Galatiansby Khan Hui Neon
If the law cannot replace the promise of salvation, why did God give it to the Jews in the first place? What value does it have? That must have been the question on the Galatians' minds as they read Paul's comparison of the law and faith.
Lest he should be accused of condemning Moses' law, Paul makes it clear that it had a purpose. ″It was put in place by God because you were sinful,″ he tells his readers simply (see Galatians 3:19). The law is a benchmark: it shows us God's absolute standards of holiness. By it, we can now identify wrongdoing as ″transgression″-the crossing into forbidden territory. As such, the law is good.
But Paul is equally quick to point out the inadequacy of the law to save (v. 19). Firstly, it is temporary. Its purpose ended with the arrival of Abraham's Seed, Jesus. And because we can't keep the law perfectly on our own, the law also reminds us that we need a Saviour; it actually points to Christ (the Seed). In short, the law cannot replace the promise. Why? Because God did not intend for it to do what the Seed of the promise does: provide the basis for our justification.
Secondly, the law is inferior to the promise. Paul reminds the Galatians how the law was given-through angels (v. 19; see Hebrews 2:2). A mediator was also needed to help Israel receive it from the angels. All this implies that there were different parties involved, and thus there would be divergent interests. But Paul says God is one, and He seeks to create one people (both Jews and Gentiles) under Him-something the law cannot effect. If anything, the law makes us more aware of our estrangement from the Holy God and from one another.
Does this mean that Moses' law was opposed to Abraham's covenant? ″Absolutely not!″ cries Paul (Galatians 3:21). It would be if it was intended as a means of salvation. But God had designed the law for a different purpose, and hence it is not in contention with the Abrahamic covenant. Its role is to reveal sin in us-not to supplant the promise.
The true means of salvation is the Seed of the promise, Jesus (see Romans 3:9-18; Galatians 3:22). Scripture has declared that the entire world is imprisoned by sin (v. 22). We can only escape condemnation by trusting Christ, the Seed, whose work on the cross allows God to fulfil His promise to Abraham by justifying all who believe.
The law has a different purpose and is temporary, but the promise of God will save us eternally. We can never thank God enough for His wonderful promise, because it does not depend on human performance. Anyone who believes will be saved.
Can you think of a rule, ritual, or tradition that could easily distract us from holding onto God's promise in Christ?
Most rules are there for a purpose. How far should we go in following them?