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The Purpose of the Law: Galatians 3:15-25

July 15, 2013

courtesy of galatians

By Courtney Reissig

We talk a lot in our evangelical circles about the Law and Christ. In fact, countless books, articles, sermons, and classes have been put together explaining how the Law works today, or doesn’t. Often it seems like the Law is at odds with our New Covenant realities. While it is clear in Scripture that we no longer live under the Law and its seemingly endless demands, people are forever discussing what the Law does for us today. And when we want to get a better handle on the proper use of the Law, we often look no further than Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In Galatians, Paul is writing to combat the false gospel of Judaism, the teaching that to be a follower of Christ meant adhering to the Law and its demands. These false teachers essentially said that Christianity was faith plus works. And the Galatian Christians were extremely confused. Christianity was a new thing. They didn’t have the resources we do at their disposal. It was easy to get confused. And Paul is quick to correct them. But what is he saying? Is he saying that the Law is nullified? Or is he saying something more?

No Competition

In Galatians 3:15-25, Paul is showing how the Law serves God’s purposes. The Law doesn’t void what God promised through Abraham, the promise that salvation would come not through our own efforts but through his very offspring. The Law serves this promise. It doesn’t compete with it (vs. 19).

Paul never viewed the Law as an enemy of God’s plan for salvation (vs. 21). Rather, the Law was put in place to reveal sin and guard God’s people until Christ came (vs. 24).

The Law Today

So what are we to do with the Law today? Is it pointless? Is it merely a throwback to a previous generation that was ignorant of the Christ to come? If all Scripture is profitable for our spiritual growth, then surely the Law is of some use to us, right?

Paul is not using the book of the Galatians as his rationale for getting rid of the Law completely, nor should we. Instead he is teaching the Galatian believers what proper use of the Law should be. The Law should never keep us in bondage. The Law should never make us feel like we must meet all of its requirements, because let’s face it, we can’t. The Law is actually doing far greater things for us than we realize. It’s pointing us to the Savior. The Law daily reveals to our souls, worn down by our own failure to keep it, that Christ did it all perfectly. The promise given to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through his offspring, is met in this perfect one, Jesus. And we are the recipients of such a blessing.

While we may be tempted to throw the Law “baby” out with the legalistic “bathwater”, let us follow Paul’s example and use the Law for what it was intended—to point us to Christ.

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