbour–remain valid.

The law thus exposes human beings as sinners. It clearly demonstrates the necessity of receiving complete salvation through the forgiveness of sins. As such it has always pointed to Jesus Christ: "But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3: 23-24). Here the term "tutor" refers to a teacher who creates an awareness of various interconnections and leads the way to Christ.

Paul summarises the obligations stemming from the law in his epistle to the Romans: by one man's (Adam's) disobedience, many were made sinners. By the obedience of the one Redeemer (Jesus Christ), many were made righteous. Between these two lies the law, or, as Apostle Paul wrote, "the law entered" (Romans 5: 19-20). Ultimately, the Mosaic Law is to lead to the recognition that it does not in itself effect redemption. This can only be achieved through Jesus Christ.

SUMMARY

The unwritten and unchangeable law that applies to all human beings is the natural and moral law. Important elements of this law come to expression in the Ten Commandments. (4.7)

The law that governs the reality of life brings order to biological and societal life. (4.7)

In the old covenant the Mosaic Law is understood as a path to salvation. It opens up the way for human beings to avoid sin, to thereby live righteously before God, and to escape His judgement. The way to salvation–that is to complete reconciliation with God–is laid down in Jesus Christ. The New Testament makes it clear that the Mosaic Law is not the path of salvation, but rather that it points the way to salvation. (4.7.1)

The function of the Mosaic Law is to provide instruction for God-pleasing conduct. The proper understanding of the law given by God is revealed in the light of the gospel. (4.7.2)

The law exposes human beings as sinners and clearly highlights the necessity of receiving complete salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Thus it has always pointed to Jesus Christ. (4.7.3)

See also