The Law in Paul’s Theology

The “Grace Revolution” must adequately deal with this topic, for a change.

All the appearances of the word law are listed here. And in most cases it refers to the Law of Moses. Also, different words like written code are referenced. Finally, when Paul explains a truth from the Law without using the word law, then it is listed.

Yes, these verses are quoted, and not in story form or a narrative. But I believe verses quotes thematically can reveal a pattern.

The NET is used here, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to see other translations, please go to Italics and bold fonts have been added.

1.. The law is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual and should be upheld in certain circumstances.

31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (Rom. 3:31, NIV)

12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Rom. 7:12, NIV)

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin … I agree that the law is good.  (Rom. 7:14, 16, NIV)

4 … In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:4, NIV)

8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. (1 Tim.1:8, NIV)

In those verses, the law is upheld in the right way: to reveal our sin and condemnation and our need from deliverance from them. We are no longer under the power of sin and condemnation.

2.. The Gentiles without the law of Moses have natural law written on their hearts.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) (Rom. 2:12, 14-15, NIV)

3.. The law of Moses subjects Jews to strict requirements and judgment.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Rom. 2:12-13, NIV)

See also:

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relationship to God 18 and know his will and approve the superior things because you receive instruction from the law, 19 and if you are convinced that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an  educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the essential features of knowledge and of the truth— 21 therefore  you who teach someone else, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You  who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! 24 For just as it is written, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom. 2:17-24)

Here is another one:

Just as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not left us descendants,

we would have become like Sodom,

and we would have resembled Gomorrah.” (Rom. 9:31)

4.. The law is purposed to restrain societal sin and crime

8 But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately, 9 realizing that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who  kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 sexually immoral people, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers—in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching. (1 Tim. 1:9-10)

5.. However, the law increases or heightens sin and brings wrath.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Rom 3:19-20, NIV)

20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. (Rom. 5:20, NIV)

5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. (Rom. 7:5, NIV)

See also:

For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either (Rom. 4:15)

13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law.  14 Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of  the coming one) transgressed. (Rom. 5:13-14)

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. For apart  from the law, sin is dead. 9 And I was once alive  apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment, sin became alive  10 and I died. So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life  brought  death! 11 For sin,  seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.  12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good. (Rom. 7:7-12)

21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in  the law of God in my inner  being.  23 But I see a different  law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 24 Wretched man  that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through  Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom. 7:21-25)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:1-2)

[…] because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. (Rom. 8:7)

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord,  knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:56)

19 Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the  descendant to whom the promise had been made. It was administered through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one. 21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the scripture imprisoned  everything under sin so that the promise could be given—because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ—to those who believe. (Gal. 3:19-22)

6.. We are released from the law because we died to the law.

19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2:19-21, NIV)

Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law is lord over a person as long as he lives?  2 For a married woman  is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of the marriage. 3 So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she is joined to another man, she is not an adulteress.  4 So, my brothers  and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh,  the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code. (Rom. 7:1-6)

7.. Circumcision, a ritual under the law, is useless without keeping the law.

25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. 28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Rom. 2:25-29, NIV)

 10 How then was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised! 11 And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised, that they too could  have righteousness credited to them. 12 And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed when he was still uncircumcised. (Rom. 4:10-12)

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again  to the yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised,  Christ will be of no benefit to you at all! 3 And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus  neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight—the only thing that matters is faith working through love. (Gal. 5:1-6)

For those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your flesh. 14 But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that matters is a new creation! 16 And all who will behave in accordance with this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:13-15)

8.. Righteousness and justification come apart from the law, but by faith in Christ and by God’s grace, for Jew and Gentile.

