Why Then the Law?
by Bill Baldwin
Galatian Gentiles were being told they needed the Law as the badge of their righteousness. And they bought it. Paul writes to rebuke them and call them back to faith. The principle of life and inheritance is proclaimed in the promise-which included Gentiles from the beginning-which is received by faith alone.
NOTE: Point IV takes up the first 9 verses. I've taken them out of order because they represent a conclusion that Paul goes on to prove. So let's state the conclusion-Whatever justifies, sanctifies-develop the proof, and then expound the conclusion.
Paul says some radical things here. I want to be faithful to his radical language. Do not be alarmed, but hear the Scripture carefully and with wisdom and joy.
- Law and Faith are Opposing Principles (3:10-14)
- The Law Brings a Curse
- To all who are "of" the works of the Law
- I.e. Those who attempt to do what the Law requires (and live thereby, cf. v. 12)
- They are all under a curse, because they don't do these things perfectly
- Wait a minute! What if someone does? Paul has an answer prepared
- No one is justified by the Law
- Faith is the only principle by which the "just" live-i.e. in justification and sanctification
- But the Law is not of faith
- The Law's principle is Do This and Live (v. 12)
- Faith's principle is Believe and Live
- The two principles cannot coexist
- You either live by faith or by the law (in justification and in sanctification)
- Christ Died to the Law
- He redeemed us from its curse
- By bearing its curse on the cross
- We Live By Faith in Him
- Christ died in order that the curse of the Law should not come down on us
- But rather that we might receive the promise of eternal life made to Abraham by faith in him
- If we are "in Christ" we have suffered God's curse on our sin
- including on our pathetic attempts to keep the law
- Remember focus of passage is on those who try to do what the Law says
- Not just when you "sin" but whenever you realize that your best efforts aren't good enough (but are also sin)-Know that Christ died to redeem you from the curse of the Law. For the Law judges your best efforts imperfect and pronounces a curse on them. But Christ bore that curse on your behalf. And now you live by faith in him.
TRANSITION: So if Faith and Law are opposing principles of life, Did the Law come in and take over so that justification, adoption, sanctification, etc. are no longer by faith (as under Abraham) but by the Law? (As some Dispensationalists claim)
- The Law Cannot Annul the Promise (3:14-18)
- The Law Cannot Change the Conditions of the Promise
- Even in a human "covenant," you can't change the terms after the fact
- Lot's of debate about what in the Jewish or Greek or Roman world Paul's referring to
- All you need to know is this: Paul's referring to some human convention in which the terms-once established-cannot be changed.
- It is something like a marriage
- Therefore God certainly cannot break his promise to Abraham
- Yet that's exactly what he'd be doing if he added conditions later on
- The Promise was made to Abraham and Christ
- To Abe: Your seed will inherit the land
- The land is a type of heaven
- Conclusion: Christ is being promised heaven for himself and all who are in him.
- God made this promise in a self-maledictory oath (Gen 15)
- The Law can't annul that promise by adding previously unstated conditions to an unconditional declaration
- And the Blessing Can't Be Both by Law and by Promise
- Either it is by God's sovereign, unilateral, unconditional decree
- Or it is on the condition that the law is kept
- Notice that Law and Promise are opposing principles of inheritance
- And God gave Abraham the inheritance by Promise.
TRANSITION: It was always God's intention freely to give the promised inheritance (heaven). And the Law doesn't provide the means by which we gain it. So why bother with the Law at all?
- The Law Drives Us to the Promise (3:19-25)
- Why Then the Law?
- Natural question
- Answer: Because of transgressions
- Rm 5:20-Law came that sin might increase
- I.e. that the chosen people might know themselves to be sinners, justly deserving God's wrath, and with no ability to provide for their own salvation
- Until the Seed should come (it told them their need for Him)
- It was appointed in the hands of a mediator, Moses
- Moses mediated between God and the people
- But the promise was unilateral and needed no mediator
TRANSITION: So is the Law providing a different way of relating to God? Is the Promise proposing to let God do all the work and the Law suggesting that, after all, we could chip in on our part? God forbid!
- Is the Law Contrary to the Promises of God?
- Natural question at this juncture
- So if the Law is actually presented as a life-giving covenant, the principle on which it gives life is radically opposed to the principle of the promise given to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ
- The solution cannot be that Law and Promise/Faith are actually identical principles
- Remember Law is contrary to Promise (3:18)
- And Law is contrary to Faith (3:12)
- The Law is the Servant of Faith
- But we are not under the severity of the Law
- Christ has been fully revealed; a salvation apart from the works of the Law has been established
- (And this is the salvation proclaimed to Abraham. The salvation of everyone who believes, even those who were under that harsh taskmaster, the Law. The Law, coming 430 years later, did not annul the promise for them either. But they patiently waited for their true salvation to be revealed. The mistake of the Judaizers was to suppose their salvation had been revealed... on Sinai. It had not. Only their condemnation had been revealed there... to drive them to Christ.)
- So I will preach the Law to you as what Paul declares it to be: "a ministry of condemnation written on tables of stone." But I would be guilty before the highest court if I preached only the Law.
- Rather I will use the Law to drive you to Christ that he may be everything to you that you may live from faith to faith.
TRANSITION: Let me conclude with point 4 by going back to the first part of this chapter. I want to steer you clear of misusing the law by provoking you to faith.
- We Receive the Promise (Heaven) by Faith Alone (3:1-9)
- Are you horrified at the thought of being justified by works?
- Be equally horrified at the thought of being sanctified thereby.
- We are so tempted to respond to the law by saying, OK I'll do it.
- The Law cannot sanctify you. It cannot make you holy. It cannot give you one gram of power to do what it says.
- Therefore, the Law must not be our motivation to do what is right. Grace must both motivate and empower
- By that I don't mean that you say, "Well, I've got to do this for God since he's done so much for me." That's still relying on your own power.
- Look at how Paul talks. He holds before you Christ, crucified, raised again, ascended.
- This not only motivates you (for if it only did that you'd be left to carry out the requirement)
- It empowers you
- Thus the doctrines encourage the true believer.
- Comfort one another with these words
- "I've lost my job"
- "But you still have Christ"
- Not tritely but sincerely-acknowledging the pain for no discipline seems joyful-seeking to remind the brother what he has in heaven
- Someone died, a divorce, a besetting sin
- We often as "Calvinists" comfort each other with the sovereignty of God (i.e. God's still in control). And that's good. But true Calvinists will even more comfort each other with the grace of God.
- God offers you heaven without money and without cost. He has paid for it all in Christ. Come and take it from him freely.
- Do you long to do what is right?
- The Law gives you no power to do it. The Law can only condemn.
- God supplies you with his Spirit "by the hearing of faith" (3:5)
- Come hear the voice of Christ speaking in his word as it is preached to you each Lord's Day.
- Rely upon the Spirit and the Grace of God alone to work in you that which is well pleasing in his sight!
- Gal 2:20 - justification and sanctification.