If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you likely heard that the purpose of the law was to show us how sinful we are. Once this realization sets in, we accept Christ as Savior and are good to go. But what does God say the purpose of His law is?
Deut 4:6-7 says (regarding God’s laws and rulings), “Therefore, observe them; and follow them; for then all peoples will see you as having wisdom and understanding. When they hear of all these laws, they will say, ‘This great nation is surely a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God as close to them as Adonai our God is, whenever we call on him?”
When I read this, I hear God saying that the purpose of His law, His Torah, is:
- to fill His people with wisdom and understanding, righteousness and justice
- to cause the nations to look on, be amazed, and want in on this relationship.
Jesus tells us the same thing in Matthew 5 – that we are the salt of the land and the light for the world. He calls us to be perfect like Him so that the world may see our good works and praise God in heaven.
Moses, in Deut 4:5, says that he taught the laws and rulings just as God ordered, so the people of God will know how to behave. God, through Moses, asks, “What great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”
For instance, did you know that the law instructs us not to go along with the crowd, not to judge unfairly in favor of the wealthy, nor should we go to the other extreme and judge in favor of the poor out of pity? I believe James had these portions of the law in mind when he wrote, “if you show partiality, you are committing sin.”
Those of us who were not raised in Judaism have long misunderstood the purpose of Torah (the law). Torah is God’s laws and rulings that – as we live in obedience – set us apart from the world, attract people to their Creator and testify to the righteousness, justice, wisdom and understanding of our God and King.