Title: What do we know about the Law?
Text: 1 Timothy 1.8-11
What do we know about the Law?
The answer is honestly…very little. And, what we do know about the law we often times don’t really understand. Or, we misuse it.
When one thinks about the law, that person usually thinks of it in negative terms. But the Bible doesn’t refer to the law in negative terms. Not really… consider:
Does this sound familiar:
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Or this one:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
If you read Psalm 119 regularly, you might be familiar with this one: 97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Do we just throw out the Law as Christians? I mean, it is the Old Testament, right?
No! Because, the law does some truly wonderful work for us. Listen to what Paul writes in Galatians.
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
So, we can’t gain righteousness through the Law, but it still serves a purpose. We recently made our way through Romans 8. And the theme there was that we weren’t to live by the law anymore, but rather by the Spirit, whom God has given us when we become Christians.
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.
And just how did he do that? We continue in Romans 8: By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We’re in 1 Tim 1. We’ve only just begun our study in 1st Timothy. Paul writes this letter for Timothy to encourage him to take a strong stand against false teachers. That is clear in v3-4; In v5-7 we are reminded, as we consider the law, of what the goal is supposed to be. Rd v 5; Love! Love.
Don’t forget that. It is so easy to do! Maybe people start off with love in mind, but it quickly disintegrates into anger and bitterness and defensiveness. It becomes a goal of winning an argument and being right.
Ill.: I remember after seminary learning about the Catholic Church and finding some truly wonderful practices about the Catholic Church. I met Father Dan Crawford, an Episcopalian Priest, who mentored me. It seemed to me that seminary training for me was more about what they did wrong and why the Reformation was launched. I knew about our differences, but not anything about what we hold in common. For me, it felt so much about being able to defend our differences and to win an argument if I debated someone who is Catholic or Episcopalian or Pentecostal. Maybe we need to stop being so argumentative and we need to start listening more.
Here’s where I’m going with this:
- There are some people we feel comfortable worshiping with because they are just like us.
- There are some people we wouldn’t feel comfortable worshiping with because they’re different.
- But there are some people who are so different, that we would say, “That isn’t even Christian.”
But, in every instance, this isn’t about winning arguments. It isn’t about debates. Paul reminds us here: it is all about love.
Certain men, teachers of the law, did not have love as their motive. 1 Timothy 6.3-10 tells us their goal was to get rich. They taught certain aspects of the law from Speculation and not true knowledge and experience. And so we pick up in v8 of 1st Timothy 1. It is like Paul is saying: it isn’t that the law is bad… Really? So, what do we know about the Law? Well, Paul presents three facts about the law that I would like to spend the rest of the morning inspecting. First, we know that
I. The Law is Good (8)
exp.: and we see that clearly communicated in v 8; rd v 8; how is it that? We see what looks to be a conditional clause: it is good if one uses it lawfully. So, you can use the law in an unlawful way. And I think that is what v6-7 is all about: 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these (i.e., a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith), have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
Using the law in an unlawful manner means to make confident assertions about the law that are false. It means using the law for ill-gotten gain. Using the law in an unlawful manner means leaving love out of the equation. It means being ‘right’ in a debate. It means using others to get what you want.
Ill.: There are different types of arguments and I’m not sure any of them are good to engage in. We have speech and debate; I’m not talking about those types of things. I’m talking about the casual conversations you have with your workers, friends, and acquaintances. If you argue and push until you win – you might lose the battle of trying to win them to Christ. If something is heretical, yes, you should shed light on that. But again, what is your goal – to show how stupid they are? Or, is your goal love and you want to help that person. Those are two very different things.
app.: I shudder to think of my behavior in the past when I was quick to defend a belief or something I disagreed with. Paul establishes for us that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught because the Law is good. So, don’t be afraid of it. Instead – look for Christ in it.
t.s.: Which brings us to Paul’s next fact… The law also has purpose.
II. The Law has Purpose (9-10)
exp.: rd v 9a: 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just (or righteous), but for the unjust or the unrighteous; and he outlines them; read them; rd v9-10;
I want you to note that these echo or parallel the 10 commandments; you might consider these a commentary by Paul on the 10 Commandments; (the first three pair follow the 1st part of the Decalogue) lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane,; (the rest of the list, the 2nd part of the Decalogue) for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine;
thou shall honor your father & mother; thou shall not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery, enslavers is lit.: ‘manstealer’ it is used to describe someone who steals people and sells them; liars – bearing false witness;
Transition: Paul moves through the purpose and goodness of the Law and shares with Timothy that their newfound Faith in Christ doesn’t go against the Law;
The law has purpose – it shows us what a life in Christ is like.
