Why The Old Testament Law Is Important

John Calvin gives two reasons why believers need the law:

  1. The best way to more thoroughly learn the Lord’s will. (As most of you know, the OT is nearly 4/5ths of the Bible. That’s a whole lotta law. And it’s all good [Psalm 19:7-8]).
  2. By meditating on it [Joshua 1:8] we will be “aroused to obedience, be strengthened in it, and be drawn back from the slippery path of transgression.” —Institutes, BOOK II, CH. VII, v. 12

For no man as heretofore attained to such wisdom as to be unable, from the daily instruction of the law, to make fresh progress toward a purer knowledge of the divine will.


I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”
Psalm 40:8

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;
may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Psalm 143:10

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14 NIV

Calvin next says that as it is applicable to every age (time frame), and grace sweetens what is bitter because as believers we now have a Mediator and are seen as righteous.

“We ought not to be frightened away from the law or to shun its instruction merely because it requires a much stricter moral purity than we shall reach while we bear about with us the prison house of our body. For the law is not now acting toward us as a rigorous enforcement officer who is not satisfied unless the requirements are mat. But in this perfection to which it exhorts us, the law points out the goal toward which throughout life we are to strive.”

Institutes, BOOK II, CH. VII, v. 13

The ministry that brought death was inscribed on stone. Yet, it came with such glory that the people of Israel couldn’t look at Moses’ face. His face was shining with glory, even though that glory was fading.8 Won’t the ministry that brings the Spirit have even more glory?9 If the ministry that brings punishment has glory, then the ministry that brings God’s approval [righteousness] has an overwhelming glory.10 In fact, the ministry that brings punishment lost its glory because of the superior glory of the other ministry.
2 Corinthians 3:7-11 GW

2 Responses to “Why The Old Testament Law Is Important”

  1. 1 Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink

    Thanks for the thoughts on Calvin and the law. This is helpful for my reconciling Calvin’s understanding of prophecy as being a re-interpretation of the law (see Introduction to his Isaiah commentary) and its application for today, especially in light of his argument that prophets are no longer necessary today (Calvin, Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 3, section 4).

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    You’re welcome Brenda. I’m not as far along as you. I’m glad it helped.

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