Deuteronomy 5: The Purpose of the Law

This entry is part 100 of 154 in the series 365 Key Chapters of the Bible

The Ten Commandments are not merely a set of rules; they point us to the essence of the gospel. When Moses reviewed the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 for the new generation of Israelites, he was reminding them of the importance of establishing a right relationship with God.

The Purpose of the Law

Despite the prominence of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, Scripture makes it clear that no one can be saved by the law (Romans 3:20). So, what was the purpose of the law for the Israelites?

God intended the law to reveal the sinfulness of humanity and the holiness of God. Because the law dealt not only with external actions but also with the thoughts and intentions of the heart, no one could perfectly keep it. As a result, no one could be saved by works according to the law.

This is true for Christians as well; the law points out our sin before a holy God, reminding us that we cannot save ourselves.

The Foundation of Salvation

Because the law is not a way to earn salvation, this raises a question: How were people in the Old Testament era saved, if they were saved at all?

The key to answering this is knowing that salvation is always based on the work of Christ.

Even Old Testament believers were saved by their faith in Christ. They did not have the full picture of salvation, but they trusted in the promises of God, looking ahead to the Messiah (Hebrews 11:13). They knew that God had called them to Himself; that is why Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:1–3).

No one in the Old Testament was saved by obeying the law; rather, the death of Christ covered their sins, just as it covers the sins of believers after His death. Through Christ, we are no longer under the law.

What are we to do, then, since we are not under the law? Surely it is not God’s intention that we should purposefully choose to break His commandments. On the contrary, when we abide in Christ, we will love God, and we will love others (Romans 6:1–7). We will follow God’s commandments (albeit imperfectly) through the life of Christ in us.

Watch part 100 of the 365 Key Chapters of the Bible series, based on Ken’s Handbook to Scripture

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