Law is imperfect

What does the catechism mean by the law is not perfect but is a tutor? I know the old cut off the hand that steals stuff is not right. But there must’ve been a time for it. Is this the moral law? What does it mean by Jesus fulfills the law? What law is that?


The problem with the law, even though it’s an expression of God’s wisdom, will, love, and holiness and is therefore spiritual, holy, and good itself, is that it cannot, *by *itself, transform us into His image. It cannot produce holiness, but only affords an external “show” of it to the extent that we obey it with hearts that aren’t changed, that are not operating out of the right motivation. This is why Jesus tells us that our righteousness must *exceed *that of the Scribes and Pharisee, religious leaders who were generally looked up to as moral icons of the day.

He tells us that something is missing in man, and that we cannot achieve it to the extent that we’re apart from Him, apart from *God. *Man was made for authentic communion with God, and this communion begins with faith. Then He can do a work in us, as per the New Covenant promises of Jer 31:33-34, transforming us into His image. This righteousness, this justice, is defined as love, which fulfills the law by it’s very nature. (Rom 13:8) This is why the greatest commandments are what they are and this is what it means to fulfill the law by the Spirit rather than by the letter.

Moral law I think you are taking about. I see. Thanks. But what about this cutting off the hand if someone steals? That’s not God’s mercy. God has never been like that. Man changes but not God. That has never been right. And Jesus says I have come to fulfill that law. A law like that? Cutting off hands? IDK. Confusing.

First, as a general rule, allow yourself to become accustomed to this principle: God is always right, I am only right when I agree with God.

So if God thinks it’s a just punishment to cut off the hand for stealing, then it is a just punishment.

However, simply because something is in Scripture does not mean God is entirely “on board” with it, so to speak. The Old Law was designed, like you’ve said, as a tutor, to lead men to virtue (which is the whole point of law) gradually. If they had been given the “meat” of the New Law of grace, they would have despaired of the law entirely. So they were given the “milk” of the Old Law, which was more fit for their “hard hearts,” as Christ says in the discussion on divorce.

That’s a starter’s guide to seeing the logic of it. Provide specific verses for a more detailed discussion.

Yes, there’s disagreement at times on what law Scripture might be referring to-in St Paul’s writings especially-and at times he describes to the law as a teacher as well. But I don’t think he would’ve been referring to circumcision at that point, or to prescribed penalties such as the one you mentioned. The moral law, particularly the ten commandments, are the focus, which is obvious in Rom 13:8 for example. A great place to understand Church teachings on the role of the law, old and new, is in the catechism here:

The way in which the law is said to be a teacher, BTW, is that it teaches us that we cannot fulfill it, we cannot be holy, we fail apart from grace, God’s life in us.

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