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The Purpose of the Law

19 Why, then, was the law given? It was added for the sake of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come. The law was put into effect through angels by means of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not just for one person alone, but God is one. 21 Is the law therefore contrary to God’s promises? Absolutely not! For if the law had been granted with the ability to give life, then righteousness would certainly be on the basis of the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe. (Galatians 3:19-22)


Continuing on with his set of arguments against the Judaizers’ claim that salvation must be earned by works through the obedience of the law of Moses, Paul now argues using the purpose of the law from verses 19 to 25. Paul starts by posing the question, “Why, then, was the law given?” Paul answers the question by explaining the purpose of the law: “It was added for the sake of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.” Bible Commentator Max Anders defines transgression as “a stepping aside from a right track.” The law is the perfect standard that made mankind aware of when they stepped away from the right path. But, the law was temporary, when it would be fulfilled with the coming of the Seed, being Jesus Christ the Messiah.


With the end of verse 19 and 20, the law required a mediator, with both individuals living up to the contract. However, the covenant with Abraham was dependent on one’s commitment to the Lord, who is “one.” Therefore, the law was inferior to the promise between God and Abraham.


In verse 21, another question would naturally come up, “Is the law therefore contrary to God’s promises?” Paul answers strongly “Absolutely not!” The law did not impart eternal life or a right standing with the Lord. Instead, the law revealed the sinful nature of mankind and our need for forgiveness, only available through Jesus Christ “to those who believe.”


In short, the law fulfilled its function to reveal our sinful and fallen nature. We cannot uphold the law perfectly, and therefore, justifiably face the judgment of God. However, we can be forgiven and receive the gift of life, being declared righteous before the Father through believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.




Isaac De Guzman


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