Law What is it Good For?


Many people are often perplexed by the relation of the Old Testament Law and the New Testament believer. This is made more perplexing by the fact there are those who would say that the bible teaches that the Law is binding on the believer because Jesus Himself esteemed the Law when He said:

“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)

Others would quote Paul who says that “Christ is the end of the Law” (Romans 10:4a). So how are we to understand the use of the Law within the life of the believer?

Firstly, the believer must understand that the Law can be split into two main components, the cultural and ceremonial law which is the law that followed the call of Abraham and the Exodus; this includes circumcision, the dietary and purity laws and the Jewish festivals. Secondly there is the moral law which is summed up in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). This moral law precedes the cultural and ceremonial law but was codified on the tablets that were given to Moses. This is why even in the first three chapters of Genesis we are given explicit and/or incipient doctrines regarding the Sabbath, marriage and the dangers of coveting or lying.
The Early Church did away with the cultural and ceremonial law at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:19-20) and therefore it is no longer binding upon the New Testament believer. The moral Law, however, was fulfilled by Christ for He was the only man who was able to keep it in word, thought and deed (Matthew 19:16-17) thereby purchasing for us eternal life and granting to us His own righteousness (Romans 3:21-25a).

Nevertheless, the reader must also understand that whilst the Bible teaches that the moral Law has been fulfilled by Christ, it also teaches that it should be normative for those who have truly been born-again of the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27). Christ therefore not only sets us free from the judgement and guilt of sin, but by His Holy Spirit progressively sets us free from the power of sin. Charles Wesley, the great hymn writer writes, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoner free.”

So if you are ever asked the question, “Law what is it good for?” You can answer “absolutely something!”

“Here Comes the Men in Black” [a sermon in which Jesus infuriates the legalists]

Westminster Shorter Catechism [see Q41-82]


2 thoughts on “Law What is it Good For?

  1. Pingback: What’s the difference between Ordinances and Commandments? | bsflessons

    • The moral law was perpetual and hard-wired into the cosmos “in the beginning” the cultural ordinances are Abrahamic (as in circumcision) and Mosaic. These were temporal, this is why the early Church does away with them in Acts 15.

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