Here we hold that the Law was given by God, first, to restrain sin by threats and the dread of punishment and by the promise and offer of grace and benefit. All this failed because of the evil that sin has worked in humanity. For by the Law some people were made worse sinners, those who are hostile to the Law because it forbids what they like to do and commands what they do not like to do. Wherever they can escape punishment, they do more against the Law than they did before. Those are the unrestrained and wicked, who do evil wherever they have the opportunity.
The rest become blind and arrogant. The scholastic theologians conceive the opinion that they are able to keep the Law by their own powers. From this come the hypocrites and false saints.
The chief office of the Law is to reveal original sin with all its fruit. It shows us how very low our nature has fallen, how we have become utterly corrupted. The Law must tell us that we have no God, that we do not care for God, and that we worship other gods —something we would not have believed without the Law. In this way, we become terrified, humbled, depressed. We despair and anxiously want help, but see no escape [Romans 7:21-24]. We begin to be an enemy of God and to complain, and so on. Paul says, "The law brings wrath" (Romans 4:15). (paragraphs 1-5)
Condensed from CONCORDIA: THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS, copyright 2005,2006 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy of CONCORDIA, call 800-325-3040.