Using the Law Correctly
I Tim 1:8-14
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
We looked last week at the issue of false teaching, this week we see that it is folks who are emphasizing things about the law for these believers who are causing trouble. In other words, folks are teaching false things about the law. The root of this trouble is what got Jesus crucified!
What does Paul teach us about the law here?
- The Law is Good
Before we look at how the law is good, we should begin by thinking about what the law is.
- Three parts to the law
When we think law, we think rules. But we could also think about the first five books of the Old Testament. Which one is it? I think we should be thinking about the first five books.
Well, the first five books set out what God has done in creating a people for Himself. And the first five books contain the information that the rest of the Old Testament is based upon. God gave Moses instructions to give to the people that they were to follow as His covenant people. And those instructions can be broken into three parts.
These are my terms and are not technical. But, the ideas come from seminary study and personal study.
The moral law: this is a reflection of God’s character.
The priestly law: these are the rules that govern worship and the sacrificial system.
The national law: these are the rules that apply to the nation of Israel as a corporate unit. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and His promises are to the Children of Israel. The Jewish people are not to intermarry. They are a “holy people.” They are a “peculiar people.” Dietary laws for example.
- Jesus fulfills the law
23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.
The priestly law: He is the reality of which the priestly system was a shadow. The regular festivals, holy days, sacrifices, the priests themselves, the sacrifices themselves, Jesus is all of this or His life death and Resurrection usher in the realities, because the Holy Spirit is a part of this as well.
So, with respect to this part of the law there is no need for further sacrifice. There is now a true “Passover Lamb.” The nature of salvation has changed. The nature of the priesthood has changed. The Book of Hebrews which we will be studying in Wednesday nights in a couple of weeks will focus on this issue.
The national law: This is also fulfilled in Christ. And the phrase “In Christ” that is used by Paul so often indicates that there is a different way to define the people of God. To be “in Christ” is to be the “true Israel” The people of God are those who are “in Christ” the Bride of God is no longer “Israel” as a national unit, but those who are of the faith of Abraham and are “in Christ”. So, all of the promises and identifiers and purposes of Israel are transferred to Christ. When we think about a comparison between the Old and New Testaments, we should not think Israel and the Church. We should think Israel and Jesus. And so we think about these laws and struggle with how to apply them.
Circumcision is an example. New Testament discussion about that.
Dietary laws are examples.
Eating meat sacrificed to idols.
Eating meat with blood in it.
Keeping these laws in Christ are not necessarily bad. Keeping some of the priestly laws in Christ I do believe are bad.
The moral law:
Jesus fulfills the moral law by keeping it for people. Those who are in Christ do not have their sins counted against them. They are justified before God because God made Jesus sin so that Jesus’ followers might have Christ’s righteousness given to them. But, when we look at Jesus’ teaching on the moral law as exemplified in the Sermon on the Mt.,
Jesus EXTENDS the law. He makes it harder. He makes it more real. (You have heard it was said, but I say to you.)
And He does not let off the need to keep it at all!
Matt 5: 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Three Ways to Misuse the Law
- Make too much of it
The law is not God. The law is a reflection of God. This is why the Spirit gives life. As we keep the law, we get life from God. The Holy Spirit is God. Does this mean that whenever we have a feeling that is contrary to the law that abandon what the law says? No. That is the second error.
Do not extend the standards of God. The Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day built a fence around the law so that folks would not get close to breaking it. And then they treated that as the law. They felt that they were going to hell if they did not keep it. This attitude has too high an opinion of itself!
Do not think more of yourself because you are good at keeping parts of it. If you don’t understand your personal moral weakness because of the law, then you aren’t seeing clearly.
- Make too little of it
If the law condemns our behavior and we have difficulty keeping it, then it is a common thing to just change the nature of the law.
This is what our culture has done with sexual sin, with greed and with pride/success.
If grace is what saves, and keeping the law is impossible, then why even have the standard? Well, because the law is good.
“Why not go on sinning so that grace might increase?”
- Treat people hatefully because they break it
When Paul thinks of a lawbreaker, he thinks of himself. There is one category of people. Lawbreakers. Now, if you follow the law better as time goes on, then you will live better. There is no need to compare yourself with others. That will lead to bad behavior. And we don’t want people to be like us anyway. We need to be like Christ.
III. Use the Law Properly
- Use it to live well
What would have happened to Adam and Eve if they had kept the law? Better marriage. Better job. Better kids. Better life purpose. More understanding of life. Peaceful existence. This is what will happen for you!
What would have happened to the Children of Israel if they had kept the law? Provision, protection, purpose as God’s people. This is what will happen for you!
What will happen in your life if you keep the law?
The more you are sinning, the more you need the law. Why? V.9 Because sinning leads to death!
- Use it to rely on grace for salvation
Humility comes from understanding that you cannot keep the law.
Use that humility to extend grace to others.
- Do not change God’s standards
9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers.
Paul basically hits the Ten Commandments here. I Count six!
Rebels, irreligious, ungodly and sinful:
Commandment: You shall have no other God’s: Number 1
You shall not misuse the name of God: Number 2
You shall honor father and mother: Number 5
You shall not commit murder: Number 6
You shall not commit adultery: Number 7
(Notice that Paul puts homosexuality into this category)
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor Number 8
Slave traders: The law given to Noah: Respect the image of God in man! A question of murder. To not respect what God has made of people.