1 Timothy 1:6-11
The Law Is for Lawbreakers, Naturally
So “the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” Paul tells Timothy. But some in Ephesus, “swerving from these, have wandered into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” From the best we can tell, it seems that in the church at Ephesus were people who decided to trade the gospel for some form of law-keeping; moreover, they enjoyed discussions in which they quibbled over its details in a vain attempt to display knowledge, which was in fact only gross ignorance.
What then is the purpose of the law now that Christians live under the new covenant? There are basically three main purposes of the law, Mosaic or otherwise. The first purpose of the law and perhaps most obvious is to order society. If men were angels, we would need no law. But men are not angels; thus, we must have law. This is the plain teaching of Romans 13:1-7. The governing authorities are appointed by God and to resist them is to incur judgment; they do not bear the sword in vain. It is a great blessing to live in a nation of law and order, where one may go to sleep at night without worry of being violated. We might say that the first purpose of law is a matter of “common grace”; that is, it is a benefit which God gives to all—the righteous and wicked alike. The second purpose of the law is to drive people to the cross. Romans 7:7-25 shows us that though the law is “holy and righteous and good,” sin in me seizes upon the law for the purpose of breaking it, such that I finally cry out in desperation, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The answer, of course, is Christ and him alone. One may find a similar teaching in Galatians 3:19-25: “The law was our guardian until Christ came.”
Is there a purpose for the law upon our rebirth? Yes, but only as a means of examining ourselves that we may search our hearts and confess our sins. But ultimately the law is really not for Christians. Who is it for? For lawbreakers, Paul answers, and provides a representative list. As Christians have the Spirit living within them, they are people who do not need the written code as they have the law written on their hearts. They do better than the law, as Christ indicated: They not only do not murder; they do not harbor hate. They not only do not commit adultery; they forsake lust and even the appearance of evil (Matthew 5-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:22). But there will always be those who feel “safer” with a written code. What a pity!