Galatians 3:15-22: Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
A few weeks ago, when we were getting ready for church, my son, Asher, came into my bedroom and said, “Daddy, today I am retiring from being bad.”
I wish we could retire from being bad. The problem is that Asher does not even see when he is being bad. Most of us do not see it either. Why? Because we are either blinded by our sinfulness and hence continue to live in sin, or our self-righteousness blinds us, also leaving us to continue in sin.
The Galatians were living in sin because either they were blinded by their sinfulness or their self-righteousness based on good works. The good news is that the grace of God was sufficient for them.
Most of us struggle with living in sin because either we are blinded by our sinfulness or our self-righteousness based on good works. The good news is that the grace of God is sufficient for us, too.
In the book of Galatians, Paul is correcting the Galatians for wrongfully crediting their salvation and sanctification to the works of the law. In order to show them that grace is sufficient, Paul argues that if Abraham was declared righteous by faith and not by any works of man, then why in the world were they abandoning God and His grace by choosing works over faith? If they believed their inheritance was in and through Abraham, which was granted to Abraham as a gift from God, and that he did not earn it, then why were they trying to earn it through works?
Paul divided our text Galatians 3:15-22 into two parts. Last week I covered the first two truths regarding God’s promise of inheritance to Abraham. Everything that has been said up to this point about the law was negative, which could lead to a conclusion that the law is bad. If that is the case, then the question is: should Christians follow the law? Also, if it is bad, then why did God give the law in the first place?
Here in verses 19-22, Paul defends the law and describes a threefold purpose of the law that has implications for all Christians.
The first purpose of the law was to set parameters. In verse 19 Paul says, “It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” The conjunction “because” in verse 19 in Greek, translates to “for the sake of defining,” which helps to indicate the goal of adding the law in the first place: to set the parameters.
Paul uses the term law in several ways, sometimes for Mosaic law specifically and other times for Old Testament scriptures. Since the law is Scripture and we ought to live according to the Word of God, then Grace does not remove the parameters of how Christians should live. It removes the fear, the sting of death, and the condemnation that comes from failing the law.
The word “transgression” here could be understood as moving away from the correct track and the standard laid down by the Law. Anyone who falls outside of the parameter under the law of God is condemned. Let me give you an illustration.
My son Arius is obsessed with YouTube. He watches this guy, Mr. Beast. Basically, Mr. Beast is a young guy with way too much money, so he creates games for people to play to win some of his money. In one of these games, he had a man stay inside a house alone for 100 days. If he made it the whole time, he won $500,000. Outside the house was a dark red circle. If the man stepped even a toe onto the red circle, he was out. It wouldn’t matter how long he lasted. If he stepped on the line, even on the 90th day or a second earlier than the determined time, he was out and got nothing at all.
In case you’re wondering the guy made it all 100 days. However, that is how the law works.
The law was good and theoretically one could be saved if they remained within the parameters by following the standards laid down by the law. But no one could be 100% perfect in keeping the law 100% of the time. Grace is a gift of God, and by the power of the Spirit we can live the life no one could live before and when, not if, we fall we can be assured that God is there to catch and put us back on the track completely justified in Christ.
The second purpose of the law was to function as a guide in the interim until the promised one arrived. This is why verse 19 says, “until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made.” While our church was searching for a family pastor, I took on the role of interim youth pastor to guide and prepare the youth and our church for the new pastor. When Pastor Caleb arrived, I surrendered the youth pastor role to whom it belonged. Similarly, the law was guiding and preparing people for the offspring of Abraham, the Promised Messiah, to whom the promise of inheritance belonged. When He arrived, the law surrendered its function to Him. Romans 8:3-4 says, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”
Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18 said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
The Need for a Savior
The third purpose of the law was to create and identify the need for a savior. No one needs a savior if they do not know that they need to be saved and that they cannot save themselves. In every superhero movie, superheroes are born or are needed when the villain is exposed.
In verses 21 and 22, Paul says, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
Verse 22 indicates that the whole world was a prisoner of sin. The law exposed that and simultaneously trapped them because they could neither break away from sin 100%, nor could they fulfill the law 100%. Thus, the need for the savior was born.
Listen to the language of the angel at the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:8-11 talking to shepherds out in the field the angel said, v.10, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people [not just for Jews]. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Let’s look back at verse 18: “God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” The root word for “gave” here is charis, which is grace, and grace is God’s gift, and a gift is free. The recipient can receive it or reject it. When we lean on the works of the law, we reject the promise of inheritance, the grace of God, the free gift of God– Christ Himself, who is the salvation of the world and eternal life. The best Christmas gift is Christ, and the only Christmas gift we should desire is Christ. All other gifts may perish, but He is Immanuel, which means God with us. God took on flesh and became man to fulfill His promises to be with us. The scriptures say, when God is with us who can be against us. Whatever you are dealing with today, He is Immanuel. He is with you.