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law. (Rom 3:20, NIV)

We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Gal 2:16, NIV)

9 Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Php. 3:9, NIV)

See also:

21 But now[a] apart from the law the righteousness of God (although it is attested by the law and the prophets)[b] has been disclosed— 22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ[c] for all who believe. For there is no distinction, (Rom. 3:21-22)

13 For the promise[v] to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified.[w] 15 For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression[x] either. 16 For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace,[y] with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants—not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham,[z] who is the father of us all (Rom. 4:13-16)

27 Where, then, is boasting?[a] It is excluded! By what principle?[b] Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 28 For we consider that a person[c] is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law.[d] 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! (Rom 3:27-29)

14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! (Rom. 6:14-15)

14 But when I saw that they were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “If you, although you are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you try to force[a] the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We are Jews by birth[b] and not Gentile sinners,[c] 16 yet we know[d] that no one[e] is justified by the works of the law[f] but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.[g] And[h] we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ[i] and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one[j] will be justified.(Gal. 2:14-16)

Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,[m] so then, understand[n] that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.[o] And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time,[p] saying, “All the nations[q] will be blessed in you.”[r] So then those who believe[s] are blessed along with Abraham the believer. 10 For all who[t] rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.”[u] 11 Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith.[v] 12 But the law is not based on faith,[w] but the one who does the works of the law[x] will live by them.[y] (Gal. 3:6-12)

15 Brothers and sisters,[ac] I offer an example from everyday life:[ad] When a covenant[ae] has been ratified,[af] even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant.[ag] Scripture[ah] does not say, “and to the descendants,”[ai] referring to many, but “and to your descendant,”[aj] referring to one, who is Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: The law that came 430 years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God,[ak] so as to invalidate the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise, but God graciously gave[al] it to Abraham through the promise. (Gal. 3:15-18)

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body[x] by human hands— 12 that you were at that time without the Messiah,[y] alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise,[z] having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.[aa] 14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one[ab] and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15 when he nullified[ac] in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man[ad] out of two,[ae] thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.[af] 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18 so that[ag] through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph. 2:11-18)

9.. The law of the Spirit and Christ is contrasted with the old law.

6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Rom. 7:6, NIV)

2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:2-18, NIV)

See also:

For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is by the law: “The one who does these things will live by them.”[e] But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart,[f] ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”[g] (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?[h] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart[i] (that is, the word of faith that we preach), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord[j] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness[k] and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation (Rom. 10:4-10)

To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. (1 Cor. 9:21)

The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law[d] or by believing what you heard?[e] Are you so foolish? Although you began[f] with[g] the Spirit, are you now trying to finish[h] by human effort?[i] Have you suffered so many things for nothing?—if indeed it was for nothing. Does God then give[j] you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law[k] or by your believing what you heard? (Gal. 33:2-5)

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming[z] a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)[aa] 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles,[ab] so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith. (Gal. 3:13-14)

21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not understand the law?[af] 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the[ag] slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 But one, the son by the slave woman, was born by natural descent,[ah] while the other, the son by the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 These things may be treated as an allegory,[ai] for these women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free,[aj] and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

Rejoice, O barren woman who does not bear children;[ak]
break forth and shout, you who have no birth pains,
because the children of the desolate woman are more numerous
than those of the woman who has a husband.”[al] (Gal 4:21-27)

16 But I say, live[ab] by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.[ac] 17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires[ad] that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to[ae] each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal. 5:16-18)

13 For those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your flesh.[x] 14 But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[y] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:13-14)

Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  (Gal. 6:2)

I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee.[i] In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung![j]—that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness[k]—a righteousness from God that is in fact[l] based on Christ’s[m] faithfulness.[n] (Php. 3:5-9)

10.. Christ redeemed us from the law and its curse.

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Gal. 3:13-14, NIV)

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons (Gal. 4:4-5, NIV).

11.. Christ is the end or culmination of the law for everyone who believes.

