The Law Is Sooooo Good (1 Timothy 1:8)

The Law of God is good!  What do I mean by, “God’s Law?”  God’s Law is best summarized as God’s perfect, holy will that was inscribed on stone back in the book of Exodus with Moses.  Now keep in mind though, that when the 10 Commandments were etched into stone several thousand years ago, this was not God publishing anything new.  The 10 Commandments published on stone were not the 1st edition of His Law revealed to mankind.  When God published them in stone for the people of Israel, He was simply brining out what was originally written and etched on their heart.  In other words, the 10 Commandments are written on each and every person’s heart. (see Romans 2:15) This is what we would describe as our conscience.  The Law of God has been written on our hearts, however because of sin, this Law has been dulled.  Therefore, we can be grateful that it is etched into the Bible for us.

Our text for today says that the Law is good.  But why is it good?  Today, we have three reasons why it is very good for you and me as Christians. 

First, we would say that the Law is good because it curbs us.  In other words, it keeps us from doing some really stupid things to ourselves and it prevents others from doing some really stupid things to us.  God working through the vocations of Police, judges, parents and institutions curbs our society.  Let me illustrate this today with this tape.  As you can see, I am placing a box on the floor around me.  The Law of God is like this box.  It curbs you and me.  It regulates you and me and it enables us to live within our community with some amount of order and peace.  Now keep in mind that Law limits sin and gives order to our lives by making threats of punishment and promises of favor.  In other words, the Law tells us, “Don’ t murder.  Murder is wrong.  If you murder someone, bad things will happen.  You will go to jail, lose your family, lose your cell phone and maybe face the death penalty.”   Through threats and punishments it keeps things in order.  Don’t cross this line and don’t cross that line.  The Law works to bring about proper external behavior in this life.

This emphasis of the Law is what some of our founding fathers of America embraced.  Contrary to popular opinion not all of our founding fathers were Christians, they were Deists.  The god of some of the founding fathers was a god not of the Bible as revealed in Jesus Christ, but a god who had made the world an orderly and understandable place.  In other words, people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were sincere moralists and great humanitarians.  They embraced God’s Law as a good foundation to build a nation upon.  The Law kept good order and made people into good citizens.  This is not bad my friends.  The Law keeps order; it limits sin and gives you and me a safe environment to raise families and peace to live our lives.  Parents use this all of the time in parenting.  “You don’t steal Susie’s toys, we don’t do that in our house!”  The Law working as a curb is good.

The Law is also good because it reveals sin in our hearts.   The God’s Law accuses and crushes us by exposing our sinful actions, our sinful desires and our sinful condition.  To illustrate this, I would like to use a mirror.  As you can see, the Law keeps me from doing stupid things to myself and others as represented by the tape on the floor.  Now, with this mirror we can see that the Law reveals to us our own failings.  As a mirror the Law functions like a fine tipped arrow which pierces the heart and exposes our sin.  For example when we hear the 1st commandment of not having any other gods before God, it reveals that we sin when we don’t think about God rightly and when our identity/worth is derived apart from Him.  When we hear the 3rd Commandment of honoring the Sabbath, it exposes that we sin when we neglect the Word by skipping church for frivolous reasons.  Hearing the 6th commandment of not committing adultery, we are confronted with the reality that we sin when our eyes and hearts are wooed into promiscuity displayed on television, when our hearts are drawn away from a spouse to lust elsewhere.  When we hear the 8th commandment of not giving a false testimony against a neighbor, it reveals that we sin when we not only tell lies about a neighbor but we also sin when we don’t put the best possible construction on our neighbor, that we sin when we don’t defend a neighbor’s reputation.  In other words, we sin when we allow gossip to go forth without confronting it.  If you are like me, I feel the heat when I hear the Law.  When the Law turns the spot light on me and exposes my sin, I squirm.  I get uncomfortable.  However, let us not ever forget that this is good!  Sin is bad!  When the Law reveals sin and brings it out into the light it pains us!  Yet, this is good.

