Reformed Catechism Week 15 Resources

Week 15 Question:

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

Week 15 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.

Week 15 Verse: Romans 3:20

Commentary

After God gave the promise to Abraham, he gave the law to Moses. Why? Simply because he had to make things worse before he could make them better. The law exposed sin, provoked sin, condemned sin. The purpose of the law was…to lift the lid off man's respectability and disclose what he is really like underneath—sinful, rebellious, guilty, under the judgment of God, and helpless to save himself. And the law must still be allowed to do its God-given duty today. One of the great faults of the contemporary church is the tendency to soft-pedal sin and judgment…. We must never bypass the law and come straight to the gospel. To do so it to contradict the plan of God in biblical history…. No man has ever appreciated the gospel until the law has first revealed him to himself. It is only against the inky blackness of the night sky that the stars begin to appear, and it is only against the dark background of sin that the gospel shines forth. Not until the law has bruised and smitten us will we admit our need of the gospel to bind up our wounds. Not until the law has arrested and imprisoned us will we pine for Christ to set us free. Not until the law has condemned and killed us will we call upon Christ for justification and life. Not until the law has driven us to despair of ourselves will we ever believe in Jesus. Not until the law has humbled us even to hell will we turn to the gospel to raise us to heaven.

John Stott (1921–2011). An English Anglican preacher who for many years served as rector of All Souls Church in London, Stott was one of the principal framers of the Lausanne Covenant (1974). His numerous books include Why I Am a Christian and The Cross of Christ.

From The Message of Galatians in The Bible Speaks Today Series (London and Downers Grove: IVP, 1968), 93.

Video Commentary

NCC Q15: Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

 Extra Commentary

THE THREEFOLD USE OF THE LAW: by R.C. Sproul

Every Christian wrestles with the question, how does the Old Testament law relate to my life? Is the Old Testament law irrelevant to Christians or is there some sense in which we are still bound by portions of it? As the heresy of antinomianism becomes ever more pervasive in our culture, the need to answer these questions grows increasingly urgent.

The Reformation was founded on grace and not upon law. Yet the law of God was not repudiated by the Reformers. John Calvin, for example, wrote what has become known as the “Threefold Use of the Law” in order to show the importance of the law for the Christian life.

The first purpose of the law is to be a mirror. On the one hand, the law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. Perhaps more important, the law illumines human sinfulness. Augustine wrote, “The law orders, that we, after attempting to do what is ordered, and so feeling our weakness under the law, may learn to implore the help of grace.”2 The law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ. Here the law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ.

A second purpose for the law is the restraint of evil. The law, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. Calvin says this purpose is “by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.”3 The law allows for a limited measure of justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized.

The third purpose of the law is to reveal what is pleasing to God. As born-again children of God, the law enlightens us as to what is pleasing to our Father, whom we seek to serve. The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory.

By studying or meditating on the law of God, we attend the school of righteousness. We learn what pleases God and what offends Him. The moral law that God reveals in Scripture is always binding upon us. Our redemption is from the curse of God’s law, not from our duty to obey it. We are justified, not because of our obedience to the law, but in order that we may become obedient to God’s law. To love Christ is to keep His commandments. To love God is to obey His law.

Prayer

The Lord reveal himself more and more unto us in the face of his Son, Jesus Christ, and magnify the power of his grace…and of his tender mercy encourage us; and persuade us, that since he hath taken us into the covenant of grace, he will not cast us off for those corruptions, which as they grieve his Spirit, so they make us vile in our own eyes: and…the Lord add this to the rest of his mercies…to let the prevailing power of his Spirit in us, be an evidence of the truth of grace begun, and a pledge of final victory, at that time when he will be all in all, in all his, for all eternity. Amen!

Richard Sibbes (1577–1635). An English Puritan theologian, Sibbes was known in London in the early 17th century as "the Heavenly Doctor Sibbes." Preacher at Gray's Inn, London and Master of Catherine Hall, Cambridge, his most famous work is The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax (from which this prayer is taken).

From “The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax” in The Works of the Reverend Richard Sibbes, Volume 1 (Aberdeen: Chalmers, 1809), 80.

Supporting Scriptures:
Galatians 3:19-25; Psalm 19:7-11; Psalm 119:9-16; Romans 7:7-25; Romans 8:3-4; 1 Corinthians 7:19