“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
The law of God resembles a mirror that reveals sin to man, but cannot remove it. God’s law is the standard of right, and whatever fails to comply with the law is sin, for sin is lawlessness or disobedience to law (1 John 3:4). The more one becomes acquainted with the standard, the more he sees his sins (Rom. 7:24). This realization leads the sinner to Christ (Gal. 3:24) for forgiveness and cleansing. The law has no power to justify or save. It can only expose the sinfulness of sin.
Paul reveals the purpose of the law saying “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Galatians 3:19). And the seed is Christ. Justification can be obtained in only one way- through faith in Christ.
Some mistakenly interpreted the above verse to mean that God’s laws of OT ended with Christ. But Paul adds, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid” (Rom. 3:31). Jesus came to this earth to magnify the law (Isa. 42:21; Matt. 5:17) and to reveal by His life of perfect obedience that Christians can, through the empowering grace of God, give obedience to His law. The plan of justification by faith reveals God’s regard for His law in demanding and providing the atoning sacrifice. If justification by faith abolishes law, then there was no need for the atoning death of Christ to release the sinner from his sins, and thus restore him to peace with God.
Real faith, based on wholehearted love for the Savior, can lead only to obedience. We can only hate the sins that inflicted such pain on our Lord and Savior. One of the chief glories of the plan of salvation is that while the plan makes possible the sinner’s justification through faith, it also provides powerful influences to produce in him a desire to obey.
Thus, we can see that the function of law is to convict of sin (v. 20) and to reveal the great standard of righteousness. The law thus leads sinners to Christ and the gospel (Gal. 3:24). Then faith and love bring forth a new obedience to the law of God, the obedience that springs from faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26), the obedience of love (Romans 13:8, 10).
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In His service,