Hebrews 7:19—Was the Law of Moses perfect or imperfect?

Problem: The psalmist declared that the “law of the Lord is perfect” (Ps. 19:7). It reflects the very character of God (cf. Lev. 11:45). Yet the writer of Hebrews insists that “the law made nothing perfect” (7:19), and thus God brought in a “better covenant” (v. 22). This, he contends, would not have been necessary “if that first covenant had been faultless” (Heb. 8:7). So, who is right? Is the law perfect or imperfect?

Solution: The law was perfect in its nature, but imperfect in its results. It was a perfect expression of God’s righteousness, but an imperfect means of making man righteous. Of course, that is not the fault of the law itself or the purpose for which God gave it. For the law was never given to redeem sinners (Titus 3:5–6; Rom. 4:5), but to reveal sin. As a standard and means of revealing sin, the law was an impeccable norm and teacher. But it was only “our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). Like a mirror, the law was intended to reveal our imperfections as we look into it; but it, no more than the mirror, was intended to correct our imperfections. So the law is perfect in itself, as a rule and revealer of sin, but it is imperfect as a means of empowering us to overcome sin.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.