What Is Law?

Law is a complex concept that encompasses a broad range of practices, rules and principles geared to control human behavior and maintain social order. It also refers to a framework that deals with issues of rationality, justice, morality and honesty from both societal and judicial viewpoints. Generally speaking, law encompasses the laws and guidelines established by a controlling authority such as a government or social institution and enforced via its judicial branch or courts.

Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a myriad of ways. In fact, it permeates nearly every aspect of our lives. It influences relationships, governance and commerce as well as influencing the rights of people to live with one another in peace and freedom.

The study of law is a vast and varied endeavor that can be traced to ancient times. The first known reference to the study of law is a book called The Law by Galen, written in around 100 AD. It was the first to outline the concept of legal philosophy and jurisprudence, establishing a set of fundamental standards for judging legal cases.

Throughout the centuries, laws have evolved to meet the needs of different societies and cultures. The modern law encompasses various disciplines including public law, criminal law and civil law. There are many types of law as well, such as administrative law, constitutional law and contract law. These areas of law have been influenced by factors such as the nature of the culture in which they are enacted, the nature of the political environment in which they are established and the prevailing ideologies regarding justice and ethics.

In general, the basic functions of the law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. These are often achieved through the application of sanctions and incentives for obedience or disobedience of the law. The nature of these incentives and sanctions depends on the country, as laws differ significantly from place to place. In most countries, the ability to understand and obey the law is dependent on the level of education and cultural background of the population. It is important that citizens can understand and participate in the development of the law in their country.

In the Bible, law is a means of demonstrating sinners their need for a redeemer (Rom 3:18 – 20). It provokes rebellion, exposes wrongdoing and holds those guilty accountable before God. The Bible also tells us that the law is not meant to be a substitute for faith in Christ (Gal 2:16) and that we cannot please God by obeying the law or trying to earn salvation. The law shows sinners their need for a Savior and provides assurance that God’s judgment against them will be fair and just. (See Romans 3:19 & 4:15 for examples.) The Bible also instructs believers to pray for judges and other governmental officials, that they would be faithful to the Lord’s principles of justice and fairness.