4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Rom. 10:4, NIV)

3 When we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. (Gal. 4:3-11, NIV)

See also:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.[aa] 14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one[ab] and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15 when he nullified[ac] in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. (Eph. 2:13-15a)

Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you[q] through an empty, deceitful philosophy[r] that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits[s] of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him all the fullness of deity lives[t] in bodily form, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 In him you also were circumcised—not, however,[u] with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal[v] of the fleshly body,[w] that is,[x] through the circumcision done by Christ. 12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your[y] faith in the power[z] of God who raised him from the dead. 13 And even though you were dead in your[aa] transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless[ab] made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. 14 He has destroyed[ac] what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness[ad] expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 Disarming[ae] the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[af]

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days— 17 these are only[ag] the shadow of the things to come, but the reality[ah] is Christ![ai] 18 Let no one who delights in false humility[aj] and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths[ak] about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind.[al] 19 He has not held fast[am] to the head from whom the whole body, supported[an] and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.[ao]

20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits[ap] of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 22 These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are[aq] on human commands and teachings.[ar] 23 Even though they have the appearance of wisdom[as] with their self-imposed worship and humility achieved by an[at] unsparing treatment of the body—a wisdom with no true value—they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.[au(Col. 2:8-23)

12.. Paul uses the law to win those under the law.

20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. (1 Cor. 9:20-21, NIV)

13.. Christian love fulfills the law.

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:8-10, NIV)

14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:14, NIV)

14.. Paul uses the law to clarify church issues and confusion.

8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. (1 Cor. 9:8-10, NIV)

For I do not want you to be unaware,[a] brothers and sisters,[b] that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized[c] into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did. So do not be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”[d] And let us not be immoral, as some of them were, and 23,000 died in a single day.[e] And let us not put Christ[f] to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes.[g] 10 And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel.[h] 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Cor. 10:1-11)

21 It is written in the law: “By people with strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, yet not even in this way will they listen to me,”[j] says the Lord. 22 So then, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.  (1 Cor. 14:21-22)

As in all the churches of the saints,[l] 34 the women[m] should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak.[n] Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 35 If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.[o] (1 Cor. 14:33-35)

But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately, realizing that law[j] is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 sexually immoral people, practicing homosexuals,[k] kidnappers, liars, perjurers—in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching. 11 This[l] accords with the glorious gospel of the blessed God[m] that was entrusted to me.[n(1 Tim. 1:9-11)

15.. The law serves to teach the church who lives in the New Covenant.

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4, NIV, emphasis added)

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11, NIV)

16.. The law refers to Scripture as such.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  (Rom. 3:21, NIV)

21 In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” [Is. 128:11, 12] says the Lord. 22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers. (1 Cor. 14:21-22, NIV)


The Reformers, agreeing that the law is holy and good (no. 6) were correct about the three major purposes of the law:

1.. Show our sin and our need for Christ and for the gospel of grace (nos. 2, 4, 7, and 9);

2.. Restrain societal sin and crime (nos. 1 and 5);

3.. Clarify the will of God for Christians or church issues when confusion comes (nos. 13, 14, and 15).

But the law has other functions too, most major, one minor.

Circumcision is useless if one does not keep the whole law, which no one can do. It is not the sign of the New Covenant (no. 3).

We are released from the law as we follow the Spirit (no. 8).

Christ redeems us from the law and its curse (no. 10). He is the end or culmination of the law.

Paul uses the law to win those under the law, so this purpose is outreach, not church governance or policy (no. 12).

The minor use is that the law can refer to all of Scripture (no. 16).

Paul does not bring back the sacrificial system and other the ritual aspects. Christ fulfilled them by his death on the cross. And Paul does not re-institute the death penalty for sins like adultery and homosexuality. Christ took this penalty on himself while he was on the cross.

How does this post help me in my walk with God?

I believe the biggest contrast with the law is life in the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit, and the fruit will grow naturally without dead efforts or dead works from you; right living will happen without the law.

Closing verses:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23, NIV)


How Jesus Christ Fulfills the Law: Matthew 5:17-19

How Christians Should Interpret the Old Testament

Law in the Epistle to the Romans

Law versus Grace

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