Thursday: The Law and Sin

We often hear folk say that in the New Covenant the law has been abolished, and then they proceed to quote texts that they believe prove that point. The logic behind that statement, however, isn’t quite sound, nor is the theology.

Read 1 John 2:3-61 John 3:4, and Romans 3:20. What do these texts tell us about the relationship between law and sin?

Breaking the Law

Image © Pacific Press Publishing Assn.

A few hundred years ago, Irish writer Jonathan Swift wrote: “But will any man say that if the words drinking, cheating, lying, stealing, were by Act of Parliament ejected out of the English tongue and dictionaries, we should all awake next morning temperate, honest and just, and lovers of truth? Is this a fair consequence?”-Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal and Other Satires (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 205.

In the same way, if God’s law has been abolished, then why are lying, murder, and stealing still sinful or wrong? If God’s law has been changed, then the definition of sin must be changed, too. Or if God’s law was done away with, then sin must be, as well, and who believes that? (See also 1 John 1:7-10James 1:14-15.)

In the New Testament, both the law and the gospel appear. The law shows what sin is; the gospel points to the remedy for that sin, which is the death and resurrection of Jesus. If there is no law, there is no sin, and so what are we saved from? Only in the context of the law, and its continued validity, does the gospel make sense.

We often hear that the Cross nullified the law. That’s rather ironic, because the Cross shows that the law can’t be abrogated or changed. If God didn’t abrogate or even change the law before Christ died on the cross, why do it after? Why not get rid of the law after humanity sinned and thus spare humanity the legal punishment that violation of the law brings? That way, Jesus never would have had to die. Jesus’ death shows that if the law could have been changed or abrogated, it should have been done before, not after, the Cross. Thus, nothing shows the continued validity of the law more than does the death of Jesus, a death that occurred precisely because the law couldn’t be changed. If the law could have been changed to meet us in our fallen condition, wouldn’t that have been a better solution to the problem of sin than Jesus having to die?

If there were no divine law against adultery, would the act cause any less pain and hurt than it does now to those who are victims of it? How does your answer help you to understand why God’s law is still in effect? What has been your own experience with the consequences of violating God’s law?

Leave a comment

Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons