The Three Uses of God’s Law

The Reformed Reader

Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (NOTE: this is a repost from March, 2009)

When the Reformed and Lutheran scholastics talked about God’s moral law (lex moralis), they taught that there are three basic uses of the law (usus legis).  According to Richard Muller’s helpful research, they are:

1) The civil use (usus politicus sive civilis).  That is, the law serves the commonwealth or body politic as a force to restrain sin.  This falls under the general revelation (revelatio generalis) discussion in most of the scholastics as well as natural law (cf. Rom 1-2).

2) The pedagogical use (usus elenchticus sive paedagogicus).  That is, the law also shows people their sin and points them to mercy and grace outside of themselves (e.g. Rom. 3:20).  In Richard Muller’s summary, this is “the use of the law for the confrontation and refutation of sin and for the purpose…

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