“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…”
(1 Timothy 1:8-9, ESV)
Be clear, the apostle Paul is not speaking against the law here. He is against those who using the law improperly. He emphasizes the goodness of the law even in Romans 7:7-12: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! ...the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” If you’re familiar or have read letters of Paul to Galatians and Romans (or read thru the New Testament), you’ll realise that there were those who would seek to dilute the doctrine of salvation by grace alone by making the law as part of salvation or a rule of life for the Christians. It seems that our human nature want to “do something” to merit salvation. I assure you, this is true whether it be Jewish law-keeping in Timothy’s time or whether it be the salvation-by-works of the ‘Christian’ cults and major religions of the world today. The God of the Bible will have none of this! Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and based upon the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. God’s grace + nothing = our salvation!
But know this too: “the law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (v.8). Paul then tell Timothy the proper use of the law and its purpose. Simply put, the law is made for unrighteous people. I once watched a documentary on how to make padlock on YouTube. I was fascinated by the mechanical engineering and many details that went into the making of padlocks. There are varieties of padlocks manufactured for specific use for different needs. Some are for shops and businesses, some for private homes and vehicles, and so on and so forth. Now a thought came to me as I recalled the documentary: “Padlocks are needed because there are thieves and trespassers. If there were no law-breakers, padlock factories would be out of business!” If all men were good men then there is no need for locks on doors, either to keep men in or out. The facts that there are crimes mean men are trustworthy and lawless. We need laws today even more than ever before. The law was not made for righteous men but for unrighteous.
As for salvation, the law is useless; but as for Christian living, the law is useful. I don’t want to be like hyper-grace teachers who say that the law is no longer necessary and is only useful as shadows and types that point us to Christ. Nor I want to be the legalists who overstate the role of the law and put Christians in bondage. All I’m saying is, like Paul to Timothy, that the “law is good.” It was Martin Luther who said, “The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and to show the nature of sin because it will act as a school master and bring him to everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ.” It was John Wesley who said, “Before I preach love, mercy and grace, I must preach sin, Law and judgment.” It was Charles Spurgeon who said, “They will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and holy Law.” It was John Wycliffe who said, “The highest service to which a man may attain on earth is to preach the Law of God.” John Stott wrote, “We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we’ve first been to Moses to be condemned. Once we have gone to Moses and acknowledged our sin, guilt and condemnation, we must not stay there, we must leave Moses and go to Christ.”
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.