Purpose of the Law

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Romans 3:20


The Jews thought if they observed the law, they would be righteous (made right by God). Paul explicitly tells them that righteousness apart from the law has been made known and that the Law and the Prophets had all testified about this. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ. He explains the purpose of the law is to point to sin, enabling people to see and deal with the sin in their lives. The law was never intended to make them righteous; the law was intended to point them to the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, who was the fulfillment of the law. (Matthew 5:17) He ends his discussion by reminding them that faith in Jesus Christ does not nullify the law; they are still called to uphold the law, understanding that the purpose of the law is only to point to their sin and to lead them into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

As Christians, it is hard to understand the meaning of the word “law” as used in the first century church. The word “law” as Paul primarily used it is “nomos,” which refers to Mosaic Law or more precisely, the Torah (the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai). Most often, Paul uses the word “law” in this sense, although on occasion he uses the word in a more general sense (the Pentateuch or the Old Testament as a whole). We use the word “law” in a variety of ways, ranging from governmental rule to the natural law of physics. To better understand Paul’s argument concerning the law as written to first century Christians, we must be aware of the differences.

In life application, as believers, we can find ourselves more interested in following the law than entering into a relationship with Jesus. Jesus put it this way in the gospel of John: You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)


Heavenly Father,

Help me to remember that You desire to be in a relationship with me. Forgive me where I have been more concerned with studying Your Word than with living Your Word. Forgive me where I have spent time searching for You rather than spending time with You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

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