ESSENTIAL TRUTHS - THE THREEFOLD USE OF THE LAW

Is the Law of God Useful Today?

 

“The Reformation was founded on grace and not upon law. Yet the law of God was not repudiated by the Reformers. John Calvin, for example, promoted what has become known as the ‘Threefold Use of the Law’ in order to show the importance of the law for the Christian life.”

(R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, p.198)

 

The three uses of the law are as follows:

 

    1. The law of God acts as a mirror, which reflects the perfect righteousness and holiness of God. As we look into this mirror, our sinfulness is illuminated. The law highlights our sin, sin’s depth in our lives, and our inability to keep the law ourselves. Seeing our weakness, we are to seek the strength found in our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

 

    2. The law of God restrains sin. Calvin says this purpose is “by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice” (Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:307). As an example, you may slow down to the posted speed limit if you spot a police cruiser, even though your inclination is to speed, and you would speed if they weren’t there. In the same way, the law (and its threat of punishment) restrains sin.

 

   3. The law of God reveals how to please Him. God declares what pleases Him in His law for us. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (ESV). The law directs us in how to honour and glorify God.

 

As we grow in the Christian faith, our desire to obey God’s moral law should increase. “The moral law that God reveals in Scripture is always binding upon us. Our redemption is from the curse of God’s law, not from our duty to obey it. We are justified, not because of our obedience to the law, but in order that we may become obedient to God’s law. To love Christ is to keep His commandments. To love God is to obey His law.” (R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, p.199)

 

For further study:

Calvin, John, Institutes of The Christian Religion Book II

RC Sproul - Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

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