So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
Working in a school I come into contact with a lot of rules. Schools are particularly good for rules. They seem to have rules for everything. The school that I attended would probably win an award for the most ridiculous rules. There was a blue door that led into the playground from the main building that we were absolutely prohibited from using most of the time. On other occasions we would be allowed to go in one direction through it. Sometimes we would be allowed the other way through. It all got very confusing! Then there were the legendary one way systems that filtered all pupils in the same direction. These systems were at their most ridiculous when you wanted to go to the next classroom which happened to be against the one way system. We were made to walk most of the way around the school in order to go one door down. If we dared attempt to go against the flow, we’d hear the booming voice of our Second Master shouting at us, “NOOOO! YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!” It was these outbursts that led to our Second Master being given the nickname ‘Cardiac Keith’!
We all find ourselves wondering what the purpose of particular rules are from time to time. Christians are not exempt from this. Many is the time I’ve heard Christian brothers and sisters debating the rules of the Old Testament, and whether or not we should pay attention to them. After all, since the time of Christ we have been saved by grace, not by following a set of rules. Surely the Old Testament is consequently of little relevance? This is not the case at all. As Paul explained earlier in his letter to the Romans, “it was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but though the righteousness that comes by faith” (Romans 4:13). If even those devoted figures in the Old Testament were saved by faith and not by following the law it is surely wrong to believe that since Christ’s coming the law is irrelevant because the means of salvation have changed. And if that is the case, perhaps we need to think long and hard about our view of the Old Testament and the law. We certainly need to avoid dismissing it as irrelevant.
As we see in the verse above, Paul had a very high view of the law. He believed that it is ‘holy’. When you think about it, how could it not be? Since God is holy – or holy, holy, holy, even – (Isaiah 6:3), all that comes from him must also be holy. Since the law of the Old Testament came from him, it must be holy. It would be foolish for us to dismiss anything that has come from God, anything that imbues and reflects his character. There must be a significance and a relevance for us today within the law; we simply need to discover what that significance and relevance is.
Paul continues that “the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” The rules laid out in the Old Testament are themselves “righteous,” that is, they are morally perfect. It is righteousness that we find through Christ’s death and resurrection. The law encapsulates God’s perfection since it outlines the way we are to live. Its righteousness exposes our lack of righteousness, since we cannot possibly live up to the requirements it sets out for us. It thus shows us just why and how much we need Christ as our saviour.
This verse concludes with the statement that the commandment is ‘good’. Genesis tells us that God looked at his creation and saw that it was ‘good’ – ‘very good’ even (Genesis 1:31). Since the law is part of God’s creation it follows that it is good. It is good because if comes from God. It is good because it is fit for purpose, that is it is an effective way of revealing our sinfulness. It is good because it is beneficial for us – it highlights just how much we need a saviour.
Whilst some rules and laws might be unnecessary, pointless and irrelevant, God’s law most certainly is not. It is holy, righteous and good. We need it today just as much as those living before Christ did. We must ensure that we do not fall into the trap of declaring it null and void, but rather make sure that we study it carefully. A thorough knowledge of the law will drive us into Christ’s arms and deepen our relationship with him.