After spending significant emphasis on the need to preach the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, Paul needs to clarify the purpose of the law. Jesus said he did not come to “destroy the law” but fulfill it. The law is perfectly holy and righteous, and it took a perfectly holy and righteous person to fulfill it all. Jesus fulfilled it for the sake of sinners who had no hope of fulfilling it alone. That Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf does not destroy the law. It points out the explicit purpose of the law. Paul addresses the purpose of the law in 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”

The law is for sinners, not for the righteous. On the walls of an inner-city bus station is a sign that says, “Do not spit on the floor.” This law is proclaimed prominent for all to see because people spit on the floor. If you look around, you will see spit on the floor. At a large metropolitan airport, there are no signs on the wall against spitting on the floor. Yet, there is no spit on the floor. There’s no need for a law against spitting on the floor when no one spits on the floor. Just because there is no sign on the walls against spitting on the floor is never used as an excuse to spit on the floor. Everyone understands that it’s wrong to spit on the floor. “No spitting on the floor” is a good law, but some people still spit on the floor. The law is for spitters. It is designed to restrain sin. Ryken says, “God uses his law to restrain sin in human society. The commandments of the law, with their accusation of guilt and threat of punishment, discourage people from sinning against God. The law does not keep people from sinning entirely, of course, because it cannot change our sinful nature. But to a certain extent, the law does serve to restrain our sin.”[1]

When you study the law as the Old Testament prescribes, you will see that violations contain prescribed penalties. Without consequences for sin, society will break down. We are seeing this happen in our country today. The American Cornerstone Group reported, “Crime has become the new pandemic. Sweeping across America, seemingly unstoppable, random, and unprovoked attacks with no rhyme or reason are stoking fear among the masses.”[2] Most recent studies show that lack of consequences and even lack of prosecution always result in more criminal behavior. The Cornerstone Group says, “The problem is the lack of penalty or enforcement against criminals. Under the false guise of sentencing reform and equity, District Attorneys are refusing to properly charge arrested criminals. Dumping them back on the streets, often less than 24 hours after they committed a violent crime.” The police are fed up with this problem and are discouraged from making arrests knowing that the criminal will be back on the streets by dinner time. Further, “The criminals know that there is no penalty for their actions, there is no disincentive to committing crimes, so they only go bigger and bolder. Unfortunately, there is no law and order in America anymore.” As Paul tells us, one of the major purposes of the Law is to restrain criminals and protect innocent victims. The Cornerstone Group sees only one obvious solution to our problem: “The solution is to elect District Attorneys who are willing to prosecute criminals under the fullest extent of the law as well as provide police with the resources, funding, and faith so they can fully execute their mission.”

[1] Ryken, Philip Graham, and R. Kent Hughes. 2005. Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.