The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Ps. 19:7)
Most Christians know this verse. Maybe you have it memorized in a song. I remember singing a song with this verse in it when I was in the Navy, long before I ever read it in the Bible. It is one of those verses we know in our bones, we believe it, stand on it, preach it, quote it to others, expect it to work in our life, but after all is said and done, don’t have a clue how the law is perfect and how it converts the soul.
What does it mean that the law of the Lord is perfect?
In a world where nothing is solid or secure, especially the law, it is nice, but incredulous when you hear about a perfect law. A perfect law would be one that applied to everyone the same way, that didn’t change depending on the situation, or person. A perfect law would be we well thought out, wise in application, fair in pronouncement, and complete in its scope. These are the characteristics the law of God claims to have. It is perfect.
More than that, and of course more glorious, the text claims that the law of God does something. This means that it isn’t a dead law, it is a law that has effect. What does it do? It converts the soul. This means that somehow it changes our souls from one thing to another. Biblically, of course, it changes our souls from being law breakers to being law keepers. The Law of God changes us from being God haters to being God lovers; from being rebels to being patriots. And of course we love that about the perfect law of God.
How does it work? How does the law convert our souls? Is it something automatic? Do we simply tell one another what the law says and it magically transforms us into new people? Nope. The Bible it tells us that unless the Spirit of God empowers us, we can’t keep the law (Rom. 3:19b-20). We are helpless to keep the law in the way that it was meant to be kept. Of course, we can temporarily jump through the hoops the law presents, but we can’t really keep the perfect law of God. The law is perfect and we can’t keep it. But it is perfect, so we know we need to keep it. This aspect of the perfect law shows us that we can’t keep the law.
Because we can’t keep the law of God, it causes us to either run away from him in frustration and rebellion, or run to him asking for help. When we run away, it is because we don’t want his help, we want to do it ourselves. We want to be and do what we want to be and do. And we stay in our sins. When we run to God for help, he accepts us, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and he fills us with his Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit comes into us, based on Jesus’ death and resurrection, he empowers us to obey the perfect law of God. And this brings us to how the perfect law of God converts the soul. As we read the Scriptures of God, understand them, and apply them to our lives—that is obey the perfect law of God, it transforms us, it converts us, and it makes us different people.
In simple terms, the perfect law of God converts the soul as we apply the law and obey the voice of God. It is magic in one sense—true magic—because it isn’t something that we can do for ourselves. It isn’t something that happens simply because we read the law, or like the law, or even love the law. The perfect law of God converts the soul as we obey it by the power of the Holy Spirit.