< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Galatians 3:19-22

Monday, September 17, 2007

Galatians 3:19-22

Galatians 3:19-22 “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

A commentator said there are 300 different interpretations written about these 4 verses! And that was 50 years ago, so there are probably more now! Paul is still trying to show the superiority of grace and faith over law. He makes 3 points about the law:

1. Why introduce the law at all?

Paul says it was introduced for the sake of transgressions. It was a favorite thought of Paul’s that where there is no law there is no sin. You can’t break a law that doesn’t exist. Therefore the function of the law was to define sin. The law can and does define sin, but it can’t cure it. It’s like a doctor who makes a diagnosis –of an incurable disease.

2. Paul says the law was not given directly by God.

In Exodus 20 the law was given to Moses, but in Paul’s day the Rabbi’s believed that angels passed the law from God to Moses because they felt that God was too holy to deal with man directly. Stephen referred to this belief in Acts 7:38 and 53. So here he is saying, the law went from God, to angels, to Moses, to the people – while the promise came to Abraham directly from God.

3. Paul uses a weird phrase here: “there can be no such thing as a mediator of one and God is one.”

This is the hard part. He says it takes 2 people to make this law thing happen. One to give the laws and one to accept them. If someone breaks the law, the whole thing is undone. But, the promise depends only on one person. The promise is given and nothing anyone else can do can break or alter that promise. Grace is God’s promise. We can refuse it for ourselves, but that’s not going to change the fact that God’s grace is out there for everyone.

Then Paul asks, “Is the law against the promises of God?” And he answers, “No.”
He states in verse 22 that scripture consigned all things to sin. He’s thinking of Deuteronomy 27:26, where it said that everyone who does not conform to the words of the law is cursed. So that means that everyone is cursed because no one has kept the law.

So what is the consequence of the law? To drive everyone to grace because they realize their helplessness. Paul is, I think, redundant in this letter. He says the same thing over and over in slightly different ways. But, I think he’s doing everything in his power to have everyone understand it because it is so very important.

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