Why The Law?

broken cookware setAvid readers of this blog and students of Scripture have probably asked this question before, just as the Apostle Paul asked the same question of the readers of Galatians.

I did some pretty stupid things while growing up.  I had a sandbox in my backyard and it was the center of play for a number of my neighborhood friends.  A friend of mine and I were playing in the sandbox with a tin teapot and cooking set of our neighborhood friend, Julie.  I’m not sure what got into us but we decided to beat the living “hades” out of the cooking set.  Dented, dinged, and thoroughly smashed were the remnants of a cooking set after we were “done” with it.  Adding to the stupidity we buried the smashed cooking set in the depths of the sand.  It was as if there were a proverbial “think cloud” above our heads indicating, “Yeah, no one will find it now.”

Sometime later the neighborhood gang was gathered together at the sandbox (including Julie).  Interestingly, my friend and I must have forgotten what we did.  If you are ahead of me, you already know that Julie dug up some of her missing cooking set and immediately burst into tears at the sight of it and ran home.  My dad looked at me and said, “Craig, in the house.”  I glanced at my remaining friends as if to say, “please pray for me.”

When I returned to my friends, I said, “It didn’t hurt.”  Someone responded, “Yeah, we heard you screaming.”

Now, as I recall, at the time, I didn’t have an explicit rule indicating, “Thou shall not destroy thy neighbor’s teapot set.”  But from that time on (because of my transgression), that rule certainly stood, and I wasn’t “stupid” enough to ever violate it again.

To answer his own question, Paul tells us, as he did the Galatians in verse 19 of Chapter 3:  “It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.”  In other words, because of our human nature and a natural tendency not to exist in relationship with others, the Law was provided as a sign, or a map, until Jesus came and wrote his relational law on our hearts.  The Law never stood above God, but always reflected his heart.

Some today may look at the Law as being obsolete because it looked forward to Jesus.  And that would certainly be true, but not because of what we might assume.  Our Father-Son-Jesus-God is a relational God and desires that we be in relationship with him and our neighbors, as the Law promoted.  Because we just can’t help ourselves (in the sandbox or otherwise) and therefore can’t “keep” the Law, Jesus came to write it on our hearts.

If I had a clue the law had been written on my heart I wouldn’t have needed a set of rules to treat my neighbor, Julie, relationally.  In context, Paul went on to refer to the Law as a tutor.  The Greek term for tutor referenced a household slave who brought the child in the home to “school” to learn.  Tutors, in this sense, and today, were never meant to maintain a lifelong relationship.  It was short-term in nature to bring a child to maturity, as Jesus has in our relationship with him.

Although we may refer to the obsolescence of the Law in a pejorative way, it was meant, and remains a reflection of living relationally with God and our neighbors.  Today, through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit residing in us, the Law has been replaced by our relationship in them.

Jesus has “obeyed” the law on our behalf, and in this sense it is obsolete, providing us the freedom to live relationally with God and reconciled mankind. In other words, when we live in Him, and relate to others as God would want us, we don’t need to be told “Do this, or, Don’t do that.”  Or, “Don’t destroy your neighbors cooking set.”  The Law was never put forth by a distant God desiring to control us in some way.  Why the Law?  It was a reflection or a sign pointing toward the One who would write it on our hearts when he came.  As we learn to live relationally with our brothers and sisters in Jesus, the law is reflected in relationship and our love for them stands above the Law.

~by Craig Kuhlman


2 comments so far

  1. Jeannine on

    Wonderful post, Craig! Thank you!

  2. Jerome on

    The tutor has been replaced by the Teacher, who lives with us and in us by his Spirit!

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