Ill.: Listen to John Piper as he uses Galatians 3.19-25 to explain this text: So the law, Paul says, is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious. This sounds very much like Galatians 3:19. Paul asks, “Why the Law then?” Why was it added 430 years after Abraham was justified by faith? He answers, “It was added because of transgressions.” He does not say that it was added because of righteousness. It was added because of these kinds of things we read in this list in 1 Timothy 1:9-10. The law had a special role to play in setting a rigorous, detailed standard of behavior which functioned, Paul said, to hold people imprisoned (Galatians 3:22) or under a guardian or tutor (Galatians 3:24) until Christ came and justification by faith could be focused on him. The law commanded and condemned, and pointed to a Redeemer who was to come. Then Paul says, in Galatians 3:25, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
app.: So, it parallels the 10 Commandments and 2nd, it points us to Christ. Paul wants to establish that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught because the Law is good. Its purpose is to demonstrate life and to point to the one who was to come. It shows us our need for Christ; It shows us our sinfulness and our sin; it shows us our need for forgiveness;
t.s.: which brings us to this 3rd fact of Paul’s in what do we know about the Law? We know that (1) the law is good and we know that (2) the law has purpose. And, (3) we know that…
III. The Law & the Gospel are in One Accord (11)
exp.: v 11; in accordance with the Gospel; that’s pretty clear; I think the converse would be true then: if you find something in the law and it doesn’t line up with the Gospel, then there is something wrong with the Gospel you’re teaching. That’s a bold statement. Am I off here? Think about this for a moment – let that sink in: if you’re teaching something from the law and it doesn’t line up with the Gospel – then there something wrong with the Gospel you’re teaching. You’re not teaching Paul’s Gospel. You’re teaching a false Gospel. The whole phrase, the Gospel of the glory is used only one other place in Scripture: 2 Cor 4.4 – 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
ill.: If you come across a teaching that declares you can be unfaithful to your wife. That is a false gospel. If you come across a teaching that insists you can steal something because you’re entitled to it. That’s a false gospel. If you hear a teacher proclaim that God wants to give you the abundance of riches and he or she declares that to be financial riches – that’s a false gospel.
app.: The Gospel is quite clear – and the law is in accordance with it. That is just one of the facts we know about the Law: 1. It is good; 2. It has purpose and 3. It is in accordance with the Gospel.
Conclusion: In 1945 the USS Indianapolis what’s sailing in the Pacific. On one particular run, the Indianapolis sustained significant damage from a Japanese Kamikaze – a plane that uses itself as a bomb. The ship limped into an island and made what repairs she could. But, the damage was significant enough that the Indianapolis was then forced to return to San Francisco for major repairs.
In 1945, many Americans believed the War was coming to an end. All indications were that was the case. Because of this, Lt. Commander John Emery used his position to pull some strings and get his son, William Friend Henry stationed to the USS Indianapolis at San Francisco. The Lt. Commander thought his son would be safe there. He thought his son would stay there in dry dock while repairs were being made. And, then, she would probably never head back out to war – the war would be over and his son would be alive. So, using his rank and his relationships with his powerful friends, he got his son transferred to Indy.
But a need arose. The powers that be needed a ship to transfer the atomic bomb to Guam. The USS Indianapolis was in a perfect place to become the ship that would transfer ‘the bomb’ – The atomic bomb that would be loaded onto the Enola Gay and then flown to Japan, where it was dropped on Hiroshima.
It was after this transfer at Guam that the Indianapolis was sent to the Philippines for some training exercises. The crew thought they were safe. Laziness and inaction by others gave the Captain of the Indianapolis a sense that they were safe. Lt. Commander John Emery thought they were safe – he thought his son was safe, but as you know – if you’ve ever seen the movie Jaws – you know it was torpedoed and sank. You know that most of the men on board that ship were killed. In an effort to save his son, the actions Lt. Commander Emery took actually brought about the death of his son.
There is another story about a Father whose actions brought about the death of his son. But this father wasn’t acting to save his son. The actions he took were intentional. He was acting to save you and me. God sent his Son, Jesus to die on the Cross of Calvary and to pay the penalty of sins for you and for me. You see, that’s the Gospel. Talk about love as the goal: that’s the Gospel.
Paul wants to establish that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught, because:
- The Law is good.
- It shows us our need for Christ.
- It is consistent with the Gospel.
- Read the Law – it is good for you. It is a major part of your sanctification. Read a little. Meditate on one verse. Read one chapter a day. Read 5 chapters a day.
- Learn the Law, so that you might learn of Christ’s Character. Remember he said that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He fulfilled it. Perfectly.
- Live the Law – to do so would be to be like Christ. Sure, there are some hard things about the Law, but in reading them, learning them and living them out, there is great reward. Do this, because the Law is good, it has purpose and it is in accordance with the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God.