The Purpose of the Law
What does the Bible teach about the purpose of the law?
The entire content of the Scripture of God can be rightly divided into two parts:
- commandments — Law, and
- promises — Gospel
The basic distinction is straightforward: The Law tells us what we ought to do; the Gospel tells us what God has done.
The Law, with its “you must’s” and “you must not’s," both define the universal standard of divine goodness and reveal human weakness. It typically does its work of accusation in the form of a commandment attached to a condition. “If you do/are ________, then you will __________.”
God’s Law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, reflects God’s perfect expectations for us. Any infraction is a serious offense to God punishable by eternal death.
Every single law we break proves our unworthiness and earns us eternal punishment. Because God’s standard is perfection, breaking even a single commandment is the same as breaking the whole law. This means that even one sin is enough to damn us.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
What does Mormonism teach about the purpose of the law?
Mormonism teaches that God would never give us commands that we could not keep. The Law was given so that humans could prove worthiness by following it. Therefore, every law a person keeps increases their worthiness. Obedience is how humans make progress in the process of eternal life.
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated — and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21
The Ten Commandments are eternal gospel principles that are necessary for our exaltation.
The Ten Commandments are a vital part of the gospel. Obedience to these commandments paves the way for obedience to other gospel principles.
Gospel Topics Essays: Ten Commandments
At first glance...
Perhaps at first glance, Mormonism’s view of the law and consequences might feel more manageable. However, God’s standard of perfection hasn’t changed. In Mormonism, humans themselves must still progress to perfection to live eternally with Heavenly Father.
Stop talking past each other. Gain a better understanding of the words that are unique to Mormonism and the differences of shared terms between Mormonism and Christianity.
Why this Matters
Mormons view the Law as a way to gain God’s favor. However, earning favor by good behavior is impossible because we would have to keep ALL of his commandments perfectly. Instead, God gave his Law as a mirror to show us our sins.
One can only believe they are making progress in keeping the whole of God’s Law by changing it and watering it down so that obedience seems possible. Unfortunately, such rationalization of sin gives a false sense of achievement and eliminates the need for a substitutionary Savior. The Bible teaches that those who try to justify themselves by the Law have severed themselves from Christ and have fallen away from grace.
We cannot cleanse ourselves by trying to keep the commandments. That is not their intent. They are only diagnostic tools. Instead, we use them in the way God intended and then apply the only God-given cure by forsaking all trust in our own works and putting all our trust in what Jesus has already done for us.
It is shocking to see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Law and observe 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.
Romans 7:1 – 8:4
1 John 1:7
God has given us the law so that we can see our sin and will turn to him for salvation.
Mormonism teaches that God has given the law so that humans can prove worthiness by following it.