What do you think of the third use of the law?


(SeanO) #1

The reformers talked about 3 uses of the law:

1 - civil - to restrain evil people from doing bad things - this is law as it functions in restraining evil in society as a whole
2 - conviction - the law convicts us of our sin and points us to our need for Jesus
3 - correctional - the law of Christ teaches the Christian how to bring their attitudes and actions in line with Christ in order to please and honor the Savior they love

It is this 3rd use - correctional - one which some disagree. Some believe that any attempt at conforming to an external moral standard inevitably undermines the Gospel - that we cannot rest in God’s grace while we are seeking to keep a moral code. Everything must come from the Spirit within us.

To me, it appears the New Testament encourages the 3rd uses of the law as long as we recognize it is Christ in us - it is the Spirit - who enables us both to desire and to do what is truly good.

I Corinthians 11:1 - Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Philippians 2:5 - In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

Philippians 2:12-13 - Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

What are your thoughts?

Its third function is to guide the regenerate into the good works that God has planned for them (Eph. 2:10). The law tells God’s children what will please their heavenly Father. It could be called their family code. Christ was speaking of this third use of the law when He said that those who become His disciples must be taught to do all that He had commanded (Matt. 28:20), and that obedience to His commands will prove the reality of one’s love for Him (John 14:15). The Christian is free from the law as a system of salvation (Rom. 6:14; 7:4, 6; 1 Cor. 9:20; Gal. 2:15-19, 3:25), but is “under the law of Christ” as a rule of life (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).”


(Lindsay Brandt) #2

I don’t always have the brightest responses with these things, but I was reading the second article you provided (thank you for that), and when I was reading where the author is talking about how some think that the law will always bring a fear of condemnation and loss of salvation, 1 John 4:17-19 comes to mind. We can work towards or practice obedience in the power of the Spirit in response to God’s love without allowing the condemnation of failure–when we fail–to come upon us because of what Christ has accomplished upon the cross for us. Because of the mercy and grace granted us in Jesus’ work on the cross, we can keep moving forward, and we don’t have to feel condemned or fearful, knowing that we are always growing and being transformed more and more into the image of Christ.


(SeanO) #3

@psalm151ls That is a great point! Luther is well known to have experienced a great deal of self-condemnation, so it is understandable how he personally would have really wrestled with the third use of the law. But I agree with you that if we are truly free in Christ there is no fear in love and we can do our best to keep the law of Christ knowing that our Heavenly Father is for us and not against us.


(christopher van zyl) #4

If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.

I’ve always thought of this when dealing with sin in my life. It’s not about doing the right thing to earn favor, but doing the right thing because it aligns with God’s will. To me, I agree, this is definitely the law in the correctional sense. It shows how I should be living, and with the Holy Spirit in me, correcting my ways to help me to live that way.

In my opinion, I think law/morality/righteous living having become ‘dirty’ words in the sense that people immediately think you are being legalistic (at least, in my experiences). So perhaps that is a reason why there is disagreement with the third use of the law.

If we start with the basis of what we believe the gospel to be, showing that we agree, perhaps a better conversation could ensue with the third use.


(SeanO) #5

@c3vanzyl I definitely agree - when we obey out of the love for God and thirst for righteousness the Spirit has placed in our hearts there is great joy not only in obedience, but even in the pursuit of obedience. We delight in our sanctification and in the process of coming to know Jesus more and more. People who have never experienced the complete freedom that comes in being a child of God may struggle to understand how obedience or the pursuit of righteousness can produce joy and we should be sympathetic. But we can say along with David how beautiful is Your law O Lord! I meditate on it day and night - my heart thirsts for God, the living God, when can I appear before God!

David went back and forth between a deep thirst for God and a delight in His law in the same sentence - the two were so closely connected. And I think that is because the law of God reflects the character of God and as we love Him more we also learn to delight in His law because it is an expression of His character.


(Monica Diane Hall) #6

Thank you, Sean, for the topic concerning a third use of the law. I agree with your assessment. It seems we can only know God’s original d