So What Is The Main Purpose Of The Law?

            Let it be said that the Law is beneficial for curbing sin.  Richard Eyer states that, “The function of the Law as curb is applicable to Christian and non-Christians alike.[1]”  The Law does restrict and legislate external behavior in our society either by civil or criminal law.  We can think of this as the social law.  This use of the Law cannot lead to salvation but is merely valuable for securing a society’s tidy and continued existence.  However this is not the main purpose of the Law for the Christian.[2]
            The Law is also beneficial for purely informative use for the Christian.  Since the Law captures the Character and Holiness of God it can be regarded as God’s will for the Christian’s daily life.  Robert Kolb states, “The mind of the believer needs God’s will (law) as educational wisdom to discern and understand the temptations of the world and the believer’s own sinful inclinations.[3]”  However, when seeing the Law from an informative view, we need to keep in mind that the Law is merely informative for it does not change our heart, motivate our hearts, nor attribute to our salvation or moral standing before God.  The informative use of the Law is also not the main purpose of the Law for the Christian.[4]
            In the Smalcald Articles of the reformation Luther speaks about the Law saying, “The foremost office or power of the law is that it reveals inherited sin and its fruits.  It shows human beings into what utter depths their nature has fallen and how completely corrupt it is.[5]”  The Law is meant to reveal sin (Romans 3:20), stop our mouths from self-righteous justifying (Romans 3:19), bring forth the terrors of hell, bring forth the terror of death and bring forth the terror of God’s wrath (Romans 4:15).   In the most simplistic terms the Law is not meant to reform us but to kill us. 
            The ultimate purpose of the Law killing us is so that we might die to the Law in order that we might live for God!  The very fact that the Law kills us is a gift.  Not a comfortable gift or even one we desire but one that is truly a gift that serves the Gospel.  The Law serves the Gospel by reducing us to nothing so that God might plant his love, life and Spirit into our hearts and make us capable of good works and life.  Oh, the Law is Good!  We are to be crucified and resurrected into Christ (Galatians 2:19-20 & 5:24). 
            The Law can’t transform, sustain, motivate, encourage or sanctify us! Rather it kills us.  This is its proper teaching.     

[1] Richard Eyer, Holy People, Holy Lives:  Law and Gospel in Bioethics (Concordia Publishing, 2000), 64.
[2] 1st Use of the Law according to Lutheran Theology
[3]  Robert Kolb, The Christian Faith (Concordia Publishing, 1993), 118.
[4] 3rd Use of the Law according to Lutheran Theology
[5] Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles: Book of Concord (Concordia Publishing, 2000), 312.


T. R. Halvorson said…
Matt, I came across something this morning that relates to this post, and might be of interest to you and your readers.

Five Illegal Uses of the Law
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, Hope Lutheran Church