Time Prescribes Moses

An interesting article in Time magazine:

How Moses Shaped America

The central theme is this idea that “law brings freedom.” And in the civil sphere, that’s true to a point. Law enables sinful human beings to live together by restraining their worst impulses. A good analogy is trying to play football or hockey without any rules – the game is no fun and little is accomplished until the rules are observed.

Yet the author of this article misses the bigger point of Moses: the One to whom Moses’ life and prophetic ministry pointed. Moses was a type of Christ – that is, he was a pattern and foreshadowing of a much greater prophet who would only come later. We see the author missing this in the fact that he discusses the Reformation’s fight with the Catholic church for the right to own Bibles in the common language. He doesn’t even hint at the real issue, that of justification by faith.

And there’s the rub. Yes, God gave the law to regulate society. He still does, in the sense that civil authorities and governments have been ordained by God (Rom. 13:1-7) as “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom. 13:4) But that is not the highest purpose of the law of Moses; God has a much more important plan. The law was given, first and foremost, to tell us about the gravity of our sin:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:20)

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Rom. 7:7)

And so, the law cannot give true freedom to sinners:

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. (Gal. 3:23)

This is because the law condemns our sin before God. We are criminals under the law, worthy only of death. But keep reading:

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:24-29)

Spiritually, then, the law acted as a schoolmaster telling us of our sinfulness and our need to be righteous. It did not provide a way to be righteous; that’s the lie of every religion that sells a way to “earn” salvation by good works. Rather, by portraying the seriousness of sin and the necessity of death as payment for it (all taught in the graphic pictures provided through the system of animal sacrifice) the law pointed to our need for a Savior. Now that “faith” has come.

The law still has its use in the civil sphere, and modern Western man could use a reminder of morality and restraint. However, it is not the solution to our society’s woes. Christ is.

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