Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
When you read this terrible description of the human race as God sees it, it is almost impossible for us to believe that God is not going to say, “Enough! Wipe them out!” If all he sees is wretchedness, misery, evil, deceit, hypocrisy, vulgarity, profanity, slander, and all these evil things that are in every heart — every one without exception — our natural instinct is to say, “Then God doesn’t want us.” But the amazing thing is that across this kind of verse he writes, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” (John 3:16a KJV). God did not send the Law to destroy us (and this is very important); he sent the Law to keep us from false hope.
The worst thing that can happen is to be going down a road to an important destination and think you are on the right track and spend all the time necessary to get there only to discover that the road peters out into nothingness. You find you have been on the wrong track and it is too late to go back. That was what was happening. So God, in his loving kindness, has given us the Law to keep us from taking a false path. Though the Law condemns us, it is that very condemnation that makes us willing to listen, so that we find the right path.
Paul says the Law does three things to us: First, it stops our mouth: We have nothing to say. You can always tell someone is close to becoming a Christian when they shut up and stop arguing back. Self-righteous people are always saying, “But — but this — but I — yes, but I do this — and I do that.” They are always arguing. But when they see the true meaning of the Law, their mouth is shut.
Second, Paul says, “The whole world is held accountable to God.” That makes us realize there is no easy way, no way by which death suddenly is going to dissolve all things into everlasting darkness, forever forgotten. The whole world has to stand before God. Hebrews puts it so starkly, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 KJV).
Finally, the Law reveals very clearly what sin is. What does the Law want of us? Jesus said that all the Law is summed up in one word: Love. All the Law asks us to do is to act in love. All these things the Law states are simply loving ways of acting. When we face ourselves before the Law, we have to confess that many, many times we fail in love. That is what the Law wants us to see, because, then, when all else fails, we are ready to listen to what follows.
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Father, thank you for loving me enough to shut up all other ways — to block them out and tell me they are wrong and they do not lead anywhere — so that I give up trying to make myself good enough to belong to you. Help me to take the only way that has ever been provided, a righteousness that is given to me, which I never earned, but which is mine because I believe the Lord Jesus.
What are three essential purposes of the Law? Since the ‘greatest of these is love’, what is the prime example of love? Can we generate that quality of love? What is the sole source available to us?