Christ's Use of the Law to Promote Piety in the Christian
Joel Beeke on Calvin's three uses of the law with my comments following
To Promote piety, the Spirit not only uses the gospel to work faith deep within the souls of His elect ... but He also uses the law. The law promotes piety in three ways:
1) It restrains sin and promotes righteousness in the church and society, preventing both from lapsing into chaos.
2) It disciplines, educates, and convicts us, driving us out of ourselves to Jesus Christ, the fulfiller and end of the law. The law cannot lead us to a saving knowledge of God in Christ; rather, the Holy Spirit uses it as a mirror to show us our guilt, shuts us off from hope, and brings us to repentance. It drives us to the spiritual need out of which faith in Christ is born. This convicting use of the law is critical for the believer's piety, for it prevents the ungodly self-righteousness that is prone to reassert itself even in the holiest of saints.
3) It becomes the rule of life for the believer. "What is the rule of life which [God] has given us?" Calvin asks in the Genevan Catechism. The answer: "His law." Later, Calvin says the law "shows the mark at which we ought to aim, the goal towards which we ought to press, that each of us, according to the measure of grace bestowed upon him, may endeavor to frame his life according to the highest rectitude, and by constant study, continually advance more and more.
Comments: I would like to draw your attention to the second and third use of the law (above) as it applies to the believer's piety. We often think of the second use of the law as something for unbelievers, but here Calvin points out something quite important. Because of the work of Christ, the Holy Spirit has regenerated us so that we believe and wholeheartedly desire to obey. This obedience springs from the new nature we have as we are united to Christ. But God has not yet sealed us in righteousness, as He will do when we are glorified. He leaves us in weakness, it appears, that we may continually learn to cast off all hope in ourselves and know that apart from Christ we can do nothing. Self-righteousness can be as much a problem for believers as unbelievers. We are constantly tempted to justify ourselves by what we do post-conversion. But God is teaching us that self-righteousness is the main sin that keeps you from Him to begin with and thee is nothing you do that can maintain your just standing before Him. So His majesty and his law are used in the believer to drive us to despair of our own self-righteousness, that we might be brought to an end of ourselves, and continue to abide and find our nourishment in Christ alone (see John 15). God's law is our rule and we now delight in it, desiring to meditate on it day and night, but our failure to live up to it is a constant reminder that we did not save ourselves, and cannot save ourselves now, but only Christ saves.
Those who teach that we can lose our salvation show they are still trusting in self for salvation, for they would have to affirm that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely, that it did not cover all our sin. The warnings in Hebrews are to Jews who were tempted to go back to the worthless types that only pointed to Christ. The whole book of Hebrews shows the superiority of Christ to angels, Christ to Moses, of Christ to the Priesthood, and Christ to the repeated sacrifices that could not save. The warning of falling away is not the idea of falling into some random sin will rob you of eternal life. It is the sin of falling away from Christ and going back to the worthless sacrifices. Christ's death was once for all, meaning His work was accomplished. The persons who fall away from Christ reveal their unregenerate state to begin with. They may have shared blessings with God's people in the covenant, but their faith was spurious.
So now as believers, based on these three Scriptural uses of the law, we are to continue to judge ourselves by that law, that it might continually drive us back to Christ. For we all justly deserve the wrath of God save in Christ's mercy alone. When God sees the blood of Christ it "reminds" him not to treat us as our sins deserve (even now). That is why we need a constant weekly reminder of the Lord's Table which pictures this very thing. A visible gospel showing that our hope only comes from the outside. To think that our dead works can help, even a little is to still retain trust in our own righteousness. Thee is nothing further from the truth. Christ wants to show that just as you despaired of all hope in yourself at conversion, so to have no confidence in the flesh is the lifelong posture of the Christian.
"...if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." 1 Corinthians 11:31-32
Joel Beeke Quote Excerpted from Puritan Reformed Spirituality