What are the Three Uses of the Law?

The Old Testament law is mysteries and difficult for us to understand at times. Since we are so far removed from the time of the Patriarchs and are more closely related to the New Testament church, we may have a tendency to write the law off altogether. Before we do that, however, it is important we understand the law’s purpose or uses. Most theologians agree that the law has three uses.

What are the Three Uses of the Law?

(1) Restrain sin (Rom 7:7; Ps 19:13)

Like a locked door, the law was supposed to keep sin from running rampant by setting boundaries that weren’t supposed to be crossed. Certainly, this use more closely relates to Old Testament Israel. God’s law was meant to make them distinct and it was to make a way for them to live in relation with Him.

(2) Reveal sin (Rom 3:19–20; Gal 3:24)

Like a mirror the law was supposed to reveal how sinful we are, helping us to see that we can’t save ourselves. In this way, the law points us to our need for a Savior.

While the first use is more closely related to Old Testament Israel, it seems this use has value today as well. We are all sinners who need to understand the depths of our depravity so that we will see our need for a Savior.

(3) Guide to living (Rom 13:8–10)

Like a rule or guide, the law is supposed to show us how to live in a way that pleases God.

Certainly, this use is both applicable to the saints of old and us as well. We all need to know and understand who God is and how He would have us live.

Question for Reflection

  1. What do you think? Do you agree the law has three uses?



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