Lesson 5: A Humanitarian by Giving the Law

Study Guide Pages 34-41

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Think of how different doctoring was before the invention of the X-ray. There was no way a doctor could see what was happening inside somebody. Now we have a vast array of such diagnostic tools from ultra-sounds to MRI’s.

These are especially vital when patients don’t realize that anything is wrong with them. Like the people who go in for a routine checkup only to discover they have a tumor. On the one hand, they are shocked. On the other hand, especially if the tumor is treatable, they are so thankful to discover it before it progressed any further.

Sometimes one of the best things that can happen to us is having a serious problem identified.

This is exactly what God does for us with his commandments. They are his diagnostic tools to uncover the sin within us. Many people, however, think God gave them as a way to save themselves. Some have compared each commandment to a rung on a ladder. As you keep each one, you climb up the ladder closer to God.

But this isn’t how God talks about them. He said, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) Law is just another term for the commandments. What do they do? They make us aware of our sin. Just like an X-ray reveals what is inside of us, so does God’s commandments. Even though we might look spiritually healthy on the outside, they expose how much sin has infected us. They reveal lustful passions, greedy thoughts, hatred, envy – the list goes on and on. Jesus said,

“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man.”

Matthew 15:19

It’s shocking to see our spiritual X-ray and how much sin has infected us. But it’s so important – especially because God has given us the cure, namely Jesus. Scripture says he is the only antidote for sin. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Friends, don’t try to cleanse yourself by trying to keep the commandments. That is not their intent. They are only diagnostic tools. Instead, use them in the way God intended. And then apply the only God-given cure, Jesus Christ. Do that by forsaking all trust in your works and putting all your trust in what Jesus has already done for you.

Key Bible Verses

The Apostle Paul explains the proper purpose of the commandments, the law.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20

Jesus describes to his disciples the true nature and extent of our sinfulness. Jesus helps us see that the commandments are much harder to keep than we might initially think. As he diagnosis it, sin is first and foremost a matter of the heart.

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man.

Matthew 15:18-20


Questions to Consider

  1. How is the primary purpose of God’s commandments similar to that of an x-ray?
  2. Why can’t God’s commandments save us?
  3. In addition to the “ladder approach,” can you think of other common approaches taken in attempts to live up to the requirements of God’s commandments?
  4. Why are we so often reluctant to admit our sinfulness to God and other humans?
  5. How does what Jesus says about sin in Matthew 15:18-20 make you feel at first? Now think about the fact that God knows everything your heart has ever thought and still loves you. How does that make you feel?
  6. Unlike many cures, which are only available to some people and only successful part of the time, the remedy God provides is universally accessible and always effective. What else makes this cure for sin the best gift ever given?
  7. What does God’s willingness to diagnose our sinfulness show us the loving, giving God we have?

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