by Burk Parsons
When we think of the law of God, the first thing that should come to mind is love—God’s love for us as fallen sinners, directing us to love Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him. God’s law is a gracious gift to us, and it has three primary uses. First, the law functions as a teacher by showing us God’s perfect righteousness and our unrighteousness and sin, and it shows our danger of God’s judgment, leading us, by God’s grace, in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ who fulfilled all the righteous demands of God’s law (Rom. 3:20; 4:15; Gal. 3:19–24). Second, the law functions to restrain evil in all realms of society, preserving humanity and, thus, serving God’s overall plan of redemption for His covenant people (Deut. 19:16–21; 1 Tim. 1:8–11). Third, the law functions as a guide to righteous living for all men, and it directs us as God’s beloved children by teaching us what pleases our heavenly Father and fulfills the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; 1 Thess. 4:1–8).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, and in fulfilling it, He set us free to love the law, to delight in keeping the law, and to repent for our lawbreaking as we live by faith in Christ for the Glory of God in all that we do (Rom. 3:31; Titus 2:11–14; 1 John 2:3–4). Even in the Great Commission, Christ commanded that we make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe (“to keep” or “to obey”) all that He commanded. And to His disciples Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), promising to send the Holy Spirit to indwell us, help us, comfort us, and sustain us.
Moreover, when a scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28–31). In giving the first great commandment, Jesus was quoting the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–5, which is the preeminent Old Testament monotheistic self-proclamation of the God of Israel and the confession of all who are united by faith alone to the true Israel of God, Jesus Christ the righteous. The Shema is God’s call to “hear, O Israel,” and in hearing God, loving God, and obeying God, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith, trusting Him and following Him every hour of every day in all that we do with our whole being—all the while, teaching and showing our covenant children what it means to live each day coram Deo, before God’s face, as we strive to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.