Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. (Gal 3:19 NIV)
The law has a preliminary meaning. St. Paul emphasizes that in more than one place. To the Romans he writes: Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4 NIV)He has fulfilled the law and has thus set its goal. These words seem to stand in somewhat stark contrast to the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded by the synoptic gospels: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Mat 24:35 NIV) This holds true especially of his word in the Old Testament. Furthermore Jesus Christ confirms that he did not come to suspend or cancel the law or the prophets, but rather to fulfil them – and whoever does this against his express command will be the least in God’s kingdom: For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Mat 5:18-19 NIV)
Is this not a stark contradiction as pointed out above already? Not in the least! The divine law remains valid as God’s holy determination for us throughout the ages. We are subject to this law as God’s creatures and people of his Church and calling. Even at Sinai God already had both a short- and a long-term purpose – a temporary one and a permanent one. Giving life, sharing justification and creating blessed salvation – that’s not part of the law’s occupations and benefits. Rather it is to reveal God’s most holy and binding will for us throughout the changing times and seasons. This is a lasting purpose of the law. Besides that there is also the purpose of letting all people know, that there is no other way to salvation than faith in the gracious promises of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The Law of God is good and wise And sets His will before our eyes, Shows us the way of righteousness, And dooms to death when we transgress.
Its light of holiness imparts The knowledge of our sinful hearts That we may see our lost estate And turn from sin before too late.
To those who help in Christ have found And would in works of love abound It shows what deeds are His delight And should be done as good and right.
But those who scornfully disdain God’s Law shall then in sin remain; Its terror in their ear resounds And keeps their wickedness in bounds.
The Law is good; but since the fall Its holiness condemns us all; It dooms us for our sin to die And has no pow’r to justify.
To Jesus we for refuge flee, Who from the curse has set us free, And humbly worship at His throne, Saved by His grace through faith alone.
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Wednesday after the thirteenth Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 309 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.