The law comes up in conversation a lot when it comes to the bible, simply because the Law of Moses is what many Christians knew to be the first instructions from God about how we should live our life here on earth. A lot of people still hold tight to these instructions because they are the first but throughout scripture, it is to be noted that the law is not what saves you or proves that you are Christian, so we are going to look at why the law was sent by God in the first place and also why it is not a requirement for salvation.
The Purpose of the Law
In Galatians 3:19-25, it breaks down the purpose of the law and why it needed to be sent by God. We will explore three reasons the law was sent according to Paul in Galatians.
💡 19 Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. 20 Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham. 21 Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises?[a] Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. 22 But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ 23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
The Law was sent for our sin
💡 Galatians 3:19 - “It was added for the sake of our transgressions”
The law was sent for our transgressions, our pitfalls, or in other words our sin. God looked at Israel and realized that they were sinning all over the place and needed some guidance. There was so much disobedience God sent the law as a means of restraint. In other words, Israel was out of control! Later in Galatians 3:24, Paul says that the law was our guardian until our true Guardian came that we could then be justified by faith in Him
Please understand that when you look at scripture look for yourself. In this imagine you are Israel, without any instruction or moral compass, moral law, we would be completely out of control so we definitely need some guidance or rules to keep us in line.
The Law was temporary
Also in Galatians 3:19, it says that the law was sent for our transgressions UNTIL the “Seed to whom the promise was made would come”, is to return. The Seed, Paul refers to, is Christ, in Galatians 3:16. So this scripture (v19) lets us know that the law was temporary. Temporary in the sense that at some point the law would no longer be required or necessary for justification and sanctification. Our faith in The Seed, Christ, now serves as the justification and we are sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit which was given to us as a promised when Jesus died and rose on the third day. This is the true beauty of the gospel and what we get to operate from which is grace (More on this in a bit).
So let’s back up a bit. When the law was given, it was given before Jesus had come. God promises a savior in Isaiah 7:14 and in Matthew 1:20-21, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream... to inform him that his wife will birth a Son and they will call him Jesus, because he, Jesus, will save us from our sins”. So God promises that Jesus must come to save us from our sins! We’ve already established that the law was sent for our sins as well but the difference here is Galatians is speaking on the law and its temporariness due to the promise of Christ coming to fulfill it.
How have you looked at the law up to this point? Have you felt like you followed the law? Have you ignored it? Where did you learn about the law and how it should be acknowledged?
The Law was relayed through Angels
The end of Galatians 3:19 states that the law was put into effect by angels by means of a mediator. There’s a lot of reasons why this is important. Think about how God communicated during these times. Sometimes it was directly to an individual, Moses, and other times it is through these divine intermediaries, such as the angels.
A mediator is used when there are two parties involved to be upheld. For the law, it must be established, meaning put into place by God which is the first “party”, and then it also had to be upheld, or followed by Israel, which is the second party (v20). If God only needed one to uphold the law he would have instructed them directly similar to Moses, Abraham, and others who heard instructions directly from God. For the law this was not the case, so the mediator was a requirement.
A mediator is used for instruction for multiple parties, where else in the bible do you see this demonstrated?
So now that the purpose of the law has been established, you are probably wondering, well then is the law needed? If Jesus came to fulfill the law, and the law was temporary until the Seed came, what do we do now?
In verse 21 of Galatians 3 Paul asks the very question that most might ask considering what verse 19 & 20 state. Is the law not necessary then (emphasis added), or in other words, is the law contrary to God’s promises? The immediate answer is NO!
The Law is Not Life Giving
Think about this for a second. Imagine we are to keep the entire law, meaning never break any of the commandments, for the sake of salvation. How many of us are going to heaven? It is impossible for us to live an entire life without breaking one of the commands, because we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23). We would be asking a set of rules, to empower imperfect people to follow those rules and obey them. Simply put, the law itself can’t give life, only Jesus can.
Ask yourself: Have you ever thought about the law being something that is life-giving? What is one way you have seen the law prefaced inside and outside of the church?
Jesus Gives Life
We have to understand one main point. Jesus is the way for salvation. Period. Paul goes on to explain that the law was not the doorway to salvation or righteousness, and that if it was, our salvation would be dependent strictly upon the law. John 14:6 says “I, Jesus, am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Jesus says He is the way, there is no mention of the law because He has come, as promised! Then in verse 22 of Galatians he continues that life, salvation & righteousness, is given on the basis of our faith in Jesus, which directly supports John 14:6!
💡 We are no longer under a guardian (the law), for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:25
The Role of the Law
Now that we know that Christ is the way for salvation, the role of the law today is more like a mirror or a reflection of who we are. Compare your life to the law and you will be reminded that you are a sinner and are in need of Christ. The law shows you are broken, but the law can’t fix that brokenness. Once you are saved though, the law can show your love for Christ by keeping it. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a life that keeps the commandments because Jesus calls us to it! You will keep the commandments because you love me (John 14:15)! John 14:21 reiterates this same thing where Jesus states, “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” The law shows our love for Christ to Christ.
💡 John 14:15 - You will keep the commandments because you love me
As long as we all understand that the law does not save us, the law can be a beautiful representation of our love for Christ. The second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) is to not put anything before God, and if the law is put before God, you could be idolizing it, but in this very commandment is says to show your love for God by keeping them.
So I encourage you to solidify your salvation in Christ’s name and enjoy the beauty of holding to the law to show your love for Him!
Have your views regarding the law changed at all? If so, how?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you first and foremost for your steadfast love. The love you showed to Israel to provide a guide for all of the sinning they did. The same love for sending your only begotten son like it says in John 3. And also the same love that sent the Holy Spirit as a helper and comforter once Jesus had to go to fulfill your promise. You’ve set the ultimate example by your actions and set a human example in the life of Jesus. As a natural response allow us to show you the same kind of love by keeping your commandments. Not for salvation but just simply to show our steadfast love towards you. Allow us to strive for obedience because we love you. Anytime we pay attention to the law, as Paul writes, remind us who we are through the reflection of the law, but be quickly reminded of the love that came to fulfill the law. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.