What the Law Reveals

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

Romans 3:20

God revealed his law to Israel, showing them how they were to live in covenant relationship with him. But, in their sinfulness, the Jews could not obey God’s law with such perfections as to be made right through their own efforts. In fact, “the law simply shows us how sinful we are” (v. 20).

In the terms of classical Protestant theology, this is one of the three “uses” of the law. According to John Calvin, the second use of the law was civic, to restrain evil people in society. The third use was didactic, to teach us how to live rightly. But the first, and one might say, the most important use of the law, was theological: “[E]xhibiting the righteousness of God,—in other words, the righteousness which alone is acceptable to God,—it admonishes every one of his own unrighteousness, certiorates, convicts, and finally condemns him” (John Calvin, Institutes, 2.7.6, Beveridge trans.) Thus, without the law, we wouldn’t know how sinful we are, and thus how much we need a Savior. God’s law prepares us to receive the good news of salvation through Christ, much as a doctor’s diagnosis of disease prepares us to receive treatment.

Throughout the ages, Christians have found it helpful to meditate upon God’s law, especially as found in the Ten Commandments. With the Spirit’s help, this law shows us our sin. We realize how we have failed to honor God alone, how we have “worshiped” idols, how we have dishonored God’s name, and so on. The law, in this way, opens us to receive God’s forgiveness in a fresh and more penetrating way.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What might God want to reveal to you through his law? Take time to reflect upon the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). What does God’s law show you about yourself?

PRAYER: Gracious God, today I thank you for your law. I’m especially grateful for the way your law shows me my sin. Of course, I don’t especially want to acknowledge my sin, and often I try to avoid the conviction that comes from the law. But when I finally let your law address my life, I am brought up short. I am reminded of how much I need a Savor . . . how much I need you!

Thank you, dear God, because you not only show me my sin, but you also forgive my sin, cleansing me and making me new. In your gracious hand, the law is like a scalpel, removing a tumor from my soul. There is pain in the surgery, but the result is health and wholeness.

All praise be to you, O God, revealer of sin, forgiver of sin. Amen.