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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Why Do We Need the Law?

The Law

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity – 7/7/2024

Exodus 20:1-17

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of Exodus in the twentieth chapter with special emphasis on verse one which reads as follows:

 

“And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                The holy Law of God is good and wise. It is an essential thing in the life of us Christians. That is to say, it is not optional for us to consider the wisdom of God’s Law or to follow it.  But there remains for us a question in all this: why? Why did God give us the Law and bid us to follow it? The simplest explanation is that God made this world and provided it with structure for the good of us and who live in it.

                What would the world be like without rules that governed morality or the natural forces? It would be chaos, destructive, and very difficult to live in. But since God is a God who loves us, He made this world such that things work in understandable ways. We can predict the movements of planets and stars, we can plot eclipses years in advance. These are the structures and rules God put into the very fabric of reality so that it would be understandable and to make the world something we could live in without difficulty. Yes, we have sin now and this has messed up the perfection of God’s original creation, but even in spite of that, the world still functions well and exhibits a remarkable degree of stability.

                But it isn’t just physical laws that work this way, there are also laws meant to govern human behavior. Some would argue that God’s commands are arbitrary, that they are unfair impositions onto us by a petty God. And if we are honest, it is not only those who live outside of the Church who think this way. We do as well. Every time we ignore a command of God or decide to go against His rules, we have indulged our sinful self that also suspects that God’s commands are unfair, arbitrary, or otherwise designed to deprive us of something that is really good for us, or, at the very least, we really want. And these rules are just as much a part of the fabric of reality as the law of gravity. St. Paul notes this in Romans, where he notes that even though Gentiles have not been given the Law that was delivered to Israel by Moses, they still transgress the rules of this world and therefore are accountable to God as sinners deserving death.[2]

                In other words, the very laws of right and wrong, the things that should put healthy boundaries on human behavior, these are not known solely in the specific and clear instruction given to Moses, these are known as part of this reality we share. And, if we were not sinners who rebel against our Maker, we would not try and transgress those boundaries. Much of human behavior is a more sophisticated version of the kid who tries to break curfew just to see how far he can push his parents around. This, of course, was exhibited last month in the myriad celebrations of wickedness around our nation.

                The Law may be oppressive to sinful desire that seeks to transgress God’s good order, but the Law is really not oppressive. It may seem like a terrible burden when it curbs our sin or reveals to us our guilt in our sins, but it is not terrible. Indeed, the Law of God is good and wise as the hymn of the same name reminds us.[3] 

                And the reason God gives us the Law, both the laws that govern this world and those that govern our behavior is very simple: God wants good things for us. He wants us to have peaceful lives. He wants us to be free from all evils that would harm us. And going against the fabric of reality, whether moral or physical, gives the opposite of these things. After all, this God is the God who delivered His people of old from slavery, whose mighty acts

                If someone tries to fly without using some device to accomplish it, he will meet injury or death. Gravity still functions even if we don’t want it to. In the same way, when we try to go against the Ten Commandments, whether that is in hatred, lust, greed, envy, slander, or any of the other evils forbidden, we will incur similar harm to ourselves. This may not be evident outwardly, but even if it cannot be seen, it will certainly mark the soul and leave us guilty before God.

                But the commandments are not there only to stop evil and show us guilty. They also teach us what God expects and give us a standard of behavior that we can use to think our way through moral issues in this life. It is the Law of God that teaches us to love our neighbors and serve those who God has put into our lives. It is God’s Law that gives us a sense of justice and fairness. It is God’s Law that serves to order and make clear the expectations for us Christians each day. There is much wisdom in God’s Law, and it serves to make us wise and moral when we listen to it and do as it teaches us.

                Even with all of this, the Law does lack one thing. Namely, it does not give us the power or ability to carry out these good deeds are to refrain from doing those things that God forbids. And here is where the Law leaves us hanging. It shows us what is expected of us and it can reveal our sins in all their shameful detail, but it does not have any solutions for us in making our way through these problems. Indeed, while the Law is good and a good gift to us, it does not have in and of itself the power to bring forgiveness for sins or sanctification that produces holy living.

                This then is the greatest and chief duty of God’s Law. It does not lead to itself, but points beyond itself to Christ Jesus, our Savior. That is to say, it is the Law that drives us to the need for forgiveness and repentance. It is the Law that reveals our inability to change out state before God. And so it shows us the need for and thereby and drives us toward our forgiving Savior, Jesus Christ. And through Christ we receive that forgiveness He won for us on the cross and also the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us and grants us the gift of good works and Christian living.

                We need the Law of God to restrain our sinful flesh and to inform us of how we ought to act in this world. So long as we are here in this world of sin the Law will always be present to instruct, curb, and condemn us. But, even more, it makes us ready to receive the great and lasting gift of forgiveness that comes in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

 The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

 


[1] Exodus 20:1 English Standard Version

[2] Romans 2:12-16

[3] The Law of God is Good and Wise, Lutheran Service Book #579



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