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Why did God give the law?

October 17, 2016

Why did God give the Mosaic law? If righteousness is only receieved through faith without works what good is the law? Does the Mosaic law offer something it cannot give or operate in contradiction to God’s promsie?

The law of Moses is a heavy weight that lays upon the soul and bears it down under guilt. 1 Timothy 1 says the law was not made for the righteous but for the lawless and disobedient. The law was given for the good of sinners. The natural response to the condemnation of the law is fear, anger, hatred, denial and rebellion. Men respond this way, in part, because of a failure to understand why the law condemns. The law does not condemn for the sake of condemnation. The law condemns for the sake of salvation. By confining men in condemnation the law shows the need of forgiveness. The law shows those in bondage their need a rescuer. The law convicts so those condemned will seek pardon. The law is not given to destroy hope but to compel faith. The law is not against the promises of God. The law impresses upon the heart and mind of men their need of the righteousness promised by God.

In Galatians 3:24 the law is called a pedagogue. No English word accurately conveys the function of a pedagogue. He was a servant entrusted with the care and instruction of the master’s son and heir. This servant had great authority over the child. The son was under the control of the pedagogue until he reached adulthood. Until then the servant was responsible for training the child. He kept the child under constant supervision and directed every moment of his life. The pedagogue was often a harsh taskmaster who forbade delight and demanded strict obedience to the most difficult of tasks. The job of this servant was to drive out the son’s childishness and bring the child to maturity.

The law was a pedagogue. The pedagogy of the law was not for maturity or righteousness. The law led enslaved men to the foot of the cross. The law taught sinful man of his inability to earn righteousness and of his need of a Savior. The law directed men to the righteousness that can only come by faith.

Why was the law given? Galatians 3 gives one answer to this question. The law was given to convict men of their guilt so they will look to Jesus for righteousness. That is what the law did and what the law still does today.

In His mercy God gave the law. Without the law men would continue to convince themselves of their own righteousness. The desperately wicked and deceitful heart of man convinces him that he is good. The law cuts through the hearts deceptions. By the law men are led to recognition of their guilt and directed towards the only means of salvation.

“God hath concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:32)


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