I want to distinguish between two kinds of law: the Law and law. The first kind, capital 'L' Law, would refer to the ceremonial Laws of the Old Testament, including but not limited to the big 10. The other is lowercase 'l' law and that would refer to any sort of thing that we come up with as a list of rules to follow or espouse. We have been surrounded by laws our entire lives. We have to live by them or face the consequences. Break one and you're in trouble. This happened in school, at home with our moms and dads and it happens in our civil lives. Punishment is always the end result of breaking the law. Could you imagine removing these laws from our lives and holding no one accountable to them anymore? Would that not create utmost chaos? Imagine taking away the speed limit on our national freeways. Think of drugs being legal. Try and wonder what it would be like if committing a violent crime was no longer against the law. We could most certainly agree for the most part that this would not be a great idea. The law's purpose is to order our lives. But as we move into spiritual matters, we cannot bring with us this notion of law keeping. This is not entirely easy to do. It is hard to retrain our minds to think differently in these matters. But I hope this post can help.
God's purpose in introducing law into our lives is precisely the opposite of why we keep it. We keep law so that we are not punished. Or we keep the law to please ourselves or others and in doing so show how good we are. However, God's intent with the law is to show us how completely and utterly BAD we all are and that all will be punished for not keeping it. Even the least of it. How ironic, then, that we try and keep the law for life when in reality the law brings death. Law is lifeless. It is the written code of what we can never achieve. It is God's standards that we will never, ever live up to.
Even further devastation from this comes when you realize that the law increases our bad deeds. It can't even encourage good ones! How can this be? My good friend J.D. Boreing (check out his post in the Blog Archive for May) illustrates this best. Imagine you walked your dog every day following the same path. Every day you pass by a tall wooden fence. You notice there is a fence there but not much more than that. You may notice a broken board one day or you might see that it may need some repairs. You may even notice that there are knotholes in the boards. But other than that it's just a fence you pass on your daily walk. Then, one day you pass this same fence you've barely given any thought to and you see that one of the knotholes has a bright red circle around it and a sign that says "Do NOT look through this knothole!" This changes everything. No longer is it just a fence you pass on your walk. It is now intriguing you to wonder what is on the other side that someone would put up that sign. You now burn with desire to do the exact opposite of the law of that sign. You want to look. And just the simple desire of wanting to look is enough sin to get you death. But you do better than that. You tie up your dog and smash your face up against the fence and peer through to satisfy your craving for knowledge!!
Don't think for a second that following the written code of the Bible will get you anything! Romans 7:5 tells us that our sinfulness is AROUSED by the law! What an incredible paradox this is. The very thing we try to follow to be good only brings out our true badness! And in Romans 7:6 we see another incredible paradox. The only way to live is to DIE to the written code. For the law is truly binding and there is no life to be found there. May the law increasingly make its way out of our lives! For life's sake.