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Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?

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Question 15

Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?

Answer: That we may know the holy nature and will of God, and the sinful nature and disobedience of our hearts; and thus our need of a Savior. The law also teaches and exhorts us to live a life worthy of our Savior.

The catechism helpfully expresses four biblical purposes of the law. Let’s briefly expound upon them one-by-one.

  1. The law was given so that we may know the holy nature and will of God. The law is revelatory; it reveals who God is and what he’s like. It communicates his divine attributes and perfections. It expresses his will. The next time you’re reading through the Torah (Leviticus, for example), keep asking yourself: “What does this passage teach me about God?”
  2. The law was given so that we may know our own sinful nature and the disobedience of our hearts. The law exposes the truth about you and me. It reveals our sinfulness at every level: thoughts, words, actions. As sinners, we’re great about lying to ourselves about ourselves. The law tells you the truth about you.
  3. The law was given to show us our need of a Savior. In Galatians 3:24 Paul tells us that the law was given between the promise to Abraham and its fulfillment in Christ “as a tutor to lead us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith.” The law prepares us for Christ and points us to Christ and presses us to Christ. (I encourage you to read Galatians 3:19-34 in its totality and think upon it.)
  4. The law was given to teach and exhort us to a life worthy of our Savior. Concerning the Mosaic covenant, Peter Gentry writes: “The purpose of this covenant is to enable [Israel] to enjoy the blessings he wants to give them and to be the blessing to the other nations” (Kingdom Through Covenant, p. 304). This was true of God’s covenant instruction to Adam and Eve in the Garden, as well. In proper relationship with God, one another, and the creation, they would know the good life; they would know blessing. As Christians, we’ve been redeemed by Christ and now by grace we seek to “walk as he himself walked” (1 John 2:6). We pursue by grace a life of joyful worship and obedience worthy of the Gospel. We seek to live a life of flourishing in Christ that spreads life and blessing to others, and the law shows us what that life is like.