How Do You Feel About the Law?

by | May 19, 2009 | Freedom, Grace, Law, Legalism, Religion

Several years ago, there was a beautiful hotel that was built in Galveston, Texas, which jutted out over the water in the bay. It had these large plate glass windows that allowed you to look out over the Gulf of Mexico. And the balconies on each room made an ideal fishing pier! It seems that right after this hotel opened, there was a fisherman who took his rod and reel and tried to cast out into the water. Somehow, though, he managed in his clumsiness to knock out some windows in the room below him.

The hotel very quickly put up signs in every room of the hotel that read: “No fishing from balconies.” Guess what happened? People had never given much thought to fishing from their balconies, but they suddenly thought that was a great idea! So everyone decided to try it! Even people who could care less about fishing joined in. And they kept knocking out windows. Until finally, one bright administrator came up with the idea of removing the “no fishing” signs. Now guess what happened? People quit fishing!

That story demonstrates one of the shortcomings of law. Last week, I shared with you with positive things about law. God’s law is holy and just and good (Rom. 7:12). God’s law shows us what sin is (Rom. 7:7).

However, there are at least two shortcomings of law. One is that not only does the law reveal sin to us, it actually causes us to want to commit sin. It leads us into more sin! Listen to Paul:

“But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire.” (Romans 7:8)

The law says, “Do not covet”. And the first thing your sinful nature does is say, “Mmm. Covet. Now there’s an idea.” The command that’s meant to bring life, actually stirs up sin. There is something about law that produces a rebellious spirit within us. What happens when you see a sign on a door that says “Wet paint. Do not touch”? You may have passed that door a thousand times over the past ten years and never had the slightest desire to touch it. But now there’s a sign saying, “don’t touch it” and what do you want to do? There is an almost irresistible urge within you to reach out and touch it. Or tell Johnny to stay away from the cookie jar, and you’ll soon hear its lid rattling.

The other shortcoming of law is this: Law can tell me what I’m doing wrong, but it can’t make me better. “And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.” (Romans 7:10)

God’s law is intended to lead us to live godly lives, but it doesn’t succeed. God’s law tells me what I ought to do. And it tells me what the punishment is if I fail to obey. But keeping the rules doesn’t necessarily change what you’re like on the inside. And, no matter how good you are, you’ll never succeed at keeping all the rules. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with God’s law. Rather, there’s something wrong with us.

Fortunately, what the law is unable to do, God has accomplished through another means: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin.” (Rom. 8:3)

Give thanks for God’s law, but give even more thanks for His Son who does what law could never do — make us right with God!

Alan Smith


How Do You Feel About the Law?