B.C.P. Trinity 13 : Galatians 3:16-22.
16: Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17: And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18: For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19: Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. 20: Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. 21: Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22: But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
The church at Galatia was being influenced by people called Judaisers. They said that to be put right with God you not only had to have faith in Jesus, but you also had to obey the O.T. law. This included circumcision. Paul wrote this letter to oppose this teaching. To tell the Galatians that they are put right with God solely by trusting in Jesus.
Earlier in this Chapter Paul uses the example of Abraham as someone who was put right with God by faith. Abraham could not be put right with God through obeying the law because it hadn't been given yet ! This was to come 430 years later.
Paul also refers to the promise made to Abraham by God that "all nations will be blessed through you". This is referring to Jesus who is a descendant of Abraham. This promise is unaffected by the subsequent giving of the law, says Paul.
What is the point of the law, asks Paul v19, Wherefore then serveth the law?. It was given to expose what was wrong. For example, speed limits. If a car hits a pedestrian at 30 m.p.h. it is more likely to injure them than kill them. If the car is doing 40 m.p.h. it is more likely to kill than. Therefore, it is wrong to go too fast in a built up area because someone, especially children, is likely to be killed if they are struck by a speeding car. That statement would be true whether or not there was a 30 m.p.h. speed limit in built up areas. The fact that there is a 30 m.p.h. limit shows that the government considers this irresponsibility to be punishable by law as a deterrent. Therefore, those who speed are, not only reckless, but also law breakers.
The O.T. law was given not only to express the perfect will of God, the one in authority, but also to expose what is wrong. Therefore, the law does not against God's promise. 21: Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
It could not give life, only death, separation from God. The law cannot put us right with God, because no-one has the ability to keep all of it all of the time. Therefore, the law points to the need of a Saviour to save us from the effects of our sin. It was a temporary revelation of God, v19, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made;.It looks forward to a a time when God's law will be written on people's hearts by God's Spirit.
22: But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. The seed, or descendant of Abraham, is Jesus. He lived a perfect life. Never went against God's will. Never broke the O.T. law. When he died on the cross he took upon himself the punishment that we deserve for everything we have ever done wrong. The only way that we can receive the benefits of that death on the cross is if we wholeheartedly trust Jesus, 'believe'. trust who he is, and what he has done for us. The only alternative to this is being under sin v22, and therefore separated from God. There is no room for negotiation. No hedging our bets like the Judaisers. Saying that you had to trust in Jesus and obey the O.T. law.
When we come to trust in Jesus God the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us and enables and inspires us to obey God's perfect will. Yet these good works flow from our trust in Jesus. They are not an additional requirement to it.
A Governor Neff of the State of Texas received an invitation to speak at one of the prisons in that state. He spoke to the assembled prisoners, and afterward said that he would be around for a while to listen to anything any of the convicts might wish to tell him. He would take as much time as they wanted, and anything they would tell him would be kept in confidence.
The convicts began to come, one at a time. One after another told him a story of how they had been unjustly sentenced, were innocent, and wished to get out. Finally one man came through who said to him, "Governor Neff, I do not want to take much of your time. I only want to say that I really did what they convicted me of. But I have been here a number of years. I believe I have paid my debt to society, and that, if I were to be released, I would be able to live an upright life and show myself worthy of your mercy."
This was the man whom Governor Neff pardoned.
So when we think of the O.T. law, let us not fool ourselves into believing that it can put us right with God. It can only expose our shortcomings, and lead us to absolute trust and reliance upon Jesus.