The law in the Christian life


Please turn to 1 Timothy 1:6-11. In this passage, Paul is addressing the proper use of the law in the Christian life. There were people who claimed to be expert teachers of the Mosaic Law, and especially the moral law of the Decalogue. However, these false teachers were teaching certain things about the moral law which contradicted Paul's preaching of the gospel. And so, Paul is warning Timothy, and the church in Ephesus, about their false teaching. As such, he is positively setting forth the proper understanding of the law. In relation, Paul is reminding us that the gospel is the measure of all teaching as to whether it is sound. This passage can easily be divided into three sections. First, in verses 6-7, Paul speaks of the misunderstanding of the law that was being propagated by these false teachers. Then, in verses 8-10, he speaks of the true nature and function of the law. Finally, in verse 11, he reminds us that the gospel itself is the measure of sound teaching.


I. False Teaching Fails to Edify the People of God.


In verses 6-7, Paul tells us that we must be on guard for misunderstandings about the role of the law in the Christian life. His great point in these two verses is that false teaching always fails to edify the people of God. In verse 5, Paul says, “The goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In other words, Paul is saying that the goal of our teaching is to edify the people of God so that they will not simply know more things, but so that their lives would be transformed from the inside out. The goal of our instruction is that believers would love God, love one another, love their neighbor, and even love their enemies from a heart made clean by the work of the Holy Spirit and by the regenerating work of the Lord Jesus Christ with a good conscience and a sincere faith because the practical manifestation of love is the supreme expression of the grace of the Spirit in the life of a believer. 

In verse 6, Paul says, “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion.”  Notice the contrast between verses 5 and 6. Fruitfulness — love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith; fruitless — they speculate, and they talk about things that they do not really understand. Thus, Paul is saying that the mark of these false teachers is they are not really edifying the people of God. They are not turning the people of God into those who love God more, and who love one another more, and who love their neighbors faithfully in accordance with God's Word. Paul explains that these men want to be thought of as experts on the law. But they do not really understand the law. And Paul says they show that in both their life and their teaching. In verse 7, he says all you have to do is listen to them to know that they do not know very much about the law of God. Therefore, Paul's message is that only the sound teaching of the gospel can edify the people of God. 


II. False Teaching Misunderstands the Nature and Use of the Law. 


In verses 8-10, Paul explains the true nature and function of the law. In verse 8, Paul says that “the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” False teaching misunderstands what the law is and how it works. Those who see the law by itself as the solution to the problem of our unrighteousness, those who think that the law itself, by our obeying of it, can make us right with God, are deluded. That is legalism. And Paul is rejecting that teaching. Instead, Paul explains that the true nature and function of the law is to restrain sin and convict us of sin. Therefore, it cannot be the answer to the problem of sin. The law is there because of the problem of sin, not as the final answer to the problem of sin. The final answer to the problem of sin is the gospel. It is the person and work of Jesus Christ, in His life and death and resurrection on our behalf, and our embrace of that truth by faith. That is the good news that deals with sin. True biblical teaching does not mistake the nature and use of the law. The law also serves as a guide in the life of a believer who has been changed by the grace of God, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified by God's grace, and is being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It shows us what true righteousness looks like. But it cannot save us. However, these false teachers do not understand that truth. Therefore, Paul points out here how false teaching misunderstands the true nature and use of the law.


III. The Gospel is the Measure of the Soundness of All Teaching. 


In verse 11, Paul explains to us how the gospel itself is the measure of soundness in all teaching. From the end of verse 10 through verse 11, Paul says “and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” He is saying that wholesome teaching is always in accord with the good news that displays God's glory, because it is that message alone that reveals God in all the fullness of His blessings. In Romans, chapter one, Paul tells us that every human being on this planet knows right from wrong and that God is going to judge sin. However, the gospel tells us that God is not only just, but that He is merciful and that He will show grace to those who repent and trust in His own Son. And even though God is just in all His judgments, He will show mercy to those who flee to Jesus Christ. The gospel is the essence of the saving good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ, especially in His death and resurrection, and what that does for our sin, and how it answers to our need in our sin for forgiveness and for cleansing. If someone comes and says, “obey the law and God will save you,” that person does not understand the law or the gospel. But when someone comes and says “trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel, and live as someone who has been freed from sin by the power of the gospel, and then live in accordance with the law,” that person understands both the gospel and the law. May God, by the grace of His Spirit, grant us an understanding of His Word and help us to live in accordance with His Word.