Its Temporary Nature: Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Galatians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

October 30, 2013
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Tom Lowe


Chapter III.B.1: Its Temporary Nature (3:19-25)


Galatians 3.19-25 (KJV)

19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.


Introduction

It seems that every passage we come to is more wonderful than the one before, and this one is no exception. I never fail to be blessed and enlightened by each and every one. I hope I can do justice to this section and that with the aid of the Holy Spirit, I will rightly divide His Word. I fear that I might get very wordy with my explanations, since I am very excited about this section.


Commentary

19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

The question asked in this verse is a natural one after the statements made by the Apostle Paul in the preceding verses. Paul anticipates in writing to the churches in Galatia that the question concerning the purpose of the Law might be brought up, so he answers the question before it could be asked. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul had proven in the first three chapters of Galatians that the Law of Moses was not given to make man better, or to save him, much less to justify him. The Law was given to condemn the sinner in order that he might realize his need for the grace of God. Paul had shown that the death of Christ is the final, conclusive argument that salvation cannot be attained by keeping the Law, because he says, “If righteousness come by the Law then Christ is dead in vain.” To teach salvation by the Law would be the same as denying both the necessity and effectiveness of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Law can neither sanctify a man nor make him better. All it could do was to show him how bad he was, and the hopelessness of his condition without the grace of God.
And so Paul having demonstrated that the Law cannot JUSTIFY or SANCTIFY or SATISFY the sinner or the saint, anticipates the question he knew men would ask, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” (i.e., Then what is the Law for; what good is it, if it cannot save a man, or make him better, or keep him safe?). Paul answers his own question with this: “It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come.” Now, there are three definite things stated in his brief answer:
1. The Law did have a beginning. Paul says, “It was added”—added to something else that must have already existed before the Law came into being.
2. The Law had a definite purpose, which Paul says, “Because of transgression” or as we shall see, to reveal the true nature of sin, which results from transgression.
3. The Law also came to an end. It had an end, just as it had a beginning—“It was added . . . till the seed should come.”
You won’t find any place in Scripture where the purpose of the Law is more clearly stated than it is in this verse, and don’t tell me that this only applies to the ceremonial or the dietary or sanitary laws or the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Paul is speaking of THE LAW—the whole Law, and the Law of the Ten Commandments in particular. He is speaking of the Law which cursed the sinner, that is, God’s holy Law. Note: Some attempt to make a clever distinction between the so-called laws of Moses and the Law of God; however, there is not a single verse in the Bible that supports the idea. It is only an invention of Man himself, who would rather be condemned by the Law than to be saved by the grace of God.

Now let’s take a closer look at those three things which Paul states concerning the Law in this verse:
1. The beginning of the Law.
2. The purpose of the Law
3. The end of the Law.


The Beginning of the Law.

When was the Law added, and to what was it added? John the Baptist, the forerunner and herald of Christ said this about the coming of the King

of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1.17). Nothing can be clearer than this verse; evidentially, the apostle is referring to this verse in Galatians 3.19. The Law—the whole body of Law was given to Israel—was delivered by Moses exactly as he received it from Almighty God.

Who is the mediator in this verse? It is, of course, Moses, the law-giver. We can turn to the record in Exodus to get all the details, given under inspiration. But until God gave Moses those laws written on two tablets of stone, Israel knew nothing about these laws. For over two thousand years, from Adam to Moses, God gave no Ten Commandments to man. This is evident from Romans 5.13: “(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Notice the phrase “until the law sin was in the world.” From this we know there was a time when Law came, and therefore, before it came it did not exist in the form of written commandments. Next, please notice that something else did exist, to which Paul says the Law was added. Now when we add something, we of course imply and pre-suppose that there was something to which to add. What was it then, that the Law was added to? What did men live under until God gave the Law to Moses? We all know the answer—it was the grace of God. Adam was under grace, Noah was under grace, and Abraham was under grace. Before the Law, God dealt with man by grace, and he did the same under the Law, and since the Law. He still deals in grace. In Galatians 3.8 we are told, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” The “good news” was preached to Abraham. Now the gospel is “good news” for the sinner; that by grace through faith he may be saved, apart from the works of the Law. But the Law is not good news for the sinner. On the contrary, the Law is very bad news for the transgressor and the sinner, because the Law tells this sinner and shows him how wicked he is; and he is accused and condemned by this Law, and therefore must be executed by this Law, for his sins. Now this bad news of the Law was added to the good news of grace. Notice that Paul says definitely, “it was added.” It did not take the place of grace, it was not mixed with grace, and it did not supplant the grace of God. It was added. Now the word “added” is “prostithemi” in the original Greek, and means “to place alongside of.” We mat say therefore that the Law came in and was placed alongside of grace. It is important to notice this distinction. Grace was not removed when the Law came in; it remained there for all who would see how unworthy they were in the eyes of Law, and fleeing from the curse of the Law would throw themselves on the mercy and the grace of God alone. The Israelite under the Law was saved by grace just as Abraham before the Law, and just as we must be saved after the Law.

Any man who is honest will look at himself in the light of the law and see himself guilty. The law is not given (as many liberals are saying today) as a standard by which man becomes holy. Oh my friend, you would never become holy this way, because, first of all, you can’t keep the Law in your own strength. Many folks think that a man becomes a sinner when he commits a sinful act, that he is alright until he slips and commits sin. This is not true. It is because he is already a sinner that a man commits a sinful act. A man steals because he is a thief, and he lies because he is a liar. Why do we do it? We have a fallen nature.

Now the law was temporary. It was added “till the seed should come.” Now it is obvious that a temporary law cannot be greater than a permanent covenant. When you read God’s covenant with Abraham you find no “ifs” in His words. Nothing was conditional; all was of grace. But the blessings of the law were dependent on certain conditions. Furthermore the law had a terminus point: “until the seed (Christ) should come.” With the death and resurrection of Christ, the law was done away with and now its righteous demands are fulfilled in us through the Spirit: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8.1-4).

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