The Purpose of the Law

Daily Reform, Day 140

Galatians 2:17 & Exodus 20:18-21

From the Reformer

The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin. That this is the purpose of the Law can be seen from the account of the giving of the Law as reported in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus. Moses brought the people out of their tents to have God speak to them personally from a cloud. But the people trembled with fear, fled, and standing aloof they begged Moses: “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The proper office of the Law is to lead us out of our tents, in other words, out of the security of our self-trust, into the presence of God, that we may perceive His anger at our sinfulness.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

Moses brought the people out of their camp to meet God. (Exo 19:17) This is the purpose of the Law: to meet God. When at first we meet with God, we must be terrified. We must encounter who we are and that God is not pleased with us living lives separated from him. If we were worshiping an idol, we learn quickly that thus will never do. He is the One God. If we were coveting our neighbor’s wife or breaking any of his other laws, these will not stand with God either.

When we meet God in his Law we soon enough discover that we are perfectly lousy at keeping his commands. Ask David, whom God loved, and he will may relate to you a story of a woman taking a bath. David thought that he was above the law of God. He was acting foolishly and the law revived him, making him wise to the demands of God. Thereafter he was still unable to perfectly keep the perfect law of God. (Psa 19:7)

This is the purpose of the Law: to make us aware of our sin so that we may try to live as God desires but then, to see that we still cannot do so. No matter how hard we try, we cannot keep the law of the Lord. We soon see that something else is needed than law-keeping.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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