Using the law to cleanse ourself from sin is sort of like trying to pull a mirror off the wall and using it to shave our face. Like the law, the mirror shows us we have a problem; we need to shave. The mirror just doesn’t have the ability to shave us without leaving us a bloody mess.
Christians who use the law to try to purify themselves or become righteous will meet the same results I would if I pulled the mirror off the wall and tried to shave with it. They will end up a bloody mess! Why is this? Because the law was never intended to cleanse us. It was always intended to point out our sin. Am I saying the law is bad? No, according to Romans 7:12 the law is good and holy.
Prior to the time of Jesus the law was the best thing going, however, it was never good enough to permanently cleanse us from sin. This is why the law prophesied the end of itself and pointed us to a new and better covenant that would be based on the finished work of Jesus!
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
I’ve said enough in the first few paragraphs to create a lot of questions about why God gave the l0 commandments and the rest of the ceremonial law and ordinances in the first place. Look at Romans 3:19:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
This verse says God gave the law to make us guilty. This contradicts what most Christians think as most people think that God gave the ten commandments and rest of the law to show us how to live. While He did give the law to show a righteous standard we are to live, He also gave the law to show a standard so holy that none of us could keep it. He wanted us to give up on trying to earn heaven or any of God’s blessings through our good works. The high standard of the law was given to point people to a savior.
Look at 1 Timothy 1:
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
These verses confirm that the law was not made for a righteous person. Since the law can’t makes us righteous, how do we become righteous? Believe on Jesus! Period! These verses go on to say that there is a lawful use of the law. The lawful use is to show people their sin. It was given for the ungodly, sinners, profane, murderers, liars, and so on to show them they aren’t righteous. These people are a mess and they need a savior!
The only purpose of the law today is to point people to Jesus. Even the most righteous person reading this article isn’t perfect after the flesh. The law is still great if we use it to keep our pride in check to realize any blessing or favor God bestows on us comes because He is good and not because we are good. We just shouldn’t use it to try to promote holy living or make it a standard we should live by to earn God’s blessing.
I would compare using the law the right way to looking into a mirror to shave. The mirror shows me my problems and keeps me humble. It also points me to my need for a razor. When I use the razor I can shave my beard easily and without cutting my face. I’ll look better and leave uninjured.
If I use the law to show me my problems, failures, and shortcomings and then try to double down on my resolve to live holy; it won’t work. 1 Corinthians 15:56 says the strength of the sin is the law. This means the harder I try to live holy, the worse my sin will get.
My doubling down and trying harder sounds good, but it’s a deception and will only leave me disappointed in myself. If I do this long enough, I will only condemn myself and eventually run from God. If I use the law to remind myself I can’t live Holy in my strength and to point me to the spirit of grace provided through, Jesus, however, I’m left feeling loved, encouraged, and victorious. Why? Because Jesus has already accomplished what I could never do in my strength! As I’m mesmerized, by His love, His grace begins to cut away things out of my life that don’t belong just like a razor cuts away excess hair that doesn’t belong on my face.
I hope this article has encouraged you! God really loves you. He has called you into something deeper than following a bunch of rules to try to earn favor and blessing from Him. He has called you into a passionate relationship with Jesus where you are changed from the inside out! I pray the spirit of grace pours out in your life today to draw you to Jesus and all that He has for you!
If you’d like to learn more about law and grace, check out this recent message I taught at Grace Life Church.