So why did God give the law to mankind? This question is pivotal in our understanding of how we are to relate to it, and ultimately to God the law giver. Let me suggest a few reasons from scripture, why God gave mankind the law: First realize that the law was never given to make men righteous. This is a huge misunderstanding among those who believe that somehow by means of doing the law, they can make themselves acceptable to God, which ultimately means that by means of the law they can make themselves righteous. Galatians 3:10-14 should clear up ay misunderstandings about this view of the law: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” So that leads us back to the question why did God give us His law? Here are some suggestions:
The Levitical law governed Israel as a Theocracy:
God established Israel as a Theocracy in the Old Testament so they would represent Him before their Gentile neighbors. Israel was to be a light to lighten the gentiles. This nation would be the vehicle through which He would give us His law, His word, His prophets, and ultimately redemption through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. As a nation elected to represent a holy God to the nations, Israel was given the Mosaic Law. This law was to be the law of the land. Exodus 19:5-6 “if ye will obey my voice…and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people…And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Deuteronomy 5:32-33 “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.”
Reveals the holiness of God:
God’s law also reveals God’s holiness. We could not have known what sin is, nor could we have known God’s righteousness, had it not been for the law. Romans 7:12 “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” We know what is holy, just, and good, because we have a righteous standard, the law which flows from the pure character of God.
Reveals man’s helpless condition:
God’s holy nature revealed to mankind through the law is a two edged sword. If it reveals the holiness God, then it must also reveal the degree to which we fall short of His glory. This law shows mankind that he is utterly unholy and without any righteousness of his own. This miserable condition should overwhelmingly convince every man, that he cannot look to himself in any way to find righteousness to present to God. He must look outside of himself. He must have the righteousness of another imputed to Him by the gracious work of God. Romans 3:19-20 “what things soever the law saith, it saith…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 7:7-11 “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet… For without the law sin was dead…For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”
God’s law awakens the sinner of his condition before God, in order to bring him to repentance, so that the sinner can place his faith in Christ alone.
The law’s work is not one of bringing righteousness directly, rather it is a work of bringing man to a point of helplessness. The law brings the sinner to repentance before God, so that he can place his dependence alone on the finished work of Christ his righteous substitute. If the law did not do its work, then no man could be saved. Romans 1:18-19 “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.” Romans 2:1-3 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself…But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth …And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” Galatians 3:24 “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
God’s law identifies the righteous who are walking by faith in Christ:
The last purpose of the law is that it identifies those who are walking by faith in Christ. When a believer walks in the Spirit or abides in Christ, the fruit of this walk is Christ-likeness in character, thinking, and conduct. The just live by faith, and those who walk by faith, have a life that is characterized by their righteous Savior, Christ, living through them. And the life that they live in the flesh, they live by the faith of the Son of God who loves them and gave Himself for them. Romans 3:21-22 “now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” James 2:18; 23-24 “show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works…the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”