What are we as modern day Christians supposed to do with God’s Law? Since we are under grace, doesn’t God’s Law no longer apply? Since God gave us the Law, certainly by keeping it, it merits something doesn’t it?
As you can see from the list of questions about the Law and it’s possible you have one that I didn’t list, what use is God’s Law can be a difficult question.
First off, while it’s true that we live by faith through grace and merits of Jesus Christ, Jesus also said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Jesus, as the God/man, lived the sinless life that the Law demands. Jesus came to redeem those lost under the condemnation of the Law. His perfect life under the Law is imputed to you through faith.
Well, if the Law still stands, then surely I merit something, I contribute to my salvation by my living according to the Law. This too is wrong. All that is needed for your salvation is done and accomplished by Jesus. His death is sufficient to defeat sin as attested to by the empty tomb. Jesus’ resurrection proves that sin and death have been defeated. If you think that your works are needed for salvation, you rob Jesus of His glory and call Him a liar when He proclaimed from the cross, “It is finished!”
So, what use is God’s Law? God’s Law has a three fold use, as a curb, a mirror and a guide.
God’s Law serves both believers and unbelievers as a curb and a mirror. As a curb as a way of restraining evil, curbing wrong. Both the believer and the unbeliever for instance know that it is wrong to steal money from a bank or from your neighbor. Both know that it is wrong to murder, to take the life of another person, even the unborn. The Law seeks to curb these wrongful behaviors.
The Law also serves as a mirror reflecting back to the person an image of who they are. When a believer or an unbeliever looks at their life in relation to the Law, the Ten Commandments, and really looks at their life under the convicting glare of the Law, they will see the times that they don’t do as they should.
Under the perfection demanded in God’s Law, you can’t help but look and see all those things in your life that you daily put before God. That reflection staring back at you reminds you that your are guilty of gossiping about other people. How is God’s Law able to do this? Because God’s Law is written on everyone's’ heart, but because of the corruption of sin that dwells within each person, it distorts the view of the Law.
So, what use is God’s Law? God’s Law as a curb and a mirror serve not to show you how righteous you are, how good you are but just the opposite. God’s Law seeks to show you your sin, to speak of your condemnation because of your sin. God’s Law seeks to break you. Why? “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:17) When God’s Law has done its work, then you are ready for the Gospel, the Good News which binds up the broken hearted with the news that in Jesus and in Him alone there is forgiveness for all of your sins. He suffers and dies for your breaking of God’s Law so that you would escape God’s wrath and be set free. Your salvation is in what Jesus has done, not in what you have done or not done. Jesus lived a sinless life under the Law so that you are delivered from the condemnation of the Law. Through faith and the water of baptism, you are clothed with His robe of righteousness.
But, there’s still a third use of God’s Law, but this use only applies to Christians, and that is the use of the Law as a guide. As a Christian, as a child of God, the Law now guides your life. You embrace God, as revealed in Holy Scripture, as being God. You are lead by the Holy Spirit who guides you according to God’s Law. You are no longer ruled by your sinful self which seeks to get from the neighbor, instead you want to do for the neighbor. The Law now guides the new man not to hate those who do you wrong but to love them in Christ as He has loved you.
God’s Law does still have a place in the world. God’s Law in the civil realm seeks to curb violence and protect the people. It lets them know, it speaks to their conscience and distinguishes between right and wrong. It also serves the natural man, your Old Adam in this same way.
But for you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, there’s more as you are motivated by the Gospel, that is the message of what Jesus has done for you and the immense love that He has for you. The Gospel leads and guides you to love and be of service to the neighbor and in so doing, Jesus is glorified.