Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Purpose of the Law (4) - Not Righteousness

Several false understandings of the law have been prevalent since the law was given. The most common error is the view that we can be made righteous through keeping the law. The Jews believed that they were special because they had the law. They also believed that they could gain righteousness by keeping the law.

Paul spent a large part of his ministry debunking this myth. Here are two statements that make his position clear.

If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!(Gal 2:21).Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteouswill live by faith" (Gal 3:11).

The law cannot make us righteous. Only the ministry of Jesus can accomplish that goal.

Paul was very hostile to those who claimed righteousness through the law, but he was careful not to denigrate the law itself. He was clever enough not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Paul said the law is spiritual, holy just and good (Rom 7). The reason he could say this was that he understood that law is good when used for the correct purpose (1 Tim 1:7-9). It only becomes a problem when used as a basis for righteousness, something that it was not designed to do. True righteous can only be obtained through Jesus, and we appropriate his righteousness through faith.

Many Christians assume that Paul taught that there is something wrong with God's law, but this is not true. Paul taught that using the law a way to righteousness is wrong, because that is not its purpose. When the law is used for the wrong purpose, it is useless. However, when it is used for the correct purpose, it is still holy and just.

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