Musings 108

Galatians 3:17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Those who focus on the law refer to the other side as antinomians. Those who do not focus on the law may think of those who do as Pharisees. Much ink has been spilt and it has taken many trees to make enough paper for all the books that have been written on this subject. There are mine fields on both sides of this issue and perhaps it takes a foolish person to must on this in a short post on a Blog. Well, so be it.

Whatever else must be said it must be said that God’s promises were never nullified by the Law and will never be nullified by the Law. Without trying to make any real distinctions between the moral, the civil, and the ceremonial laws, we can note that what is said here appears to be primarily moral law. Underneath this passage is the grace of God and how it shines through at this point. The glories of free-grace shine so brightly that the apostle does not need to specifically point it out for us to see this wonderous grace. Every time you read the word “promise” in this text, you can know that this promise was by free-grace. Every single time you read of the imparting of life, know that life is only imparted by free-grace. Every single time you read of Jesus Christ, know that He was only sent by free-grace. Every time you read of faith, know that it is given by free-grace. This text, then, is saturated with the free-grace of God.

It may be the case that in thinking of free-grace as we read this passage will keep us from falling off either side of the cliff that these things run beside. The Law came after the promise, so we must know that the Law is not contrary to the promise and does not nullify the promise by free-grace. We must know that instead of the Law being contrary to free-grace, the Law was given in order to be a backdrop for free-grace to shine and show us the need for free-grace. As verse 19 sets out, the Law was added because of transgressions. Two verses below should help with that meaning.

Romans 5:20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET

The Law came so that transgression would increase, that is, set forth our sin. While the Law does not produce sin directly, it does show us that our hearts are full of sin and our actions are vile and sinful. It is also true that our rebellious and sinful hearts react against the Law and more sin is drawn out. However, keeping the externals of the Law does not make us righteous, but in fact only makes us more sinful by trusting in our keeping of the Law. The Law is our teacher and it teaches us that we cannot keep the Law and that we must have Christ as our Savior from the Law. Life can only come by free-grace and can never come by any other way, especially the Law. When men bring the Law in and try to make it as a way of life, they are as much in opposition to the Gospel of free-grace as those who live in open rebellion. Whatever we believe about the Law, it must always be seen as being opposed to free-grace when blessings and life are supposed to come as a result of keeping the Law. The Law shows us our need for Christ and for free-grace. We must leave the Law in its place.

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