The Law is Good

1 Timothy 1:8-11

Paul began letter by identifying particular problem in Ephesus: false-teachers; then instructed Timothy to stop them. In text today and next week DV, Paul takes a couple side-trips, excursions, addressing issue of Law (8-11) and Gospel (12-17).

Paul had issued stinging rebuke not only of false teachers but also results of their teaching. Accused them of doing harm to Christ’s church by diverting followers away from true Gospel, taking people down all sorts of unprofitable rabbit trails. Seems from description here, later on in letters (1 Tim. 4:7; 2 Tim 4:4; Titus 1:14), were using OT and law in particular to teach really wild things. To avoid misunderstanding of what he said, Paul clarifies his position on both Law and Gospel. Criticizing misuse of Law not the same as criticizing the Law, far from it.

Paul communicated 4 essential truths about the law in a single sentence: the law is good; the law declares what is good; the law cannot make one good; the law points out need for one who is good.

Given today’s cultural and political climate, make those kinds of statements in public and response would come out of previous generation: “what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of”.

“Love and law are not opponents but allies, forming together the axis of Christian morality. Law needs love as its drive, else we get the Pharisaism that puts principles before people and says one can be perfectly good without actually loving one’s neighbour. Love needs commandments for its eyes, for love is blind without them. We love people by keeping God’s commands. We are always honest to them, never violent, never stealing what is theirs, never even coveting what they have for ourselves.” Geoff Thomas

A. the law is good v.8a

first, what law

clear from the list which law Paul had in mind: Moral Law God has expected mankind to follow from beginning

written first on hearts of Adam and Eve, part of what it means to be created in image of God

later written by finger of God on stone tablets, given to Moses on Mount Sinai – not new laws, just newly encoded

finally summarized by Lord Jesus – first and second commandments: love God, love neighbor

then, why / how is it good

it came from God – consider character of law-giver

Belgic Confession Art. I – We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good.

observing God’s law has good result

just in practical terms, without taking into account spiritual things

who would you rather have for: neighbor, co-worker, child, president, etc… – law-keeper or lawless person

God’s law, model which all good legal systems are copy, what makes for civilized world in which to live

when good laws are used, not misused; true regardless of immediate source of law – human / divine

B. the law declares what is good v.9-10

two tables (stone tablets)

first covers relationship between mankind and God, creature and Creator, vertical

second addresses relationship between man and man, man and neighbor, horizontal

You shall have no gods but me.

Before no idol bow the knee

Take not the name of God in vain.

Nor dare the Sabbath day profane.

Give both your parents honor due

Take heed that you no murder do.

Abstain from words and deeds unclean.

Nor steal, though you are poor and mean.

Nor make a willful lie, nor love it.

What is your neighbor’s do not covet.

how to know what is good? – a good God has told us, don’t have to sort out by trial / error, not matter of opinion, isn’t up for a vote

from God’s perspective, majority doesn’t get to decide right and wrong, good and evil; matters not how vote turns out on Tuesday, God’s standard still stands

side note: God’s people should cast vote for both individuals and issues according to clear teaching of God’s Word

1st table: lawless and insubordinate, ungodly and sinners, unholy and profane

lawless and insubordinate (rebellious) – those who refuse to recognize or submit to law

ungodly and sinners – those who refuse to recognize or care about God

unholy and profane – those who willingly trample on anything connected with God

breaking 1st four commands: sin against God, antithesis of “love God with all…”

2nd table: for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers (5th), for manslayers (6th), for fornicators and sodomites (7th), for kidnappers (8th), for liars and perjurers (9th), any other thing (10th)

murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers – ultimate sin against parents

manslayers – intentional transgression of injunction against murder

fornicators and sodomites – sexual immorality in form of abuse against those of opposite sex, abuse against those of same sex

kidnappers – worst form of theft: stealing people and selling them, whether racial component or not

liars and perjurers – greatest possible offense against truth: under oath to bear true witness but purposefully give false witness

any other thing – including coveting, all that is sin against neighbor, antithesis of “love your neighbor as yourself”

know everything that isn’t good, what’s left is good; only thing now is to do good; obey the law, all under control. Put 10 commandments back up on school and courthouse walls and everybody will do them. Right??

C. the law cannot make one good v.8b-9a

Wrong!! Law serves to convict wrongdoing, not enable right doing; in fact, incites those in 1st categories to greater evil

tell child “if I catch you doing…”, what happens when you’re not looking

why is that? by nature rebels at heart; holding up law stirs up more rebellion (Rom. 5:20; 7:8) It’s what spawned whole idea of reverse psychology – say opposite of what you want ’cause rebels do opposite anyway.

law shows how far from good sinners really are

we don’t like to hear, be confronted with our badness; don’t like to confront others with it either

tend to soft-pedal when comes to sin and sinners: God loves the sinner but hates the sin

uh-huh, that’s why God sends sin to hell and rebellious sinners get to go to heaven

even most rebellious know some of the truth

there is a God, he has a law, we’ve all broken it and stand condemned before him; that’s really bad news

2 ways to deal:

#1 – deny or attempt to redefine God or his law; lets the sinner off the hook

#2 – accept the truth and let law do its job: drive the sinner to look for some truly good news

D. the law points out need for one who is good v.11

“the glorious gospel of the blessed God” – it’s only good news to someone who’s received bad news

“you’re cancer-free” means little to one who has never had nor is at risk for it

means the most to someone who has come to terms with “you have terminal cancer and there’s nothing we can do”

“you’re forgiven” only means something to a sinner – is especially important for one who has come to same place John Newton (Amazing Grace) did: “Two things I know: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior”.

truth is all sins included in Paul’s list are awful sins

the sorts of things God calls an abomination – what he hates and finds disgusting

they along with anything else God calls sin have one penalty: death (Rom. 6:23), eternal death, and it’s not pretty

Matt. 13:41-42 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

good news is that even those sins can be forgiven

but only by One who is truly good – a suitable substitute

2 Cor. 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Acts 26:18 “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

The law truly is good because if we heed it, it drives us to the one who is good. And not just when we first come to Christ in faith – acknowledging we are hopeless sinners in need of a savior, one who can forgive our sin and deliver us from its power and reconcile us to a holy God. Law is good for the believer – as a rule of life – informing us of what pleases God, telling us how to live in way that is acceptable to him. Gospel is still good news for those who have been reconciled to God: keeps bringing us back to only one who can enable us to love God and neighbor as we ought, forgive us when we fail to do so.

Do you believe Christ died for you, that he found you and threw his loving arms around you? You’ve heard the wondrous story, experienced it’s blessing; now let’s sing it for all the world to hear.


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