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The law reveals sin but doesn’t take it away

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The law is the light that reveals how dirty the room is, not the broom that sweeps it clean. (Dr. Phil Williams, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976, Romans).

Law

At the heart of the Jewish Law was the ten commandments. Yet apparently, as dogmatic as these false teachers were, they really didn’t understand God’s law. God’s law is like a medicine prescribed by our doctor. If we use the medicine the way its prescribed, it will make us feel better. But if we abuse the medication or use it in ways not prescribed, it will make us even more sick. Paul tells us that God’s law is very good at pointing out what sin is, but God never intended the ten commandments to be a way to set us free from sin.

Paul lists 14 kinds of people who were condemned by the law (vv. 9-10), and the sins he lists roughly correspond to the ten commandments. The first four of the ten commandments deal with our love for God: no other gods, no idols, not taking God’s name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath holy. All of these commands deal with the vertical dimension of our spiritual life, they all have to do with our attitude and actions toward God. The words “ungodly,” “sinful,” “unholy” and “irreligious” all deal with sin directed toward God. The remainder deal with the sins against other people, and these sins correspond to the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments. This is the horizontal dimension of our spiritual life, how we treat each other as a reflection of our devotion to God.

God’s law is God’s prescription to show us that these kinds of activities are morally wrong. But God’’s law is powerless to bring about the spiritual and moral transformation we need to be delivered from these kinds of sins. For that we need what vv. 10-11 call the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel. The phrase “sound doctrine” here uses a medical word to convey the idea of beliefs and teaching that promote spiritual health. While wrong beliefs and false doctrine produces spiritual sickness, true beliefs and sound doctrine produces spiritual health in our lives.

Application

 

A no smoking sign does not effect me because I do not smoke. However, it is designed to restrain the person who does smoke and in effect helps me to stay healthy.

I Timothy 1:8-11 (English Standard Version)

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.

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »

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