Protestantism/The movie Chocolat

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Question
Hi,
  I just saw this movie which turned everything about the law upside down.  It was the people who kept the law who were ignorant, bad people and the people who had no law who were good, honest moral people.  It was a movie about hypocracy, holding onto the law while inwardly being dead.
  Why did G_d give Moses the law and the commandments?  In this movie the answer seems to be to confine people and to keep them from what they are meant to be?
  Any help you could give my confused mind would be appreciated.

Answer
Don,

I haven't seen the movie you mentioned, but I am confident I can still provide the answer you're looking for.

There are a few different ways we could approach this:

Paul gives a very clear description of the Law's purpose in the book of Galatians.  In fact, the entire book is related to the question, "What place does the Law have for the Christian?"  A particularly relevant excerpt says:

"15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:15-27 ESV)

What Paul is saying here is that the Law is not the main thing in Christianity.  Instead, it is intended to point to Jesus.  In Genesis it says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to Him as righteousness."  Paul had preached the Gospel to the Galatians, but false teachers had followed behind trying to convince the people that "real Christians" follow the Israelite laws of the Old testament.  Paul's response is that Abraham was saved by grace through faith, not by keeping the Law.  The Law was never intended to save anyone.  Instead, it was intended to point the Old Testament people to Jesus and to be fulfilled by Him.  The consequence of this is that the ceremonial laws relating to Old Testament worship and the civil laws governing the nation of Israel have served their purpose and are fulfilled in Jesus.

An illustration that has often been popular is that of a curb, a mirror, and a guide.  The law's first purpose is to prevent people, who love sin by nature, and particularly the unbelieving world, from harming one another, like a curb is intended to keep cars off the sidewalk.  Its second purpose is to reveal our sin to us like a mirror shows us our face, and force us to realize that the only way we can find hope is to look to Jesus as our substitute in pleasing God by His life and satisfying God's wrath by His innocent, crucified death.  Its third purpose is, once we trust Jesus and now desire to do what is pleasing to God, to show us what actually is God-pleasing and consistent with His character.

Even the Ten Commandments, which reflect God's Character and reveal His moral expectations for people of all times and places, do not save anyone.  Although they still stand as a revelation of God's will, they are intended to serve the purposes above, especially to point out our sin and drive us to Jesus.  This is where even many Christian denominations get things wrong.  Some would say that the Law is completely irrelevant to the Christian, while others would say that one must keep the Law to be saved.  Both are wrong.  The Law is good, but it cannot save.  Christians are not saved by the Law, but they do naturally desire to keep it because they desire to reflect the character of their heavenly Father.

The Law never stifles anyone's potential or keeps them from fulfilling their purpose.  Instead, it prevents us from thinking we can ever make ourselves God-pleasing by our own effort or worthiness, and it forces us to find our righteousness in Jesus rather than self.  It restrains our evil desires, and prepares the way for the Gospel to free us to live as redeemed children of God.

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Rev. Jason P. Peterson

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I welcome the opportunity to answer questions regarding the similarities and differences between the various denominations of Christianity, especially those which involve the Reformation Traditions of Christianity (Lutheran, Calvinist, etc). I also take a great interest in examining new Christian movements and popular trends in Christianity from a Reformation perspective. I have particular expertise in the original Greek text of the New Testament and its meaning, as well as questions regarding liturgy, evangelism, and preaching.

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I have been a pastor in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod for the past six years at St. John's Lutheran Church in Burt, IA. I currently serve as chairman of the Commission on Ministerial Growth & Support of the Missouri Synod's Iowa District West and as Track Chaplain at Algona Raceway in Algona, IA. I also write as a religion columnist for two local newspapers.

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B.A. Concordia University - Ann Arbor, MI (Biblical Languages) M.Div. Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (Exegetical Theology, Pastoral Ministry & Missions)

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