Three Uses of God’s Law

Bob RoaneCounseling, Wise living

I desire to do your will, my God. Your law is within my heart….The unfaithful ones did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by His law…..Blessed is the one You discipline, Lord, the one You teach from Your law….The Lord brought out His people with rejoicing, His chosen ones with shouts of joy…that they might keep His precepts and observe His laws.

Reclaiming Wanderers

Cole Mushrush is a cattle rancher near Strong City, Kansas. When he wakes up each morning, he makes a pot of coffee, then fires up his laptop to see if any cows have roamed astray. Not many cows escape, because they have electronic collars to give a small jolt if they cross the invisible fence boundaries created on a computer. The collars keep the cows hemmed in without the expense of a real fence. The shock hurts less than a bee sting and can spare the cows from big trouble.1

Jesus Christ has purchased freedom for His followers, but sometimes we wander and need to be warned that we are crossing a line which God has placed there for our good. Scripture says: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.”2 Real joy and freedom come when we live how the Lord created us to live.

Threefold Use of God’s Law

Martin Luther thought about the Lord’s Law in the Bible from three angles:

Law is our Restrainer (judicial) Law is our Tutor (pedagogical) Law is our Guide (didactic)
The Curb The Mirror The Guide

God’s Law is Our Restrainer

But it does not work too well! God gives His commandments to control evil, like the cattle’s shock collars. But the law cannot change human hearts. Paul wrote: “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought spiritual death instead….The law is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual. But I am unspiritual, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”3

God’s commands can protect righteous people from unrighteous ones to some degree. They provide a limited measure of justice on earth, until Christ brings the final judgment. “God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. God has given proof of this to everyone by raising Jesus from the dead.”4

God’s Law is Our Tutor and Pointer to Christ

Galatians 3:24 says: “God’s law was our guardian (disciplinarian, schoolmaster, teacher, tutor) our guide to Christ, until He came, in order that we might be justified by faith in Jesus.” God’s law was never given as a way for people to earn salvation. Only Jesus perfectly can and did keep God’s commandments perfectly.

One hymn says:
There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin,
Christ only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.5

Jesus obeyed for us: His “active obedience.” Jesus suffered for us: His “passive obedience.”

He said, Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God. (Hebrews 10:7)

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. By His wounds we have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

God’s law was meant to lead sinners to faith in Christ by showing us the impossibility of saving ourselves. God’s law stirs up the mud at the bottom of the pool of our hearts and shows us how unclean we are. Like a skilled surgeon, the Lord wounds us by His law before He heals us. God reveals His moral perfection and our human sinfulness. He shows us our weakness so that we might seek the moral strength that only God the Holy Spirit can give us.

God’s Law is our Helper to Guide Believers in Following Jesus

God’s moral law and order are infinitely important because they express His unchanging righteous character. And we are His image bearers. God’s moral law is a transcript of His wise and holy mind and the New Testament never deletes that. Simon Kistemaker said: “The Ten Commandments are not just a set of do’s and don’ts. Rather, for the Christian, they are rules for thankful living as Jesus’ followers.” God’s law shows us how to glorify, honor, and please the Lord who saved us by His grace.

Christ says: “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” Only God the Holy Spirit enables us to love and serve God rightly.6

Additional Thoughts on Trusting and Obeying the Lord

  1. The Goal of Christian Living: Pleasing God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).7
  2. The Motivation for Christian Living: Loving God.8
  3. The Model and Example for Christian Living: Imitating Jesus Christ.9
  4. The Standards for Christian Living: The Ten Commandments as a summary of all the moral and ethical teaching of the Bible and as explained in the rest of the Bible.
  5. The Power and Strength for Christian Living: God the Holy Spirit.10


Covenant Maker, I made a start. Covenant breaker, I broke Your heart.
Your word is deeper, faithful and true. Covenant Keeper, make me like You.
Covenant Maker, You made a way. Infinite taker, I made You pay.
But Your love was deeper, faithful and true. Covenant Keeper, make me like You.11

Notes (various Bible translations):  1 Jim Carlton, “Virtual Fence Keeps Cows Home on Range,” The Wall Street Journal, (5-19-23).     2 Psalm 119:45.     3 Rom 7:10-15.     4 Acts 17:31.     5 “There is a green hill far away,” by C. Frances Alexander.     6 John 14:15-16.     7 2 Cor 5:15-17; 1 Cor 10:31; 6:19-20.     8 Mark 12:29-31.     9 1 Peter 2:21; Luke 9:23.     10 John 15:4-5; Phil 4:13; 2 Cor 3:18; Eph 2:8-10; Phil 2:12-13.     11 From the song “Covenant Keeper” by Twila Paris (1984).