1 Timothy 1.8
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully…
The question may arise to some: Since Christ has come and taught us to love, and the Spirit dwells in us, enabling us to love, what use, really, is the Law of God?
This is an important question, and its answer has many important facets. So we’ll take our time and try to be as thorough as possible in answering.
We should note, first of all, that Paul says the Law is good if one uses it lawfully.
This suggests that there are unlawful uses of the Law, and it would seem to be a good idea to consider these first. We must use the Law lawfully if want to realize the benefits it offers (Lev. 18.1-5; Rom. 7.12). But, we must first make up our minds to use the Law, which would be, for many contemporary Christians, a new experience.
The words of evangelical theologian Lawrence Richards are never very far from my mind as I think about the uses of the Law of God. In one of his popular books from the early ‘70s, Richards asked the question, “What, then, is the Christian’s relationship to the law?” He answered: “The Christian has no relationship to the law…For the Christian the law is a dead and a useless thing.”
Now a good many Christians are relieved to hear this. They live under grace, not under law, and they want to be free from any such clear and unambiguous moral instruction as is revealed in the Law of God. They prefer to be led of the Spirit, as they would say, and consider all to be “legalists” who believe the Law of God to have valid uses for the life of faith. They have no use for the Law.
But Paul clearly says the Law is good when we use it lawfully. Dr. Richards must be wrong to insist that the Law is a useless thing – a thing without use. The challenge is to understand the right uses of the Law, and to use it for the holy and righteous and good purposes of God.
Not to use the Law of God is thus unlawful. Not using the Law of God is therefore not a good thing.