Q. 95: Of what use is the moral law to all men?
A.: The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives: to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.
The keeping of the moral law is a universal obligation.
The Westminster Standards make the point repeatedly that all men without exception—both regenerate and unregenerate, elect and reprobate—have the duty to obey the Law of God. No one is exempt. (565)
[1: To Inform of God's Nature and Will]
Biblical Law is a written revelation of God’s glorious and holy character....God’s Law is holy and righteous and good because God is holy and righteous and good, and His Law is a reflection of His character....God requires in His Law nothing less than that which is in accordance with His holy character. (566)
[2: To Inform of Man's Duty]
It is the duty of every human being to obey the Law of his Creator, for that Law is the perfect standard of righteousness God graciously has given the human race governing all people in all areas of life in all ages and in all concerns. (569)
All true morality must be based on the perfect character of God or it becomes immorality, anti-morality....This is the essence of sin and of secular humanism—determining good and evil for one’s self with no regard for God or His written Law. This determination always gives birth to lawlessness, violence, rampant immorality and death (Prov. 8:36).
Good is what God says is good, because it is in accord with His character. Evil is what God says is evil, because it is out of accord with His character. And Biblical Law is God’s perfect rule of goodness and righteousness by which all of man’s decisions, actions, and thoughts are to be measured. (570)
God’s perfect law has no gaps, no loopholes, no inconsistencies, no irrelevancies, no imbalance and no arbitrariness: “The Law of the LORD is perfect” (Ps. 19:7). It supplies us with a complete system of ethics that serves as the only solid base for
liberty, justice, holiness and prosperity. It provides a life-wide structure for living that enhances human existence (Deut. 30:15–16; Rom. 7:10), and which needs no improvement or editing: “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you and you will
be proved a liar (Prov. 30:5–6). It gives authoritative direction on issues covering the whole range of human experience. (572)
...God’s standard by which all men are judged is His perfect standard of righteousness, i.e., Biblical Law, and it is only as human beings live in terms of that law do they live in liberty. As Psalm 119:44–45 tells us: “So I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.” (573)
We would be unable to distinguish good from evil if God had not given us His Law. It is true that the work of the Law is written on our consciences (Rom. 2:15), but sin has confused and blurred fallen man’s conscience, so that it is not a reliable guide ethically (Rom. 2–3). It is also true that creation is governed by the laws of God which, along with the Deity and power of God, are clearly manifested in that creation, but fallen man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18–21). Therefore in His grace God has given us a Law, written down permanently and plainly, so that there will be no mistake regarding what is good and what is evil. (573-574)
[3: To Convict of Sin]
This knowledge of sin which the Law was designed to give is not merely intellectual. It comes with conviction of guilt....The Law is a mirror into which a person may look and see the smallest moral spot or stain on any one of his thoughts and motives. (574)
The Law is the sharp, penetrating needle that rips and tears through the heart, convicting of sin, pulling the scarlet, healing thread of the gospel of Christ. (577)
[4: To Convince people of their inability to keep the law]
Human beings are aware of only a small portion of their sinfulness. We all think too highly of ourselves, with too much self-esteem. Allowing the Law of God to search and try us brings to our awareness much more sinfulness in us than we had known previously. (577)
(1) By the Law of God His servants are warned of all their sinful ways and thoughts; (2) They are promised that in keeping God’s Law there is great reward; (3) By means of the Law a person can discern his errors, i.e., become convicted of those sins of which he was not previously aware, such as sins of inadvertence, error or infirmity, as distinguished from deliberate and presumptuous sins; (4) It reveals to us our hidden faults, i.e., those sins hidden from our neighbors and from ourselves but not from God; and (5) It moves those whose sins are exposed and convicted by it to confession of those sins and to prayers for acquittal and forgiveness from God through Christ. (577-578)
[5: Convince of sinful pollution of nature, hearts and lives]
Honestly measuring ourselves by the Law of God breaks us because it reveals to us the depth and prevalence of the sinful pollution of [our] nature, hearts and lives. It breaks pride and silences boasting in self. It ends all talk of high self-esteem and it leaves us sprawling on our faces in the dust as wretched sinners before a holy
God, deserving to be judged by Him. (579)
Justification by works is totally impossible therefore, for two reasons: (1) “There is none righteous, not even one” (vs. 10); and (2) The function of the Law is not to save
but to convict of sin (vs. 20b). (580-581)
It is not the bare Law that convicts of sin. The Holy Spirit probes and lays bare the heart, forcing us to see the sinful pollution of our inner lives and “breaking” us with the Law of God. Once broken and “killed” by our sense of sinfulness, the Law as a schoolmaster leads us to Christ that we might be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24). (581-582)
[6: It humbles]
This is how a proper conviction of sin humbles us. It gives us a painful sense of our miserable sinfulness, dissolving all self-righteousness, self-trust, self-esteem, making us see ourselves as God sees us, sinners justly deserving God’s displeasure and without hope except for His sovereign mercy.
True humility is lowliness of mind, the antithesis of pride and arrogance.
Humility is an attitude that develops when we form moral judgments about our spiritual condition, judgments that are based on the unerring standard of Biblical Law. (582)
[7: Provides a sense of the need for Christ]
Out of this conviction of sin by the Law and the Spirit that humbles us, arises a clearer sight of the need we have of Jesus Christ and of the perfection of His obedience. (583)