For many people, God’s Law is a set of instructions telling us what to do and what not to do. This is evident, for example, in the Ten Commandments.
These commandments instruct us not to kill, steal, covet, or bear false witness. They also instruct us to keep ourselves pure and honor our parents. In addition, we are to honor God and keep His name holy.
But the Law was not given just to instruct us how to live. The Law has another use a proper use.
In his exposition on Galatians 3:19, Dr. Martin Luther described this proper use of the Law. He states, “So the Law, in its proper use, does nothing but reveal sin, engender wrath, accuse, fill with terror, and almost lead minds to despair. This is the proper use of the Law; here it ends, nor should it go any farther.”
When the Law is used properly, it does not allow us to be complacent and secure in our sins. By its accusations, it shatters the proud and hard heart and exposes the truth of our fallen condition. It reveals that we do indeed justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment. There is no getting around it.
That’s the trouble with the Law it will not be ignored. It will continue to hound us, doing its work of exposing, confronting, and convicting.
How do we put an end to it? The end of its relentless hounding will not come by means of our works and efforts. Christ is where the end of the Law is found. He had come to place himself under the Law and face its condemnation and judgment for us, as his baptism by John indicated.
When John preached, the people who were convicted would come to him, confess their sins, and be baptized by him in the Jordan River. That doesn’t sound like a place where the sinless Son of God belongs. Yet, Jesus was baptized by John as if he was a sinner like the rest of us.
Why? By his baptism, Jesus reveals that he had come for sinners. More specifically, he had come to take our place and become our sin for us in order to put an end to the accusation and convictions of the Law.
For this reason, he was put to death on a cross. The Law says that blood must be shed in order to make atonement for sins. In other words, there must be death in order to make us right with God. Christ would give up his unblemished life and become that death for us.
Not only would he become that death, but he would also prevail. He would rise again. Therefore, the accusation and the convictions of the Law have come to an end. All of the demands of the Law have been fulfilled.
This is where the Law leads us. Its proper work is to expose our need for Christ. When the Law does it work, we can no longer say we have no need for a Savior.
Instead, when we are accused and convicted, our hope is found in the One who died for our sins and rose again so that we would have forgiveness.