The imperatives (commands) in Scripture do more than simply point out to us that we cannot obey perfectly. Without a doubt the law of God reveals to us the full extent of our sin. The law proves to the sinner that all his “righteousness” is as filthy rags before a holy God. But the law of God is so much more, as David professes in Psalm 119. For Christians, the law of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. While we can never be justified by the law, certainly God uses its proclamation as a means to sanctify us.
It is not legalism to desire to obey God. It is not legalism to call God’s people to conformity to Christ. It is not legalism to strive to put sin to death. It is legalism to think that such conformity and obedience is what justifies us before God. But to equate “the law” with legalism is to dishonor the law and be robbed of its sanctifying function. Preaching God’s law is not legalism. God’s law is a delight to his people for it shows us how to glorify him. The biblical calls to holiness and perseverance are blessed means for our sanctification. Obedience to the commands of scripture is how we know we are saved and also the evidence of our salvation.
The first step to obedience of the law is salvation. The second is actually reading the law (and the prophets) and learning what the imperatives are. Have you read the law today? Be found in church today where the Bible will be read and taught, for God’s glory and our sanctification.