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Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Romans 3:19-20

In my devotions I’m tracking through Paul’s arguments in Romans. Thick, weighty, impactful stuff to be sure, particularly in the first few chapters. He really hits home about how no person is righteous, and because of that, we are held accountable to God’s judgment and wrath for our sins. We have, in his words, fallen short.

And once again, there are three ways to deal with that: To deny it, to ignore it, or to accept it — and accept the message of forgiveness and righteousness through faith that comes after.

These two verses stuck out at me today because I was once again reminded how important the Old Testament law is and its purpose. Paul says it quite clearly here: The law wasn’t put into place so that the cream of humanity might rise and be declared righteous for following all of God’s commands. That never happened and couldn’t happen; our sinful inclinations always turned us away from obedience and righteousness.

But the law’s purpose — at least one of its purposes — was to make us clearly aware of the sin we perform. It was to remove the excuse of ignorance and to help us enter into a state of humility and repentance. Without the law, we don’t see the danger we are in, the absolute depths of our depravity, and the need for a savior. The more we understand the law, the more we appreciate and rejoice over our salvation from the consequences of breaking it.

I read these verses and thought of a person waking up, finally waking up to the truth about him or herself. Of facing the facts instead of continuing on in darkness.

These verses also remind me that we have no defense for our sins that hold up in God’s court of law. We cannot claim to not know the moral law that is imparted on our heart nor, for those who have read it, the special revelation of his word in holy scripture. We cannot claim to be better than others, righteous in all things. We cannot claim salvation due to our heritage as either Jew or Gentile. Our mouths are shut. We know the verdict. And it is only by the grace of Jesus Christ that the sentence was transferred to him.

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