Tuesday: The Purpose of the Law
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In Galatians 3:19-29 Paul makes multiple references to “the law.” What law is Paul primarily referring to in this section of Galatians?

Some, believing that the word until in verse 19 (ESV) indicates that this law was only temporary, have thought the passage must refer to the ceremonial law, because the purpose of that law was fulfilled at the cross and thus came to an end.

Covenant with the Lord

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Though this makes sense by itself, it does not appear to be Paul’s point in Galatians. While both the ceremonial and moral law were “added” at Sinai because of transgression, we will see by considering the following question that Paul appears to have the moral law primarily in mind.

Why does Paul say that the law was added? And to what was it added? Compare Gal. 3:19 and Rom. 5:13Rom. 5:20.

Paul is not saying that the law was added to God’s covenant with Abraham, as if it were some sort of addendum to a will that altered the original provisions. The law had been in existence long before Sinai (see tomorrow’s study). Paul means, instead, that the law was given to Israel for an entirely different purpose. It was to redirect the people back to God and the grace He offers all who come to Him by faith. The law reveals to us our sinful condition and our need of God’s grace. The law was not intended to be some kind of program for “earning” salvation. On the contrary, it was given, Paul says, “to increase the trespass” (Rom. 5:20, ESV); that is, to show us more clearly the sin in our lives (Rom. 7:13).

While the ceremonial laws pointed to the Messiah and emphasized holiness and the need of a Savior, it is the moral law, with its “Thou shall nots,” that reveals sin, that shows us that sin is not just a part of our natural condition but is, indeed, a violation of God’s law Rom. 3:20Rom. 5:13Rom. 5:20Rom. 7:7-8Rom. 7:13). This is why Paul says, “Where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15, ESV). “The law acts as a magnifying glass. That device does not actually increase the number of dirty spots that defile a garment, but makes them stand out more clearly and reveals many more of them than one is able to see with the naked eye.” — William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Exposition on Galatians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1968), p. 141.

Amen!(37)

Comments

Tuesday: The Purpose of the Law — 13 Comments

  1. It is refreshing to see such an excellent exposition of "the law in Galatians" since misunderstanding on this subject still abounds among believers around the world. And this misunderstanding has tends to rob believers of the joy that Christ promised (John 15:11) and that is the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22)

    For an interesting exercise, look up how many times Jesus refers to "joy" in connection with salvation and specifically, "the joy of the Lord."

    Do we experience this joy? If not, why not? Could it be that we still labor to be "good enough to be saved"? That is what happens when we don't understand that Jesus did all that is necessary to save us. It is up to us to trust Him implicitly with our salvation and submit to the leading of the Spirit. Our works cannot add one iota to our salvation.

    Of course, there's also the other side of the issue: If we are nothing like Jesus - if we have no love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, etc. (Gal 5:22-23), it should tell us that we need to seek Jesus at the foot of the cross. Trying to bring forth the fruit on our own will not work.

    Amen!(46)
    • Even in trying to bring forth fruit by faith in Jesus and his holy spirit the outcome is never flawless. It still requires the robe of Jesus' own righteousness until he gives his people incorruptible and eternal bodies after he returns in the glory of his father to do so.

      Amen!(8)
  2. When we understand the law in its proper relation to the Gospel in Galatians, we will better appreciate the meaning of Galatians 3:24.

    Amen!(11)
    • Next week's lesson is also focused heavily on law.

      "Many who claim to believe and to teach the gospel are in a similar error. They set aside the Old Testament Scriptures, of which Christ declared, “They are they which testify of Me.” John 5:39. In rejecting the Old, they virtually reject the New; for both are parts of an inseparable whole. No man can rightly present the law of God without the gospel, or the gospel without the law. The law is the gospel embodied, and the gospel is the law unfolded. The law is the root, the gospel is the fragrant blossom and fruit which it bears."
      Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 128

      What do you think she means by "embodied" or "unfolded"?

      Amen!(5)
      • Jim Bob, I took the liberty of adding the correct attribution and URL to your quotation. (Quotations should include author, book title and page number, when possible.) That way readers can check the context of the quotation out for themselves.

