Sermon – January 28, 2018
Why, if the promise is central to all of Scripture, and therefore the law cannot change or amend it, did God give the law? Or, perhaps a more relevant question for us today, what good is the law? Why should we take our time and read carefully through Leviticus, if Leviticus is not how we come to know God and his blessings? Today we address these questions, as Paul seeks to demonstrate why God gave the law to his people.
The law points to Christ’s provision
The law was provided to the nation of Israel to deal with sin. This provision can mean many things, but here it is likely that Paul was drawing attention to the sacrificial nature of the law. But the law’s provision of atonement was limited and insufficient. These very limitations of the law demonstrate the importance of full and true atonement, without providing them. Thus, the law points to the provision of that redemption in the coming Christ.
2. The law points to Christ’s presence
The law was brought to the people of Israel first by angels, who handed it off to Moses. This, perhaps, seems like a small historical fact, but for Paul it says something very fundamental about the law: it lacks the immediacy of God that is provided in Christ. God’s presence would be in the holy-of-holies, but people had no real access to that presence. Now, in Christ, God’s full one-ness can be communicated to us without mediation in Jesus Christ, his son, who is very God of very God.
3. The law points to Christ’s power
The law cannot make you alive; but the power of Christ can. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). The law has no power over sin, so Christ alone can free you from that power, and give the promise freely to those who believe.
4. The law points to Christ’s purpose
We can come to all kinds of conclusions about why Christ has come. Perhaps he is a therapist for our needs, a blessing for our lack, a teacher for our knowledge, a politician for our society. Yes, Christ is all of these, but he is only effective in these roles because he has come to take away our sin. Christ has come first and foremost to redeem a people from the power of sin. Reading the law well helps to keep our focus on the true purpose for Christ’s advent: securing atonement for his people.
God has indeed given the law for good reasons and purposes. Let us read it with eyes that look forward to Christ, in expectation, that he might meet all our needs. Not just those that we feel, but those that the law itself highlights: we are sinners, and we need redemption. That redemption is found only in Christ Jesus the Lord.