Why We Preach the Law

There was an old interview that Joel Osteen did–I think it might’ve been with Oprah–where he was responding to criticism that he doesn’t preach enough, or at all, on sin. The citation escapes me, but he said something like, “You know, I want to encourage people. I want to make them feel better. People already know they’re bad. I don’t want to make it worse.” There is, of course, a problem with his statement: it goes against the very fabric of the Bible. Most people do not know they are bad. The Bible is crystal clear on that.

This is why we preach the Law when sharing the gospel. We preach the Law–the Ten Commandments–to hopefully prick the conscience of the unbeliever. The point is not to bash them with our Bibles, but for God to break their stony hearts with the Law and point them to the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

The Law, which can be summed up in the Ten Commandments, is God’s holy and righteous standard. If we do not meet the standard of the Ten Commandments, we will go to Hell–to put it bluntly. You may say that is impossible. Yes, apart from Jesus Christ, it is. That is why Jesus came. Jesus fulfilled God’s holy and righteous law perfectly so that all who trust in His finished work may have His righteousness credited to their account (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Something happens, though, and it’s discouraging to see. Humans lower God’s standard and elevate the goodness of man. Not only do we blaspheme God by lowering His standard of righteousness, but we swell up with pride in thinking we are better than we truly are. You see, we don’t know how bad we are. We can’t or won’t admit it. That’s why the Law needs preached.

Since we’ve addressed the background of the problem, let’s go into more practical things. How do we show people that they are bad–even wicked–in God’s eyes? We ask them four questions that, by the grace of God, could possibly enable them to admit where they’ve gone wrong:

  • Have you ever lied?
  • Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of its value?
  • Have you ever said God’s name in vain?
  • Have you ever looked with lust?

These questions will make even the most hardened sinner ponder the depths of how far their sin goes. It causes many to reflect on how they judge themselves, which is good. Some will deflect and say being guilty of any of the four questions simply makes one normal. This is true, and it’s also the reason why things are so wrong with us. It’s normal for us to act these ways. It’s normal to lie, steal, say God’s name in vain, and look with lust. That’s why we need Jesus!

When you preach the law, you don’t stop there. That would be legalism. It would be a cold religion of dos and don’ts. That is not good news. No, you keep going. You keep going until you reach the part about Christ absorbing all our sin on the cross. That is the good news.

This is why we preach the Law–for people to be shown their sin, admit where they’ve gone wrong, and make a beeline for the cross! If we don’t preach the Law, people will not understand why they need saving. There must be a problem before there is a solution, and the Law exposes the problem and Jesus is the solution.

Friends, the Law is good (Romans 7:12). It’s there to show us our sin. It’s there to show us that, yes, there is a perfect standard of righteousness we must live up to, and that’s when we make a mad dash for Jesus Christ, who is our righteousness. Let’s not shy away from preaching the Law but simply make sure we get to the heart of the gospel after: the cross where Jesus bore our sin.

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