Thursday, January 13, 2011

Daily Devotions: Bible Grammar 101: The Three Uses of the Law


Bible Grammar 101: The Three Uses of the Law


1) 4 Q. What does God’s law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22 --- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.

2) Scripture

1 John 5:1-3: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.


We talked about the importance of learning the difference between the law and the gospel (see earlier devotions on Q&A 3). The law shows us our sin and the misery or consequences sin brings. In contrast, the gospel shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the benefits he brings. Learning the difference between the law and gospel is like learning our ABC’s, for it is basic to understanding the Bible.

Another basic teaching which should be a part of our biblical grammar is learning the three uses of God’s law. In school we have to learn the rules of grammar. We learn how to use commas, periods, colons, and semicolons. We learn about nouns, verbs, and pronouns. The three uses of God’s law is a basic truth we have to learn if we want to learn the Bible in order to know and love the Lord and his ways.

What are these three uses or functions of God’s law?

1. The first use is called the civil use. Governments enact laws to restrain people from things like stealing, murder, and lying under oath.

2. The second use is called the pedagogical use. In this use the law shows us our sin and its results. Questions 3-11 of the catechism concentrate on this use of the law. The law functions to show us our sin and our need of a Savior. By pointing to our need of Christ, the law functions like a pedagogue or schoolmaster pointing us to Christ.

3. The third use of the law is what we call the didactic (teaching) use. The law not only shows us our sin, but it also shows us, in Christ, God’s will for our lives. In other words, it shows us how to live a life that pleases our triune God. The law teaches us God’s will in Christ, because we must remember that the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in him. Therefore, Old Testament laws must be seen through the lens of their New Testament fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Discussion: Can you name and describe the three uses or functions of God’s law? Can we apply Old Testament laws directly to us as Christians, or do we first need to consider their fulfillment in Christ and our new situation as those who live in what the apostle calls the “fulfillment of the ages” (1 Cor. 10:11)?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, thank the Father for giving us his commands or laws, so that we can know what pleases him in Christ. Ask the Father to work a love for his will and his Word into your heart as his son or daughter.

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