        Here are the following two paragraphs:

        The Old Testament sheds light upon the New, and the New upon the Old. Each is a revelation of the glory of God in Christ. Both present truths that will continually reveal new depths of meaning to the earnest seeker.

        Truth in Christ and through Christ is measureless. The student of Scripture looks, as it were, into a fountain that deepens and broadens as he gazes into its depths. Not in this life shall we comprehend the mystery of God’s love in giving His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. The work of our Redeemer on this earth is and ever will be a subject that will put to the stretch our highest imagination. Man may tax every mental power in the endeavor to fathom this mystery, but his mind will become faint and weary. The most diligent searcher will see before him a boundless, shoreless sea. (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 128)

        It doesn't directly answer your question, but it indicates where her focus was. However, when we take into consideration the whole body of her writings, the answer becomes clearer. The Law is a description of perfect obedience if we take into consideration that even the thoughts are covered. And when we understand the Law as a promise to believers - that God will write the Law of love in their hearts (Jer 31:31-33) - then the Law is the Good News embodied.

        So how would you answer your question?

        Amen!(2)
  3. I have been reading in the old testament some verses that pertain to the law and the covenant that are very applicable to us today. Daniel 9:4,5, "And I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession and said, O Lord great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled even by departing from your precepts and your judgments." These verses and verses, including Dan 9:11, 13, refer to the law of Moses plus the entire chapter is Daniels prayer
    of pleading for forgiveness and help. We have not changed in several thousand years.

    Amen!(1)
    • Much of what Carl Cosaert presents is much like the rest of the lesson. Making a distinction between the law and the covenant. The original question that is asked, why salvation by faith if the law is the determining factor? The answer is as I see it, both have a human element to deal with. The argument that Paul is making, is using what ever logic is available to prove a point. The seed is an example.

      Amen!(1)
  4. This week's study is Galatians 3:21-25 This is how i understand it. The law is not against the promise but there is no life in it. The law did not define sin it was added so that sin may be charged against the Jews Romans 5:13,in addition the law was added because of sin til the seed which is Christ should come Galatians 3:19. But before faith (Jesus Christ) came the Jews where kept under the law as their schoolmaster to lead them to Christ to be justified by faith just like Abraham. But now that faith(Jesus Christ) has come they are no longer under the law. So salvation is now open to whosoever believed John 3:16 either Jew or Gentile we all have one way to be saved that is through Jesus Christ.
    One thing i have studied to know is that salvation is through faith of Jesus alone and the law is not of faith Galatians 3:12.After you have been saved,you become a new creature 2 Corinthians 5:17, this new creature is a new spirit or a new man Ephesians 4:21-24 this spirit has his own fruits Galatians 5:22-25 which you have to bear as a believer and there is nothing moral than this fruits that is why Paul says against such there is no law.How do you bear them? by the renewing of your mind Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23 with what? the word of God in the scriptures especially the epistles because that is where you will see yourself as a believer. But grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ this is the last statement of peter in 2 peter 3:18

    Amen!(1)
  5. As I see it, there are clearly 2 main camps within Adventist thinking. Both groups believe that we are saved by grace through faith.

    The first group believes we are required to keep the law as a result of that salvation. Interesting to note that this group holds on to the Ten Commandments part of the law and treats the rest of God’s pronouncements as fulfilled and no longer binding.

    The second group believes that the law had its purpose to show us our sinful condition, and point and lead us to the cleansing and sustaining stream of Jesus Christ. This group believes that the power to live a righteous life comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit, not the law.

    The first group will say that obedience is key – that we are commanded to keep the commandments as a sign of love and obedience.

    The second group will say that they are obeying and keeping all of the commandments (Greek: entoles) through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit.

    The question becomes, is there any danger in choosing to follow one or the other of either group’s thinking, since both believe that we are saved by grace through faith and both believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

    Amen!(0)
    • Both groups are dead. These are the beliefs of the Pharisees. One who has met the Savior sees nothing in himself that is worthy to claim holiness. He, like Paul wrote in Romans 7, will be appalled at his lack of control over the flesh. He will at the same time admire the law as completely as the Law Giver. When we feel we have attained anything, we have come to nothing. Thus our works (such as worshiping on the correct day) prove our faith, not our fitness which is the perfect righteousness imputed by Him in whom we must trust.

      Amen!(0)

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