Third, the Law shows us God’s Will.  It shows and informs you and me of God’s good and perfect will for our lives.  God’s word is like a photo album full of pictures showing us what life should look like.  It speaks to us what God’s perfect and gracious will looks like in the life of the believer.  When we as Christians lack moral clarity, we can read and listen to God’s Law to see what is good and true.  The Law educates us, it gives us discernment in understanding what temptation from the world and sinful nature look like and what is holy and just.  Looking specifically at the commandments we see that with every commandment there is actually a gift!  The reason why God has a commandment about the Sabbath is that the Sabbath is a gift, it is a time for you and me to rest and receive the message of forgiveness.  The reason why God calls us to not murder is that God values life, life is a gift that we can cherish.  The reason why God call for no adultery is that God values the blessing of marriage, He gifts us marriage and wants to preserve it.  The reason why God calls for us not to steal is that He blesses you and me with the gift of possessions.  The reason why He calls us not to give false testimony is that He values a good reputation!  The reason why God calls us not to covet is because He wants us to content in Him not the fading things of this life!  The Law reveals to us what God’s good and perfect will is.  Think about this, God’s will is not mysterious or hidden, it is right before us in the scriptures. 

So, God’s Law is truly good as Paul says in 1 Timothy.  It is good because it curbs and gives order to life.  It is good because it reveals sin.  It is good because it shows us God’s will.  The Law is good, not bad. 

Now, we have just covered the beginning portion of our verse, that the Law is good.  How about the second portion of the verse?    What does it mean when Paul says that the Law is good when it is taught correctly?  What Paul is emphasizing is that there is a right way to teach the Law and a wrong way.  In other words, when the Law is taught wrong it can lead to spiritual abuse and a perversion of Christianity and potentially can lead to misleading people into eternal damnation. 

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Where is the misunderstanding with the Law?”  The Law truly keeps order, this is good.  The Law also reveals sin, this is good.  The Law also shows us what God’s will is, this is also good.  But does the Law give us forgiveness of sins?  Does the Law transform the Christian?  Does the Law sustain, motivate, encourage or sanctify the Christian?  No, it does not and this is where the confusion lies.  My friends, the misunderstanding comes when we believe that the Law turns sinners to faith and produces proper behavior simply for the sake of God. 
Here is what happens in churches across America each and every Sunday and unfortunately right here in our region as well.  In many churches, the Law is rightly proclaimed.  It shows people in the pew their sin and what God’s will is for their life.  As a result they are left with sin being revealed and then a picture of what God’s will is.  Then what happens?  They are then told what?  They are then given more Law such as, “Now it is up to you to not sin anymore and to do good.  You know now what is bad and what is good.  Now it is up to you to stop the bad and engage the good.”  They might even say, ”With God’s help and a little bit of work you can stop the bad and do good.”  You see we naturally think that if we want people to do the right thing that we need to simply tell them to do it and say it in a compelling way.  The problem with this is the Law was never designed by God to forgive sins nor give power to you and me to fulfill its requirements.  More advice, more commands to fix sin and to do good, do not lead you and me away from sin and into righteousness.  The Law reveals sin and shows us God’s will but there is absolutely no power in the Law to bring about transformation in you and me. 

Let me give you an example.  Keep in mind that all examples have their limitations as this one certainly does.  Take a burnt out flash light with dead batteries.  The Law says to the flashlight, “Thou shall shine!”  This Law then reveals to the flashlight that it isn’t shining.  This Law then also will reveal that the flash light has a burnt out bulb and dead batteries.  Now, the solution for a flash light that is burnt out and has no batteries is not to tell it to shine, rather it is that it needs someone to take the bad bulb and exchange it for a new bulb.  It needs the dead batteries exchanged for life giving batteries.  It needs someone from the outside to turn it on!  Unfortunately, in America there are literally hundreds of dead flashlights with dead batteries sitting in pews being told, “Thou shall shine!”  As you can see, this is using the Law incorrectly. 

Rather it is only the Gospel that claims this unique function of forgiving.  The Gospel proclaims that your sin has been exchanged for the righteousness of Christ.   The Gospel is what forgives.  The Gospel is what sustains us.  The Gospel is what motivates you and me.  The solution to revealed sin is the forgiving Gospel.  The motivation to fulfill God’s will is not the Law but the Gospel.  The Law correctly prepares us for the Gospel. 

Hear the Gospel, not of good advice, but of good news that Jesus Christ came into this world to forgive sins.  The Law Is Good and the Gospel is good.  You who have sin are forgiven in Jesus and He who authored your faith is continually perfecting it as you abide in Him. 

Sources: The Explanation To Luther’s Small Catechism


terriergal said…
You mention something in the audio version about "who grabs the camera in the middle of a family fight?"

Actually... :-D

When our preteen starts arguing irrationally with us, I tend to do that very thing... surreptitiously activating the audio recording app on my cell phone...heh heh heh...