Sunday, 3 April 2016
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. Galatians 3:21
Paul now enters into an obvious question for those who have misunderstood the purpose of the law. Well, if God gave us the law, and the law “was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made,” the question may be, “Is the law then against the promises of God?” Paul has already shown that the law cannot annul “the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect” (verse 17). Therefore, Paul’s use of the word “against” is not insinuating some type of negative action of the law against the promises of God. Instead, the word is being used in a contrary sense; as if the purpose of the law was contrary to the promises. His answer is, “Certainly not!”
The law was given, but unlike the promises, it was not intended as a means of giving life (meaning declaring a person “righteous” or “justified” before God). The reason this is true is then clearly given in the words, “For if there had been a law which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” If a sinful man could be justified by the law (supposing this were possible), then the law would, in fact, be contrary to the promise. There would then be two different means of obtaining righteousness. It would show fickleness in the plans of God.
But the law could not bring a sinful man to a state of righteousness. Therefore, “…the spirit and purpose of the Law were not contrary to the promises, inasmuch as the Law did not offer to interfere with the work which the promises were to do, but was designed, to be auxiliary to their function by preparing the way for its discharge” (Pulpit Commentary).
What again needs to be remembered is that Christ has come. The Galatians, who never had the law, had called on Christ and been declared righteous. The proof of this was the sealing of the Spirit. The same is true with the Jews who did have the law. None of them were granted the Spirit until they repented of trying to be justified by the law and instead believed in what Christ had done in fulfillment of the law.
This shows that righteousness was not of the law, and thus the law was not contrary to the promises of God. Instead, it was introduced as a means of leading sinful man to Christ who had no sin and thus was qualified and capable of fulfilling the law. If one is to trust in the law, it is only to be insofar as Christ fulfilled it for him. He is the embodiment of it. Therefore, He is the fulfillment of the promises.
Life application: If you encounter those who claim you must observe the law in order to be saved, you should be familiar with the arguments they will submit for their incorrect stand. Further, you should be able to come to Galatians and defend why their stand is both incorrect and nuts. Paul’s words are precise and lead to only one conclusion; the law (meaning attempting to be declared righteous by deeds of the law) cannot save sinful man. Only faith in Christ can do so.
Lord, even when I’m at my best, I find myself making the most horrendous mistakes in my life. The things I think, the secret actions which only You can see (and yes, I know that You can see them), show how desperately I need Your grace. Is it not true with all people? Surely if You were to count our sins against us, there would be no hope. But in Christ, our sins are forgiven. Thank You for the grace and mercy that freely flows from Him. How good You are to us, O God. Amen.