Galatians 3.19-20 – Why Then The Law?

Yesterday we saw that God’s inheritance to His people (their justification) comes by promise and is received through faith (vv.15-18). Today, Paul almost anticipates the question of the Judaizers on this and then answers in vv.19-20.

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.

(NET)

We can imagine the Judaizing comeback then, “OK Paul, if it was always going to be like this, why then the law at all?

Paul writes that the law came to, basically, call out sin as sin. He writes that it was added because of transgressions (cf. 1 Timothy 1.8-11). The law was only ever going to be a temporary measure until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made (3.16). Paul goes on to say, simply, don’t forget that the law was put in place by a couple of intermediary parties (Moses and angels), and also don’t forget that God is one and that the promise is coming to One, Christ (3.17).

This is another blow to the Judaizers and their view that, well, the law came after the promise, so, you know, it must be an upgrade, a “new and improved” thing. Paul has made crystal clear that no, the law came to show sin as sin (v.19) and was never intended to be salvific (offering salvation). He will go on to say more about this (vv.21-29), but for you and for me now we would do well to see and accept the truth on show here. 

The law was not a different, tried-but-failed option for salvation that God gave His people. The law, as Paul writes, was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come. The law was only ever going to be a temporary sin-showing thing. 

Never, ever be tempted to think that by adding some works to your faith you are doing something good. Never, ever think that by doing, saying, abstaining, going, or removing you are actually being more Biblical and Scriptural with your faith life. You’re not. Paul makes as clear as day here that the law had a very specific purpose for a very specific period of time. Both have passed because the offspring has come.

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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