One thing you quickly discover when studying the Ten Commandments is no one can actually keep them. Nobody. What, then, is the purpose of God’s Law? When viewed from a human standpoint, it seems cruel that God would put a standard in place that no one could ever hope to attain. The game seems rigged to assure our doom.
Because our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, disobeyed the Lord, their sin has permeated all of creation until this day. We are born into that sin, infected by it, and hopeless to recover from its devastating consequences. It is this sin that keeps us from being able to keep God’s laws. We’re lost and in desperate need of a solution.
When we look at God’s Law, we see His holiness revealed. We see what a life lived in devotion to Him would look like. I don’t know about you, but thinking about the kind of man I would be if I perfectly kept all Ten Commandments throughout my life is exciting. When I read the standard God has set for us, it motivates me to live more in line with His desires, because I know doing that will draw me closer to Him. That is the desire of my life and the greatest joy I can imagine. Rather than discouraging us, God’s Law can and should motivate us to be more like Him.
There are days, however, when I mess up so badly that those same commandments convict and devastate me. Like Paul, I seem to only do those things I don’t want to do and never do the things I know I should (Romans 7:15). No one wants to live like that. Even in those dark times, the Law reveals the holiness of God. When we see how short we fall in meeting His standard, it reminds us how awesome and holy our God is. The Law shows us there is no God like our God (1 Samuel 2:2).
As we recognize how holy God is and how sinful we are, we begin to understand the purpose of God’s Law. It is a mirror to reveal our condition and a light to illuminate the perfection of our King. There is an unsurmountable gap between who we are and who He is. There is no way we can become the people He created us to be on our own. As much as we desire to keep His commandments, our inherited and nurtured sin keeps that from being possible. It becomes an impossible dream.
The purpose of God’s Law is to show us that without a Savior, without someone covering all our sins and shame, we are helpless, guilty, and condemned. The purpose of God’s law is to reveal our desperate need for Jesus. Without Him, we have no hope. Within Him, however, we find the gift of eternal life, a life free from the curse and bondage of sin, and a life spent forever in His presence. We know that the Law of God convicts us of our sins, but the grace of God provides a reprieve. If we will surrender our lives to Jesus and make Him the Lord of our life, the death and resurrection of His Son will redeem us from our guilt. The purpose of God’s law is not ultimately to condemn. The purpose of God’s Law is to drive us into the arms of God’s Son.