Staying on Track: Law’s Usefulness
1 Timothy 1:8-11
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers-- and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
We just spent a few weeks together discussing our freedom from the law. Though it is not how we define our relationship with God, it can still play a role in helping us stay on track as followers of Christ. For the authentic believer, the law now has limited uses, but properly used it still has uses.
In Galatians 5, Paul states that the law can be summarized in a single command, “love your neighbor as yourself.” In 1 Timothy Paul describes those whose actions are contrary to this law and in opposition to God and are hostile to human beings. Such people love neither God nor neighbor.
Apparently, the heretics were making a strict application of the law to achieve their own purposes in the church. They were applying the law to the righteous by trying to force it into a doctrinal role that it was not intended to have. They may have been teaching that keeping the Old Testament Law was the means to salvation.
The law was not made for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, and for slave traders, liars, and perjurers. The list describes extreme lawbreakers.
There is a strong correlation between Paul’s list here and the Ten Commandments. Paul’s list is given in four pairs followed by six individual terms of sin. Lawbreakers and rebels deal with disobedience and rebellion against God, and is the root of all sin and straying. Next are the ungodly and sinful, which describe immoral and blatantly wrong, and expresses an arrogant rejection of God.
The unholy and irreligious are those whose actions and attitudes are inappropriate to the worship of God. Irreligious describes false teaching and rejection of God’s standard for worship and service. The last pairs are murderers and those who kill their fathers or mothers. These show an extreme and aggravated degree of depravity.
He then mentions two sexual sins; adulterers and perverts, which is the NT term for homosexuality. Slave traders, liars, and perjurers are then specifically mentioned. After listing the sins that require judgment and correction by the law, Paul generalized, “and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” Sound doctrine conforms to the glorious gospel. This gospel comes from the blessed God. This gospel message was entrusted to Paul.
When we stray from God, we will sin, and sin cannot be contained. It will always lead to more.
The law is not for those who have been declared righteous by faith in Christ. Such persons are not under the law, but under grace. They are under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The law is now written upon their hearts. The primary function of the law is conviction of sin to those who are in rebellion. It is a great way for us to know when we’ve crossed the line and are straying off track. It is like the new vehicles that remind or even correct our driving, when we cross the lines on the road.
One legitimate use of the law is to point out sin in whatever form it may take. The law was not given to make people feel righteous. The law was given to condemn all persons as sinners. It clearly shows us where the path is.
We are often overflowing with good intentions for getting our lives back on track with Christ. The law, if properly used, can be a reminder and light to the path.
The proper use of God’s law is to bring conviction of sin so that people are driven to the gospel for salvation. It is not a means of salvation but reveals how far we are from the mark. Any teaching or activity that does not conform to the glorious gospel is clearly not sound doctrine and should be abandoned.