'Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day' is an exclamation by the author of Psalm 119 (verse 97). The question is 'could you say the same?'. How many Christians in 2012 could exclaim "Oh how I love God's law!"? I think not so many because we often do not rightly understand the role of the law of God. This article aims at getting Christians to become excited concerning the law of God and the theological importance of the doctrine of the law of God. Immediately, upon writing such a sentence, I can imagine people thinking that I am driving at legalism. This kind of thinking demonstrates how the role of the law of God for the church has been undermined and wrongly taught. Legalism is adding to the commands of Scripture and/or seeking a righteousness before God through the keeping of a law of any kind.
Now let us make a start on expounding the doctrine of the law of God. Two aspects of the law of God are vital for us to be able to rightly understand and apply the law of God.
1. The Threefold Division of the Law
Teachers of the church have historically understood that there is a threefold division of the Old Testament law of God. These divisions are:
The civil aspect of the law was for Israel to be governed as a theocracy until the Messiah accomplished his redemption. The ceremonial law was the system of sacrifices and Old Testament regulations for worship to be exercised until Jesus Christ fulfilled his mission as the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 10:19-23). The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments and as the Westminster Confession states 'the moral law doth forever bind all' (WCF 19:5). We are to love the whole law but especially the moral law because this is our rule of obedience to God, as Christians.
The Three Uses of the Law (for the Church)
Since the reformation, the truth has been established that there are three main uses of the law. These three uses can be summarised under three heads using the letter 'R' as a memory aid. These are:
3. Rule of Life
When we confuse these aspects, we end up with a form of Christianity which is out of balance with Scripture. The law of God is to provide a restraint for sin both in the church but also society. The law of God reveals both sin and God's answer to sin, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Church at Rome: 'Through the law comes the knowledge of sin' (Romans 3:20b). The third use of the law is perhaps the one use of the law which has been debated the most and is often dismissed. It is that the law of God, the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments) are to be the rule of life for the church.
In conclusion when we become unclear concerning the law and also when we wrongly apply the law we end up in confusion. However, in my estimation the biggest problem concerning the law of God among Christians in the UK, is a total neglect of the subject of the law of God altogether. Moral standards even becomes downgraded to a band worn by people asking 'What would Jesus do?'. We know how the Lord Jesus would answer that question. "Take that band off and obey the Ten Commandments". Obedience to the Ten Commandments is not the path to eternal life but it is the path to obedience before God. Forgiveness of sins is found only in the name of Jesus of Christ and his shed blood on the cross, however let us repent of living in total neglect of the law of God so that we can say 'Oh how I love your law' and so that we can pray 'open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law' (Psalm 119: 97 and 18).