Madam Marie Curie’s theory of radioactivity and contributions to the discovery of polonium and radium twice earned her the Nobel Peace Prize. She was undeniably brilliant, but what she didn’t understand about radiation took her life. Marie died of a fatal blood dyscrasia caused by years of exposure to radiation. Years later, researchers replaced unexposed photographic film between pages of her laboratory journals. Enough radiation from Marie’s fingers still remained on the pages to burn an image of her fingerprints onto the film.
Handled correctly, radiation and nuclear power provide great benefit. Handled wrongly, they can bring great harm or death. Similarly, the Old Testament Law still has a good and valid purpose. When applied as God intends, it shows people their need for the Savior, but if it is misunderstood and misapplied, it can cause immeasurable harm.
Paul tells us the law is good and needful, but confessed that even he was unable to keep it. He lamented over failing to do the good he intended and found himself doing the wrong he intended to avoid. The law had accomplished in Paul exactly the purpose for which God gave it: to show us we are sinful before a Holy God and can never be good enough to meet His absolute standard of righteousness. We need the Lord Jesus to accomplish it on our behalf. When the law has brought us to the cross so that grace can take over, it has fulfilled its whole purpose.
If we choose to walk in the rigidity of the law in our daily lives, we forfeit much of the joy and liberty God intends for us to have. Sadder yet is the condition of one who determines to gain eternal life by his own efforts at keeping the law. The Bible makes it very clear that the person who insists on being judged on the merit of his works will receive the condemnation he has earned instead of the mercy and grace available only through simple faith in Jesus.
Self-justification and God’s grace cannot coexist; one will always exclude the other. Better to say with the writer of that old hymn, Rock of Ages, “In my hand no price I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”
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Neil S. Bowers